Cheaping yourself to death

Discussion in 'General Survival and Preparedness' started by Tully Mars, Jan 4, 2016.

  1. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    Being a prepper, survivalist, self reliant or whatever handle you wish to use is a big decision-both in time and money. For many it's a complete lifestyle change. For most of us we have a finite amount of cash resources. How best to get the most for your Money? We all are bargain hunters, but in what areas do you compromise, or do you at all? We should remember that today's "that'll be good enough" bargain may well have lives depending on it in the future. In what areas is it safe to cheat a little to stretch those hard earned prep dollars?

    I am a firm believer in the "buy once, cry once" mentality however, I'm not above "cheating" if I can. We very seldom shop at big chain grocery stores any more, getting much more for our food dollar by taking the time to shop around at smaller places and at bulk stores. If one checks the labels, a lot of generic meds are the exact same thing, and in many cases cost much less. The same holds true for many medical items. How about your reference books? Sometimes we have to buy new, but looking for good used ones online or at a used bookstore is well worth the effort. I once picked up half a set of the Foxfire series for a couple bucks apiece at an out of the way bookstore.

    One area I don't cut corners on is firearms. I know they are expensive, but what's your child's life worth?? I believe you should get the very best you can. That Jennings .380 is likely to fail just when you really need it most. How about insuring you and yours have pure drinking water? That pitcher with the screw in filter that's in many of our fridges is great for now, but what happens when the city water supply is contaminated, or you need to filter water out of a stream or lake? That big Birkey is now well worth that high price tag.. What are some of your thoughts?
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016
  2. pearlselby

    pearlselby Monkey++

    Good post, @Tully Mars.

    We also buy used books and good guns. The best water filter is also best. We also use the generic when we can. We go to garage sales, estate sales, auctions.
    What we buy, like you said may be priceless later.
    We have found that abebooks and alibris are the best used book stores online. Amazon is next. The dollar store is a good place for lots of items. If you have a dollar tree they are really great. I got a lot of first aid items.
    We get buckets at the deli at Pruett's grocery and if you have a local donut shop, they have buckets. We figure that saves us quite a bit. I remember seeing someone selling buckets on craigslist.
    Bartering is going to be big, I believe. We try to have some things that people may need. Diapers, etc.
    We have been using essential oil for almost 2 years. This has been big in our lives. Making your own blends can save money. I look for sales of pure essential oil. Which means I buy from several sources. Buying the single oils is a bit more up front. But, in the long run you save by doing it this way.
  3. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    I am not cheap, I am frugal. You are very correct @Tully Mars that some things one should not skimp on. I agree, buy good guns!

    Books- most books I get from the library first and look through them to see if they are something that I want to add to my library. Then if available, I will buy a used copy off of Amazon or from a local used bookstore. I do buy some book new but mainly I always look for used.

    Food- I used to buy cheap and as much cheap stuff as I could so I had food storage. That is no longer the case. I buy what we eat, I buy quality or the brands that I prefer. Our food storage is growing but changing. I will buy one can of something to see if it is as good as the name brand. I find some of the bargain brands tend to be saltier tasting and this would be a waste to store it. IMO

    I would love a birkey but it has not been necessary. I just haven't justified the cost and it seems to always move down on the I want list. It would be nice to know I have something for clean water but at this time plunking down a couple hundred dollars plus stock filters, for a what if especially since I know how to and have purified water myself. I prioritize. Right now- I want ammo over a Birkey.
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  4. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    We do the same thing. Buy it, try it and go from there.
  5. AxesAreBetter

    AxesAreBetter Monkey+++

    I do the best I can, within my limits. Which are pitiful compared to most in this "lifestyle". Trying to keep business going and the bills in on time kills most of my ability to buy anything.

    However, between my personal interests, and the continuing needs of the business, I find myself continually adding new skills and relevant information to my repertoire. I think it helps, but is not always a balancing act.
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  6. pearlselby

    pearlselby Monkey++

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  7. VHestin

    VHestin Farm Chick

    I barter as one way to deal with limited finances, another way is to get creative with what's available. I am more likely to buy used DVDs than books, because since I backup all my DVDs on storage drives, I really only need the discs to work once. My homesteading books, I prefer to see their condition or buy a new one. Though some I've gotten used are in very good condition. When I bought myself some DVDs, a book, and a computer game from Amazon middle of December, the game disappeared on its way to me, but I wasn't too upset, it was the book I wanted the most. The knowledge in it is invaluable to me, compared to 2hours or so beating the game. And the book was in quite decent condition. And it's sturdy enough, that if whoever took the game ever announces themself to me, I can thwap 'em good with the book :)
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  8. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    Bartering physical objects is usually a one shot proposition, however, bartering knowledge, skills and labour are less finite. Always develop skills that are in demand because they are valuable, ....whatever the environment.
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  9. AxesAreBetter

    AxesAreBetter Monkey+++

  10. UncleMorgan

    UncleMorgan I like peeling bananas and (occasionally) people.

