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An EMP is a just one of the threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences. A EMP (electromagnetic pulse) can be caused by an high-altitude nuclear weapon that will interact with the Earth’s atmosphere, ionosphere, and magnetic field to produce an EMP radiating down to the Earth and create electrical currents in the Earth. A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack without having a high level of sophistication. The concern of EMP attack is such a fear of national security, there has been a congressional committee to discuss this threat. “Commission to Assess the Threat to the U.S. from EMP Attack”.

CORONAL MASS EJECTIONS RESULTING IN EMP

In July of 2012 a coronal mass ejection took place.   A “coronal mass ejection” or C.M.E. is a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic fields rising above the solar corona or being released into space.   This was reported to be the most powerful CME discharge ever recorded from our sun.  The 2012 discharge missed Earth.  However, if this C.M.E. had occurred only a week prior; it would have struck our planet and subsequently led to a complete technological disaster according to researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder.

To put into perspective the size and enormity of this event lets consider it’s speed (force) only. The typical C.M.E. from our sun take between 2-4 days to reach Earth.  The coronal event in 2012 would have reached earth in just 18 hours.  It’s estimated speed was approximately 7 million miles per hour!

While there are systems in place that are designed to warn us of solar flares and CME activity… It’s unclear on whether the teams tasked with monitoring the NASA “Solar Shield” would have been able to alert emergency services in time.   The speed of this event was faster than anything previously seen in our modern space age.

Policy makers haven’t taken this near miss seriously despite the fact that a senior member of the Congressional Homeland Security Committee warned that there is a 100% chance of a geo-magnetic event capable of crippling electrical grids across the globe.  Certain government organizations have deemed this the “KILL SHOT”.   If such an event were to take place it would take up to 18 months before power could be restored to the grid.  If such an event were to occur, it’s estimated that 9 out of 10 people would be dead within one year.  Once the electrical grid goes down, commerce systems will no longer function, food production, farming and delivery will grind to a halt almost instantly, water treatment facilities will cease to work and millions of diabetic citizens will perish from the inability to keep insulin cold.  The ramifications would be serious and almost immediate.

EMP MYTHS

When discussing what measure can be taken to guard against an EMP; it’s first necessary to get rid of a few myths.  It’s essential to understand the nature of EMP and how it works.

One major myth or misconception is that an EMP is similar to a powerful bolt of lightning. While the two (lightning and EMPs) each produce similar results; an EMP is actually more like to a super-charged radio wave. Any bright ideas about using lightning-rods, lightning arrestors  or any such grounding techniques will undoubtedly fail in protecting equipment from EMP.

Another false concept is that EMP “out of the blue” can harm your body or cause major damage to your brain way lightning strikes can.  The EMP levels created by a nuclear weapon would be so minimal, they wouldn’t pose a serious health threat to plants, animals or man.  This is assuming that the EMP isn’t concentrated.

EMP can be concentrated. EMP occurs when it is “pulled in” by a stretch of metal. EMP would be dangerous to living things in this case.  It could become concentrated by exposed metal girders, telephone lines, long antennas or anything similar.  Avoid being very close to such concentrations in event of nuclear war.  A minimum distance of 8 feet from such stretches of metal is recommended for nuclear-generated EMP.

Concentration of metal, wiring etc…  is the main reason that most electrical equipment would be destroyed by the EMP.  It’s not that the electrical equipment itself is really that sensitive, but rather the massive electrical surge would be so concentrated that anything working on low levels of electricity would be completely fried.

So What Can I Do to Prepare For An EMP?

Protecting Small Equipment

A Faraday box is the easiest way of protecting most small electrical equipment that can be unplugged from the power source.  A Faraday box is a metal box designed to divert and soak up the EMP. If the object placed in the box is insulated from the inside surface of the box, it will not be affected by the EMP travelling around the outside metal surface of the box. The Faraday box simple and cheap and often provides more protection to electrical components than “hardening” through circuit designs which can’t be (or haven’t been) adequately tested.  Many containers are suitable for make-shift Faraday boxes: cake boxes, ammunition containers, metal filing cabinets and so on.  Despite what you may have read or heard, these boxes do NOT have to be airtight due to the long wave length of EMP; boxes can be made of wire screen or other porous metal and be equally effective.  The Faraday box is a great solution assuming that you aren’t using the equipment when the event occurs.  (not likely)  It is highly advised that you prepare a “back-up plan” Faraday box filled and ready for such an occasion.  Shortwave radio, weather radio, small television, spare telephone and anything else you may need after.  Do remember that the power grid will likely be wiped out so anything you keep will have to run off of a fuel powered generator.  You should be focused on staying informed but not needlessly entertained.

The only two requirements for protection with a Faraday box are:

(1) The electrical equipment inside the box can’t touch the metal container. Insulating with cardboard, rubber, plastic or even wads of paper are acceptable methods.
(2) The metal shielding must be continuous. There can be no large holes or gaps in the shielding.

Grounding your Faraday box is not advisable. Although EMP and lightning strike are very different in the big picture; a good example how NOT grounding your Faraday box is beneficial would be to look at lightning strikes on a flying plane.  These strikes seldom fry the electrical components or occupants because the metal shell acts as a large Faraday box.  Since the plane isn’t grounded, the effects of lightning strikes are minimal.

Certain electrical parts are incredibly sensitive to EMP.  these include IC circuits, microwave transistors, and Field Effect Transistors (FET’s). If you have electrical equipment with such components, it must be very well protected if it is to survive EMP. Once again A Faraday box is the best solution.

There is a short list of electrical equipment that is innately EMP-resistant.  This includes large electric motors, vacuum tube equipment, electrical generators, transformers, relays, and the like.  This kind of equipment could possibly survive a massive EMP surge and would likely to survive if a few of the precautions discussed below were taken in their design and deployment.  Battery operated equipment will also be impervious to EMP.  If you don’t want to buy a wealth of batteries for every appliance you own or use a radio set up with longer than 30-inch antenna, then you’ll need to use equipment that is “hardened” against EMP.

Larger Equipment Hardening and Protection

If you must operate ham radios or the like during a nuclear attack; there are a few methods which will help to protect electrical circuits from EMP.   These various vary in design as there are multiple ways of neutralizing the effects of an EMP.  Design variations include the use of tree formation circuits (rather than standard loop formations);  the use of self-contained battery packs; the use of induction shielding around components; the use of loop antennas; and (instances of solid-state components) the use of Zener diodes.  Implementing these design elements can eliminate the chance an EMP surge from power lines or long antennas damaging your large equipment.  Another useful strategy is to use grounding wires for each separate instrument which is coupled into a system an EMP system so that it has more paths to take in grounding itself.


On a different note, here’s some other self-sufficiency and preparedness solutions recommended for you:

The Lost Ways (The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us)
Survival MD (Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation)
Backyard Liberty (Liberal’s hidden agenda: more than just your guns…)
Alive After the Fall (Build yourself the only unlimited water source you’ll ever need)
The Lost ways II (4 Important Forgotten Skills used by our Ancestors that can help you in any crisis)
The Patriot Privacy Kit (Secure your privacy in just 10 simple steps)

An EMP is a just one of the threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences. A EMP (electromagnetic pulse) can be caused by an high-altitude nuclear

As a prepper you’ve thought about the necessities for survival, but have you thought about your comfort? Imagine a long-term situation where you have food and water, but survival is a constant struggle. Will lack of sleep and uncomfortable surroundings take a toll on you over time? You might be sleep-deprived because of a need to stand guard against those who would do you harm, or simply because you’re not able to maintain a comfortable living environment. The inability to keep food from spoiling might result in a constant need to find food, robbing you of opportunities to rest. And, in harsh conditions, can you keep yourself clean and healthy? You may have considered bugging out, but you know that your home has most of what you need to survive, even if you’re not a serious prepper.

To get straight to the point; a reliable, sustainable, and ample alternative supply of electricity can solve the problems mentioned above and allow you the potential of living comfortably when the SHTF. A security system may include cameras, motion sensors, and trip wires to set off alarms. A surveillance system can keep an eye on your garden and animals in addition to your home, and alert you to an intrusion. Devices and systems relieve you of the need to stand guard.

An alternative source of electricity adds to your comfort by allowing you to cook meals indoors, and boil water, making it safe for drinking. You can use propane, wood, or charcoal for cooking if you have an ample supply of those, or you could use a solar oven, but nothing is as convenient as using electricity for indoor cooking.

The ability to preserve food means that you won’t have to hunt, harvest, and process food daily, providing opportunities for rest. With ample rest you’ll feel and perform better. A reliable supply of electricity allows you to use a refrigerator and freezer for food preservation. You may also need refrigeration to keep medicine from spoiling.

The biggest challenges, that is to say devices that use the most electricity, are air conditioning and heating equipment. The system described here is not large enough to handle whole-house heating and cooling systems. If you have a fireplace, you probably consider that as your source of alternative heat. If not, you may consider a wood- or pellet-burning stove. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. If you rely on fuel such as propane or kerosene, do you have enough for a long-term situation? How much can you store safely, and how long will it last? Will you be able to replenish your supply when it runs low? Weigh your decision carefully, implement it, and then stock up on wood, pellets, or fuel. I chose to install a pellet stove. It can run up to 12 hours unattended and maintains a relatively constant output. I can safely store enough pellets to get me through the winter, and left-overs can be used the following winter. Most importantly, I’ll get a good night’s sleep, and I won’t be inhaling dangerous fumes.

Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor

You’ll also need electricity for communication devices, computers and tablets, TV, and Radio. Be sure to keep energy-efficiency in mind when shopping for any of these items. Energy-Star tags are helpful, but I’d rather measure energy use myself using a Kill-A-Watt meter. A Kill-A-Watt meter is a low-cost device that measures energy use over time (kilowatt-hours). You can find it at Wal-Mart or on Ebay.

Emergencies can occur at any time, in the middle of the night for example, and may include broken glass and structural damage to your home. The importance of good lighting cannot be overemphasized. You certainly don’t want to complicate an emergency situation with an injury.

Right-Sizing the Solar Electric System and Trade-Offs

If you want the same level of comfort as you had with grid-supplied electricity, you’ll pay a high price. To avoid the high cost, I’ll describe a system that will result in comfortable living, but there will be trade-offs. The system I’m outlining here can best be described as a mid-sized off-grid solar electric system. It’s not connected to your house wiring, so you’ll need extension cords, power strips, and light fixtures. I keep all of these items in a plastic container, so I won’t be fumbling around for them when grid power fails. I think you’ll agree that this modest system offers good trade-offs where comfort and cost are concerned. Don’t be fooled by pre-packaged systems that won’t actually meet your needs.

