Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Beginner’s Guide to Prepping – Should You Prepare?

The cold wind howled with a chill we hadn’t felt since last winter. We bundled up and threw a couple of extra logs on the fire. It all seemed pretty normal for a late fall day in Idaho. But the temps kept dropping and then everything went dark. The house was cozy, but I knew that without power to keep the furnace running, the outlying rooms would start to get cold. I gathered the kids and their bedding close to the wood stove, and we hunkered down for the night.

 

wood heat

 

Are you prepared if the power goes out? What if there is a storm and you can’t go to the grocery store? Our story could have panned out much differently had we not been prepared.

Maybe you don’t face the threat of harsh winter storms or hurricanes but chances are you rely on the income from your job. What if you were to lose that without notice? Would your family go hungry?

No Pay!

Several years ago when the government was busy arguing over the federal budget our family went through two periods of no pay. During those times we had food to eat and money to make our payment. It was scary because our lives were in someone else’s hands but we didn’t fear whether we could feed the family. Our family ate like kings as co-workers applied for unemployment benefits.

 

home-cooked meal

 

Through all of these experiences, we have learned how important it is to be prepared. Does that mean that you need to build a bunker and stock it with two years of freeze dried meals? No. You can prep without being a doomsday prepper.

You want to stock up on some essentials – where do you start?

 

Scenarios to consider Cooking during disaster

  • Your climate – What are the extremes in your area? If you lost power during one of those extremes what do you need on hand?
  • Power outages – Can you still cook? What discomforts will you suffer? Will your animals have water?
  • Economic distress – What if computer networks fail and you cannot use your debit card?
  • Job loss – Can you feed your family for the next three months as you find work and wait for the first paycheck?
  • Natural disaster – Flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, wild fire, extreme heat, extreme cold. Every year part of the US is hit with a natural disaster. If one hit your city would you be prepared to weather that storm?

 

After considering different scenarios choose which ones you feel you need to be prepared for. Now decide how you can insulate your family from the effects of those situations.

 

 

Job loss is a risk everyone faces, even if you are self-employed. Does your family have provisions to get you through a hard time? I have heard people talk about losing work and going home to bare cupboards. How do you choose what to spend that last paycheck on? Will you get work fast enough to continue paying your bills?

How much do I really need?

dry goods storage

I like to keep at least three months of food on hand at all times. Six months or more is even better! That way if the car blows the transmission you will have a lot of breathing room. Of course, a savings account goes hand in hand with all that we are talking about.

Having food storage is like a dedicated savings account that is set aside just for feeding your family. If you are buying food and preserving it while it is in season, you will have a great return on investment!

Keep these items on hand
Food

  • Cooking supplies
  • Water
  • First aid supplies
  • Medication
  • Toiletries
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Diapers
  • Gasoline
  • Propane
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Fire wood
  • Clothes line or drying rack
  • Bushcraft knife
  • Tools to make repairs

 

Your Turn!

  • What preps will you start building up today?
  • What gaps do you have in your preps?

6 Things We Gave Up to Get Out Of Debt

In order to get our consumer debt paid off, my husband and I had to be willing to give up some things. We had to consider what aspects of our spending behavior we needed to change so that we could hit our goal as quickly as possible.

Here are the six things that we decided to give up in order to help us pay off our debt:

“Browsing” at our favorite stores:

The more time I spent browsing, the more I realized that there were items out there that I didn’t even know I “needed” and ended up buying. When I did our spending analysis at the beginning of our debt journey, what I found were my weaknesses for Target and the drugstore. That’s where I tended to get into the most amount of trouble when it came to spending impulsively.

I quickly realized that if we were going to get out of debt, browsing in those stores wasn’t something that I could be doing any more as too much money was getting wasted on items I didn’t need.

Shopping without a list:

Whenever I shopped without a list, my focus was easily diverted to all of the other things that I might “need”. In order to cut back on the amount we were spending, we learned that we needed to not only shop with a list, but stick to the list.

Shopping with a list included more than just groceries. When we need clothing, or anything else for that matter, I’ll do an inventory of what we have and then come up with a list of what we need so that when we go into the store we are not as easily distracted and wasting money on items that we don’t need right now.

New clothes:

Instead of shopping at the regular retail outlets, we now shop for new-to-us clothes at the thrift store. In doing so we have saved a lot of money, cutting our clothing budget in half. In order to save even more money, my favorite day to shop at the local thrift store is on their 50% off day.

Convenience food:

One of the biggest ways we saved on our grocery budget was to give up many of those convenience foods that are pre-made or pre-packaged. Many of these processed or pre-made foods tend to be overpriced and you can do it yourself for a lot cheaper. We make our own bread, pancake mix, hot cocoa mix, side dishes, and pizza. Not only is it just and easy to make these things, it’s also comforting to know exactly what’s in it.

