5 Easy Steps to Help You Prepare for Life’s Craziest Times

It is said that the only certainty in life is change its self. I’m not sure who said that, but in my experience this is the truest of statements. The only way you’re going to make it through life is by learning how to ride the waves that constantly come at you; or as we say, “Learn how to roll with the punches.” The more able you are to work with the ebb and flow of life, the better off you, and those around you, will be.

The inspiration for this article is the same as almost every article I write here on TreadlingHome, my life and the disruptions that happen here on the TreadlingHome-stead. So what happened this time you ask? Well Josh, my husband, got a notice a week or so ago that the steel mill he works at will be closing, probably at the end of summer. So here we are again, preparing to go through unexpected changes.

How exactly do we prepare for life’s relatively unexpected changes? Well you’re in luck, because I’m about to share with you the 5 things we do on a regular basis to ensure that we are able to make it through just about anything life throws at us.

  1. Living everyday like we did when we didn’t have anything.
  2. Living within the means of the lowest income we will have.
  3. Knowing when to stock up on essential items, and what those essential items are.
  4. Setting prepping goals and making those your priority.
  5. Paying off debt ASAP.

While these all sound pretty simple, and they are, it can sometimes be very hard to remember to follow them in today’s society of excess and consumerism. Although each one of these 5 steps will look different for all of us, let’s dive into each of them so I can explain what they mean to me and give you a few tips I’ve picked up along the way as well.

1: Live everyday frugally

This seems pretty simple, but sometimes it’s harder that it sounds. Josh and I admittedly haven’t always practiced this one and it has been a hard learning experience for us both. Through decisions that we both made, we found ourselves almost $40,000 in student loan debt as well as having 1 or 2 credit cards each at the beginning of our marriage. We use to joke that we didn’t need a pre-nup because we would just end up with half of the debt, so why worry about it, haha!

After Josh got his job at the steel mill the first time, we were finally able to afford the “better things in life”. These “better things” included items from the regular menu instead of the 99 cent menu at places like Taco Bell. We took his first paycheck and got whatever we wanted that day and I will never forget laughing and saying that I couldn’t “believe we went from $6-$10 to almost $30 for the 2 of us to eat at Taco Bell.” I remember being so proud of us for finally moving off the dollar menu; like that was a measurement of finally making it as “adults”. Needless to say these special trips out quickly became our new usual.

After getting use to buying whatever we wanted without any real consideration for the price, Josh lost his job due to a union lockout and subsequent plant closure. We were stuck with our original debt we came into the relationship with, because we hadn’t made it a priority to pay it off, in addition to over $15,000 in credit card debt and no way to keep up with the monthly payments, let alone pay it all off. At one point we were even looking into filing for bankruptcy.

Thankfully it all worked out and Josh got a really good job and I pulled out all my old budgeting stuff and we worked together to start paying off our debt and making better decisions in the future.

I’m happy to announce that it IS the future, and we HAVE made better decisions. I started tutoring again and Josh picked up overtime when he could and we paid off our credit card debt in less than 14 months and are currently working on paying off our car loan in 3 years instead of 6.

While all of this is well and good, what did we learn? We learned that we need to live frugally every day and remember all those nights we sat up, me crying, trying to figure out which utility or other bill was going to get paid while still trying to keep us both fed. The goal is to ever forget what it was like so we never have to be there again.

So what do I mean by “living everyday frugally”? Josh and I decided that we would start living like we did when we didn’t have anything back in the day.

What does this look like for us? I cook at home at least 6 days a week, which saves us an amazing amount of money, even if we are ordering off the dollar menus again. I can make a meal of all organic foods and high quality items for $10-$12 per person, or less. This price usually includes at least 2 meals for the both of us, dinner and lunch for the next day. Compare this to the $12-$20 per day we were spending EACH on lunch when we both worked, and we have a major savings each week just by eating at home and/or packing lunches. When we do go out to eat, we stick to a strict budget of $30 for the both of us and usually only go out once per pay period.

We also cut out almost all of our impulse buying. I no longer scroll for hours on Amazon and my other favorite sights just looking for that one thing I can’t live without. I don’t go to the grocery store to shop hungry and/or without a plan. Josh and I made an agreement that we won’t go into a store if we don’t already know what we need from that store and we work together to hold each other accountable when we brake these rules.

Remembering what it is like to not be able to feed yourself and keep shoes on your feet or gas in the car can help keep things in perspective for all of us. I realize this may be what they call a “1st world problem”, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem for millions of us around the world.