Home Heating

I’ve already listed alternatives to your existing whole-house system. In exceptionally cold weather you may want to use an electric blanket, and limit heating to one or two rooms. Table top and window fans are the most energy-efficient way to move heated or cool air.

Heating Water

As a substitute for your water heater, heating water over a fireplace or on a wood stove are good options. Since you won’t be using a fireplace or a wood stove when the weather is warm, you can heat water with one or more of your kitchen appliances, but the best option for heating water involves using the sun.

Harnessing the heat of the sun for water.

I’ve installed a PVC tubing grid in the attic portion of my storage shed for heating water. Mine is not the most efficient system, but I wanted a solution that would be out of sight and maintenance free. I use a hose to force water through the system when city water is available, but I can also use an electric pump. A fifty-gallon plastic barrel and a couple of hoses round out the system. Either way I can have a warm shower just about any afternoon or evening, using little or no electricity.

Other Decisions and Trade-Offs

I’ll begin by establishing some basic needs that will apply to many people, and then I’ll provide design details for a system large enough to meet those needs. Finally, I’ll discuss the cost, and some design options. I’ll assume that you’ve already ruled out a generator. You know that choosing a generator means that you’ll have to purchase, transport, and store a lot of fuel. What happens when the fuel runs out? Will noise from the generator attract unwanted attention, or mask the sound of approaching intruders? Instead, this is about a quiet and sustainable solution. You may only need to darken your windows to hide the fact that you’re living comfortably.

Honda EU2000I 2000 Watt Super Quiet Inverter Generator

Prerequisites

To keep the size, and therefore the cost, of a solar electric system down, there are a few things you can do. Often, adding insulation to an existing home can reduce the need for heating and cooling. Lights to be used with the system should be energy-efficient CFL or LED types. If your washing machine and other appliances are old, replace them with energy-efficient ones. Use a hotplate or microwave oven, instead of your gas or electric stove.

Identifying Your Needs

Once you’ve listed the devices you want to use, and estimated how long each device will run each day, you can calculate the total energy you’ll need by simple math. For example; a fan rated at 35 watts, running for 3 hours each day, will need 3 times 35, or 105 watt-hours each day. Likewise, a 10 watt lamp, running for 6 hours each day, would need 10 times 6, or 60 watt-hours each day. Adding the daily requirements of both equals a total need of 165 watt-hours per day. The following chart is an example of total daily energy use, where energy availability is limited. It assumes cold-weather conditions, where circulating warm air, or powering a pellet-stove in my case, is the largest single energy requirement.

4 10 watt LED bulbs 4 hrs each 160 wh per day
1 40 watt Laptop Computer 2 hrs 80 wh per day
1 120 watt Blower Motor (stove) 12 hrs 1440 wh per day
1 105 watt (intermittent) Chest Freezer 6 hrs 630 wh per day
1 80 watt Television 2 hrs 160 wh per day
1 30 watt Modem 2 hrs 60 wh per day
1 6 watt Clock Radio 24 hrs 144 wh per day
1 26 watt Cell Phone Charger 1 hr 26 wh per day
1 1000 watt Hot Plate 0.75 hr 750 wh per day
1 900 watt Toaster 0.10 hours 90 wh per day
1 1000 watt Microwave Oven 0.15 hours 150 wh per day

During periods of warm weather, when the stove is not used, my daily average load is greatly reduced. When the stove is used less, I can use devices not listed here, such as a vacuum cleaner and washing machine, and still not exceed the capacity of the system.

Determining the daily energy use of the Chest Freezer is a little tricky because its compressor runs intermittently. This is where a Kill-A-Watt meter comes in handy. Simply connect the Kill-A-Watt meter to the chest freezer and take note of how much energy it uses (in kilowatt-hours) over a 24 hour period. You can do the same for other devices that use electricity intermittently. (One kilowatt-hour equals one thousand watt-hours).

Tip: In a situation where keeping energy use to a minimum is important, move your chest freezer or refrigerator to the coolest part of your home. The compressor will run less, cutting energy use.

Renogy 400 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit

Tip: When you have a choice, use energy during the day and limit night-time use. During the day, when the sun is shining, energy travels from the solar panels to the load. Nighttime energy comes from the batteries, and therefore is subject to charging and discharging losses and battery inefficiencies. Cooking, pumping water, and washing clothes are examples of tasks that can be relegated to daytime hours. Do this, and you’ll help to offset the negative effect of cloudy days and system losses.

Selecting the System Components

In the example above, the total energy used each day (the sum of the energy used by each device), is 3690 watt-hours. To determine how many solar panels you need, divide the need by the total hours of peak sunlight, in this case it’s 3690 by 4 ½, or 820 watts of solar panel capacity. Solar panels come in different sizes. Seven 120 watt solar panels will provide a little more power than you need, (840 watt-hours per day), while five 160 watt solar panels will provide a little less (800 watt-hours per day).

GM Deep Cycle 12v 125ah SLA rechargeable Battery for Use with Pv Solar Panels

Next, calculate the size of the battery bank you’ll need. Since batteries are rated in amp-hours, convert amp-hours to watt-hours. As an example: For a 12 volt deep discharge battery rated at 100 amp hours, calculate watt-hours by multiplying volts times amps. In this example, that single battery can theoretically supply 1200 watt hours. However, to avoid damage and maintain high life expectancy of the battery, you should not discharge the battery below 50%. This leaves you with 600 usable watt-hours for a fully charged battery. Because of battery inefficiencies, plan on the actual usable energy to be at least 10% less, or 540 usable watt-hours. Since you need a total capacity of 3690 watt-hours, you’ll need 7 batteries (7 times 540 ), to provide 3780 watt-hours of storage.

In the event that the cost of a system large enough to meet your needs is prohibitive, you may opt to cut back a bit on energy usage. There are many ways to do that. Preparing meals in a microwave oven, instead of on a hot plate, is one way:

Using a 1000 watt microwave oven for 15 minutes results in an energy use of 250 watt-hours.

Using a 1000 watt hot plate for 45 minutes results in an energy use of 750 watt-hours.

Read More: Cooking when the Grid goes Down

A slow-cooker (crock-pot) might seem like an energy-efficient choice, but remember, using a small amount of electricity over a long period of time is the energy-equivalent of using a large amount of electricity over a short period of time. A slow cooker might be a good option when something needs to be simmered for an hour or two.

The chart lists a small chest freezer, and no upright refrigerator/freezer. Upright refrigerator/freezers are inefficient because the cold literally “falls out” each time the door is opened. A chest freezer is much more efficient, and a 6 cubic foot chest freezer uses much less electricity than a 12 cubic foot chest freezer. A chest freezer not only keeps frozen food frozen, it makes ice for use in an ice chest for items that need to be kept cold, but not frozen.

How Much Will it Cost?

I’ll assume that you’re doing all of the work yourself, and will not include labor costs.

Once you’ve calculated your needs, you may choose to build larger or smaller than the system described here. Adding solar panels helps to improve system performance by increasing charging power, and adding batteries helps to improve performance by increasing the storage capacity. If you want to maintain a system output in excess of 3690 watt-hours each day, consider adding at least one more solar panel and two more batteries. Anticipate extended periods of cloud cover.

The per-watt cost for solar panels is currently between one and two dollars. Therefore, 820 watts of solar panel capacity will cost between $820 and $1,640. Shop around for the best price. Sometimes you’ll find sales or special deals.

Having explored various battery types and compared costs, I’ve determined that the best value when considering cost vs storage capacity to be GC-2 deep-discharge batteries. GC-2 batteries are rated at six volts, so you’ll need a series-parallel wiring arrangement. It’s easy to do. For the system described here, you’ll need at least 6 of the GC-2 batteries for a total watt-hour storage capacity of just over 3700. GC stands for “Golf Cart”. These are available under several different brand names and at many stores, including SAMs Club. You’ll pay about $100 per battery, for a total cost of $600.

Consider 8 batteries if your budget will allow it. Although you can get by with 6 batteries, making your battery bank larger than your calculated need offers three advantages. 1. A larger battery bank helps to compensate for extended periods of cloud cover. 2. The load on the battery bank will be distributed over more batteries, resulting in an efficiency boost. 3. Distributing the load across more batteries will extend the life of the battery bank.

The next component is a charge controller. A charge controller uses power from the solar panels to safely and efficiently charge the batteries, and prevents overcharging. A charge controller helps to extend the life of the batteries.

Top of the line charge controllers have advanced features which can, in some cases, dramatically improve system performance. However, these features come at a high price, and not all advanced features are beneficial to a system such as the one described here. For now we’ll consider a reasonably priced, but good, charge controller.

Renogy Tracer 4210 40 Amp MPPT Charge Controller, 12/24V 100VDC Input

The charge controller you’ll need will be one that can handle the maximum current that your solar panel array can produce. For the system we’re describing here, a 60 amp charge controller will do the job, and leave room for expansion. While it’s not your only option, a Morningstar Tri-Star 60 will do nicely. I highly recommend the remote meter option, and the battery temperature option. The cost for the controller, with options, is about $350.

So far, I’ve listed all of the major components for a 12 volt DC system, but you’ll probably want to add an inverter. An inverter converts 12 volts DC (your battery bank voltage), to 120 volts AC. In making your decision, you should understand the pros and cons of two basic types, MSW, (Modified Sine Wave), and PSW (Pure Sine Wave). PSW inverters can safely power sensitive devices, but are much more costly than MSW inverters. A TV or Radio can be powered with a MSW Inverter, but you’ll probably hear an annoying buzz in the sound, and the picture may have streaks. Motors may run at the wrong speed, or overheat when using a MSW inverter. Inverters are rated by how much AC power they can provide. If you opt for a 600 watt inverter, you won’t be able to use a toaster, microwave oven, or any other device that requires more than 600 watts. If you want to watch TV, use some lights, and power a chest freezer at the same time, the total power (the sum of the individual power requirements), cannot exceed the capacity of the inverter.

My preference is an inverter that doesn’t harm sensitive devices, has enough power to handle most high-power devices, and can power most of my devices simultaneously. An Exeltech 1100 watt PSW Inverter can handle just about any load I’ll connect to it, but not all at the same time. For example; if I decide to use my 1000 watt microwave oven, I can’t use my 900 watt toaster at the same time. The total would be 1900 watts, exceeding the capacity of the inverter by 800 watts. My choice was to accept that inconvenience, rather than to pay an additional $1100 for a more powerful inverter. The cost of the Exeltech inverter is about $575, which is about $1100 cheaper than a good quality 2000 watt PSW Inverter. I’m aware of lower-cost PSW inverters, but I’m not sure if they match the quality, performance, and reliability of Exeltech products.

