By Jerry M

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest

We have all heard the word “ frugal” , we know it means to be sparing , thrifty or economical , especially in our habits of buying or spending. If one is trying to live a self-reliant lifestyle, being frugal in many different areas will pay great dividends to you .

Being in debt financially is akin to being a slave to whomever you owe money to . Many folks have a tough time deciding the difference between a want and a need and the result is often unwanted debt . The use of a credit card is so easy and the interest charged is totally unreasonable. The only way to use a credit card is to pay it completely off every month, without fail. If you cannot control your card habits , cut it up and trash it .

I do not like a paper trail to many of my purchases so I try and pay cash at every opportunity . By paying cash a person sees and feels the money and it is easier to realize what you are spending and where it is going . It is not just using a plastic card , it may also be an eye opener for you to what you really are spending . Here are a few things about getting and using cash that you need to consider .

If you withdraw $ 10,000.00 or more at one time from your bank the transaction will be reported to the IRS . At many banks a with-drawl of $ 3,000.00 will be a red flag of suspicion to the bank . We use 2 different banks so we can stagger withdrawals and not raise any unwanted suspicion . Bank tellers are asked to report any suspicious activity in a Suspicious Activity Report , SAR , the report is then given to the U. S. Treasury Department , it happens often , you just don’t hear much about it . Your account may be frozen and you will not know why . If the teller is having a bad day , they can also create a bad day for you and you may never know why your bank account is closed to you . We always put on a smiley & happy face when dealing with our banks . If your bank puts you down on a SAR they legally cannot tell you . We also use two banks in the event there is a “ bank holiday or closure” , or limited withdrawals , like what happened in the 1930’s in America or recently in Cyprus and Greece . I also advise keeping an emergency cash stash at home .

You should sit down and develop a monthly budget that includes the necessary items that you need to pay : utility, phone , insurance , taxes etc. , and then the nice to have items . We try to purchase needs and not wants . We have almost eliminated dining out for two reasons , one is cost and the other is food quality ( think farming pesticides ) . Yes , we go out to celebrate an anniversary or special event once in a while but not as a regular part of our lives .

If you are a cigarette smoker , I have a word of advice -QUIT ! If a 1 pack a day smoker will quit smoking they will save about $ 2,500.00 annually . $2,500.00 will buy you a lot of food , clothes , ammo , tools etc. , you will smell better and you and those around you will be healthier as well .

I try to be frugal in all areas not just with money . My mom lived through the depression era and I was exposed to a lot of stories on how to live thrifty in all areas of life . Here is an example of what happens when I cut firewood . I cut down the tree and trim off all the branches , all branches are cut 16” in length , larger ones are split and the small ones become kindling . rounds are cut in 16” widths, split and stacked , all small chips go in the kindling box , the stove ashes are put in the compost or the outhouse . I try to use it all . I try to instill that thought process in all I do .

Get used to calculating how much per ounce or pound you pay for groceries . Buying a larger quantity usually means a smaller price , I like Nalley’s canned chili , it was on sale often in a 15 oz. can for $ .89 , then suddenly it was on sale at $ 1.15 for a 14 oz. can . That went from $.06 per ounce to $.08 per ounce , that is a huge increase percentage-wise , about 60% . Inflation is your deadly quiet enemy and it is everywhere .

Shopping at a thrift store can be another good place to save money , especially on work clothes ,books and who knows what treasures you may find there . In our area we also have a builders recycle store that has saved me many dollars on used doors, windows, sinks and cabinets .

We have 2 freezers and we keep some 1 gallon water filled milk jugs in any empty freezer space , the freezer runs more efficiently, saving money , in a power outage it remains colder longer in the freezer and we have potable water to drink or cook with or it can be used to flush a toilet if needed .

If we can look at each facet of our lives we can usually find areas where we can spend and save more wisely . I am not a fan of stock market investing , so I buy extra things that I know we will use , such as shoes , clothing , foodstuffs , tools and other tangible items that are easily stored . We try and think “tangible” when it comes to investments , if you can touch it you own it !

We dumped our T V a few years ago as well as the $ 60.00 a month cable payment .We dropped 2 magazine subscriptions and saved another $ 70.00 annually . We pore over sale flyers and use coupons , anything to save $$ on things we use on a regular basis . We saved $ 450.00 a year on car insurance by shopping around . We deal with an independent insurance agent as they have several companies to choose from for the best pricing and coverage .

The economic future in this country looks rather bleak to me . There is lots of unemployment , millions of people on welfare , prices rising on everything and a great of deal of uncertainty of where it will all end . I foresee a rough voyage ahead for most all citizens .

