The Prepper's Guide
Preparedness without the hype.
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The purpose of The Prepper's Guide is to educate, motivate and provide practical resources to support the prepared lifestyle without encouraging panic, dissension or sensationalism.

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Is Owning a Franchise an Option For You?

We talk a lot about financial security, good investments and career development on this blog.

Career development doesn’t always mean having a job, working for an employer.  One option is owning your own business.  We will be discussing work from home opportunities in a future post, but today I would like to talk about brick and mortar businesses.

You may have thought about owning your own business before, but you don’t have a particular business in mind or have developed your own product.  Owning a franchise is one way to own your own business where all of the development, market testing and business systems have been done for you.

You see franchise businesses everywhere you look.  Fast food restaurants, retail stores, service businesses and financial goods and services to name a few.

There are a lot of benefits to owning a franchise as compared to starting a business from scratch.  With a franchise, it is pretty much a business in a box, with all the necessary ingredients (not counting your work) to be successful.  Some of these are:

  • Proven Business Systems: Everything from software, ledgers, marketing materials, the layout of the store,  employee schedules and manuals and even how to train employees are included as part of the package.  You don’t have to figure this out for yourself.
  • Track Record of Success:  A franchise already has proven the business model.  They know how to find the best locations, how to get the financing you need, the best way to integrate into the community and even the most successful ways to market the business, because they have always done it many times before.
  • Brand Recognition: Their brand is already out there.  You don’t have to convince anyone of the quality or need for your product or service.  Logos, catch phrases even down to flyers and business cards already are recognizable by your customers.
  • Training:  Even if you have never worked in a retail establishment, franchises offer complete training for the owner and employees, so when a customer walks into your store, they will get exactly what they expect.
  • Ongoing Support:  Part of what you pay for when you own a franchise is the support from the parent company with training, marketing, new products and brand improvement.  This means a better success rate for them and their brand, so it is in their best interest to see that you get the tools you need to be successful as well.

So the question is: Is  owning a franchise a good choice for you? There is a great evaluation quiz you can take to find out if there is a franchise out there that will be your perfect choice. It evaluates your personality as well as your financial situation to determine if there are some franchises out there that would be just perfect for you to start your own business.

Click here to take the test.

Coping With Unemployment Before it Happens

The one thing about a “secure” employment situation is that there is no such beast.  At anytime a person can find themselves out of a job, even if you are excelling in your position, even if the boss likes you, even if you are a company asset.

The recent “economic downturn” showed us that.  Companies that had been successful for years found themselves laying off employees who thought they had found a company home.  Even large corporations like Microsoft, Boing and Intel laid off thousands of employees with almost no notice.

No matter how safe you think your job is you should expect the unexpected.  This means you need to have a plan, an “exit strategy” if you will.  This plan should include:

  • 6 months of salary put away to cover expenses, if you are laid off.
  • Keep your resume current.  Add potential referrals, new skillsets, a good job description of your current job.
  • Stay up to date with your industry and your profession by adding certifications and training to your resume.
  • Keep any letters of commendation or testimonials from clients or customers in a file.
  • Decide now if you need to adjust your career trajectory by getting additional training in your field or perhaps training in a new or related field.
  • Accept new assignments that allow you to stretch yourself.

You may even consider whether or not you might like to go into business for yourself.  I know more than one hilariously successful business owner who started up a business working from home because they were laid off of their job.

What Color Is Your Parachute?There is a great book that everyone who wants to be prepared for unemployment should definitely read.  It is “What Color Is Your Parachute?”  by Richard K. Boules.  This is not just about getting a job.  It is about career development and how to do what you need to do to be prepared if you either want to change careers, are preparing for a career or are looking for work.  This is considered the employment bible by most employment specialists out there.  Must have reading for your preparedness bookshelf.

 

 

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Provident Living – Use It Up, Wear It Out…

We live in a throw away culture.  Disposable is the catch phrase nearly guaranteed to sell a new product.  Only slightly more used is the word Recycleable.  The thing is that recycling is not a new concept.  Re-purposing materials was the rule rather than the exception not that long ago.

There was a time when cities didn’t need such huge waste storing facilities.  People just didn’t throw that much away.  Organics were either fed to the farm animals or ended up in the compost pile.  Non organics usually just found a new life in a different function.  Old clothes were cut apart and resewn into new garments.  When you couldn’t do that anymore they were used for making quilts.  And when they weren’t even good for that, you used them for rags or stuffing for a home made doll or a scarecrow.

