how to be prepared

How to Be Prepared for the Unexpected

If you are under-prepared, a single mistake can derail your success in an instant. Knowing how to be prepared for the unexpected is key to your success in life.  

And yes, we know that “being prepared for the unexpected” sounds like a bit of an oxymoron. But you can make backup plans for the times in life that are most likely to go wrong. Below we offer a few potential life pitfalls to watch out for and inspiring quotes to keep in mind as you prepare for the potential derailments in life.

“All things are ready, if our mind be so.”

William Shakespeare, Henry V

How Do You Prepare for an Unexpected Event?

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Unexpected or less commonplace events can still be anticipated if you do your research. Do you get earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, blizzards, or tornadoes?

Knowing the people, politics, and even potential legal ramifications of an unexpected event can help you create a good plan to overcome any barriers. Reach out to those around you and find out what disasters they’ve faced and learn how they overcame them (or didn’t).

Know Your Physical Environment

One of the first important points to investigate for potential problems is your environment. Know where you live and what your area is prone to.

Know the seasons and always have a plan in place ahead of time. Create unique plans for each situation. You’ll probably do things differently in a wildfire than in a flood.

Know Your Political Environment

Secondly, be aware of the political situation around you. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent years developing toilet technology to help combat the poor sanitation in rural regions that leads to 500,000 deaths a year.

This massive effort was derailed at its culmination by the US-China trade war. A derailment, that Bill Gates himself says he didn’t see coming. 

Know Who to Call for Back Up

And the third major point of failure to prepare for is human error. Say you are planning a wedding, what if the officiant gets sick? Are you planning an epic night out? What if your babysitter doesn’t show up?

People get mixed up, delayed, sick, or sometimes they just flake. If there’s a key person in your plans, make sure to have a backup.

“Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.”

Idowu Koyenikan, Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability

How to Prepare for Unexpected Expenses

According to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, the top two causes of homelessness are lack of affordable housing and unemployment. Economies can swing and jobs can be lost. Additionally, rent can skyrocket, cars can crash, and so can the stock market. So what can you do to help prepare for unplanned expenses? 

Live Below Your Means

When we lived in West Los Angeles, our rent doubled over the course of 8 years. In the last two years, it increased by $1,000 a month. Because we were living below our means in the first place, we were able to (begrudgingly) handle it. There was no cheaper place in the area to move to. Rent was skyrocketing all around us.

Living below your means, at its best means keeping your cost for the essentials (housing, transportation, utilities, etc) to a minimum. These fixed costs can be the hardest to adjust when the unexpected happens.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

― Benjamin Franklin

Have an Emergency Fund

No matter how little you have, you can start saving now. Most experts recommend saving for at least three months of expenses. This money can float you through a job or housing transition.

Additionally, for natural disasters, it’s a good idea to have a bit of cash stashed away. When electricity is out, cash is king. Having at least $100 in smaller bills somewhere around the house is a good idea.

Get Insurance

Most insurance is set up to help you in the event you face a catastrophic financial cost. Car wrecks and cancer can easily cost $100,000’s of dollars. Car insurance and health insurance are the two of the most important to have.

Beyond that, it depends on how much you have. You may also need home-owners or renter’s insurance. You might consider life insurance, disability, or travel insurance. One of the most up and coming is Long Term Care Insurance, helping cover the costs of elderly parents when they need extra care.

“A prudent man sees danger and hides himself;
    but the simple pass on, and suffer for it.”

Proverbs 22:3

How Can I Prepare for an Emergency?

Preparing for an emergency means having things lined up ahead of time for when a likely emergency hits. If your car breaks down, who do you call? Do you even have a phone on you and charged? Do you have a spare tire & know how to use it?

Get Connected to Community

In our self-sufficient society, one of the most overlooked factors in preparation is relational. If you get into an accident, who do you call? If you are at risk of becoming homeless, who might let you stay for a while?

This is what lands so many former foster youth in difficult situations. When you age out of foster care without any strong adult connections, you have no one to call on. So that’s how these youth end up in homelessness & worse.