I believe that you can smooth out the troubled waters somewhat if you are not tied down with a debt load and you have been able to accumulate items that are critical to your well-being . A thrifty lifestyle is a way to reach that position .

Hopefully, I have been able to provide some food for thought in different areas and you can either begin or improve your thrifty , frugal habits on the road to self-reliance . Good luck and God bless.

Prizes For This Round (Ends April 12, 2016) In Our Non-Fiction Writing Contest Include…

  1. First place winner will receive –   A gift certificate for $150 off of  rifle ammo at Lucky Gunner, an Urban Survival Kit a $109 value courtesy of  TEOTWAWKI supplies, a WonderMix Deluxe Kitchen Mixer a $299 value courtesy of Kodiak Health and a LifeStraw Mission Filter a $109 value courtesy of EarthEasy, and a 4″ Heavy Duty WaterBoy Well Bucket a $106 value and a WaterBoy Tripod Kit courtesy of Well WaterBoy Products for a total prize value of over $867.
  2. Second Place Winner will receive – 30 Day Food Storage All-in-One Pail a $119 value courtesy of Augason and Berkey Light with 2 (9″) Berkey Earth Elements a $157 value courtesy of LPC Survival, for a total prize value of $276.
  3. Third place winner will receive –  International MRE Meals Supply a $72.00 value, a LifeStraw Portable Water Filter a $19 value, Yoder’s Fully Cooked Canned Bacon a $15 value all courtesy of CampingSurvival and one copy of each of my books “The Prepper’s Primer” and a copy of “The Prepared Prepper’s Cookbook“ for a total prize value of $137.


  1. If you won`t stop smoking to save money and your life, you have no buisness reading this blog.It is that elementary.

    • Wow. Those are some pretty exclusive rules for a blog. 😉

      • I think he means that smoking is just the opposite of prepping to avoid problems. Smoking is prepping to have problems,,,its sort of like being fat,,,,,,oh,,,,,,,I’ll let myself out,,,,,,,,, 😉

        • Axelsteve says:

          thank you sometimes I get kinda emphatic about especially smoking. Easist way to quit is by not starting.

  2. Good points~ I’m creating a new list now!!

  3. Can I add a plea to drastically reduce your use of credit cards & debit cards — EVEN IF you pay them off every month??

    When you carry your weekly money around as true cash in your back pocket, it makes it extremely easy to recognize what something is costing you, and what it will do to the amount of $$$ that you have to live on that week….

    When you spend with “plastic”…it is SOOOO much easier to spend….there is no regret, no grasp of what this will do to your balance….only the “sweet smell” of BUYING SOMETHING.

    When we switched to using “green stuff” we started really getting financially free. Within a few years, my habits had changed sufficiently that my home was paid off (in 6 years).

    Please, please, give it a try, even if for only 2 weeks.

    • Maud'Dib says:

      I use a debit card for most everything.
      My wife’s and my check go right into direct deposit.
      It also allows me to quietly withdraw as much as $300 a day if I choose to.

      I try to keep a few hundred in my wallet at any given time as well should I come across something I need.

      I was forced to use a credit card for a purchase of new tires the other day. I just sent them a check for the full payment plus an extra $100 for a CC payment….

      Fortunately, I only owe $500 on the card which is zero interest and will be paid off by the time interest kicks in.

  4. mom of three says:

    Yes, all good ideas the credit card yo yo, is awful if you can’t keep it under control. We payed and closed several CC, we sleep better at night. We have a Credit Union, for our banking and I plan on putting money on a Gift Visa Credit
    Card, so no monthly payments or interest coming in. I also will get Amazon gift cards, too with a set amount to use again no debt, or interest each month. Save some coin’s too I just
    buy the money rolls at Dollar tree, tho most bank’s won’t take
    rolled coin’s from customers, so if your bank, or Credit
    Union, has a coin counter that’s one way to count change. I
    try and roll several rolls of quarters, and dimes, plus
    nickles,to have for parking meters, or for laundromat, if
    your dryer ever goes broke. Eating out you can drop $50.00 just at lunch, anymore I’ve been getting the family, used to eating at home, eating out is just to much. I’ve been trying to use as many coupons as I can and printing only one’s I know I will use as ink is expensive too.

    • MORE POWER TO YOU!!!! Eating out is certainly one of the most famous budget-busters out there with any number of children involved!!! Carefully control that food budget!!!

    • I have a change jar and collect coins to use at the used book sale hosted by our local library and the thrift store book sales. I usually have enough to pay in pennies and nickles.