Tips on how to transition to living a more frugal life from TreadlingHome.
  1. Keep a list of things you need as you either run out or open the last one.
    • I keep a list in my linen closet for personal care supplies, 1 in the kitchen to keep track of everyday ingredients and consumables needed and 1 in the pantry/freezer area to keep a running inventory of what we need.
  2. Never go in a store without a plan
    • If you need pants, make a list of the styles and colors you need before going to the store. If you need gift bags, don’t go into Marshall’s, HomeGoods, Target or Walmart and walk to the kitchen gadget section “just to look”.
    • My fatal store is BigLots. There are some items I can only get there and then I see the storage bins and the new Bluetooth speakers and then the cute seasonal decor, and before you know it the $5 item I went in there for turned into a $100 trip. I try not to go there without my “Support Josh” to keep me on track, lol!undefined
      • Above is me with my “Support Josh”. Like a support animal only better ❤
  3. Don’t set rules for yourself that you know you won’t be able to keep.
    • Josh and I both get really busy sometimes, so instead of saying we will only eat at home until all our debt is paid off, we are realistic and say that we only want to eat out 1 or 2 at the most meals per week.
    • Keep the goals small at first and build on them as you create your new frugal routines.

2: Living within the smallest means we will have.

This can sound a little redundant from the first item, but trust me…they are very different.

Living frugally means that you have may have extra money and resources but choose not to use them. Living within your means means that you wont take on any new debt and you will be able to survive on that income without feeling deprived.

Let me explain. I know that our monthly bills currently, living frugally, are around $3,000 all in. I also know that we will be getting $250 of that taken off due to loan forgiveness for Josh, and we have about another $300-$500 worth of luxuries we can cut if needed. That means that our total monthly minimum budget needs to be $2,250-$2,450. Anything above this amount is extra that can be put into savings or put towards paying off a debt.

Now, we know that Josh is going to be getting laid off within the next 5-9 months, and we already have a small savings thanks to living frugally, but now we need to make the switch from looking for the best deals and cutting impulse buying to cutting back to the bare bones of what we need to stay afloat. We will be cutting all of our spending now to a maximum of $2,500 per month so when he does get laid off, we won’t feel the sting as much since we’ll already be used to leaving withing those means.

We will be living on the $2,500 per month and putting the extra into savings for now to help us build that cushion we will need when the layoff comes.

Tips for living within your minimum means:

  1. Be realistic about your income.
  2. Have a budget completed for at least 2-3 months.
    • There are so many ways to budget, and they can all be a little intimidating if I’m honest. My advice is to start with the Payday Calendar Method I use. Get started in 2020 with your first 3 months’ of calendars free *HERE* with examples of how I budget here on the TreadlingHome-stead.
  3. Always remember that you don’t have to have a pile of money and/or things to have happiness.
    • Being optimemistic can be hard, especially when you’re use to a certain way of living. Just remember that as long as you remember what is truly important and keep your loved ones close, you will be fine.

Knowing what you need and how much of it you use on a regular basis is essential to living on a budget. Things like toilet paper and laundry and dish soaps we tend to just get when we run out and don’t really keep track of how long it actually lasts.

In case you haven’t been able to tell, Josh and I have been changing a lot in our approach to money, finances and budgeting over the past couple of years. Growing up, it was the practice to grow or purchase food items in bulk and then preserve them using 1 of the 3 main methods: canning, freezing or dehydrating.

For instance, chicken usually goes on sale twice a year and if you know how to preserve it then you can get a 6 month supply and save a ton of money. In my family we would put about a month’s worth of meat in the deep freezer and then can the rest using our trusty old pressure canner. This meant that our entire family was able to eat for about 6 months for the same price that most people get maybe 1 month out of if they stretch it out.

Make sure that you are always keeping an eye out for sales and find out the cycles of the sales in your local area. For example, I know I will have allergies in the middle of winter, so when the allergy medications go on sale in August/September, I get my coupons together and stock up for about 6 months, because the same medications go on sale again in the spring for spring allergies, between April and May when I stock up again for spring and summer allergies. I know…I have a lot of allergies (*sniff, sniff*).

Look at what you and your family actually use before deciding what to stock up on. There’s no use in stocking up on something you’re not going to use. For instance, say your family LOVES beef but wouldn’t touch fish if it was the last thing they needed to eat before starving to death. If you see a sale for fish around Lent season and stock up, that food will just go to waste and you will have thrown money away and wasted the resources needed to create that food. Don’t do that!

Tips for stocking up:

  1. Keep track of sale cycles.
    • If you are just starting to stock up for the first time, look at the ads and see what is on sale now and stock up on the items you need first. Don’t buy any items that aren’t on sale.
    • Mark the major items when they go on sale in a planner, even if it’s just making a note on your phone. Doing this will allow you to find the sale cycles and stock up accordingly going forward.
  2. Set up a pantry, even if you don’t think you have the space.
    • A pantry will save you when it comes to stocking up, even if it’s just that closet that all the junk finds its way too; clean it out and fill it with canned and dried goods instead of unused items.
      • BONUS TIP: Donate those unused items to a local charity. Homeless and Women’s shelters always need games, blankets, light bulbs and other items you may not think of.
  3. Follow TreadlingHome’s social media and blog by clicking below to get updated tips and tricks as I post them.

