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Everyday Cheapskate: You can get prepared one tip at a time

The idea of emergency preparedness is a good one. Every family needs some kind of plan in the event of a kind of disaster that could disrupt the normal course of life. But where to start? Hopefully, these quick tips will do the trick to get you unstuck and on your way to being prepared.

Water storage. You don’t have to live in “hurricane” country to get hurricane prepared. Disasters can hit anywhere, which means water could be in short supply. For flushing toilets and showers, line 30-45 gallon garbage cans with those large contractor plastic bags available at home improvement stores. Then, fill the garbage cans with water. Most people forget that three weeks without electricity means three weeks of no water if your provider has not attached a generator to pump water to houses.

Point person. Every family needs to identify a friend or relative who lives in another state to be their disaster point person, and then keep that person’s phone number and contact information with them at all times. Instruct all of your family members to call this person to check in with their location and conditions. Long-distance phone service is often restored sooner than local service.

Important papers. Scan your family’s important documents — birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, insurance policies, property deeds, car titles, immunization records, pet medical records, school transcripts, business licenses, education degrees and tax returns. Now burn the files onto two CD’s. Keep one in a safe place and have a trusted friend or relative in a different state (your point person) keep the other disk.

Emergency cash. You need to have some of your Contingency Fund in small denominations of cash — $1,000 is reasonable, but any amount is good — in a safe place outside of your bank, such as a fire-proof home safe or other similarly protected receptacle, known only to you and one other person. In the event of a natural disaster that cripples utilities and services, you’ll want to have cash on hand.

Get a go bag. Every household needs a “go bag”. This is a collection of items you may need in the event of a disaster that requires you and your family to be self-sufficient when all services are cut off. And because you may need to evacuate, your Go Bag needs to be packed in an easy-to-carry container such as a suitcase on wheels. Additionally, each family member needs to have a backpack that contains enough basic supplies to last for 72 hours — all packed and ready to go.

Trunk it. Store a sweat suit, sneakers and a pair of old socks in the trunk of the car next to the spare tire. If there’s a flat tire, throw the sweats on over your good clothes, kick off your shoes and change to sneakers. Now you can change that tire without having to worry about getting dirty. Bonus: If the car simply breaks down, the sneakers will feel better on the way to the nearest service station.

Would you like to send a tip to Mary?

You can email her at, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. Include your first and last name and state.

Mary Hunt is founder of

To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


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