Money Mondays: Personal Savings Lessons from Prepping

Personal Savings Lessons Learned from Prepping

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Prepping may seem unrelated to personal finance, yet I found that these areas are intertwined.  After all, you need a certain amount of money to buy supplies, and whatever you spend on will impact your monthly budget.  At the same time prepping habits also impact your finances, hopefully in a positive way.  Here are a few money lessons that I learned from prepping.

  1. Having a small stockpile of supplies actually saves you money in the long run.    If you stock up on items that your family uses such as canned food that everyone eats, toilet paper, laundry detergent, bleach, sugar, coffee etc., you will always have ingredients or supplies on hand and never have to run to the store at the last minute for something because you ran out.
  2. Stock up on items while they are on sale and combine sales with coupons for maximum savings.  Buying in bulk also helps you save money.
  3. Learning new skills will empower you to make things that you previously only bought at the store, thereby saving you cash.  If you know how to bake bread, make yogurt at home and grow some herbs, these are items you don’t have to buy.
  4. Getting in shape and losing weight are part of a good preparedness plan and will save you money as well.  If you are overweight and out of shape, you will have trouble navigating an emergency, therefore it behooves you to get healthy.  Being healthy saves you from spending money on doctor bills, prescriptions and lost time from work.
  5. Set aside a small amount of cash in case of emergency.  If there is a power outage, credit and debit cards will not work.  You should have enough cash to cover food and gas for at least a couple of days. 
  6. When you are ready to invest in gold and silver coins make sure you take ownership of these items in physical form, not just a certificate.  Or, start collecting pre-1965 quarters and dimes which contain 90% silver.
  7. Don’t get into more debt buying preparedness items.  Figure out what you can afford and stick to a plan.  Even $5 a week will get you a good start, as long as you do it consistently.

Being frugal and learning to live on less are all great habits to have regardless of whether an emergency happens.  Even if you never experience an emergency, your finances will be greatly improved if you adopt these habits.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2016

Mountain House Sale




 

Money Mondays: 12 Ways to Raise Quick Cash

12 ways to raise quick cash

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Everyone faces the need to raise quick cash at some point: the car breaks down, unexpected medical bills, legal troubles etc.  It can get so dire that rent gets behind or utilities such as water and power are being threatened with disconnection.   Pretty soon, TV or radio commercials singing the virtues of payday loans start to sound tempting.

If you find yourself starting to wonder whether a payday loan may help you in the short run, stop right now.

  • Payday loans have outrageous interest rates.
  • If you fail to make the payment or need to re-borrow, those interest rates are going to be even higher: there have been cases where borrowers end up paying $1100 for a loan that was originally $250, leaving them in a cycle of debt slavery.
  • These loans are designed to keep the borrower in a downward spiral.




 

What to do if you need to raise cash quickly

  1. Evaluate why you need the money right away. Sometimes, a bill that is perceived as an emergency may not be as urgent as originally thought.

Utilities such as electricity, water and gas are urgent, but the cable and cell phone bill are not as crucial.

Most utilities also allow you to make payment arrangements if you need to move the payment to align with your paycheck. Be up front with them and explain your circumstances. When the time comes, you must stick to the arrangement to avoid disconnection.

For medical bills, doctors and hospitals are also happy to accept monthly payments.

2. Go through your belongings and find things you can sell.  I have done this and wrote about it in How to Make Money from Clutter

· Hold a garage sale.. If you live in a building that does not allow garage sales, join forces with a friend who can hold one.
· List your items on Craigslist or Ebay.

Clothes:  Find a local consignment store and bring your gently used, name brand clothes.  They will give you an estimate and it is up to you to accept it.  Years ago, when the kids were toddlers, I sold bags of clothes at the local kids’ consignment store, and occasionally bought clothes from there as well.  Once they outgrew the clothes I resold them.  Or, you can try an online consignment store such as ThredUP , Swap.com or Once Upon a Child

Sports Equipment:  Try Play It Again Sports

Electronic Gadgets:  Glyde and Gazelle

Music CDs, games and movies:  Second Spin.  I gave an update on my transaction with them here

3. Return unused items that still have the price tags.

I’ve seen friends’ closets that contain outfits they bought but never wear, and still have the price tag on after several months. Many department stores will accept returns, but be aware they will refund the money if paid in cash, but if paid by credit card they return it to the card. Some stores will only issue a gift card, but this brings me to the next tip.

