Hard times – the phrase means something different to everyone. In some countries, wars have created extremely difficult situations for thousands of people, with these difficult times lasting for many years.
For some, hard times are more personal, such as the loss of employment, or even the breakdown of a relationship or marriage.
Regardless of how you view this term, or whether they’re held at a global or personal scale, hard times can cause significant financial and emotional stress.
As you’ve likely witnessed in your own life as well as throughout history, hard times are rarely all that far away.
While it’s not always possible to accurately predict when hard times will strike or how “hard” they will be, it’s safe to say that most people will be affected by hard times at some point or another.
I know the media is telling us that things are looking up. I know they say unemployment numbers are dropping. And we’ve all heard them saying the economy is on the rebound. But frankly, I’m just not convinced.
The thing is, they have to tell us that. If they told us the truth, that we are most likely heading into a much deeper recession, yes maybe even a depression, then panic would sweep across our nation and runs on banks would cause pandemonium.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to prepare for hard times before they even occur.
No matter what the event that causes our hard times, there are certain areas of life that will be affected. There are certain things that we can do that will help us to prepare ourselves. We should look at how we can prepare for hard times to make life a bit easier.
Conduct a Thorough Financial Review
Even though money has a decisive effect on how we live, countless folks struggle to control their finances.
They overspend on things they don’t need, making decisions that feel good in the moment. Then, when hard times hit, money or (to be more precise, a lack of money) will become a problem.
The best way to start reviewing your finances is by making a list showing how much is being spent on various items.
After this list of expenditures is totaled and deducted from your overall income, you should, in a perfect world, have some money leftover. Money that is leftover will allow a savings fund to be created.
An ideal goal would be to create a savings fund that can support spending requirements for a period of five to six months.
Most financial experts refer to this as an emergency fund, and it can help you maintain a level of normalcy should your income be interrupted due to hard times.
After you’ve come up with your list of expenses (and included everything, even all those little dollars here and there that add up over time), you will be able to see if you are spending your money wisely.
It may be necessary to change some spending habits to create a positive cash flow. Always ask if potential purchases are essential.
Some expenditures such as utility bills and home loans cannot be avoided – they must be paid. Unpaid utilities will result in service restrictions. Unpaid home loans will result in foreclosure.
However, that does not mean that they cannot be made cheaper. Look for alternative suppliers at cheaper rates.
See if you can refinance your home or make other budgetary decisions that will leave you with more money in your bank account once all those necessary bills are paid.
Credit card debt can be one of the largest expenses in any person’s outgoings.
Restricting credit, especially on credit cards to essential items, can help to reduce these payments. Consider alternative sources of credit that may prove cheaper with lower interest rates, of course – but above all, try to reduce debt.
Using a credit card isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If you have the money to pay off the bills at the end of the month, there can in fact be some benefit to using your credit card to pay your bills.
You may be able to rack up rewards points or cash back, helping you save a bit of extra money in the process. It is when you overspend on credit cards that you develop a problem.
You can also get an insurance policy that will protect you if you lose your income. Although this can be expensive, it is worth considering, especially if you are your household’s sole or primary breadwinner and earn a relatively high salary.
Although it is not a good idea to keep large amounts of cash stored in your home, consider what would happen to an emergency fund if banks were out of action. You may find yourself completely out of money if the banks shut down.
Consider what else could be considered a currency if the banking system failed and keep your eggs in many baskets, so to speak, so that you aren’t caught off guard in the event of an emergency.
Menu Planning to Cut Costs
Food is expensive, and is one of the costliest budget items for most families. Despite the high cost of food, a high percentage of food is often thrown away. Food often spoils before it can be eaten.
This happens when food is bought without considering what meals are to be prepared before the next visit to the supermarket.
Creating a menu plan is easy, and can help to reduce waste and costs. This does not have to mean that certain meals have to be prepared on a certain day, but it ensures that enough meals are available until the next store visit.
You can plan out six or seven potential meals for the week, and shuffle around when you eat them – or even buy ingredients that can be used in multiple dishes to reduce food waste.
Cutting out waste and shopping for bargains and discounts will help to keep the food bill lower.
Grow Your Own Food
If meal planning isn’t your thing, there’s another easy way you can save money on food – by growing a vegetable garden.
This will let you reduce your expenditures, while also creating a self-sufficient supply of food if the food supply becomes irregular or unreliable due to hard times at the global scale.
