Valdosta Daily Times

November 4, 2012

Budget Diary: Things you should know about storms just because you're awesome

Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — In case I haven't told you enough, you're awesome. You know what's not awesome? Superstorms and losing all of your stuff. In the wake of Sandy, I deeply reflected on if I myself am prepared for a hurricane or superstorm. To tell you the truth, I'm not.

As the leader of the budgeteers, I should be the single most prepared person when it comes to anything. After all, I am like the president of about 149 dedicated Facebook followers, which is one-sixth the size of the population of Vatican City, so yeah, I would it's a pretty big deal.

I don't know what's going on with me, budgeteers, first I go grocery shopping with no coupons and now this? Any dignified leader would resign and leave their herd to a more qualified replacement. Lucky for you, I lost my dignity about a year ago after I started re-using my paper towels, so I will do no such thing. Also, who would be a more qualified replacement? Suze Orman. Let's get serious, she sponsors a credit card and her highlights look like she hopped in the Delorean and traveled back to 1999. That's a waste of energy and not very cost-efficient, as a "self-proclaimed" international financial expert, she should know better.

However, we could sit here and banter over my lack of qualifications all day, but the more pressing issue is preparing for "The Day After Tomorrow". It's not just in Hollywood baby, it's the real deal and if it happened once, it could happen again so you better get ready.

When it comes to things like natural disasters, you have to think worst case scenario. The only thing worse than having all your expensive possessions ruined is trying to convince your insurance company that you had them in the first place.

That's why financial guru Clark Howard recommends you videotape your possessions annually by doing a walk and talk. As you're talking and the tape is rolling, you should state the value of your belongings and name the store where you bought it if possible. Keep the video on a jump drive, hard drive, DVD and even email it to yourself.

According to Howard, you want to have your possessions virtually documented like this so if things do go bad, you can prove what your possessions were to the insurance company.

I know what some of you are thinking, I have homeowners insurance! Well, homeowners insurance does not cover against flood or wind-based disasters (i.e. Sandy). Those are separate policies you have to buy 30 days out before an event, so get crack'n budgeteers!

Also, it is important to keep a natural disaster kit handy in your home.

The basic disaster supplies kit recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is as follows:

• Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days for drinking sanitation.

Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food.

Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both.

Flashlight and extra batteries.

First aid kit.

• Whistle to signal for help.

• Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place.

Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation.

• Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

• Manual can opener for food.

• Local maps.

• Cell phone
with chargers, inverter or solar charger.

While it's hard to find a budget solution to some of the items, here are some suggestions.

First of all, of course right after a natural disaster, these things aren't going to be at their cheapest. Sure, some companies want to help but their main goal is to turn a profit. Also, try to buy supplies such as water and flashlights not during hurricane season when prices are going to be at their peak.

I like to grab things such as batteries, flashlights, tools, etc. during major sales such as the day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas. Little odds and ends (also used by many as stocking stuffers) are always on sale, but few notice in the rage of trying to find a Tickle-Me-Elmo or whatever the heck is in now days.

As far as the first aid kits goes, make your own instead of buying a pre-packaged one. You may spend a little more, but you will get way more bang for your buck. An entire bottle of rubbing alcohol during a disaster will be way more beneficial than a few pads.

For things like a whistle and manual can opener, hit up the dollar store. Whether you spend $1 or $10, you're pretty much going to get the exact same product.

Most people already have cell phones, but instead of buying a shoddy solar charger, just be conscious of your cell phone use. If you know a hurricane is coming, take everyone's cell phone and charge them up before the power blows. If you're a family of more than two, turn other cell phones off to conserve energy and leave one on for emergencies and for others to reach you. That way, you are saving as much battery life as you can. Just make sure close friends and family know which cell phone is your emergency phone so they can reach you.

With water, you catch really good sales at almost every grocery store and pharmacy but with the food, the prices are usually as good as it gets except on those rare occasions you score a coupon.

Hope that helps and though all we got was some cold chills from Sandy, next time, the bulk of the mess could hit us. Think ahead of time and become prepared. I know asking you to buy a bunch of stuff doesn't sound very budgeteer-like but in the long run, it could save you money and even your life.

Follow me on Twitter @VDT_Brittany and be sure to like me on Facebook at Stay safe and as always, stay classy.