Ok, well, the title of the article may be a lie. I claim no ownership of these ideas, as many are just regurgitated common sense. It’s not so much a philosophy as it is a way of framing the prepping that I do. Anyway, take all this with a grain of salt.
I was inspired to talk prepping after reading a couple of Animal’s great articles on Armageddon prepping. None of this is meant as a shot at Animal or his articles. They’re awesome, and got me thinking about complementary topics which started off as a post In a forum that people encouraged me to turn into an article.
All that said, I don’t love the term “prepper” but I embrace it. Maybe I am even trying to reclaim it from the people obsessed with zombies and nuclear holocaust. I spent long enough in the boy scouts to have “be prepared” echoing in the back of my head on a regular basis. To the extent that prepping is the act of being prepared for what life may throw at you, I’m a prepper.
The single worst thing you can do when preparing for the future is get tunnel vision. You can get tunnel vision as to the type of events you’re preparing for. You can get tunnel vision as to the types of preparations you do.
To me, preparation is a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. I may not be fully self-sufficient, but I do things every day that reduce how much we HAVE to rely on others if push comes to shove.
Many preppers I’ve encountered remind me of the chicken legged weightlifter at the gym. Impressive chest press, but probably could’ve used a leg day every once in a while.
Prepping for the small events in life is the leg day of prepping. It’s not sexy. It’s not something you brag on survival forums about. It’s something you do because you’re an idiot to skip it. How many people have MREs stacked floor to ceiling, but would be put out by a flat tire? How many have gas masks, but would be screwed if their fridge gave up the ghost?
Principle 1 of practical prepping is to tackle the low hanging fruit. Tackle the cheap/easy solutions to higher likelihood problems first. The mundane issues that are a crisis to you, but don’t result in the Red Cross bus parking in front of your house. These are the squats of prepping. Not pretty, not fun, but damn important.
I always look at a prepping issue using a three axis analysis. How likely is the issue? How much damage will the issue cause? How much will it cost to insure against the issue? A highly likely issue that will cause large damage and is cheap to fix is the easiest low hanging fruit to go after.
Let’s take, for example, a water main break. Now you don’t have water pressure for 48 – 72 hours. What are you going to drink? Well, for $15, you could buy a few packs of bottled water, stick them in a corner of your garage, and never have to worry about that issue again.
How about a financial emergency? How are you going to pay for a window that gets broken when your lawn mower kicks up a rock? Do you have an emergency fund? Do you have a plan to pay off little emergencies that get charged to the credit card?
Too many people start getting tunnel vision and miss the broader point of prepping. Prepping isn’t synonymous with stockpiling, and certainly not with doomsday stockpiling. Sure, a doomsday stockpile may end up being a part of a holistic prepping plan, but it’s certainly not mandatory. Prepping is about finding and executing a plan to insure against issues that could thrust your family into trying times. Often, you can’t stockpile your way out of a crisis.
Principle 2 is to layer your protection. As an example, job loss is a major catastrophe for most families. If you only have one layer to your protection (some money set aside in an emergency fund), you may be in a tight spot if emergencies compound or if the job loss takes longer to recover from than expected. Here, you can layer not only multiple protections of the same type (e.g. Emergency fund + Vacation fund + Roth IRA + 401k + Gold & Silver + Kids’ 529s), but you can layer different types of protection (e.g. E-fund + tradable skills + stockpiled essentials + community support). This is really where the full vibrancy of prepping shows itself. There is not a single solution to a problem, so you hedge your bets by putting some effort into each of the viable solutions.
Principle 3 is to diversify. Diversification isn’t just for stocks. It’s about breaking through that tunnel vision and imagining how things could go wrong or even go right. Sure, own some gold and silver to hedge against inflation, but also own some mutual funds to protect against the scenario where inflation isn’t as bad as you expect. Sure, stockpile some things, but also learn some skills that you can make money doing in a world where your day job is no longer there. Specialization is for insects, diversification is for preppers.
Principle 4 is to grow your capital. I don’t 100% agree with everything the authors laid out when describing the 8 forms of capital, and, frankly, I find some of it a bit too New Agey, but it’s a valuable reminder that your economic value isn’t just in cash and physical goods. Broad stroking it, improve yourself (skills, knowledge, experience) , improve your tangible tools (money, physical tools, livestock), improve your relationship with the world (social relationships, spiritual relationships, community) , and you’re in a much more resilient position to weather adversity than if you let your capital wither. A person with strong broad-based capital could start from having no tangible tools (broke, with only the shirt on their back) and do better in a crisis than somebody with no skills and no community, but happens to have stockpiles.
Principle 5 is to expand your preparations in layers. As you build interleaved protection for the mundane crises of life, you will have the opportunity to expand your preparations to cover less likely and/or more costly issues. It’s, again, easy to get tunnel vision and spend an outsized portion of your time, money, and energy getting ready for one specific scenario. Instead, do a little bit here or there. Spend some money on ammo earmarked for when society crumbles. Spend some on a high quality first aid/trauma kit for when the Yellowstone supervolcano blows. Add some water to your stockpile. Go take a class on seed saving for your garden. This is really the same lesson as diversification, but writ large. It’s not enough to prepare for the most front-of-mind issue in a number of different ways. You need to make steps toward preparing for any number of different issues that may occur. The scattershot approach is more likely to bear fruit than targeted doomsday prep. Sure, protect against roving hordes of amoral scavengers, but also protect against a run of the mill home invasion.
All said and done, I hate that prepping has such a negative reputation. Prepping should be a bare minimum activity for all adults. It’s simply the act of being prepare for possible future issues, and is part and parcel of having personal responsibility. Taking responsibility for your present is character. Taking responsibility for your future is prepping.