      I got my DD to love eating at home more than eating out by making it fun and letting her pick what to eat. Homemade pizzas and movie on Friday were her favorite. I could check out a movie at the library for 50-cents and she got to make her very own little skillet pizza.

      In the summer we would set up a blanket in the yard and lay out a picnic spread. You can’t do that in a restaurant.

      Even now, when she’s home, we share a meal when eating out more times than ordering separately. And…it’s always water. Drinks can add a lot to the bill, especially when they charge $3 like they do here. I can get a box of 100 tea bags for less!

  5. Shop at stores that have bulk bins. Get buckets with gamma seals to store your items in. Pasta, rice and beans, soup mixes, etc are much cheaper that way. WINCO is the store for that around here. As always though, compare prices!

    If I go to town for errands, and am going to be there during meal time, I brown bag it sometimes,I’ve even skipped lunch a time or few as well. Every once in awhile though, something special sounds good. It’s okay to reward yourself for your ‘sacrifices’ once in awhile.

    Bought alot of clothes at thrift store’s when I was welding for a living. Worked all blue collar work, thrift stores are a great place to save. A few have regular sales around holidays as well! Thrift stores are a good place to get manual garden tools, replace out of date dish patterns, and other items.Often time’s your purchases of older items will wear a ”made in America” label.

    I keep a ‘change jar’ on the dresser, when it is full, I run it through a coin counter. It’s usually enough for an ounce or two of silver, a tank of gas, some ammunition, a saw chain or other item. It also keeps my garage in hardware items like screws, nails, hinges, etc.

    Lot’s of ways to save and redirect money, most importantly is need over want.

  6. Americana pacrat says:

    We will be down to one CC soon, and that will be our travel-emergency card.
    What is nice I worked on the monthly/yearly budget set up so I can see what is due each month, and future monthly expenses. We have paid off two major expenses in the past couple of years and the last major one(#3) I have slated to have paid off in 6 to 12 months—beans and rice again :-).

    • PrepperDoc says:

      CONGRATS TO YOU!!!! And I also agree with PatrickM — I have bought plenty of stuff at thrift stores and so have my kids….my millionaire mom used to LOVE to go shopping there….how do you think she got to be, and stay, a millionaire?

      • Axelsteve says:

        Prepper doc.
        I used to work at a Toyota Lexus dealership. When Lexus came out in 91 or so they had a optional car phone. It cost 2500 dollars installed. We eventually sent them back cause no one bought them. Too many people had a cell phone anyway so why waste 2500 on one in the car? People who are rich stay rich by being careful with there money.

    • Getting out of debt is one of the first things we had a discussion about with our kids. It gets repeated every so often. They have been aggressively working to that goal and are getting close. They would say in response to their being called frugal, “Nah, I am just a cheapskate.”

  7. TN Mountain Mama says:

    I think the slogan “Reduce–Reuse–Recycle” is perfect for describing a homesteader/prepper. When you hear it in environmental circles, it is usually with an emphasis on the “Recycle” part, but for people motivated more by self-sufficiency than by planet stewardship, the emphasis is more heavily on the “Reduce & Reuse” aspects.

  8. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    Purchase items that you know you will need regardless of the economy and you will be well ahead. They become INVESTMENTS rather than expenditures.

    Everyone needs an occasional vacation, but a vacation is simply taking time off from your usual duties. It doesn’t have to be done in some far off place to be enjoyed.

  9. Being born and raised by a father who was already a adult during the depression and a farmer to boot our whole upbringing was save and recycle, we had a piece of railroad iron that straightened thousands of nails, till this day when I am discarding something I take the screws and bolts out first and put them in the little yellow harbor freight bins, and yes I still have a piece of railroad iron that I use to straighten spikes and large nails.
    Living 20 miles from town a$1 part costs $5 by the time you drive to get it. My wife calls it my junk but I call it my valuable resource.

    • Aha…here is the point about farmers; they are often “Jacks of all trades” and will find a way around missing parts in order to make it work again. Bent nails, fixing latches, plumbing, electricity, carpentry, small motor repair, large equipment repair…and on and on. Add to that those farmers whose parents lived through the depression and continued their frugal practices as their children grew…and a Farmer is indeed a valuable asset to any group. Again, they do much more than “read the back of the Monsanto bag.”

  10. For about 2 years I was 100% debt free. What a great feelingthat was. Illness and job loss caused us to have to rely on the cards for a while but we are going to be debt free again by july. Ive already payed two off and transferred the balance of two,to a zero interest card. we will have that payed off much quicker now.

