Prepping, no matter how you do it, takes a certain financial commitment. Prepping is in many ways a lot like saving in that you have to do without and sacrifice today to ensure a better tomorrow. But unlike traditional piggy banking, you won’t see a return on your investment unless things go wrong, like bad wrong.
So while prepping is not a financial liability, per se, it does hoover up your cash, sometimes a lot of it, and getting significant others and loved ones on board the prepping bus can be challenging if a ticket to ride is too costly.
No matter how worried or how passionate you are, you still need to pay the bills, keep the lights on, your insurance and taxes paid and so forth. Somewhere in all of that you might actually want to do something nice for yourselves!
Lucky for you, we are here to help. In this article we’ll give you some ideas on how to stretch those nickels and make your money go as far as possible when you are prepping.
Table of Contents
Watch Your Dimes and the Dollars Will Take Care of Themselves
Prepping isn’t always a noticeable financial hit. What’s a can of beans and a packet of tuna added to every grocery run, eh? Not much! But some preps are big expenses: things like guns, generators, training, vehicle upgrades, property, bulk buys of everything from ammo to clothing to rice and water.
Even if you are prepping small scale, “balling on a budget,” or “caching with coupons,” you can do more with the same amount of resources if you are smart.
Efficiency and adaptability are the hallmarks of good preppers, and that means avoiding waste and loss of useful materiel and provisions. Why should your dollars be any different? Saving just 10% on every, single purchase may not seem like much, but that is $10 for every hundred you spend.
If you do that twice a week that’s $20 still in your wallet. That’s $80 a month, or $960 a year! That is one really nice handgun, a good rifle, a pair of shotguns, a couple cases of ammo, a load of MREs, a ton of bottled water, or at least two professional skill-building classes in just about any discipline or area of expertise you can think of.
Who wouldn’t want any of that?! Not one prepper, I say. Even if you are all set on the provision front, cash is a prep in itself. How big is your nest egg?
He or she who knows more requires less. It is true that skills and expertise can make up for all kinds of gadgetry. The old fable of the lone survivor who heads into the woods with their knife and hatchet and nothing more to carve out a shelter and subsequently live, truly live off the land is no myth! It is harder than woodpecker lips and make no mistake, but it can be done if you are good enough and know enough!
The more you know, the less you’ll need all in all, because you can get things done that lesser-skilled folks couldn’t without their gear, and also because you will go through gear slower: better skill means fewer mistakes and fewer instances of pushing your tools past its design limits
You know why your grandpa had that 100 year old axe? It isn’t necessarily because the axe was made better back then, although many times they were, it was because he knew what the hell he was doing and he took care of his tools.
Expertise will see you get by with less and do a lot more with it at any rate. Don’t neglect your brain and knowledge base in pursuit of stuff! Besides being a better, more capable prepper, your wallet will thank you!
You don’t come to The Survivalist Blog for theory and esoterica alone. We know you want actionable tips and advice so we will deliver. Below are five things you can do right now today to start leaning out your prepping budget while still getting the things you need to be ready for a SHTF situation.
1) Shop Clearance, Closeout and Out of Business Sales
You’d be surprised how many big-box outdoor retailers and smaller hunting and fishing shops pack it in each year. In my town alone, we have seen one major retailer call it quits from bankruptcy, and another large, one-off store come perilously close due to shifting consumer concerns.
To stay afloat, they downsized from their flashy indoor mall frontage to a far smaller and more focused storefront and held a big and I mean big blowout sale to clear up capital.
There were sales on everything from tents and fishing poles to gas lanterns, guns and ammo. Boats, backpacks and more. On my modest haul, consisting of mostly shelter material and clothing, I saved over $400 off of the same retail purchase at street price. You cannot beat that.
It pays to be a price vulture. When a retailer, especially a huge corporate one is circling the drain, swoop in as soon as they stop twitching so you can scoop up those sweet, sweet bargains.
Even if they aren’t, and hallelujah for a booming economy, you should make it a point to always check out what’s on sale, in the clearance bin or has available rebates.
Manufacturer’s rebates especially are often poorly advertised (unless it is for a vehicle) and are often a great source of savings if you don’t mind waiting for a bit to get them. Deals abound for the sharp-eyed prepper!
