Sometimes Preparedness Isn’t Just About Emergencies

Nick the Homebrew Husband works at T-Mobile. He has a pretty typical “good job”: a long commute, a forthright and supportive boss, meetings that make him want to poke his eyeballs out, and a nice middle-class paycheck with an above-average benefits package. Thank you very much, T-Mobile.

Yesterday morning AT&T announced they were buying T-Mobile.
What this means for our family, we have no idea. At this point the internal communications is devoid of any details. Comments from T-Mobile are along the lines of: “this merger will be excellent for our customers; we expect everyone to continue working hard; more details may follow but it will be awhile” variety. 
This corporate buy-out brings an atmosphere of uncertainty to our lives. Typically, the employees of the bought-out company don’t all become employees of the buying-out company. For now, Nick is still employed, but because we just don’t know what his near-term employment situation will be, we will double-down on frugality, defer major purchases for the garden, and sock more into savings. The timeframe on a non-emergency surgery for our son will be moved up, and everyone will visit the dentist and eye doctor while we know we still have those benefits. 
Despite the uncertainty, Nick and I are confident our family will be okay. It really hit home as we got the buy-out news that our suburban hippie life leaves us relatively well positioned to absorb any shocks to Nick’s employment.
We practice frugality: we have done several ‘No Spend Month’ challenges, have eliminated much discretionary spending and stick to a reasonable budget. I’m an unabashed thrift store shopper. Our whole family can be happily entertained with a deck of cards and a trip to the library. If we need to, we know we can cut further and get by on less and be just fine.
We produce on our own homestead: we make most of our food from scratch and grow veggies on a larger and larger scale every year. We have invested in the tools that help us grow our own year-round – raised beds, PVC cloches, a small greenhouse. In addition, we maintain a fairly good sized larder of those food stuffs we cannot grow: oils, coffee, grains and flours, spices and meat, mostly purchased in bulk and FIFOed to maintain product integrity.
We feel reasonably prepared.
Often when we talk about “being prepared,” especially these days, we’re talking about capital-D Disasters: earthquakes, tsunami, hurricanes, floods. And it is important to be prepared for those kinds of events. But every year many more people suffer non-headline-making upheavals due to unemployment or illness in their home. 
How do you prepare for that?


  1. says

    I hope the job situation works out for Nick. At the beginning of this year, we faced the possibility of my husband's employment going away and also came to the conclusion that we could weather it. Since it didn't, however, and his position is pretty secure, we've started investing a bit more in those things we need to make this place more self-sufficient: fruit trees & vines, a zillion buckets for container gardening, and yesterday, a small greenhouse.

    Normally in the past, we would have chosen to build our own greenhouse. Lately we've discussed that perhaps the reason we don't make the progress we want is that we try to do everyhting ourselves and simply run out of time/energy. Our list of projects that need to be done NOW is ridiculously long, so we chose to let someone else build the greenhouse and we'll just assemble it.

    With rising food prices, too, I really do need to get to the pantry inventory on the list for the nonperishables we can't produce!

  2. says

    My husband lost his job three years ago and we were totally unprepared. We lived a fairly frugal life, but didn't have a garden and the mind set to be prepared for it. He worked for a non profit and they didn't have to pay into unemployment, so with a few days notice we were in a panic. Luckily it all worked out, but now we're a lot more prepared should it happen again. We no longer feel "safe" in a job. Having a large garden and the ability to make bread, can, etc. definitely adds some security! Good luck with your husband's job! You're doing the right thing by saving funds and battening down the financial hatches. Glad you have some time to prep, that makes all the difference.

  3. says

    Sorry to hear about the uncertainty – in some ways, I feel it's worse (for me, anyway) to deal with than not knowing either way, but you sound not only prepared, but confident in your preparedness. I very much hope that you don't need it for this situation, though.

    I think you're right about the idea of being prepared, though, and how the tendency is to focus on large-scale, affects a lot of people disasters, rather than the small, individual disasters that tend to wreak the most havoc in lives, but that can go largely unnoticed.

    I've tried my preparations more based these kinds of uncertainties. I keep extra food around, so we can live off the pantry for awhile if we need to, and I stock up on things as much as possible when they're on sale. I'm trying my hand at growing food. I'm working on getting into even better shape so I can ride and walk more places to save money. I've built up my reference library at the used book store a few dollars at a time for both books that I think will come in handy, and for inexpensive entertainment in case I wind up spending a lot more time at home. If I happen to see something that I think will be helpful in the long term at the thrift store, it will often come home with me.

    Basically, I'm trying to set up systems that will help me to live without a lot of money if I need to. Sometimes that takes money upfront, so I'm usually trying to find some kind of a balance in terms of figuring out whether spending a bit of money now is something that will help make our situation more secure in the longer term and save enough money to make the initial cost worthwhile.

