Two weeks ago, I read that we are likely headed into another Recession and this got me thinking. The Article in question was from the U.S and it indicated a 30% possibility that we’re all headed for choppy waters. In Britain, this is already a very turbulent time and after the performances of our politicians in Parliament this week – no-one is feeling very positive about our future at the moment. It has been reported that the cost of food shopping alone post-Brexit could cost the average household £500 more per Year, which is not a cost that we or many people like us can absorb.
So, what can we do to ready ourselves for change like this, where we have little to no idea about what the next few months might bring? You could argue that we never know what’s ahead (and you’d be darn right!) but other than trusting in God, what can we physically and mentally do to prepare ourselves, our Families and our Community the best we can? Below are a few suggestions and things that have been on my mind:
- Talk about it – I don’t mean ‘get political’ here. I mean, take some time to talk to loved ones, friends and strangers (new friends) about what may be coming. I have found that by doing this, people have the most amazing and resourceful tips and that we can share ideas (or at the very least, just commiserate/pray over the situation!) for the benefit of all. In the excellent book ‘ The Complete Tightwad Gazette’, Amy Dacyczyn talks about a technique she calls “Putting the problem into the mental computer”, that is – encountering a problem and rather than dwelling on it (which can distract you from the solution) you share it with others and allow the power of our brains combined to come up with a solution. Sometimes, these solutions are purely heaven sent and sometimes they are a conglomeration of all our gifts applied to the same problem. I find this a massively helpful technique as long as I give myself enough time to think on it before it needs resolution! So, spread the word, talk things over with others and proceed on a strong foundation. Regardless of the situation we face, all we have is one-another ❤
- Start Recording Your Spending – This is crucial, especially when starting out on a cheap lifestyle or if you’ve lost your way with money. This happens to all of us at some point and accountability is the cure. Keep a tally of all spending in a notebook, spreadsheet, app (we can highly recommend Spending Tracker which is completely free and easy to use * Not Sponsored!), Keep note or sticky note – anything that you can keep up with and look at once a week and see where you’re doing well and where you could do better is great. This is something we do ritually so month-on-month you can see where to cut down, what needs cutting out and what needs a little more money putting towards it.
- If you’re in debt, start paying off as much debt as you can – Whether you’ve started on a debt repayment plan or not, if you’re in debt don’t walk alone. The wonderful people at CAP (again *Not Sponsored) want to help you become free from debt and are waiting for your call: 01274 760720 or you can find more information here. Other methods like following the Dave Ramsey method are also great. Whatever way you chose to pay off your debt, get paying now and move forward in financial freedom.
- If you’re working, keep at it and if you’re not, get working – Benefits are not guaranteed and your income is your greatest wealth-building tool. Our home does currently receive some Work and Disability benefits but we do not rely on those sums to live. We have diversified our income streams that include blogging, a small home-made clothing & homewares business, online Survey taking, Cleaning and Gardening for relatives and finally, a small income from savings. None of these side-hustles compare to the power of Lee’s income which we stretch out as tightly as we can, something we consider to be my job as a Homemaker. Not everyone is able to work but everyone is able to contribute something.
- Get on some kind of Budget – After logging your spending and cutting back, you have all the data you will need to write out a budget. Setting a budget for every category of life throughout the year is imperative and helps you to prepare as much as possible for things you know are coming. This video is particularly helpful when starting to write a budget for the first time and please, be aware that budgets WILL change in the first few months as you find your budgeting mojo – it’s completely normal. What matters isn’t getting it right 1st time, it’s that you’re learning and walking a path to financial success.
- Make a Savings goals and start saving NOW! – Savings rates are falling drastically at the moment but that is not an excuse to stop saving (or to stop-starting saving, if you know what I mean!). Savings will tide you over for a while (depending on the amount saved) during times of Financial Instability and as we learnt in 2008, the first 2 years of recession hit us the hardest of all. If we can keep enough in savings to help us over an initial inflation, we’ll be all the better for it, whether it’s earning us a fortune in interest or not. If you’re getting out of debt, you need a Emergency Fund (which you can determine). Whether you then choose to contribute to savings whilst paying off debt or not is completely up-to-you. Regardless of your situation, if you are shopping around for a savings account, PLEASE save with an FSCS or likewise protected institute and start saving a.s.a.p.