2) Use a Rebate and Price-Watcher App
This is the electronic version of the above with a few added perks. Using a free app like Honey (which I use and enjoy) you can instruct it to watch items you want on sites like Amazon and alert you when they drop to a certain price threshold.
Honey can also tack the price trajectories of those items, and if they are climbing you know you should perhaps prioritize another purchase first.
Even better, Honey automatically searches for codes and coupons anywhere you make a purchase online and applies them automatically in a logical order to save you the most money possible.
Yeah, a 20% off coupon might be the best coupon on paper, but Honey knows you will save more by going with 10% and free shipping, so it will go with that instead. You can’t lose!
Honey has one more trick up its sleeve; if it cannot save you money on your purchase, it will give you a certain amount of credit in your piggy bank, called Gold.
Every 1,000 gold you collect is worth a $10 gift card to one of several major brick and mortar and online retailers, essentially paying you back for using their app. And Gold isn’t doled out miserly, either. I make about eight or ten purchases online and I have a $10 gift card ready to print out!
There are other similar apps out there you might try, but Honey is one of the longest running, least invasive and most reliable, so I have them constantly turned on for my browser.
3) Go Analog!
As mentioned above, certain skills can replace expensive gear entirely with Old Ways know-how. Take land navigation for instance. A compass and a map along with a dose of skill and experience will replace a GPS for most folks in its entirety.
Don’t get me wrong, a GPS is an immensely powerful tool and worth having, but if you don’t have one, or cannot afford the model you want and don’t want to settle for cheap junk (a wise decision, grasshopper…) you can do just fine on your travels with brass and paper.
It might not feel that way since our modern tools and technology are so good, but think about this: how did we ever get along before without it?
We know our forefathers did- maps and compasses were the standard navigational aids for centuries before our first satellite every orbited earth.
You can do that for more than just navigation. A prepper skilled and knowledgeable about the principles of thermoregulation will be able to construct a good shelter out of almost any kind of natural or man-made materials.
A tarp, some cordage, emergency blankets and proper attire could completely take the place of a tent, sleeping bags, fullsize blankets and so forth.
The world furnishes much in the way of material and supply if only you have the wisdom and knowledge to make use of it!
4) Do It Yourself!
I for one am thankful that DIY has become cool again. From repairing things that would otherwise be thrown away to maintaining and building the things you need and want, a new and sunny dawn of self-reliance even among non-preppers is upon us.
From car maintenance to home improvement, millions of Americans are rolling up their sleeves and grabbing their toolboxes.
You should definitely be doing the same. Aside from building very real and valuable skills, you’ll save literal fortunes over paying some “expert” to do it for you
Take myself for instance: I was facing a fridge repair not too long ago and was at the end of my rope with it. I was ready to bite the bullet and get a new one, but trying to adhere to my own professed values I decided to call a repairman instead in an effort to make it work. Long story short, two hours and 10 calls later I was facing down at least a $500 repair.
I was incensed! In a huff, I said screw it and started watching YouTube. After a little perusing and a short trip to the library, I was armed with what I hoped was the know-how to diagnose and repair my fridge. I ordered parts which arrived a few days later.
In the end, a $40 part and 20 minutes of work (including the time it took to pull the fridge out, blow the dust bunnies off the back and unscrew the grille) I had a working fridge. I just saved myself over $400!
This extends to other routine services as well. Can you get by changing your own oil? Do you really need a zillion TV channels if you can get antenna service for news?
How much are you wasting on outsourcing when you invariably and inevitably stay just as busy and just as harried? Take control of your life and your checkbook and do more things yourself!
5) Trade and Barter
You can keep your cash on hand and still get the things you need by trading and bartering with other people for them, especially other preppers. Swap meets, forums, message boards, and good old fashioned networking will show you plenty of people who have what you want, and conversely things you have that others want. Somewhere in the middle is a deal.
Any old, heck, even broken gear and things you have others may want, and be willing to trade for. Don’t concern yourself too much with monetary value; people who barter are looking to solve a problem or get rid of a problem. That’s all. A good deal is one both parties are happy with. The end!
