Hurricane season starts on June 1st — are you ready? Let me show you how to get prepared for hurricane season, without spending a fortune.
I first moved to Houston three days before Hurricane Ike hit. I had lost my job in June of 2008, which was the only thing keeping me in South Florida. Paul had lost his job just two weeks before me, and he was the first to find a good job offer in an area of the country that we both found acceptable (we decided to move to either Colorado, Washington D.C./ Virginia area, or Houston). I found my job in late August, had my belongings shipped in the second week of September, and was all set to start my first day of work on Monday, September 15th.
I remember the incessant phone calls from my family in PA while unpacking and moving boxes as they watched the hurricane grow and move closer to where their daughter had just moved to. I was too busy to give it much thought, and Paul reassured me that hurricanes happen all the time in Texas. My parents pleaded with us to leave and a cousin of mine in Dallas called and offered his home up to us. We decided to stay, boxed in with the belongings from my 850 square foot apartment. On September 12th—exhausted from lifting and sorting—I headed out to the grocery store and stocked us up on whatever was left: bread, chef Boyardee, canned chili, peanut butter, crackers, etc.
Most of you remember what happened next. Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston, Texas at 2:10 a.m. on September 13th, 2008. I slept through most of it (I can sleep through just about anything!). When I woke up at around 7:00 the next morning I looked out of the window in our living room and thought I was looking at a movie screen—the branches and leaves on trees were almost horizontal, debris was all over the streets, and there was monsoon-type rainfall. In the afternoon as well as over the next two weeks neighbors whom we had never met rolled up their sleeves together to clean up debris, opened up their homes, and let others use their electricity (remember driving down the streets with the thud of electrical cords running from house to house under your tires?).
While we have been very fortunate during the two hurricane seasons since here in Texas, another season is quickly approaching. If you haven’t done so all ready, it’s time to stock up and I’d like to discuss some strategies to save money on your hurricane stockpile and supplies.
- Keep your Receipts: If you haven’t used your supply of non-perishable items by the end of this hurricane season, donate the food and get a receipt so that you can use it as a deduction for next year (if you itemize your taxes).
- Buy Ahead of Time: The easiest way to save money on a hurricane stockpile is to build the purchasing into your grocery shopping throughout the year. It may be too late for this strategy for this hurricane season, but try to incorporate it for next hurricane season. As canned and non-perishable foods go on sale throughout the year, clip coupons and purchase several items each grocery trip. This will also keep you from the stores leading up to a hurricane which will save you from long lines, franticness, and dwindling product.
- Buddy up with a Neighbor: I was really taken aback by how helpful and encouraging everyone was after Hurricane Ike—it was touching. Find a neighbor or two who are willing to share responsibility for building up a stockpile for both of you/your families. Take inventory of what you both have, and then discuss who can find the best prices on which food items. Be sure to discuss how the food will be divided up after the season is over.
- Purchase from Drugstores: Walgreens, CVS, and Rite-Aid have large and ever-expanding grocery aisles and each week they run specials on non-perishable food items that will beat your grocery store’s price. If you play the drugstore game like I do, you can use your ExtraCare Bucks to stock up. If you don’t usually shop at drugstores, look for the “free” product that they advertise each week. Purchase this product and receive in-store credit (whether Walgreens Register Rewards or CVS ExtraCare Bucks). Then, use this in-store credit to purchase non-perishable items for your hurricane stock pile. You will walk away with a toiletry item as well as something to add to your stockpile for the price of a bottle of shampoo or a tube of toothpaste. You can also build your first aid kit by shopping the weekly sales.
- Buy Dented and Bruised: Stockers dent cans, boxes get pushed, and things happen to the appearance of packaged foods all the time. While there is nothing physically wrong with the food inside of the package, most consumers refuse to purchase the product at full retail. Take advantage of this by perusing the clearance section of your grocery store. You could score some great non-perishable food items at 50%+ off of its retail price.
- Shop During No-Sales Tax Days: Different states which are prone to hurricanes have time periods where you can purchase certain hurricane supplies, tax-free. For example, in Texas, April 27-29, 2019 is when you can purchase your hurricane supplies tax-free. Items included are batteries, axes, generators, can openers, and all kinds of things you might need. Other states that have offered tax-free time periods in the past include Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana.