Surviving Societal Collapse

Human history is rife with examples of fiat and hard currencies alike that have risen and fallen over time, often with disastrous results. Most famously, there were the bank runs and subsequent collapses of the 1930s and the ensuing Great Depression that enveloped the United States and many other countries (including Canada, Australia, Britain, Germany, etc.) while more recently there have been bank holidays and bank runs in Iceland, Sweden, Latvia and just this year in Cyprus and Greece.

A similar banking holiday and bank run here in the US, especially in light of the events of the late 2000s and through to this year, doesn’t seem entirely unlikely. With the level of financial turmoil and economic upheaval that accompanies such a bank run, there is very real potential for widely spread civil unrest and societal breakdown to ensue.

To ensure that you, and your family, have the best chance to survive and continue to thrive, proper preparation is necessary.

Unfortunately, the people of today are even less prepared than their ancestors, especially here in the US. Family farms, once an archetype of the American way of life, are now a rare and increasingly limited thing of the past. Storing extra food or keeping a well-stocked pantry is practically unheard of, especially among the younger generations.

There are also more people now than ever before, living more densely in cities. Most people have never tended a garden in their life, let alone grown their own food crops or own the land necessary for it, so you can imagine the chaos and panic that will ensue in the face of any serious financial calamity.

There are many ways you can prepare yourself and protect your assets from the likelihood of an economic collapse or serious breakdown of civilization, though. One of the best ways you can protect yourself is to invest in hard assets that are tangible and retain their value despite the test of time. Owning arable land, and/or operating a farm in the spirit of our homesteading forefathers, is one good way to invest your wealth and protect your family.

Whether paper and/or hard currencies are still used, if history is anything to go by they are probably going to be hard to acquire and/or highly inflated and relatively worthless as a result.

Although a more reliable currency may be developed, during the period of chaos and upheaval there are many tried and true alternatives to traditional and fiat currency that can be used in trade and barter. Some of the most common things that have been (and still are) used as alternative currencies include:

  • Tobacco and cigarettes have been used for decades as a substitute (or commodity based) currency for trade and barter. Whether or not you smoke, loose tobacco and tobacco products are a very good store of value, and are likely to be worth quite a lot more than you paid for them in the event of a serious crises.
  • Alcohol, like tobacco, is always in demand somewhere, by someone, and can be used to trade and barter for many goods. Grain alcohol stores practically indefinitely, while high proof rums, vodka, gin and other liquors are very good for storing and trading. In addition to storing alcohol for trade or barter later, learning how to brew mead and beer or to distill your own alcohol can be an invaluable skill.
  • Gold, silver and copper are some of the most common alternatives for those who wish to keep their wealth in a store of harder currency. Tried and true, precious and semiprecious metals have been used as a store of wealth for thousands of years. Older US coins, minted in 1964 and earlier, contain ~90% silver and are a good way to start a small silver collection. If you opt to invest in solid gold, silver or copper bullion, be sure to get chips or bullion in many smaller weights, including 1/8th, ¼, ½, and 1 oz. for ease of trade.
  • Ammunition in a variety of calibers can not only save your life, but will also give you a rather powerful bargaining tool if SHTF and all hell breaks loose. Aside from stocking up on as much ammo as you reasonably can, be sure to purchase plenty of the most common calibers (9mm, .45, .22lr, 12 gauge, etc.) for use as bargaining chips and in trade. It probably won’t be like the days of the Wild West, but ammunition will likely be in limited or strictly controlled supply, so your stockpile will become valuable fast.

Those who own land or farms in the countryside are generally going to be at an advantage in the case of widespread societal collapse. Although a certain percentage of people will try to flee from cities and developed urban areas, thus posing a potential threat to your countryside location, the fact is that most of the masses either won’t leave or won’t get far from the cities they live in.

Not everyone is able to take action in the face of economic ruin, either, many people will go catatonic in shock, will hole themselves up in their home, or even commit suicide, unfortunately.

There are some other key ways that you can increase your chance of surviving, and potentially even thriving, in the event of widespread chaos and societal collapse. These include:

  • Develop a close community when possible. In the event of any serious breakdown in society, when the police and local law enforcement, and potentially even the military, are overwhelmed or disbanded entirely, there will be greater safety in numbers. You need to be able to trust the people around you, though. In the country or another rural area, you should do your best to be on good, friendly terms with your neighbors so that you can watch out for one another. If you live in a city or another suburban area, try to keep your family and friends close, stay informed and make contingency plans together.
  • Store spare parts and specialty oils, lubricants and other commonly needed tools for repairing various machinery. In the event of widespread chaos or the breakdown of society, production of these materials will decrease or stop entirely. Since stores, warehouses and storage facilities will be robbed and looted in short order, you will put yourself in a more powerful position to remain independent and self-sufficient by stocking up on needed supplies ahead of time. Spare parts, and general mechanical knowhow, will also give you powerful bargaining chips for barter and trade.
  • Stock up on antibiotics and other pharmaceutical medicines, both over-the-counter and prescription. Medicine can become very hard, even impossible, to obtain in a crises and no one wants to die (or lose a child) due to a bad cold or the onset of diarrhea. Pain killers, anti-inflammatories, Imodium, iodine and other medicines can be purchased in most shops and local pharmacies or online. If you can’t get additional prescriptions from your doctor, one good alternative for sourcing antibiotics is to check with the vet. Antibiotics for pets, including penicillin (Fish Pen), amoxicillin (Fish Mox), and ciprofloxacin (Fish Flox) are available from the vet without any prescription and are identical to those used for humans.

