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prepare-for1We can learn a lot from the animal kingdom. Across the board, non-human animals make the most of plentiful times, and store up extra resources for more difficult days ahead. Squirrels gather nuts and acorns, ants store food in their ant hills, and bears fill their bellies before harsh weather arrives.

Most economists agree that the United States is experiencing the most unstable economy since the Great Depression. People are out of work, prices are soaring, mortgage loans are unlikely, and credit lines are hard to get. In addition, droughts have destroyed key crops (such as corn). And then, of course, there are the gas prices.

These financial storms should not alarm us. After all, who wants to live in a constant state of panic – as if the world is going to end tomorrow? Instead, our precarious economy should prompt us to be prepared for the unexpected. Without searching very hard, we can find many examples of preparedness in the Bible. In Genesis chapter 41, Joseph stored up food to help Egypt prepare for a coming famine.

Sometimes, hardship can cause people to question why God "allowed" bad things to happen. However, in reality, catastrophes commonly strike when people fail to prepare. And as the old-saying goes, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!"

Proverbs 21:20 cautions, "The best food and olive oil are stored up in the houses of wise people. But a foolish man eats up everything he has" (New International Reader's Version). In the same vein, Proverbs 22:3 and Proverbs 27:12 state, "A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences" (New Living Translation). These biblical examples reveal that basic preparedness reflects wisdom – not paranoia, a lack of faith, or insanity.
As with anything, some people take "preparation" to the extreme. However, the rest of us can benefit from these methodical, steady approaches to planning ahead. If you desire to get ready for life's unexpected events, here's how to get started!

Squirrel Away Cash
Having an emergency fund is crucial. First, add up the cost of meeting your family's most basic needs for one month, and immediately stash that amount away. When that's accomplished, store away enough cash to survive for three months, then six, then nine, then an entire year.

It's also a great idea to keep cash handy (in a secure place at home) for those little emergencies that come up. If there's a widespread power outage, ATMs may not work and the bank may be closed. Therefore, cash on hand is a good safety net.

So how do you find the extra cash? Try selling things you don't need. Craigslist and eBay are great options, and you'll likely get more money for your items than you would at a garage sale. Also, try using coupons at the grocery store. With the abundance of online, emailed, and newspaper coupons, it's pretty easy to acquire $50 worth of savings. When I first started couponing, I would place the $50 that I saved into my emergency fund. This was important. It ensured that I saved the money (rather than spent it on something else). Therefore, don't just cut your costs, squirrel-away the money that you save. If you make saving money a top priority, you'll find many creative ways to make it happen.

Squirrel Away Food and Supplies
Here in my home state of Colorado, it's not uncommon for sudden snowstorms to hit and render the roads unsafe to travel. And in many states, it's customary for snowstorms to leave families trapped for days. Could you feed your family for a week without going to the store? If the power was out, could you cook and heat your home? If the water supply stopped or was contaminated (an expected occurrence during floods), do you have enough water (one gallon per person per day) to sustain your family? These aren't crazy, far-fetched things that will probably never happen. Just about every square inch of our country is vulnerable to some type of natural disaster. If you're not expecting one to affect you at some time, the Bible says that you're a fool. I've lived in hurricane zones, flood plains, tornado areas, and now "snow country." We've run out of toilet paper while a hurricane was barreling down on us. Believe me – you only have to learn that lesson once!

Getting water and food storage started is pretty simple. Start by using what you already have on hand, and buy duplicates of things your family consumes on a regular basis. Some people might ask, "Why spend extra money when you don't have to?" But, in actuality, you're saving money. Items such as toilet paper, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, and toothpaste (just to name a few) are always needed. If you don't buy them today, you'll still need to replace them on another day. So stock up (and save) when they're on sale! Buy-one-get-one-free specials are at grocery stores every week. Additionally, don't waste your gift cards. People frequently squander gift cards because they're "free." This is a mistake. Squirrel away your gift cards (while being conscious of expiration dates). Use them to buy items that you need, rather than purchasing unnecessary things.

Also, use clean, empty two-liter soda bottles to store tap water. A family of four should stockpile a minimum of 12 gallons of water. Store the containers in a cool and dark place. DO NOT store them in direct sunlight. Polyethylene plastics (pre-packaged milk and water bottles) are somewhat permeable to hydrocarbon vapors. Therefore, keep them away from stored gasoline, kerosene, pesticides, or similar substances. Stored tap water should be rotated every six months. Pre-packaged bottled water should be rotated once a year. Furthermore, be certain to check the pull date on bottled water (to ensure that it didn't sit on the store's shelf for a year before you purchased it).