Contrary to what you see in popular media, prepping is not based on fear. Preppers don’t spend their days holding placards that say the “world will end,” nor do we get some kind of morbid delight when things really turn sour. Prepping is a mindset — a way of thinking that “if” something happens, then we’re as best prepared as we can possibly be.
This includes being financially free. A lot of the guides you read on survival and prepping tend to focus on extremes — how to pitch a tent in the wild while it’s snowing or how to use spider silks to stanch a wound. These are important skills that you should learn, but they don’t help most of us understand how to deal with “everyday” crises.
This guide will help you work your way towards financial freedom so that when SHTF, you won’t be caught with your pants down.
Before we begin, it’s important to emphasize that financial freedom is not difficult. You do not need to earn more money or learn about investing. What we’ve listed below are habits that you can adapt to achieve that elusive financial freedom. (h/t to AYearWithoutTheGroceryStore.com.)
Pay yourself first
What is the first thing that you do when you receive your paycheck? Do you immediately buy those shoes that you’ve been lusting for? Or do you pay your rent? Both answers, surprisingly, are wrong. Financial experts agree that you should pay yourself first. Allocate at least 10 percent of your monthly salary to your “you” fund. This should be a separate bank account that you should not touch for whatever reason. This will help you build your emergency fund. Think of this 10 percent as “rent” to yourself for being a hard worker. This also helps towards the second good habit which we will be discussing now.
Build your emergency fund
Emergency funds protect your long-term investments and prevent you from withdrawing from your retirement account. At the bare minimum, you should have three months’ worth of living expenses in your emergency fund. This means that if you need around $3,000 a month to cover your basic needs for rent, food, and gas, you need at least $9,000 in your emergency fund. (Related: Start today: How to prepare for an economic collapse.)
Pay off any debt
Debt is one of the biggest things that holds most of us back in our journey towards financial freedom. As much as you can, keep your debts down to a minimum. Educational debts are “okay,” but only to a point. Remember that you still need to be wary of the price tag since you may be paying off your education 10 to 20 years after you complete your degree.
Always start your month with a spending plan
This is boring, but necessary. Learning how to budget is crucial, especially as you will be putting aside 10 percent of your salary every month. Make sure that you properly allocate your funds. This requires a shift in mindset: Instead of letting your money tell you what you CAN do, you dictate what your money WILL do.
Similarly, always end your month by looking back at your spending plan. This helps you know where you need to adjust your budget.
Find out where you spend the most, and try to cut back by a fourth
Don’t worry when you blow your budget, because you will. But don’t try to overcompensate by trying to cut back the next month with extreme measures. Instead, try to cut back on your biggest financial transgressions by ¼ or even ?. This helps you not to feel deprived. Did you eat out too many times this month? Try cooking your own food for next month. Bought one too many cups of coffee this week? Try only buying a cup for the next week.
Bonus: Change your mindset
Having a “wealth mindset” is not some kind of hocus-pocus hullabaloo that you should be frightened of. Achieving financial freedom becomes simpler when you focus on what you can gain from it, not as a preventive act. Remember the introduction of prepping being a mindset. The goal is to be proactive and happy about doing things that will benefit you, not about doing certain activities because you are afraid of something.