Book Review: How to Survive Without a Salary

I found this book last fall while walking around a table at the local flea market. The table was piled several books deep, end to end with none displaying a price.

As I started wading through the pile of books the guy on the other side of the table looked up, spat a chew of skoal into an empty can, nice day ain’t it, he said wiping his mouth with his sleeve.

Not bad – now if we could get it to stay this way all the time we’d be in good shape, I said; continuing to riffle through the mountain of books. What’s the price on your books?

We’ll let’s see, novels are .50 each, hardcover’s $2 and the rest $1.50 he said, dipping another pinch of tobacco from the can. You like to read?

Yeah, when I find the time. How about you, I asked?

Western type fiction mostly and the Bible.

Tell you what I’ll do, buy five and I’ll let you have the novels for .25 and non fiction for $1 each, he said putting the lid back on the can.

After about twenty minutes of fighting my way through the pile of books, I left with nine titles, including a copy of “How to Survive WITHOUT A salary” by Charles Long. When I got back home, I put the books into my “to read pile”.

I finishing “How to Survive WITHOUT A salary” a few weeks ago. While not an end of the world type book, “How to Survive WITHOUT A salary” does offer some good advice and mental mindset needed to live on less.

He states in the preface:

There’s something about this so-called global economy that reminds me of the sanitary worker who falls in a cess pool. To his great relief he discovers a bump on the bottom where, if he stands on his tip-toes and stretches his neck, he can just keep his mouth above the surface of the muck. To his great dismay he also discovers that taking a step in any direction only makes his predicament worse. He refuses all offers of help, muttering through clenched lip: “Don’t make a wave… Don’t make a wave…

As survivalists (aka preppers) we plan and prepare for a multitude of disasters, often forgetting about the need to survive everyday life and live on less.

I’m afraid the current economy, or lack of, will force many to live the “conserver lifestyle” – if they want to or not. The U.S. is built on consumer debt, if you’re in debt the employers and the bankers own you and you have no choice but to participate.

So the first step to the conserver lifestyle is to get out of debt and stay out. I worked for years for a hardwood flooring company. Ten hours a day six days a week, during peak production. I was running on a thread mill, never actually getting anywhere.

Sure I had stuff or more accurately the bank did. They were kind enough to let me borrow it, as long as I paid the monthly payments. I was in misery, with two options – work 20 hours per day or live on less.

This was the main disagreement, the ex-wife and I had, ultimately leading to divorce.

She wanted glistening things to show her friends and I wanted a life. No compromise, it was her way or the highway. I chose the pavement. Best decision that I ever made.

How to Survive WITHOUT A salary” offers techniques, tips and advice that will not only help you live cheaper but acquire the proper attitude needed to make changes to better your life and become more self-reliant.

Some of the subjects covered include, the secondhand market, buying at auctions, accessing needs, making a casual income, budget, food, clothing, entertainment, taxes, being poor, barter, downsizing and a lot more in its 200 pages.

It’s a good book, that will help you not only save, but make money, but I don’t recommend you buy it new. If you can find it used like I did, by all means buy it or better yet, check the library.

How about you. Are you ready to live a “conserver lifestyle”? Or are you already?

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Great article…the book is on my list, as if I need another. Thanks.

  2. I have lived on less and on nothing. We do live on very little and use our credit to our advantage instead of making banks money.
    I spoke to a man who has live on Forest Service and BLM land for 30 years. He eats wild foods, hunts (I am sure he is poaching, but not wasting) he barters or finds everything else he needs for free. He works we he needs to doing handywork and has a list of folks who will pay him anytime. His work is sought after. He is clean, tidy, and chooses to live this way. Pretty cool if you ask me. He lives on his own terms and will avoid Obamacare.

    • Out of curiosity, what state does that man live in – and in the mountains or hills (what elevation)? I met a guy who lived in the Poconos when I was running a kids’ summer camp in PA, and he lived in much the same way. I hired him to come in and talk to the kids about living close to the Earth. He showed up in buckskins he’d worn for 20 years (without washing) and overall did a great job of holding the kids’ attention and fascinating all of us.