- Make a Price & Recipe Book – This is my goal for September. I hope to use an old ringbinder and fill it with our favourite recipes which i’ll hand-write out and to start keeping a price-book of all our regular consumables. I will be focussing more on this in a following post and hope to supply a printable form that is flexible enough for anyone who wants to join the price-booking revolution! The reason I want to have these things written is that I worry about power/data loss and as people who lived with VERY dodgy internet connection for many years, I worry about not having access to these recipes/data should the power go out or the internet go down.
- Sort out your Home – Start gathering the things you may need in the event of a worst-case scenario. Grab a flashlight, lantern, candles, space-heaters made with terracotta pots (like this), 2 sets of bed sheets for every bed, blankets, tea towels, towels and flannels, reusable sanitary products like cloth pads, nappies, baby wipes, etc. Every person should have clothes for warm weather and cold weather, layers for everything in-between and a pair of good sturdy winter boots, sandals and training shoes. Depending on your location, everyone will need a good winter coat, gloves, hats and scarves. Buy the best quality at a price you can afford and TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING AS IS REQUIRED. Get waterproofing spray to top up shoes, coats and bags, get everyone a reliable backpack and water bottle while you’re at it. Look ahead to needs of your home regarding cleaning, maintenance of the garden and care of any animals. Don’t worry about re-cluttering your lovely home, it’s better that you have these things and are prepared. Survival is always in style!
- Sort out your Garden – Gardening saves our family a ton of money every year and it’s a real source of peace for us when considering a potential lack of availability or affordability of fruits and vegetables. You can start gardening and growing your own food regardless of how much space you have. Windowsill gardening, balcony planters and window boxes are all great places to start growing. How much space you have will dictate what you’re able to grow but as PrepperPrincess says “do what you can with what you’ve got”. Seeds can be very expensive but look in places like The Range, Poundland, Wilko and Trago Mills which have the best prices for us. Supermarkets work on the model of ‘Just-in-Time’ food deliveries which can easily fail if there is a small delay or drop in the supply chain. Growing some or all of your own food insulates you somewhat from any potential price increases, scarcity and helps you build new skills!
- Use your local Library – Libraries are wonderful places and we use ours to the fullest extent! Not only is it a drop-in centre for many Council issues, there’s free books, CD’s, DVD’s, free ebooks and audiobooks supplied by an app, courses, children’s entertainment, local groups and information. They are fantastic centres in the community where we get all our books on gardening and self-sufficiency, knitting patterns and much more. It’s also where we do our printing! Sign up today – it’s free and it’s easy.
- Look at changing your eating habits – A side effect of our extreme frugality has been changing what we eat and simplifying our meals. I had a very big weight problem for many years and it’s something i’m still working on little by little. We’ve found incredible inspiration for frugal meals by copying or modifying recipes from WW2 & The Great Depression. Wartime and Depression cookery is very simple and food is made very economically – making it perfect for the cheapskate in all of us! Here’s some links to a great place to find Wartime Recipes and Depression Era recipes.
