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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Budgeting for Family Preparedness, by Allen C.

Having been a wilderness survival and firearms instructor for many years, I never considered the need for a survival retreat until I got married and moved from the country to a small city of about 30,000.  My minimalist lifestyle had allowed me a certain level of financial freedom.  Driving used cars and fixing up a home that had been previously condemned meant I had not made a car payment or house payment in years.  I spent summers running a high adventure camp for the Boy Scouts of America and worked for city the rest of the year as a firefighter and HAZMAT Technician.  I also managed a real estate investment trust that purchased distressed properties for resale on installment. 
For most of my life I lived in the same small town where I grew up.  My ancestors had been there for generations, carving a life out of Appalachia after immigrating from Wales.  Our economic inactivity and rural location gave us some buffer against the downward spiral of society.  I would find out later that we were much more independent than the majority of Americans.  I remember being shocked the first time I met someone who could not replace the wax seal on their own toilet.  I was very close to my grandfather who grew up during the Great Depression.  He had a backup for everything.  Like most modern homes, his had a gas furnace and heat pump.  He also installed a natural gas heater that required no electric fan and a coal furnace backup “just in case the gas line froze.”  This is the atmosphere in which I grew up.  I never wondered why we had a big garden and multiple freezers.  Where else would we put the hogs we raised and butchered? 
I guess I figured that if small town life became intolerable, I could melt into the wilderness reappearing only when I needed provision from my food storage.  Growing up around Amish and Mennonites I maintained a year's supply of food to hedge income fluctuations.  I knew before I got married that most women prefer luxuries like central heat and toilets that flush without a bucket of water.  So when we married, I moved into her home in her small city and immediately felt uneasy.  I was no longer self-sufficient.  I had lost my independence.  I recognized our need for a safe house, a mortgage-free self-sufficient retreat that we could get to on foot if necessary.  My new wife is no prepper, but agreed that I could spend whatever I sold my house for on whatever I wanted if it made me feel more comfortable about my move to the city. 
This is the story of some of the major changes I have made thus far.  I have never made a lot of money, but half of those on the planet survive on less than $2 per day and I earned more than that so the only obstacle between me and savings was self-discipline.  I do not know what to tell someone who has consumed as much or more than they produced their entire life.  Those who insist on living like the rest of the world will die like the rest of the world.  I do not know what the future holds, but I do know that if we always do what we have always done, then we will always get what we have always gotten.  I share this narrative in hopes that my experience will sensitize the reader to opportunities in their own lives.  Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.  Maybe something here will help someone make their own luck.  Many of the smaller purchases have been omitted.  Few people want to hear how I bought windows for my retreat at the local thrift store although almost everything except the lumber itself is previously owned.  I have better things to do with my time than salvage lumber.  There are things I would have been done better with more money, but my goal was to shift existing resources whenever possible and stay within my budget.  Early last year, I built a house in Honduras as part of a mission team.  The Hondurans taught me to live an abundant life with very little money.  I learned to build and cook on a mud stove.  The daily lives of the very poor provided a lot of survival insight and ideas.  I have included a breakdown of my revenues and expenses.  These transactions all occurred in Appalachia and amounts will vary by region.
Selling My Home During Recession
Since no bank would dare finance my dilapidated house, I sold it and the adjacent lot on installment to a qualified buyer for my original cost of $9,000.  I bought it years ago on installment for what the seller was going to have to pay to tear it down.  In the past year I received revenue as follows:
Down payment $2,000
Monthly payments (one year)  2,000
Total received   4,000
Net Cash Flow $4,000

Guns
I fell into my first major purchase when I bought a gun collection from someone I knew who had been charged with a felony.  It would be illegal to own them after his trial and he needed cash.  I subsequently sold the ones I did not want ending up with 9 guns (including a handgun) for $1,350.  While the collection came with some ammunition, I waited for sales and spent another $500 on ammo. 
Beginning balance $4,000
Purchase gun collection -1,500
Sold junk guns +  150
Bought additional ammo -   500
Ending balance $2,150

Pantry
Like most people, my new wife bought things as she needed them.  We immediately bought three month's worth of staples for the pantry for $650.  This included six gallons of bleach and three ceramic water filter kits for about $35 each if we need to drink water from the 10 acre lake behind us. 
Beginning balance $2,150
Pantry upgrade -   650
Ending balance $1,500