      • SandE,
        I lives in the US Forest Service Rockies. Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. In BLM in the lower elevations in the winter.
        I would have loved to have met your Mountain Man!

      • Donna in MN says:

        IT was my ex hubby in the Poconos. BTW you never wash buckskins, ya don’t want to look like a pilgrim.

    • My guess is anyone willing to live below the poverty level (income wise) will be able to avoid the unlawful obummercare. The key is to become as self sufficient as possible.

      Grow your own food, use solar for your electric needs. Then you’ll just need to earn enough to pay for insurance for your car and property. Maybe have to pay for phone and water. Everything else is covered. With that in mind.. you really don’t have to make very much at all and instead of working to make someone else rich, you’ll be working to meet your basic needs and enjoying your down time working to provide for yourself thru gardening and raising your own meat animals.

  3. Good article, interesting subject. Unlike the BIG economic crises we are expecting, our economy seems to be dissolving like sand being washed away from a beach, little by little. I would guess that the process will speed up after the 2014 elections.

  4. JP in MT says:

    More of us need this kind of knowledge. I’m afraid that we are facing serious economic issues and wi have to drastically change out lifestyles. I have been without and income from a job for 4 years now. I do still have income (I had it before I left the work force) but it is small. My wife still works, has her military retirement, plus we have a small home-based business. My point is that I feel I live a much better life now than before. Less stress and worry. I highly recommend that we all work toward not needing a job, before that decision is made for us by someone else.

  5. t42n24t2 says:

    Thank you. The book is on the way, and I know I’ll learn something from it.

  6. man did you say i i felt. i was working 14 hour days minimum,6 days a week, i had enough time to eat shower get no where near enough sleep,then back to work. on my day off,i slept. i actually felt depression for the first time in my life. then, i had a hose expode and spray me with sulfuric acid. it was the best thing to ever happen to me. blessings come in all wqays. some times it just needs a different way of looking at things,to understand it was a blessing. the hose expolding, meant i was home to take care of my wife while she underwent surgery and recovery. im actually happy again and i will never ever go back to working like that again. im without an income (besides my youtube adsense money) and im not hurting. ive fixed two chainsaws and a weedeater yesterday, and today im working on a video about SODIS. (solar disinfection) having less,means having less tress, and giving less of your life for posessions. i have to get that book!

    • BCTruck, bless you! BTW that quilt on your blog is nice. I am looking for something I can do to improve my income, without taking more employment. Maybe adding a second roommate. It’s just hard to get one when it’s so hot out, all I have is window AC.

  7. Papabear says:

    Read that book in the 80’s, or somewhere there abouts. Guess this would be a good time to dig it out and read it again.

  8. Winomega says:

    I’m uninterested in the family finances. Hubby makes money, he gives me an allowance and expects me to include “having fun” with whatever is leftover from the grocery bill. Instead I try to hoard everything that’s left over.

    I might be able to outright buy a new stove now, but I’m not sure what financial plans would be affected. Same with playing the “zero interest” game before I experiment with saving up enough to outright buy it.

    • Can’t be much left over from the grocery bill these days.

      • Winomega says:

        N/A I don’t have hard numbers. The sides of beef come out of my budget when hubby says so. Otherwise, I think I’m feeding us on $300 during the generous months. (Generous month being that I’m skimming for a $200 or less month.)

        He’s budgeted for me to not have to apologize for minor clothes shopping sprees, not for apologizing about my indiscretions about finding some cool piece of cast iron at the thrift store.

        • Winomega says:

          N/A some notes about our budget, I would consider low-grade beef an indulgence if we couldn’t sink a partial animal investment.

          Chicken, I’ll go $1 per pound whole birds or sale on split breasts, but I focus on 79 cents per pound of bone-in thighs, sometimes less for ten-pound packets of spine-to-ankle.

          Pork of any type, less than $2 per pound. I’ve just set my ham threshold at $1 per pound since it freezes well and we use it for garnish only.

          Produce section, I am sometimes fooled by per-each pricing, but that’s where I impulse-buy. Otherwise it’s on-the-fly menu-building. I try to avoid cabbage during certain months simply because it’s cheap year-round. Otherwise, I use carrots and onions for the same reason.

