OK, the end of the year tends to be a good time to re-evaluate strategies and adjust for a new year. I try to look at what I did right, what I did wrong, what I would like to change for the year, and what really worked. I’m several years into my strategies now so I know I have a head start in some areas, so I’ll explain what’s worked for me.
- PASS – using cash for Christmas presents. Had to do it this year because we had a very unusual start to the year (family illness, my absence from the home, depleted stockpile) so we started out behind and had to really be careful as the year went on. When I need quick cash, I sell household items I’m not using (flea markets, pawn shops, thrift stores). I know not everyone has that option, but chances are, you have more “stuff” than you realize. Cleaning out some closets, attic/basement, disbanding collections, and in general just letting go of stuff you don’t use will get you stuff you CAN use.
- FAIL – my written plan for my stockpile. Sure, it was an unusual year, but that’s what emergency preparation is FOR. I was shocked, when the true emergencies hit, how unpredictable the effect was on all my previously successful careful planning. All sorts of things I thought I had planned for adequately turned out differently than I thought. Re-evaluating is really going to take time.
- PASS – using gift cards as intended. Luckily that was one thing I had the foresight to accomplish this year. I kept my eye open for gift card purchases, when I could get them for free (as a bonus for a purchase), at a substantial discount (all the 20%-25% off deals at Rite-Aid, Publix and others), or at serious discounts online. Taking chances when I saw opportunities paid off substantially, in one case, we had an appliance suddenly bite the dust, and I was able to replace a $500 appliance for less than half that out-of-pocket using gift cards I had saved up all year. Just that one purchase was totally worth the effort, but fortunately, there were many other opportunities all year long. Back to school clothes shopping, Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, sudden needs for the house, replacing worn clothing, all the sudden things that happen without warning. Several of the gift cards I had were for stores that had a variety of products (like Walgreens, Target, and Dollar General) so in some cases, I could get groceries when I had something come up last-minute and didn’t have time to organize coupons or worry about discounts.
- FAIL – missed out on tons of opportunities these last two months. Although I am not sure that counts as a “fail”, since I didn’t lose money, but a missed opportunity often means you just spend more later. I only had one shopping trip right before Thanksgiving with a HUGE purchase of everything I needed for Thanksgiving, then only one more serious shopping day right before Christmas. And I’m still full from all that. Full pantry, 2 full freezers, no room for any more food except fresh food. While that’s great, and that’s how you want to end the year, I saw tons of opportunities in the sales circulars that I missed entirely. For a few days, Bi-Lo had quadruple fuel perks on gift cards. That’s 8% on any gift card you buy – including gas, which never gets above 3% online. I can do better than 8% on clothing stores and restaurants, but never on gas cards. I would have totally stocked up then if I had been more ready.
- UNDETERMINED – charitable giving. I give away a lot of food and products, but what I would really like is the chance to teach people how to do more with their money. I can give away fish or teach you how to fish, it’s up to you. What I have found in 100% of the cases is that they just want you to give it to them, not teach them how to get it for themselves. Disappointing, but I’ll keep trying and keep offering. I can understand that perhaps I haven’t met the right people yet – people willing to learn, and at a point in their life where they are ready. My feeling is that EVERYONE is at a point in their life when they are ready to do this … but it’s not up to me. I believe the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be glad you did.
So, it looks like I have a few goals for this year.
- Re-do stockpile plan with provisions for additional emergency scenarios.
- Plan for end-of-the-year shopping for bargains.
- Make more attempts at helping others learn how to stockpile economically.