A household starter kit for impoverished college students and others starting from scratch
(especially those whose main transportation will be a bicycle)
ONE MINUTE SITE TOUR
Recently a dear friend of mine suffered an unfortunate series of events which left her having to start all over again in a new place, with minimal personal and household gear and supplies. Her main vehicular transport was lost to her, leaving her dependent upon walking, or an old and ragged, bare bones mountain bike, for getting around. Fortunately her new place was in a small city perhaps more conducive to that mode of travel than most, and she lived relatively near to a variety of small stores and shops and various service sources. Still, she had few if any people she could call friends locally, was on a very limited budget, and also not all that familiar with the new neighborhood in which she found herself. Being a woman of small physical size, and living and traveling alone, she sometimes felt a bit scared as well.
I live roughly a thousand miles away from that city, or about a two day drive by car. I also have local responsibilities which severely limit my own travels. But I wanted to do what I could to help her get settled in, and feeling safer and more comfortable in her new place.
Of course, I faced a tight budget myself too, at the time.
I soon concluded my best and most economical course of action was to use what I knew of her present situation and needs to simply have Amazon.com deliver certain items and supplies to her, much like the military might drop relief supplies onto soldiers in the field. I figure having lived with meager means myself my whole life, plus been a true survivalist and adventurer in my younger days, I could probably surprise my friend with quite a few very useful items, for minimal cost, which might help her in innumerable ways in the months and years to come-- and so perhaps enable her to more speedily become acclimated to her new place, and be all around happier for it.
As I'm probably not the only one these days with a friend or relative in such straits far away, I thought perhaps others might find the list of 'goodies' sent to my friend to be of use in their own situations. That is, you might consider this a central menu of tools and supplies to consider, altering or modifying it as necessary to better fit your (and your dear one's) own situation and circumstances.
Of course, the first step is finding out all you can about the prospective recipient's present situation. In my case, this was accomplished with emails, phone calls, and lots of texting (luckily she already had a cell phone on her end, as well as sporadic access to the internet).
In regards to my friend, I quickly determined that my top priority should be beefing up the capacities of her current mode of transportation, along with her ability to repair and maintain it. I also wanted to boost her safety and security-wise in other ways, and better equip her for the demands of resolving little emergencies and day to day problems on her own, so she'd be less dependent upon the costly and often times risky need to get such services from strangers.
The information and product choices below came about after a huge amount of research and online shopping on my part, related to these priorities. So far as I can tell, I found pretty much the best deals available online for many of these purposes at the time (early 2015). Note that I didn't only consider Amazon, but also Walmart, Target, Sears, and others. But except for a few specialty items, Amazon proved far and away the very best single place from which to do this. They didn't always have the lowest prices, but often they did. And their shipping and delivery options seemed lots better, cheaper, and more convenient than those of any other online retailer overall. In fact, I was surprised by the comparatively poor options for this available from Walmart in particular, in almost every respect.
Although it can take a little extra work and a few more days for delivery, you can often arrange your purchases so that you get most or all of them shipped for free, too, from Amazon (without being a Prime subscriber). Which allows you to devote more of your available funds to the actual goods you wish to send the recipient.
However, Amazon possessed two other advantages besides these. Namely, wider selection in most categories than competitors, and a library of customer product ratings and reviews wider and deeper than anyone else in the business. The reviews all by themselves make Amazon better than most online retailers, and I see no way anyone else can match that, let alone better it, anytime soon. Combine this wider selection with all the end user feedback in the reviews, and you get an unbeatable resource for anyone willing to research and shop their way to the best bargains online (although it can be quite time-consuming, I admit).
Since she was so heavily dependent upon her decrepit bike, I sent her my own idea of an Old Bicycle Repair, Maintenance, Upgrade, and Expansion Kit, custom-tailored to her personal circumstances.
But she needed more than just an improved bike and extra resources for keeping it up. So I also ordered these household items for my friend:
First Aid Only All-purpose First Aid Kit, Soft Case, 299-Piece Kit, with treatment options for breaks, burns, stings, bites, blisters, wounds, sprains, aches and pains, swelling, shock, and more, including tools like tape, bandages, gauze, cotton, gloves, scissors, tweezers, a disposable thermometer, various medicines and antiseptics, and an instruction guide.
3pcs Credit Card Size POCKET MAGNIFIER Fresnel Magnifying Lens. These magnifiers were meant to help her see small things and fine print, as well as help her read books (I knew she'd been having trouble along those lines with her vision). They're small enough to carry on your person at all times in a pocket or wallet, and the set included spares.
Apollo Precision Tools DT9706 39-Piece General Tool Set. This was a very basic general tool kit, including a hammer, 12-foot tape measure, 6-inch slip joint pliers, ratcheting bit driver with 20 bits, 8-inch scissors, plastic knife, four precision screwdrivers, and eight SAE hex keys. Prior to this, she'd possessed negligible hand tools among her possessions.