Another thing you can do is trade skill or work for material goods. If you can take care of a job or project for someone they may pay you in goods or equipment.
Always ask for the thing you want! Never assume that someone has a substantial stake or paid much for the thing they have; they may not have paid anywhere close to retail and so the actual value is much less to them than it would be to you.
You can also use this method to fund your other prepping purchases through arbitrage. If you are able to trade or barter for something and can then turn around and sell that or trade it for something even more valuable, it is totally possible to exponentially multiply the worth of your original trade!
Making best use of this method requires a willingness to keep your eyes peeled for opportunity and polishing up those social and haggling skills. Bartering has been a mode of commerce since the dawn of time and is not going anywhere anytime soon!
You will never go wrong buying the best gear you can afford. That’s a fact. Nine times out of ten, you get what you pay for. But assuming you don’t have more money than Solomon (and who does?) you’ll need to prioritize your purchases.
This is an area where you can save some cash by spending the most on the items you need the most, and less on the items you need less or have a lower penalty for failing.
For instance, take firearms. I and others here on TSB preach the virtues of buying quality guns not just for their performance, but for their longevity.
Good guns are heirloom-quality items that require very little in the way of maintenance, and unless we see another quantum leap in small arms technology, and gun you buy today will likely be future proofed for the rest of your life.
That being said, if all you want is a solidly dependable parka, one that is made to a high standard, is tough and won’t fail when the going gets tough and the temperature goes way, way down, you could turn to a an Arc’teryx or Kitanica for the ultimate examples. You can, and you can also shell out well in excess of $1,000 for either of them, and that’s before you add an optic.
Now, you could get another dependable parka, made by guys who give a damn about their work and their customers and buy a North Face, saving you around $700 right off the top for a solid parka at that price. Are those super-premium parkas better
I have been told by guys who know that, yes, in fact, they are, but the difference is one of degrees, not miles. For most folks that want a parka they can flat out depend on, the North Face will exceed their expectations.
You must be careful with this strategy though, no matter what you are buying: few are the makers who offer both modest price and solid performance. You are many times more likely to be disappointed or betrayed by cheaper goods when the situation gets rough.
One area you can save on is basic commodities for prepping. Things like paper towels, plates, disposable cutlery, underwear, gloves, etc. Anything that will be worn out or used up can stand to be cheaper, non-name brand stuff so long as it has a good shelf life!
Take food for instance. In my own anecdotal taste testing and longevity tests (conducted when rotating my stocks) I have found many-store brand items like canned meats, fruits, veggies and even things like drink mixes and so forth to be not only comparable to national brand goods but in plenty of cases superior!
Compare the savings yourself next time you are at the grocery and see if they don’t start to taste better to you already! If you implement this change as part of your daily grocery getting you’ll save even more, and combined with coupons and other specials the savings can be shocking.
Take careful stock of the things you should spend more on to ensure longevity or performance and start throttling back your spending on the other stuff. Then watch your balance go up, up, up!
Prepping is always costly, but it does not have to cost an arm and a leg. By shopping smart, being resourceful and exploring alternate ways to get what you want you can check off all the items on your shopping list and keep more of your precious cash where it belongs; in your wallet!
Tom Marlowe grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, He has the experience in helping civilian shooters figure out what firearms work best for them.
6 thoughts on “6 Easy Ways to Save Money Prepping”
We have a simple 4-shelf-unit pantry; 1 large, 1 medium, and a refigerator freezer; plus the normal kitchen shelves. This is our normal, everyday food storage. We keep it stocked by shopping sales. We know what we normally buy and when it goes on sale we fill up the shelves/freezer and eat off that. Extra stuff, or extreme sales (like $.49/lb. pasta) go into 2, 3.5, and 5-gallon buckets in the long term storage.
Now, we have worked up to this system/level over the last 20 years. We now have enought on hand to keep our entire local family (10 people) fed for a year+, and 3-4 months for just us in the pantry. Plus I have 12 months of expense money put up for emergencies.
By just using the pantry, we cut out monthly grocery budget by 30-40%.
