TAMPA, Fla. - Before Hurricane Irma even hit Tampa Bay, local families spent an average of $5,000 preparing their houses and then evacuating to safer landscape. Everything from candles and batteries, to gas-guzzling trips out of state, added to the massive pre-storm financial tally.
But one woman, a pro financial planner and a pro hurricane planner, says early prep can help Floridians, who are dealing with a very active storm season this year, save lots of money.
GTE Financial's Ashley Stimatz spent one-third the local average -- about $1,400 total -- by being a hurricane preparedness all-star.
"When you get nervous and get in a panic," she says, "that's when you spend more money."
Here are a few of Ashley's lessons:
1) Start an emergency hurricane fund. When it comes time to spending money on supplies -- and there WILL be another "time" -- the financial blow won't be as sudden and as harsh if you have a few extra dollars socked away.
2) Buy durable supplies now: Water, canned goods, batteries -- especially when they're on sale. Speaking of sales: Next time you see a generator at a good price? Go for it.
3) Remember: Lack of supplies leads to burning up lots of gas -- and gas money -- in the frantic days before a storm. You don't want to do that again, do you?
4) Save plywood, sandbags, tarps -- you're going to need them. Finding extra space in a shed or garage will be worth it. "We've had so much plywood over the years," says Stimatz. "If we would have just stored that in the shed, we wouldn't have been driving around looking for it."
5) Hire tree trimmers throughout the year at a far more reasonable rate than one week before a hurricane. Stimatz learned that the hard way -- Hurricane Matthew dropped a tree through the roof of her previous house.
6) Have an evacuation plan and execute it earlier rather than later. You'll potentially save money on gas, hotels, meals, etc, if you know where you're going ahead of time.
7) Making improvements to your home NOW could save you an evacuation. Stimatz plans on getting hurricane shutters. "That would make me feel safe enough to stay in my home," she says.