You can’t fix a man when he’s broke. Money isn’t everything, but in an emergency the ability to procure supplies could mean the difference between life and death. Or at least the difference between wiping your ass on Charmin or on newspaper.
Credit cards, Zelle, Paypal, Venmo, Apple Pay. It is just SO EASY to move money around. You have so many options – why would you consider carrying cash? Because all of those convenient options depend on the World Wide Interwebs and the electrical grid.
Cash is King
One thing I learned from Winter Storm Ivan in 2021 is that cash is king an emergency. During that storm, after about three days of snow, ice, and power outages, there was a brief reprieve – for about 10 hours, it was sunny and we all emerged from our caves. I went to the local Shell-Ero (It started as a Shell, then switched over to Valero) to see what I could find. It was PACKED. The pumps were off (no electricity), the doors were open, no lights were on, and the guy greeting us said, “Cash only.” I heard someone in front of me ask about the ATM. You can guess his answer: No electricity = no ATM.
If you got no electricity, then you got money and you got no car. You got to woman, and there you are. (Apologies to Young MC).
So the first thing you need to do is keep some cash on-hand. How much? That’s really up to you, but a couple hundred bucks will probably cover you for the basics in a short-term emergency. We’re not talking about ransoming your children here. You want to buy some bread, some peanut butter, and maybe some Hershey bars.
If you’ve ever been to Mexico, you know that they don’t have change for your $20. So if you don’t have smaller bills, that $12 hammock is now $20. Think about that as you prepare: Keep some 1’s, 5’s, 10’s. and 20’s. I know the Benjamins fold so slim in your wallet, but you don’t want to lose your purchasing power because no one can make change in an emergency.
Start a Savings Plan
The most common emergency anyone in the USA is going to encounter is a short-term financial emergency. You might lose your job. Your car might break down. You or a family member might get sick. 1000 things happen. Every day. When they happen, you need to have some extra money set aside. Stop me if you’ve heard this: It’s called an Emergency Fund. Yes, you’ve heard it because we all hear the same financial advice.
You need to start building toward a month of savings on-hand for an emergency. That means you total up what you spend in a month: housing, transportation, food, utilities, etc. Add that up, and that’s what you need to save. Once you have a month of savings, the you start working on month #2. Once you get to 3 months of savings, you are more prepared than 80% of your fellow Americans. Keep going until you get to 6 or 12 months.
Some of you are probably asking me: “How in the Hell am I going to all of a sudden start making enough money to set aside $200 cash, much less 3 months’ expenses?” My first answer is this: Set a budget and stick to it. Watch how you spend your money, and make changes. Gain control of your spending, or you will always struggle financially. My second answer: Get a side hustle.
The last thing you need to do to prepare for a financial emergency is get a side-hustle working. Find a way to supplement your income. This helps you in the event you lose your job or suffer another financial setback. It also helps you meet your savings goals. Finally, the right side hustle (beekeeper, rancher, farmer, gunsmith, blacksmith, handyman, etc.) can help you for longer-term emergencies as well.