4: Set prepping goals and prioritize them.

We all like to say, “We want to do (X) when (X) happens.” Well, why not just start now? You don’t have to start by completing your end goal. The key to success in just about any endeavor is making your end goal and then listing all of the steps it will take to get there. Each “step” then gets transformed into an actionable “goal” that you have set for yourself.

Josh and I wanted to get his VA claim completed and his combat related disability rating upgraded so he could get all the help he needed. That was our end goal. It seemed so overwhelming when I looked at everything that needed to be done so we put it off for years. I finally decided that it wasn’t going to take care of itself, so I made a list of what I needed to do to get to our end goal of Josh getting the help he needed from the VA. It all started with a phone call to the local VA and they walked us through then entire thing. Josh now has his VA rating and is getting the help he needs thanks to us making the decision to do it and making an actionable plan to achieve that goal.

While we were working on getting our VA goal met, we prioritized paying off our credit card debt, so any extra money we got went to making extra payments to that instead of eating out and impulse buying. While all of this was going on, I started stocking up on canned essentials because we were running low and I always try to have at least 3 months of food on hand in case we get snowed in or anything else happens. You never know, right?

Josh wasn’t aware that I have been stocking up on foods for about 6 months now when he came home with the news of the plant closure. I took him to the pantry and deep freeze and asked him to help me inventory. He was shocked at how much we have and was able to breath a sigh of relief knowing that we will at least be able to eat when the plant closes.

That’s what all of this prepping stuff is about for people like Josh and me. Being able to feel secure so that we know we are able to make it through when life throws one of its many surprises at us.

Our current prepping goals we are prioritizing are (as of January, 2020):

  1. Stock up on essential personal care items-1 year’s supply.
  2. Build up a 6 month supply of food-minimum.
    1. Stock up on non-perishable essentials-canned and dried goods.
    2. Stock up on fresh items that can be home preserved.
  3. Plan garden for this year.
    1. Choose items we want to grow.
    2. Order seeds where needed and purchase plants when we can.
    3. Prep soil and raised beds.
3 goal setting tips
  1. Create a list of end goals.
    • These will be what your life will look like when you’re done.
  2. Set small goals that will lead you to your end goal.
    • This is an in-depth list of the essential steps to reach your end goal.
      • If your end goal is to have security in case of unexpected events, maybe your goals list will look like this:
        1. Inventory items on hand.
        2. Make list of needed essentials.
        3. Check sales and online for best price on needed items.
        4. Estimate how long this stock up will last and cost.
        5. Make goal of how long you want to go between stock ups.
        6. Make list of everything you need to achieve the above goal time frame.
  3. Stay positive in your outlook. Know that no matter what happens, you’ll get this and come out the other side smelling like roses 🙂
Inspiration and tips to pay off your debt fast from TreadlingHome.

5: Payoff debt ASAP

I know, I know…duh right!?! Well for most of us debt is the number 1 thing that leads to financial crisis. Paying off debt needs to be your number 1 priority after you have stocked up on your essential items. If you have followed the other 4 steps listed above, then you will have saved a tremendous amount of money on food and other essentials, and now it’s time to put that extra money to work for you.

Debt can be a seemingly insurmountable task, but if you make it a priority you can get out quicker than you think. Most creditors just want to get their money and be done. If you have credit card debt, call your company and see if they can set up a payment schedule to settle the account. This will mean that you will be closing the account and won’t be able to use the card anymore, but you will have a set payoff amount that won’t accrue interest and payoff date you can put on the books.

Most creditors work this way. If you are behind on a utility bill, call them and tell them how much you have to pay them and get a payment schedule made to settle the account. If the company themselves aren’t able to help you, they usually have a list of charities and other organizations they work with that they can get you in contact with to help you out. Almost everyone I talked to when we were in this situation was empathetic and more than willing to help us out. Don’t be afraid to make the call that may save your home.

If you get laid off, call your mortgage company or landlord and tell them what is going on. Most mortgage companies have programs to help you keep your home in emergencies. Your landlord may be more of a craps shoot, but most of them will at least be understanding and give you time to find another place to live.

The point to this is that there are so many people and programs that want to help you if you get in over your head, but you have to contact them or they can’t help you. Trust me, I know it can be embarrassing to ask for help when you need it, but I say be the person who uses the programs and systems in place as a hand up, not a hand out and you can go anywhere with your head held high.

I hope this article was helpful for you. I know it is the article I wish I would have had when we started this journey. Just remember that no matter what happens, you’ve got this as long as you’ve got a plan.

Thanks for visiting TreadlingHome!


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