4. Sell your unused gift cards for cash. You’ll have to sell them at a discount, but you’ll get cash for gift cards you haven’t used.  I recently tried selling a gift card via Coinstar. 

You can also try Raise.com or Cardpool.com

5. Increase the number of allowances on your W-4 form at work.  This means your employer will withhold less taxes, therefore boosting your take-home pay.  However, this may increase your taxes due at tax time, or decrease your refund so tread carefully.  Check with your tax accountant to be sure.

6. Get a part-time job or create a side job: Start a pet sitting or dog-walking service, tutor kids after school, teach a skill or sport.

7. Collect and sell aluminum cans and other recyclables.

8. Pawn or sell valuables at a pawn shop.

9. Sell your handmade crafts on Etsy, swap meet or craft fairs.

10. Hold a No Spend Week   I’ve tried it and it really works.

11.  Rent out your car to someone else.  Most cities have peer to peer car sharing services such as Turo.com  I haven’t personally tried this, but have read some car owners can make an average of $250 depending on the schedule.  Make sure you investigate thoroughly as to how it works, and what your protections are.

12.  Try borrowing from a peer to peer lender.  Peer to peer loans are unsecured personal loans from other people, facilitated by a lending intermediary that may charge a one-time fee.  For a few examples, see Find the Best Personal Load: Borrowing without Banks.   As will all types of loans, investigate the terms and read the fine print before getting into anything.

If you are in a cash crunch, try one or a combination of the above tips.  Pretty soon, you’ll have the cash you need to get by.  Keep your spirits up, and never lose faith that “this too, shall pass.”

Apartment Prepper is not a financial advisor.  This article is for information only and not to be taken as personal advice.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2016




Money Mondays: How to Find Extra Cash from Bills

How to find extra cash

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

We want to add to our preparedness fund, but the budget is tight.

I mentioned in an earlier post we cancelled cable and found several free or lower cost alternatives.   It’s been a couple of years and we do not miss it at all.  I actually wish we had done it sooner.

How to Find Extra Cash by Reviewing Your Bills

Now we are reviewing every bill line by line to see if we can either lower them even more.

Rent statement

I always thought the rent statement would be the same every month as long as you pay it on time, until this past month when I looked at my statement online and found it to be $100 over what I expected to pay.  You can believe I was at the leasing office the very next day to find out what was going on.

The office manager kept saying I did not pay my water bill on time and it was all for past months’ bills.  I asked for a line by line printout of the charges.  When I looked at it closely, I found the office was charging us a late fee of $60 ($10 for each day it was considered late) plus the actual water bill of $40.  I told the manager I never got a bill for the $40 water bill and I asked him to check their records again.  He did not believe me at first, but grudgingly checked.  Just as I thought, I was right:  they got behind in sending the bill, instead charged it directly on the account and started accruing late fees.  They took off the $60 late fee and I paid the $40 water bill that was legitimately owed.

I am glad I checked the rent statement online and found out the error before it got any worse.  If I had not gone over the charges line by line, I would not have known they had made a mistake.   Even with their online billing system, landlords make mistakes too, so always question bills that don’t seem right.

Savings:  $60

Internet and phone

One bill that got a lot of scrutiny was the bundled internet/phone bill.

One reason we went with one provider was the “bundled” plan offered a hefty introductory discount.  After one year, the monthly bill went to the regular price.

As a result of our line by line scrutiny, we decided to cut out the phone service.  We looked at the minutes used for a few months.  It turned out we did not use the home phone that much, and instead used the cell phone for most calls.  Total saved:  $20

The most interesting part was the internet bill.  After comparing our bill with the posted rates on the company’s website, we realized we were being overcharged $10 per month because the company was charging us for a higher bandwidth than what we actually had.  Amount saved on the internet bill:  $10.

Total saved:  $30 per month.  Now the company owes us several months worth of credit on the internet service for overcharging us.

