Regroup, Recover, Advance

Hmm.. perhaps I should leave the military lingo to the pros.

Speaking of pro, I felt like Jarhead’s post Monday was really well timed, either he’s just that good, or it was a great coincidence.  I’m back at work, paychecks are rolling in, bills are almost caught up, hospital bills are down to 3 digits. There’s so much light in this tunnel, it’s getting hard to see clearly.  I know these signs, it’s nice to see them again. It means my little family is coming out of our recovery stage and we’re about ready to start moving in a forward direction again.  So, in my mind, it triggers all sorts of mental bells, and I thought today, it might be interesting to share some of those.  Not that our way will work for everyone, but maybe there’s value in sharing.

So, the run down of the basic situation. We had our primary breadwinner out on temporary leave of absence from work for 12 weeks, with a large hospital bill due right at the beginning of that time.  This situation, in various forms, is a pretty common way to put yourself into bankruptcy.  Thankfully, we knew it was coming and we had 7 months to prepare. There was a lot of planning, and a lot of saving, and then baby came a little early, just to keep us on our toes. That put us into the regroup mode.

Regrouping, means you reevaluate, reposition, and look at options.  Once baby came, there was no more time for saving, no more time for making more money or buying more stuff.  Now we just had to keep food on the table and lights on for 3 months.  So, we ran the financial numbers, knew what goals we needed to hit, and did it.  There were weeks when we knew we would have to live out of the pantry, so we did that, and that was fine. There were weeks when we only needed to supplement out of the pantry.  The garden had a good spring, and that was a wonderful bounty to have. Despite our best efforts, not everything got paid in full or on time.  :-D Shocking, I know.  But, we did the dance of the cutoff notices and made our way through the 12 weeks.  Work was nice to get back to, the paychecks were even more welcome. That started our recovery mode.

In recovery mode you recover from the damage.  Triage to decide what needs the most attention, and then start putting out the fires one by one. This part isn’t fun, but at least things are getting paid.  As we come up out of recovery mode, thoughts start to shift to all those nice paychecks, and all that shiny stuff that really needs buying.  :-D  You know what I’m talking about, all the of the things that got put on the back burner, the treats and luxuries that have been denied. So, right before recovery mode ends, it’s really helpful to get the reins ready for your finances.  Without bill collectors reminding you about financial obligations, it can be really easy to blow discretionary spending into dangerous territory. Keep a handle on things so you can move in a forward direction instead of spinning in a circle at the first sign of traction.

Finances – A new budget is in order! I know, I’m a geek, I like the number crunching.  Especially when not every last penny is going into a Health Savings Account. I’ve spoken about this before, it’s incredibly important to keep all adult members up to date about finances.  I got my yearly raise while I was out on leave, plus my 401k draw changed percentages, so the take home pay is different than what we started with in January, and we have different goals now. It’s time to make a plan for what will actually be coming in for the rest of the year, and decide where we want to focus our financial windfalls. (We kind of follow the Dave Ramsey method of debt paying.) We do have a debt that’s really close to being paid off. We do have some wiggle room between the money in and money out totals. It’s time to plan what to do with that. Long term savings goals are always good to reiterate, these kinds of conversations are a great time for that.

Preps – We went through about half of our food stores. I knew we would. We both thought it was a good idea, there were stores that were starting to get a little old, so clearing them out and using some up was a good thing for the health of the food storage. Now, the older stuff is gone, and there’s room for all the pretty jars of garden bounty that I’ve been canning for the past couple of weeks.  We will have to do some purchasing soon, of some of the grain staples, and legumes, but for the most part I’m content for now to focus on replenishing the stores of fruits, veggies and pickles.  I do have to keep in mind that we are probably not at the 90 days level of food storage. I’m not panicking about it, I know we have 30+ days worth of food still, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. The end of summer will only improve the situation.  When the rush to preserve has slowed to a crawl, then I can turn my thoughts to filling the remaining gaps in the pantry. I expect by the end of the year we will be back up to 90 days worth of food.

Just like that, we have a plan of action for the rest of the year. Priorities thought about and decisions made. Long term direction is agreed upon.

We’ll probably still buy some luxuries and stray from the straight and narrow, but at least we’re both headed in the same direction as we work our way out of the hole. I can’t stress how important that is for personal stability.

I’m one of those preppers who thinks economic roller coasters are going to become more common as we head down Hubbert’s Curve. Getting in practice now is good.  Although, it doesn’t feel like practice anymore, it just feels like life.  Anyway, go forth and make a plan. Put some numbers down on paper, set some goals and get to a new level of preps. There’s no need to wait until Jan 1.

– Calamity Jane