You need to be prepared, but the budget is tight. Emergency preparedness on a budget is still possible, and it can mean the difference between life and death when disaster strikes.
Preparation is always the key to surviving whatever life throws at you. Some people try to be prepared for short term situations because they usually assume life will go back to normal quickly.
If you’re prepared to rough it without electricity or without being able to run down to the store to buy food for only a day or two, you’re probably woefully unprepared. Emergency shortages do happen, all around the world, and it’s naive to think that they won’t happen to you.
If you’re like most people, though, you don’t have a lot of money to spend on things that you don’t need to use right now.
That’s why it can be all too easy to push emergency preparations to the back burner. But you can take care of your survival needs even if you’re on a budget.
You just have to do it piecemeal, and follow through with your plans.
Trust me that this can be done. In the last ten years, EJ and I have been moving our family from poverty to security, but we’ve never had a large budget. Financially, we are still below what Canada calls the “Low Income Cut Off” for a family of six. While our preps are, and will always be, a work in progress, we are far more prepared and ready than many households with more income. We have done and are doing this, and so can you. You really are not too poor to prep, no matter what your income is.
How to Manage Emergency Preparedness on a Budget
Make a Plan So You Don’t Buy Haphazardly
Not being familiar with how emergency prepping should be handled can lead you to make mistakes with the items that you should have on hand for you and your family. I’ve written before on some of the mistakes that beginning preppers make.
Do you define emergency prepping as having enough supplies to get through a crisis that disrupts your ordinary life? You’re right. BUT the most foolish thing you can do right now is run down to the big food warehouse and start throwing 5 pound cans of tuna in your cart. (Hey, those restaurant-sized cans are tempting – I get it!)
If you don’t know what you need, you’re going to end up short on vital supplies and worse, you’ll be wasting the money that you do have. A successful emergency or survival plan means … well, planning.
You can’t run to the store and just haphazardly buy whatever looks like it’ll keep for awhile. (Or rather, you can, and some people do, but you shouldn’t.) You need to have a checklist of what you should get.
This checklist should always start with the items that you must have first.
Not every item for prepping is needed right away. You always want to start with the most important things first. These will be items that your survival will depend on.
Start with the basics.
You can’t survive long without food and water – start there.
Again, you don’t need to rush out and get a year’s worth of groceries. You don’t know how to store it, for one thing, and the cost of that much food at once will empty your back account. Or fill up your credit card. Bad, bad things to do.
So you know you need to start with food and water, and you know you can’t buy a year’s supply. What do you do? You start with a 72 hour supply. Three days worth of food and water.
You’ll need to do this for every member of your family – including your pets. For your water supply, look for ones labeled emergency water pouches or survival water pouches. Commercially bottled water will do the trick but they aren’t meant to last long term.
Having reliable drinking water if you lose your primary source is your first goal. Keep your plan focused to setting aside supplies for 72 hours, then move on from there. In our home, we have home-canned water for drinking, a well (that we are in the process of putting on back up solar power), and jugs of water for hygiene.
Once you have your water supply set aside, move to your food supply. Just like with the water, you’ll want to make sure that you have a three day supply of food on hand.
Figure this for each person. If you’re looking for a quick, commercial option, the best survival bars are about 400 calories each and come in a variety of flavours.
Be Picky About What You Splurge On
As you start to prepare, you’ll find that you’re faced with a lot of different choices on what you need. Some of these items are going to be worth you spending more money on, but some of the items aren’t.
If you’re faced with a situation and you need to get out your house, you’ll need a way to carry a 3 day supply of food and water. You should have these items already set aside and waiting for you to just to grab and go.
These are often called bug out bags or BOBs. I write more about your bug out bag and what should be in it in this post. This is a place where you should splurge, if you have a bit of extra money, but you can also hunt around military supply stores for inexpensive, durable, water resistant bags with a good load bearing capacity.
A good dependable communication system is also a good place to spend a bit of money. This system could be your only link to knowing what’s going on and it can be invaluable for helping you to be able to reach your loved ones. A ham radio, world band radio, or a short wave radio are all good. See if you can fit a decent antenna and solar charging station into your budget or put them on your Christmas or birthday wish list.
You do NOT need items with a lot of features, ones that can’t be carried along if you need to leave fast, or anything that doesn’t deliver good value.
For example, you need a camp stove, but a good one for $20 works just as well as that fancy $100 stove.
Another item that’s worth the extra money – heirloom seeds. Yes, hybrid seeds are often far less expensive, but these form the foundation of your long term survival, so be sure to buy, grow, and store seeds that reproduce true.
Buying in Bulk to Cut Costs
Retail stores and online stores will always offer a better deal on supplies when you purchase more of them. You can easily pay around $15 for a month’s supply of emergency survival food bars – but if you buy them in bulk, you can often get a deal where you only pay $60 for a six month supply, so you end up saving $30.
You can save money on most of your basic supplies by buying in bulk – water, food, seeds.
Since you’ll need these items anyway, it makes sense to buy them in bigger quantities. If you know you want to buy a bulk item, set aside a little money at a time for a larger purchase, and certainly keep an eye out for sales!
You’ll need a checklist when you’re buying in bulk so that you don’t forget how much of each item that you have. Staples are where you’ll begin.
