The New Survivalist
Disaster Preparedness and Self-Reliance

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Chapter 3:
Survival Planning on a Budget
or Building Your Stash During Tough Economic Times

"How Am I Going to Afford All This Stuff?"

As you proceed through this web site you will read about many items that you will want to buy—extra food to put into storage, extra clothing, storage containers, water filters, gardening equipment, camping equipment—the list may seem endless. Many of these items can be quite expensive and you may be asking yourself how you are going to afford all this stuff.

I realize that this web site will be read by people from all walks of life, from those who have plenty of money to those who are just barely scraping by. This chapter is mostly for those with modest incomes.

First of all—go slowly! You don't have to rush out and buy everything right now. If you will buy a small amount each month, always within your budget, you will gradually accumulate everything that you will need to be self-sufficient during an emergency. In the meantime, every month you will be more prepared than you were the month before. Even if you have not yet accumulated enough provisions for a six month emergency, you will probably have enough to last for several days or weeks, and you will be better off than most of your neighbors.

Focus on the most essential items first. Start by putting together your bug out bags (BOBs.) (You do not have to "bug out" to use your BOB.) Get prepared for an emergency that will leave you without utilities for three days. Then work up to being prepared for a week-long emergency, then a two-week emergency, etc.—until you have reached your ultimate goal, whatever that might be.

Eliminate Wasteful Spending

Perhaps you can find a few extra dollars each month by eliminating wasteful spending, or by doing without some luxury items that you don't really need. How much do you spend each week on movie rental fees, or on cable or satellite channels? How many times a week does your family eat out? Most people can easily find the extra money needed to accumulate survival items simply by eating out less, and by spending their money more prudently in other ways.

Establish a Household Budget

An important part of preparing for a long-term emergency is getting your financial house in order. This means paying off all your debts and establishing a regular savings plan. I am a big advocate of budgeting. Budgeting allows you to discover where your money is going and thereby gain control over it. Trying to get ahead financially without a budget is like trying to fill a bucket with holes in it. No matter how hard you work toward filling up your bucket you will never succeed until you plug the holes. Plug the holes with a budget and you will not only find the extra money needed for emergency preparedness, but also the extra money that you will need to pay off your debts and establish a savings plan. Do not buy anything on credit, except for your house and perhaps your automobile. Use credit cards only for emergencies and for convenience shopping (such as online shopping), and then only if you can manage to pay them off each month. If you can't pay them off each month then get rid of them! Even better; replace your credit cards with debit cards, which provide the same convenience but without going into debt!

Supplying for a household can be rather expensive, consider for some great deals for your budgeting!

Shop Wisely

As I mentioned in the video at the top of this page, I believe that canned goods should form the backbone of your survival stash. That being said, it is imperative your canned goods are properly labeled with Dymo label maker to ensure no food spoils. The best canned foods are those you can yourself. But as a supplement to that, you can always find some canned foods on sale at the grocery store. If you will pick up a few extra cans each time you buy groceries you will soon establish the foundation of your survival stash. You can also save on many items by buying from one of the warehouse distribution stores, or from a discount supermarket chain such as Aldi (my favorite.) Unless you have a huge family I would avoid buying canned goods in the large #10 cans (which hold about a gallon.) Once opened, without refrigeration you may have a hard time consuming the entire contents before it spoils. The smaller cans are much more practical because they will usually provide just enough food for one meal with few if any leftovers.

Buy Previously Owned

You can save a lot of money on many survival items by purchasing used items. Water storage containers, water filters, extra clothing, and camping equipment are just a few of the items that you can often buy used. If you purchase a new 55-gallon plastic drum for water storage it can cost you up to $100! But if you search around your local community you can usually find used plastic barrels for as low as $10 each. Thrift stores are an excellent place to look for bargains on used supplies. I usually drop in on my local thrift store once a week to see what "new" bargains they have in store for me.

Take Advantage of Estate Sales

Estate sales are by far my favorite supplier—of everything! If you have ever enjoyed the bargains found at a garage sale, you will really enjoy the bargains that you will find at estate sales! In fact, I rarely even bother with garage sales any more, since I can always find anywhere from 10 to 20 estate sales in my community on any weekend, year round! At garages sale people usually offer only a few items that they no longer need. I find that garage sales are often not worth the gasoline used to drive to them. Estate sales, on the other hand, are indoor sales in which everything in the house is tagged for sale—from the basement to the attic! And everything can be purchased for pennies on the dollar, including clothing, tools, kitchen items, pantry items and even furniture. The list is as endless as the items that people keep in their homes.