Tip: Some electric motors have a high starting current requirement. If the inverter you purchase can’t provide that initial starting surge, the device will not run.

Mounting the Solar Panels, Wiring, and other Considerations

Solar panel mounting can be as simple as bolting them to a south-facing roof for less than $50, or more complicated if you intend to build a mounting framework. Your creativity can help to keep the cost low.

Wire, wiring hardware, fuses, and a lightning protection device round out the requirements for a complete system. Because of the high current flow, battery wiring is the heaviest (thickest), wire. The wire you’ll use between the solar panels and the charge controller should be able to handle the maximum output current from your solar panels, and should be rated for outdoor use. Your local hardware store should have what you need. Since it’s a 12 volt system as far as the panels and batteries are concerned, I opted for low-cost automotive fuses and in-line fuse holders. I used heavy-duty terminal blocks, the kind you find in circuit breaker boxes, to tie the wiring together. You’ll need battery terminals or lugs, tie-wraps, tape, and other hardware. The cost of the wiring depends upon how far the solar panels are from the controller, but you may get everything you need for less than $300.

The total cost of your system, not including labor, should be in the neighborhood of $3000. You may choose to build with fewer panels and fewer batteries and add to the system at a later time. If you start small, buy a charge controller large enough to handle a bigger system so you don’t have to replace it when you expand. For less than $1000 you could build a system that can provide power for lights, TV, radio, fan, computer, and other small devices, but with limited use of course. For a little bit more than that you could power a small chest-freezer or refrigerator, in addition to those other devices.

The total cost may seem expensive compared to the cost of a generator, but don’t forget it’s sustainable and there are no operational costs. Assuming no physical damage or vandalism, solar panels will last 25 years. The batteries, with good care, can last in excess of 5 years. A properly constructed system will be almost maintenance-free.

Become an expert (or at least knowledgeable)

If you think a system like this is right for you, start by learning all you can, especially about batteries. Batteries are the most expensive component when you consider that they’ll need to be replaced more than once for the life of your system. Most importantly, know when to shut down your system to prevent over-discharge. Learn about battery types, paying special attention to those that last longer, but at a higher cost. Compare inverters and read reviews on them. Purchase reliable components, because you can’t afford a failure when the SHTF.

When you’ve built your system, test the heck out of it. This is where the Charge Controller’s remote meter comes in handy. Simulate grid power failures and see how long your system can power the loads. Upgrade if you’re not satisfied with the run-time.

Tip: As a capacity test I’ve connected two light bulbs, one 60-watt and one 100-watt bulb. A load of 160 watts over a 24 hour period equals a daily load of 3840 watt-hours. I’ve connected a Kill-A-Watt meter to the inverter’s output to keep track of the power that the system delivers. In bright sunlight the solar panels provide enough power to charge the batteries and power the load simultaneously. However, batteries charge more quickly if no additional loads are present. I record test results each time, which helps me determine when my batteries need to be replaced.

Failure Considerations

Perhaps the biggest threats to your system are lightning, and EMP events. You will, no doubt, use a lightning protection device, but it may not save your system in the event of a direct hit. An EMP event would have to be close and strong, to do any damage. In either case, it’s not likely that the solar panels and batteries would be damaged. The most vulnerable component is the charge controller. Here’s the good news: In the event that a replacement charge controller is not readily available, you can connect the solar panels directly to the battery bank. You’ll have to monitor the battery voltage, disconnecting the solar panels (charging source), when the batteries are fully charged. It’s inconvenient, but at least you won’t be without electricity. You shouldn’t have to worry about disconnecting the loads when the battery SOC falls below 50%, because most inverters will automatically disconnect at that point. You might also consider a low-cost MSW inverter as a back-up for your primary inverter.

Bartering

Assuming that you have an ample supply of electricity, you might consider charging batteries for your neighbors. I’m assuming a SHTF situation where those around you are also trying to live comfortably. A fully-charged automotive or deep-discharge battery might be used for lighting, to power a TV or radio, a fan, tablet computer, etc.

Taking it to the next level

If you build the system described here and then wait for a SHTF situation, you’re wasting a great resource. Why not use the system every day, and cut your electric bill? I’ve added two components to the system described here and accomplished just that.

I use an IOTA Automatic Transfer Switch to select either grid-supplied power or inverter-supplied power to run my refrigerator. When my batteries are above 50% SOC (state of charge), the refrigerator gets power from the batteries, via the inverter. When the battery SOC drops below 50%, the refrigerator is powered by the grid. I use a Morningstar Relay Driver to monitor battery voltage, and switch the inverter on or off. I can fine-tune the upper and lower thresholds as I see fit. When the transfer switch senses the loss of power (because the inverter is switched off), it automatically switches to grid power for the refrigerator. The Relay Driver is programmed to not turn on the inverter again until the batteries are once again fully charged. This happens automatically. It’s a wondrous thing to observe.

Should you decide to build the system I’ve described, or something like it, you’ll probably have many questions. The Wholesale Solar website has a wealth of information for solar do-it-yourselfer – (I am in no way affiliated with Wholesale Solar)

Summary

How much does electricity contribute to your survival? Try switching it off for a week and see how well you cope. With electricity you’ll live comfortably, not just survive, while the world around you crumbles. A good night’s sleep, vital to your long-term survival, is made possible because of sensors, appliances, and automatic systems. If you wait until things get bad you’ll be forced to use the resources you have, not the system you planned to install someday. Surviving a crisis doesn’t need to be unbearable, or even uncomfortable. It won’t be if you prepare in advance.

Perhaps some will say “I’m looking for ways to survive, while you’re talking about watching TV, wrapped in an electric blanket, after a hot meal and a warm shower.” I get it, but I want to live for a few more decades, and I plan do it in comfort.

 

As a prepper you’ve thought about the necessities for survival, but have you thought about your comfort? Imagine a long-term situation where you have food and water, but survival is

Every parent wants the best for our children but even if your kids don’t have a career as a high paid athlete, find fortune running the next tech firm that makes billions of dollars or invents the cure for cancer, we do all want them to be safe. Safe is a funny word and it can be viewed in lots of ways.

No, when I am talking about safe, I mean safe from truly bad people. I am not talking about some scraped knees or even a broken arm from a skateboard accident; I am referring to horrible acts that parents everywhere fear deeply, even if we don’t dwell on it too much. One of my frequent prayers is that my family is safe when I am away or not with them. I don’t worry excessively but there is that tingle in the back of your mind when you think about how horrible you would feel if something bad happened to one of your precious offspring.

Praying certainly is something we can all do and I don’t mean to get off on a tangent here at Final Prepper. I believe in prayer, but there are other steps I think we can additionally take to help our kids be better equipped to deal with some of the unfortunate aspects of life today. The more we can help our kids with information I think, the better we can prepare them to act when it counts. It may not do anything, but it could be the one thing that keeps them alive. Have you thought about equipping your children to survive?

Equipping them with Knowledge

I think that one of the simplest acts we can do as parents is talk to our children. This is a fine line we walk as parents though because I don’t mean that we should make them fearful of their shadow. At the same time, different children at different ages can handle varying degrees of information so without painting with too broad a brush I think it is perfectly fine to give children information about the world, appropriate to their age that could help them if they were faced with a dangerous situation. Like most parents, I am sure the old “don’t talk to strangers” and “never get into a car with anyone” come to mind and these are perfect examples of the type of instructions I am talking about. We usually start off with this type of information when the children we have raised are away from us and I don’t think this makes them overly fearful; it just gives them some advice for their safety,

As children get older, they are able to handle more information, concepts and theories and depending on how things are in your family, they may be exposed to more news which seems to constantly deliver something to worry about. As it relates to your children, you can share your knowledge with them about threats. What you expect them to do in various situations and some of those may even be counter to what they are told by the authorities over them at various locations. For example I told one child of mine to run like their lives depended on it if they were ever in a situation where someone was shooting and none of their family was near obviously. If they were in school or the mall, they are to run until they get far away from that building. This might rub someone the wrong way, but I think it is crazy to hide while someone walks slowly around shooting everyone they find. Running puts distance between you and who is shooting at you and I want all of my children to do that if possible and they are in the same situation.

Another aspect of knowledge could be simply how to get from wherever they are to your house or a safe location. Have you ever had your children tell you which way to turn as you were driving in order to get back home or to their school? This might sound foolish, but we must have watched every single episode of Bear Grylls TV show Man VS. Wild with our kids. They can all make fires, build shelters and know the basics of a boatload of survival concepts. They aren’t going to parachute into the Alps of course, but if they are watching TV at least it was something I could say exposed them to methods they could use if they found themselves in a survival scenario. Hopefully that counters all the Hanna Montana they saw…

Equipping them with Confidence

This is something I need to do more of but as often as I can, I try to reinforce with my children that they are not helpless. Just because their age or size limits what I or society will let them get away with, that doesn’t mean that they can’t do great things. Your children need to have confidence in their abilities. This could be physical abilities like athletics, but I am talking more about the ability to deal with situations that are or should be out of their league. What will your child do if they become lost? Will they wilt and sit in the floor crying (age appropriate again of course) or would they use the knowledge you have shared with them above to stop and think about how to react to this situation they have found themselves in?

Confidence can be learned in a lot of ways and some parents might even be teaching your kids without even thinking. Confidence can be things so small you might not even consider them like ordering at a restaurant. Can your children clearly and confidently make decisions and communicate those to a stranger? Do you ask them what they would do in certain circumstances to test them?

Confidence is usually increased in an environment in which children aren’t coddled. It may seem counter intuitive to want to protect your children so much but at the same time letting them go to see how they do when they are on their own. Remember that your job is to raise healthy, mature adults who are going to go out into the world and make their mark. At some point they are going to need to rely on the lessons they learned, mostly from you about how to act and what to do and confidence could be the trait they have that gives them the power to get up and move as opposed to freezing in panic.

Equipping them with Tools

One of these days I am going to write an entire post on a Kids EDC kit even though there have been a lot of people who already tackled this subject. Children are a little more difficult to plan an Every Day Carry kit for two reasons. The first is that they can’t usually carry the fun tools that adults can like a concealed weapon or a knife. Can you pack fishing kits and Band-Aids in your kids school pack? Sure, but how helpful would this really be.

The second reason in my case anyway is that no matter how much thought and effort you put into creating supplies they can use, it would get lost, used and not replenished or forgotten. The one day there is an emergency, their survival gear will have fallen out in the library or left at some friends house. That being said, there are some things you can give your children to give them an edge that might not be so easily left.

