Eastern Europe

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By Daisy Luther

With all that is being written about the national economic collapse, people seem to be waiting for some huge event.

However, for many North Americans, the collapse is here. This isn’t relegated to only lower income neighborhoods.  As an article from a Cinncinnati new station stated, “Hunger doesn’t know a zipcode.”

For many people who were formerly financially comfortable, the economic collapse has already happened, in the form of a job loss, hours that have been cut back due to Obamacare requirements for employers, an exorbitant medical bill or other crushing debt, or simply an inflation rate that has outstripped your pay increases.  Despite all of the warnings, many people are still going to be absolutely blindsided.

For many families, personal finances have reached a catastrophic level – they are left to make terrible choices:

  • Which utility can I live without?
  • Should I walk away from my mortgage?
  • Should I eat something so I can work harder or should I skip meals so my kids have food?
  • Should I use the grocery money to take my child to the doctor or should I wait and hope he/she improves without medical intervention?
  • Do I risk the IRS-enforced penalties by forgoing enrollment in Obamacare or should I skip that whole grocery shopping thing so I can pay the monthly premiums and enormous deductibles in order to stay in the government’s good graces?

These are the kind of decisions that people across the nation are grappling with every day.

I’m talking about good people, hardworking men and women who have always been employed and paid their bills. A personal financial crisis does not just strike those stereotypical “welfare queens” with the long manicured nails, Gucci knock-off purse, and a grocery cart full of EBT-funded lobster.

I’m talking about the person next door, who seems to have it all together. I’m talking about that quiet family that sits two rows in front of you at church. I’m talking about that two-income family with two children and a car in the driveway that takes them to work and school 5 days a week. I’m talking about people just like you and me.

What is a personal economic collapse?

A personal economic collapse is a little different than the major crises you see all over Europe right now, where huge segments of the population can’t feed their children or stay employed. It is a crisis that just hits your family due to a given set of circumstances.  (In actuality North Americans are on the brink of the kind of collapse that is occurring in Europe, but because of easy access to credit and a buy-now, pay-later society, many of us still have the appearance of prosperity.)

Here are some signs that you may be in the midst of a personal economic collapse:

  • You can only afford to pay the minimum payment on most of your bills.
  • The same dollar amount you used to spend on groceries doesn’t buy enough food to feed your family for the week.
  • You can’t afford to go to the doctor when you’re sick.
  • You are taking dangerous steps to “stretch” needed medications because you can’t afford the prescriptions.
  • Your utility bills are past due and your power is in danger of being cut off.
  • You skip meals in order to save money or to have enough food for your kids.
  • You’ve lost your job or had your hours cut.
  • You have lost property due to foreclosure or repossession (such as your home or your vehicle).

Surviving the crisis

Times are tough but you can survive this.

1.) First you have to see exactly where you are.

It’s time for a brutally honest assessment of your finances.  If you use your debit card or credit card for most expenditures, you’ll easily be able to see what you’re spending and bringing in.

Print off your bank account statements for the past 2 months.  On a piece of paper, track where your money is going.  List the following

  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Utilities
  • Car payments
  • Vehicle operating expenses (fuel, repairs)
  • Insurances
  • Credit card and other debt payments
  • Telephone/Cell phone
  • Cable/Satellite
  • Internet
  • Extracurricular activities for the kids
  • Extracurricular activities for the adults
  • Dining out
  • Groceries
  • School expenses
  • Clothing
  • Recreational spending
  • Gifts
  • Miscellaneous (anything that doesn’t fall into the above categories gets it’s own category or goes here)

Don’t say to yourself, “Well, I usually don’t spend $400 on clothing so that isn’t realistic.”  If you spent it, then it’s realistic.  You are averaging together two months, which should account for those less common expenses.  Brutal honesty isn’t fun, but it’s vital for this exercise.

So….what do you see when you look at your piece of paper with your average monthly expenditures for the past two months?  Are there any surprises?  Did you actually realize how much you’ve been spending?   Most of us will immediately see places that we can trim the budget.  Those $1-$5 purchases can really add up.  Reining them in may just allow you to take care of an important need that you thought you could not meet.

It can’t continue like this.  The economy will not withstand it.  Step one is to see where you can cut things out right now from the above expenditures.  Can you reduce your grocery bill?  Slash meals out?  Budget more carefully for gift-giving and school clothes?