    I've heard good things about water filter systems made from two five gallon buckets and a ceramc filter.
    Rather than buying the whole system for about $80.00, just buy the ceramic filter for $15.00 and DIY the rest. Ceramic Dome Replacement Filter for Zen Water Systems: Home Improvement

    Two five gallon buckets: The top one has the filter, sits on the bottom one and drains into it. No connection required.
    The bottom bucket has a spigot, usually, but a siphon hose works just as well. Just tie up the hose and plug the end with a cork until needed.

    These last a long time and filter well. The less crud & sludge in the water the longer they last.

    When the drip rate drops down too low, the filter is clogged. It can be unclogged with an air hose, blowing thru it from the inside to the outside. My understanding is that is is best blown out while wet, forcing a small amount of distilled water to flow thru in reverse..

    Never used one, but kept the info in mind just in case.
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  11. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Buckets are free (food grade, and with lids) from fast-food restaurants. I can pick up @3-4 per week per store. (Pickle buckets)
  12. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    We honestly don't back up our movies/TV series, but we do with all of our audio books and it does save wear n tear on the "masters".

    So very true Chell! I believe that EVERYONE has or can develop at least one skill that would help them survive,be it PSHTF or during a job loss, whatever. The key is to try different things that interest you and then specialize in that area(s) that seem to come a bit easier for you and go from there.

    I've not built one, but I've seen some that were built using buckets and turned out very nice and I've seen some that looked like crap.
    The key is the filters. If I were to do this I would use the best filters I could find. I haven't checked in awhile, but when I bought the birkey ('98 I believe) they were the best thing going. I know they've up graded the filters from the original ones. A friend of mine in Colorado used mine as his template, ordered his filters from a radio station in Johnstown(they were dealers and where I bought my Birkey) and just used buckets. It looks and works great.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 5, 2016
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  13. Airtime

    Airtime Monkey+++

    Tully presents an interesting question about decision making; how do we evaluate our options and render our prepping purchasing selections. I decided to give this a little thought before firing off a response so here is my take which works for me. It is not an admonishment that this is how to do and everyone should. At most, consider it a mild suggestion but mostly just an explanation of what goes through my mind.

    First, I try, not always successfully, to mitigate emotion from the process. It cannot be eliminated because at the core the whole reason I prep is because of emotional reasons. I love my wife and daughter. I have lost one daughter already, when she was 4, and I want to put in place a tangible insurance system that provides as much as reasonable an ability to significantly improve the odds I don’t lose another daughter or wife due to SHTF type events from which I can protect them. That said, I do try to skip past the emotional appeals in the advertising hype.

    I am an engineer and fortunately (or sometimes unfortunately from my wife’s perspective), often the decision making processes and tools that are necessary for sound engineering I find applicable personally. While I won’t apply those methods with the same rigor to my prepping purchases, the thought process is similar.

    Chief among those is a procedure called the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA). There are different versions and forms of the FMEA process with some being quite complex but the core of that process is actually quite simple:

    1. Brainstorm the ways an item can fail (failure mode) and then list the cause or causes (there may be multiple things) for each of those failures.

    2. Assign a probability estimate on a scale of 1-10 for how likely that cause may occur with 10 being near certain and 1 being virtually nonexistent.

    3. Assign a consequence rating (scale of 1-10) to the Effect for how significant is each failure mode is to the functionality of the item or consequence for the user. If the Effect is no big deal, like the color fades a bit but nothing else, that might be a 1-2. If the failure makes the product harder to use but it still gets the job done, that might be a 3-4. If significant functionality is lost that might be a 7-8 and if the failure can result in significant injury or death, that is a 10.

    4. Assign a detection/control rating to how well you can detect the presence of the Cause before the failure occurs. If you can easily detect something without even looking for it, that is a 1-2 but if there is no way to detect the presence of the cause prior to the failure occurring, that is a 10 and of course there are ratings in the middle such as the cause can be detected as part of maintenance procedure. This all reflects your ability to prevent the failure and effect from occurring.

    5. Multiple the 3 rating numbers together and those represent the risk priority number (RPN). High RPNs need to be addressed and things improved because that is a big damn deal (BDD ;-). Similarly, low RPNs can be pretty much ignored as they just don’t present much risk of anything significant.