Electricity

Next came the electricity bill.   We compared months were we spent a lot versus months that we did not spend so much on electricity.  We decided to increase the temperature in the summer so that the air conditioner doesn’t turn on frequently.  Similarly, we are keeping the temperature around 65 degrees this winter and just bundle up instead of turning on the heater.

Total saved: around $20 for adjusting our habits.

In Texas, we can shop electricity providers as soon as our contract ends.  We usually have at least a six-month contract.  As soon as that period ends, we once again compare rates and change providers.

So if you are looking for extra cash, it may be worth your while to check every bill you get for accuracy, and review your expenses to see if you can eliminate some of them.

Cell Phone

Our cell phone plan contract ended and we shopped around to see if other carriers offered better deals.  We found out our carrier already had the best rate for our usage and coverage.

However, we did find a way to cut down the bill by going to a lower data plan.  I called up to check on our monthly usage and found we were barely using data.  I asked the rep for alternatives that would be a better fit and she suggested a lower plan that was closer to our usage patterns.

Total saved:  $30 per month

If you try this yourself, review a few months worth of bills and take note of the changes month by month.  Don’t do it when you are rushed, but when you have time on your hands to concentrate.  Get your partner and the family involved so you can discuss changes in advance.

© Apartment Prepper 2016

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Monday Musings 12/14/2015: How to Save Money on Shipping Christmas Gifts

How to Save Money on Shipping

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Welcome to another Monday Musings, where we share interesting links about all things preparedness, as well as updates on the blog.

First the blog updates…

Finding ways to save money on shipping Christmas gifts  Since Christmas is less that two weeks away, I’ve been busy getting the gifts together.  I mentioned making a few gifts, but we do have a couple of gifts that were store bought, such as children’s toys.

Shipping cost are often left out when considering the gift budget.  As I have found out, shipping things yourself can run up a large bill if you are not careful.

Here are a few tips to save money on shipping:

  1. As I learned, it is much cheaper to buy the item online and have the seller ship it directly to the recipient.  If you want it to be more personalized, have it gift wrapped for a few extra dollars, and add a nicely worded greeting.
  2. To save even more dollars, and have fast shipping, sign up for Amazon Prime.  You get free two-day shipping, along with entertainment such as video and music streaming. I mostly like it for the free shipping.
  3. Save boxes and bubble wrap throughout the year, so you can pack things yourself.  The pack and ship service at the UPS store is convenient, for you do get charged extra for the packing service.  Some people use popcorn instead of packing peanuts, but since I have not tried it myself, I don’t know how well it works.  You can also use shredded paper, but paper is heavier than packing materials such as plastic or Styrofoam.
  4. If you are sending gifts to various members of the same family, and you know they will be getting together at Christmas, pack all the gifts in one box and send it to one location, preferably the one that is the gathering place. One year, I sent all the gifts to my parent’s house, since everyone was getting together anyway.  Sending one box instead of many saves you money.
  5. Send gifts as early as possible.  Sending gifts too close to Christmas will cost you a lot in overnight shipping fees.
  6. Consider all your options.  The US Postal Service has reasonable rates for Standard, First Class and Priority Mail.  For Priority Mail you even get the boxes for free.  Ground shipping via Fed Ex or UPS are the next best options.  However, the closer you get to Christmas, the less options you have.  Also, if you add services such as signature receipt, insurance etc. you start adding to the cost.
  7. Plan your gift items carefully.  Odd shaped and large items cost more to ship.

Rotating our preps  We’re continuing to rotate our supplies, from  canned foods to rice, sugar and other bulk items.  This also means replenishing what we used up.  Costco makes it convenient to pick up an item or two.

Giveaway  You still have a chance to sign up for our giveaway of Prepper Hacks by Jim Cobb.

Now for the links…

Free alternatives to Netflix to stream TV shows and movies

The Active Shooter: Staying Alive

Energy Efficiency: 10 Ways to Increase It and Save Money at Home

55 Uses for Garbage Bags

Scientists have found a new strain of bacteria that is resistant to all antibiotics

How to Get Free Food

How to Pay Off $10,000 in Debt Without Breaking a Sweat

Take care and have a great week everyone!