2.) Rethink necessities.

If your finances are out of control, the best possible reality check is a stark look at what necessities really are.  It is not necessary to life to have an iPhone, a vehicle in both stalls of your two-car garage, or for your children to all have separate bedrooms.  People in Southern and Eastern Europe right now will tell you, as they scramble for food, basic over the counter medications like aspirin, and shelter, that necessities are those things essential to life:

  • Water
  • Food (and the ability to cook it)
  • Medicine and medical supplies
  • Basic hygiene supplies
  • Shelter (including sanitation, lights, heat)
  • Simple tools
  • Seeds
  • Defense Items

Absolutely everything above those basic necessities is a luxury.

So, by this definition, what luxuries do you have?

3.) Reduce your monthly output

Reduce your monthly payments by cutting frivolous expenses. Look at every single monthly payment that comes out of your bank account and slash relentlessly.  Consider cutting the following:

  • Cable
  • Cell phones
  • Home phones
  • Gym memberships
  • Restaurant meals
  • Unnecessary driving
  • Entertainment such as trips to the movies, the skating rink, or the mall

4.) Waste not, want not.

We live in a disposable society.  Food comes in throw-away containers.  People replace things instead of repairing them.  If you throw out more than a couple of bags of garbage each week, that’s a very good sign that you may be wasting resources.

Before throwing anything away, pause and think about how it might be able to be reused.

  • Food: Many times small amounts of leftovers can be recycled into a brand new meal. Meat bones can be used to make broth or stock.  Small amounts of veggies or grains can be frozen and added to a future soup or casserole. Leftovers can be frozen in meal-sized portions to take to work for a brown-bag lunch. (Learn more about repurposing leftovers HERE.)
  • Clothing: Clothing that is torn or damaged can often be repaired with only rudimentary sewing skills. If it has been outgrown or cannot be repaired, often the fabric or yarn can be reused for other purposes, from cleaning rags to fashionable accessories like scarves and headbands, or home items like throw pillows, potholders or rag rugs.  When all else fails, the fabric can be used for cleaning rags or patches to repair other items. Keep jars full of buttons, elastic, and other notions that can easily be removed before you throw  a clothing item away or relegate it to the rag bag.
  • Electronics: Obviously, initially you should attempt to repair (or have repaired) electronic items that are not working. If this is not feasible, are there components of the item that can be reused, either now or in the future? What about hardware such as screws or fasteners?
  • Containers:  Most food comes in a container of some sort.  Before throwing the container away, consider whether or not it might be useful. Glass jars, plastic tubs, and plastic bags can often be reused to store food in your refrigerator or to contain food in brown bag lunches.  Clean aluminum cans can hold all manner of items, from hardware and tools in a workshop to sewing and craft supplies. Use your imagination.

5.) Take control of your food budget.

The price of food is skyrocketing.  Who hasn’t been to the grocery store recently and been shocked at the high price of that cart full of groceries or at the mysterious shrinking food packages that are the same price as yesterday’s larger ones?

  • Stockpile:  Create a stockpile of nutritious, healthy staples at today’s prices to enjoy when the cost goes even higher tomorrow.  (Learn how to create a frugal food stockpile HERE.)
  • Preserve: Learn to preserve food yourself when you come across a windfall.  Pressure canning, waterbath canningfreezing, and dehydrating can allow you to take advantage of great sales or end-of-season scores.
  • Eat less:  This suggestion isn’t for everyone, but many of us could stand to shed a few pounds.  Perhaps now would be a good time to cut back a little and shrink both your waistline and your weekly food bill.  Lots of people eat for the sheer entertainment of it or out of habit.  Next time you’re watching TV, grab some mending or a crossword puzzle instead of a bag of potato chips. Dish out slightly smaller servings at dinnertime to leave enough to stretch the leftovers for a brown bag meal the next day.
  • Drink water:  Skip the beverages and drink water instead. At less than $1 per gallon for purchased water you simply can’t beat the price.  It’s better for you, also, than sugar-y drinks.  If you are lucky enough to have well water or access to spring water, your drinks don’t have to cost you a penny.
  • Focus on nutrition instead of convenience:  Buy the best quality of food you can,  and skip the processed, nutritionless convenience foods.
  • Grow your own.  In the summer, grow the biggest garden you can. In the winter, or if you are an apartment dweller, put some sprouts and greens in a sunny windowsill to add some fresh produce for pennies.