Homegrown vegetables always taste better, are cheaper and are available when needed. A vegetable plot can be any size – even a few containers can be used to grow lettuce and tomatoes.
Hard times could result in stores restricting opening times and rationing foodstuffs. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have the skills and resources necessary to grow your own food at home.
Growing food is easy, though it takes time to be able to grow with confidence. However, the rewards make the learning process worthwhile.
Save Your Own Seeds
It is difficult to say how long hard times will last. While starting a garden is a good way to ensure that you provide for your family for the next year or so, learning how to save and store seeds is even better, since you’ll be provided for in many years to come. Some seeds remain viable for decades!
Starting to grow food is easy when seeds are readily available in the local store. However, if this source of seeds is not available, food production will stop. The easiest way to combat this is to learn how to collect and save seeds.
It is easy to learn the skills needed as they are not particularly complicated. However, each plant does have particular techniques that must be followed to ensure success.
Learn to Preserve Food
Growing food and store discounts offer the ability to preserve food for later use.
Various preservation techniques will help to preserve different types of food so that you can have a supply even when the ground is covered in snow and ice and the garden plot has been rendered more or less useless.
Canning, dehydrating, and smoking are all great techniques that will help to keep food for longer.
These techniques do demand a certain level of skill and some low-cost equipment, however, learning to preserve food is worthwhile.
I have not included freezing on this list for a reason – although it’s a reliable food storage method, it relies on power. If power is lost, the food will all be wasted.
While it can certainly serve as a supplement to your other preservation techniques, it shouldn’t be relied on in isolation to help you get through hard times.
Build Your Food Storage
Fresh food has a relatively short shelf life. Food preservation techniques offer the ability to create a store cupboard to hold long shelf life foods.
t is so important that you have a good amount of food on hand. I would suggest building up a year’s worth of food supplies; canned fruits and veggies, grains (wheat, rice, sugar), beans, pasta, powdered milk, water, etc.
This is a great way to prepare for hyperinflation or economic crises, job loss, or other disasters. I’d even go so far as to say that it is more important that you have a food storage built up than a large savings account.
If hyperinflation were to set in, those digits you see in your bank account will not be worth one dime. Food would be a more valuable asset than worthless paper. And if you were to lose your job, food would be one less thing you’d have to worry about spending money on.
Dried foods that are must-haves in any pantry:
These are all excellent items to store as they last for a long time – and can be used in a variety of ways. If income or food stores restrict the ability to buy food, a well-stocked store cupboard will help to reduce the impact of hard times.
Build a Root Cellar
A root cellar is a homemade DIY store that uses the natural properties of the earth to keep food in an edible condition for longer.
By “burying” food underground, food will stay cool much longer, even in warm climates. On the flip side, a root cellar can also prevent food from freezing outdoors in cold climates.
It takes some planning and hard work to build and maintain a root cellar – however, the ability to be able to store food without using power for in certain cases up to a year is beneficial and will certainly help during hard times.
Consider Keeping Animals
Of course, location and space are massive factors when you are considering keeping any kind of animal. Large numbers of animals are not necessary, however, chickens can supply eggs and meat, and a goat can supply milk and cheese.
Valuable food products to have available in hard times and raising livestock can help ensure that you always have sources of protein and fat available.
Practice Your Cooking Skills
Being able to cook food from scratch is something that everyone should develop for everyday life.
During food shortages, this skill will be essential to be able to support a health fulfilling diet. In certain circumstances, these skills may become a factor in survival.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
It is often said that we are what we eat – and there is definitely an element of truth to this. Our body needs a balance of varied foods to allow it to function to the best of its ability.
Sometimes it is forgotten that for superior brain and body functioning, you need certain vitamins and minerals.
When times are hard, we will need to be physically strong.
There could be many physical tasks that will require strength – you might be accustomed to flipping a switch for your heating and cooling needs now, but in hard times, you may find yourself chopping many loads of firewood to stay warm.
It’s not just the body that will need to remain strong, but the brain, too – clear and rational thought will also be needed to tackle whatever challenges may arise.
Learning how food affects the body and mind is important knowledge that is essential in everyday life and crucial for survival in hard times.
Developing an exercise regime also helps to keep our bodies healthy and our minds alert. Exercise can prevent and protect against a variety of diseases, too.
As we have said during hard times life could be more physically demanding, so it is best to prepare for that by ensuring a good level of physical fitness.