There are bulletproof clipboards you can purchase that could save them from a bullet or knife. Granted, they would have to have this either in their hands and have the presence of mind to use it, or tucked away in their pack. The pack would additionally need to be on them for this to work, but if you are buying a clipboard anyway this one might be a good option.

Another option would be a bulletproof backpack. Infidel Body Armor sells backpacks with a built-in compartment for body armor panels. With this on, your kids could be saved if someone was shooting at them. Again, something to consider.

In conclusion, just because our children are small or at least not adults, that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable. Size and age are only one measure of what a person can do, but it is their inner strength that can make them accomplish anything. Are you nurturing these abilities in your child?

Every parent wants the best for our children but even if your kids don’t have a career as a high paid athlete, find fortune running the next tech firm that

I do hunt, and I do fish, and I don’t apologize to anybody for hunting and fishing.

I went hunting for the first time this year. I have been waiting for deer season to open up in my neck of the woods and finally got my chance to get out there and try my luck at bringing home some meat to fill my family’s freezer. The weather didn’t want to cooperate, never does really, but regardless of the conditions not being ideal to the deer hunting experts, I decided to trudge out to the stand anyway and see what I could get.

Over the course of the next few days I had several experiences that seemed designed to humble me first and to point back to the often discussed scenario of bugging out into the woods, which reinforced for me anyway how this might not be as great of an idea after TEOTWAWKI as you hope. For those of you who plan on grabbing your overly equipped bug out bag when the next crisis or SHTF event happens and walking into the forest, let me share a couple of lessons learned while hunting that happened to me.

Your pack is heavy and noisy

Starting out, I needed to refill my feeders. Where I live it is legal to bait deer and this is usually done by putting corn in feeders that the deer can nibble on whenever they like. This gets them in the habit of coming to your location repeatedly. You can optionally hook up a good game camera and see who is visiting your feeders. For me, at this stand the only things I caught on the camera were raccoons who I am sure appreciated the free meals.

I had been filling my feeder up for a few weeks before hunting season began and wanted to top it off. This involves me walking with a 50 pound sack of deer corn approximately 1 mile into the woods next to my stand. I accomplish this by putting the bag in an old Army Alice pack I have because the large middle compartment holds the heavy bag nicely.

The Alice pack itself is actually pretty light and this was my very first bug out bag due to the cost. You can find military surplus packs on E-Bay for around $60. Rothco makes a new knock off of the bag that will set you back closer to $95 on Amazon. When I filled my pack up the first time with all my gear and took it for a hike I immediately started to rethink my bug out bag, but for hiking the occasional bag of deer corn down the trail it is perfect.

What I remembered again after walking with it is that 50 pounds is not light but that isn’t as heavy of an amount many preppers plan on hauling. On top of that, the pack itself squeaks when I walk. The pad that goes on your lower back rubs against you with that weight and makes a squeaking sound. Almost like someone with cheap shoe inserts or a mild but persistent case of gas. Granted, the noise probably wasn’t so loud that I would alert anyone further than several hundred feet but it was a consideration with the Alice pack.

 

When you bug out into the woods, you will likely want to keep as low of a profile as humanly possible and the last things you need are to be encumbered by so much weight that you can’t exit the area quickly or worse, making farting sounds as you run off through the woods with your cheap military surplus pack.

Lesson Learned: Don’t put too much gear in your pack that carrying it is a burden. Sound check your pack by using it on a real world hiking trip. Does it make noise or are you silent but deadly? Sorry, couldn’t resist.

You aren’t guaranteed that big game you plan on eating

This next lesson is very embarrassing to relate but for the sake of sharing information I will. I had an opportunity to shoot deer the other day. Two actually, but I didn’t bring home any meat. How is that possible?

I had just sighted my rifle in so I was pretty confident with zero, but there were two other factors that I think worked against me. Both issues in retrospect were completely my fault. I shot the first deer after three walked into my clearing. This deer didn’t fall; she walked around and eventually lay down. I thought OK, I hit her but it must not have been a good shot placement. I assumed she would die relatively quickly and didn’t go down to dispatch her humanely because there were still two other deer down there.

I took a second shot (yes the other two deer stood there while I reloaded my muzzle loader) and the same thing happened. The deer ran just a few feet, but didn’t fall, just walked around for a while and eventually took to lying down. By now I am thinking I am the worst shot in the world but soon another buck came in and ran them all off.

I climbed down and found two blood trails proving that I did hit them both, but obviously not well. I followed the first trail until it ended. I looked around for a long time but couldn’t find where it went. The second trail I followed led me to the deer lying in a creek bed. I had shot it exactly behind the front leg but just a few inches too low missing the heart. I pulled my pistol to finish it quickly but the deer was lying on large rocks which I was afraid my shot would ricochet. Thinking the deer was too weak to move, I grabbed it by its legs and pulled it onto the bank where the ground was better suited for a backstop or so I thought. When this happened, the deer jumped up, bolted out of the creek and ran off through a thicket like its butt was on fire. I never picked up another blood trail or found it again.

Dense woods seem to provide cover, but they also conceal others too.

I was shooting a black powder rifle and had shot this maybe half a dozen times the weekend previous. I put the rifle away without cleaning it because I thought I would just be using it again to hunt in a couple of days and a thorough cleaning could wait. I remember loading the rifle and not being able to seat my round down as far as I thought it should go. It seemed to stop though and I guessed I must be imagining things. Later I learned that my powder and sabot were about 6 inches higher up the barrel from where they should be. This most likely impacted the velocity of the round as my shot hit lower than needed to cleanly kill the animal humanely.

Now, you can say I should have performed better maintenance on my weapon and that is certainly true. You can also say I should have practiced shooting more to be a better shot and of course that is also true, but here is just one example of how I missed what I was shooting at and what could have been dinner, disappeared forever. It can happen to anyone. Even if my weapon was clean and I hit a better shot, deer can still run off and you might not be able to find them no matter how hard you look.

Lesson Learned: Cleaning my weapon might not have been the culprit but I am sure it didn’t help. Make sure you have the supplies you need to clean your weapons and the discipline to clean them after every trip to the range. More so if you know you will be shooting them again and accuracy is important. Accuracy is always important.

Noise travels far

Another lesson is that noise travels pretty far in the woods. As I wait for deer to magically appear in front of me, I hear shots all around me at various intervals. I know that the shots are more than a mile away at least, but if you were trying to keep a low profile, shooting a rifle could easily draw someone to your location.

In addition to gunshots, we hear cars, trains, chain saws, squirrels and just about anything for at least a mile out there in the woods as I sit quietly in a tree. The leaves render almost any movement impossible without creating a lot of noise. If you were in a similar situation, noise discipline would be important and still hard to maintain perfectly. Other environments like the desert or mountains that have less leafy foliage would be easier to contain noise at least when you are walking, but you still have that as a consideration.

The further you go away from civilization, the less likely you are to hear the ambient noises I do, but you are still able to pick up sounds around you. The less noise you have surrounding you the more you will hear.

Lesson Learned: I am not going to be able to sneak my family through the woods without being detected most likely.

You might not be as hidden as you think

My deer stand isn’t camouflaged. It is a ladder stand that sits up against a big poplar in woods that are reasonably thick with other trees. When I got down to follow the blood trail the first time, I left my daughter in the tree. I walked around for probably 20 minutes looking for tracks and got probably 500 yards away from her at the furthest point.

The further I got away from her, the harder she was to see. I know right were my stand is, but the cover of the forest made it very hard to make her out and eventually I couldn’t see her at all. She could see me though and watched me through the binoculars until I went over a ridge. She also saw (and heard) me coming all of the way back in and I didn’t see her until I got close enough that she could have hit me with a rock.

The same thing happened with deer. When I saw one approaching I would let her know but she wouldn’t see them until I pointed them out. Movement is what alerted me to their presence well before they ever made a sound. Just by sitting quietly and watching, I could see movement when it came into my field of view. Even the quietest person in the world will need to move and it is when they do that you can be spotted.

Lesson Learned: The saying can’t see the forest through the trees is applicable here. I couldn’t see one object because of the dense forest. Heavy wood cover can work for you and against you. Someone can spot you much faster than you can see them if they are moving and you are still.

That’s been my experience in the woods so far this week embarrassing as it is. Do you have any lessons for people who plan to bug out into the woods?


On a different note, here’s some other self-sufficiency and preparedness solutions recommended for you:

The Lost Ways (The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us)
Survival MD (Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation)
Backyard Liberty (Liberal’s hidden agenda: more than just your guns…)
Alive After the Fall (Build yourself the only unlimited water source you’ll ever need)
The Lost ways II (4 Important Forgotten Skills used by our Ancestors that can help you in any crisis)
The Patriot Privacy Kit (Secure your privacy in just 10 simple steps)

I do hunt, and I do fish, and I don't apologize to anybody for hunting and fishing. 

It should go without saying that James Wesley Rawles has had a significant impact on the prepper and survivalist community. His daily blog www.survivalblog.com draws over 84 thousand unique views each month from the US alone and the years of information contained in its pages have informed millions. In addition to his blog, Mr. Rawles is a busy speaker sharing his knowledge and experience as a former Army Intelligence officer at prepper conferences all over the US as well as a writer. He has written 5 books already and another title is in the works.

One of the very first books I read as I started getting into what has now been labeled as prepping was How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It. This book helped me foundationally start to look at some of the problems I was identifying in the world and how to plan to survive. Shortly after I read this book, I purchased Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse. I am not a fast reader by any stretch because my reading time is almost exclusively reserved for when I am ready for bed and want to get a chapter or two in before I crash.

Patriots was such an excellent book, and I just so happened to be on vacation that I finished it in a couple of days; in between seeing family and eating too much. I was so enthralled with the story of the Grays and their survival group in Idaho. I learned so much from this book and it captivated me with the portrayal of an economic collapse and the fallout from that event in the US. I have since reread it because in the realm of prepping this is great fiction right up there with Alas Babylon and One Second After.
I was approached by the publisher of Mr. Rawles latest novel Expatriates a few weeks ago to see if I was interested in reviewing this book as well so naturally I took them up on it and I just finished last night.

Expatriates, along with two other books, Survivors and Founders aren’t continuations of his original novel Patriots. All of the books in this series are told contemporaneously.

Expatriates

It is hard for me to separate this book from Patriots or Survivors since they are all about an economic collapse called “the crunch” but this novel is set in Australia and the Philippines primarily. There are a lot of characters and the story shows how several sets of people deal with the changing realities of life where the formal US government has been dissolved. If you are interested in reading about surviving on a boat or Nautical Survival, this book will offer you a lot of interesting scenarios.

