In an increasing unpredictable world, employment security is becoming more of an issue for households trying to maintain their livelihood. A staggering 31 million Americans are on the unemployment rolls and even more have been wiped from the rolls because their unemployment benefits ran out. More than likely, millions who are still employed have had to deal a pay cut in some form or fashion.
Job loss is one of those personal emergencies that can strike without warning. Those who have been affected by unemployed know all too well of the stress involved in this “personal economic collapse”. That said, steps can be taken beforehand to buffer and prepare your household for this unexpected and unwelcoming disaster.
Similar to any type of disaster planning, your primary concerns for a personal SHTF event are to keep the basics in mind: food, utilities and shelter. As long as you have food on the table and a roof over your head, you can manage most issues that come your way. Before an employment crisis in imminent, you want to plan for it by saving money and accruing shelf stable foods. As a goal, plan for 1 month of food and money reserved for utility and rent/mortgage. Then, add more food and saved money to your unemployment stockpile. Your overall goal is to have a 6 month supply of food and money reserved for utility and rent/mortgage. Don’t forget about these unemployment tips!
In Case of Emergency, Cut the Budget
When job loss occurs, your finances will quickly dwindle and your budget may simply be too tight to take care of everything. Choices must be made as to what bills can be paid and which ones will need to be put off until the budget allows. If you decide to leave some bills unpaid for a while, make sure the unpaid bills are those of unsecured loans. Things that are less important are credit cards and non-essential monthly bills such as cable and cell phones. Although you may not want to go without these things, it’s better than becoming homeless. Remember the prepper saying, “Categorize your ‘nice to haves’ and your ‘need to haves’.” As well, be aware that skipping these payments will damage your credit rating; however, it’s better to have poor credit than to have hungry children. Prioritize by paying for food, utilities and shelter before anything else.
From a preparedness perspective, food is something that can be purchased in advance of such an event. Building your food stockpile has a layered effect on your preparedness endeavors and can be used when unexpected emergencies occurs. If you have a decent stockpile of foods, not only can you be confident in your ability to feed your family during difficult times, but the fact that you don’t need to purchase groceries can allow you to funnel your limited money towards your other two concerns, which are keeping a roof over your head and keeping the utilities paid (which keeps lights on and the water running). When choosing food with which to build your pantry, you will want to focus on items that can serve multiple purposes. For example, dry milk can be used to make a calcium rich beverage, in baked goods and as a coffee whitener. Wheatberries are more valuable than flour because not only can they be ground to make flour, but they can be cooked and served as a hot cereal or in a pilaf, or they can be sprouted to provide fresh greens when vegetables are scarce. Purchasing items in bulk and on sale will help you to build your food storage pantry quickly. Store what you eat, and eat what you store, rotating items in to be sure and consume them before their expiration dates.
One of the major expenses in running a household is paying for utilities such as heat, electricity, water and garbage pick-up. Start now to cut your dependence on utilities as much as possible. (This has the added benefit of lowering your bills, freeing up more money to purchase preparedness items.) By being in the habit of using utilities frugally, it will be less of a change for your family during the stressful time when this becomes a necessity. Try these simple ways to reduce your consumption of utilities:
- Lower your thermostat in the winter and raise it in the summer.
- Use passive solar to warm your house on sunny winter days.
- Use room darkening window coverings to help shield the interior of your home from the hot summer sun.
- Spend time together as a family, lighting only one room in the evening.
- Use your crockpot instead of your oven, especially during hot weather.
- Collect rainwater for all of your outside gardening needs.
- Reduce the time spent in the shower (Try using a kitchen timer).
- Hang laundry to dry instead of using your electric dryer.
- Recharge garden lights by day and bring them inside and place them in vases at night.
- Try cooking using a solar oven if your climate allows.
- Compost kitchen scraps
- Take advantage of your community’s recycling program in order to reduce the amount of garbage discarded by your household.
The most important expense that you will have in an economic SHTF scenario is shelter. Particularly if you have a family, the spectre of homelessness can be terrifying. By reducing your other expenses as much as possible, you can divert your limited money to the task of keeping a roof over your head. As someone who has experienced an unexpected job loss, having an emergency fund is vital to keeping your mortgage or rent paid. Even if you are not a strong believer in fiat currency, if you don’t have some money set aside for a situation in which your income ceases, you could easily lose your family’s home and end up sleeping in a car or homeless shelter.
Another proactive step you can take to preparing for a possible loss of wages is to begin now reducing your expenses as much as possible. Can your family scale down to only one vehicle? Do you actually need to go shopping as a recreational activity? Could you restrict dining out and start taking your lunches to school and work? And is your housing situation one that could be scaled down? This isn’t possible in every situation but for many families, moving to a smaller home can lessen monthly payments for both shelter and utilities.
Prepare Before It Happens
No one likes to think about the prospect of losing his or her job. However, this is THE NUMBER ONE MOST LIKELY DISASTER that could strike on a personallevel. Even if you think your job is secure, it’s vital to start now to prepare financially for the day that it might vanish.
- Stockpile at least 3 months of food (but your goal should be 6 months).
- Start an emergency fund that can pay for 6 months of expenses with no additional income.
- Restructure your outgoing funds to lower your expenses as much as possible.
By simplifying your lifestyle now, you will be able to take a sudden income decrease in stride, without a traumatizing change in the way your family lives. The peace of mind that comes with this type of preparedness is priceless.
Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals. When a catastrophic collapse cripples society, grocery store shelves will empty within days. But if you follow this book’s plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply, your family will have plenty to eat for weeks, months or even years. Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com.