How To Prep On A Tight Budget

Even if the stock market is breaking record after record, in the real world things don’t look that great.

If you’re not working on Wall Street, you can safely presume that the “real world” economy is actually in the dumps, and that’s the way it has been for the last ten years. Moreover, prominent market analysts, like Peter Schiff and Ron Paul, predict a major recession occurring in 2019 or 2020, and currently speaking, the stock market is in “correction” mode, due to the Federal Reserve raising interest rates and pricking the stock market bubble they’ve created via ZIRP/NIRP, QE et al. And correction always precedes a recession.

Now, if you’re the average American and your prepping funds are a constraining factor, have no fear, because prepping on a tight budget is not an impossible task. Even if prepping can become an expensive project for some, if you’re doing it smart, prioritizing step by step, well, you can get there on the cheap. All you need is patience and a good plan.

Prepping without Breaking the Bank.

Before starting spending your hard earned money, you should hit pause and think about what’s absolutely necessary for your survival in a given situation. Basically, what are you prepping for?

If you live in the big bad city and you intend to leave the premises in case of a disaster, do you have a plan for that? Do you have the plan and the means to evacuate ASAP? Do you know where to go? Also, it comes as a no brainer that if your intention is to bug out when SHTF, buying heavy survival gear and stockpiling food and water makes no sense, as it’s a waste of time and money. In such a scenario (bugging out that is), one should focus on getting short term emergency supplies, bug out bags, stuff that will get you through in an emergency situation. You must concentrate on your bug out bag – bug out location and on your exit plan first and foremost.

The flip-side to that coin is that if you intend to stay and face the music, well, it’s the other way around (you must concentrate on stockpiling supplies and gear).

Best case scenario, if you’re lucky enough to have a survival retreat/bug out location for you and your family, you should stockpile there, both in terms of survival gear and food/water. But don’t forget the escape plan!

What is Your Budget for Prepping?

That’s pretty easy to determine, if you’re the realistic type of person.

All you have to do is to write down your weekly/monthly income and subtract from that sum all the expenditures, the absolutely necessary ones. What’s left, you can allocate for your prepping funds. If you’re serious about prepping for survival and you’re on a tight budget, you can easily give up some of your daily “luxuries”, such as eating out or going to see the latest movies or buying the latest video games; you can live a long and fulfilling (also much healthier) life by cooking your own meals and reading useful stuff (like this website) instead of gaming like a 16 year-old.

Setting up Your Own Agenda for Prepping

You should determine which are the most important things for your survival in a given situation and put them on a list; prioritize, purchase only what’s absolutely necessary, don’t waste money on irrelevant things, but save them for things that matter.

After you created the list of “must have” items, buy them in small increments (so they don’t become a financial burden on your budget) each time you’re on a shopping trip. Be aware of all the sales and coupons available at your local grocery store, but avoid stocking up stuff just because it’s on sale that day. Shop smart, on a “need to have” basis!

Now, before buying cheap preps for your “nest egg”, you should know the secrets of the trade, especially when you’re prepping on a budget. When you’re cruising the shelves for non perishable foods, such as oats, rice or beans, always buy in bulk, it’s much cheaper that way. Don’t worry, when you’re storing them for later, you can use vacuum sealing or oven canning in order to prolong their shelf life.

Oven caning is a DIY method for preparing dried goods that will last you for years and will save you lots of money, because freeze dried / dehydrated food is pretty expensive. Oven canning consists of baking the dried foods(like beans or lentils) in jars using your oven in order to kill bacteria and to prevent spoilage/contamination. This method of stockpiling survival foods has been proven to be very effective; according to various reports, oven canned dry foods can last for up to twenty years, and that’s something, taking into account that you’re not using chemical preservatives.

This Device Easily Turns Air Into Water!

Besides oven caning, you can store non perishable foods using Mylar bags, but make sure that you’re adding oxy-sorb (oxygen absorbers, you can find them on Amazon and the like), thus preserving their quality for extended periods of time.

Fruits, meats and veggies can be dehydrated or pressure canned for long term storage too. I strongly recommend you to never stock up on stuff that you don’t know how to use or you will never eat, that’s a no brainer actually but I had to mention it!

The ‘Ask for it’ Trick

What I mean is that you can let your friends/family know what you want for your birthday/Christmas and instead of getting useless stuff, like the classical shirt and tie, you can let them know that you wish for a Swiss army knife or any survival gear that you’re short of, you know what I mean. It’s not very polite to ask for a specific thing, I know, but the best gifts in the world for a prepper are the things that will make a difference when SHTF.

Another issue that you’ll have to address when you’re on the prowl for survival gear is to avoid making unwise choices when you’re in the “buying spree”, in the heat of the moment sort of thing. Always know exactly what you’re looking for and what you actually need. Before coughing up your hard earned dollars, do a little bit of research, read some reviews, ask around on Internet forums, you know the drill.

Even if you’re on a tight budget, don’t buy cheap crap, especially when it comes to essential survival gear. Someday, your life may depend on it and if you get into trouble or trouble comes to you, it would be a wise choice to have some cash invested in high quality survival gear. Getting cheap when it comes to survival won’t pay in the long run, mark my words folks!

Don’t Forget One of the Basic Rules in Life

Everything is a negotiation, anything can be negotiated, especially when it comes to buying or trading/bartering stuff. Get yourself in the habit of negotiating, don’t be ashamed of asking for discounts, especially when you’re buying from private persons or small companies (mom and pop establishments). You will be pleasantly surprised to find out that sometimes people will drop the price for no apparent reason, but keep in mind that the art of negotiating consists in offering a plausible reason for a price drop, most of the times; that’s the “back and forth” game.

