SHTF blog – Modern Survival

Get Out of Debt and Survive With Less After TSHTF

tv_impressionsOn TV the other day (I was streaming a news broadcast off the Internet – I don’t have cable TV) I saw a commercial that settled in my mind and it gnawed away at for me awhile. I didn’t realize until later why it bothered me so much. Here’s a synopsis of the commercial: Dude1 walks out of his house over to his neighbors house in a suburban neighborhood, where his friend (Dude2) is admiring a new car. “Nice car!” Dude1 says and Dude2 beams and starts to talk about its features. Dude1 listens politely, then hits the button on his key fob and the brand new ultra fancy pickup truck in his driveway chirps and he walks over to it with a look of smug satisfaction on his face while Dude2 with the car stands there with his mouth open, obviously wishing he had the fancy truck.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

The American Dream is being forced down our throats, people.  Marketers know how we think and they target our desires to warp us into wanting more.  Not only do they convince us to want more, we need whatever “it” is to be bigger, faster, and more powerful! Buy, buy, buy!  It keeps the economy going and the markets inflated.

nice_house_elite“They” want us to consume so they can continue to make their Porsche payments and live in their fancy houses with body guards. Meanwhile, we’re stuck with five-hundred dollar a month truck payments we can’t afford because we’re suckered into The Dream.  I’ve noticed the same trend in prepping. Someone shows off the latest AR-15 or M4 with a super-scope or laser sites and there’s oooh’s and aaaah’s and people wanting to rush out and get one for their arsenal. Or maybe someone got the latest land rover, RV, or a hardened Hummer. Hey, if you can afford the stuff more power to you, but most people I know are in debt trying to keep up with their house payments and student loans, much less a hardened hummer with three new AR-15’s in it.

Get By With Less

car-refill-transportation-transportIt’s ok to plan on getting by with less. As a matter of fact that’s exactly what we’ll need to do if and when TSHTF. The more knowledge and experience you have about survival and getting by with less the better off you’ll be. Once the balloon goes up finding gas for that thirsty Hummer will be a chore and way more expensive to boot – if you can even find any. There’s been a movement lately about getting by with less called minimalism. I’ve done a little reading and decided that it’s perfectly fine to cut down on the amount of stuff in my life that takes up valuable space and time thinking about it. I went from fifteen dress shirts to six. A whole pile of t-shirts to five. A huge pile of camping gear to just what I need for me and my family. What good is five packs full of gear if I can only use one at a time?

I wound up selling a bunch of stuff on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace (one of the few things Facebook is good for) and haven’t regretted it at all.  How do you decide what stuff to get rid of? That was actually the easy part for me. I went through my gear and if I hadn’t touched it in the last six months or a year I put it in a pile mentally labeled “Sell or Donate.” If you decide to give it a try you’ll be surprised at how fast that pile will grow.

Letting Go

I admit that at first it’s a little hard getting rid of stuff that you love, but after awhile you realize it’s not the stuff you love, but the idea of it. You buy junk you don’t need because it makes you happy. It gives you a little dopamine hit when you walk out of the store with a new item. Pretty soon you have twenty-five pairs of shoes you don’t wear and two closets worth of clothing that just hangs there.

I probably had two or three hundred movie DVD’s sitting in my basement collecting dust. Now I’m down to about twenty of my favorite all time movies that I watch over and over again (Billy Jack for example), but are hard to find online.

book_shelfAnd books. If you love books like I do this was a hard one, but I went through my books and if I hadn’t read it in a year or ten and it didn’t make my heart bump in that special way it went in the pile. My goal was to cut back to one bookshelf (about five shelves from floor to ceiling two feet wide) instead of books taking over every available space in the house. This was actually way easier than I thought it would be. First to go were all the books I’d picked up at lawn sales or had given to me. You know what I’m talking about; you pick up a book on a hot summer day and it marginally grabs your interest, but hey! It’s only a quarter, so you pick up seven or eight because you have a few extra bucks on you and throw them into the back of your car. They ride around there for a week or so until you carry them in the house and try to cram them into that bookshelf that’s already overflowing and then you forget about them.

Where I notice it the most is on my dresser. It used to be covered with cameras, computer gear, pieces of paper, change, flashlights, knives… you get the idea. I have one of those that opens up like an armoire, so there are actually three shelves where I could keep stuff. In the morning I’d go crazy trying to find my EDC.

Now it’s clean. All the extra books are gone, I’m down to a couple of cameras I actually use, change goes into a special place in the kitchen where it can be used.  How did my wife react to this new mode of thinking? She was ecstatic! By nature she’s always been a minimalist, so when I started getting rid of extra junk she was happy as could be.  So how does that carry over to prepping? For one thing it allows you to focus on those things that are really important such as good quality food.