    • Interest is about half the minimum credit card payment, so the zero interest payments make lots of headway toward getting rid of that debt.

  11. About 3 years ago we got serious about out pantry. We stock it with our regular items, enough to go from sale to sale. It alone has saved us 30-40%.

  12. Dear Wife & I overspent in our 20s & got into debt up to our necks. Talk about pressure & feeling enslaved… Used our 30s to pay off the debts while living frugally, & have been above water since. The sense of financial peace is tremendous, in contrast to the anxiety of living on the edge; an emergency fund is like financial insurance. Currently have a mortgage & a sm car loan. Plan is to have mortgage paid off by the time we retire in our 60s. However, there’s less security in my work these days. What I like about MD’s books & blog, is that it offers low-cost ways of prepping. Great article, Jerry. offers a lot of free stuff on his site & have several good books out that u can probably find used online.

  13. What I’ve failed to comprehend while listening to folks during my life is usually the goal, and measure of success, is simply getting out from the burden of debt. However, the ultimate goal imo should be to be debt free and prepared for the cost of living coming your way. As some here know, you can be debt free one day and then what; an emergency medical expense, an auto breaks down or whatever negates that good sleep in a heartbeat.

    As I’ve mentioned before I haven’t had a mortgage since 2001 nor a car payment or any other debt. I’ve only had one cc, never eat out and have little in the way of extravagances. Our bikes cost almost 6000.00 for two but we compete and that’ s a choice we made. Lol. Point is, getting out of debt is great but why not continue making car payments to yourself if you could afford them before, thereby being capable of covering the cost of another when it comes…or for whatever comes. One should not become complacent on the day you pay off a major expense; enjoy it yes, but true freedom is having various emergency funds to cover what can come asbest one can. Hope that does not sound preachy.

    • Shortly after getting out of debt, DW & I began saving for a down pymnt on a house. Over 7 yrs, we saved a good-sized down-payment. Have a 30 year mortgage & pay extra every month, & am on schedule to pay it off in 20 yrs from day 1. has a mortgage calculator that shows if u pay extra monthly, how much sooner u can pay it off.

      • gthomas says:

        Yep. Back in 1988 I wrote my first program, in BASIC (lol), and saved it on a floppy disk. What was it? An amortization schedule. If you request or print off the amortization schedule from your lending institution you can easily use it to ascertain the extra principal to pay each month yourself.

        The schedule has all 360 payments if a 30 year loan and it depicts the PITI (principal, interest, tax,and insurance) each month. The first payment will have lower principal and higher interest than the second payment and the second will show the same vs. the third. The principal increases and the interest decreases each month. What I did was make a payment and then pay the exact principal depicted on the next payment or payments. So, at the beginning payments where the principal is small, it is easy to make a few payments extra by applying the extra towards the next few payments. Then just strike through the payments on the schedule that you paid the extra principal so you know which payment you are paying the following month and how much principal tonadd for the next payments. IOW, your regular first payment is made and you strije through number one, then you pay the exact amount for the principa only for payments 2 and 3, for example, and strike through those. Your second normal payment will be payment 4 and you pay the interest for 5 and 6. Your 3d actual inline payment will be 7 and so on and so on.

        Somewhere after 180, forgot where, your normal payment will actually be mostly principal instead of interest and may feel like a normal payment is enough. My first homes back then had 2 digit interest rates though do it seemed a smart thing to do as the principal was so small early in the loan. BTW, the return youbare actually getting on your extra principal payments is the actual loan rate. My loan for one home was ober 11 percent so each extra principal payment produced a return on investment of 11(+) percent which beat any rate from any bank. Easier than it sounds. When most of my payment went more toward principal than interest, I rented it out and the rent was basically paying off the loan at a fast pace. So I had the tax deduction, rapid equity builup and home apprecistion going for me.

  14. Spot on, Jerry:)

    Expenses can really becoming eyeopening when you look at a whole year rather than individual purchases. Then when you add up ALL the “little things” it can be shocking.

    It amazed me long ago when I sat down and put a year’s worth of expenses in Quick Books. Even though I pay my cc off each month that didn’t mean I was spending frugally or wisely. I was actually angry when I realized all those little amounts, frittered away, added up to a nice weekend trip or part of my annual IRA.

    I always use paper towels as my example because it’s the one thing everyone brings up when they visit. I don’t buy paper towels or paper napkins because I realized what I was spending. Why buy something just to throw it away?