My grandfather had a saying:

“Use it up or wear it out.
Make it do or do without.”

I believe he probably learned it from his mother.

There are two approaches to a provident lifestyle that I try to follow,

1. Buy things of good quality and take good care of them so they last a long time and are worthy of your investment.

2. Learn to repair and repurpose what we already have.  Either find it a new home with a group such as FreeCycle.Org or find a new use for all or part of it or donate it to a charitable organization.

 The less that ends up in the landfill the better for all of us.

Now that doesn’t mean we have to be pack rats.  What it does mean is we should carefully consider before we make a purchase how quickly it will end up in the dump and whether it is worth exchanging for a piece of our life.

What do I mean by that?  Every day, no matter what we do to earn a living, we trade a certain number of hours for a paycheck.  We then take that paycheck and exchange it for goods and services.  Every time we spend any amount of money, we are spending a piece of someone’s life.  Are the chotskies and thingamabobs we purchase actually worth that?

Only you can determine that, but you may ask yourself:

  •     Do I need this?
  •     If I don’t need this, is the benefit of the purchase worth the price?
  •       Will it change my life for the better?
  •     Is there a less expensive alternative?
  •     If I didn’t purchase it, would anything bad happen?

So many people say they don’t have enough money to invest in a savings account, but just not spending money a few times a month on something we truly don’t need could give us the money to invest even $20 to $50 a paycheck.  Over a year or two, voila!  You have an emergency fund.  Maybe not a large one, but a good start.

Learning skills like how to repair a car or do household repairs and maintenance can save you thousands of dollars over time.  Learning skills like how to do carpentry or sewing allows you to create better quality products than you could otherwise afford to buy or hire done.

Putting these things into practice and making them an important part of your preparedness plan will pay large dividends over time and can be very personally satisfying.

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Why Food Storage?

Why Food Storage?

Not so long in the past it was considered a normal thing to have some food “put by” and stored in pantries and root cellars or even on a back porch.  This store of good food, often canned, dehydrated and preserved in the home was a source of pride and comfort, just as important as a savings account when saving for a rainy day.

We have come a long way in so many areas.  Our supermarket shelves are well-stocked, or so it appears.  However, in the case of a natural disaster or other large scale emergency, the shelves can clear very quickly of needed items.

To get started, just buy an extra bag of rice or an extra bag of beans.  Now you have a couple of days of extra food and it didn’t inflate your grocery bill hardly at all.  Next time buy a few cans of stewed tomatoes and some kind of canned green veggies.  Now you have a couple days of balanced meals and the tomatoes will give the beans some extra flavor.  Add to that a bag of popcorn and now you have a couple weeks of healthy snacks.  Do you see how that goes?

Over time you can pick up a few extra items every time you shop.  This little store can quickly grow and is wonderful to supplement things when things get rough and money for food is scarce.  Be sure to buy things your family will actually eat and then rotate the older items out of storage and replace them on a regular basis to keep your supplies fresh.

Planting a garden and preserving what you don’t eat right away is another great way to inexpensively add to your food storage.  Food can be dehydrated (see our article on building your own solar food dehydrator) or canned or frozen.
Remember about frozen food, although frozen is probably the best for you and the most palatable, in the event of a power outage, frozen food may become more of a liability than a help unless you have some way of supplementing the power.  You are also limited by the size of your freezer.

One other way of putting together a goodly supply of food for a difficult time is to buy specially preserved food from a good distributor.  These supplies usually come either dried or freeze dried and are easy to prepare as long as you have clean water and some way to cook (see our article about a solar oven you can buld yourself using materials available in a dollar store).

In future articles we will talk about the advantages of each method with some great tips on how to build up food storage on a budget, optimized storage conditions and different ways to preserve food you grow yourself or buy in quantity during the season.  We will also have recommendations on how to balance nutrition to provide a healthy diet during otherwise stressful times.

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A Long Term Preparedness Plan

Life throws a lot of unexpected things in your path.  Some are really wonderful, even if unexpected; a new baby, a raise, a bonus, a wedding or even winning the lottery.  Oftentimes, however, we get new challenges; loss of a job, a death in the family, catastrophic illness, a house fire or  just an “economic downturn”.

Whenever possible, when we plan ahead we can sometimes prevent a nasty surprise, but most of the time the best we can do is to prepare ourselves to be able to make the best of a bad situation.