© Apartment Prepper 2015




 

How to Save Money on Eggs

How to Save Money on Eggs

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Eggs used to be one of the more inexpensive protein sources, at least until the last few months.  On my last grocery shopping trip, I was shocked to find a dozen eggs close to $3 a dozen.  The brown eggs were even more expensive, at $3.74 a dozen.

Egg prices started rising in May, because of an epidemic of the avian flu that caused many chickens to perish.  It has steadily gone up since, with the possibility that prices can increase even more in the next few months.

I like eggs and have always counted on them for a low priced meal.  We also enjoy having eggs and bacon for dinner occasionally.  But now that egg prices are rising, we all need to think about ways to save money on eggs.

Brown eggs vs white eggs

Brown eggs cost more than white eggs, but what are there differences?

  • Brown eggs are laid by brown feathered hens that have brown ear lobes and white eggs were laid by hens with white feathers and white ear lobes.
  • They are more expensive because brown hens require more food than white hens.
  • Most nutritionists indicate there is no difference between brown and white eggs. however the vitamins would really depend on the diet of the chicken.  Eggs that come from hens that are fed a vegetarian diet tend to have more omega-3s than those that come from hens fed a conventional diet.
  • Brown eggs may have a more yellow yolk than white eggs.  I like the yellow yolks and therefore prefer brown.  However, when the price difference is substantial, I choose the white eggs.

There are so many varieties to choose from, organic vs non-organic, vegetarian, free range etc. You just need to decide what qualities important to you before spending the extra money.  This article from Consumer Reports may help sort it out.

Compare prices

Check the prices at your neighborhood grocery stores and compare them against each other.  The weekly sales flyer is also helpful.  I have been buying eggs at Costco, as the price of a pack of 4 dozen was a substantial difference over the supermarkets.

Buy from various sources

Drug and discount stores such as Target, Walgreens and CVS also carry eggs and mark them down every now and then.  Also consider the farmers market, or buying directly from a farm near you.

Choose substitutes or egg-less recipes

Eggs make baked goods light and fluffy but there are substitutes available.  Applesauce and mashed bananas are a couple good substitutes and this article offers more ideas.

Many recipes that normally require eggs have an egg free counterpart.  Check out this recipe for Toffee Brownies.

Learn to preserve eggs

When you buy in bulk, make your eggs last longer, if you are not going to use them all at once.

You can also try dehydrating eggs.

Or if you prefer, you can also freeze eggs for later use.

Keep chickens

My grandparents kept a couple of chickens in the backyard, back when there were no rules against livestock in their community.  It was always a treat searching for eggs in the morning.  This would not work while living in an apartment or subdivision, but worth considering if you have room in the backyard, and your neighborhood association/city ordinances allow it.  Check the laws in your area before embarking on this project.

Hopefully, I have given you some ideas on saving money on eggs.  Share your favorite egg tips in the comments.

© Apartment Prepper 2015

Substitutes for Toilet Paper

Substitutes for Toilet Paper

I recently posted about being off-grid for 48 hours, and using a lot of baby wipes due to the lack of water during our adventure.  One thing that would run out quickly in a survival situation if you did not have a huge stockpile would be toilet paper.  Not having a lot of space we have about three months worth on hand right now, but that can run out quickly.  Also, a large stockpile of toilet paper is not portable in a bug-out situation, and in a shelter in place scenario, the TP supply is bound to run out.

Space saving tip:  Remove the cardboard insert and flatten the roll and you can fit more rolls in a small space.

What are some substitutes for toilet paper?

Back in ancient times, the Romans used a sea sponge on a stick.  They would clean themselves with it, rinse it in the running water (public bathrooms had them on the floor) and leave it soaking in salt water in between uses.

In colonial times, people used corncobs, and later, old newspapers and catalogs were used in outhouses.

Here are a few ideas:

1.  Wet wipes or baby wipes

These would work just like toilet paper, but again, a large stockpile would have to be accumulated.

2. Paper Substitutes

Newspaper may work, but the ink would turn everything black.   I read other people prefer The Yellow Pages but these days, a lot of people don’t keep phone books around.  Store catalogs may be more common, and flimsy pages instead of high end glossy paper would work best.  Just crumple up the sheet until it softens up, then wipe.

