Doomshopping: How to stop overspending because you’re freaked out about the election

Election-related fears have trapped way too many Americans in the doomshopping loop — late-night doomscrolling, then shopping, purchasing, a quick dopamine hit, followed by a crash into guilt and helplessness, then back around to doomscrolling to pull out of the crash. It’s as if November 3rd is some kind of deadline for having all your preps in order, because after that… who knows?

But election day really isn’t a deadline, no matter what happens or how bad things get. Even if you’re starting from nothing, you really do still have time to pace yourself, set a budget, and carry out a plan that will get you in shape for whatever’s next.

Here’s how to recognize that you’re in the doomshopping loop, why it really is urgent that you break out of it, and how to move on to a prepping practice that’s more sustainable, rational, and effective.

Read more: The sane prepper mantra is key to keeping yourself from spinning off into prepper fantasyland and buying stuff you don’t need.

Recognize when you’re doomshopping

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before:

Disaster is really imminent this time — like, for really real imminent — so you finally have to get off the fence and get your preps in order. That means shopping like there’s no tomorrow, because there probably is no tomorrow. So you fill up the online shopping cart, enter the credit card, and hover over the “Place Order” button. That total is a big number, way more than you want to spend. You hesitate for a moment as the anxiety builds. Finally, you say “screw it” and click.

You get an instant dopamine hit from having finally pulled the trigger, and a surge of satisfaction when that order confirmation email shows up in your inbox. It feels good. You feel in control, like you’ve really done something about the situation.

But that happy feeling is short-lived, and when you really start to think about how much you’ve been spending, you start to get physically ill. That feeling of control you got from the purchase has suddenly given way to a gross, out-of-control feeling. You went overboard. You might not even use this stuff, and the bill for all of it is going to hurt.

That’s it, you’re done. No more preps, at least not this month. Whatever happens, happens. You did the best you could.

But you still feel pretty gross, so you go back to doomscrolling to hopefully justify to yourself the overspending you just did. Maybe you also have a conversation with a like-minded friend about how bad it’s going to get. All this doomering was supposed to just take the edge off your guilt, but pretty soon you find yourself filling up yet another online shopping cart.

You’ve already spent way too much, but at this point, why bother even keeping track? This is probably The Big One, in which case you’ll desperately need all this stuff. And if it isn’t The Big One, then that’ll be really great news and you’ll figure out how some way to pay the bill. Might as well grab this next round of preps before it all disappears from the shelves!

Congratulations: you’re stuck in the doomshopping loop. Your first priority is to escape it, and the first step toward the exit is in facing the reality of what will and won’t happen in early November.

Plan to keep on prepping well after November 3rd

Every person who’s caught in the pre-election doomshopping loop desperately needs to come to grips with the following truth: No matter how bad it gets around the election, you will still be able to buy preps after November 3rd.

I promise this is true. In fact, we at The Prepared promise this is true. We warned you before anyone else about the pandemic. We warned you early about supply chain disruptions. We’ve been telling you how to stock up on food and harden your home. We’re proud to say we’ve been weeks ahead of the mainstream press on so many twists and turns of 2020. And now we’re telling you emphatically: do not go into panic buying mode over November 3rd. Pace yourself.

Imagine your absolute worst fears, whatever they are, come true: a declaration of martial law, a coup, violent anarchy in the cities, death squads roaming the countryside. None of that is going to stop the Amazon van from making stops at your house. And certainly nothing will prevent you from syncing up with friends, family, and neighbors who have the stuff you didn’t manage to score.

Here’s what one writer who lived through a full-blown civil war in Sri Lanka recently had to say about the experience:

I lived through the end of a civil war — I moved back to Sri Lanka in my twenties, just as the ceasefire fell apart. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.

This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.

I was looking through some old photos for this article and the mix is shocking to me now. Almost offensive. There’s a burnt body in front of my office. Then I’m playing Scrabble with friends. There’s bomb smoke rising in front of the mall. Then I’m at a concert. There’s a long line for gas. Then I’m at a nightclub. This is all within two weeks.

Along similar lines, just this morning I read a blog post from another prepper about the likely post-election situation here in the US:

We will not see a civil war in 2020. And probably not in 2021… Could that change in 2021? Could people start to organize along lines of their choosing? I think things must get much worse before people will take the time out of their lives to engage in such activities. For example, if political victors on either side begin to persecute their opponents’ supporters as Olbermann recommends above, conflict will accelerate exponentially. But for now, even with relatively high unemployment, most working age adult Americans are employed, taking care of their families and going about their lives. We would have to see things become much worse before a significant number of people are willing to become revolutionaries, even if we put that “significant number of people” in the range of 2 to 3 percent of Americans.

The post goes on for quite a bit like this, and the take-home is that the most likely scenario is an escalation of the current unrest. No big sudden, fundamental shift — just more of what we’ve already seen.

Here’s how I recently put it on Twitter:

The Suck is coming, so plan for that, but do not plan for The End. Because The End is not coming, so if you’re shopping for doomsday then you are guaranteed to feel miserable when it doesn’t arrive in a few weeks.

As for whatever big worries you have that might cause a true SHTF in the coming weeks and months: there have always been such worries, and slow-and-steady sane prepping has always been the answer to them. This time is not different in that regard.

Make a plan, and stick to the plan

Once you’ve accepted the fact that you’re not in a race to get all your preps sorted before some magic deadline, here are some next steps that can help you:

  1. Set a monthly budget.
  2. Plan out your purchases month-by-month based on that budget.
  3. Maintain and/or tweak your plan as your situation changes (e.g. you come across a sale, you get a financial windfall, you see a certain thing going out of stock suddenly, etc.).
  4. Stick to your budget, no matter what.

I’ll go into detail in another post on my exact process for implementing the above with our Kit Builder tool, but regardless of what tools you use, you have to map out your purchases in advance.

If you’re impulse buying, then you’ll stay stuck in the doomshopping loop. If you’re trying to impulse buy but stay within a monthly budget, same problem. There has to be roadmap of specific, timed purchases that will get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

Read more: Learn why getting your finances in order is a critical prep, and get tips on how to do it.

This practice of mapping out every purchase in advance is what breaks the cycle. This is how you keep yourself from just loading up a card at midnight after a doomscrolling session. Instead of loading a shopping cart and agonizing over the checkout button, you put all those items into whatever tool you’re using (Excel, Kit Builder, Google Sheets) and then later on, in the light of day, assign them to a specific month.

If you can develop the instinct of, “let me add that to my list” instead of “let me just buy it and deal with the guilt later,” you’ll be able to prep without the guilt from overspending. You’ll also be more immune to nagging doubts that you may have just bought something silly that come after a fear-fueled impulse buy. Every purchase will be one that you’ve been sitting with for a while, and have had time to think about and evaluate.

Prepping can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to it. But learning to control your emotions and stick to a budget and a plan is one of the best real-world preps you can invest in.


    • mopdx

      This is very timely read, and has definitely improved my mental state. Thank you so much–I needed this. I admit that I have indulged in some panic-induced purchasing over the past few months.

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      • Winston Smith mopdx

        You got that right.  Everytime I watch Youtube videos on prepping, I hit Sam’s Club for more food.  My wife thinks I’ve got prepper OCD.  She may be on to something.  : )

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    • Chris Cox

      Thank you for the thoughtful article. The only problem with the end not being nigh – we can’t dress like Mad Max yet!

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