On Day 21 of our Let’s Get Prepared! Challenge, we’re going to talk about how to invest in getting prepared, without making a big investment. you don’t have to go into debt just to be prepared!
The first point to remember when thinking about how to get prepared without spending a lot of money is that so much of being prepared is in thinking through the plan, not in buying or building supplies. There is no substitute for a solid plan.
Here are some strategies and tips to think about when you are building your supplies and looking to prepare on a budget. There is no PERFECT way to do this, but some of these may be helpful strategies for you.
Have a list: Start by itemizing what you think you should have, both in terms of type and supply/size. Keep this as a master, so you know how to keep an eye on your supplies. Then review what you have, check off what you already own, and highlight what you still need. Knowing what you need allows you to shop or hunt selectively, and allows you to scan your environment to identify opportunities.
Have a budget: How much SHOULD you spend on this stuff? There’s no right answer, just a right answer for you, but you can set it up by category: Food, medicine/health, hygiene, gear, etc. This allows you to shop with limits, avoid impulse buying opportunities, and putting your money where it will make the most impact.
Couponing and Sales: For items that fall into the first aid category or hygiene category, you can watch the circulars for those items on your list. It’s also a good way to use things like your CVS extra bucks or rewards categories. But be smart about this. This is not a “spend more to save a little” kind of tactic; you can go poor saving money. Don’t be fooled into buying bulk items for things you don’t need just to generate rewards points or rebates. And set the limits that make sense; you don’t need to go overboard (you don’t need 10 deodorants just because they’re on sale, for instance), but think about the basic supplies you’re looking to add to your kit, and keep an eye out for special pricing.
Second-Hand shopping: For some survival gear or camping gear, consider Second-hand shops, army navy supply stores, or garage / yard sales.
Freecycle / Free Facebook Groups: These are great sites to keep an eye out on items that would work for supplies, as well. If you’ve decided, for instance, that you might like to dehydrate your own food as part of your preparations, keep an eye out for someone who has already gotten out of their “I’m going to dehydrate all my own food” phase, and looking to re-home their equipment.
Dollar Stores: This is another caveat category. This is a great option to spend a dollar (typically) on some basics. But remember, the sizes of items that you’ll find here tend to be smaller. Consider the per ounce or per piece costs, and balance it against the supply you might need. For instance, you might get a package of 4 doses of a medication for a $1, at 25 cents a piece, but if you bought the same medication at a drug store, you might get 12 doses for $2.40, and that’s 20 cents a piece. The key here is in determining whether or not this is a “just in case” purchase, and 4 doses will be plenty. For some items, the answer is yes, but for some (pain relief medication, for instance) the larger supply may be better for your particular needs.
Create, don’t buy: Learning how to purify your own water or grow your own food can go a long way to helping save money in the long run. We’ll talk about this more in Phase 5: Build Your Skills, but certainly the idea is to continue to focus on your self-sustenance and what you can do on your own, rather than buy.
Repurpose what you have: Be on the lookout for how you can repurpose existing items you have (or items you can obtain more cheaply than the “real thing” without compromising quality). Many hard-core “prepper” sites will have great ideas and directions on how to make something amazing out of seemingly nothing. These can be anything from how to use dental floss as a stronger cord to building a solar shower with a garbage bag or using old eyeglasses to start a fire and, of course, about 1001 things you can do with duct tape.
Save money in other areas to generate money to apply to preparing: Sometimes, the best way to build a budget for a priority is to reduce a budget elsewhere. If you saved $5 a week on other things, you could generate an extra $250 a year to put towards emergency preparedness.
Build your cash supply, a little at a time: Similar to the “save $5 a week on other things” point from above, this is a great way to build up that cash-on-hand asset that a good emergency kit includes. We talked last week about having cash on hand in case:
- Access to get cash at ATMs or banks is limited or unavailable (no electricity means no ATM, but also, no credit card machines working in stores)
- You’re at the gas pump and the credit card machines aren’t working
- You need to hire someone who only will take cash, and by the way, won’t make change for the $100 you have on hand, and you don’t have small bills.
If you were able to set $5 a week in an envelope you’d have a healthy stash for emergencies within 6 months, and you’d be less likely to notice it missing from your bank account.
First, start with your list, so you know what you truly need, and avoid impulse buying or unnecessary spending.
Second, set a budget.
Third, consider the creative shopping or repurposing approaches you might take to filling those needs from your list.
Join in the conversation over at the Clever Girl Organizing Challenge Facebook Group to learn from and to teach others as we all take on the Let’s Get Prepared! Challenge!
Reminder: Our goal here is to take steps towards improvement. The content in these posts is designed to inspire thinking, not fear.