Tuesday, October 10, 2017

20 (Free) Ways to Prepare for a Disaster

There have been so many disasters lately!  From hurricanes to mass shootings to wildfires...it seems as if we have had a decade's worth of disasters all in the course of a year or so.  Here are some free ways to prepare for a disaster:

  1. Take advantage of any free classes offered in your community.  Many community organizations (fire departments, hospitals, Red Cross, etc) offer free classes in the community to teach skills that would be useful during a disaster such as first aid, AED, CPR, earthquake preparedness, hurricane preparedness, and other similar classes.  
  2. Take advantage of free disaster preparedness item giveaways in your community.  Again, community organizations often offer free things to help avert a disaster like the fire department giving away free smoke detectors, the hospital giving free child car seats to new parents, the county offering free home earthquake preparedness evaluations for your home, etc.
  3. Develop a communication plan with your family.  If you are separated from your family during a disaster, it is a good idea to pre-plan a couple of friends or family members everyone can call to report that they are OK.  Sometimes phone calls and texts don't go through in the immediate area of a disaster so it is useful to call a family contact who lives outside of the disaster area to check in and relay messages to family members.
  4. Back up all of your important documents and pictures onto your computer and from your computer to a thumb drive.  Instead of evacuating with boxes and boxes of pictures and documents, you can ensure you have all of these important items on one small thumb drive.  If you don't have a scanner, libraries often have free scanners you can use to do this.
  5. Make an evacuation plan.  In case you are given a few hours to grab what you can and go, you need to have an evacuation plan already in place so you will know the best routes to leave your area.  Check out Google maps or other map programs on your computer and determine the best ways to leave your area.  Then drive these routes and check out anything that may make these routes inaccessible during a disaster (like overpasses that could crumble onto the roadway during and earthquake).  Part of your evacuation plan should also be also be a checklist of items you need to toss in the car at the last minute so you don't forget anything important when you leave.
  6. Utilize the free resources of the internet to prepare for a disaster.  Find out what kinds of disasters are most likely in your area.  Read various websites to determine the best way to prepare for these likely disasters.  Google around and see if there are any preparedness classes in your area.  Read news articles about how people who have already went through such a disaster prepared and survived and take notes.
  7. Attend community events that focus on preparedness.  Our city often has free vaccination clinics, preparedness fairs, fire department tours, and other events to show community members what types of resources are available in the city and provide disaster preparedness resources to help citizens prepare for a disaster.
  8. Carry things in your car that could be used during a disaster.  We always have a spare blanket in our car, a case of bottled water, some granola bars, a basic first aid kit, some spare tools from our workshop, etc.  All of which would be useful during a disaster.
  9. Download apps to your cell phone which would be useful during a disaster.  From Facebook to reddit to local news apps to weather apps to emergency alert apps to a Waze app...there are dozens and dozens of free apps that can help you during an emergency.
  10. Use social media to your advantage during an emergency.  If you need help or information during an emergency, you can follow various social media accounts on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc that you can use to ask questions, ask for help, and receive important information (during the shooting in Las Vegas I got a lot of information from the police Facebook and Twitter accounts, I asked questions from our local Emergency Incident Facebook page, and messages for donations of food and water for the first responders and shooting victims were sent far and wide over social media).
  11. Know what to expect (and what to do) during a disaster by reading your work's disaster plan as well as your kid's school's disaster plan.  For further reading you can also read your community's official disaster and mass casualty incident plans.
  12. Learn how to handle basic disasters in your home.  Everyone should know how and when to turn off the natural gas line to your home as well as the main electricity breaker and the water main coming into your home.  Everyone should know how to evacuate your home from each room, both upstairs and down, what to do if there is a fire, what to do if there is a medical emergency, and how to prevent break ins and thefts from your home.
  13. Be physically fit.  This can be as simple as good food choices and some daily exercise and stretching.  If a disaster happens where you need to haul yourself out of an upstairs window, run from an attacker, or duck and cover during an earthquake, all of these things are easier and safer to do if you are in good physical condition.
  14. Determine ahead of time where you can evacuate to if needed.  Ideally you will have friends or family you can stay with across town, across the state, and across the country depending on how wide-spread the disaster is.  Of course you would offer the same shelter to your friends and relatives in return as part of their evacuation plan.
  15. Always carry a useful EDC (everyday carry) bag.  For ladies it's our purses for men it might be a backpack or messenger bag.  There are a lot of things you can carry with you on a daily basis that would be useful during a disaster such as a tampon (for its usual purpose as well as stopping bleeding from a gun shot), a condom (for its usual purpose as well as for a make-shift tourniquet), bottle of water, matches, bandanna, etc.
  16. Make a bug out bag.  A bug out bag is a backpack full of useful items that you can grab and take with you during an emergency.  It should include a change of clothes, toiletries, emergency supplies (tarp, para cord, matches, etc), some cash, a couple bottles of water, some food...basically everything you would need if you had to evacuate and go stay at a hotel for a few days.  With the bag already packed and ready to go, you don't need to put such a bag together when you are only given minutes to evacuate.
  17. Volunteer in your community.  There are many community organizations that provide free training (and often free food and snacks!) to volunteers who help out by becoming a volunteer EMT, volunteer with the Red Cross or Search and Rescue, volunteer with the fire department or hospital, etc.
  18. Know what services are available in your community during and after a disaster.  Where are your local disaster shelters?  What services will FEMA offer after a disaster?  Did you know the FBI, as well as many communities, have a crime victims assistance center which offers a range of services and help to victims of crime?
  19. Do some things to earn money to help bulk up your emergency fund.  Have a garage sale, take in some recycling, sell some unneeded stuff on ebay, apply for class action refunds...any extra money you can earn can go into your emergency fund for use during a disaster.
  20. Decide ahead of time how to help special needs family members during a disaster.  If anyone in your family needs prescription meds, see if they can get 90-day refills instead of 30-day refills so they always have extra medication on hand.  If you have pets, pack a bug out bag for them with extra pet food, a water dish, a blanket, etc.  Same with babies and toddlers; pack their bug out bags with any special items they may need (extra diapers, toys, etc).  For family members with serious medical issues, talk to their doctor about what they should do to prepare for a disaster (ie: people who need regular dialysis, people who are bed-ridden, etc).