  4. says

    I have been out of work for just over two years and luckily my wife has a good job. We are trying to survive on just her income but it is not easy and her mother usually pitches in some money if needed at the end of the month. My unemployment benefits ran out this last December and work is still hard to find but the outlook is getting better.

    We have a small garden that should hopefully ease the need to buy fresh produce and help stretch our few dollars at the grocery store. We use coupons on almost everything we buy. We usually don't buy something unless we have a coupon and this has cut back on "junk food".

  5. Anonymous says

    Lost my job in 2008 pre-great recession. We had a great stockpile and got through the downtime.

    I can't stress this enough. Education, education, education. The more education one has, the better the odds of retaining employment in the long run. There is always demand for specialized skill set.

    Best of luck to your family.

  6. says

    Erica, you're advice is spot-on!

    Years ago, during a particularly rough local economic hit, it seemed we could never get ahead before my hubby was laid off from yet another job. (Terrible to get stuck in the last-in, first-out roller coaster of lay-offs.)We had to learn to live on a shoestring budget.

    As the years rolled on and he finally weathered the tough layoffs, we still lived on a shoestring. We always said we'd never let our budget get beyond what we could pay working a full time job at minimum wage…just in case one of us had to resort to flippin' burgers to keep a paycheck coming in.

    Thank Heavens for that, as it helped the kids and I weather the sudden loss of hubby's income when he passed away a few years ago. (Who would've thought to "plan" for a drunk driver violently entering our lives?)

    Now, with the farm…we still live on a shoestring by choice. There's no mortgage on the place, so we always have a roof. We're growing the garden and renovating the farm ourselves to save money. Our goal is to get the farm fully functional with at least a marginal profit…without incurring any debt. Slow going, but it means no worries if the economy were to completely tank.

    I guess I'm just not into high risk anything. lol. I want guaranteed security…and a self-sustaining lifestyle is the closest you can get to that. (I know nothing is guaranteed, but it sure feels better knowing your security is as stable as you can possibly make it!)

    Best of luck for you and Nick as the ATT/TMobile saga unfolds. I hope that by this time next year, you guys are happily reporting no major changes in his career. :)

  7. Melissa says

    Best wishes to Nick on the job front. And while I'm sorry to hear of the circumstances that prompted you to write this post, thank you so much for writing it. This is an incredibly inmportant topic.

    Many people don't want to think about "unnatural" economic disaster, and how it would reshape their lives–so they don't. And right now I'm seeing firsthand, through friends and relatives, how hard it is when the rug gets yanked out from underfoot and they suddenly have no choice but to think about it.

    I've always been prepared for emergencies, but only on a limited scale. Since October, however, I've been aggressively shopping loss-leaders to stock my basement "pantry," trimming the fat from my budget, and planning my first foray into vegetable gardening in over a decade (when people ask what I'll be growing this year I say "dirt!" because yeah, I'm tearing up the lawn and starting from scratch).

    I'm incredibly fortunate in that I was able to pay off my mortgage last year, but as a self-employed individual I've also weathered a few rough spots since 2008 and don't expect things to get better anytime soon. But rather than worry about global developments that are far outside of my control, I'm looking deeply at what I can control, what I can do for myself, and what sort of challenges are worth preparing for now, while the stakes are still low and I have the luxury of making mistakes.

    And so far, each little step I take toward increasing my self-reliance has been hugely satisfying. I put potatoes in the ground yesterday and potted strawberry starts today and tonight I'm building lettuce boxes–and it all makes me feel like the richest woman alive.

    I've never posted here before, but I enjoy your blog. Here's to Nick's ongoing employment!

  8. says

    Sorry to hear about the uncertainty and the potential job loss (not knowing sucks, period!).

    Your outlook and preparedness are inspiring. If there is a higher purpose to these "shake ups" in life, it's definitely to make us reassess our priorities. Living simply is just about the best thing we can do for ourselves, our kids, and the planet. And indeed, who really needs more than cards, books, and loved ones to be happy??

    This is a process my family went through just one year ago, and we are all so much better for it. Granted, our shake up came when I lost my mind in psychosis and then we all fought to help me find my way back, but you know, life's little lemons come in so many varieties! :)

  9. says

    I read this and hefted a big sigh for you. My husband and I have been in this particular job limbo for the last couple of years.

    We happen to both have state jobs though in different departments. Each summer we have been on the budget chopping block.

    We have become a little less antsy/worried about the future, because no one is capable of sustaining that type of anxiety for years at a time. But we have worked to increase our savings, live with less, etc. Thanks for reminding me to buckle down a bit more.

    Good thoughts to your husband and hopes that he will weather this rough time.


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