6.) Reduce your dependence on utilities.

Energy rates are skyrocketing. As the prices begin to rise, more and more people will be unable to pay their bills and eventually their power will be shut off.  Check your bill each month and as prices increase, use less power. Try some of these ideas to reduce your reliance and drop your bills.

  • Hand wash your clothing
  • Hang clothes to dry
  • Cook on a woodstove or outdoor grill
  • Can foods to preserve them instead of relying on a large chest freezer
  • Turn the heat down a few degrees and use non-grid methods to keep warm
  • Use rain barrels to collect water
  • Direct the gray water from your washing machines to reservoirs
  • Turn off the lights and open the blinds
  • Use solar lighting whenever possible

How do you intend to weather the storm?

There are bleak days ahead.  Have you planned for this?  What strategies do you intend to use to weather the financial crisis that is coming for all of us?  What suggestions do you have for families who are undergoing their own economic collapses? Please post questions and ideas in the comments section below. – The Organic Prepper

About the author:

Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio.

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

By Courtney Spamer

Hot air will keep its grip over Eastern Europe for one more day, before relief finally comes in the from of rain for the weekend.

Maximum temperatures will be as much as 20 degrees above average across the countries of Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, eastern Poland and western parts of Ukraine and Romania.

Temperatures will soar into the lower 100s F (38-39 C) in major cities, including Budapest, Hungary, and Belgrade, Serbia.

Most areas will just see this as another day in a string of serious heat.

Early in the week, there was a significant rise in temperatures over the Balkans, Hungary and Romania as temperatures reached into the 90s F (33-37 C) and even into the lower 100s F (38-39 C) in a few spots.

But Friday afternoon, showers and storms were pushing through the Czech Republic, eastern Germany and Austria.

Munich, Germany, was sizzling on Tuesday with highs in the 90s F (33-37 C). However, storms moving through the area late in the day brought temperatures down more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit. On Friday, rain spread over the area and the high was only in the upper 60s F (18-20 C), just below average.

RELATED: Belgrade Area Forecast More Stats on the Europe Heat AccuWeather.com Europe Forecast Center

Rain and thunderstorms will continue to push eastward, making this heat a thing of the past for the weekend. Across Hungary and Serbia, the additional cloud cover well help to bring temperatures down 10 degrees F on Saturday, with rain bringing temperatures even closer to normal by the Sunday.

However, the moist system moving in will bring the potential for localized downpours after all of the dry weather that has accompanied the hot dome that has been over eastern Europe for the past week.

The dry ground will be less susceptible to receiving rain at a quick rate, leading to the risk of flooding with heavier rain bands.

More at AccuWeather – Rain and Storms to Break Eastern European Heat

By Eric Leister

A change to unseasonable warmth is expected to begin this weekend and continue through much of next week for eastern Europe.

A strong upper-level low pressure dropping southward into Spain will force a ridge of high pressure to build over eastern Europe.

The upper-level low will sit and spin over Spain and France for much of the week allowing the ridge to strengthen and produce a heat wave for parts of southeast Europe.

The core of the heat will build from Hungary and Serbia into Romania and Bulgaria leading to a heat wave. Temperatures will in these areas will be 10-20 degrees above normal.

Some major cities that will be impacted by this heat wave include Budapest, Sofia, Belgrade and Bucharest.

The only escape from this heat will be spotty afternoon thunderstorms that develop over the higher terrain of the region. A few of these storms will drift into the lower elevations, but most areas will just remain dry and hot.

On the flip side, a cool and wet week is expected across western Europe as the upper-level low brings several days of rain from Spain into France.

During the second half of the week, the stormy weather will shift into areas from eastern France to the Germany and the Baltic states.

Depending on the exact track of the storm, locally heavy rainfall could fall over areas recently impacted by record flooding in central Europe. Anyone in this region should closely monitor the situation, as renewed flooding could occur.

More at AccuWeather-Heat Wave for Eastern Europe.

Flickr-ticky-tacky-zimpenfish-300x300

By Alex Pietrowski

Growing up in Eastern Europe, my parents and grandparents, as well as teachers and church figures, made sure that all youth visited the sites of what remains of the concentration camps of World War II. We also saw the many graphic visual accounts of these camps presented in numerous museums. It was horrifying, but both part of the terrible history, and part of the education of my nation, Poland.