Instead of opting for ten guns how about buying one or two that will really get the job done?  Instead of a brand new sixty thousand dollar range rover how about taking care of the vehicle you already have? Treat your vehicles right and they’ll treat you right. People are so willing to throw something away today instead of taking care of it that it blows my mind.

I see people treating trucks like computer tablets these days. Once it’s a couple of years old they’ll trade it in for a new one instead of taking care of the one they have. Of course a tablet goes for a hundred dollars these days and a truck costs anywhere from twenty-five to seventy-five thousand depending on what kind you get. Friends of mine who didn’t have the money went out and bought an expensive SUV, but didn’t have the money to pay for it. Now they’re stuck with a huge vehicle payment and regret it.

Avoid Debt

Today my wife and I avoid debt like the plague, which is a great thing to be in agreement on.  If we can’t afford to pay cash for something we don’t buy it. And living as minimalists we typically don’t want it anyway, which makes it far easier to cope with those emotions that spring up when we see some shiny new car or gizmo that would be wicked awesome to have, but can’t afford or will never use.

money_debtYears ago my phone was ringing off the hook with companies wanting their money and I finally did this to get out of debt.  It’s hard to do, but so worth it in the end!  Don’t get me wrong, I still see stuff I want and think, “Ooooh! I’d love to have that!” But I’ll sit on it for a week and if the feeling goes away I know it was just a passing fancy. (That Korean era officer’s military mess kit I saw this summer for $300 springs to mind.) I thought about it for awhile and decided I didn’t want it because of its authenticity, but because it would be fun to whip something like that out at the campground and actually use it. I then decided that if I wanted something like that it would be far easier and cheaper to build one myself. It’s still on the back burner, but if I decide to move forward it will be a fun project and one that will really mean something to me.


I’m not saying to sell all your stuff and live in a tent or a yurt (although a yurt might be kinda cool when I think about it.)  What I’m suggesting is to take a look at your lifestyle and possessions and see if there’s anything you can cut back on or things you can sell.  Almost everybody has extra stuff and the average American has tons of extra stuff they don’t use.

If you have debt, selling some of that extra stuff and not buying more can help you drive that debt down a little. Thoreau said to “Simplify!” and if you take that advice to heart you can live a rich life while staying out of debt.  Let go of the stuff you don’t need and take a good hard look at the stuff you have.  You’ll be a happier person because of it.  Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!

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21 thoughts on “Get Out of Debt and Survive With Less After TSHTF

  1. I totally agree. I shop when I am stressed and often buy stuff I just don’t need. I just started to go through my books – it’s going to take awhile. I have so many coats its ridiculous. One of my excuses to keep stuff was to barter with when things go south. Or to give to someone else who needs. But it does get overwhelming.

    1. I have a LOT of books, and would like to eliminate as many as I can bear. My public library has no interest in used books these days.

      I hate to send them to the land fill, but really need to eliminate many of them.


      1. DaveB, I donate paperbacks to the county jail. Also some state prisons will take them. I used to teach reading at the prison & that was one of the saddest things – nothing to read in their libraries. Guess I better not get thrown in jail, huh.

        1. That’s a good idea, Linda. (Donating to a prison – not going to jail.) I actually donated a bunch to Goodwill. I also gave a few bags to my oldest daughter who is an avid reader. I figured if someone else was getting use out of them it was better than gathering dust in my bookcase.

      2. check to see if your public libraries have a huge book sale annually
        we have in our town and we donate our books to them
        or look for a shelter and donate to a shelter perhaps

  2. Great article; I’m in the entry phases of doing this myself. The wife and I will be credit card debt free this year, and we’ll just have the mortgage, utilities, and her car payment to worry about. My Tacoma just ticked over 200,000 miles, but I take impeccable care of it and I’m sure it’ll last me another few years. Buy good stuff and take care of it, it will last.

    Now the real question: why didn’t you call me when you were getting rid of camping gear? Bastard.

  3. I have a flip-phone I’ve had for a couple of years. It makes & receives calls & texts, has an alarm, a calculator & a calendar. It has a hard case I got for free & I’ve dropped it a million time & it hasn’t broken. My service costs me $25 a month. People feel sorry for me! I have a chrome book for computer use so why do I need it on my phone? If it ain’t broke………… Thanks for a great article.

    1. $25 seems high for a flip. You could get a Tracfone flip (or even smart) and use a 120 min card ($39.99) for three months of service. Thats $13/mo. You could even drop that to $10/mo with a 60 min card if you don’t use the phone much for long. Get the triple minutes phone so it’s not as bad as it looks.

      Chromebooks are great as long as you have wireless. Otherwise they are flashlights.

      1. I use an older Dell laptop and put Ubuntu Linux on it. (That’s what I’m using right now.) It’s got less overhead than Windows and 99% of the software I use is free!

