You don’t realize how ill-prepared you are for a power outage until the lights go out. I found that out the hard way a few days ago when a microburst tore through my small town and laid waste to the city’s power grid. We sat in the dark for nine hours that night—a small power outage compared to some major disasters, but still a painful one when it’s hot, humid, and you haven’t eaten anything.
Whenever we write up those long lists of emergency supplies you need to survive a disaster—whether it’s a storm, earthquake, or fire—the common denominator is that each requires a decent monetary investment, often totaling hundreds of dollars.
But that’s just not feasible if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. So how do you prepare for a power outage when you’re short on cash? Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to prepare for a power outage on a budget if you don’t have any serious medical issues that require electricity to manage. Pack of 4 Flashlights,... Buy New $16.99 (as of 06:00 UTC - Details)
1. LET THERE BE LIGHT—OLD SCHOOL AND NEW SCHOOL.
If a storm knocks you off the grid at night, that’s some of the darkest dark you’ll ever experience. Your cell phone’s flashlight app isn’t going to cut it in a situation like this. A small stockpile of flashlights and candles is vital to helping you navigate the advanced darkness of a nighttime power failure.
Most dollar stores sell matches, lighters, and decently sized jar candles that aren’t too cacodorous, allowing you to stock up on these illuminating necessities without spending more than you would on a modest trip for fast food. Choosing jar candles over stick candles is your best bet—a stick candle is prone to tipping over, and the last thing you need in an emergency situation is a house fire.
If you’re more comfortable going the artificial route, cheap flashlights are available at just about every store. Before our power outage, I bought a tiny LED headlamp from Walmart; it was the best dollar I’ve ever spent. Despite its low cost, the device and its batteries held through the night. (Other varieties are available here.) If you want something more reliable than a one-dollar contraption, you can get a decent flashlight (batteries sometimes included!) Best Headlamp LED Flas... Check Amazon for Pricing. for a few bucks. A flashlight with a crank is even better as they don’t require expensive batteries.
2. PLAN AHEAD FOR YOUR CELL PHONE.
Your cell phone’s flashlight feature is useful, but it can quickly drain your battery if you use it for more than a few seconds. When you have no electricity, conserving battery power on your cell phone is crucial. The best way you can keep your cell phone charged when the lights are out is to look for a relatively cheap USB backup charger. I recently found one on sale online for only $20, and it kept my phone charged all nine hours with regular use. You can also charge your phone in your vehicle if you need to—just be careful not to wear down the battery or consume too much fuel in the process.
If you have no way to charge your phone during an outage, you can conserve power by shutting it off or switching to airplane mode when you’re not using it. The latter option cuts down your phone’s energy use while also allowing you to quickly switch its connection back on if you need it in a hurry.
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