3.  Cloth

Cloth, such as wash cloths, terry cloth or  cloth diapers can be used as toilet paper substitutes.  You can even cut up old, soft t-shirts into squares.  If you want to make reusable cloth wipes, this article from Food Storage Moms has good instructions.  The method would be to wet the cloth, wipe, then launder the cloth.  Supporters of this idea feel that most people would have nothing against rewashing cloth diapers, therefore personal washcloths should be okay.  I would think it would be a good idea to throw the soiled wash clothes into a bucket of water with some bleach before washing.

4.  Plant material

Sage leaves are said to be soft and fragrant enough to use, some say banana leaves would work too..  You must have some knowledge about which plants are safe; you would not want to use something like poison ivy, poison oak or sumac by mistake!   Remember: Leaves of three – let it be!

5.  Water

Many countries already use a spray water fountain called a “bidet” as part of their bathroom facilities.  Since this is being considered in an emergency scenario, we would need an alternative to that too.  In many countries, use of the left hand in combination with pouring water in a pan or small bucket with the right hand is the way to clean up.

Possible water carriers:

Fill any of these containers with plain water, add a drop of essential oil for fragrance and wash up.  (Don’t use mint or and don’t overdo the quantity of drops, or you may irritate those sensitive areas.)  After washing, dry the area with a clean towel that can also be reused.

To avoid disease, one would have to wash the hands well with water or antibacterial gel right after.

I’m not ready to give up toilet paper but you gotta do what you gotta do to stay clean.   In an emergency, the water route seems like the most likely one to try.  I may try making those clothes one of these days.  We will keep stockpiling toilet paper for now, and store them efficiently by flattening them for maximum use of space.   Another idea would be to decrease the use of toilet paper by combining with the methods above, thereby extending the life of the stockpile.

Toilet paper shortages sounds unlikely, but it has happened:  a year or so ago, Venezuela faced a toilet paper shortage and the government had to take over a toilet paper factory.   Before I got interested in preparedness, I can recall snagging the last package of toilet paper and waiting in a long line right before a hurricane.  Toilet paper is one of the first items to disappear if a disaster disrupts supply deliveries.  It’s good to know some alternatives just in case.

 

Financial Emergency: 12 Ways to Raise Cash

Financial Emergency  12 Ways to Raise CashThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Everyone faces the need to raise cash at some point: the car breaks down, unexpected medical bills, legal troubles etc.  It can get so dire that rent gets behind or utilities such as water and power are being threatened with disconnection.   Pretty soon, TV or radio commercials singing the virtues of payday loans start to sound tempting.

If you find yourself starting to wonder whether a payday loan may help you in the short run, stop right now.

  • Payday loans have outrageous interest rates.
  • If you fail to make the payment or need to re-borrow, those interest rates are going to be even higher: there have been cases where borrowers end up paying $1100 for a loan that was originally $250, leaving them in a cycle of debt slavery.
  • These loans are designed to keep the borrower in a downward spiral.

 

What to do if you find yourself with no credit, and need to raise cash quickly

  1. Evaluate why you need the money right away. Sometimes, a bill that is perceived as an emergency may not be as urgent as originally thought.

Utilities such as electricity, water and gas are urgent, but the cable and cell phone bill are not as crucial.

Most utilities also allow you to make payment arrangements if you need to move the payment to align with your paycheck. Be up front with them and explain your circumstances. When the time comes, you must stick to the arrangement to avoid disconnection.

For medical bills, doctors and hospitals are also happy to accept monthly payments.

2. Go through your belongings and find things you can sell.

· Hold a garage sale.. If you live in a building that does not allow garage sales, join forces with a friend who can hold one.
· List your items on Craigslist or Ebay.

3. Return unused items that still have the price tags.

I’ve seen friends’ closets that contain outfits they bought but never wear, and still have the price tag on after several months. Many department stores will accept returns, but be aware they will refund the money if paid in cash, but if paid by credit card they return it to the card. Some stores will only issue a gift card, but this brings me to the next tip.

4. Sell your unused gift cards for cash. You’ll have to sell them at a discount, but you’ll get cash for gift cards you haven’t used.