For example, I buy rice in 20 pound bags. I’d get 50 pound bags but they’re not available locally. I also get sugar, flour, dried beans, oatmeal, and many other staples in large bags. The amount that I save per pound lets me maximize the food I buy for my money. You can also buy coffee, tea, powdered milk, and many types of foods in bulk. When I do buy commercially canned food, I always get it by the case.
Buying like this does require that you have proper storage containers, but those are a one-time purchase. Buy them slowly, watching for sales. Just don’t buy more bulk food than you can safely store.
What you’ll want to do is keep an eye on the expiration date and rotate them into your normal meal planning if you have to. Then just replace your stock with a new batch that has a later expiration date.
Besides making sure that you buy water and food in bulk, you’ll want to get your hygiene items this way as well. Stock up on supplies like shampoo and soap, razors, toilet paper, feminine products, diapers, deodorant, toothpaste and lotion for dry skin.
Stock up on detergent and bleach – especially bleach – because it can be used to disinfect.
Getting your medical supplies in bulk will save you money, too. You’ll need to create a store of bandages, gauze, medical tape, disposable gloves, compress, thermometer, antibiotic ointments, a first aid kit, wraps, medication to treat sickness or injuries, tweezers, eye drops, sunburn cream, etc.
Adding to Your Arsenal of Supplies a Little at a Time
We often have an all or nothing mentality. When it comes to making sure our needs or the needs of our loved ones are met, we want to go all out. With survival prepping, being fully prepared can be expensive.
But fortunately, you really don’t have to buy every one of the supplies that you’ll need all at once. Buying what you would need to survive for the first 72 hours is a good start and you don’t even have to buy all that at once!
You can start by focusing your spending power on getting enough water and food for everyone in your household for one day. Then stock for the second day and so on. When you need to approach emergency preparedness on a budget, it means prioritizing and taking it slowly.
Once you’ve reached your store of three days’ worth of supplies, then you can start adding to your arsenal – storing enough for a week, a month, three months, and finally, a year and more.
As you start your supply, look at it like you’re going grocery shopping and get the items that you would normally buy at the store but buy them in a larger amount.
And you don’t have to stick with one supply at a time, such as buying several 25 pound bags of rice until you have a supply. You want to concentrate on getting some of each category of the supplies and then rotate back through it again.
So you buy your staples one week, making sure you get a large bag of rice. Then the next week, buy the flour, then after that the sugar and within weeks, you have your staples knocked off your list.
That’s the way to handle every category. It’s probably wiser to buy your hygiene items while you’re buying staple foods, because you’ll need those.
When you write your list of supplies, put a heading for each area you’ll need to cover for your survival. After food and water, you should have areas marked as tools, shelter, communication, purification, heat and so on.
Under the heading of tools, you’d want to start stocking up on items like knives, self-defense weapons (if they’re legal in your country), multi-tools, an axe, binoculars, shovel, paracord, flashlights, fishing gear, fire starter, manual can opener, cast iron pan and more. Here in Canada, I watch for Canadian Tire’s 70% and 90% off sales and slowly build up our supplies. You’ll have to find the best value for your area.
For shelter, you would want to make sure you have a supply of Mylar emergency thermal blankets, sleeping bags, a good tarp and tents.
Weather gear can go into that category as well.
This would be items like a poncho, rain boots, etc. Water purifiers and water purification tablets are also good to have on hand.
Buying at Certain Times to Save You Money
It’s a well known fact that when a crisis is raging, there’s often panic among the masses. One of these reasons is because the media will often hype up situations in order to drive up the ratings.
This works because what it does is it whips people into a frenzy and they make a run on supplies. You’ve probably seen empty grocery store shelves during times of uncertain weather.
When this is going on, it will often create a state where the demand will exceed the supply, which in turn only fuels more panic. What retailers do in response to this panic is they will jack up the prices.
While it’s wrong of them to feed on people’s fears, it’s simply what they do and it’s been done time and time again everywhere. So while you do want to make sure that you get all the supplies that you need to have your survival preparation supplies on hand, you want to be careful as far as the timing goes.
By paying attention to certain times and what’s going on in the world around you, you can save money. When the news is all about doom, gloom and panic, you shouldn’t buy any of your prepper supplies.
You’ll only end up being overcharged. The time to purchase supplies for your survival prepping is when life is business as usual. This way, you won’t pay more than you should.
However, there’s also another time that you should buy your necessary supplies and that’s during times when there are sales. Throughout the years, various retailers will hold sales.
You’ll see sales on holidays like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other days. Watch for the supplies you need to go on sale then, especially if they’re the more expensive items.
Pay attention to in-store sales, discount sales and bulk buying sales. You can usually find something on sale in every one of the categories on your list. Keep it handy (and updated) and carry it with you at all times just in case.
Every household should be concerned with survival and preparedness, regardless of your level of income. Emergency preparedness on a budget might not be as simple as throwing down a few thousand for a ready-made solution, but it can be done. Dire situations don’t discriminate when it comes to wreaking havoc on society, and you want to be just as ready as your neighbors (if not more so) when anything causes you to go into bug out mode.
No amount of prepping is too small. If all you can buy is an extra 3 pound bag of rice, then do it. A few cans of soup here and there is also a start. Invest in a pressure canner and put up some homemade baked beans – they can be eaten cold right of the jar.
Don’t wait until you have plenty of extra money to buy everything all at once.