          I buy frozen veggies alot. Even if the cheapest is steam-in-bag, I will throw it in the oven during oven season. (Gonna see if I can put the electric range in the garage so that I don’t have an oven vs air conditioning energy war.)

          When not dieting, we eat plenty of rice and pasta and potato when it’s not sprouty season.

    • Get a used stove, or go on Craigs List. Last stove I bought was like $100 or so, and the one before that I bartered for.

    • Winomega,
      Just curious, what are you calling the zero interest game?

      • Winomega says:


        sometimes stores will offer no interest for twelve months, if you make the payments on time and get it paid off in those twelve months. Otherwise you pay the interest as normal. They are betting on very few people managing to pull it off.

        I noticed that Sears is offering it.

        We played the game with the laundry appliances, and I think the mattress as well. We are just at the level of stalemating them and finding the game worth playing.

        • Winomega,
          That’s what I thought you meant. I paid for a roots canal and a tiller that way, and I always win the game, because I know how to play. What they basically do is offer a credit card type account and charge nothing if you pay it off in 12 months. That’s the rub that people don’t seem to understand. Let’s assume you have a $1200 bill, which would require you to pay $100 per month for a year. When the statement comes, it will be just like a CC statement with a minimum payment of something like $45. If you pay the $45 instead of the $100, then you lose the game and will end up paying tons of interest. Stick to your plan and you actually get free money for a year, which is not a bad game at all.

    • We do the zero interest and it works out well. We have the money to buy the item outright but pay a set amount each paycheck. It’s surprising how fast things can be paid off this way. And if an emergency arises we still have money to cover it.

  9. Excelent review of a subjuect we all could benefit from. Just ordered the book through your Amaxon link. thanks for all you do for the Pack M.D.

  10. I just added this one to my ever growing wish list on Amazon. Of course I always glance at the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” recommendations. In the first 5 recommendations was

    Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat:… by M.D. Creekmore
    4.3 out of 5 stars (112)

    Congrats MD on the Amazon ranking!

  11. I think we still have that one in the library here. Of course, very few have read it because they’re all silly enough to work god-awful hours to have all the shiny new stuff. Our house & cars are paid for and as long as we can pay the taxes we can live here. As long as we can pay utilities we’ll even have heat and light. 🙂 And let’s not forget air conditioning on days like today.

  12. junipers says:

    We paid off all of our debts and paid off our mortgage within 12 yrs by simply paying more on the principle every month. We paid ourselves first, even if it was $25.00/mo or $200.00 mo, & it went into the bank until we could finally pay off our mortgage. Meanwhile, I have been prepping for a while now on a budget. The price of food has constantly gone up. Whenever there’s a sale on canned goods, I throw a few extra in my cart. Same thing goes for rice, beans, flour and sugar. I’ve found mylar bags and o2 packets on Amazon to be affordable. I just put my beans, rice, flour and sugar into those. I also buy candy, choc chips, cereals, nuts, trail mix for trade items. Every time I go to WalMart, I buy otc meds, toothpaste, soap, etc. It takes discipline to live within your means. I have always taught my children the difference between “I want and I need.” Sure, I could buy a designer purse, but I know that I could buy a bunch of #10 cans of food, heirloom seeds, and other things that would help us when shtf. I guess I have learned the value in being thrifty and yes, I’ve been called names for being frugal, but I’m not the one ringing my hands every time the stock market takes a dive. I guess, in the end, I’m content in knowing that my husband and I are prepared to handle a disaster.

  13. Think poor and live poor.

  14. Doris Jones says:


    Great book review and a neat description of an interesting encounter.

    We have an amazing guy who lives near us on his “10 acre farmette”. He has his life worked out perfectly (for him) and is a guy anyone could admire. He has his own “appliance repair business” and is in high demand. He has goats, dogs, a horse, a farm and all this on a mountain with a brook running thru his property. If you go up there early in the AM, you will find him out enjoying the sunrise with his “red bone hound” and drinking coffee, wearing a plaid woolen shirt ( in cold weather) and a bibb Carthart overall set. Happy as a clam and the king of all he surveys. Has a great van with all the “equipment” and parts he needs to repair everything from a heating system to a refrigerator or a lawnmower. Smart as all get out and has his life in order. Makes everyone who sees him, his home and property wish to BE him! I took my grown married son from Dallas over there and he said “Mom, I would love to live my life just like him!”