The impact it had on my upbringing was profound, and quite naturally I developed a keen paranoia about repeating history in any small semblance of this sort of institutionalized, incomprehensible terror. My family suffered through this, and have done their best afterwards to warn us.

Seeing the labor camps, ghettos and concentration camps of my nation has permanently altered the way I look at human organization. Now, in the United States, I find myself noticing little, yet creeping similarities between the way life was organized under totalitarian militarism and the peculiar ways of the self-organizing structure of modern urban and suburban America.

While modern suburbs certainly are not wartime labor camps in any direct terms, our modern civilian lives are already physically resembling the organization of prison camps. In softer, less coercive ways we are naturally dividing and cordoning ourselves off from each other, forming suburban blocks and neighborhood units. Our custom, very comfortable and well-stocked homes resemble luxury cells that we confine ourselves to, growing ever suspicious of even our neighbors. In many American neighborhoods you can walk around for an hour and never see another human being outdoors and not in a car.

Through a mass indoctrination into a very comfortable and distracting social and political paradigm, the majority of us find ourselves working all the time, eating de-natured foods, frightened of authority, scared to ask big questions, eager to fit into some group, yet so divisive that we’d break familial ties over perceived political differences. We’ve been programmed with a phony notion of success and disoriented by a shock doctrine delivered by a lying media that prioritizes American life into fear first, then sensationalism. We’ve already moved ourselves into manageable suburban camps, inwardly focused on scrapping for bits of a dying currency in a dying economy, while turning a blind eye to endless war abroad, and while the police at home arm themselves with tanks and drones. Weird.

Increasingly, suburban towns are coming under the control of micro-bureaucracies, neighborhood associations, and Homeowner’s Associations (HOAs). There seems to also be a rise in the over-zealousness of municipal code enforcement in recent years.

An uncle of mine looked up one day from his front porch to see an armed man in the front yard. Packing a holstered sidearm, this unexpected city employee also had a ruler and was measuring a blade of grass in my uncle’s yard to determine if it violated city ordinance. After years of harassment, letters, time sucked, energy wasted, and tax money burned, the city finally dropped the $2,000 fine they had issued him when, in court, my uncle asked the city prosecutor the bold question, ‘what exactly is the city’s definition of ‘a weed?’ They did not have an answer.

HOAs create rules, codes and regulations for homeowners, voted upon by those few who actually participate, enforced by power of contract, and backed up oddly by municipal governments and their criminal justice departments. Infractions of code are punishable by fine, property invasions, prosecution, eviction, forfeiture, arrest, and so on, depending on your personal limit for this sort of thing. It is ruled by force and humiliation; and, like camp guards, eager to enforce unbendable rules, some of your neighbors play out political control fantasies on the boards of these organizations.

Something as benign as deciding to paint your front door red, (or some other unapproved color), can introduce into life a world of stress, cost, and interference by the masters of the neighborhood.

HOAs are certainly not mandatory, which makes them all the more concerning, because either people seem to prefer this sort of punitive-based micro-management in their lives or they don’t care. Not a good sign, however you look at it.

In some areas of the nation, such as McKinney, Texas, municipal governments have undergone impressive technical integration with local and federal law enforcement agencies, and have even installed centrally controlled public announcement towers to broadcast ‘emergency’ information and alarms. These towers, located in neighborhoods, around schools, and located throughout the town are rather startling if you happen to be taking a nap in your home on a lazy Saturday afternoon, as they broadcast alarm tones and messages from a command center, at very high decibels, over the tops of all the houses. The city put them in whether or not you voted for it, protested against it, or begged for it.

Many of us are trapped in the suburbs. Trapped with mortgages higher than the worth of our homes, thanks to fraud at the highest levels of our economy, and by the expense of living in the suburbs, buried in debt, weighed down by consumer goods. Modern day work commutes with growing gas bills, skyrocketing electricity costs, being low on liquid-assets, and living paycheck to paycheck, make saving for a move and/or a job change very difficult, if not impossible. If this is not freedom, what is it?

The fact that we are self-organizing into units that both create division between neighboring areas and create microcosmic bureaucracy to police ourselves, and that we choose to punish non-conformity rather than invite individualism, says a great deal about our collective mindset. We are voluntarily subscribing to rules that divide us and pit us against each other and single out those who disrupt conformity.