Expatriates paints a different picture of a collapse than I have been considering but it is one that is probably more likely. Instead of something as dramatic and instantaneous as ‘collapse’ sounds, there is more of a slow slide into a different reality. The food isn’t gone the first day, people can still purchase fuel for a time and life goes on for years. His timeline approach for each of the areas allows his characters to live out the problems Mr. Rawles must envision if a similar future visits our shores.

The story is full of a lot of details about elements in the story unique to the location. From weapon specifications to mining operations and local customs, Expatriates weaves a story that tries to immerse the reader in the lives of each of the characters and finishes with a major confrontation and a satisfying ending. If you like prepper fiction then I am sure you will like Expatriates. Now that I finished this latest book, I want to go back and read Patriots again, but I have too many other books on my nightstand.

It should go without saying that James Wesley Rawles has had a significant impact on the prepper and survivalist community. His daily blog www.survivalblog.com draws over 84 thousand unique views

In the Prepping community there are some topics that draw familiar responses from people of all walks of life. Naturally I am guilty of throwing out my own clichéd responses to these core concepts from time to time – hopefully with enough of my own opinion in there, also hopefully unique enough to warrant someone spending five minutes to read or share what I have written. This either draws a lot of comments or none. You can tell how controversial your post is by looking at the comments section and we have some great readers who are very experienced and just as opinionated if not more than I am. When an issue is drawing a lot of comments there is a great debate going on that is usually pretty civil and always interesting.

One of the debate threads or concepts that I frequently see has to do with this prepper mantra that Skills are better than stuff. For those who haven’t heard of that phrase before, it is simply the idea that you can have all of the supplies in the world but if you lack the knowledge of either A) how to use those supplies or B) alternative ways of accomplishing the same thing without those supplies, you are in a worse position.

On the surface this makes perfect sense. Let’s take a firearm for example. You can spend $1200 on the best AR-15 in the world, tricked out with the best weapon light, laser guided night sights, the best AR-15 scope, complete with the best camo paintjob. In the end, that AR-15 might be the most awesome weapon in the world and end up costing you more than most of our first cars. That Rifle represents “Stuff”.  But, if you don’t know how to hit the broad side of a barn with that expensive piece of metal and plastic, are you better off? If you can’t effectively clear a jam, reload under high-stress environments and accurately engage targets out to at least 100 yards (Skills), what good is it? What good are you?

Skills are an important part of being prepared for any situation.

In the example above, you would be much better off with a relatively cheap, hand me down .22 rifle and the skills to shoot a target and hit it accurately in a variety of situations. The prepper who can do that will spend less and be better off relatively than the prepper who spent thousands in this case. Additionally, if you can effectively shoot that .22 you would probably be able to use any weapon to a better degree than the prepper who simply bought their way to the highest levels of tactical nirvana.

Are Skills better than Stuff

In many cases it is clear to see how having skill is a particular area is highly advantageous over simply having the means to buy stuff. We use this argument all of the time to temper the thoughts of some preppers that feel compelled to wear out their credit card to get the latest prepper gear and supplies and go from zero to prepped in a single Amazon.com transaction. Skills are better than stuff in many cases, but is that a universal truth like some preppers seem to rely on when admonishing their fellow preppers?

Before I get into that side of the argument let’s take a look at a few skills that I believe we can universally agree are wise for any prepper to have in a TEOTWAWKI scenario. Todd Walker over at Survival Sherpa exemplifies the best part of the Skills mindset for me and his articles are full of amazingly creative and practical tips for making do without many of the conveniences we rely on. Our “Stuff”.

The bottom line is that if we did go through TEOTWAWKI, I would want a guy like Todd on my side. He has great articles that speak directly to skills such as:

Daisy Luther is another blogger you likely already know over at her site, The Organic Prepper and she also has great skills based articles like:

And there are hundreds more skills based articles out there in the world of Prepper Websites. There are millions of them. How to make a fire, how to forage for wild berries and how to tan hides, build shelter or create your own water filtration system to homeopathic medicine. Skills are important and some skills can’t be easily replaced, but I maintain that some “Stuff” isn’t easily replaced by skills either, so we should find a balance.

Living with nothing more than the essentials for survival is tough.

When Stuff is better than skills

If you strip any “Survival Expert” naked and throw them into the woods on their own – I imagine most will be able to “Survive” but unless you are planning on being naked in the woods, why wouldn’t you try to increase your advantages in any place you can?

Canning is a skill that is handy even now when the grid is still up.

Going back to my earlier example with firearms. The Skills purist might say that you don’t need a modern firearm if you have the skills to build a bow. You don’t need to stock up ammo if you can make arrows, a spear or a flint knife. I will concede that knowing how to do that is valuable, but limited knowledge in a lot of scenarios. The average person isn’t Robin Hood so the idea that you will easily defend your family from marauders with guns while you are hiding in your debris shelter doesn’t seem realistic to me. Could it be done by some? Sure, I guess but we are talking about millions of people who read Prepping blogs like Final Prepper. Do you think we should all take a wilderness survival course and not put away any provisions?

“Your supplies will run out”! and I completely understand that argument too. Even if you have stored years’ worth of Freeze-Dried foods in your underground bunker, eventually it will run out. Wouldn’t the person who can forage for wild food, trap animals with snares and “live off the land” be better suited for a TEOTWAWKI world? It sounds compelling, but I don’t necessarily agree completely with that line of thinking in all cases.

I know food, ammo, batteries etc. are finite and they will run out, but living off the land is hard, prone to injury and leaves you exposed to more (elements, people, fallout?) bad things than the person who is trying to hunker down and live off their supplies for as long as possible. You may survive off the land if you walk out there in good weather, with nothing but your 10 C’s for survival,  in good health – provided there aren’t millions of others trying to do the same thing. Surviving isn’t the same as thriving. I know we humans have been on this planet for a long time, most of that time has been without any of the stuff we rely on now. However, we didn’t live as long, had much harder lives and there weren’t as many people on our big blue dot as there are now.

Skills also can’t replace communication like radios, at least not in anywhere near the same effectiveness. Sure you can learn how to train carrier pigeons, but C’mon! Who is going to do that? Skills are also not going to help you whittle a power supply out of a piece of Hickory so wouldn’t Solar panels be a good use of Stuff in a survival situation? What about light? Sure you can make a fire with your bow saw and create a nice torch with pine resin but is that better than a tactical flashlight with rechargeable batteries and a solar charger?

Just my thoughts and I am always curious to hear yours. I believe there is a balance to be found between skills and stuff. I think you need to have both in good measure. What do you think?

In the Prepping community there are some topics that draw familiar responses from people of all walks of life. Naturally I am guilty of throwing out my own clichéd responses

Starting a blog requires a lot of things. Hard work, perseverance and luck play their own parts in unequal amounts. When I started Final Prepper , one of the first bloggers who was kind enough to link to our site was Dr. James Hubbard from his extremely informative site The Survival Doctor. Dr. Hubbard has been a family doctor for over 30 years and he has been sharing valuable information on his site since at least 2011 so I was honored when we were asked to review his first print book, First Aid: Fundamentals for Survival. First Aid is an extremely important topic and Dr. Hubbard covers a wide range of issues daily on his blog.

Having reference materials in the form of printed books is something that a lot of peppers’ and survivalists recommend. I personally think that every prepper should have their own survival library of books and reference manuals because there may be a day when you can’t get on the internet. There may come a day when everything is fine, but you are miles from a computer and that is when a pocket reference guide like this could save your life.

The book from Dr. Hubbard goes through the basics of first aid from the perspective of someone who can’t call 911. This book won’t teach you how to perform surgery but I think that is what makes this so great. I have several first aid books that go into ridiculous detail on surgery and while I can see the value in that reference if I have all of the supplies and time to learn
everything in there, a book like Dr. Hubbard’s, Fundamentals for Survival cuts to the chase and gives what I think is the most pertinent and important information that the average Joe can learn and use without a lot of fuss to save treat common ailments  that you could find yourself facing in a disaster or even a backyard accident.

 

 

 

 

What I liked

This book is the best I have seen so far at just giving what I consider is the basics of first aid. It is aptly titled “Fundamentals” and Dr. Hubbard has a way of making everything seem very simple, plain-spoken and logical. I really like the way that he gives me what I had searched everywhere for and that was what I needed for a first aid kit. I have several, but they were purchased and I had to build my own kits augmenting them from other kits I purchased. There didn’t seem to be one perfect first aid kit, that didn’t have a ton of Band-Aids as the bulk of the supplies. Fundamentals For Survival breaks the supplies you need down into two categories. Long term Storage and supplies you would need training for. Dr. Hubbard gives you a list and counts of exactly what you need to purchase so you can take this with you to Wal-Mart or go shopping at the local drug store if needed to get most everything you would need (without 200 Band-Aids) for your personal home first aid kit. Like I said, this is all very clearly written with just enough detail to make it easy to follow.

What I didn’t like

I honestly couldn’t find a single thing I didn’t like about this book. The size is perfect for shoving into a backpack or even a side pocket on your cargo pants and the cost is very reasonable at Amazon when I checked.

If you don’t have a decent first aid guide and have been meaning to pick one up, I think you will like Dr. Hubbards, First Aid: Fundamentals For Survival. If you have the complete Merck manual sets and all the surgical instruments and training of a doctor, this isn’t for you. It is a great resource for the rest of us.

Starting a blog requires a lot of things. Hard work, perseverance and luck play their own parts in unequal amounts. When I started Final Prepper , one of the first

 

The common cold and the flu have been around for a long time. Today, people use preventative measures as well as over-the-counter remedies to stay healthy, but what did our ancestors do before pharmacies and modern medicines were commonplace?

One of the most commonly used flu and cold remedies was elderberries. In fact, it’s still used in medicines today. You can buy elderberry-based cough syrups, which have been proven to reduce the severity of the common cold or flu, in your local pharmacy.

How Can Elderberries Help?

Elderberries (Sambucus nigra), which are native to a few parts of Europe and the US, come from a flower bush that produces small, black/purple fruits, similar to mulberries. They taste something like a strong blackberry.

Please note that the leaves of elderberry bushes can be poisonous, so don’t eat them or use them for tea. Elderberries need to be cooked prior to use or they can cause intense vomiting and diarrhea.

 

Numerous studies back up claims that elderberries contain anti-viral compounds, which prevent you from becoming infected in the first place – and shorten the duration and severity of the illness when you do get sick.

Grow Your Own

Order an elderberry bush from a reputable nursery and be certain you are getting Sambucus nigra.