Look in the classifieds section of your local newspapers (including the online versions) for a list of the estate sales in your community. Unlike garage sales, which are seasonal, estate sales are held in every month of the year. They are usually two-day sales held on a weekend. Most will cut their already low tag prices in half on the last day of the sale. We even buy most of our canned goods at estate sales, significantly reducing our grocery bill. Canned meats that usually sell for $2 or more will generally sell for 50 cents at an estate sale, and canned vegetables that cost 50 cents to $1 at grocery stores will sell for about 25 cents at an estate sale. And the best part is—You do not have to pay sales taxes on the items that you purchase at estate sales!

When purchasing foods at estate sales be sure to watch those "best by" dates on the containers. I will frequently buy items that have an expired date, but I am careful to use them first. The remaining shelf-life will be less on these items so it is imperative that you carefully rotate your stock. That is why it is important to buy only what you eat and to eat what you buy.

While on the subject of "best by" dates, keep the following in mind: Unless the can is bulging or significantly damaged, canned foods are still good long after this date. It is true that the quality, including both the palatability and the nutritional value, begins to deteriorate slightly after the "best by" date, and continues to gradually decline the longer it is kept past that date. It is therefore desirable that all foods are consumed by their "best by" date if possible, and it is essential that your stored foods are rotated so that the older items are consumed first. But don't be afraid to eat something just because its "best by" date has expired. I have frequently eaten canned goods five years—and on occasion even up to 10 years—past the date, and have never experienced any ill effects from doing so. But never, under any circumstances, eat—nor even taste—food taken from a can that was swollen or bulging!

Start a Home-Based Business in Your Spare Time

It's hard to get fired when you're your own boss! A home-based business can bring in extra money, but perhaps more importantly, it can help recession-proof your income! If you have a product, skill, or service that you can provide for your neighbors, you will be in a much better position during a prolonged emergency. You can use your services, for example, to barter for the things your family needs. (More on this in Chapter 15.) Some people grow fruits and vegetables which they sell on the roadside. I have a neighbor who is a part-time bee keeper who sells honey. Small engine repair and handyman services are other potential sources of income. Many Americans work for themselves during their spare time, accepting cash or barter as payment, and in so doing make up a part of the huge "underground economy" (which may or may not report their additional income to the government.) Take an inventory of your skills, talents, and most importantly your interests, and figure out a way that you can provide a service that your neighbors may be willing to barter or pay for.


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Action Step 7: Establish Priorities

A. Turn your Action Planner to a new blank page. At the top of the page write "How I Am Going to Pay for Our Survival Items." Make a list of things that you and your family can do to help pay for your survival items. Your list might include things like:

  1. [  ] Establish a written budget for household income and expenditures.
  2. [  ] Have a garage sale to raise a few extra dollars.
  3. [  ] Buy a few extra canned goods each time we buy groceries.
  4. [  ] Regularly check our local thrift stores and secondhand shops for the items on my lists.
  5. [  ] Check our newspaper's classifieds section each week for estate sales in our area.
  6. [  ] Take an inventory of my skills, talents and interests and consider starting a home-based business.
  7. [  ] Etc.

B. Turn your Action Planner to a new blank page or use the back of the one you just used. At the top of the page write "Establish Priorities." Then on the left side of the page make a list of the items that you and your family will be willing to sacrifice in order to meet your goals. To the right of that write down how much money this will save you each month—extra money that you will be able to use for your survival purchases. Try to find areas where you are needless spending money. For example:

  1. [  ] We will eat out once a week instead of three or more times. This will save us $80 a month.
  2. [  ] We will rent no more than three movies a week, instead of our usual five. This will save us $32 a month.
  3. [  ] I will take bottled water (recycled bottles filled from my own water filter) to work rather than buying drinks from the vending machine. This will save us $25 a month.
  4. [  ] Etc.
Continue to Chapter 4: Water

Recommended Reading:

See also guest post: Things You Can do to Prep That Won’t Cost You a Dime


James Talmage Stevens
Continue to Chapter 4: Water

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