Preparation now can pay off later

by BRYNN TOLMAN

Many people in the world today worry about what tomorrow will bring. Will I be prepared? Will my family be safe? How will we survive if this economy doesn’t turn around?

Preparation is key to finding answers to these and many other questions.

Althea Sam, a student at the University of Utah and an American Indian, said these questions are constantly on her mind. She worries because with her current school load she only works part-time and no longer lives at home with her parents.

“There isn’t usually a lot of extra cash at the end of the day,” she said. However, Sam recognizes the importance of being ready. “It is always necessary. Even students can be prepared,” she said.

Sam explained in a recent interview that the best option for this is going back to the old ways of canning food, saving and being smart about spending.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one organization that encourages setting aside essentials for a rainy day. The Church has compiled many resources and tools to help families and individuals around the world get started on something that can be intimidating: food storage and preparation.

Church officials say people need to be ready for adversity in every aspect of life. The three most important elements to being prepared for the future are education, employment and food. A good education will be the base for a solid future. This base leads to a good job that will make it possible to meet the basic needs in life including the final element, food.

Jeff Newey, an employee of the LDS Church, was part of a team that put together several pamphlets to distribute to people worldwide. This collection is called “All Is Safely Gathered In.”

One pamphlet, “Family Finances,” discusses how managing money now can be helpful later in life. The pamphlet advises avoiding debt, using a budget, building a reserve, and teaching family members “financial management, hard work, frugality and saving.” It also includes a budget worksheet.

The second pamphlet, “Family Home Storage,” teaches readers how to gather food and save a little extra money in case of emergency. It discusses the following topics: three-month supply, drinking water, financial reserve and longer-term supply. “Its purpose is to give people hope and to simplify the message,” Newey said.

While the pamphlets don’t detail every necessity, they can help anyone prepare for the unexpected.

“The Navajo tribe [in New Mexico], lost a lot of money on Wall Street,” said Irene Wixom. “Most Navajo people just have to deal with downturns in the economy, they don’t have mortgages, they don’t anticipate these problems.” She explained that while living on the reservation, Navajos have nothing to do with the mess that the economy is in. “They didn’t get caught up in all the loan problems, they didn’t make the mess,” she said.

Wixom, a Navajo, explained that many Navajos have not been preparing for anything drastic to happen.

Her own family, on the other hand, has been saving for years and trying to put a little food away so that in times of need they will be ready. Wixom, her husband and their three children now live in Salt Lake City and worry about their family and friends still on the reservation.

“They don’t have mass transit or even a huge selection of cars. Some of the roads are in pretty bad condition and that limits them. … It’s harder to be careful,” Wixom said.

“We haven’t decided to do anything new,” she said, explaining that it’s the little things that are going to make the difference. The few things the Wixom family have been focusing on are cutting back spending and planning their trips instead of just jumping into the car.

“We budgeted for years to get rid of our mortgage and other debts,” she said. “The only debt we have now is student loans for the kids’ education.” They are still comfortable today because of careful budgeting earlier in life. 

“There are more important things than big houses and big cars; your child’s education for example. Those are the things we worried about,” Wixom said. 

Wixom stressed the importance of being wise. She said the best way to prepare for the downturns in today’s economy is to stay up to date about what is going on in the world.

“People get busy and are uninformed. They didn’t see it coming. When the bubble burst we were ready,” she said. She stressed the fact that this should be common sense.

Many organizations and resources exist to help people get started on preparing for those unexpected turns in life. As Newey said, resources are available to “give people hope and simplify the message.” With all the tips, though, common sense is also important.

“If you can’t afford that cup of coffee from Starbucks don’t drink it,” Sam said. “Everyone loves that cup of coffee, but be responsible.” 

Tips for being prepared (from “All is Safely Gathered In”)

  • Avoid debt: Spending less money than you make is essential to your financial security. Avoid debt, with the exception of buying a modest home or paying for education or other vital needs. Save money to purchase what you need. If you are in debt pay it off as quickly as possible.
  • Have a back-up supply: Build a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet. One way to do this is to purchase a few extra items each week to build a one-week supply of food. Then you can gradually increase your supply until it is sufficient for three months. These items should be rotated regularly to avoid spoilage. For longer-term needs, and where permitted, gradually build a supply of food that will last a long time and that you can use to stay alive, such as wheat, white rice and beans.
  • Use a budget: Keep a record of your expenditures. Record and review monthly income and expenses. Determine how to reduce what you spend for nonessentials. Plan how much you will save, and what you will spend for food, housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, insurance and so on. Discipline yourself to stay within your budget plan. A budget worksheet is a useful tool to help you with your plan.
  • Build a reserve: Gradually build a financial reserve and use it for emergencies only. If you save a little money regularly, you will be surprised how much accumulates over time.
  • Drinking water: Store drinking water for circumstances in which the water supply may be polluted or disrupted. If water comes directly from a good, pretreated source, then no additional purification is needed; otherwise, pretreat water before use. Store water in sturdy, leak-proof, breakage-resistant containers. Consider using plastic bottles commonly used for juices and soft drinks. Keep water containers away from heat sources and direct sunlight.