[This is a belated entry into the Collapse Survival series of articles found on this blog’s right sidebar. If you have not already read these entries, reading them first and in order is advised, at least Part III – Admin]
The more “stuff” you own, the more difficult it is (and always will be) to manage and maintain. Keeping things simple is actually the easiest to maintain, and the most cost-effective in the long run, but this is also probably the hardest to self-enforce due to our “consumer conditioning” of being voracious addict of junk.
We have all been addicted to consuming and collecting a lot of “stuff”, this is cultured corporate mindset that has been deeply ingrained into our psyche as Americans, but most of this stuff we buy and own is actually unnecessary, expensive and increasingly ‘worth less’. A good idea would be to get rid of it now while you can still unload this stuff for something.
Budget survival pretty much forces you to live on the cheap, but different people have different concepts of what a budget actually means and even what cheap means, so I’ll define them here for the context of this article.
A budget means living entirely within your means of income, whatever that may be. If you make $1,000 per month, you simply do not spend (ever) more then $1,000 per month. If you make $3,000 per month, you never spend more then that amount either.
Since we’re talking about budget survival, your goal is to forcibly restrict yourself to living on less then the amount you actually make. The reason for this is to have disposable (non-committed) income available for your preparations. For example, a true budget survivalist could live on $200 – $300 of his or her $1,000 monthly income. At a $3,000 monthly income, a budget survivalist could live on less then 1/3 ($1000 or less) of their income.
It can be done. I’ve been doing this myself for many years, which is why staying debt free has been relatively easy. If I do not have the cash to pay for it, I simply live without it or do something else, like make it myself, or even go earn some more money until I can get what I need. I can buy things I need and even the things I “want” usually without great difficulty, but my ability to do so is because I avoid all credit, all debts and all purchases that I simply cannot afford. And if I can’t afford it (like the backhoe I’ve been hoping for), I simply do without.
It hasn’t always been easy however. There have been several occasions, lasting years where trying to live on 1/3 of my income has not worked at all. I was spending every penny I had in order to survive. This is now the case for many Americans, who are really struggling today with the cost of living (and personal debts). A careful and exhaustive examination of unnecessary expenses needs to be honestly looked at if you are in this situation. What are the needs here, and what are the wants? What can be eliminated and what is absolutely crucial to keep?
Eliminating debt is crucial. You eliminate unnecessary interest (usury) and their associated late payments that all too often, creates a debt-cycle that is very hard to get out of.
Most Americans are riddled with debt, living paycheck to paycheck far beyond their actual means. Financial responsibility is not something well understood it seems. Most of us got in debt because we simply borrowed more then we could actually afford at the time we made the loans, but we did it anyway, secretly hoping that we would find the means somehow, or believing that we could pay it all off in a timely enough fashion. But it increasingly never works out like that. We get laid off, demoted, transfered or even quit our dead-end jobs. But the debt is still there and so is the rising cost of living, which is increasing our debts all the time.
There are many others that are in debt because they fell victim to the money-loaning schemes to make them debtors. Incessant marketing programs are targeted at every American on a daily basis to keep you in debt (and keep you stupid to the scam they are all running). Credit card offers, special ‘promotions’, zero interest rate offers, balance transfers, cash back, money market schemes and on and on are some of the tricks of the trade to make you the consumer of debt they want.
Avoid ALL of these at all costs. I routinely trash ALL junk mail, never reading it, never even opening it. I’m not seriously tempted, but I do get a laugh out of reading the ones I have opened. Offers of ridiculously high interest rates written in very tiny print for the unwary are routine. You don’t need credit — nobody does. Credit is actually a scam to keep you in debt, forever paying interest on fictional money (fractional reserve banking).
Being debt free is a mortal sin in America. You are inundated with “offers” of highly dubious motives to return to the debt treadmill. One word — don’t. If you are debt free — stay that way. If you’re nearly there or are working your way to that goal, don’t stop. Debts are life-sucking leeches that rob you of your productivity, opportunity and vitality. You’re beholden to some faceless indifferent and soulless corporation that owns your ass.
With the drastically increased higher cost of ‘living’ (which still does not mean living on the essentials), debt is very much a matter of “routine living” for most Americans. The answer to this all is to reduce the living requirements to essentials, and to ensure that your income is always sufficient to cover these things.
Living within your means, or even on only 1/3 of your means IS possible. I did not say it was easy, but how determined are you to be free from the debt cycle?