While looking at our world this way is arguably somewhat cynical and less than positive, to be mindful of how we are structuring our lives and to acknowledge the dangers of being divided against each other, even at the neighborhood level, is to be empowered to create a more interesting and fulfilling future.

Let us work toward re-invigorating our communities by bucking the need for conformity, control and suspicion. Do your part by being friendly, helpful and respectful to your neighbors. Take on creative and positive initiatives like propaganda gardening and ask questions about the role of authority in our lives. Take on initiatives like guerrilla gardening that are proving to impact people in powerfully positive ways, and get to know the organizations and people who influence your community.

Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and an avid student of Yoga and life.

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Contributed by Activist Post of Activist Post.

Just over 3 months ago, the Northeast was paralyzed after Superstorm Sandy pummeled the East Coast. Within a matter of days, despite a week of warnings about the impending storm, people in New York City were dumpster diving and begging FEMA to help them. They were pleading with the cameras for food and water because they were starving. Some people still have not recovered – there are still nearly 2000 homes in which people are crouching in the dark, without heat, electricity or running water.

Fast forward to the current nor’easter bearing down on the region, Nemo.

The Northeastern US is bracing itself for snow measured in feet, not inches. Nemo is predicted to be one of the top ten worst blizzards in history. Blizzard warnings are in effect for New Jersey, and New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Does anything sound familiar about that list of states? Oh yeah – many of them were among the hardest hit back in October, when the last “storm of the century” hit.

One might think that people would have learned a lesson from Sandy and prepared ahead of time for the possibility of an ice- induced power outage and the likelihood of being snowed in for a few days.

Apparently not.

Residents of the Northeast are storming the grocery stores like a horde of locusts, grabbing anything and everything, filling their carts in a panic, even as the first snowflakes were drifting to the ground.

These aren’t well-thought-out shopping trips – they are laying siege to the stores like Huns pillaging a village in Eastern Europe, leaving only destruction and barren shelves in their wake.

Photographs speak a thousand words. Store shelves have been emptied by those who don’t already have enough of a stockpile to get their families through a blizzard.

View image on Twitter

The last multi-state power outage, just about 100 days ago, is clearly a vague memory. It was an event that somehow, did not make enough of an impression on people. For most, it seems that the fervent vows of being better prepared disappeared with the darkness as soon as the lights came back on.

Here are some of the preparedness measures being undertaken across the region.

In Maine

Bryan McDonald pushed a shopping cart heaped with goods while his wife pushed a baby carriage. They have a 7-week-old child to consider. They don’t want to be left unprepared when the storm named Nemo comes to do its thing.

“Water, canned goods, and snacks in case we lose power,” Bryan said. “Those are the main things.”

In Massachusetts

Judy Nielsen of Sturbridge was buying for herself and her husband — both are on a vegan diet. Ms. Nielsen stocked up on vegetables, fruits and water.

“You don’t buy much when you’re eating a lot of vegetables and fruits,” she said. “I don’t buy them for a week, two weeks at a time. I buy them for a couple days at a time, just enough to get through the weekend.”

Really?

While people are to be commended for at least going to the store before the storm hits this time, why on earth do they need to, so soon after Sandy? Why do they feel that one trip to the grocery store equals preparedness?

One common statement among the prepping community after Hurricane Sandy was that hopefully, people would begin to see the light and understand the need for preparedness. As a group, many of us expressed the fact that the aftermath of the storm should prove, once and for all, that you truly are on your own after such an event.

We read reports of people standing in line for up to 5 hours for a single MRE and a bottle of water. We heard about apartment dwellers defecating in the hallways. There were photos of people eating from dumpsters. We felt sympathy for the elderly, trapped cold, thirsty and alone at the top of highrises.

Through it all, many had hope that this would be a turning point for the preparedness movement, while others were skeptical that people would accept the event as anything other than an unpleasant blip on their radar of football games, American Idol and weekly manicures.

Judging by the look of the grocery stores in the Northeast, the skeptics were right. The psychological inability to accept that bad things happen, the battle of cognitive dissonance against thinking about a change of reality, and the cultural bias against perceived negativity, have overruled common sense and learning from experience, once again.

Once again, preppers are left, shaking our heads, asking what it will take to wake people up.

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Contributed by Daisy Luther of The Organic Prepper.