Recession-Proof Your Household

Most economists agree we have not in fact suffered a recession, but for the rest of us the pinch is undeniable.   There are plenty of tips out there for ways to save money in tough times.  Since those are so well-covered, I decided to put together a short list of unique strategies to recession-proof your household–just in case.

  • Stockpile non-perishables using coupons from eBay.  I’m surprised at the number of mega coupon clippers who still don’t know that many clipping services make their “products” available on eBay. That’s right–you can buy coupons on eBay, often times in lots of 10 or more for just a dollar or two.  If you frequently go through a product with a long shelf-life, look on eBay for a coupon for that product.  Maximize savings by combining store sales with your stash of coupons and you can realize some significant savings.  Remember to watch those expiration dates.
  • Create your own home survival kit.  Any prepared homeowner should have a basic first aid kid and emergency equipment including, flashlights, batteries, water-proof bags, matches, non-perishable food, water, and first aid supplies (tape, gauze, over-the-counter analgesics, etc.).  Even if you are not preparing to live as a genuine survivalist, it still makes sense to have a cache of supplies on hand.
  • Spread some cash around, at home.  In times of disaster, natural or otherwise, it is possible that ATM networks and banks will be unavailable for cash withdrawals.  For this reason, it makes sense to keep a small amount of cash at home.  Put the money in a safe, lockbox, or keep it well-hidden.  It’s also a good idea to keep it in separate areas so your whole stash isn’t discovered by a thief.
  • Get a side hustle.  I’ve mentioned in previous posts my affinity for side hustles–a part time opportunity that you maintain along with your full time job.  A side hustle can provide money in a crunch if you get a pink slip from your regular job.  It can also help supplement a debt snowball, or the beefing up of your emergency fund.  For maximum diversity, it might make sense to try a side hustle in a separate industry from your full time gig.
  • Learn to entertain yourselves.  In addition to the economic benefits of things like frugal family fun nights, these events have a way of preparing you for the worst.  Not long after we relocated to our current city, a strong hurricane made landfall a few hundred miles from us and maintained much of its strength as it passed over.  We were without power for a few days, and practiced some of the frugal fun night activities such as “Power’s Out” and “Game Night”–both themes are filled with activities we could engage in without power.

Taking these types of steps does not make you an alarmist, it makes you prepared for the worst while you hope for the best. We continue to hope for the best for our country’s economy, but there is little doubt we will hit some speed bumps along the way.  Be prepared by taking these steps to recession-proof your household.

What steps have you taken to better prepare your household for a slow economy?


  1. Great list — but I think there’s something to take from it even when not stressed with financial turmoil. Your point about entertaining yourself really stuck out in my mind. I’ve probably saved hundreds of dollars by eating in, not going out to expensive movies, and even just NOT using gas over the past few months.

  2. The biggest hedges we’ve adopted against recession/depression/inflation have to do with feeding ourselves. We have a large garden, four laying hens, an old apple tree, a dehydrator, and a chest freezer. I bake all our bread, glean fruits locally, and can some of our garden produce. We eat very well for very, very little money. Of course, it takes time and effort on my part to replace the “convenience” of cheap ready made food. The bonus is having a lot of confidence in what we eat. Well, that and knowing we can feed ourselves unless things get really, *really* bad.

  3. @David: Good point–many dollars have slipped through our fingers in the name of entertainment. These days, with the costs of movies, gas and food on the rise, it’s tough to take the family out on the cheap!

  4. Add me to the list of people who didn’t know you could buy coupons on ebay. I’ll give it a try. Thanks for the advice.

  5. I know this is crazy… but I made some easy money off of this. I sold baby formula coupons/checks on ebay. I breast feed my son (the most frugal thing to do!) Just because you breast doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sign up from every company for free coupons. Some send you free formula. Checks vary from $10 down to $1. On average I go 65 to 75 cents on dollar. Free money – got to love it!

  6. I’m with Kate — chickens, huge garden — I did some canning, but discovered deyhydrating this year. Much more economical than canning, easier storage than freezing- no worry about spoiled batches and rehydrating is so easy. We too eat like kings for almost nothing. I am in the market for a couple of dairy goats right now. In my opinion goats are the way to go — they will browse on any forage, not just grass, and can easily supply a family with plenty of milk. I realize this kind of method is over-the-top extreme, but we enjoy the lifestyle, and really it is entertainment too — lifestock provides a lot of fun for our family. You’ve never seen two kids have more fun that hitching a goat to a cart for transporting stuff around 🙂

    I also planted an apple orchard this year, and plan on putting in peach trees next year. We have a huge cherry hedge that I planted three years ago that supplied us with bushels of cherries this year that I made into syrup and jam. That was a whole family entertainment endevour too– picking (eating) and putting up jam. And I didn’t need any scented candles in my house for a long time! Smelled like yummy cherry jam for weeks in here!

  7. Kate and Lisa have it right: backyard chickens rule. I’m not hip enough for goats, but I have fruit trees, a garden, and what used to be the lawn is gradually becoming edible xeriscape. It produces far more than I need, so I sell or barter the surplus. Several local restauranteurs are willing to swap gift certificates for herbs, which makes dining out practical although you still have to tip the waiter.