I’ve known people to live very cheaply, very crudely in “rustic environments” and very wisely by lowering their expectations to the bare minimums as a means of eliminating debt. It works, but not everyone is willing to do it. You can do it if you want to, but nobody is going to force this upon you. It’s a decision and a responsibility that you have to make.
Cheap living can be fun, but it can also be hard. But you’ll have to make the choice, now or later, or to stay on the treadmill of debt for life. Getting debt free can involve a lot of decisions, such as prioritizing all of you expenses, all of your means of income, and the discipline necessary to stick to a plan and work it through. The sooner you develop the resolve to do this, the sooner you can start eliminating your indebtedness and start working yourself forward towards financial freedom.
I’m not going to bother listing the history of American indebtedness, because it doesn’t really matter in the sense that how you got in debt and what is really keeping you there. If you’re in debt, then you’re in debt. Get out, as fast as you can by identify the steps necessary to get free.
You may have to move. You may have to do without. You may have to make some hard decisions. It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be mighty tough for most of us. But it IS going to be necessary.
Some people still believe that creditors will not be attempting to collect on debts in a collapse. I have not found any evidence of this to support this position. The opposite is actually true. During the Great Depression, when thousands were forced out of their homes as debt collectors foreclosed on properties and personal belongings, debt collectors were ruthless, even though the country was in a severe depression.
Now, seventy years later, the debt collection scam has been developed into a highly refined and controlled field that willingly ruins lives by the millions. You WILL pay off your debts, if they can find you, and if they can attach your wages or your assets. They have a myriad of means at their disposal to do so and they will employ everything they can to track down their bond-slaves.
There will even be debtors prison camps for the indebted. This is a return to the bond-slaves of the past. Those who cannot pay their bills will then be forced by the courts and the judicial system to contribute their time and labor. This is already happening with property tax collection. American citizens are being forced to contribute time and labor to the county in order to reduce or in some cases, pay off their property tax bills. Failure to pay or labor can and does result in property confiscation.
Collapse isn’t going to somehow forgive anyone of their debts. The general thinking seems to be that “everyone will be too busy surviving to worry about collecting on debts”. While surviving will indeed be on everyone’s mind, the method of surviving seems to be overlooked.
What is the method by which everyone survives today? By jobs of course, all kinds of jobs. Tax collectors collect taxes — they don’t garden for their sustenance or their income. The same goes for law enforcement personnel, and debt collectors, and bill collectors and accountants, attorneys and the entire gamut of collection agents. They all (in all probability) lack the knowledge and the wherewithal to do anything else, like sustenance gardening. And even if they did know how, where will the demand still be? In debt collection of course. Those that are owed debts are still going to be around, unless a truly catastrophic event has occurred, but it’s a rather bad idea to count on this.
Even in collapse, creditors and debtors will still exist. And so will the debt collectors. They be employed in one fashion or another, as before. And they will be attempting to ‘survive’ just like they do now, by doing what they know how to do — collect on debts. This will be for many of them, their survival strategy, which is no different then the plumber of today, and the plumber of the collapse or post-collapse era. Not very many will abandon all that they know and go off and live in the woods because either they don’t know how or because it will still be far more lucrative for them to remain in their present positions. For most, it will still be far easier then sustenance living (and with considerably less risk).
This is a concept that I think is really lost on many who look at collapse as an ‘escape mechanism’ for their responsibilities, and the functions of a ‘collapse society’. Many think that collapse signifies a wholesale abandonment of our current responsibilities, our roles, our jobs, our obligations and so forth. But this is not true. It would only be true in a truly catastrophic situation, and even then, only for a “time” until things normalized (assuming of course, that they eventually would, which might not happen in catabolic collapse).
Let’s take an example to demonstrate this point. Let’s just suppose that our civilization collapses for the following reasons: peak oil, economic failures, climate change (drought and flooding), drastically reduced crop (food) production, riots and immigration influx. Let’s suppose that ALL of these things all happen in the span of a few years (or even less).
Does this mean that everyone will revert to baking their own bread? No, it does not, even for such a mundane, but essential task as this. Many would still be buying or trading for their bread at $75 a loaf because they would be busily engaged in some other activity that provided them with an income (or trade / barter situation).
Would this mean that the lawyers, and accountants and bankers and police officers and soldiers and truck drivers and plumbers and on and on, would just drop everything and go join a sustainable village or town, entirely abandoning their former lives and professions? Or head off into the woods and try to survive there?