Because of storing and shopping sales for things we WILL need, we can go month to month on less and less money, even though inflation is eating away at our income (as only one of us is working). If my shoes are worn out and need replacement; I go to the garage and take down a pair I bought last year on closeout. Burnt a hole in my sweatshirt; go to the storage area, open the tub of $3 ones I got from the Thrift Store, and I’m set again. We don’t panic buy when there is a sudden shortage (think ammo after Sandy Hook), so we have taken a lot of politics out of our life.
Ours is a similar arrangement; but, we have 2 refrigerators (each with freezers) and a 16 ft2 chest freezer, with the newest fridge more than 5 years old and purchased with free Home Depot gift cards.
That freezer is chock full of beef, since we went in with 2 other families a while back and purchased a steer from a local farmer. We paid him $2.25 hanging weight and paid the processor another $0.55 for processing. Our price all in was $2.80 per pound for everything, and since the others did not want the bones, liver, heart, tongue, etc, we also got all of those and know how to use them.
We have one credit card that we use heavily; but, have not paid a cent in interest for more than 20 years by only purchasing items when we have the cash on hand, exploiting the billing cycle, and the points. Since we’re in retirement we have 6 income streams, with 5 monthly streams at sort of known dates. This helps us manage our cash flow and gets us free gift cards for extra savings on materials that come in handy for projects around the property.
All purchases made by the 6th of a month, freeze the balance that is then due on the 2nd of the next month. When paid in full, there is no interest; but, each dollar spent on the card gives us a point, and 1.5 or 2 points in some cases. Those points are worth one cent each so 5000 points gets us a $50.00 Home Depot gift card, 10000 a $100.00 card, etc. On occasion, they offer the cards at a 10% discount so those cards are only 4500 or 9000 points.
We’ve done some of that; but, have been collecting bulk long term storage food in #10 cans from the local LDS Bishops Storehouse, since the local one is open to nonmembers.
We’ve been doing this right here on the property for 35 years, and have similar stores on hand; but, long term would mean a bit more work, since we would be getting into bulk grains, requiring sprouting or grinding, however, we have the tools on hand both electric & hand powered to do the job.
Same here, and by can copying things we use regularly when on sale, we can not only save money; but, add a sense of security should an EOTW event occur.
Fewer trips to town also mean less gas and wear & tear on the vehicles.
Neither of us are working (for cash); but, we scrimped and saved during our working careers, and have several tidy nest eggs on hand, along with our SS, and we’re actually saving excess funds each month.
It’s the same here. While shopping for fresh goods is handy, we could go for quite a long time without any shopping should the need arise. It’s a good place to be and a good place for others to aim..
There’s no reason you can’t see an immediate return on your investment if you make it a lifestyle. A lifestyle that’s says I am my own person, and I’ll not try to keep up with the Joneses. That is real freedom.
Once again, the lifestyle makes all of this possible. We moved into this fixer upper of a house in 1984, and 25 year later we’re still doing little bits of remodeling; but, we’ve been out of debt for most of 20 years.
If doing something nice for yourselves means spending lots of money to travel, or buying new things, then perhaps you need to reevaluated either youe lifestyle or your reason for prepping.
For us a day trip to town to do some free lance, unscripted shopping and a meal at a fast food restaurant, can be as enjoyable as a trip to some exotic place.
Watch Your Dimes and the Dollars Will Take Care of Themselves
This has always been true, whether you prep or not.
Once this is a mindset, you’ll often see other uses for things some might call scrap. We sign up for rewards programs and often shop only when those rewards are in effect.
A recent email from TSC included a 10% off the entire purchase coupon, so we were able to acquire things we already need & use, and saved quite a lot.
And don’t forget that $960.00 is tax free.
I can and have done the lone wolf thing for up to 5 or 6 days for training; but, it’s not something any sane person would do long term on purpose.
It also helps if you have the best tools for the job in the 1st place. The Off Grid Tools survival axe and Habilis bush tool make these tasks easier; but, require practice to get the skills needed when under pressure, and if you are doing this other than training, you’re under pressure.
Stuff can help; but, skills are light to carry and no one can take them from you like stuff.
1) Shop Clearance, Closeout and Out of Business Sales
This is good information; but, don’t forget haggling over price.