Try Gift Card Granny http://www.giftcardgranny.com/sell-a-gift-card/

5. Hire out your services on Fiverr

The jobs start at $5 a “gig” but as services get added, the cash could add up. I’ve used them for small jobs, and each time I spent at least $25 and I’m the frugal type. If you act professionally and deliver quality work within the time agreed upon, the jobs could add up.

6. Get a part-time job or create a side job: Start a pet sitting or dog-walking service, tutor kids after school, teach a skill or sport.

7. Collect and sell aluminum cans and other recyclables.

8. Pawn or sell valuables at a pawn shop.

9. Sell your handmade crafts on Etsy, swap meet or craft fairs.

10. Make money during your down time on Amazon Mechanical Turk https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome

11.  Rent out your car to someone else.  Most cities have peer to peer car sharing services such as Relay Rides  I haven’t personally tried this, but have read some car owners can make an average of $250 depending on the schedule.  Make sure you investigate thoroughly as to how it works, and what your protections are.

12.  Try borrowing from a peer to peer lender.  Peer to peer loans are unsecured personal loans from other people, facilitated by a lending intermediary that may charge a one-time fee.  Again, investigate all aspects and read the fine print before getting into anything.

If you are in a cash crunch, try one or a combination of the above tips.  Pretty soon, you’ll have the cash you need to get by.  Keep your spirits up, and never lose faith that “this too, shall pass.”

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

 

Get Rid of Cable = Save Money for Preps

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Today we returned the cable boxes and unhooked ourselves from Comcast cable.

It all started out when we moved to a smaller unit a few months ago (part of the plan to downsize).   We weren’t on a contract but we had one of those “bundled” plans that was discounted.  At the same time, we were aggravated by their service issues.  We realized that out of roughly 200 channels, we were really only watching a handful.

Here are a few ideas on getting shows:

20130827_163109 - CopyMohu Leaf TV Antenna - Copy

  1. An indoor HD TV antenna or a regular antenna allows you to get all the free channels.  Cost is around $12 for “rabbit ears” antenna or $36 for an HD antenna, and the monthly cost is $ 0.
  2. Get shows via Hulu and Netflix, at a fraction of the cost.  Cost is around $7.99 for either one if your TV is a newer model and allows the access.
  3. Watch shows directly from the networks via internet.  Cost= free.
  4. The Roku 3 is small box that is connected to the TV that lets you stream shows from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video or Hulu Plus; accessing 1000+ channels and growing.   Initial cost of the Roku 3 is $89, monthly cost depends on what services you subscribe to.

For us, getting rid of cable saves $70 from the monthly bill.  Currently we are on Option 1 but may consider adding services later.  Even adding a small monthly $7.99 bill from Netflix is still only a fraction of what we were spending.

If you are wondering how you might find some savings for the emergency fund or buy some preps, consider cutting out cable TV.    Small steps you can take:

  • Evaluate your family’s viewing habits for a week.
  • Write down the channels you most often watch.  I bet most of those channels are not being used.
  • Do some research on what’s available, talk to the family, then decide.

With all the alternatives available, I am certain we won’t miss it at all.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 




Save Money! Make Soda at Home

Make Soda at Home

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Although I like an occasional glass of Coke, I prefer a glass of sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime.  La Croix Sparkling Water was a regular item on the grocery list. Until we spotted the Soda Stream and started to calculate whether it would save us money.  After adding up what we spend on sparkling water, we figured we’d recoup the cost of the Soda Stream in four months.   I won’t go into the calculation, as your mileage may vary depending on how much soda you buy in your household.  (This is not an ad for Soda Stream-we have no relationship or affiliation.)

For anyone who has wondered about this, here is how it works.  Soda Stream comes with a unit, proprietary C02 canister that fits within the unit, and bottle.  The starter pack also came with small flavoring samples.

Soda Stream and bottle

  1. Fill the bottle with plain water.  We like to chill the water before using.
  2. Remove the cap off the bottle and screw it on the Soda Stream unit.  The newer models no longer have to be screwed on, but we have the older model so that is what I will describe.
  3. Push the top button 4-5 times until you hear a buzz.  (The instructions say about 2-3 times but that did not make it fizzy enough.)