One of the great things about elderberry bushes is that they are very easy to grow. They tolerate poor soil and very wet soil. However, one thing that elderberry bushes love is water. If you have hot, dry summers, you will need to give these little beauties water on a weekly basis.
They will just give a few berries their very first year, but by the second year, you will have plenty. Berries ripen somewhere between the middle of August and the middle of September, which gives you just enough time to mix up some elderberry syrup!If you want to plant more than one, put them about 3 feet apart, in rows about 12 feet apart. You should plant at least two bushes (for cross-pollination). For best results, do nothing to the plants for the first two years. Do not prune them and do not remove the berries. Just let them be their own wild selves for a short time, and then you can prune them and use the berries as you wish. Prune in the early spring and remove dead branches.

How to Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup

Of course, people use elderberries for things other than cold medicine. There are recipes for elderberry wine, elderberry “marshmallows” and even elderberry pie. Today, however, we are going to look at a quick and easy way to make elderberry syrup.

 

There are probably as many recipes for this syrup as there are for meatloaf. This one is very basic and simple, but gets the job done. Tastes pretty good, too!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of dried elderberries or 1.5 cups of fresh berries
  • 5 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon of clove powder
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 16-ounce glass container with lid (Mason jars are a good choice)

Instructions:

  • In a medium-sized pot, add all ingredients except for the honey
  • Bring to a boil, and then cover.
  • Reduce heat to simmer
  • Allow to simmer for at least 45 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to about half
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool until lukewarm
  • Mash the berries a bit, and then strain from pot into a bowl
  • Add honey and mix well
  • Pour into container of your choice

A standard dose is 1 teaspoon for children 12 and under every 3 to 4 hours. Adults can take 1 tablespoon every 3 to 4 hours.

Some people recommend giving children 1 teaspoon each day (and adults 1 tablespoon) during the flu season for preventative measures, but this is a matter of choice, as there are no studies showing this will prevent you from catching a cold or flu. That being said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt anything if you decided to try it!

This syrup is best when stored in the refrigerator and will last for several months. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays, and then seal them in plastic bags for later use. Elderberries also can be frozen if you want to make fresh batches during the winter months.

Have you ever consumed elderberries to boost your health? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

 

  The common cold and the flu have been around for a long time. Today, people use preventative measures as well as over-the-counter remedies to stay healthy, but what did our

Herbal teas are not only full of flavor, but they also have many wonderful health benefits.

Herbs can aid in sleeping, control blood pressure, reduce anxiety, support the immune system, and provide antioxidants. They also can help the metabolism and give you an energy boost.

You either can purchase tea bags and combine them in your teapot, buy pre-blended teas, or use freshly dried herbs and create your own herbal tea blends.

 

Here is a list of eight herbal teas, with their benefits.  

1. Chamomile tea

  • Natural stress reliever, Those who drink chamomile tea on a daily basis tend to have less stress and be less anxious than those who do not drink it.
  • Prevent sickness. The antibacterial properties of chamomile tea may aid in the prevention of colds while defending against bacterial-related illness, as well. If you get a cold and have a sore throat, chamomile tea is also good for relieving sore throat symptoms.
  • Diabetes. Recent studies show that chamomile can help those suffering from diabetes.
  • Stomach ache. Chamomile sooths the muscles and lining of the intestines. It can help with poor digestion and even with those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Natural sleep aid. It can aid in getting a great night’s sleep if you drink a cup before bedtime.

 2. Peppermint tea

  • Digestion. Peppermint is great for digestion and can aid in indigestion.
  • Nausea. It helps to relax the stomach muscles and can even ease bloating.
  • Breath freshener. Peppermint gives your breath a great smell!
  • Congestion and fever. If you have congestion from a cold, peppermint tea can help to relieve it. Furthermore, it is even said to help reduce a fever.
  • Natural source of energy. Just the smell of peppermint is a stimulant, awaking the senses and helping you focus.

 3. Valerian root tea

  • Relaxation and sleep aid. Valerian root has deep relaxing qualities. Hence, valerian helps to calm the mind.
  • Stress and anxiety reducer. Teas containing valerian contribute to reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Sleep aid. Herbal teas made with valerian are a relaxing, bedtime treat!

Colds and the flu. Cinnamon tea is a great herbal remedy for the flu and helps prevent colds and the flu because it’s naturally antibacterial, antifungal and anti-viral. It’s also great for soothing sore throats.

4. Cinnamon tea

  • Immune system support. Cinnamon is a great source of antioxidants, which help to boost your immune system.
  • Pain reliever. It increases blood circulation, which is good for easing pain.
  • Warming up. Whenever you have the chills, give cinnamon a shot!

 5. Hibiscus tea

  • Great source of vitamin C. Out of all the herbal teas, hibiscus flowers contain a super-high level of vitamin C and antioxidants.
  • Immune system support. Hibiscus tea is perfect for boosting the immune system and fighting free radicals. Drink hibiscus tea every day to stave off colds.
  • Anxiety reducer. Hibiscus tea also is a calming agent, so it is good for relieving anxiety.
  • Insomnia. Drinking a cup before bed can help you to relax and fall asleep easier.

6. Lemongrass tea

  • Natural healing power. Drink it all winter long!
  • Stress and anxiety reliever. Lemongrass is known for calming daily stresses and anxieties.
  • Blood circulation. This herb can dilate blood vessels, which improves blood circulation.
  • Blood pressure. If you drink lemongrass tea on a regular basis, it is good for maintaining a stable blood pressure.

7. Ginger tea

  • Coughs and colds. Ginger is a common herb found in most households. People began infusing ginger into teas to help treat colds and coughs. Furthermore, ginger can treat congestion.
  • Nausea. Ginger is good for treating nausea, morning sickness and motion sickness.
  • Can fight Alzheimer’s. Research shows that ginger can help slow down the loss of brain cells, which typically leads to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Gas. Drink a cup of ginger tea before you go to sleep to let it work its magic overnight. It clears out your digestive system and neutralizes the problem from inside.
  • Weight loss. Ginger speeds up the metabolism, leading to calorie-burning. Furthermore, it can help keep you feeling full for longer.
  • Blood sugar levels. Ginger can help keep blood glucose levels in check.
  • Stay focused and on task. Think of ginger as an all-natural alternative to products like 5 Hour Energy.
  • Tired muscles. Studies show people who eat ginger or drink ginger tea experience a significant reduction in muscle pain.

8. Clove tea

  • Colds. Clove is antimicrobial, antiviral and antibacterial. Hence, it is good for treating viruses and for preventing colds.
  • Pain reliever. Clove is anti-inflammatory and has analgesic properties, so it can help to treat aches and pains. Clove is great for a sore throat and for tonsillitis, as well.

Final Thoughts

Try a mixture of these herbal teas to make the perfect blend for your daily health boost. Furthermore, mixing these teas creates awesome flavors and aromas. On a cold winter day, herbal teas are the perfect drink.

What are your favorite herbal teas? Share your herbal tea tips in the section below:

 

Herbal teas are not only full of flavor, but they also have many wonderful health benefits. Herbs can aid in sleeping, control blood pressure, reduce anxiety, support the immune system, and

We never know how we are going to go out of this world do we? None of us ever know what will happen tomorrow but we plan and scheme anyway. I know that I can’t say with any certainty what the future holds for our world, but I like millions of others are planning for days that aren’t what we consider normal. Final Prepper has been dedicated for a year now to discussing events that could impact you in ways that seriously affect your daily routine. When what you are used to; running out for coffee in the drive-through at Starbucks, turns into a horror movie and you find yourself running for your life.

There are a million conversations being held right now on the Internet about what is coming and how you need to prepare for this contingency or that. I think there are some events or situations most of us can logically say are possible just from the simple standpoint of nature and how these events have happened so often in the past. We have earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and wildfires every year in the US alone. In other countries we have disease outbreaks, revolutions, wars, ethnic atrocities, humanitarian problems and economic turmoil somewhere virtually all the time. It isn’t unrealistic in my mind to envision any of those things happening at virtually any place on our planet.

There are commonalities with planning for disaster in what you prepare for and the steps you take to mitigate any risks you might face. These common elements seem to be able to stand on their own regardless of the scenario you are planning for. Take food for example. You never hear of any plan to survive that doesn’t involve food at some point in some form. This could be storing food so that you have it in case you are unable to get to the store or the store is out of food. Knowing how to find food in the wild even if the wild is your neighborhood is another way we address the issue as are hunting, growing a garden and even scavenging.

There are some elements of prepping or survival skills that we don’t focus on at least in the immediate short-term. Is this because we see their value as being less or we anticipate having to use these skills or items less likely than others? To frame this discussion I wanted to take a few basic criteria that should be common to any disaster and match them up to see what if anything was missing. The basics are food, water, shelter, security, electricity and health. I have 5 example scenarios to look at.

Global Pandemic – The hypothetical scenario is a highly contagious illness that is spread around the world with a high mortality rate. The disease kills millions but the highest percentage of people survive and may not even experience any effects.

  • Food – Food should not be an issue because even with sickness of such a wide spread, food should still make it to markets
  • Water – Unless the disease is waterborne, water supplies would be fine, but may need disinfecting.
  • Shelter – No impact outside of possibly not wanting to be in contact with sick individuals.
  • Security – The pandemic could cause panic and looting until the effects are under control.
  • Electricity – Like water, this utility shouldn’t be affected.
  • Health – This is an obvious hit in that hospitals would likely be overwhelmed with the sick. Routine injuries or illnesses may not be able to be treated.

EMP – The hypothetical scenario is that EMP devices are detonated over the US causing a complete collapse of the power grid. Not all electrical devices are compromised, but no power is flowing from the electric company.

  • Food – Food would easily be affected because of refrigeration and electricity needed to prepare the food. Your refrigerator would be useless, but food could still be cooked using fire or solar heat. How would you store your food though? Would grocery stores still be able to receive shipments of new food? Would the manufacturers be able to produce new food? Would pumps be able to pump gas? Would cars or trucks work to deliver the food?
  • Water – Water should not be impacted if it is in a freshwater source like a well, but how would you get it? Water is pumped to your house and if the power is lost to the pumping stations, the tap would shut off. No water to drink, bathe or flush the toilet with.
  • Shelter – No impact at all with a traditional EMP.
  • Security – I predict an electric outage would be catastrophic in the minds of people. Widespread looting and violence would happen almost immediately I think and you could quickly see a need to defend your home and possessions.
  • Electricity – Unless you had back up sources of power like generators or solar panels secured in Faraday cages you would be out of luck.
  • Health – There are highly inflated (in my opinion) estimates of the numbers of people who would die if we lived through an EMP. I have heard crazy numbers like 30 million people and I just don’t believe that. Would there be deaths? Sure, we have a lot of people on life support or who are old, frail or in poor health. They would seem to be likely candidates, but I can’t see millions of people dying simply because we had no power. Could I see some dying in violence? Sure, but not that many. I think more people than you would expect would be living just fine and they would be bored, scared and hungry.

