What is Prepared Living?

What is Prepared Living?

Prepared living is a concept that my family lives by, and it is constantly evolving. The concept is to be frugal and save everything you can. It is a concept of doing everything for tomorrow, not for today. In the process, you are able to prepare for the future, for both fears and unknowns. It is not a political or religious concept. It is not about where you live or how you were raised. The size of your family is not important. Your family can be prepared for the unknown, whether that is unemployment, earthquakes and tornadoes, or something much worse.

For me, it began several years ago when my wife and I rented our first home together. It was small, but it had a decent sized pantry. One weekend, we got a good deal on a few canned goods at our local Kroger ($0.50 per can of Del Monte canned vegetables). I must have purchased 40 cans (a mere $20), and loved the idea that we had plenty to eat in the pantry. Around the same time, we began clipping a few coupons here and there and doing matchups (Now while I’ll talk about matchups more in another post, know that it is the concept of matching a coupon with a store’s sale to maximize the savings). Our pantry really began to grow. We got hooked, stocking our pantry, getting the best deals, giving to charity…all for a fraction of our normal grocery bill.

Eventually, we realized that our stockpile built by coupons could serve another purpose: settling our fears about tomorrow. Not only did our stress level drop gradually over time, knowing that we could feed our family through some really thin times, but our relationship got better – our family got stronger. Our bank account began to grow, our disconnect notices began to go away, our credit cards always paid down. This all stemmed from a conscious decision to be frugal and provide for our family not just today, but for the future. That is an important point that I cannot stress enough, this is not about providing for today, it is about providing for tomorrow.

So join me on this exploration of prepared living, self sufficient life. A life in which you are no longer the victim, but the change maker. Let’s make a difference for your family, your friends and your community.

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(Near) Instant Rebate Apps

If you aren’t using rebate apps yet, you’re missing out on some nice extras. The apps act like a rebate as you purchase specific products and you receive money back. Different programs have different “cash out” levels ($5, $20, etc.), but they all pay in cash (or gift cards if you prefer). It isn’t quite an instant rebate, as you are usually required to scan the barcode of the product and then upload a picture of your receipt (both of which are made super easy by their respective apps – SavingStar doesn’t even require an upload for some stores as they can read from your shoppers card within a few days). You can earn even more by forming a “team” through Facebook and reaching higher and higher tiers of earnings with Ibotta. I have personally seen rebates as high as $3 per product (for diapers)!

The best part is, you can use them in conjunction with ALL other stacks (even though Ibotta has a slogan that states “Better than Coupons” – don’t buy it! It’s better WITH coupons)! That means that for example, if you find a rebate on a product at Target that has a cartwheel, a store coupon, a manufacturers coupon and a gift card deal, you can STILL use the rebate on top of them!

For me, I use my earnings from these programs as a way to help offset the cost of protein. Meat is expensive, and coupons are scarce (if they exist at all) for fresh meat. I take my earnings and wait for a great meat sale, then I use them up buy buying as much as I can (remember the sale cycles and look for upcoming holidays with traditional meals!). Also, don’t be ashamed to buy from the clearance meat section if you’re making dinner that night with it or you have the freezer space – but that’s another post!

The apps are:
Checkout51
Ibotta
SavingStar

This weeks finds

One of the things I hope to do on this blog is to motivate you to live a prepared life and to coupon, coupon, coupon! So I decided to share with you the deals that I got this week at Target and CVS (my two go-to coupon spots, although there are many others).