- Know which foods would be difficult to obtain and should you find a good deal, Stock Up NOW! – UK self-sufficiency has been declining for the past 30 years and with many of us leading busier lifestyles than ever, reliance on ready-made foods is chronic. We are not in a position as a Country to support the growth of everything we currently expect from our supermarkets, whether these are things we actually NEED or not is by the by. The following foods represent the majority of our diets and price rises could be crippling. Dairy has been considered a “luxury product” and sales of Cheese, Butter, Yoghurt and Milk could all increase in cost up to 8%. You may recognise that the cost for these items has already increased at the time of writing but scarcity/import tax could drive up costs further, as approximately 82% of our Cheddar Cheese currently comes from Ireland. All Meat & Poultry, Fruit and Vegetables are at risk of inflation/scarcity, especially Tomatoes and Broccoli costs which could rise by 4%. Fish and especially Cod would be impacted, with Cod rising 18% and other fish as much as 1-2%. Bread is unlikely to be affected by Brexit as we currently grow most of the grain needed for this. Some Cereals could see a rise of just under 2% but with Quinoa and Rice sourced outside the EU, it’s not yet possible to gauge the possible rise (or fall) in cost. Wine & Spirits have already seen a rise in cost due to the mere-threat of Brexit, so given a financial crisis of any sort, Alcoholic drinks are an area of predicted volatility.
- Don’t depend so heavily on Electricity – During the 1970’s, strikes at power plants and coal mines across the UK led to planned and spontaneous power outages that lasted long enough for the milk to sour. This lack of confidence in Electricity led to a fascinating folk revival which has since dropped out of vogue. We use electricity for so many things, more now than ever since the advent of Mobile Phones and Home Internet. We have been quietly moving away from electric-consuming gadgets like blenders, food processors, microwaves, electric kettles, toasters, etc and have embraced the hob and oven fully. Instead, we use those knives, presses, sieves, multi-faced graters and pestle & mortars that we all have but may rarely use. We’ve noticed our electricity bills are much lighter despite our cooking more at home than ever and our muscles have grown! There’s also a particular intimacy in cooking food that you get with hands-on with whether cooking or baking. There’s a point where you can feel things thickening or coming together that you lose when an appliance does these things for you. We have reduced our power consumption in the rest of the home too, turning off the Wifi when it’s not required and keeping our use of power to a minimum by putting phones away and off at night, using physical resources to look things up rather than googling, turning off lights, etc.
- Stop Wasting Food NOW! – This is really a no-brainer, but food waste is an ugly business. Not only is it physically throwing money in the bin, it’s wasting the resources & energy that go into producing that item – from farm to table. There is so much that can be done with scraps and leftovers by using your imagination and even by using this website which can make suggestions with what to cook with your leftovers. Move for Hunger has great ideas on how to use food scraps and give them a purpose, rather than just festering in your bin.
- Invest in Reusables that will serve you for Years – On the same thread as caring for your home, think about your consumables like paper towels, tissues, cling film, foil, sanitary and baby products and even toilet paper (if you dare!) in a new way by investing in reusable solutions that replace the need to keep buying them. We did this a couple of years ago very affordability by making napkins, tissues (which we keep in a jar), cloths and we purchased additional tea-towels, food containers and washable sanitary pads. We’re still working on the tin-foil issue, though beeswax wraps will, i’m sure, feature heavily in our future! We may even move towards making the dreaded toilet paper replacement if things get tough. Perhaps that’s a bridge too far for the time being though!
- Start a Home Stockpile– We have a small stockpile of Food, Medicine and Hygiene products which we are always contributing to. We keep tinned, dried and home-canned foods including yeast, flour and shelf-stable sweeteners like natural sugar and honey. Here’s a great list of shelf-stable foods for people looking to get started from Happy Prepper that is excellent. We are mainly stocking foods that may become expensive, just to help us in those first few months.
- Youtube is your friend, use it to learn new Skills – Youtube is a wonderful teacher and we use it to learn and develop our skills with woodworking, dressmaking, gardening, cooking, etc. At the very least, if you can invest your time to learn basic DIY, learn how to mend you clothes and shoes and learn to make basic, nutritious meals you’ll be onto a winner.
- Diversify and have a back-up Plan – This can be anything from starting a small side hustle, having alternate menu options (by batch cooking in advance!) if your day turns out to be very different to what you had planned or simply to think of a contingency plan for a change in situation. We try to have a plan B for most occasions and have some idea of what we could do if things turn out differently than what we expected. By thinking about these things in advance, you’re letting your Brain Computer get a head start (get it? A HEAD start? Your BRAIN Computer? – No?!) solving the problem before it’s go-time and you’re preparing yourself for the task ahead.