This is where having a long term plan comes into play.  There are many things you can do to prepare for the more obvious possibilities.  The emphasis here is on “can”.  It is possible to make long term preparations for both the expected and unexpected exigencies of life.  Some people feel uncomfortable thinking about these things, but in the final analysis no one ever looks back on a difficult time and says, “Man, I sure wish I hadn’t prepared so much for this.”

So what are some key things we can put in a long term preparedness plan?  Some suggestions are:

  •     Food and fuel storage
  •     Emergency supplies such as a 72 hour kit
  •     An emergency savings account
  •     Life, home, auto, pet and medical insurance
  •     A living will
  •     A will
  •     Burial insurance
  •     A health and fitness program
  •     Elderly care insurance
  •     Alternative living space (such as an rv)
  •     Learn how to repair the things you own
  •     Backups for your computer data
  •     Learn how to build things out of raw materials
  •     Alternative energy possibilities

And there are many things I left off of the list.  The trick is to start where you are.  Play the what if game and see what things you are already prepared for.  Then look at the list of things that you are not prepared for and start with the easiest and quickest one to fix.  We will be doing articles in the future on many different things you can do and how to do them inexpensively and easier than you think.  Stay tuned…

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Want To Go Solar? Start Small…

Most people think of solar energy as a big expensive renovation of their home.  Pricey and not necessarily worth it.

However, you don’t have to do a complete solar redo to benefit from many types of solar energy and begin to save money right away on your power bill.

First of all there are tons of DIY solar projects using passive solar energy.  You can find plans and instructions on blogs, on Facebook, YouTube and through searches on the internet.

Secondly, there are a lot of ready to go out of the box solar solutions for everything from charging your laptop or your cell phone or both to recharging batteries or lighting up your home.  As research brings us more and more solar powered or solar rechargeable devices, we can rely less and less on the power grid.

Fair warning, though, using the various peripheral solar devices can become addictive and you may find yourself doing that solar reit after all.  Therefore, we will be doing several articles in the near future about everything from reviews of the latest solar gadgets to how to solarize your home once and for all.  It should be (ahem) an enlightening experience.

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Build Your Own Solar Food Dehydrator

Up until about 75 years ago, most people kept a supply of food and other supplies to tide them over during emergencies or hard times.  Over the years since, however, modern man has developed a pretty impressive system of farming and food distribution.  In pretty much any town you can find a grocery store with magic shelves that just seem to replenish themselves day after day.

Unfortunately, we have seen that in times of panic because of a natural disaster or an announcement of an impending disaster, we see those magic shelves empty themselves very rapidly and quite frankly sometimes it doesn’t matter how full the shelves are: you can’t buy food if you don’t have money.  In the event of a layoff or illness or other personal disaster those shelves full of food can feel like they are mocking you.

Either way, whethr during a widespread emergency in a community or a personal crisis such as a layoff,  Having some extra food and other supplies laid by can make all of the difference.

This article is the first in a series of articles on Home Production and Storage.  Today we will be discussing preserving food through dehydration.  Whether you have a vegetable garden or just run across a deep discount on veggies or fruits your family loves, the problem is, how to you preserve it before it spoils?

Freezing veggies and fruit is nice, but how big a freezer do you have?  Also, if the power goes out, how do you keep it cold?

Canning fruits and vegetables is good, but you do lose some of the nutrient value in the canning process and it takes some expertise and equipment not to mention the cost of canning jars.

The other option is to dehydrate food.  Dehydration can be done in your oven at home and you can dehydrate almost everything including meat.

The drawback to dehydrating is that it takes up your oven for an extended period which can heat up your house, not to mention the fact that your house will smell like whatever you are drying.  This is not bad when you are dehydrating apples, but what about onions, cabbage or garlic? The other drawback is the amount of energy it takes to dehydrate food in any quantity that would make a difference.

The answer to this is to build yourself an outside solar food dehydrator.  I looked at lots of plans for those and found the following gem on YouTube.  This is a nice sized food dehydrator that you can build mostly out of things you may already have at home, such as aluminum drink cans.  The video below shows us step-by-step how to make an awesome dehydrator that uses no external power and can remain outdoors.

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The Home Business Prepper – Preserving Your Data

So ok, you earn your money from a home business.  You have 72 hour emergency evacuation kits for every family member. You have a family disaster plan.  You’re set, right?