This week at Target, I was able to spend just $57 out of pocket AND receive $20 back in Target gift cards for my next trip.
target_7_27_2014

 

The haul:
2 bags Wonka Randoms candy
4 cans Pringles
3 bags Perdue Chicken Nuggets
1 package Ball Park All-Beef Hot Dogs
6 packages Old El Paso Rice Bowls
2 Bath Poofs
1 package Remington Hair Clips
8 boxes Bagel Bites
3 boxes Froot Loops
1 box Corn Pops
1 gallon Market Pantry whole milk
4 large bottles Downy Infusions
6 bottles Head and Shoulders 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner
2 cans Market Pantry Carrots
2 cans Market Pantry Mixed Vegetables
$20 Target Gift Cards

The breakdown:
Before taxes and assuming only sale prices (not full retail): $151.05
Tax (most items are exempt from sales tax in Texas): $1.02
Price paid on Target REDCard (out of pocket price): $56.55
TOTAL SAVINGS: $95.52

Then, the excursion continued to CVS where I was able to spend just $5.90 out of pocket AND got $13 back in Extra Bucks for my next trip.
cvs_20140727_190430

 

The haul:
3 jars Ragu Pasta Sauce
1 2 liter bottle Canada Dry Ginger Ale (great for all the kids and their upset tummies)
2 packages Oral-B toothbrush refill heads
2 packages 3pk Colgate toothbrushes (great for donations to charity!)
2 bottles Natures Bounty Vitamin D 100ct
1 reusable bag
$13 CVS Extra Bucks

The breakdown:
Before taxes and assuming only sale prices (not full retail): $38.54
Tax (most items are exempt from sales tax in Texas): $0.35
Price paid Out-Of-Pocket: $5.90
TOTAL SAVINGS: $32.99

Economic Instability

One of the major reasons why people would want to live a prepared life come in the direct context of economics. Now I know it is a very boring subject for most people, and for others they don’t understand economics at all. With all of that said, and in light of developments in the world, I thought it would be prudent to talk about one of the “Why’s” to living a prepared life. While I could go on in a hundred posts about what is wrong economically in the western nations as well as the rest of the world, today, I’m just going to talk about a few more immediate issues.

By now, we have all experienced the higher prices that simply will not come back down to earth. Beef is at record highs (although, some of it is in fact attributed to last years drought), Chicken and Pork are through the roof, eggs are almost unaffordable, produce staples are doubling in price, even juice seems to be priced for only the rich and famous. The government reports “modest to near flat inflation” at around 2%. So what gives?

Well, there are two basic problems at play here. First, inflation numbers are grossly unfair on several counts. For one, the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics, the people who compile the raw data in the government) does not distinguish between Pork Loin and Pigs Feet. They simply collect data on “pork” (and in some cases meat, so if you switch from ground beef to the cheapest meat on the shelf, inflation shows in decline). Reference: Inflation Indexes at About.com For two, not all ‘measures’ on inflation look at food and fuel (the real hard hitters to our pockets).

Secondly, our money is being constantly devalued by printing (virtual or real). Many years ago, our money was backed by gold and silver. Then it was lowered, but still backed to a certain amount (see Bretton Woods system). Then, in 1971, our dollar was no longer backed by anything of value (there are many political reasons and theories regarding why). Our dollar is only good because the government tells people that it is. There is nothing contractual that sets the value of the dollar. This allows the currency to be ‘devalued’ and your dollar worth less and less, goods cost more and more, while you make the same.

There are bubbles everywhere. You’ve probably already heard about the student loan bubble. Now there is another housing bubble, a sub-prime auto bubble and let’s not forget about the upcoming stock market bubble that is just around the corner.

Employment is thin. No really, it is. Unemployment numbers are down or stable from just a few years ago, but just like the government’s flawed numbers on inflation – their unemployment numbers do not take into account those who have stopped looking for work, those who are underemployed (a fancy term for those who now work part time because it’s all they can find), and those who are working in a position paying far less than their old job. All the while, the income gap is widening by massive amounts (those with money can gamble and make more, those without struggle to put food on the table).

The economy is in dire shape from every single direction. This is not the time to go out and buy a vacation home or a few new jet skis. Now is the time to save, and save a lot!

For our family, we have several ways to combat this issue.
First: we coupon. We stockpile food on the cheap and fight inflation using matchups.
Second: we live a frugal life with dining out and vacations. If we don’t have a massive discount, we don’t do it.
Third: we purchase silver. We purchase silver every single paycheck. We don’t buy stocks in silver mining companies, we don’t buy silver futures on the commodities market, we don’t buy silver for someone else to store for us. We buy physical silver, shipped to our home, without exception. For every dollar I save, I save at least that amount in silver if not 2-3 times that amount, and you should too.

