Sunday, September 13, 2009

Too Broke to Prep?

I know a few people who would like to get prepared but they simply don't have the money to do it. Especially in this economy when job loss, stock loss, and an uncertain financial future makes people want to hang on to what money they have even tighter, it can be hard to do all of the things that getting prepared for a disaster entails. It's true that stockpiling things and buying a whole bunch of nifty gadgets (and cool firearms) takes money, however there are quite a few ways that you can get prepared on the cheap (or even on the free!). Here's how:
  • Use the internet. Check Freecycle and Craigslist to find items you need.
  • Check what things are available in your community. Fire departments often provide free CPR classes and free smoke detectors. The Health Department may provide free vaccines. Our local energy utility company provides a number of useful items ranging from free fluorescent light bulbs on occasion to big discounts on new appliances, and free water saver shower heads. Our local Department of Emergency Management and Red Cross offer free first aid and community preparedness classes and give out some pretty good freebies (safety whistles, hand sanitizer, etc) as well.
  • Barter for the things you need. Many people are afraid to ask for the things they want but the worst that can happen is the person says "no". If you need gas cans and the old guy next door has a few that he never uses anymore, ask if you can mow his lawn in trade for them. One of my favorite things to barter for is reloaded ammunition from friends who do this as a hobby. Ammo is expensive these days!
  • Shop the Dollar Store. Lots of stuff in the dollar stores is crap but if you don't have a flashlight and can't afford a MagLite, a $1 flashlight is better than nothing.
  • Use coupons and loss leader sales. You need to stock up on extra food for your emergency stockpile but it can get expensive. If you use coupons and shop the sales, however, you can get some pretty good bargains to add to your stockpile. Last week, for example, a local grocery store had a sale on peanut butter. I picked up the coupon from their flier which is in a stack right next to the door and I got my 10 jars of peanut butter for $10. That's a whole lot of protein for only 10 bucks. If you can't even afford this, go in with five people and you could each get two jars of peanut butter for $2.
  • Use community resources if necessary. I am certainly not a fan of welfare programs but for hard working people who have hit hard times, I say take advantage of every program you can. Some programs I know of provide $10 per month cell phone programs for emergencies. Food banks can provide food for you and your family and you can also tuck a couple of cans away for emergencies.
  • Make do. While you may want the ultra high-tech three-season tent to add to your emergency gear, you may only be able to afford a huge roll of 6 mil plastic at Walmart. Some sort of shelter is better than no sort of shelter so take a look around at the items you do have or can afford which can be substituted for the more expensive items you want. Of course you can always upgrade your stuff as finances allow.
  • Keep a list of the preparedness gear you want and need. Sometimes just writing things down will jog your brain to seek out the things you need whereas at other times you would have passed the things right by. Keeping a list also keeps you from buying two or three of an items because you are more organized.
  • Shop where the bargain shoppers shop. Thrift stores, garage sales, Walmart...there are probably quite a few places in your community that you can get the things you need without going to REI or Cabellas, and giving all of your hard earned cash to the cashier. Of course these places can have good sales but if you don't look at other cheaper options you may end up broke before you emergency gear list is fulfilled.
  • Do the free things that you can do to get prepared. The most important thing you can do to be prepared for any type of disaster is take care of your health. Go to bed earlier, walk more, do some calisthenics, de stress...all of these things don't cost a penny so there is no excuse not to do them. Create a fire escape plan, a communications plan, and an emergency lock down plan...these are all free things as well.

Fortunately, most preppers are pretty creative people. When you get right down to it, the things you need for a disaster usually don't have a brand name and a huge price tag. The idea is to know what things you need to prepare for a disaster then look for creative--and hopefully free--ways to accomplish the things on your list.


  1. For those that can not afford firearms there is a wealth of internet information on making different types of archery bows, crossbows, slings and throwing spears. On a dare from a co worker I once built a “Bundle bow” and arrows with neighborhood bamboo twigs and cheap, dollar store dental floss. It worked well enough that it could kill small game, It might not have enough poundage to kill someone immediately , but it certainly would slow them down.

  2. Great post....I am a big fan of Craig's List Freebies, Freecycle and telling everyone what you are looking for.

    We have been blessed with SO many great items free - some from friends who had extras. not overlook driving around the community BEFORE the garbage is picked up. We've found some great finds in other people's trash!

    Be blessed...thanks for the good info and encouragement during these tough times.

    MaMaBear in the mitten