Police Magnum O C-17 Pepper Spray with UV Dye and Twist Top, 0.5-Ounce Keyring, Pack of 2. This item was obviously for self-defense purposes. I also hoped it'd make her less anxious both at home and while riding her bike.
EZ-DUZ-IT 3028 Deluxe Can Opener with Grips, Black. I believe she'd lost her original can opener along with other items in those unfortunate events discussed before. But even if she hadn't, this one would probably have been a big improvement anyway.
LE Adjustable Focus CREE LED Flashlight, Super Bright, Batteries Included. This was the best small low cost flashlight I could find. Because everyone needs a flashlight. And LED lights will last lots longer with the same set of batteries than most other types out there.
Survival Sewing and Repair Kit. This kit was sort of like a heavy duty general repair kit, with a few items for regular clothing repair thrown in too. You could fix military hiking and camping gear with it, among other things. It included a metal thimble, needle threader, various sized needles and pins in a needle holder, assortment of buttons and safety pins, Fresnel lens magnifier (which, added to those previously listed, gave my friend four of these particular items), 3" x 4" waterproof patch, cable ties, heavy duty nylon thread, Kevlar thread, utility cord, a razor knife, duct tape, and brass wire, all contained in a MILSPEC 5 x 4 Aloksak Bag.
Neiko 60166A Neiko 60166A Heavy Duty All-Angle Power Toilet Plunger. The little cheap plunger she bought locally sometimes had trouble handling the problems she faced with the 'low flow' toilet in her new place. If you're not familiar with those, they clog easily and often due to having too small a water tank, and so not enough water to work properly (we used to have one of those here, and replaced it with a large tank model). So I got her the best plunger I could find for the task.
EBLŪ 807 LED Rapid 4 Bay Individual Smart Battery Charger for AA AAA Ni-MH Ni-Cd Rechargeable Batteries. This compact battery charger would fast charge both AA and AAA batteries (she needed to keep batteries going for her flashlight and bike headlight, as well as other things.) I also sent her AmazonBasics AAA Rechargeable Batteries (4-Pack) Pre-charged and AmazonBasics AA Rechargeable Batteries (4-Pack) Pre-charged, for a total of 4 AAAs and 4 AAs.
RCA Indoor FM and HDTV Antenna. This was a little rabbit ears TV antenna, to give her more to watch on her flat screen than just DVDs from the library. Her city is small, so she only got 9 channels with it I think. But this let her see the local news and weather alerts, plus most or all the major broadcast entertainment available in her area.
Lastly, I'd asked her if there was anything in particular she'd like for her kitchen. I was thinking maybe she needed some pot holders or cooking utensils. But instead she asked for a spices starter set.
It turned out that (as of early 2015) The Best Ten Spices Starter Set is a Do-It-Yourself Job.
So did my friend like what I sent her? Yes! She told me I'd 'upgraded her life'! :-)
Were there shortcomings in what I sent her? Sure! I'd have preferred to send her twice as many rechargeable batteries, for instance. And a bigger and better bike tail light to replace the puny one bundled with the headlight (a tail light that also used the type of rechargeable battery I sent her too, rather than the disposable button battery in the puny one). And a step stool or small step ladder, so my short friend could more easily see out her front door peep hole, plus access the higher reaches of her home more safely. And I'd liked to have sent her a Coleman MicroPacker LED Mini Lantern Amazon sells for around $10 apiece too, to help tide her over in lengthy power outages (lanterns are better suited for that than flashlights). And more items along those lines, like a great jar opener, and a Victorinox Swiss Army Rambler Pocket Knife to carry on her person (I've carried a bigger version of this myself for decades), etc., etc., etc. But the truth is I ran out of money, and couldn't send anything else.
What I did send her though consisted mostly of items with plenty of customer reviews on Amazon rating them as four out of five stars or better in customer satisfaction. And I'd tried to cover as many different bases as I could in the sort of stuff I thought she'd need or want most, with the limited funds I had available. Pretty much the only 'luxury' or recreational items anyone might point to in the shipments were the TV antenna and the spice starter set. But those made up a comparatively small bit of the overall cost, with the antenna being a little more than $10 I think. But I could argue even these items weren't entirely of a luxury nature, as the TV antenna also gave her access to the national emergency broadcast system and local news, which most certainly could affect her personal health and safety in various ways (like with storm and tornado warnings, if nothing else). And the spices could encourage her to do more home cooking, saving money compared to buying fast foods or convenience foods, as well as making her healthier. Some spices even help protect against food poisoning of various sorts as well. And the more home cooking she did or broadcast TV she watched, the less often she'd be riding her bike to eat out or go to the library for DVDs, which should also reduce her risk of being hit by a car out there, or mugged.
Well, I hope this helps you lend a hand to your own friend or relative in a similar situation sometime!
(Please note that prices and availability fluctuate on Amazon, as elsewhere, and so the more time that passes between the moment I wrote this and the time you read it, the more likely that the items listed here have either changed in price, or become unavailable for some reason (or perhaps the web links themselves have broken))
Copyright © 2015 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.