By building up a network and surrounding yourself with a supportive community, you can have someone to run to if your water gets turned off. You can have them pick you up when your car breaks down. If your building crumbles in an Earthquake, they know to look for you.

Build an Emergency Food Supply

No matter where you live, there’s reason to be prepared with extra food – as well as water and basic first aid kits. Earthquakes, snowstorms, and pandemics all create situations where it’s hard to get out and around.

To help you out, we’ve put together a 2 week food supply list for a cost of about $100. Ideally, you should have about 3 weeks of food for everyone in your household. Most likely, you’ve already got at least one week’s worth of food when an emergency hits.

Emergency Preparedness Food Shopping List & Meals

how to be prepared for emergencies - 2 week food list printable

Download this preparedness shopping list with meal ideas for 2 weeks of food storage. The items were priced at ALDI in 2020. For your convenience, here’s the closest approximation of the list we could come up with on Amazon.

Visit our Amazon Shopping List with items from the list and help support former foster youth when you shop.

We attempted to create balanced meals at an affordable price. For earthquakes, the minimum recommended amount of food to store is about 3 weeks, but presumably, you’d have some food still on your shelves and fridge upon the event.

Make Sure You Have Access to Important Documents

When getting connected to the help you need in an emergency, having the right information can get you to the right help quicker. Your critical documents – such as social security, birth certificate, medical information, insurance, financial and legal documents, are important to have ready.

Not only do they need to be ready, but accessible, organized, and protected. You will need proof that you are who you say you are and have the insurance you say you have. Check out this post for more tips on how to organize paperwork.

Final Thoughts on How to Be Prepared for the Unexpected

While we can’t prepare for every unexpected event, we can be read for the biggest and most probable ones by doing our research. It will probably feel unimportant during times when life is all going smoothly. But when trouble hits, you’ll be better set up to get through the difficulty and more likely to overcome it.

Find this helpful? You may also like other posts here:

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  1. Christina, this post was so, so good! Hubs and I have tried to live below our means, and for most of our marriage, we’ve done so successfully. And, though I hadn’t planned on it, we currently have plenty of TP, because I bought a little more than needed a couple of times. We also have a good supply on most of our other essentials because we bought ahead, without stockpiling.

    Great suggestions!

    1. Thanks Jeanne! It’s good to have plenty of toilet paper right now! Who knew we’d need to prepare for that? I actually only bought one extra (Costco sized) package right as all the panic buying started. We have plenty & I see that stores are stocking up again. I think there’s preparation then there’s being “over-prepared.”
      I do think living below your means is the absolute best way to be prepared. Way too many of us live unnecessarily paycheck to paycheck.

      So glad you found this helpful 🙂

  2. This is superb! We can all glean something from this list that we might have overlooked. What we hadn’t already taken care of, we did in some form as it became clear that a pandemic was heading our way. Still, there was a weak point. I didn’t order my n95 mask soon enough for when I must wade through a crowded hospital. Should have been on top of that one, since I have an autoimmune disease. My own fault.

    1. Hey Melinda!
      Thanks 🙂 Well, even though I kind of saw this coming, I still didn’t understand how extreme it would be here and how under-prepared our government would be. I didn’t have any masks either. My friend just sewed me one! Not N95 obviously. Are you able to get any kind of mask from somewhere? I pray that you have no need to venture into a hospital soon!

      I think we can only anticipate the unexpected to a point. Living in earthquake country and going to some CERT informational sessions & neighborhood preparedness meetings helped me change my mindset about being prepared!

  3. Christiana, a good list and discussion of what to do to be prepared for the unexpected and the crisis. My husband and I were just talking about this topic and what we have learned through this experience. We were prepared for the most part, but we have also learned through this experience and will do some things better and different in the future. Thanks for the suggestions. A

    1. Hey Anne!
      Thank you! I think you can never fully prepared for an event you’ve never experienced before. I think the world will be making modifications now and after this going forward. Myself included!

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