No, it does not. While our civilization as we know it may have collapsed, our citizens will not just suddenly switch occupations or even skill-sets and go off and become sustenance farmers or hunters. They will fall back on what they know how to do and have “always known”, and they will try to keep things going (for them and for society) by continuing to practice what they have already done and have been paid to do. And society will expect them to continue in actuality. Society will create opportunities for these occupations in many cases, even in collapse.
They will continue on much like before, with some important distinctions such as working for food, working for barter and working in their own gardens or hunting for supplemental food, but not for the majority, as a source of income or profession. They will not all entirely abandon what they are and what they know how to do. If that were true, people who despise their jobs now would become sustanence hunters or subsistence farmers — but that’s not happening even now, and it won’t be happening like most think even then in the collapse.
In the collapse, people will revert to a more simple way of living in many aspects of life, but even this doesn’t mean that they are going to abandon everything in life found in the pre-collapse world. Many professions and activities will still remain, even if in rudimentary form. Dentist will still be doing dental work, teachers will still be teaching, and lawyers will still be leeching. And people, doing whatever it is that they “do”, will still be paid in one form or another. Many will work for food for example, especially in the densely populated areas that cannot grow enough of their own. But what work will they do? All kinds — including collecting on debts.
Argentina’s collapse demonstrated this, as did the survivors of the Bosnian conflict. In many parts of the world, the functions of society still continued even though they “collapsed” for all practical purposes. Their societies weren’t perfect, they weren’t on time and certainly everything wasn’t always done wll or sometimes, even done hardly at all (like garbage collection), but it didn’t disappear forever. Bankers, lawyers, debt collectors and every other occupation pretty much still existed. There wasn’t any need for some occupations, but these in reality, were very few, and many reverted to their more “older ways” of doing things, but the occupations themselves still existed and were still in demand.
Occupations that truly disappear are usually replaced by “progress” (such as the dude that made punch cards). But that same dude went on to do something else as his job was abolished. However, debt collectors have been around since the dawn of time as civilizations have come and gone, there is no logical reason that I can think of that this will just “go away”, even in the collapse. The only way they’re going to disappear is if we bury them all, and that’s not likely to happen.
I’ve beat on this subject before, because it is rather important. There are many people who are making their collapse preparations on debt, hoping for a “collapse rescue” to forgive them their debts. This is a dangerous game that may not go your way.
Now let me address the debt burden from another perspective, and that is debt forgiveness. There may be other means besides bankruptcy for debt forgiveness. Right now, homeowners who were hoodwinked into ARM loans are being considered for some debt forgiveness. If that happens, it does not mean that they will be debt free, it only means that they will have some of their interest charges reduced or eliminated, but the original debt still remains.
In this case, we are talking about real property, a tangible asset. Many Americans are deeply burdened with credit card debt, living on their credit cards on a daily basis. And many are hoping that there will be an ‘escape’ to this deadly cycle when the collapse comes. Do not count on this. I wish I could offer you some hope, but the truth is, I can’t.
You can skip out on your debt, but that still doesn’t make it “go away”. Civilization will collapse, but that also still doesn’t make the debt go away. If and only if there is some sort of national forgiveness or something similar, can you honestly hope to be let off the hook. But don’t count on it. American corporations have spent decades ensuring that you and every other American remain in debt. And there is every reason to believe that they will still fully expect to collect on their debts.
The American corporations behind these debts isn’t going away either. This is another fallacy of the collapse mindset that I’ve seen. Collapse is going to mean that the corporations are going to gain more control, not less. Many will falter and be absorbed by others, but those that remain (and there will be plenty), will remain the real plantation owners of American assets and lives.
They will be in league with the police state in fact, ensuring a steady supply of slave labor (just like now with our prison populations, only worse), “cheap” resources bought and paid for with American lives and that of other foreigners, and total control of the market place, including absolute essentials such as food and water. They’d own the air too if they could, but lest we forget, they are laying claim to YOUR DNA, and ALL seeds and seed production in the world. That mindset is only going to worsen as they “suffer” in collapse, but it’s not going away. Draconian measure will be enacted and supported by the American government to protect these corporations at all costs, even above the lives of the American people. This will happen throughout most of the world. The groundwork for this has already been laid.