Anything can be a reason for a discount : buying an already opened item, buying large quantities of “stuff”, buying a damaged item (scratched, with small/minor defects that don’t impair over its usability), buying items which are close to expiration date or even expired.

Yes, you can safely buy and use expired stuff, such as canned goods or various chemical products. USDA explains that “best if used by/before date” means the expiration date is recommended for best quality/flavor of the respective goods. If you’re on a really tight budget, you can eat/use most of the canned products long after their actual expiration date.

When it comes to our modern day canned food, which contains lots of preservatives and it’s pasteurized, its actual shelf life is not the problem, it’s not old food that will make you sick. You can become sick from food poisoning if the food is contaminated with salmonella or various strains of e coli or listeria bacteria, even if the food just arrived yesterday in the store, regardless if it’s fresh or canned. The most important thing to keep in mind when stockpiling canned foods or any other stuff for that matter is to handle and store them properly. If you got this part covered, you can safely use/consume them for years beyond their official expiration dates.

Now, getting back to our “negotiating” business, a good example of negotiating yourself a better deal is when you’re cruising farmer’s markets. Let’s say that one of something is 50 cents; well, just ask the farmer for a sweet deal : three for $1. If you become a master in the fine art of negotiating, you can safely say that you’re one step closer to becoming a hardcore prepper, because negotiating is a basic life skill that will make a difference and it will pay you back until the end.

One of the best places to buy cheap preps is at the dollar stores, whether we’re talking about first aid supplies (band aids, gauze, alcohol prep pads, hydrogen peroxide, medical tape, basic stuff), foods (veggies, fruits, canned meats etc), lighting gear (candles, flashlights, batteries or even glow-sticks), hygiene supplies (soap, shampoo, baby wet wipes, toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss, hand sanitizer), medicines (analgesics, allergy stuff, antibiotics), fire starters (strike anywhere matches, cheap BIC lighters, magnifying glass etc), clothing (ponchos, gloves, socks, underwear, t-shirts), not to mention other useful stuff like playing cards to kill boredom, knives, duct tape, small hardware items (hammers, washers, screws wrenches, blades)what have you. Even if they’re not the best quality, they’re better than nothing if that’s all you can afford.

Besides dollar stores, you can shop at Walmart for their Great Value line of “generic” foods, that are just as good as name brand ones. Also, Sam’s Club has its own line called Member’s Mark; basically keep your eyes peeled where you shop and watch out for store brand items. Try them and if you like them, go for it, the prices are usually half of the name brands and just as good (most of the time).

Maybe the cheapest place for finding non perishable foods is at food banks. Here you can get bags of rice and beans at bargain (next to zero) prices. Don’t let your pride to stop you from stockpiling essential items for you and your family! One thing to remember when you’re stockpiling is to rotate your foods, using the FIFO system, just like grocery stores: first in, first out. You don’t want to find yourself in the unpleasant situation of discovering that your stockpile has gone south when you need it the most! Finally, let me share with you these “words of wisdom” that should make for every prepper’s motto:

Have a backup, and have a backup for your backup. Shop smart, plan ahead, and every thing’s gonna be alright folks.

Written by

Chris Black is a born and bred survivalist. He used to work as a contractor for an intelligence service but now he is retired and living off the grid, as humanly possible. An internet addict and a gun enthusiast, a libertarian with a soft spot for the bill of rights and the Constitution, a free market idealist, he doesn't seem very well adjusted for the modern world. You can send Chris a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • do not over look finding things a Good Will stores and other places like that. I have found lots of tools and gear at yard sales too.

  • I’m with Ben on the resale market. Church Thrift stores sell things cheaper than Good Will and Salvation Army….but it is worth the time to talk to the employees/volunteers. Local Good Will discounts one color tag to $1 an item every Sunday. Salvation Army has a similar plan. Church Thrift stores don’t like to hang on to tools and “hard” items so they price them low. (Got an almost new hoe for $3 at one Church Thrift store) But you have to talk to the help to know how things work.

    Don’t forget picking it up for free along side of the road. HUGE treasures to be found if you go out after neighborhood sale ends. My latest finds; 3 bars of goat’s milk soap, several small hand lotions (for barter), a child’s bike (for the tires to make a cart and frame into scrap metal pile to raise more money), many wicker baskets to keep things neat and tidy in, a set of plastic drawers to hold the spare winter clothing and more clothing to add to the SHTF future need bin. (I assume I will lose weight so will need different clothing and I can always use it for barter or alter to fit children) If it’s FREE (only took a little gas in my car and some of my time) and I think I can use it, I pick it up; I leave the stuff I can’t use for others to pick through. Oh, I got a hand cranked food processor and a blender along side the road last month. It’s worth stopping to see. You can always drive away. (I always see a billion used candles in the mix. Melt them for fire starters or new candles. (Got the pan I melt the wax in free along the road too)

    • I forgot to say that every single cent I save getting things at resale outlet or Free along the road is another cent I have to use to buy the things that cost more or need to be purchased new (food, for instance) Also, I have things stocked that I would NEVER spend money on (too small clothing, books, old pans for dirty jobs like wax melting, etc) I also have children’s games (i have no children), puzzles and books for bordom busters….things that are totally out of my reach if I have to spend money on them. ( when it comes to children’s games I have 5 games I pick up regularly and then use the best box to hold the pieces, combining them until I have the complete game. For free? Why not.)