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Should You Pay Off that Credit Card or Stock up On Supplies?

BalancingAct
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When I first got into prepping I listened to a lot of sources. I read a lot of literature, perused websites galore and read books on everything from Survival skills and tactic to prepper fiction. I think the first actual website I came across was Captain Dave’s Survival Center. His blog doesn’t appear to have been updated since January 2010 but at the time I started digging into this topic it was probably late 2008. This time period in my life oddly enough coincided with the stock market crisis in September when my meager 401K lost over half of its value in days. I think everyone started paying a little more attention at that point.

Up to that year I had been a pretty traditional Republican kind of guy. I was and still am fiercely patriotic, but my understandings of world events, politics, history and propaganda have changed my political philosophy and my loyalties. I am and will always be loyal to the values our country was founded on but I am not blindly loyal to any political party or person anymore. I don’t instinctively tow the party line anymore for the republicans and like to think I have grown more analytical; perhaps skeptical when I hear events in the news.

All of that is to say that my thinking when it comes to being a prepper has evolved over time and with it so have my actions with respect to what I feel needs to be done. I think I will continue to refine what I believe is right for me and my family as I learn more information and that I feel is what any rational person should do.

Right from the beginning of my prepping journey, it was obvious that in order to be as self-sufficient as possible I would need to cross a few major things off my list of To Do items.

  • Get out of debt
  • Acquire equipment (food/gear/tools) as force multipliers
  • Acquire training in Survival tactics, homesteading skills
  • Convert behaviors to self-sufficient lifestyle traits

 

Like so many other people I started with these broad topics and from there developed a simple list of everything I thought I needed to have or do before I could consider myself “prepared” for anything. My list started with a ton of supplies; food to last for 6 months, purchasing firearms for self-defense, having backup water storage and a means to collect and filter more. Then it turned to actions like getting a garden going, purchasing precious metals and getting training on HAM radio and first-aid. It never seems to end.

But, unless you have won the lottery or are independently wealthy most of us out here have to balance this mountain of wish list items with your daily budget. That is when prepping can cause friction for families especially when one spouse doesn’t see things the way you do. If prepping for a disaster is complete nonsense in their eyes, it will be a battle to purchase everything you need. At the very minimum it will take a long time and this is a luxury you may not have.

Further complicating this whole endeavor is the need to get out of debt. If you are truly focused on reducing the amount of debt you have, you really should not have a lot of discretionary income. Herein lies the problem and it is one that I have personally dealt with and still ponder from time to time to this very day. The question is should you get completely out of debt first, or should you continue prepping? I say or because depending on whom you listen to, these are mutually exclusive.

The case for getting out of debt

Dave likes to cut up credit cards.

Dave likes to cut up credit cards.

If you have ever heard of Dave Ramsey, his entire reason for being it seems is to get people out of debt as quickly as possible and maintaining a healthy view of money going forward. His methods revolve around throwing every single resource you have at the debt problem and living on “rice and beans” in order to save every cent to put it towards debt retirement. He has seminars and you can usually take part in a Dave Ramsey program at church if you have the time and money to devote to it. The basic principles are a great method to getting out of debt in my unprofessional opinion.

Debt is truly a horrible burden that we willingly place on ourselves and our families for no good reason other than we aren’t willing to wait until we have the money to purchase something. I know this just as well as anyone else out there and I won’t try to get on my high horse because I have my own fair share of debt as well. However, my desire is to be completely debt free and that I think is the best scenario any of us can be in from one standpoint. If no person or company has anything they can hold over your head, there should be nothing they can take away from you. The flip side is that if you are only living on what you bring in, if that were to be disrupted, the impacts to your life should be greatly reduced.

If you are going hog-wild into debt reduction though, this can be a process that takes several years. The average American credit card debt is over $15,000 and that isn’t taking into consideration cars, student loans, mortgage etc. When you get into a certain level of debt and if you are following a plan like Dave Ramsey’s you don’t have money for anything else. The Rice and Beans you want to stock up for your prepping needs are what you are actually living off of each day.

The case for Prepping

There are so many reasons to begin prepping for your family’s safety isn’t there? If you weren’t interested in how you could be more prepared for whatever happens you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog, but as I mentioned above, prepping is not without some cost. That list of items you probably have on your desk or computer somewhere contains a lot of things that cost money. I know that everything that can save your life or the life of a loved one doesn’t necessarily need to cost anything, but that usually comes down to knowledge or equipment and supplies you already have. The average person will need training or books at a minimum to learn that knowledge. Books and training cost money. If you are talking about security and you don’t have firearms, they cost money. Extra food, medical supplies, backup power, even getting a garden started cost money in almost every case.

But, is it worth it? That is a great question and one of the same ones I ask myself from time to time. The answer is always the same for me, but you have to ask yourself if what you are trying to prepare for is worth the investment you are making. To me this is a simple question because I believe that most people who are prepping are doing so because they know that bad things can happen and they want to protect themselves or their family from those bad things as much as possible. Is it worth it to sacrifice a little now to survive later? For me it is, but for each person this question has to be asked.