Some debt might be forgiven or overlooked, but nobody knows what this is to my knowledge. I certainly don’t. School loans for example, might be overlooked, but what if a national identity database (already built) has this information added to it of it’s debtors? And what if they decide that the next round of slaves for the work camps should be those that haven’t paid off these debts? Impossible? Hardly. Identifying the different classes of society as “good” and “bad” is a very common theme by (all) governments, draconian or not.
This is what happened in the collapse of Germany for example, at the end of World War II. Those businesses and corporations that collapsed didn’t just leave a vacuum (which is the premises behind the disappearance of corporations in collapse), they left an opportunity for tycoons and industrialists to step in and snap up the remaining assets and resources and thereby gaining tremendous control over entire industries (and people). The war itself was another gigantic profit making scheme of the international bankers.
Collapse does not mean “it all goes away” on ANY level. This is perhaps a real soul-busting thought, because our civilization is so out of control and so absurd is so many ways that vaporizing much of it is exactly what is needed.
But that will not happen. Not yet. We’ve got a LOT of devolution to do FIRST (still). Only a truly catastrophic event(s) would create or offer the conditions necessary for “it all to go away”. But that is beyond the realm of knowing in reality. It might happen, it might not, there is certainly no guarantees, and that is what we’re really talking about here. What is the real guarantee, the real assurance we can known now about what is going to happen?
What we do know is that the slow collapse scenario is playing out right now. It will in all likelihood speed up, but even if does, and even if a fast collapse happens, most functions of our society and civilization does not “all go away”. Many parts will morph into something much more controlled (like transportation, food production and so on) and other parts will “relax”, such as their ability to control how people make a living (the black market for example, will explode with opportunity).
It is what “remains” after the collapse, that will be the life that we can expect. What remains will be a diminishment of what we have now, but not a disappearance for the most part. It’s much too soon to expect a “disappearance” in reality. Some things will disappear and not be available, but not everything. Electricity may disappear for much of the country (or world), but debt collectors won’t. Food may disappear in many areas, but not entirely. Plumbers won’t disappear, they’ll still be around building outhouses. Gasoline may disappear, but there will still be those involved in transportation (horse, buggy, wagon, ships, bicycle, wood gas, steam, etc). Lobsters may disappear from tables in Arkansas, but catfish will still be available. Competition for what remains will be fierce, but even that doesn’t mean the ‘total disappearance’ of many things.
The “go away” scenario will only happen in catastrophic collapse, such as a massive asteroid strike — or nuclear war. Then, all bets are off. Nobody really knows the effects these things will have on our civilization. But betting on a catastrophic collapse is probably the riskiest bet you could ever make with your planning now. It might happen, but betting on it is sheer folly. Better to bet on what is happening, right now, and project the most likely course of future action this is going to cause.
Those that know me realize that I have long advocated to “prepare as if nothing is going to really change, that things will only gradually worsen as they already are and things are going to get harder and harder for us all as time goes on”. This may seem strange coming from me, but look at the last few decades of your life. What has changed? Neither castatrophic collapse has occurred, or even a fast collapse. The slow collapse scenario continues to play itself out.
I’m not arguing “for or against” the slow collapse .vs. fast collapse, because in perspective, as far as it applies to you and your planning, it really does not matter despite our personal hopes we might harbor. What “remains” after collapse, is what remains, and it’s really not up to you anyway, and there is nothing you can do about.
The only thing you can do, and what I have long advocated, is to plan ahead. Plan for a slow collapse. Plan for a fast collapse. Plan for debt collection. Plan for hungry people. Plan for no food. Plan for a police state. Plan for everything you possibly can.
Of course it is an impossible task, but so is raising kids. The try must be tried if you’re going to try at all. Do the best you can, don’t worry about the rest if that’s what you’ve now done, and get on with the program. But don’t plan to fail by doing absolutely nothing, or banking all your hopes on the idea that things are going to somehow magically ‘improve’ your personal situation. This kind of thinking is no different the Rapturists who are hoping for a magical rescue (from their own folly). Do what you can, understand what is already happening, connect the dots on where it is likely to go and don’t agonize over what you cannot control.
Catabolic collapse hasn’t happened here yet, and we all know already that it certainly takes time to occur, but it’s not going to be a desirable ‘rescue’ if it happens for most of us anyway. It will be hardscrabble, desperate living. Between now and then, the slow collapse is a daily reality, discussed and talked about every night on the television networks, except that these talking heads don’t even have a clue what it all means. That’s the only thing you can really plan for anyway. Catabolic collapse is beyond everyone’s plans.