Free time:

In order to get our debt paid off, we were also willing to give up some of our free time to generate an extra income, giving us more money to throw into our debt snowball. Both my husband and I have our respective “side hustles” that allow us to use our talents or interests to earn even more money.

Living life without a budget:

budget money

Living on a budget focused our spending and allowed us to gain control of our money. Having a plan for our money allowed us to see how much we needed to live and get by and then how much money was left that we could throw at our debt. Once we got on a written monthly budget, we truly felt as if we had gotten a raise because we were now telling our money where to go instead of wondering at the end of the month, where it went.

Your Turn!

  • What are you willing to give up to get out of debt?

 

Tiny House Stolen!

It’s a nightmare that you’d never want to have happen, but as tiny houses grow, so will the number of them that are stolen.  Watch this video below:

 

Luckily she was able to find the house, but I thought I’d share a few tips to keep your house safe.  There are a few steps to keeping things safe.  Obscurity, Security and Insurance.

Obscurity

Most of the people who have had their tiny houses stolen have one thing in common, they were in plain sight of a road.  Most criminals are crimes of opportunity. This isn’t some Ocean’s 11 heist; they see the house and they grab it.  It’s important to note that obscurity doesn’t equal security, but if someone isn’t able to see it from the road, if it’s existence isn’t known to many, the likelihood of someone stealing it is much lower.

My recommendation is to always have your house hidden from sight.  This causes less issues with neighbors, less issues with the city and less people poking around in general.  Practically speaking, if you house is visible from the road, you’re going to have people who literally stop their car and peer in your windows, not a great thing when you’re stepping out of the shower!

Don’t forget that while your house might not be seen in the summer months, but when the seasons change, all the leaves will drop.  I often suggest budgeting a few hundred dollars for some evergreen shrubs to plant as screens.

Security

Once you have your house hidden from prying eyes, it’s time to make things difficult for someone to waltz in and take your home.  The very sad truth is that if a thief really wants it, they’re going to get it.  All locks and security measures can be canceled out very quickly.  With the advent of battery grinder wheels, I’ve seen even hardened security locks be rendered useless in about 10 seconds.

Lock The Hitch

If a trailer has a hitch lock, it’s that much more difficult for someone to hook it up and go.  I recommend the hitch vault because it surrounds the entire hitch and the pin is difficult to get at.  I used to use a simple hitch pad lock, but one day I needed to get at the hitch and had lost the key.  I grabbed my bolt cutters and, in literally 2 seconds, had it off.

Get It Off The Wheels

This is one of the most effective options in my mind because it represents a huge obstacle for anyone trying to steal the house.  When you get your house in it’s final spot, you need to get it off the wheels anyway to avoid tire shock and tire rot.

What I do is get the house lifted off the ground until I can remove the tires.  I secure it with solid blocks, then I remove all the wheels.  I hide the lug nuts in another location and put the tires in a shed which is also locked.  What this means is if someone wanted to steal my tiny house, they’d have to jack the house up some, break into a shed, find the wheels, carry them over, put them on and then have the correct number and type of lug nuts to fasten them on.  It’s not that likely and if they could, it would take a fair bit of time, which is time they could be caught.

Have A Mean Sounding Dog

Many criminals often steer clear of dogs because they’re unpredictable.  A good sized dog with a mean bark can go a long way to keeping your house and property safe.

Insurance

This is a controversial topic, but I still think its worth mentioning.  I still maintain the stance that even if you are able to get a policy for your tiny house, if you ever had a claim, they’d never honor it.  I’ve written about how little faith I have in insurance companies for tiny houses here.  For standard things like cars, traditional houses, etc. I feel like it is a good practice for people to carry insurance.

If something goes wrong and your home is damaged, has a fire, flood, etc., insurance is how we mitigate risk.  For tiny houses, I feel it’s better to have a wad of cash in the bank, but each person need to make that decision for themselves.

Your Turn!

  • How are you going to protect your house?
  • What tips do you have to share?

How Minimalism Made Me Happier

When I tell people that I’m a minimalist, I get one response most often – “that must be really hard.” I tell them that actually, minimalism has made me a happier person. The decluttering process can be tedious, but once you’re in the clear, it’s a simple process of maintaining a minimalist lifestyle. These are the ways that minimalism has made me a happier person:

How Minimalism Made Me Happier

1. I Have Freedom

Before minimalism, I didn’t realize how much my belonging were actually weighing me down. I’d spend my weekends doing massive amounts of laundry, cleaning and organizing all of my clutter, and spending time and money on things I did not want to be spending time and money on. Post-decluttering, I’ve made time and saved money by living a minimalist lifestyle. Minimalism has helped me to be more intentional with where my time and money goes.

