by Amber Waldroup
Everywhere you look these days, you see posts, articles, and tips on how to prepare for the future—economic crisis, military takeover, environmental disaster, or whatever SHTF scenario you’re planning for. You can even find tips on prepping cheaply. For me, a $100 prep isn’t cheap. That’s a big deal for me. For me, prepping cheaply is something for $5. $1. $0.25. Or free.
What? You can prep for free? Why, yes, yes you can! It’s simple, but not always easy. It involves work, planning, time, and dedication. But I’m doing it. One freebie at a time. No, I’m not building a stockpile of massive proportions. But I’m doing what I can with what I have, which often isn’t much.
Here’s my background: my hubby works for a small, rural county. Not great pay, but a job nonetheless. And after losing his job as a computer guy for a local business, this job is great because it (usually, or, more accurately, eventually) pays the bills. I am a stay at home Mom. It’s cheaper than day care for the two kids. One kid is about to start school, the other is a few years from that journey. We have cut the budget to the bare minimum. Groceries and household necessities like toilet paper, diapers, and soap. Gas. Insurance. Utilities. Mortgage. Eating out is a treat. Vacations are a thing of the past. Clearance and final markdown are required words for most purchases.
Yet, I have a small stockpile, though it’s no where big enough for my comfort, or for the comfort of the hard core preppers in my family. I have food, toiletries, and paper items stashed in closest and pantries in my house. How? Coupons and sales, that’s how.
Today, for example, the one of the grocery stores in my area had a sale on toothpaste and toothbrushes, $1 each. Not bad, though the toothpaste is not my first choice of toothpaste. It will keep until I need it, either when things get really bad in this country, or if something happens and I don’t know where our next dollar will come from.
Here’s how I spent $0.25 for 2 tubes of toothpaste and 2 toothbrushes. I had two $1 off coupons for the toothbrushes from a mailer I got. Toothbrushes for $2.79 on sale for $1 minus $1 coupon equals free toothbrushes. I cut a $0.50 coupon from the Sunday paper for the toothpaste, and a $0.75 coupon from the same insert. My store doubles coupons up to $0.50, so that coupon became $1. One tube cost me nothing, and the other was $0.25. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Now, I’m not an extreme couponer by any means. In fact, they kinda make me a little ill. I mean, shelf clearing, cheating, and faking coupons ruin it for everyone. I bought 1 newspaper, had 1 mailer, and only bought 2 of each item. That’s enough for me. Next month when the sale is on again, I’ll do it again.
How do I find such great deals? Easy. Facebook. I have a couple of savings sites that I like. I follow ones for my area and the stores that I like. I check out their weekly ad and coupon match-ups, print the coupons that are online and pull the ones from inserts out of my coupon binder. I make a careful list, and I know the rock bottom prices and what I’m willing to pay for something.
For example, I don’t like to pay more than $5 for a package of 12 double rolls of toilet paper. I also like to have at least one unopened package in the house in addition to the one we are currently using. ( I know, that’s not nearly enough for a SHTF scenario, but remember, we’re broke!) During my reconnaissance for today’s grocery trip, I found toilet paper on sale for $5.99. I had grabbed a pack of toilet paper during my back to school shopping trip at the big box store last week, so I didn’t need it, and it certainly was over my personal price limit. But wait one minute—is that a coupon I spy? Yes, and as a matter of fact, there were two coupons. I had a coupon that printed in the store a few weeks ago for $1.50 off that brand of toilet paper, and there was an internet printable for $0.50 off. Remember how my store doubles? Now we’re within my price range. I decided to go ahead and get two packs, because I had the coupons, and toilet paper doesn’t go bad. I had done well enough with my other shopping (thanks to coupons and sales) that I had the extra. One pack of good toilet paper cost me $4.99, the other $4.49. We’re getting closer to our goals, one pack of on-sale toilet paper at a time.
And as a side note, buying those two pack of toilet paper got me a coupon for $3.50 off my next shopping trip. That’s a little over 1/3 off my kid’s night time diapers—we’re potty training, so diapers are still in our lives—or more free toothbrushes, or a gallon of milk. Either way, it’s more for me to use for my family. As another side note, I also got free body wash and a couple of bars of soap for $0.50, thanks to combining coupons and sales.
Each toothbrush, each tube of toothpaste, each roll of toilet paper, each can of beans, each box of noodles that you get for free or cheap is that much more insurance against an unsure future. Whether you think of your personal future—job stability, local disaster, etc—or the country’s future, it’s all uncertain. But for me, a couple of tubes of toothpaste, a few toothbrushes, and some toilet paper that I paid almost nothing for stand between me and that murky future.