    This repairman used to be married to a “city girl” who did not like his life, thought he was “stupid” and not “with it” and left him. He NOW has a smart woman who truly loves and appreciates him, he is raising his child and has married this girl and I congratulate him on holding out for his beliefs and for his lifestyle. Needless to say, his kid thinks he hangs the moon and I agree. (He calls often to “check in” on us since we are seniors and to ask if we “need anything”.) This is a rare and a fine man who enriches all whose life he touches. I pity that former wife who could not see a truly fine and noble man when she had him.

    • Antizombie says:

      I am always envious of the “renaissance man”(or woman). Everyone knows at least one. They are the kind that seem to know a little about a lot of different things. They are the ones that seem to have a knack for getting that motor started or with just a description of a problem can diagnose a trouble and fix it. Their houses are usually neat (if they’re not helping others) and they don’t seem to understand why folks are always saying “Geeze, I never thought of that”. They can trade their “help” for things they need but usually just say “that all right” if you try to offer them anything.

      I always try to hang around these folks to pick up any nugget of wisdom I can. I personally have always admired Thomas Jefferson as the person to become. He was a farmer, statesman, architect, natural scientist, educator, and inventor. I try to run my own farm like these people do and I look forward in a few years to retiring, tinkering, and becoming one of those folks. God Bless em.

  15. Calidreamer says:

    When I dropped out of the work force to go to school, I used the phrase, ‘ learn to embrace your poverty’. it is amazing how many no cost entertainments there are, often with food thrown in.

    • ‘dropped out of the work force to go to school.’ I like that phrase. It is exactly what I’m in the process of doing right now. Have handed in my notice from a 3 day a week job so I can study aged care nursing – which is in big demand over here in Aus, and offers a more useful set of skills for the future than admin…. Must admit I didn’t want to give up the whole job but they weren’t open to me working a day less. (we have just a few K left on our mortgage) so a bit longer sacrificing my sanity for a dollar would have been handy – but look to the future and get prepared is my motto. Short term pain – long term gain – I hope.

  16. Texanadian says:

    In 2010 I left my job and TW and I traveled for 9 months around the western US and Canada in a 5th wheel. Part to the idea was to just make enough for expense, take it easy and not pay taxes. I sucked a being poor and still made to much money and ended up paying a bunch of taxes. Back in the work force again but planning on dropping out again and going Galt. Hard to kill the work ethic though. One thing to keep in mind: if you don’t try to keep up with or give a darn what the Jones’ have, you’re never poor if you have your basics covered. Compared to some of my neighbors I’m rich, to others I am middle class. I really don’t give a hoot what they think. I live for me and TW and the rest of the world can go to hell, I’m living in Texas.

    At least for now… probably going to head back north to Alberta in the near future. I fear for America.

  17. Texanadian says:

    Sounds like an interesting book btw, I’ll have to look into it.

  18. I’ve been pretty frugal most of my life, although I have to really watch it nowadays. While I was making $600 more a month than I now am, I bought a lot of preps, including pantry food, solar panels, guns, and probably $250 worth of dirt for the garden, plus I paid a guy a couple hundred to chop down a tree, only to have it grow back – Grr!

    This year I didn’t have a lot of money for dirt so I rearranged some, dumping it out of pots and putting it on the ground, and then added a little to it, to make my squash patch. The garden is the whole front and back yard now.

    House repairs have been sort of eating it up too. I’ve had to fix a few plumbing leaks a month or two ago. I need to fix a kitchen floor. It’s soft in one spot.

    I am now sort of just filling it out in the corners whenever I see a bargain. Lighters have been on sale lately. I also go to the thrift store a lot – today it was a 4 gallon stock pot for $3. I saved some money by sewing my own gear or using old camera bags and toiletry bags as pouches and sticking straps on them. I think I’ve finally got enough “gear”, with a couple small exceptions. Time to focus on other things. Tending the garden. Maybe some Tattler lids. Rearranging the clutter. Looking to see if I have more lentils.