Adding CarbonationRemove the bottle and add your flavoring.  I like a squeeze of lime or lemon.  We tried out the sample flavors that came with it – I personally only liked the root beer flavor, but did not care for the cola or lemon lime.   We’ve also tried adding a bit of apple or orange juice and that worked well.

Advantages:

  • Less waste than buying soda or sparkling water weekly
  • You control how much sugar you are drinking.
  • Much cheaper than store bought soda
  • No need to run to the store!

Disadvantages:

  • The C02 canister refill runs about $15 if you return the old canister.   We’ve traded ours in at the Walmart Customer Service center.  We use the unit once a day, and one canister lasts us about 2-3 months.
  • You cannot carbonate anything besides water.  I’m fine with this, as I even like just plain fizzy water.

I know there are alternatives to the Soda Stream, but for the space that we have, and the rate of consumption, it suits us just fine for now.

But if you are interested in those alternatives, here are a couple:

Brew Better Soda at Home  I may try this one next.

How to Force Carbonate at Home  This sounds more cost effective, although it has a higher upfront cost, but I don’t have the space for a large unit like this yet.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Are We Headed for Economic Hard Times?

Food Line Great Depression

Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of dire predictions about the economy.  Whether they happen as predicted or not, it’s a good idea to pay attention to these signs.

This article for Modern Survival Blog caught my eye:

Major Stock Market Crash In January

If you look at the chart, the patterns between today’s stock market and the time period leading up to the Great Depression (1928-29) look uncomfortably similar.

Then I saw this one from SHTFPlan.com:

15 Signs That We Are Near The Peak Of An Absolutely Massive Stock Market Bubble

You can even find concerns from mainstream sources  Take a look at

Be Prepared For Stocks To Crash 40%-55%

Even Clark Howard who offers practical financial advice weighed in:

Is a stock market crash coming?

It’s Too Close for Comfort

Last week, right before Thanksgiving, it was announced at work that management had done some “restructuring”  and a few employees were laid off.  Those of us who were fortunate to have a job were asked to increase our workload to “add value” to the team.   I felt relieved to have a job, but felt bad for the people who lost theirs.

What is your Economic Crash Plan?

Think about your own worse case economic scenario:  for many it’s the loss of income.  Hopefully, unemployment benefits would cover in the event of a job lay-off.  However, expenses would have to be cut back drastically.

  • How long would your emergency savings last- how many months or rent or mortgage can you cover?
  • Start using emergency supplies to avoid having to buy food.  Find out about food banks and other services that can offer help.
  • Can you borrow from retirement plans?  In a crash, you need to take care of the present and keeping a roof over your head.
  • Consider which relatives can you move in with, if you had to.  As undesirable as the possibility might be, remember it’s only temporary and it would still be better than being homeless.
  • If you don’t have relatives you can move with, can you live in a truck or RV if you had access to one? 

It is hard to even consider these ideas, but this mental exercise will help you plan and cope better should your financial fortune take a turn for the worse.

What you can do now

I am hoping everything continues along as normal, and nothing happens.  But just in case, it is a good idea to implement a few good habits now, while there is time.

  • Build your emergency cash fund by using your skills to earn extra income
  • Go through your unwanted items.  Donate or sell them to make room for supplies that you do need.
  • Don’t go overboard with Christmas spending.  Set a limit for gifts, decorations and entertainment and stick to it.  Pay cash for everything.  Using a card makes it easy to overspend.
  • Look at each non-essential bill and decide if you can do without it:  gym memberships, premium movie channels, etc.  If you are not using it, consider getting rid of the service (but be mindful of contract terms and penalties.)
  • Learn to cook more meals at home, you will feel healthier by avoiding fast food, and you’ll save money.
  • Cut down on discretionary spending now, and send the extra money to savings.
  • Build good relationships at work and in your industry.
  • Stop incurring new debt, pay down debt if you can.
  • Stock up on food and supplies while you can
  • Get your checkups, prescriptions, eyeglasses and any elective medical procedures while you have health insurance
  • Learn survival and self-sufficiency skills now.

These measures can only help your finances in the long run.  Prepare while you can.