Economic Collapse – The hypothetical scenario is the market crashes over a period of days or weeks. All banks close and most everyone’s money that was tied to dollars or any other fiat currency is lost. The only people who will hold anything of traditional monetary value would be precious metals.

  • Food – I think the first way food would be impacted is that you wouldn’t have enough money to purchase any food. The inflation would make buying food, even if you had money all but impossible. Food riots would eventually happen and then all the available food would be gone anyway.
  • Water – Water should not be impacted if it is in a freshwater source like a well, but in extreme circumstances, infrastructure would break down if there was nobody there to run the systems or fix them. If nobody was being paid, this could affect your water. If you couldn’t pay for water it would be shut off.
  • Shelter – No impact at all unless they want to foreclose your home because you can no longer afford to pay for it.
  • Security – I predict an economic collapse would have results to the American psyche comparable to an EMP. Widespread looting and violence would happen almost immediately I think and you could quickly see a need to defend your home and possessions.
  • Electricity – Just like water, this resource would only stay maintained with money and your ability to pay for it.
  • Health – I think routine healthcare would be moderately affected, but injuries requiring something more than a cane or an ace bandage would be out of the realm of possible for most people. Could your Obamacare cover that broken leg? Maybe, but you would have to wait 6 months to get someone to look at it and another 3 to get a cast put on it.

Zombie Invasion – OK, zombies are all over the world now for some reason. We’ll say it was a disease that most of the planet gets, but you and your survival group and a small percentage of others are immune.

  • Food – You are food for zombies so if you want to find human food, it will most likely be scrounging in homes or businesses to see what you can come up with. With the right set up you could start growing your own food and raising animals again, if you have the knowledge of how to do that.
  • Water – Water should not be impacted but you may not have it running from the tap. You would need to find a well or some body of water because anyone running the pumping station is dead or has left a long time ago.
  • Shelter – There would seem to be plenty of options for shelter in a zombie invasion, you would simply need to reinforce it and make sure zombies didn’t know you were in there.
  • Security – I am pretty sure this would be the main focus of your day; killing zombies and running for your life or simply carving out a retreat somewhere and trying to rebuild civilization.
  • Electricity – Solar panels would seem to be the best option in this scenario and they are in a lot of places. They are all over the sides of highways now running lights.
  • Health – Without modern medicine, we will all be living a different life. Getting sick has a new meaning when you can’t see a doctor, get an x-ray or have someone with skills take a look at you.

So what was the point of that little exercise? It was to get you thinking about a couple of things. First of all, each scenario left you dealing with different problems all within the context of the 6 basic survival needs. Do you have those covered? Have you considered the possibilities of any other events like this? Secondly, there are a lot of things we talk about that wouldn’t even come up in those examples above. For instance, starting a fire with a fire plough or making cord out of your braided strands of hair. In all of those hypothetical examples, you would still have access to most common survival skills, you could scavenge for equipment and supplies. What seemed to be important in all scenarios is Health. Have you received any first aid training? Do you have any survival medicine guide books? What about first aid supplies or fish antibiotics?

We tend to think about needs from a small perspective and hopefully this post gave you something to think about differently. I like to look at my preps from the standpoint of a lot of potential situations to see where I have blind spots. Maybe this identifies some for you?

We never know how we are going to go out of this world do we? None of us ever know what will happen tomorrow but we plan and scheme anyway.

I love reading books about post-apocalyptic situations, seeing how the author envisions everything going down and how people in the story cope during times of trials. When I was new to Prepping, I read several books for different perspectives and imagined myself in the same scenarios as the protagonists. I was the humble leader who quietly assumed the responsibility for protecting my family against a wide array of obstacles, threats and challenges. It is fiction, but with a dose of reality because in most of these books we have history to fall back on for a lot of the nastier things humans can do when confronted with a crisis. I read about an Economic Collapse in James Wesley Rawles’ book, Patriots and how Todd and Mary and their survival group had prepared for events like this with a fully stocked retreat. I lived through an EMP attack and the threat of biker gangs in William Forstchen’s One Second After and traveled cross country with Bishop in Joe Nobody’s Holding Their Own. Each one of these books catered to my desire to learn more about hypothetical scenarios and checked the box in the action column that kept everything interesting.

So when I was given the opportunity to review Going Home: A Novel (The Survivalist Series) which just so happens to be right up in the same genre as some of those books that I really enjoyed, I was excited to see how another author treated the subject of an EMP attack that forces the author to walk back home to his family over 250 miles away. Most of the scenarios in all of the books I mentioned are similar in that there is some event that wipes out our nation from a standpoint of capacity not necessarily destruction. In the survivalist genre you usually have a collapse of our nation through something other than war or disease so that we are all stuck living through whatever the issue is, but there is no virus to blame or an invading country. The bad guys end up being your neighbors because we are largely unprepared to live without the conveniences we have become dependent on. When you take away power, our entire society crumbles pretty quickly or at least that is what everyone, including me believes will happen.

The premise of A. American’s Going Home, is an EMP event that wipes out the power nationwide. The book doesn’t go into a lot of detail about the how’s or why’s but you are led to believe the potential is that forces in our government are somehow involved. Morgan is our hero and you meet him as he is driving home from his job. When the EMP event happens, all the power is gone, electronics die and Morgan has to walk back home over 250 miles to his family. The setting is in Florida and since he is a prepper, Morgan has an insane Get Home Bag in his car. The book is Morgan’s journey back home and shows along the way how people are dealing with or struggling through the crisis.

What I liked

Was the character of Sarge modeled after this guy?

Like I said above I already like this genre, so the subject matter appealed to me because this is one of those things I think is very possible. If we do have an EMP attack and you are away from home, you have to get back there and you will face difficulty along the way. I wrote a post about this exact same subject a while back called “After an EMP Attack – How to Get Home When it’s 700 Miles Away” because just like Morgan in this book, I travel for work sometimes. If I was away from home, my first priority would be to get back to my family and I have envisioned some of the same situations that A. American (clever pseudonym by the way) writes about in this novel. He also has the beginnings of a back story that involves not so nice people in DHS and the whispers of a conspiracy. What is going on at the range?

The book has about three main characters through the majority of the story and I really like Thad and Sarge who I swear was modeled exactly off of R. Lee Ermey or at least every line he delivers in my head comes from this icon of military themed characters. There is a fourth character who begins the journey with Morgan and I think there will be a reappearance of her at some point.

What I didn’t like

I usually struggle with this section in reviews because I find it hard to critique someone for something I haven’t done but I guess we all do this every day. To tell an author that they have problems with their book is easy to do for someone who hasn’t written their own book (yet?) and hasn’t had to deal with the issues I am picking apart so I will try to be fair and honest.

Going Home: A Novel

One of the two things I can say kept coming back to me as I was reading this book are Morgan’s supplies. Morgan has done what every good prepper should do if they have a job that takes them away from home. Morgan has a Get Home Bag and pretty much anything you could imagine him needing is packed away in here. I think that he has more stuff than I normally take for camping but he doesn’t stop there. A couple of characters remark about how much he has, so I am sure the author is aware of the amount at some point, but I choose to accept that Morgan has a huge pack and he is a big muscular guy who can walk with a 60 pound pack over 250 miles with no issues after society has busted big time. Hey, I believe much more insane things all the time when I watch movies so why not?

The other aspect I missed was more of a back story. Going Home, is the first of at least three novels and I plan on reading the next two. He may get more into the details about Morgan’s history and the people behind the conspiracy in the next two which may negate this entirely, but I would have like to have a little more of Morgan’s back story. How did he get into Prepping and what motivated him to set his house up the way he did? This book was almost entirely about the journey with a lot of attention paid to routes and the normal tasks of eating and sleeping, hiding and route navigation. He does share a pretty fair amount of time talking about the specifics of his gear. I know you have to strike a balance and it almost feels like this was one huge story broken into three parts and even written all at once so maybe this will all play out as I go along.

The characters of Thad and Sarge have a lot of potential and the whole military conspiracy angle is ripe for content. Maybe that is forthcoming and I will find out shortly as I start the second book Surviving Home tonight. I did enjoy the book overall and am looking forward to what happens next with Morgan. If you like survival fiction, I think you will like Going Home from A American.

I love reading books about post-apocalyptic situations, seeing how the author envisions everything going down and how people in the story cope during times of trials. When I was new

As a parent, sometimes I’ve asked my kids to do things they don’t want to do.  (Haven’t we all?)  The biggest key to their success in the endeavor is their attitude.

Scenario #1:

Me: Kiddo, it’s time to swap your winter clothes for your spring clothes. Please go through your closet, sort through your winter clothes and get rid of the stuff that’s too small or that you don’t want anymore.

KiddoI don’t want to!  I hate this! It’s not fair!!!

Kiddo goes through the closet, angrily shoving things in a garbage bag without taking a good hard look at things.  She sulks, pouts and is otherwise miserable.  She gets the job done but makes sure that it is unpleasant for all of us.

Scenario #2:

Me: Kiddo, it’s time to swap your winter clothes for your spring clothes. Please go through your closet, sort through your winter clothes and get rid of the stuff that’s too small or that you don’t want anymore.

KiddoOkay – this gives me a chance to see if there’s anything I can re-purpose, too!

Kiddo goes through the closet, eagerly sorting items into piles.  She comes up with a good stash of ‘new’ materials for craft projects, a bag of donations, and 2 shirts that were buried at the back that she forgot she had.  The job is done and the end result is its own reward.

Switching over to a more frugal lifestyle can be just like the above scenarios. You can embrace it and relish the challenge of it, or you can sulk, pout and be absolutely miserable.

Sometimes a reader comments on my website or sends me an email telling me that by preaching a frugal lifestyle, I am, in fact, giving in to the global elite and The Powers That Be.  They feel that I should be recommending other types of resistance.  They say, “Why should I have to do that when THEY have trashed our economy?  Why should I do without?”

I understand, truly, where these readers are coming from.  They’re right – we shouldn’t have to be thrifty because the “elite” have trashed the economy for everyday people.  However, I choose to.  I opt to live a frugal, non-consumer lifestyle because of my personal experiences. Disengaging from the uncaring financial machine has provided me with a freedom I never had when I was pulling down close to six figures.