Perform a Health Check
Regular medical checkups and tests can help to spot the warning signs of illness that could dramatically (and negatively) affect your life during hard times.
Not all illnesses should be considered permanent or inevitable. Some health conditions can be eradicated by a change of eating habits, diet, or lifestyle.
Reducing medical conditions and nixing your need for expensive medications (that will be extremely difficult, if not impossible to find, during hard times) can only help.
Learn to Relax and Meditate
There’s no question about it – life can be stressful. Hard times are certainly high up there on the list of potential stressors!
Being forced to deal with unusual situations like these that are far from the norm requires clear thinking. Generally, most problems, even those that seem severe, can be dealt with and overcome by using a mind that can clearly and rationally focus.
Learning to develop relaxation techniques will help to bring the best mindset into play when needed. The mind needs to relax just as much as the body.
Focus on Positives
Unfortunately, not everything can be controlled. In any situation or crisis, it is important to focus on what can be controlled, what can be done, and how to best react.
Time spent dwelling on negative situations or things that cannot be controlled is wasted time – and could make hard times even more difficult.
Concentrating on the positives and the things that can be changed will help to make hard times more bearable. You might practice doing this now by fostering a more optimistic mindset and expressing gratitude whenever possible.
Learn To Make Herbal Remedies
There are all kinds of simple over-the-counter medications that may not fit into a restricted budget during hard times. Some medications may not be as readily available.
A headache finds us reaching for a painkiller, an insect bite sees us reaching for an antiseptic cream. Believe it or not, though, these are not necessary. There are all kinds of plants growing in the wild that can help alleviate simple ailments.
Often, simple and ancient remedies are just as effective as commercial ones – plus, they are readily available and free. Free is a wonderful word when times are hard.
Not only that, but many of these offer relief without a long list of side effects (something that’s all too common when you reach for a chemical-based medication).
Check Medication Supplies
Unfortunately, not all conditions can be treated with natural remedies. Ensuring a sufficient stock of any essential medications will help to reduce the possibility of running out.
Checking for an adequate supply of first-aid materials is also useful. Simple bandages and antiseptics are essential to stockpile in every survival bag, or anywhere else around the house.
Check Your Vision and Update to Your Glasses
Vision is so important in everyday life – and it is especially important when times are hard. Having regular eyesight checks and updating your glasses helps to protect this important ability.
Buy a spare pair just in case one pair is damaged or lost. A pair of ready readers are also handy for emergencies.
(While you’re at it, be sure to visit your dentist too.)
Learn First Aid Techniques
Accidents and injuries can happen at any time, anywhere. The potential for injury is more probable during hard times, when unfamiliar tasks that would not normally be considered could become essential.
Small injuries can become life-threatening if not treated correctly and in time. A little first aid knowledge can help to protect the family unit and keep them all healthy and safe.
Homemade Detergents and Personal Products
Washing detergents and personal care products can prove to be quite expensive, especially when money is tight due to hard times.
When visiting the store with limited funds, there can often be a choice between food for the table and cleaning products. Almost always, the food is going to win.
However, cleaning products aren’t things you should go without in any situation. Even during hard times, it is essential to maintain personal cleanliness – it can help keep you and your family healthy, after all.
It is possible and relatively easy to create these products at home. Some ingredients will need to be bought while others can be made or are found growing naturally in the woods.
Taking the time to learn the relevant skillset, and knowing more about how to source the correct ingredients will prove to be highly beneficial in normal times – and absolutely essential in tough times.
Learn to Make Your Own Clothes
There could be situations where hard times last for a long period of time – and that might result in normal supply chains being interrupted for longer than we might like. In the case of extremely hard times, life may become completely different.
Designer suits may no longer be relevant and in the absence of a supply of suitable clothes, the only way may be to craft what is needed.
While this skill will no doubt develop over some time, a little preparation beforehand would be beneficial.
Service Your Vehicles and Other Equipment
It is easy to stretch service due dates, especially when money is tight. It does not seem to be a priority at the time, however, when hard times are around the corner, vehicles and equipment become more important.
In difficult times, the possibility of vehicles or equipment failing can only lead to further hardship and stress.
The servicing of vehicles and equipment should be treated as a priority, and kept up to date. One way to help with servicing is to learn to undertake the basics.
Check Workshops for Equipment
Hard times may necessitate undertaking countless different repairs, rebuilding, and repurposing tasks to be undertaken. These undertakings may require different or extra tools rather than those that are normally kept.