    Most perennials pay for themselves the very first year, except the ones that take longer to get established and can’t be harvested until the second or third year (rhubarb, asparagus, etc.) I originally typed out a list of the dozen best low-maintenance plants that can be grown just about anywhere, but decided it wouldn’t be right to waste FrugalDad’s space and bandwidth.

  8. I like the idea of some backyard chickens, but I’m not sure how my dog would react.

    @Squeaky: Feel free to share the list, or provide a link to it if you’ve written it up somewhere else. I’m don’t mind sharing a little space with loyal readers!

  9. @Lisa. Dairy goats have also been much on my mind lately. Specifically, the pygmy varieties. I never thought I would consider something so “extreme,” but having kept hens, it seems like the next logical step to me. I’m hoping to tour a local dairy goat farm soon. I understand most goat farmers look down their noses at the pygmy types, but if the goat gives me the right amount of milk, I don’t care if they’re considered pets and not “real” farm animals. Cherry trees are a priority for us too.

    @Frugal Dad. You might be surprised how easy hens are to keep. And if you have a little open space, you can keep them in a rotational grazing system, which sounds a lot more intimidating and labor intensive than it really is for just a few hens. Dogs will kill chickens, so do take the necessary steps to protect your birds. Just build them a sturdy pen. My cat ignores the hens mostly, though she does get jealous when I pay attention to them.

  10. We cannot wait to get our chickens as soon as we find the right house. And once that is settled, goats are next. We always have plenty of food and water stored in the house, along with medical kits and the like. Gotta look forward and start planning in these crazy times!

  11. Thanks for the article. It definitely made me think about creating some contingency plans especially since we have a little one to worry about.

  12. @Kate: Try looking up Nigerian Dwarf goats. They are a recognized pygmy-type dairy breed. There are tons of people that swear by this breed and they will produce a good amount of milk. The actually pygmy breed of goats are useless for dairy production as far as I have heard. They just don’t produce enough to make it worthwhile.

    @Frugal Dad: I’m with Kate on this one too. Chickens are way easier than most people think to keep. We have three dogs, two shelties and a shepherd. The shelties spend a lot of their time “herding” the chickens, it’s great entertainment for them, they don’t hurt them at all. The shepherd was another story. She killed a few of our flock. Then my husband tried something. He made the dog lay down and then put the chickens on her head! She didn’t like that at all, but he persisted until she lay quietly and she hasn’t touched any more of the chickens since. I don’t know why or how, but it worked! His brother is a very well-known dog trainer, so I guess they got their heads together and came up with this idea.

    @Squeaky: I would love to hear your plants if it is okay with Frugal Dad!

  13. I think theses are some wonderful ideas.

    We subscribe to Netflix so that cuts down on movie going/rentals and late fees.

    Also, we try to keep wine and such at home, so when we’re in the mood to go out, we generally just curl up on the couch with our bottle of wine and it’s a lot more fun than going out.

    I stock up on food all the time. I shop at Sam’s which really keeps the cost down, plus it forces me to cook at home rather than go out to dinner.

  14. We have no garden, but a huge chest freezer that we fill with free food from other people’s gardens, as well as forage like blueberries.

    One friend has a small hobby farm just outside of town.

    By generating a minimum $1,000 in farm income annually they don’t pay property taxes on the “farm” part of their property, nor on any equipment used to farm – only the farmhouse and the land it occupies.

  15. Some great ideas. I’ve linked to this article. Thanks for the great information. I had no idea about the coupons on Ebay.

  16. Great List! I especially like the frugal nights in 🙂 We have done the movie night before popping our own popcorn, I think sometimes the kids like watching the popcorn pop more than the movie sometimes, lol. And I never really thought of having cash in the house, we never have cash on us. Once we get ahead I might have to have a stash at home.

  17. I went out the back door of my apartment building recently to go somewhere and danged if some random unknown person hadn’t left a small chest freezer out behind one of the dumpsters! It’s common practice for residents in my building to leave pieces of furniture back there that they no longer need, so someone else can grab them if they want. Well, this had obviously been left out very recently and looked practically brand-new. Took it upstairs to test it and it worked.

    This is going to sound weird and survivalist but I’ve been looking around and taking mental notes of where edible wild stuff grows. I can’t identify everything in my area, but I can identify a lot: black walnuts, crabapples, mulberries, burdock, dandelion, and chicory. In a pinch, we could at least get our nutrients in even if we didn’t get a lot of calories from what I can find out there. There’s even an apple tree on commercial property across the street from me but we looked more closely at it the other day and the apples all have black spots all over them and look misshapen. I’m half tempted to go around town and offer help to commercial landowners with caring for their fruit trees in return for first dibs on the harvest. I am no arborist, but in a pinch I could learn about basic tree care. I’m a geek about this stuff.

    We already have free places to go for entertainment, like the park we went to today that has a lake with ducks. You can get a lot of mileage out of a lake and ducks when you have a three-year-old. 🙂