    What really gets my goat now is silver’s way down and I don’t have extra money to buy any because I blew my allowance on that last little bit of gear. But perhaps silver will stay down for a month or two.

    • PennyPincher;
      Even though silver prices are down, it will be hard to locate any. We went through is problem back the last time it dropped. Our PM dealer, said he had large back orders that were waiting to fulfilled by the mint. We were lucky the day we walked he had some in stock for walk in customers only. He ask us if we had any junk silver he was looking to purchase.

  19. Chuck Findlkay says:

    I have been living with no salary since about 1999 to 2000 as a handyman doing all kinds of home repair for people. It took 8-0 years before I made a good living at it. Before that I did OK at best. But today I have a core of 9 landlords, realtors and a lumber yard that uses me to do all kinds of work outside their shop foe customers that come into the yard wanting something fixed. I try very hard to only work 4 days a week. I have no debt at all, my home is paid for as is everything I have. For a few weeks (like 8 ) every spring I end up working 6 to 7 days a week when all the years leases are up. But the rest of the time I turn away work when I get to 4 days a week. My phone is always ringing for me to do work.

    If you would have asked me years ago if I could seemingly work and live with no regular job or paycheck I would have said of course not, are you crazy? But once I got laid off from a machine shop (machinist) it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I have more money as I charge more per hour then I worked for, I have more free time I have been buying silver for years and have thousands of dollars of it scattered around the house in a few hidden spots and in 2 gun saves.

    I would never want to get a “real job” and dept again. Life is good living off-grid and with no debt.

    • Chuck;
      Just remember we do OPSEC, so you might want to drop you last name from now on……just a thought.

      • Becky,
        I assume you don’t watch the show “Burn Notice”? Just sayin’

        • OP;
          Burn Notice, no, it is not a show that I watch. So if he is using a name from that show—oh, well.
          Brother watches that show, for some reason never could get into watching it. Thanks for the heads up. 🙂

  20. Antizombie says:

    I don’t know how you and your significant other have things set up in your house in regard to money matters, but I’m on the “give the wife the check – never see it again” plan. Anyway, I was on vacation last week and had some family guests for the fourth. I finished my screened in porch porch project a few months ago and I don’t think that I’ve ever enjoyed a project completed more. I spend most mornings I’m home drinking my coffee, wishing I was smoking a cigarette and listening to all manner of birds, horses, dogs, and farm type animals. But I digress.

    On the supper of the fourth, my wife had sent me in to get something or other for the table and when I came back out all of my family had gathered around the dinner table on the porch for prayer. We all joined hands and heads bowed, my wife began the Prayer.

    “Dear Heavenly Father. We live in a great blessed land where we have the freedom to be and do anything we we want. You have blessed this country with the freedom to purchase and own private property”, and with that she turned and handed me an envelope on which was written “Open July 4th only.” I was a little puzzled so I took it and opened it. In it were the mortgage release papers for the farm. We had done it! It was ours for know and ever more!

    Well, I started crying and she started crying and they started crying and we all thanked God for his blessings.

    Later that night instead of a “mortgage burning” ceremony we wrapped that paper around a mortar shell and set it up to heaven to explode in a beautiful fire burst of red, white , and blue! The next day I drove around the farm and just smiled with the knowledge that all the vacations we didn’t go on and all the new cars we didn’t buy, and all the years I spent in working away from my family were worth it.

    Live as debt free as you can. it only took us 10 yrs to get it done.

    • I hope you dw kept the original & blew up the copy for the 4th of July.

    • Antizombie,
      We’ve owned our place outright for more than a decade, but we must sadly keep in mind that in reality, we’re only leasing it from the county. Just miss a few years property taxes and find out. Still, it is a great feeling.

      • Antizombie says:

        I know OhioPrepper,
        It is a sad reality that I guess we’ll never own it outright. However, in a SHTF situation I have faith the county government will be in such disarray that they might leave me and my measly property alone. At any rate, I think (pray) that I can scrape up enough money for taxes even after I retire. It saddens me to think of how many folks lost their farms to taxes during the GD. I’m sure they thought the same thing.