Monday, September 25, 2017

Some Upcoming Free Things

I love free things!  Whether it is a community event give-away like free pens or mouse pads, free meals for a holiday event, or birthday freebies, count me in!  Here are some upcoming free things you might enjoy...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Need Gear? Check Out the Goodwill

Last month I needed some new stuff for walking (stretchy athletic pants and a cute top to go with it) so I went to a local department store and got some "sale" items.  I spent $30 for a pair of Nike athletic pants and a store brand top.  I hadn't shopped for clothes at a regular store in years but I was in a hurry and the store was on the way and, long story short, never again.  The pants are already wearing as is the shirt and I am NOT HAPPY about it.  So it was back to the Goodwill I went this week.

While I always buy my shoes, socks, underwear, and backpacks brand new (but still on clearance, always), I have no problem buying clothes--pants and tops--at thrift stores.  I know exactly how they will fit as they have already been washed several times, I know exactly how they will wear because if they haven't unraveled after someone else wore them they should last for me as well, and, most importantly, people get rid of really good brands and the thrift stores sell them for a fraction of the price of new (the pants I bought at the regular store for $24 would have been less than $8!).

Here's some great deals I found a couple of days ago at the Goodwill...an REI rain jacket, a fluorescent yellow shirt for an upcoming fun run, and an Eddie Bauer vest, all for under $5 each with a senior discount.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Volksmarching...A Fun and Inexpensive Hobby

I've probably posted here before about one of my favorite hobbies but it has been so long I figured I would post about it again.  I love to walk.  Short walks, long walks, winter walks, summer walks...all are fun.  Anyway, today I headed out for another volksmarch (I'm trying to finish 100 volksmarches by the end of the year to win an award).  It was a great day for walking and there were so many people out in the early AM walking this morning!  If you haven't heard of it, volksmarching in a German-inspired walking club in the US and in many other parts of the world.  The annual cost to join a local club is around $15 and you pay $3 for each walk which supports the club and pays for small awards like patches and pins.  You earn awards for both the number of events you walk as well as achieving walking distances (I met one guy who has walked more than 50,000 km over the years and he is still going!).