    I tend to think about my prepping purchases in a similar way. Probably the biggest difference is I do reduce the detection aspect (step 4) a bit (say rate stuff 1-5 instead ofr 1-10) but I also generally include two more dimensions for consideration; How easily will I be able to fix it should it break? And how functional or easy is it to use, especially for my wife and daughter?

    If I will be able to easily and quickly repair something that craps out and keep it going for a long time, it gets a 1-2 in my mind. If it’s going to be near impossible to repair then that is a 10. Note: If I have another one of the exact same item from which I could scavenge parts to perform a repair, that might improve the rating here just a bit. There is the saying 2 is 1 and 1 is none. But if there is fair probability I can take two broken things and make one good one, then 2 are 1, 2 identical things are 1.2 and 1 is none.

    I understand that there are many items for which I have no difficulty in using because of strength, experience, training, fundamental brain wiring, whatever, that may be more difficult for my wife and daughter to use. This is an important consideration. If they will have no trouble, that might get a 1-2. If I can readily teach them, document how, whatever that might be a 4-5. if it is going to be difficult at best or impossible for them to use the item, that gets a 10. What’s the use if they can’t use it if/when I am not there? Note, if there is good potential to screw it up by not being careful or using it correctly, that is a fundamental cause for a failure and user error should already be addressed in step 1 above.

    Sometimes there might be an X factor that weighs in where a product just really looks cool, my wife just likes it better, my daughter things it has better style, whatever. It’s the emotion dimension and that is like a 1 if they just love it and maybe a 3-4 or if it’s ugly/uncool/whatever.

    So, as I look at various products to purchase, I look at the ways it could fail, the causes for those failures, how likely is it that I think the cause and subsequent failure may present, can I easily fix it, and how big of a deal is it to the survival of my wife and daughter if the product breaks and how easy is it to use, especially for the girls? Then I consider the cost. Is the cost justified by a lower RPN compared to other products?

    Of course I don’t actually list these dimensions on paper and work through an actual calculation multiplying the 5 or 6 rating numbers, but my brain wiring and experience certainly influence me looking at things this way and I make mental judgments in my head about them.

    Using Tully’s Big Berkey water filter example, I look at how it works, what it does, how it would fail, can I detect the failure, is it easier to use or have better functionality in some way and then how much does it cost? I look at other water filter options including making a filter functionally equivalent to the Berkey employing their replacement filter elements and a 5 gallon bucket. Then that forms a basis for how I decide when to go for broke or when to go cheap.

    Pretty damn nerdy.

    OBTW – unless my wife wants to regularly filter drinking water pre-SHTF and wants something extremely pretty setting on the counter, I’ll probably never buy a Berkey. Their filter elements are extremely good for removing bacteria and protozoa but not much else. They are bulky and slow, but if it just sits all day on the counter that is fine. About $200 bucks of the roughly $300 price is basically just for the absolutely gorgeous stainless steel vessels that have little more functionality or reliability than a plastic five gallon bucket. Post SHTF, we won’t care if it’s a plastic bucket on the counter, we’ll only see clean water. The X factor just doesn’t exceed $200 in value for me when I can put that $200 towards something else, even a second and third set of filters and plastic buckets.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2016
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  14. AxesAreBetter

    AxesAreBetter Monkey+++

    I usually buy or make equipment based on where my current equipment is failing me.
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  15. Pax Mentis

    Pax Mentis Philosopher King |RIP 11-4-2017

    Just one thing I will add...and it has actually been touched on by a few already, but in plain English: the highest price is not always (or, at least in my experience, even usually) the highest quality. If you automatically buy the most expensive brand of a given item, you are generally paying a premium for their marketing.

    Determine what you want a particular product to do, then look and see what will do it best and hold up under heavy usage...then compare pricing.

    As always, JMO/YMMV

  16. pearlselby

    pearlselby Monkey++

    My post seems to be in the middle of you post. sorry.

    Last edited: Jan 5, 2016
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  17. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    @pearlselby what type of filter did you use for this? ^^^
  18. pearlselby

    pearlselby Monkey++

    Last edited: Jan 5, 2016
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  19. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    @Airtime you were in the chess club and played DnD after school huh?:D

    All kidding aside, a great thought provoking response.
    Thank you!
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  20. Airtime

    Airtime Monkey+++

    Haha... Never played D&D and chess never was that interesting. After school I worked in my shop a lot. Got my first metal lathe when 14 and first welder at about 15. Then had jobs in farming, bicycles, motorcycles and small engines until through undergrad.

    Glad the response prompted some ponderance.
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