  21. riverrider says:

    another good one is LIVING WELL ON PRACTICALLY NOTHING by edward romney. in 2010 i was imformed that due to an injury i was no longer fit enough for combat and would be retired shortly. knowing i’d be going to less than 40% of my income, i took those months to “pad the books” ie: save as much as possible and pay off what debt we had. after health premiums its much less than 40%, but with zero debt its not that hard. however, being dependent on the current regime is not in my dna so we have made plans to live on even less. we can drop electricity after the frig is emptied out, having a small solar setup. we have the 19.99 cable due to poor local tv reception, thanks digital geniouses. that can go if needed. we pay too much for net service but who doesn’t. we keep a landline to get free long distance to the dil in canada, that could go too. got 5 years of groceries in the supply room. water from the sky is free. five walking miles to the nearest store, good exercise. the only real killer is property tax, 1k a year. no way to beat that but sell out and live in the woods. got skills, should be able to make 1k a year somewhere.

    • Doris Jones says:

      Re: 1 K taxes. Have you checked with your local tax office about “the homestead exemption”? You may not be old enough but here in Alabama if you are a certain age or disabled and your income is at a certain level (it does not have to be true poverty–just on the low side) you can have your property tax reduced to ZERO. Maybe yours could be reduced some? I know different states (and it even varies with counties some times) have different rules. Hope get some relief on taxes.

      It takes until the 2nd year after you apply, but it is a good feature. Some places have something along those lines but they DO NOT advertise it. You have to find out on your own.
      We could have claimed our homestead exemption 10 yrs. ago.

      I personally think it stinks about property tax after you have totally paid for your property for sure. There are seniors here who ended up living in an expensive section like Mountain Brook and their present taxes PER YEAR may be $6,000 or more and the taxes exceed the yearly house payments they made when they purchased the home. Some have had to sell their lifetime homes since their income did not allow for the high dollar taxes. And the property taxes just keep rising even though the value of their homes tanked. If they cannot find a buyer and they do not HAVE the $6,000 or even more–they can find themselves out of a home and the revenue dept. auctions off their home for the tax bill! Wrong wrong!

      • riverrider says:

        thanks, i’ll check it out. tho we have a big house its officially one bedroom, maybe two but that didn’t stop them from valueing it like a five bedroom. yes the tax is wrong all the way around. tax to buy a car, tax to keep it, tax to drive it, tax to fuel it, tires on it and on and on. and they assess them way more than you can get for it. i suggested to my rep that they should have to buy anything they value high if the owner agrees. i’d sell everything to them and buy the same models cheaper and bank the money, in another state.

    • RR,
      Since you’re keeping the internet, if it is reliable, you could drop your phone for any number of VOIP (Voice over IP) services, and still keep the same telephone number.

      • riverrider says:

        op, roger that. think we’ll jst keep burner phones. the voip doesn’t work on our setup, or so i’m told. we have to use the mobile wifi thing out here. i’m still getting my retirement, for now.

        • riverrider,
          Have you ever tried or used Skype? If you try that and it works, then you are using VOIP. In fact, Skype offers a telephone service that is rather inexpensive.

  22. “How to Survive Without a Salary” sounds a lot like a book I read some 30 years ago, called “Possum Living” and when I looked it up to see if it’s available and refresh my memory, I found it as a free pdf. “Possum Living How to Live Well Without a Job and with (almost) No Money – By Dolly Freed. It was published in 1978 and I still have a copy around here somewhere, but you can download your own by searching “possum living pdf” (I used Google). It’s a pretty interesting book if I recall correctly, and price is definitely right.

  23. TN Mommy says:

    I’m jealous of all the people who were able to pay off a mortgage in 10 years. I would try to do that but at this point I think the economy will collapse long before 10 years is up. I’m not throwing away any extra money to the big banks so I can watch my mortgage vaporize when the economy tanks. I’d rather stock up on food and supplies. Maybe when I have enough stuff (does that ever happen) then I can start paying off the mortgage.

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!