2. I Finally Followed My Dreams

Pre-minimalism, I was working a 9-5 and bingeing on travel blogs in my spare time. I was obsessed with the beautiful photos, the adventurous lifestyles, and the diversity of food in these people’s lives. Living a life of travel and learning something new every day was so appealing to me, but I could not see a future like that for myself – until I found minimalism. When I went minimalist, I accidentally saved a ton of money, and I had so much more free time. I realized my dream of living a travel based lifestyle was a possibility, and I made it happen. I’ve now been travelling full time for almost two years.

3. I Let Go Of Things That Were Weighing Me DownHow Minimalism Made Me Happier

An unexpected benefit of minimalism for me was the ability to choose how I spent my time. Pre-minimalism, my schedule was based on guilt – I had to go to these social events, becauses I knew people would be upset if I didn’t go. Everything that I got invited to, I went to, no matter how badly I did not want to go. Nowadays, I get to be picky about what I do and don’t go to. To be honest, I don’t make it to many events anymore, because I’d rather be spending my time working on something I am passionate about.

4. I Choose Happiness

Once I curated my schedule, I realized that I could curate anything in my life. I now choose to spend time only with people who lift me up and make me happy. It’s easy to see which relationships are beneficial – I would just think about how I felt after hanging out with someone. Did I feel drained or lifted up after spending time with this person? I quit spending time with anyone who left me feeling drained, and now I’m surrounded by so many uplifting people that inspire me on the daily.

How Minimalism Made Me Happier

5. I Have Time To Learn and Grow

I love reading. I love learning new things. Pre-minimalism, so much of my time was spent going to others social events and keeping up with my laundry, that I didn’t even have time to do what I wanted in my life. Now, my time is free to do whatever I want that day – read a new book, take an online course, meet a friend for coffee, or just spend time writing. The freedom that comes with minimalism is something that I wish everyone can experience in their life.

These are just five ways that minimalism has made me a happier person. Minimalism has changed my life in so many positive ways, I think that everyone can benefit from implementing a bit of minimalism in their life.

Your Turn!

  • What draws you to minimalism?

Budgeting Mistakes to Avoid

Whether you’re new to budgeting or have been budgeting for a while, there always seems to be expenses that get forgotten or overlooked. I know I’m guilty of overlooking all of the five most commonly forgotten expenses at one point or another. Unfortunately I don’t realize it until the expense comes up and I feel the pinch on our monthly cash flow.

In order to avoid the pinch, it’s a good idea to check your budget and make sure that you haven’t overlooked the most common budget expenses that get forgotten. You don’t want these sneaky budget busters ruining your month.

Special Occasion Gifts:

When looking at next month’s budget you do not want to forget any special occasions (think Halloween) or gifts that you might need to budget for. Open up your social calendar and see if you have any birthdays coming up or anniversaries that are being celebrated. Don’t make the same mistake I seem to do in October, and forget to budget a dinner out for our anniversary, and then have to make cuts elsewhere in the budget to accommodate for the “unexpected” expense.

Car Maintenance:

This is one of those categories that my husband and I overlooked early on in the budgeting process, but one that is important, especially when it’s time for any regular car maintenance. Even if you just set aside a small amount every month in an envelope or sinking fund and let it build, when you have to do an oil change or you have to replace your tires, you’ll have the money ready to go.

House Maintenance:

You also want to make sure that you’re setting aside a little bit of money each month for home maintenance. Even though you may not need this money each month, home maintenance is ongoing. There are always items around your home that will need to eventually be replaced or upgraded. Setting aside some money each month ensures that any foreseeable home repairs don’t require you to dip into your emergency savings or go into debt to cover the costs.

Quarterly or Annual Bills:

You also don’t want to forget those bills that don’t come in every month. For us, our electric bill comes in every other month and we pay our water bill quarterly. You want to familiarize yourself with the bill schedule so that you know which months you need to budget for them. Other quarterly or annual expenses might also include your insurance, licence plate renewal, or any yearly membership renewal fees.

Setting Aside Money for Taxes:

For those that are self employed or generating a side income where income tax is not deducted, you want to make sure that you’re setting aside a certain percentage of that money to keep the IRS happy come tax time. In order to know how much to set aside, you’ll need to determine your marginal tax bracket rate. By setting this money aside and being prepared, you’ll avoid the scramble with the tax bill comes in.

Your Turn!

  • What are some expenses that have busted your budget in the past?
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