As hobbies go, this is a pretty good one as it is both inexpensive and good for your health (each walk is a 5k or 10k with some as long as 42k).  The only thing you really need is a good pair of shoes but of course people who really get into walking can make it a much more expensive hobby by traveling to various walking events.  One couple I met walks more than 300 volksmarches a year, driving around the country to do this; they spend about 270 days on the road each year to hit A LOT of volksmarches.  A related walking club hosts a dozen walking weekend events all over the world which can get spendy if you are hopping from country to country each month to walk in these events.

Most cities and towns in the US have volksmarch events (either group walks or boxes where you can sign up and walk on your own).  My city has ten organized walks as well as a couple of special events each year.  The people who put these walks together really do a great job highlighting the best things to see in the area along your walk (some of our local walks go through the casinos along the Las Vegas Strip, other go out to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam).

So if you are looking for a fun, enjoyable, and no so expensive hobby, check out volksmarching.  The US Club can be found here, the Canadian Club here, and an international club here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

On Thursday--The $100 Olive Garden Never Ending Pasta Pass

I just saw this notice come through my news feed and thought I would share it as a frugal tip (it certainly isn't a health tip but anyway...).  I've never bought one of these passes but apparently 22,000 lucky (?) people each year do as they usually sell out in minutes.  For $100 you can eat at Olive Garden ALL YOU WANT for eight weeks.  Pretty frugal huh?  I just can't even fathom eating out that much or consuming that many calories but hey, $100 for food for eight whole weeks?  That's quite a deal.  More info here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

12 Cheap Tricks for Disaster Preparedness

Like most of the nation I was glued to the TV watching the hurricane disasters unfold, first in Houston then in Florida.  While many of the people caught in the disaster areas were prepared (yeah Cajun Navy!), many others weren't as prepared.  Those were the people crowding into almost empty stores, hours before the hurricanes hit, arguing over the last case of water or gallon of milk.  Here are some inexpensive ways to prepare for a disaster:

  1. Shop loss leaders and use coupons.  We recently bought a case of water for 99 cents with a coupon at our local grocery store (24 bottles of water for the price of one an a convenience store!) and a case of canned soup for $8.  Milk is often a loss leader (and can be frozen), and the Dollar Store has lots of canned and shelf-stable items that can be eaten during a disaster.  Just remember to rotate your stored food and/or donate the stuff you don't eat before it expires to a food bank then restock again.
  2. You can buy a fancy first aid kit full of items you may never use or you can make your own for cheap.  Again the dollar store, Walmart, even Amazon can provide individual items for your first aid kit for very inexpensive prices (100 bandaids for $1, a box of alcohol wipes for $1, aspirin and Tylenol on sale, etc).  You can Google a list of first aid kit items such as this one.
  3. Empty the change in your pockets into a jar (roll and exchange for cash as it adds up), add random bits of cash to the jar, stick unexpected money in the jar (like birthday gift money, rebate checks, etc)...eventually you will have a good bit of cash to use during an emergency.
  4. If you have a way to store gasoline (such as in your boat, or in containers to use in your lawn equipment), do so.  Many people who were trying to evacuate found that gas stations were out of gas so having extra on hand and topping off your tank at home is a good way to ensure you can actually evacuate if you need to even if there is no gas to be found in your area.  Remember to rotate your stored gasoline so it doesn't deteriorate.
  5. If camping or backpacking is your usual hobby, you will be extra prepared for a disaster.  Your camping/backpacking gear (stove, tent, sleeping bag, etc) is a boon when it comes to needing to evacuate or live outside of your home due to damage.  Note that you can get great quality outdoor equipment for cheap during REI sales, at www.steepandcheap.com, at Amazon and even at Walmart and Target.
  6. A great place to find low-cost disaster gear--everything from wool clothing and work gloves to work boots and cast iron cookware--is at the Goodwill or other thrift stores.  I mean you can pay top dollar for this sort of stuff but so many of these things get donated that it pays to be patient and pick up things you can for a fraction of the price of new.
  7. Buy things for your home that can do double duty.  A patio gas grill is great for summer parties but it is also an excellent place to cook when the power/gas is out to your kitchen stove during a disaster.  We buy $1 plastic tarps at the Dollar Store to have on hand and they can be used for everything from paint drop clothes to covering outdoor equipment during a storm to pitching a tent with during a disaster.  And those solar patio lights that you have outside can be brought in during the evening to provide light when the power is out.
  8. If you want some excellent free training that will be useful during a disaster, volunteer in your community.  EMTs, Red Cross volunteers, Search and Rescue volunteers, CERT team members--there are many community organizations that provide free disaster-skills training to their volunteers.
  9. If you have ever had the power go out for a while, you know that the family usually gets that "now what am I supposed to do look" as they try in vain to get their non-responsive electronic gadgets to work.  Buying a car charger for your cell phone and gadgets is a good idea as is having board games and books on hand to keep people entertained during long power outages.
  10. Think long and hard about buying expensive disaster equipment.  Based on where you live, having a chainsaw on hand can be super useful or not useful at all (we don't have big trees here in Las Vegas so we don't need a chainsaw; my sister, on the other hand, has so many huge trees on her property that without a chainsaw they could be stuck at home for days if they don't have a way to remove the trees that fall across her driveway themselves).  Ditto generators.  We don't have disasters here where we can expect the power to be out for a long time, but our family in New England often get power outages during the winter that can last for a week or longer so all of them have generators.
  11. Put together a list of disaster supplies that you need and add to your supplies a little each week.  Buying all of these items at once can be a financial hardship for many but if you pick up a couple of things each week (box of wooden matches and a couple of lighters this week, a tarp and flashlight next week, etc) you will eventually end up with a very comprehensive disaster supply cache with minimal financial impact since the things are bought over a long period of time.
  12. Knowledge is free and knowledge is probably the most important thing to have during a disaster.  Hit up your local library and do some research online and learn as much as you can about what to do during a disaster.  Basic first aid skills, how to pitch a tent in the back yard, how to start a fire with a myriad of household items, how to survive a financial disaster, what to do before, during and after a hurricane...there are hundreds and hundreds of survival skills that you can learn to be better prepared for a disaster in the future.
The bottom line is that you shouldn't have to race to the store hours before a disaster is set to strike and spend thousands of dollars on over-priced emergency supplies.  Start today to build you disaster supplies cache, a little at a time, as the items come on sale, and you will be all set when--not if--disaster strikes your area.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

How I Saved $155 on a Car Key

A while back hubby lost his keys.  It would have been no big deal, except for the time it would take to get some keys copied, but one of the keys he lost was to his van and this key is one of those electronic-transponder keys (read very expensive to replace).  I called a car locksmith and the verdict was $180 for them to make a new car key.  Ugh.

But this being 2017, I went hunting (online, not like really hunting) for a DIY way to replace the key mostly to save money because $180 for a key is ridiculous.  I found several websites that said it was totally possible to make your own transponder car key so I:

  1. Went to Amazon and found the key blanks for sale.  I made sure the keys had a lot of good reviews so that I knew it was at least possible this would actually work.  Total cost for keys $10 for two.
  2. Got the keys in the mail and took them to a big box store and asked then to cut the key by copying my original key to the van.  The guy said he couldn't do it because the key had a transponder in it.  I was bummed.
  3. I then went across the road to a home improvement store.  The guy there said they didn't usually cut car keys but on the screen he could opt for "no transponder" and it would copy the key but they wouldn't be responsible if it didn't work.  I was more than happy to agree as at least the key would fit into the ignition and it if didn't work I would only be out $15 total so it was worth a shot.  Total cost to get the keys cut $5.
  4. I took the keys home and quickly programmed them following the instructions that came with the keys (basically put in the original key, turn the car on and off, insert the new key and wait 30 seconds then try to turn it on).
  5. And it worked!!!  I quickly programmed both new keys and they have worked without any issues since.
Total saved: $155!