    Add to that, the daily coffee, snack, vending machine treat, bottled water, lunch…stuff people don’t think about when they’re peeling off “just a few bucks”. It can actually add up to thousands of $$ each year.

    I would take Jerry’s thinking one step further and say use the saved money for your emergency fund or cash stash or pay off debit. Make the “new use” feel like something you HAVE TO pay, even if it’s put in a savings acct. When I finally paid off my truck several years ago, I put the payment amt in a savings acct for a year. At the end of the year I put part in my emergency fund, some into my cash stash, some into a savings acct to save up for cement work and a few hundred to make a dent in my food stock up plan. I never thought of it as money I could go out and blow. I made it have a purpose.

    So far, so good. I don’t feel deprived, but I think that’s more a prepper’s mindset. Or, maybe it’s just getting older and more content with where I’m at and not feeling bad that someone has something I don’t.

    Life is good on the frugal front:)

  15. Another area to look at is “stuff”. Yep, all the “stuff” you have. Do you really need it. I’m in the middle of clearing a right of way of trees that I should finish in March. Then, in between prepping and planting the garden, I’m targeting “stuff”. For instance. I have my Dad’s 1962 Chevy Impala. It is “stuff”. I have no need for it. As soon as I clean it up and get it running again, it goes on Craig’s list. I have a tool shed full of old tools. Most of which I have no need. I don’t foresee ever needing a drive shaft and die to thread 4-6″ pipe. That goes on Craig’s list also. Most of the “stuff” in the tool shed are the remains of the industrial piping company my dad had. I’m retired. I won’t be using the majority of this “stuff”. So, I’ll turn it into cash and it goes to prepping.
    I’ll bet the majority of you have the same problem I have. Too much “stuff”.

    • Great idea to sell stuff sitting around. Ever considered setting that ’62 Impala aside as a bugout vehicle to use after an emp? Having a vehicle that runs in that scenario, will put u in a sm minority of people. …unless u plan to bug in.

  16. I bought our house in Nov. 2003, and paid it off in Nov. 2009.
    Our vehicles are all older (nothing newer than 1985, EVER!), and were bought with cash.

    I cut up the credit cards, and we will be completely out of debt by this summer, and I will not get any more!

    The most stressful times of my life have been caused by debt. Even being shot at, getting married, having kids, or final exams weren’t as stressful!

    I was brought up thinking that a good credit score was important, but recently I looked back over my life and saw that I never needed it! I bought houses from the owners, paid cash for cars, boats and motorcycles, so I never needed to finance anything. I kept falling for the lie that the almighty credit score was important though.
    My learning experience is better late than never.

    From now on it will be cash or barter. I’ve had it with debt!

  17. Snoozin Sean says:

    We consolidated our CC debt after I was laid off. My new job is $8.00 less an hour and no overtime. We stopped eating out for the most part ( once since xmas 2015), we don’t smoke or waste money on coffee or energy drinks. I revisit our spending every week to see if we can cut any more. I’m going to straight talk this month which should save us about another $45 s month

  18. Petticoat Prepper says:

    I am debt free now too. Although I’m looking to acquire a huge amount this year as I’m trying to get on to my BOL. This will be a short term (2 year) thing. After which I plan on rolling nearly all the funds from that sale into the next property with the goal of having it all paid off in less than 5 years.

    Few dinners out, thrift shopping, coupons and just plain telling myself NO. I figure I’ve about 10-15 more years I can do the work I do so I’d like to be ready.

    Good article!

  19. I was fritz in about my seed order this year. Then I realized how much the food cos r s over a year and how much better I eat than most. I am committed to save seed for everythinv, not just a few things and cut my seed order by 90% next year.
    I already have no debt other than a small amount left on my mortgage.

  20. This is a great article. I couldn’t wait to get a credit card of my own, and with one came two etc…. It made it so easy to purchase what you wanted (instant gratification), but once the balances came due, the thrill was gone. I got tired of the credit debt, and worked on one card at a time, throwing as much money as possible to the card until it was paid, and then quit carrying the card with me. I did this until all cards were paid off and I rarely carry a balance on cards at all any more. It is very freeing to be debt free. Since I’ve been prepping, I have become more cautious about using my cards, as you leave a big paper path behind. Now I pay cash when I can, no body’s business what I purchase.

  21. West of the Big Chicken says:

    I paid my house off last year, checked credit score several months later, scored had dropped since year before.

    So I am completely out of debt and credit score companies see me as more of a risk.

    My thought, “Stupid People!!”

  22. My credit score has also dropped as I got out of debt. Made me uncomfortable at first, but I don’t want to go back.

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