The Story Behind My Advent into Cheapskatery

I suffered some great financial losses back in 2010. I lost my house, my car, and my business.  We had been living frugally in comparison to many people, but not frugally enough to counteract that personal economic disaster. Looking back, I’m not sure if any amount of frugality could have really made a difference.

It was a devastating blow, and it came right on the heels of the loss of my dear father.  We became even more thrifty of a necessity, and I resented the need to do so every single time I stepped into a mall, purchased groceries, or emptied my bank account on payday to keep the utilities on and a roof over our heads, with nothing extra left over for fun, or even secondary needs.  It was a very grim time for our family.

When the depression began to lift, I saw that getting out from under that mountain of debt had actually provided me with a gift of enormous freedom. I realized that my life could take a different turn. I was no longer tied to anything.

And that’s when I began to embrace my cheap side.

I realized that I no longer needed to buy into the system that had been the source of my economic collapse. By supporting them, I wasn’t supporting us. By being as self-sufficient as possible, by cutting my spending, and by not needing “the system”, I was winning.  I was becoming truly free.

When an entity has nothing to hold over your head, all the options are your own.  You can make your decisions based on what is good for you and your family, not on what terrible things might happen to you if you don’t “toe the line.”

Embrace your cheap side

Hard-core frugality is not just making a choice to buy the generic brand of laundry soap instead of a jug of Tide with scent beads.  Hard-core frugality is buying the ingredients to make 5 times the amount of laundry soap for half the price of that name-brand detergent, all the while LOVING the fact that Proctor and Gamble are not getting your money.

When you can cross that line between resenting the fact that you have to strictly budget to embracing the fact that by being as frugal as possible, you have a freedom you never dreamed of before, then you have begun to embrace your cheap side.

Being a black belt in frugality takes creativity and an optimistic outlook.  It should never be some grim, sad thing that you have to do.  It should be something that you choose to do.  By finding joy in your non-consumerism, you will be far more successful at it. It becomes a game that you win if you can do something for free that others spend money on.

When you feel like you require less, then you are happy with less.  This means that you have to spend less time working at things you may not truly enjoy to pay for the things that you never actually needed in the first place.  This means that the money that you have goes a lot further

You might be a cheapskate if….

Here are some surefire signs that you are embracing your cheap side:

  1. Before throwing anything in the garbage you take a few seconds to ponder how it might be reused, and then either compost it, put it aside for a re-purpose, or you turn it into a homemade “log” for your fire.
  2. You have an ice cream tub in your freezer nearly full of odd bits of leftovers, awaiting their reincarnation into “leftover casserole” or “leftover soup”.
  3. It’s physically impossible for you to drive past an interesting-looking garbage pile at the curb during somebody else’s spring cleaning frenzy.
  4. Your first stop at the grocery store is the “last day of sale” rack in each department.
  5. Your kid looks at a necklace or pair of earrings at the “cool” store and scoffs, “We could make this.”  Then she puts it back and asks you to take her to the thrift store for items to disassemble for the supplies to make her own accessories.
  6. A day of yard-saling is planned out like a military invasion: you have a Mapquest route of at least a half dozen sales, a thermos full of coffee, a wallet full of small bills, and a list including measurements of all empty spaces in your home that need to be filled, kitchen items you are seeking, books your daughter wants to read, and upcoming birthdays.  Your alarm is set the night before, a blueberry muffin is wrapped up and ready to go on the counter, and your comfy clothes are laid out.
  7. If something must be replaced or purchased, you always look for a used version first before doling out the money for a new one.
  8. You know how to darn socks….and you do it.
  9. You wash and re-use sandwich baggies, and you’ve even rigged up a little drying rack for them beside your sink.
  10. You are outraged at the idea of spending $18 on a jug of laundry detergent because you could make a year’s supply for that amount of money.
  11. You have recently advised your child to cut off that teeny bit of mold on the brick of cheese because the other side is just fine.
  12. You don’t carve the Jack-o-Lanterns until the day before Halloween so that you can cook, puree, and can the pumpkin the day after Halloween.
  13. You have (and use) a clothesline.  Year round.
  14. You know how to repair a plastic clothes hamper by “welding it” with a bread tag and a hot glue gun.
  15. The dish soap beside your sink is actually 50% dish soap and 50% water.

How to Become a Happy Non-Consumer

Be grateful.  An “attitude of gratitude” is the most vital part of embracing your cheap side. If you’re happy with what you’ve got, you will find that you “need” far less than you did before.  That’s because you aren’t seeking some momentary hit of joyous adrenaline by purchasing something.  That rush rarely lasts and you’re just left with more stuff and less money.

Be creative.  How can you make something, save something, or repair something in a totally original way?  Embrace the challenge and tap into your creativity – you may just discover that, in your originality, you’ve come up with something far better than the purchased alternative. (We’ve found this to be especially true with fashion accessories, home decor, and birthday parties!)

Give.  Don’t let your pursuit of frugality make you stingy.  There are always people who are worse off than you. It’s important to give a hand up to those people.  If your kids were hungry, or cold, or without shelter, wouldn’t you hope that some kind person would help them?  Even at our absolute rock bottom financially, we donated one can of spaghetti sauce and a package of noodles to the food bank every week, which hopefully provided a warm comforting meal for someone who needed it. It isn’t really necessary to debate whether people are truly in need or just milking the system.  That is a subject for them and their consciences.  Just give.  You are responsible for your intentions, not theirs.

Spend your money where it really matters.  We opted to move to a very small community into a drafty little cabin in the woods.  We made this decision as a family, in order to reduce our monthly output.  By getting rid of “city rent” and all of the bills that came with it, we cut our monthly output in half.  This means that I can spend a little extra on high-quality meats and dairy, for example.  When my daughter needs new glasses, it’s not a problem to pay for them.  It means my older daughter can get through college without crippling student loans.

Less need equals more time.  Not only does a thrifty lifestyle mean that I can refocus where my money goes. It means that I can refocus where my time goes.  I don’t have to work quite as hard on stuff outside the home and can focus on farm and family.  I have the time to make hats and scarves instead of purchasing them. I have time to garden and can the harvests.  I have time to perform money-saving tasks like cooking from scratch, which goes into a big happy circle of having more money to put towards important things.

Stay home.  When you stay home more, you are tempted less.  You aren’t thirsty, requiring a beverage. You aren’t hungry, requiring a snack.  You aren’t using the car, requiring gas.  You aren’t tempted by all the colorful and wonderful things in the stores.

Hang out with like-minded people.  It is so much easier to embrace your cheap side if you don’t have people telling you how deprived you are all the time, or berating you for being too cheap to spend $27.85 on a movie ticket, popcorn and a soda pop.  Most of my closest friends are thrifty.  We swap  clothing, we borrow and lend tools, and we cheerfully hang out without spending a dime.  Instead of going out to sit in a boutique coffee shop sipping a $6 latte with whipped cream, we sit in the garden at one of our houses sipping a coffee that one of us made, along with a nice fresh blueberry muffin.  We enjoy the same conversation we would have had at that coffee shop too. Instead of heading to the mall, we chat on Skype.   When your nearest and dearest are on the same page, life is a whole lot easier.

Turn off the TV.  People go to school for years to study how to make people want what they don’t need.  That great big brainwash box sitting in the living room is a direct pipeline into your brain.  From the beautiful homes on the TV programs, the fancy clothes and cars, and the ads for food, recreation and new cars, the whole racket is designed to make you feel you what you have now is inferior to what you could have.  Kids are the biggest target of product placement advertising in popular shows.  If you watch TV, limit it.  Become aware of the scams and discuss them with your kids so that they can easily identify how marketers are attempting to manipulate them.  (Confession: we do watch a little bit of TV in our home, and when we do, it’s a big game to identify the hidden ads. While this may sound contrary to the advice to turn the TV off, I believe that some limited viewing coupled with an awareness of the marketing techniques  inoculates my children against the sales pitch.)

The Two Week Challenge

Okay….do you want to get started on your journey to frugality, freedom, and fun?

Make a list of the things that you absolutely require over the next two weeks.  This, for most of us, is the distance between one paycheck and the next.   So, if you need some milk and other supplies, pick that up.  (If you are already a prepper, you probably have enough food to get by for several months!)

Then – lock up your bank card, your cash, and your credit cards (if you use them).  For the next two weeks, I don’t want you to spend a dime.

(Obviously, the bills that must be paid, must still be paid – I’m not suggesting you stiff your landlord or skip a car payment!)

But for EVERYTHING ELSE…..put it off for two weeks.

Every time you have the urge to spend money, write it down.  (You can cheer yourself along by promising to make this purchase when the two weeks are over, if you still want it.)  You are going to be AMAZED at the things you spend money on, as well as the amount that you would have spent.

Come up with creative solutions for your “needs” and most likely, you will discover that they were actually “wants.”

So for two weeks you will NOT be purchasing….

  • Additional groceries
  • Drive-thru coffee
  • Take out pizza
  • Movie tickets
  • New clothes
  • Books and magazines
  • That adorable pair of shoes – you know, the ones that are ON SALE!!!!
  • Gasoline (unless this is absolutely necessary for work – but try to get by on one tank of gas if you aren’t a commuter)
  • A candy bar or a pack of gum (easy since you won’t be at a checkout stand – right?)
  • Music downloads
  • Greeting cards
  • Special ingredients for a meal
  • A sweater for the dog
  • A throw pillow for the sofa

You get the idea.  If you cannot go for two weeks without spending money on any of the above, it might be time to take a critical look at how you’re living your life.  What will you do if you lose your job? If the economy gets worse? If all of your money goes to keep a roof over your head and you have nothing left for discretionary spending, it’s going to be far worse to have that lifestyle forced on you by circumstances.

At the end of the two weeks, take a look at your handy-dandy notebook and tally up the money you would normally have spent.  Are you surprised?

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To switch over to a frugal lifestyle successfully, you really have to want to do it. If you’re constantly bemoaning what you don’t have, you’ll be miserable.  If you are resentful that you can’t have “stuff” then you won’t stick to your frugal plan.  The most important thing of all is to switch off your personal “want” button.  When you don’t want or need the things that the “elite” and the big corporations are selling, then you are suddenly free of their restrictions.  You are no longer a slave to the wages you must earn to pay for the things they tell you that you should have.  You don’t have a lifestyle built on expectations, debt, and the never-ending search for happiness bought from a store.

I know that lots of you are already doing all of these things, and more…what are your suggestions for people who are new to the cheap side?  How has the art of thrift changed your life and set you free?

As a parent, sometimes I’ve asked my kids to do things they don’t want to do.  (Haven’t we all?)  The biggest key to their success in the endeavor is their