- Watch your local community for Changes – This is something that will look different for everyone depending on both how well you know your community and what kind of people live in your community (income types, working status, Governance, Emigrant or Immigrant majority neighbourhood, etc.). During the Financial Crisis in 2008, I lived with a lovely Polish couple who were both very highly educated and qualified in their homeland but had come to the UK seeking stable work. All they could get were menial warehouse positions with terrible regulation regarding safety & working conditions. They sent money home until things became too unstable for them and they left in early 2009 to return to Poland. We have a wonderful, eclectic community here that is primarily low income, well governed (although that is changing due to very severe cuts in everything but senior staff wages) with a growing community of both Emigrants and Immigrants. Regardless of your view on the movement of peoples, a sign that things are going poorly is that the most vulnerable people start struggling and sadly, this is often people on low incomes without the stability of savings behind them and people working here from abroad. You also see a drop in a visible police presence, a rise in arrests for things that would previously have been a warning offence and a tight-crackdown on speeding, pollution and anti-social behaviour. Anything that can help to generate an income and meet quotas would seem to become a priority for not only the Police but also the local Council. If you start seeing your neighbours moving, an increase in certain crime rates and hearing more prayers in Church for financial help, it’s a good indication that trouble lies ahead.
- Reduce and Reuse: Get Creative! – Before you throw out packaging, a broken or stained item or even food scraps, consider whether it can have a new life as something new first! We covered food waste in point 14 but household waste is another beast altogether. Some quick examples are: We use old clothes and bed sheets in a variety of ways – from making patches to repair worn clothes, making a quilted item, using cotton tops as cleaning cloths, using scraps as rags for DIY, using more scraps to plug a hole in a wheel (yes, this is currently how my wheelchair is still running!), making a rag rug, making new clothes out of bed sheets, the list goes on and on. We use Tin cans as candle holders (especially helpful in creating a decorative stand and heat funnel for your Terracotta Space Heater *See point 8) and as plant pots for succulents. We reuse containers of sturdy quality and try to give something another life before it’s discarded.
- Keep an eye on the Stock Market – Before a Recession, there’s always a surge in the market that makes things look as though the future is financially brighter than it really is. The key is to watch out for labour pains and by this i’m talking about a pattern of down markets for the big players that usually seem on the up & up. I don’t know enough about the stock market to point to any other clear indicators of economic downturn but I do remember the stock market having terrible closing after terrible closing in 2008. Pictures of people holding their heads in their hands after a day of trading does not point to prosperity.
- Keep tithing/giving, even if in smaller Amounts – This is something that is very near and dear to our hearts, especially as we are living on such a small amount. If you are not a Church-goer, Tithing may not be in your vocabulary but it is essentially a faithful donation of means to your Church. Regardless of whether you are a 10%-er or more/less, this giving is crucial in supporting vulnerable people who are in a greater need. If you already give to a charity but need to cut back on the amount you give, our experience has shown that they are happy to have any donation you can offer. It doesn’t so much matter how much you can give, it’s the fact that you are still giving something to better someone else’s life that really matters. This is even more important during a Recession where many people cut their donations altogether. If you need to stop giving, that’s fine but consider if there are other ways for your to support that organisation by fund-raising or using your time volunteering if that is an option open to you.
