It is sad to think that on Christmas Eve that there are people out there without presents to give to their loved ones. No way to tell someone how special they are other than with a hug and a kiss or a pat on the shoulder. Just as sad to realize many do not even have enough food to enjoy Christmas dinner with their family.
Thankfully, there are charities that provide gifts for children when their parents cannot. It is re-affirming when you see the relief a parent feels when they realize they can give their child a gift, thanks to your kindness. It is one less burden then have to face during a tough time of year.
There are also places that serve Christmas dinner and foodbanks that pass along groceries to the needy. Tens of millions are taking advantage of their services this year, many for the first time. But the problem goes beyond Christmas and Thanksgiving. More than 27 million households in the U.S. “sometimes or often” do not have enough food to feed the family.
Times like this remind us of two things: How lucky we are that we not only have enough food to feed ourselves today but have supplies put aside for months or even years, and how slippery the slope is. The line between most of us who have enough and those of us who do not is getting thinner and thinner.
If you can afford to do so, join my wife and I in giving to support your local foodbank. They will always accept food, but they can do even more good with cash.
If you cannot afford to do so, keep reading.
Living Paycheck to Paycheck
We may seem well off because we just bought a new house, but the truth is we are downsizing so we can afford to live with a much smaller income than I used to make. The profits from the house sale will allow us to survive until we can collect Social Security and tap into our retirement savings. We have to be careful not to over spend between now and then, and my wife has me on a tight budget.
I lived paycheck to paycheck for years. We have played all the games: I used one credit card to pay off another, skipped paying one utility bill so I could pay another, and then reversed it the next month. I even carried a large credit card balance for years, paying arduous interest charges.
That all changed in my mid-30s when I started working a side gig as an independent sales agent for a manufacturer. It was work that required me to be self-motivated because if I did not try, if I did not put myself out there, I did not make any sales. It was commission only and taught me to face rejection and not give up.
There were good months and bad, but the first commission check that came in the mail was for $800, and that was a powerful feeling. It made me double-down and work harder. Two years later, I made a once-in-a-lifetime sale and got a $15,000 check. That never happened again, but by selling on nights and weekends while I worked my standard 9-to-5 job, I suddenly was able to get ahead, make a down payment on a house, and turn in my 12-year-old car for a new, larger one to better accommodate my growing family.
Prep Your Finances as Well as Food and Shelter
When I made money, I plowed it into my prepping. In the years sales were tough to come by, we just paid our bills, pinched our pennies, and let the prepping wait. We didn’t go into debt to build our preps.
We also worked on our finances with as much energy as we worked on our preps. Just as I read up on prepping, I read up on finance, and I realized that there is a place where the two intersect. You cannot be fully prepped unless your finances are prepped.
I read up on how to manage money, how to grow it, and how to invest it. I read about the Millionaire Next Door, about the Rich Dad and the Poor Dad, and I learned how to invest money and how to diversify. And during the 2008 recession, I made some good decisions and invested in sectors that bounced back quickly.
And little by little, my preps grew, but so did my bank account and my retirement fund.
It Can be Done
Prepping takes hard work, dedication, and focus. So does making and saving money. If you can prep and put food aside for the dark days, you can do the same with money. It took me more than 25 years to buy my prepper property, but that was always the goal. Set your goals, financial and prepper. Don’t expect to accomplish them all at once, but try to make forward progress three out of every five years.
The key is to live within your resources, not beyond them. Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses; they are morons. Avoid debt because once you get in over your head, it’s difficult to get out. Have a reserve fund. Always contribute to your 401k or other employee-sponsored retirement plan or an IRA. Have a budget and work within it. If you exceed it in one area, trade off and underspend in another.
And most importantly, don’t make emotional decisions about money. Don’t join with most American and spend money simply because it makes you feel good in the short term. Shopping should not be a hobby. Think of your long term goals. You may not be able to buy your mountain house today, but that doesn’t mean you won’t one day.