It will pay to think out of the box to create a comprehensive collection of tools. The same applies to fixture fittings and other items such as:
- Tie Wraps
Do not forget to stock plenty of duct tape! This is an item that will solve most DIY problems when all else fails.
It is also a sound idea to learn how to use and maintain any new equipment you purchase.
Learn New DIY Skills
Hard times could see many people having to fend more for themselves, rather than calling a tradesman to work for them. Many people do have practical skills as they do not need them.
Many local courses are available to learn skills such as carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work.
These are all skills that could prove useful should hard times hit you and your family.
Fuel for Vehicles and Equipment
Fuel rationing and massive price increases have all been seen during hard times in the past. There is no reason why this could not happen again – in fact, it’s one of the most commonly seen indications of hard times to come.
Keeping vehicles full of fuel and storing safely a small extra quantity in storage can be the difference between being mobile or not.
Alternative Power Supplies
It seems that the world is going all-electric. Electric cars are now mainstream, and electric home heating is moving towards the norm in several countries. Relying on one power source could be a massive problem in a long-term crisis, when gas and energy prices may very well skyrocket.
There are alternatives such as solar or wind generators that can be integrated into a grid supply. This has the benefit of reducing monthly utility bills, and can supply supplemental power should the regular grid go down in an emergency.
Generators are also an effective choice for backup power sources during short-term problems. Wood burners are also a valuable heat source that can often be fueled with locally sourced wood.
Wood needs to be seasoned to make it burn efficiently so prepare a good wood store ahead of time (at least six to twelve months in advance) that will be ready for hard times.
Alternative Water Sources
Water supplies are becoming problematic in several areas of the world. Climate change, alongside growing demands of water for urban communities and agricultural practices, has caused domestic water supplies to become increasingly fragile.
Consider alternative water sources such as rainwater harvesting and using grey water. This is certainly worthwhile because if water is a problem now, in hard times supplies could be even more limited (or nonexistent) entirely.
Investigate the practicality and local legislation to consider what options are available in your area.
Sounds hard core, but if things do get bad you will need to be able to defend yourself and your family, and hunt for food. Ammo is getting more and more expensive. It would be nice to have a good stockpile of it.
It’s a good idea to stock up on weapons of various types. In addition to buying these items, learning how to keep them and use them safely is also essential.
Hunting is an effective way of adding to a food supply – a food supply that may become restricted in long-term disaster scenarios.
However, weapons need ammunition. During hard times, supplies could be interrupted or prices might increase. Ensure that an adequate supply is stored or source the equipment necessary for making ammunition for yourself.
While you’re at it, a good hunting knife and fishing rod would be very useful too!
Learn to Live Without Electricity
Think about how you would live day to day without power or heat and A/C. Cast iron cookware for cooking over a fire, a clothes line, solar panels, hand well pump, non-electric appliances, a wood stove… you get the idea.
Consider Buying Silver
Do you guys realize that the Federal Reserve is pumping money into our system at an unprecedented rate? We have never in our history done anything like this before. Do you know what happens when money is printed over and over and over with nothing to back it?
People, this is NOT GOOD.
If our currency loses it’s value, how will we buy or sell? Yes, bartering would make a huge comeback!
Again, what if that paper money you have is suddenly worth nothing? Changing some of your savings into silver bullion is definitely something to consider. Don’t think hyperinflation could happen?
Do a little research into every case of hyperinflation in other countries. You’ll see it’s for real, and we are doing exactly the same things that brought it about in every other instance. If we don’t do something to stop this out of control spending, I don’t see how we can avoid an economic collapse.
I like the idea of using silver coins because they are much more affordable than gold, and would be more spendable due to their smaller values.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you turn all of your cash into silver coins, but I do believe it would be wise to have some on hand for emergencies. You can buy it at local coin and jewelry stores, or order online.
Hard times seem to be a signal for the masses to riot and loot anything that they want. Some of that looted property could, unfortunately, be your own possessions or supplies.
Learning self-defense is an effective way of protecting your family and possessions – and for providing the necessary peace of mind. Many types of self-defense can be learned that allow responses to be escalated in case of a more serious threat.
Conduct a Home Security Audit
Everyone likes to feel safe in their own home, which is why doors and windows are locked and perimeters are often fenced and gated.
It is easy to call 911 for help when someone invades private spaces now – however, during hard times help may not be available.