Can these two coexist?

Can you pay off all of your debt and still build up your supplies at the same time? If you can, then you don’t have any problems. I wish we were all like you. For the rest of us, we have a choice or more accurately choices to make based upon our own individual circumstances and priorities. I don’t believe it should be one or the other. To either get out of debt first or buy everything on the prepper’s Nirvana list. There should be a balance I think and they can both be done at the same time if you feel that is necessary for your overall preparedness.

Dave Ramsey has a great plan for people who want to get out of debt, but I think his plan assumes that the world is still going to be spinning next month; that whatever happens, you should keep paying down that Macy’s card because above all else you have to get out of debt. What if something happens before you get that trip to Disney in 2010 paid off? What if you are halfway through your plan and the bottom drops out of the stock market, we have a global pandemic or there is an EMP attack from a rogue terrorist organization? Will you be happy your car is paid off, but you don’t have any food stocked up? Maybe you will be able to sell your car and buy food? Maybe that car you have is now worth nothing but a bag of rice is worth a fortune.

What am I saying? For starters I am not saying that you should stop paying your bills. I am not saying you shouldn’t worry about debt. I am also not saying that you shouldn’t try to reduce your debt as quickly as possible. I am definitely not saying that you should buy a bunch of stuff on credit.

What I am saying is that as the leader of your family you have a lot of decisions to make. Each of these decisions should be made with goals in mind. If you have a goal of reducing debt and another goal of being prepared, you can accomplish both. Will it take longer to pay off your debt if you are making purchases for your family’s survival also? Yes it will so you have to figure out what is more important and your plan can flow along with your resources and needs. For instance, if you find yourself at a point where you have the basic necessities covered, maybe you should take a break from prepping and pay off a credit card or two. By that same token, if you find a great deal on a course in advanced first aid training, and you just so happen to have some vacation you haven’t taken, it may be a good idea to take the course.

In summation, the only thing I am trying to say is that if you try to go one route or the other completely you could wind up short if things go the wrong way. Run up too much debt and you could end up in a debtor’s prison should those come back to a town near you. Get out of debt, but not have the tools you need to keep your family alive and risk a worse fate if you ask me. Food for thought.

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  • jay

    I beg the other question, “should one acquire more debt”, such as a house. My cousin, brother and I all recently had kids and are all looking for a house….in California. My cousin and his wife gave up after being out bid by cash offers over a dozen times and its similar with me and my wife. We all had to move back in with our folks after completing college between 2-4yrs back. Life sucks when you’re living with the folks and have kids and are in your late 20s. We all have jobs and student loan debt over 40k. The wives don’t wanna rent period and its just a pain trying to explain why adding a mortgage in this economy on top of our SL debt is not a good idea…but at that time being in our respective situations somethings got to give. I’m the prep per in the family and we got round 20k save for a down on the house but it ain’t looking like its gonna happen so instead the wife wants to pay off the student loans and I want to spend at least half on prepping and to have as an emergency fund. Its a battle I tell ya. I mean of the number of catastrophes that can happen its hard to allocate funds. An EMP type scenario debt wouldn’t matter but a slow totalitarian takeover debt could land you a swat time at your door. I say there is no good answer to the proposed question. All I know is I’m doing whatever I can to ensure my family can weather the coming storm… damn the debt.

    • prepperjournal

      Jay,

      I know where you are coming from and its tough with a young family starting out. I think a house is a little different, but I would still be very careful about getting into debt. In a perfect world according to some experts you wouldn’t have any debt and that means paying cash for everything. I don’t know of anyone who pays cash for a home unless they have a large amount of money that is liquid and if that is the case, you wouldn’t have much debt either would you?

      I think the key thing with buying a home is to buy within your limits, actually below your limits is the better course now I think. If possible, buy a house you can afford with only one salary. This way your wife is happy and you are out of the parents house, but if one of you loses your job, it wouldn’t be catastrophic.

      Like I said, a house is one thing but I still don’t recommend going crazy and accumulating more debt if possible. You never know what could happen.

      Pat

      • lfhpueblo

        I agree buy a house below your limits is best.

  • tim

    what i ask is… when the SHTF… isnt part of killing the dollar going to possibly be a “virus” that wipes out everything ? OR what about solar concerns like a huge EMP blast, that would literally fry everything out of existence. would suck to get hit with the ‘killshot’ and only have no debt on credit cards that no longer exist. i guess im asking.. are we at the point to grab what you can and prepare?

    • prepperjournal

      Good question Tim and I have wondered a similar thing myself. How do you know when the S is actually going to HTF? Every day I wake up and as I go about my business and read the news, I feel that it is just around the corner. Then I do something like check on old orders I made for equipment and see that it was over 4 years ago. I felt the same back then and if you would have asked me in 2008 if we would last the end of the year I would have told you that it didn’t look good. It still doesn’t.

      The point is, I don’t think we will know when it is coming until its too late so you have to live like tomorrow will come and you will go to work and your family will be fine. Just make sure you have plans just in case and I think that is what this site tries to be about anyway.

      Pat