        Glad to see people out there are still living thrifty!

  4. I have to stay of debt, wife’s orders. It sure takes the stress out of life. Just sold my old car, getting hard to find parts. Now I’m driving a 20 year old POS that just won’t die. The up side of driving an old ugly car is that you can leave the windows down, car unlocked, and nobody gives it a second look. The trunk can be packed with your gear and no one is the wiser. Gray man theory for your vehicle.

  5. Hi all,,,
    Been careful to not go into debt but some stuff just cant be faked,,,
    I have stuff, but my addiction is tools and product to make stuff with, leather, steel, wood, and what i need to make all of that into knives, furniture, belts and cases or tack, and tools to build and farm with, i plan to make a living no matter what, will take my chances that it will all work out, if everything comes unglued and its total bedlam we will all have bigger problems than a few unpaid CCs,,, (dont have em anyway) i get the jist of the piece though, stuff for the sake of having nicknacks or glamourous items may not be a good thing, but personally im sure theres a fine line, sorta like putting away buckets of wheat or beans, putting back some useful hardware may be exactly what you need to get you something you need after things dry up, and they will dry up, not if but when,

  6. my other comment got lost…
    that’s OK. just, never throw away tools. (I only throw away books after they crumble into fragments)

  7. Great topic. My difficulty is not getting rid of things I don’t need, but to keep prepared, keeping things I might need. Example- I have a gas grill for cooking burgers, a gasoline coleman stove for camping, a propane stove for camping, a backpacking stove, and an alcohol tablet pocket stove. I know I don’t need them all, but what one might I need if tshtf? Since I don’t know, I’ll keep them all for now.

    1. as long as you don’t need to bug-out, you’re golden…

      if you have to spend extra money to store what you aren’t using, then, not so much.

  8. Great read. I’m from Romania and out here, most of us living in the countryside are doing just that – settle for less. I mean, my home is self sufficient with a photo-voltaic installation for lighting and a ground source heat pump for heating the house. Also, I drive a diesel which these days in Europe is not that of a big deal ( a decent car can be found for 6/7k). And I’m debt free and no one calls me a survival freak. Hell, the government even has a rebate program for green energy projects.

  9. Im an old dude – 62 this year. My home is cluttered, and this article makes me realize that I need to reduce! Im putting my house on a diet. When I’m gone, nobody will give a crap about all this ‘stuff’. Im hooking up my Goodwill, etc and emptying stuff out. My wife has asked me to do this for a decade. Guess I’m a slow learner, but better late than never!

  10. I have a different take. Most books and similar, sure. Goodwill, prisons, bird cage liners. Personally, I wouldn’t part with anything by Ayn Rand, Rothbard, Mises, Bovard, Hazlet, Sowell, Williams, Napolitano and a few others. They could be textbooks for Whatever Comes Next.
    Movies, tools, clothing, shoes, surplus camping gear, etc. I have packed and basement stored for the possibility of a calamity that could make bartering the “new money”. While I have certain “productive” skills, there are many things I have neither the experience or aptitude (I’m the guy who flunked Shop). So a flannel shirt, a pair of outgrown jeans, a pair of shoes…just might be worth some quarts of oil, a dozen eggs or a fixed plumbing problem in lieu of cash that has become non-existent for whatever reason. Those 20 shirts are already paid for anyway. Giving them up doesn’t reduce my debt, it just makes a bigger empty space in the closet. Boxing them up, though, might keep someone from being cold who will then help chop some wood.

  11. Being debt free is great for economic collapse SHTF where law will still be enforced, just the price of everything will be inflated and interest rates will be through the roof. If you are unable to manage your debt now then you will likely loose your posessions that are in debt if/when ecomnomic unstability occurs. Ofcourse being debt free means nothing if there is a total collapes, but it may mean much worse if you have a debt to pay to someone local who no longer has to worry about using the legal channles for debt collection and shows up at your place armed with a couple of goons demanding your supplies in exchange for payment. Being debt free relieves stress and allows you a great deal of personal/financial freedom and security.

    With extra money you can use that resource to invest in your property, such as lamenated smash resistant glass storm doors and windows, or security gates and fences, or even functional shutters. Hardening your home with decorative low key improvements makes your property value appreciate should you ever decide to sell. I have installed the decortive smash proof storm doors with reienforced hinges and frames for my entry doors, as well as a decorative iron security gate for one our entry ways.

    The money saved from being debt free could go toward enjoying more healthy food options that are more expensive, such as organic, hierloom, free range, grass fed, ect…

    Being clutter free and properly organized provides a positive feeling of well being. Are you able to find your car keys at a moments notice or always searching for them and stressing over being late for engagements? Never able to find your shoes, or a belt? Where is that screw driver or socket wrench when I need it?

    These things go hand in hand and compliment each other.

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