Just remember, there won’t always be someone there to save you – including government!

 

Coupon Matchups

Coupon MatchupYou may be asking yourself what a coupon matchup is, what does it mean? Coupon matchups are the process of pairing a store sale with a coupon to maximize the savings. Coupon matchups may also be a 3 or 4 or even 5 way matchup by pairing a store sale with a store coupon with a manufacturers coupon with an electronic store discount (Target Cartwheel for example) with a rebate and sometimes even a “next purchase” deal (CVS ExtraBucks or Target Gift Cards for example). By using these matchups, you are able to stockpile product when the sale and coupon cycle comes around (we’ll talk about stockpiling and sale/coupon cycles in another post).

So how does this work? The easiest example is let’s say Kroger runs Van Camp Pork and Beans for 75¢ a can but has a sale on them for 50¢ a can. Now you have a coupon that you clipped for 40¢ off 4 cans, which equates to 10¢ off per can. When you pair this up, you get those Pork and Beans for 40¢ a can, almost 50% off the regular price and 20% off the sale price.

How about a much more complex example, say using a 6 way deal with Target?
Let’s say Target has Tide laundry detergent on sale for $9.99 each, regularly $11.99. But this week, they have a gift card deal: $10 when you buy 3 participating Tide items. You have a $2 off 1 manufacturers coupon that you clipped last week. Normally, this alone would be a good deal: $9.99 – $2.00 = $7.99 * 3 = $23.97 for three – $10 gift card = $13.97. However, we need to hold the presses because you just found a $3 off 2 Tide Target Coupon (a store coupon) plus there is a 5% Target Cartwheel (an electronic discount). You would wind up paying $3.31 each for the detergent. How did it work?
$9.99 (Sale price)
x      3
———-
$29.97
-$3.00 ($3 off 2 Target Store Coupon)
———-
$26.97
– $6.00 ($2.00 * 3 Manufacturers coupon)
———-
$20.97
– $1.04 (5% Target Cartwheel
———-
$19.93
-$10.00 (Gift card back for buying 3)
———-
$9.93 for THREE or like paying $3.31 each or almost 73% off the regular retail!

Simply using the coupon for $2.00 off 1 would have had you paying almost three times as much using it on a normal day. So as you can see, matchups are one of the keys to maximizing your savings, building a stockpile, and living a prepared life!

Restaurant Surveys

McDonalds Survey

One of the ways that our family saves money when dining out (which we severely limit due to the fact we can usually eat at home much cheaper) is by utilizing restaurant surveys. They are most commonly found on fast food receipts but they may also be found for some fancier sit-down places. Generally, it’s a buy one get one free item.

Since we rarely eat inside a fast food restaurant, we tend to skip the meals and drinks and go right for the main course. Then, we can take it home and pair it with our much cheaper side items and drinks we’ve purchased in the supermarkets. It takes a little while for the kids to stop complaining, but once they’re over the “we’re not getting a cheaply made junk toy in our happy meal”, it’s an easy adjustment! Remember, the restaurants make most of their profit by upselling you on high margin items like drinks and fries (or deserts and appetizers in your favorite sit down). This is why they’re willing to give away the lower margin items in the hopes you’ll buy drinks and sides (their labor is already there and the lights are already on – so it’s only costing them food).

Now before you go and get a super cheap meal on your favorite fast food restaurant, make sure you check the fine print. Sometimes (although it’s rare) these survey coupons have some fine print to go along with them (say a minimum purchase amount or blackout dates). Be sure and check for the small print on both sides of the receipt as well as the survey website. This will prevent any surprises at the register, as well as arguing with the manager!

The next time you get your receipt from the restaurant, check it for a survey code and take it! It could save you quite a bit on your next restaurant run.