Vehicle
I faithfully searched web sites for a pre-electronic diesel 4WD which I eventually found in good working order for $1,500.  I immediately sold my high mileage Chrysler 300M to a Facebook friend for the same amount.
Beginning balance $1,500
1989 Ford F-250 diesel -1,500
Sold Chrysler 300M +1,500
Ending balance $1,500

Land
At one time I attempted to form a group to buy land together.  After getting banned from a few Yahoo groups for Spam, I gave up and decided to find like minded neighbors instead.  I rolled a small retirement account from a previous employer into a self-directed IRA that allows me to purchase real estate.  Every morning for four months I checked the multiple listing service (MLS) for new listings in my target area.  I immediately drove to new listings myself contacting the listing agent directly if I was still interested.   The acreage purchased in the name of my Roth IRA trustee for $5,000 is exempt from bankruptcy assets and cannot be easily attached by creditors (if I had any) because it is in a qualified retirement plan.  I had to hike up the gated road it lies on after a snow storm to see the property which was being liquidated as part of a divorce settlement.  My initiative made me the first of many offers for the asking price.
Beginning balance $1,500
Roth IRA funding +5,000
Purchase acreage -5,000
IRA fees -   200
Ending balance $1,300

Precious Metals
I have a state employee retirement plan which allows me to borrow up to 45% of the value.  I diversified by doing so and using the funds to buy precious metals at the end of January because historical charts showed it almost always rises from there.  It has. 
Beginning balance $1,300
Retirement loan None of Your Business
Precious metals None of Your Business
Ending balance $1,300

Long-term Food Storage
Not everything needs to be freeze-dried and nitrogen packed.  Those things were purchased online from Costco where every year I also order a bucket of survival seeds.  Grains came from a bulk food co-op (ask around) truck route and packed in Mylar-lined buckets with oxygen absorbers.  Other things were purchased from the local warehouse club.  ($1,250-$1,250=$0)
Beginning balance $1,300
Long-term food storage -1,300
Ending balance $    -0-

The Retreat
Since my acreage is held through an IRA, I am not to make improvements to it that are not funded by my IRA.  Anything on blocks, however, is considered personal property and not real estate.  I could build slowly as installment payments on the house I sold came in, but want to finish this month, so I am using some of my windfall extended unemployment compensation to build a fortified, insulated, building that sleeps six.  It has a wood/coal stove (that I bought years ago for $200) and a rain catchment system.  My solar power system and other valuables are in a rented metal storage unit close to the retreat.  When I actually use the retreat, it will be considered a distribution of my account, but that will be the least of my troubles. 
Beginning balance $     -0-
Remaining land contract +5,000
Retreat building costs   -4,000
Ending balance $ 1,000
    

Preppers are Crazy, Gun Fanatics, Doomers, Fear Mongerers, and Delusionally Disconnected From Reality

 
It baffles me that after all the press that Survivalism, Survivalist Lite, Preppers (and whatever name we want call our passion for preparedness) has gotten lately, there are still people out there that scoff and laugh at prepper’s elevated concern for approaching emergencies.  Recently, on a trip I was taking, I told a man about my website and what I write about.  After telling him, I then held my breath awaiting his reaction.  It’s not good.  I got “the look,” and then the guy started making jokes about my heightened sense of paranoia and my lack of faith.   
I was laughed at by someone who believed the picture painted by the press.  We all know the picture: We are all involved in a militia with guns in every room. I knew it was re-education time just by the look on the guys face the minute I told him I was a prepper.  He started trying to set me up for jokes and began asking me questions about my political affiliation.  I was then asked if I am a “tea bagger,” and of course, the most popular questions: if I am a member of a militia, and if I think the world is going to end.  Inside I am saying to myself, ” Le sigh, here we go again!”

Prepper Pride

Many of us will come face to face with people who do not understand why we prepare and because they are easily led, will only continue to paint preppers in a negative light.  Honestly, I am very open about prepping and look forward to people asking me questions because I know that they are curious.  Each time I am confronted, I use it as an opportunity to change some of the prejudices and stereotypes out there regarding preppers and survivalists.  I believe in freedom through self reliance, I believe in rising from the ashes when an emergency occurs and not relying on the government to take care of me.  And I will continue doing so despite the persisting jokes.

Plant the Seed

If you are wondering what happened at the end of my conversation with the guy who was laughing at me — I converted him to a prepper and we went out that day to get survival gear for him and year supply of food.  Just kidding.  But I do think I planted a seed.  I could see that I sparked a chord in him, just by his body language he was taking in what I was trying to convey.  Planting the seed is all I try and do, the rest is up to them.