- Consider volunteering or serving in some capacity that benefits your Community – Similar to the above, during times of financial instability where budgets are very tight, staff might be laid-off in order for the business to economise. If you have some time free to help others, why not offer to volunteer to help them in some capacity? A good example of people who need more support are those of us who are housebound, regardless of age. I used to work as a Carer some years ago and I saw how the Council that supplied our services would cut every single corner as cost-saving “initiatives”. There was no time on our visits to really speak at length with the client or engage them in any way that wasn’t directly related to their personal care. Most appointments were 15 minutes long where you would be expected to accomplish many tasks with people who needed your patience. These rushed visits were not what I would call social and neither were any visits they had from District Nurses or from Meals on Wheels (despite both agencies being very devoted and hard-working). This is in no way caring for the fundamental area of the mental health and spiritual wellbeing of the client and absolutely no companionship care is granted. As a result, the client often feels pushed and pulled around, rushed and ignored. I speak for many Carers who say we have a major problem with this. Most Carers enter this field because they love people and they want to help people retain their independence. It can be both a heartbreaking and rewarding job. This is where volunteers come in, people who work for day centres, luncheon clubs, craft clubs, dances and Befrienders who go into people’s homes to keep them company are earth-angels. These are the kind of services that are really needed in our community in particular and perhaps in yours, too. If you have the time, would you consider giving it away to help someone in need?
- Use your local Amenities – Use them or lose them, it’s as simple as that. Local Councils stop funding what people aren’t using (and sometimes, what people are using but don’t generate income). I’m talking about local swimming pools, parks, areas of national beauty, Libraries, public toilets and playgrounds. Controversially, our Local Council recently decided that they were going to close the public toilets directly outside of a Children’s play park and recreational grounds which are very well used by the local community and also host several festivals and fairs throughout the year. One of these toilets is the only Disabled Access toilet for miles (not including the Library which is near but has an unpredictable opening/closing schedule that isn’t always convenient if you have to ‘go’!). The Council announced it’s closure, insisted it would close despite massive public backlash and eventually handed the keys over to a group of local people who had to form a charity to keep the toilets open. How crazy is that?! Not a good sign of things to come.
- Time big Purchases Wisely – Whether you’re in the market for new white goods, a car or a house – you need to time your purchase right to get the best value for money. With Cars and White Goods, it’s always a good idea to approach the salespeople during a Sale or at the end of the month (where people on commision are desperate to strike a deal to get a better bonus). Of course, prices of larger purchases are typically lower during Recession in order to drive sales and stimulate the sector but we may well see prices rise in the event of a No-Deal Brexit due to importation taxes or scarcity. House Purchases made during recession is favourable only to the buyer who has the market at that time, despite probably paying an initial higher interest rate if they have a mortgage. House Sales during Brexit could mean a larger drop in value for sellers.
- Live as Frugally as possible and practice delayed gratification – Start practicing now. Live well below your means, practice a no-spend month or two, start aiming for an ambitious savings goal now if you aren’t in debt. You are an adult, waiting for something by saving for it or just keeping it on a wishlist until you definitely know you need it, is something that is completely within your grasp to do. It also brings to light how much we buy that we don’t really need. It’s an eyeopener and one that we would highly recommend.
- Take good care of Yourself – Lastly and most importantly, take good care of your overall health and well-being, paying particular attention to your mental health. Stressful times can cause a build up of anxieties and this can lead to a general feeling of lousy-ness or, much more seriously, a Depressive state. Take time to decompress. Self care is’t something you need to spend a lot of money on, it can be a walk in nature, an hour spent in the bath, time spent relaxing with a good library book or spending some time talking with a friend. Eat well, feed your body what it needs and give it some rest. Remember, Sleeping poorly often leads to Eating poorly and Spending poorly – get a good night’s sleep ❤
This list is neither in support or opposition to Brexit, neither is it intended to scare anyone. What I do want is for people to have their eyes open to the possibilities of economic difficulty, in whatever capacity. My Husband and I both struggled greatly, as many families did, with the last Recession which began in 2008 and it doesn’t altogether seem as though those struggles are finished with. We don’t want to be in the same position we were in then this time around, so by preparing now, we can help ourselves and others somewhat if the worst does happen. It’s all about being prepared, not scared and we hope that you were able to connect with points made above.
As usual, if you anything you’d like to add that has helped you before, please feel free to leave your suggestion in the comments – we love hearing from you!
Have a Blessed week everyone!