SURVIVING MODERN LIFE
Just wanted to share some thoughts. We all prepare (to a certain extent) to survive the natural or unnatural disasters looming around the corner. We seldom think about surviving everyday modern life. I was waiting for someone to write an article on modern day hazards but decided to write one myself from my experiences.
These are some things that I have found that work for me and my family to give a simpler self-sufficient lifestyle (though I fall short at times). A lot of these ideas correspond to a mindset or lifestyle that is similar to contemporary survivalism.
First - Get rid of your cable TV
I did this a few months ago. It has helped immensely. These are the benefits:
- I have fixed everything in the house (in just days!). Added benefit is that the wife thinks you are great.
- I don't get frustrated watching the news (I read what I want on the Internet instead of what they want to tell me). Things tend to be sensationalized on TV. I listen more to the radio while I do other things.
- I have much more time than I realized. I look for things to do now.
- My wife and I spend more time together.
- I don't miss it at all. Yes, it is addicting at times but after a few weeks you don't miss it. Ask yourself this: How many things on TV have you remembered or benefited from compared to how much you watched? For me, not much.
Second -Watch what you spend
I might be preaching to the choir on this one but I have noticed something in my own habits. My wife and I worried about the finances (don't we all?). What we did was keep a budget of everything we spent. This was always after the fact. Whenever we went to the grocery store we bought what we wanted. Our bill was anywhere from $75 to $200 a week for groceries. We cut everywhere else we could (movies, recreation, YMCA membership, etc.). Some good things came of it though before we changed our grocery spending:
- We got in the habit of asking for receipts. It allowed us to keep track of what we spent money on (categories included food, clothes, work related, survival related, car, gas, etc.).
- We checked those receipts for accuracy. Anything wrong we brought back to the store to fix.
- At the counter one of us would check the ringing up of the items while the other would save the lettuce from unskilled high school bag packers from being crushed.
- After realizing our grocery budget wasn't working we decided to keep track of the costs while we shopped (This had a side benefit of helping our memory skills, i.e. keeping track of the count). We realized we didn't need to get what we wanted (cause it was most expensive). We now have a target of $50 (or less) per week and we meet it every time. Every now and then (once in 2-3 months) we stock up on paper goods that runs it to about $120 or so.
- Use coupons. When you don't have the time turn off the TV. You will have much more time to spare finding those coupons. We save on the order of about 5%-25% each time (averaging about 12%). It adds up over time.
- Go after the "two for one" specials (or better). This allows us to eat out every once in a while. Allows me to get extra ammo on sale, etc. The markets and stores want you to buy quickly, without thought, with "get them now before they are gone" marketing. I have noticed that nearly everything goes on sale at some time or the other. Just wait for it.
- Grocery stores are cold. This is for a reason. They want you to not take the time to look and compare prices as you shop (cause you are cold). Dress warmly.
- Compare prices on things. Some places do offer the exact same product but cheaper.
- Never impulse buy. Wait. Go home and think about it. There are very few things one needs right at that moment. Your life was doing just fine without that neat gadget you just came across. I have done this on many occasions. I tend to over glorify it in my own mind. If I go back to check out the item it seems to fall short of what I expected. It is better this way than buying it and regretting it later.
- If you have decided to get a particular item that you have searched for months, buy it when you find it. With #9 above and this you spend your resources on what you really want and not have a whole slew of stuff of "half-wants."
- Get in the habit of arguing why you don't need something. I have found out I have more arguments against buying something than buying it ("won't use it for much", "could wait a little longer", "don't need it right now", "the bills are tight", etc.).
- Use the Internet for bargains. I bought my truck online. Got it $200 over invoice with a $1000 factory rebate. Didn't get all that fancy stuff. Got what I needed and not wanted. I saved about $3,000+ over the dealer in town for the same thing. By using the Internet to shop you tend to only get what you want. You hardly ever browse the aisles like a store.
Third - Make time for family activities
As and added benefit, I think this is very important to build up a survival type family. It adds trust amongst family members. When the TV is off you have a lot of time for training or whatever. These are the activities that my wife and I do (or try to do):
- Religious night (other than Sunday): We get together to do something religious (pray, watch a religious movie, read, study, talk about issues, etc.). All that we require of ourselves is to do something, anything on that night.
- Financial night: We pick another night to sit at the dinner table and discuss anything about our finances (mortgage, investments, spending, savings accounts, studying, etc.). Same as #1, we do anything that relates to the topic. Haven't quite got in the habit on this but working on it.
- Day for the Outdoors: Once a month we pick a day to go hiking, camping, hunting, or anything related to the outdoors.
- Another thing that my wife and I do is take college classes together. This is a good source of skills. When I was in LA we took an herbal gardening class at UCLA. Now she is taking a self-defense class and both of us are taking a contra dancing class.
Fourth - Prepare yourself financially
Just as we try to prepare for disasters of one magnitude or the other one must also prepare for the modern day life and its hardships (in fact these are disasters in themselves). Here are a few Ideas that you shouldn't overlook:
- Save for retirement (401k, IRAs, savings, etc.). No one is looking out for you but yourself. It doesn't cost much from our salary. Even putting away a few dollars a month into these accounts adds up.
- Always have about 6+ months of savings equivalent to your salary. Layoffs come and go and no one has a guaranteed job.
- Get rid of your credit cards but one (or two, I like my gas card too, always need to pay for gas anyway). Treat them as a 30-day interest free loan. Don't depend upon your credit to get by.
- Go to a cash-based payment system if at all possible. You can't spend what you don't have. Some things require a credit card to order (Internet). Even though credit cards are convenient don't rely on the convenience. That convenience could get you into deep debt. Watch out.
Fifth - Security
While we prepare to secure ourselves if TSHSF we must not overlook the security issues with modern day hazards. These come in the forms of telemarketers, swindlers, white-collar crime, stalkers, etc. Here is what my wife taught me about survival in Los Angeles:
- Get a PO Box. That way no one knows where you live. Put it on everything (applications, driver's license, credit cards, billing addresses, etc.). Defend your residence address with a fever.
- Get an unpublished phone number. Defend this with a fever. Use your work number on everything (applications, etc.).
- Shred everything with your name, address, phone number, bank numbers or any other personal information on it.
- Be aware of everything (bushes as you walk, improvised weapons to use against criminals, possible accidents, road hazards, etc.). Go over scenarios in you mind as you do things. This allows you to respond and be in the mindset.
- Meet your neighbors. Over Christmas we decided not to wait for our neighbors to come visit us and welcome us to the neighborhood. I cooked some cookies and my wife and I distributed them to our neighbors. We got invited into 3 houses to chat for hours. Very nice and it breaks the ice. You get to know who lives nearby, what they do, and any useful skills they have to offer if TSHTF. My immediate neighbors consist of 2 state cops; one family with a scout master, an eagle scout going into the national guard, and the other working on it; and one doctor. All from only 5 homes. Wow!
- Get off of mailing lists. My wife knows more about this than I do. There are places you can call or write. Also, attach a statement to everything you order to not sell your name.
- Check your credit reports yearly. Do it with many credit report companies. We did this one year and found errors that did not correspond between 2 or 3 companies. If we had done only one company we would have missed the errors the other companies had.
- Keep a low profile. You don't want to stand out to others. That way you don't attract the low-lifes and others who want your money and property. If you have expensive tastes and show them off, others will think you have money to spend.
This is all for now. Undoubtedly I will think of more things later. I have found that these practices are directly related to and correlate to my survival preparations. I was able to get an M1A with the money that I saved from rearranging my finances.
Copyright 1999 2000 Phil
No reprint or republication without express permission of author.