When we were first married, my wife was nearly mortified when I was haggling with an employee, and finally the department manager over the price of something at Sears. She assumed that one just paid the listed price; and when I ended up with a discount she was amazed. The important thing here is you need to be prepared to walk away.
<2) Use a Rebate and Price-Watcher App
Not a bad idea, and I may have to check it out. For the desktop or laptop browser, look at PriceBlink, an add on that does something similar to your Honey app.
3) Go Analog!
Land navigation with map & compass is called Orienteering, and there is a ton of information and tutorials online at no cost; but, the time to learn.
If you’re using Smartphone apps like honey, then, you can load simple and free GPS apps that will give you your location, altitude and often a compass rose.
And often they had only hand drawn maps; but, the skills to survive in the wild and use dead reckoning, because the trees, outcroppings, and lay of the land was their road map and signage.
There are still a few places where I can do that; but, as the urban sprawl continues, those places are getting smaller & fewer.
Carrying some cordage and a space blanket can leverage natural materials into quite nice field expedient shelters. My favorite is the debris shelter, where you pile up a large mound of leaves and other dry debris and crawl inside.
If you look into the trees in a forest, you’ll often see the squirrels living in shelters made with debris. No reason you cannot do the same.
4) Do It Yourself!<
I learn how to do carpentry, wiring, and plumbing from my dad as a kid, and once you realize it’s not all that hard or complicated, anyone can do it. I’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars over the years, remodeling a house I flipped, and making additions to the place wee live now.
I have some boosk on the operation of appliances, and with some research anyone can understand them well enough to diagnose a problem. We had an old fridge that stopped working when the defrost heating element quite working. Some tools & a hair dryer and things were ready to check, and then I found a spade lug that had burned through and no longer powering the heating element. A new spade lug from the tool box and all worked again.
That same fridge did the same thing a few years later, with no power anywhere for the heating element. Turned out there was a mechanical motor drive clock timer on the back that had stopped ticking. $20.00 and the new part snapped in place and was good again.
We started doing these years ago, and not only does it save money, fixing something yourself has a certain self satisfaction.
5) Trade and Barter
This is perhaps your best bet; but, even if all you trade is good will (e.g. favors owed, you start building people who can and will help you in a pinch or a SHTF situation.
Arbitrage bartering is good in small groups; but, when groups and populations got large enough, a credit accounting system or fiat money was required. Often doing favors for favors owed is also a valuable commodity.
Of course, if you are a Ferengi, all of this just comes naturally. LOL
I’ll mention the threat matrix and go into details at the end of this, since it gives you an analytical way to do this.
True; but, properly cared for and maintained, most firearms will continue to do their job for a long time.
The problem with an item like a parka is that it’s a tool for a specific job.
Learning to do proper layering, will allow inexpensive clothing to work in an all season capacity. My Frogg Toggs and wool sweaters, allow me to adjust for nearly any type of temperature and weather.
Versatility is another important way to save money and still get the job done.
I agree in part; but, we use Bounty paper towels, since all of the cheap brands just seem to melt. And who uses disposable cutlery or plates when not at a picnic?
We find most of the store brands, especially at Aldi’s to be excellent. You can also often find name brands tucked away at the discount or dollars stores; but, make sure you know what you’re getting, and check the sizes since often that $1.00 iten is a lot smaller than the item in the grocery for $1.50.
This is good advice for new preppers; but, another corollary to this is to plan, take your time, and don’t try to do everything overnight, since you need to think before you spend.
And now: ”The Threat matrix revisited”
Something you might want to do to organize your start is a technique called ”The Threat Matrix” , that I will describe here. This tool is not hard or complex; but, will take some clear and honest thinking as you create it, and once it’s completed, you’ll have a map to start you on your way with some semblance of organization, and perhaps a little less stress. You can use paper and pencil, a dry erase board or Post-it Notes, or a spreadsheet or word processor, if you’re comfortable with one of those tools. Here is how you construct the one for your situation.
Start with a list of threats in prioritized order, with loss of your income, death in the family, or sudden acute illness at the top. Add global nuclear war and life ending asteroid strike at the bottom. Fill in the middle with the threats you and your family could actually face. As an example, in my location we can have blizzards and tornados; but, are not concerned with earthquakes or hurricanes and generally not much with floods or wildfires at my actual physical location, so be honest with yourself for your area, location, and situation.