A security audit will show any areas of weakness that unwanted guests may exploit.
There are countless hi-tech connected security solutions available in today’s market.
However, reduced power may make physical solutions more appropriate. It’s a good idea to have security systems in place regardless of what happens.
Develop a Community
During severely difficult times, it is tempting to build a high wall and hide out inside.
However, not everyone is a threat, and indeed, a group of like-minded individuals with a variety of skills that can tackle most problems becomes an attractive proposition.
Start today, and begin to build a network. Contact people nearby, and talk with them about your survival plans. Developing a community takes time, since trust and confidence are not always instant.
Learn How to Barter
In situations where commercial activities are restricted or are even halted, it will be necessary to trade with others for supplies. Someone with plenty of carrots may want to trade them for some lettuce.
This is just an example, of course – virtually any product could be traded. This skill will ensure that any trade achieves good value.
Plan for Alternate Living Quarters – Just in Case
What would happen if an unforeseen event made it difficult to live at home? Wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes – all happen regularly in some areas.
Ask friends and relatives that live in different locations if they can help you out if this kind of situation were to arise.
In case of a total breakdown in society, it may be necessary to move to a place of safety. Many preppers have an alternative location that is ready to go just for this situation. Although this may appear a step too far or too extreme, for many, it is worth thinking about.
Develop an Emergency Plan
This is perhaps one of the most important steps you should take when preparing for hard times. Anticipate what might happen in various scenarios. This will help you to create an effective plan of action.
It is, perhaps, a good idea to have several plans in place. This will enable a flexible response for as many situations as possible.
Prepare an Emergency Survival Kit
Some hard times may be created by natural events such as tornadoes or wildfires. Often, the best course of action in these events is evacuation. An emergency kit that is ready to go at a moment’s notice could save valuable time – or even your life.
Contact Local Emergency Response Teams
Most areas have local community emergency response teams. Contact or even join the local team. They have planned responses for many emergencies, and they are happy to help with training, advice, and support.
These resources available from the team will help to prepare your emergency plan. Their information and experience would help greatly if hard times arise.
Consider Pets and other Animals
When it is necessary to evacuate from a location, remember that pets and livestock that rely on people will certainly experience hardships if they are left behind – so be sure to include them in your planning.
Watch for the Warning Signs
Watching the news channels regularly will help to spot the early signals that hard times are approaching:
- Extreme weather
- Stock market crashes
- Large companies closing or relocating
- Social unrest
- Supply chain shortages
These are all indicators that hard times may be around the corner. Foreign news can also supply vital information since events that affect one country will often affect others.
The signals may not always translate into hard times – but it is best to be prepared since the next signal very well could.
Learn From History
There is no golden rule that says once hard times have been experienced once and you have recovered, that everything in the future will be fine. In fact, it seems that hard times operate in more of a cyclical fashion.
After experiencing hard times, investigate what happened. It’s fantastic if all the plans worked. If they don’t, change what is necessary to make the next hard times easier.
A glance at any history book can confirm that a significant portion of the population will experience hard times – and will experience them often. If this is the case, just about everyone could benefit by preparing for the hard times ahead.
Many of us are, perhaps, a bit reluctant to do some or most of these things. We do not know when it will happen, who it will affect, and how severe these hard times will be.
A local company closing could cause hard times for 20 people for three months, while a breakdown in society or war can affect millions for countless years.
There are, however, several areas in our lives that we can review. Bringing about changes to that will certainly help our everyday life. These changes will most definitely make life easier in the event of hard times as well.
The level of changes that are needed is difficult to quantify unless the severity of the hard times is known.
Take self-defense as an example. In everyday life, being competent at self-defense inspires confidence.
For someone who loses employment for several months, this ability may not be called upon despite going through difficult time. However, in the situation where a complete breakdown of society occurs, it these skills will become critical.
So, asking what would happen in different scenarios or levels of hard times is essential.
Some preparation can be scaled to meet different levels of threat that arise when situations escalate.
The ways presented in this article to prep for tough times should serve as a starting point to ensure that coping with hard times is possible. They focus on areas that will provide the necessary attitude, skills, and equipment to survive.
Have any other suggestions on how to prepare for hard times ahead?
Gordon is a British homesteader established in Spain, growing large amounts of veggies and fruits. He also has a high degree of self-sufficiency as he is procuring his own water, wood, and solar energy.