The thing is, disaster can strike your home business and you need to be prepared.  For instance, most home businesses are run from a computer or network of computers.  Within the bits and bytes of information is your business world.  Your books are kept there, Your contact lists are kept there and in most cases, proprietary information and intellecual property is kept there.

What happens when (not if) your computer crashes or there is a house fire or someone steals or breaks your laptop?

The first rule of computer disaster prep is backup, backup, backup.  The question is how?  You have a number of options and each has its pros and cons.

The first and most obvious choice for me is a portable hard drive that does not stay permanently connected to your computer.  If your computer gets a virus and you keep your portable drive connected all the time, the likelyhood is that it will also catch the virus.  For this reason you:

  •     Always run virus protection on your computer before you do a backup.
  •     Always keep an old copy of your computer on an additional drive just in case.

Yes, that means two drives, but you can get a terrabyte drive these days for under a hundred dollars, cheap insurance when your business is on the line.

The pros of this are that you always have all of your files in a portable format that can easily slip into the pocket of your 72 hour kit in case of an evacuation situaton and that your backups are secure and virus free.

The con is basically that if you are not at home when a house fire or flood destroys your home or you are burlarized, if you don’t have one of your backup drives with you, you are sunk.

Another option is remote backups or “cloud” backups where you back up your computer to a remote server via the internet.  This can be very good and allows you access to your files from any computer, anywhere.

Some recommended “cloud” type backups are:

Cons are, you have to be connected to the internet to do the backup (which is usually much slower than doing it from a drive, depending on your connection speed), it usually costs a monthly or yearly fee and there is always that little niggling fear about security of your data on a remote server. Also most cloud backup systems only backup files, not your software applications which makes doing a restore a lot more involved and you have to be sure you have backups of all of your original software disks and security codes for the disks.

A friend of mine who runs a very large international business from his home waw recently traveling and had his laptop, his tablet and all of his discs that were the tools of his trade stolen from the locked trunk of his rental car in a supposedly secure parking garage of a major hotel.  Because of his state of preparedness, in a matter of a week, even though he never got his equipment back, he was back up and running.  That is the true benefit of being prepared.

This is the first of a series of articles about home business preparedness.  Stay tuned…

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A Family Emergency Disaster Plan

It is an old adage, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  There are some areas of life where failure is unenjoyable, but not fatal.  In the event of a disaster, natural or man-made, failure to plan can be catastrophic.

Each of us live in different areas that are prone to different kinds of natural disasters that are fairly predictable.  Earthquakes on the west coast, blizzards in the northeast, tornadoes in the midwest, hurricanes on the southern and gulf coastal areas, etc.  We know they happen, but we can’t predict precisely when or where.

Storms, flash-floods, wildfires, mudslides…the list is a long one and that is just when mother nature has a tantrum.  What about man made cataclysms?  The dam breaks, an airliner crashes, forest fires caused by a casually flicked cigarette out of a car window?  The world can be a dangerous place.

This is why it is essential for a family to be prepared for whatever may come, as much as that is possible.  Simple things like exit drills in the home (E.D.I.T.H.) and having accessible 72 hour emergency evacuation kits can make a huge difference.

When an emergency comes your way, it is easy to succumb to panic, which only tends to make the situation worse.  However, if you have taken the time to  create a family plan for disasters, it is easier to keep a clear head and get family members to safety as quickly as possible.

Take a 72 hour kit for example.  It is good to have one, but do family members understand how to use it?  Do they know where they are stored so they can get to them quickly?  Do they know how to use your out of area contact?  Have you chosen a designated gathering place if you are separated? Do all family members know how to shut off the gas or water lines? Does everyone know how to operate a fire extinguisher? Do the younger ones know how to use 911?  Do they know how to give accurate directions to your home?

Do your family members know the rules for surviving the potential disasters in your area?  The strategies for surviving an earthquake and a flood are different. Letting them know what to expect and how to avoid the worst aspects may save their lives and will definitely allow them to act more safely and confidently if they are confronted with a disaster.

Take an evening on a regular basis to make and review your plan.  Decide which family members are responsible for which tasks and have backups in place.

Your plan can be simple or elaborate depending on financial circumstances and the kind of disasters you may expect in your area, but having a plan is the first step towards peace of mind and confidence in action.

You don’t want to scare your family with dire predictions, just the opposite.  You want them to feel like they can function like a team in a disaster and do better because of it.  It is a lot easier to be optimistic when you are prepared for whatevr comes.

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