Next, starting at the most likely / highest priority event, make a list of the resources required to mitigate that threat. A resource in this case would be Materials, knowledge, and/or skills.
Keep in mind also that often people confuse information, knowledge, and skills with each other. There is; however, a simple way to understand the difference and that is the application of each to your own situation. A library with all of its books or the internet with all of its web pages, podcasts, & videos, contains absolutely no knowledge. That content is only information. When you apply that information by reading, listening, or watching, then you gain knowledge when you start to understand the concepts.
That act of absorbing and understanding information does not however make a skill until you then apply that knowledge by ”doing” something to create a skill, and then practice that skill to become proficient. One additional concept to keep in mind is that the old maxim, ”Practice Makes Perfect” is only partially correct, since only ” Perfect Practice Makes Perfect” , especially when doing things that could be dangerous, like chopping or splitting wood or running a chainsaw, so take your time.
Once you have made your threat list, and added the knowledge, skills, and resources required to mitigate that threat, move on down to the next one on the list. What you will find is that as you move down the list, you start needing to add fewer & fewer items, since they have already been covered in the levels above. Once the matrix is complete, you have a plan with a map for the supplies, knowledge (books and other information), and skills to acquire, and like any journey, it just gets easier with a map to the destination.
Also, note that as you prepare your way down this list, other things you missed will pop into your head; but, be assured that this is normal, and as you move on this journey in an organized fashion, you should occasionally stop and smell the flowers, looking back for just a minute to see how far you’ve come. Always looking ahead will only tend to disappoint you, because this journey like life itself never has a final destination. I’ve been seriously on this journey and lifestyle for 50+ years, and still on occasion wonder what I’m missing.
Your journey forward into preparedness will be constantly changing as you acquire new resources or skills, many of which will then equip you to think of and ask questions that might not even have been thought of at the start, since we are often sometimes to ignorant to even ask the right questions. One of those resources are the incredible people here who are not too proud to admit ignorance and ask a question and often have the knowledge or skills to answer one., so don’t be shy and ask or answer.
Sometimes not knowing what we don’t know is our biggest problem; but, as you move forward, often very obvious things will pop into your head, at which point you go back and rework the matrix; but, I think you’ll find that it will only get easier and you will eventually gain some peace of mind.
The person I’d most want to be around if there is haggling or bartering to be done and that is my Ex-wife. The woman is relentless. We went to Nogales, Mexico many years ago. My Ex is Cuban and Spanish is her first language. She left the Mexican store owners in shell shock when she got done with them. They expect haggling, but Americans are generally quite poor at it. Cubans, on the other hand, are professionals.
She too would haggle at Sears and other department stores. Still does, and still gets deals.
*My son did some work for a neighbor, got paid, and negotiated that he had exclusive hunting rights to a large part of the customer’s property. Son then exchanged hunting rights to a small area to a man for a night vision device. (I’m not sure if it was a scope or binoculars.) The device retails for $10,000, and son was able to use it for several days before he decided if he wanted to make the trade.
*I save money on pears by picking all I want from my cousin’s tree. She doesn’t like pears and neither do her kids and grandkids.
I do as much coupon shopping as I can and I look for clearance and new lower price stickers on the shelves. We also go to thrift stores and Habitat stores, and we find stuff hubby can use for work, and I find the older house wears that have stood the test of time. As we get older, I tend not to get as much stuff as a few year’s ago tho I should get more winter shoes, and tennis shoes, for me and my son, we tent to wear our stuff out first my last pair of running shoes, had holes all over them they were pretty wore out. I finally figured out on my vacuum cleaner, why the brush/ bar was not moving you had to push one of the button’s down to engage the belt , it’s a weird design but thanks to a Hoover you tube video, I figured it out and it saved us from buying a new vacuum , and when I bought the belts from a dealer she told me vacuums only have a life span of 5 years, what a rip off for sure. You have to treat everything with kid gloves, if you want anything to last we just bought metal knobs for our stove because the plastic ones, were breaking off and the paint was flaking off so now with metal knobs, I’m hoping to get a few more year’s out of my stove.