Whenever possible, you should also stockpile extra food, water and other basic necessities of life, but these recommendations will put you in a stronger position to trade and barter for whatever you may need after a collapse but didn’t have a chance to stockpile. Perhaps more important than any other preparation you make, though, is your level of mental preparedness.

Disasters and crises situations exert a huge toll on humans psychologically and mentally; stress and fatigue can wear down even those who are reasonably well prepared in a material sense. Prepare yourself mentally and psychologically by developing a firm plan of action in the event of a critical emergency, and review your plans with your family and/or close friends.

Panic in a critical situation can be deadly, so by preparing ahead of time and knowing your plan of action by heart you’ll be calmer and have a clearer mind in the event of a real emergency.


This article has been written by Bill White for Survivopedia.


Written by

Bill White is the author of Conquering the Coming Collapse, and a former Army officer, manufacturing engineer and business manager. More recently, he left the business world to work as a cross-cultural missionary on the Mexico border. Bill has been a survivalist since the 1970s, when the nation was in the latter days of the Cold War. He had determined to head into the Colorado Rockies, should Washington ever decide to push the button. While those days have passed, the knowledge Bill gained during that time hasn’t. He now works to educate others on the risks that exist in our society and how to prepare to meet them. You can send Bill a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • Hey Alex. Since I purchased your aquaponics kit I’ve started and on my way. I read this article and found it very helpful to others. I started the silver a few years back and you’re right about one thing it can hold its value. But from a legal view on the land that people think they own I find this is going to be a problem. No one truly owns their land. If your land has ever had a bank involved that raises a lot of tough issues. If there is a monetary collapse how can one pay their land taxes? Gold to me is not a good idea. Reason is the gov’t had restrictions on it. But silver they don’t. The IRS can not confiscate silver nor do they recognize a 508 tax code. They have no jurisdiction over silver whatsoever. I’ve done mounds of research on this topic for the last 3 years from all legal points. And I’ve found that there is not many options. If they want to take your land they can. Period. They do not have to accept tax payment in silver at all. This is a part that scares me the most. I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket so to speak so I decided to put stores out everywhere I knew that would be the most safe. This may be a good idea for all. The thought of being kicked off your land is as real as can be. People need to be aware of this in my opinion. They have covered their bases on the land issue very well. I wondered if you may have looked into this or you may have some info that I don’t know of? Always enjoy reading your articles and I urge everyone out there to get this aquaponics kit. You will be amazed just how easy it is to put together. Best idea ever Alex. Thanks so much.

  • Excellent posting, I agree in total.

  • I have asked the question if your property is paid for free and clear and money has no value how can taxs be paid muchless owed ? The idea of my property and or supplys being confiscated by a rogue group or supposidley govt. officials could turn ugly for all parties involved. To me its called the bill of rights.

  • Interesting article…funny how so many people have seen the movie The Road Warrior, yet still think things like a gold coin or bar, which is inedible, unfireable, and about as useful as a rock in a case of societal collapse, is the thing to you post, ammo, medicine, batteries, gas, water, and food are the items to invest in. As a tip for getting meds, what I have done is start to purchase quantities of antibiotics and other non narcotic meds online from India and China. I also buried a decent sized oil tank in my yard, 100 gallons, and am near to filling it with gasoline. Also would suggest to readers that you stock up on bandages, tape, plastic bags, soap in pump containers, and camo clothing. And, as a last surprise, those cheap night vision toys u can get for your kids at toys r us? They work great for basic use…fragile, yes, but cheap enough to buy a pair a month and store them. Check it out…this was suggested to me by a friend, and, sure enough, they work great!!

    • On the point on Gas in that tank. Can you get it out with out electricity? do you use it often and replace it with new gas or use fuel stabilizers? I think having gas on hand is a great idea but I was thinking good heavy duty cans. they are easily poured into your gas tank, portable if you need to leave your house or take them to the gas station to fill back up, stored and rotated with fresh gas, etc… just another way to look at it.

  • You give many good recommendations & the means for positive actions. But for me, even tho’ I am doing what I can on a limited income to stock-pile some things, [especially a thyroid replacement med that I literally need daily in order to remain alive], I honestly don’t see how I, as a frail woman nearing her 70’s, stands a chance when the time comes that the SHTF… especially living in the heart of a desert city! I feel that even if I had plenty of provisions to survive long-term in that circumstance… defending oneself in a city seems an impossibility. And, Lord help us if the lights go out during the summer months! I do keep my vehicle gassed up – but really… where could I go?!
    I have survived many horrendously challenging circumstances in my life but it really is sad to me that any of us has to be thinking in these terms now.

    • Hello Moriah;

      Survival and preparedness can be tough for the elderly, there’s no doubt about it. Aside from stockpiling whatever life-saving supplies you absolutely need (like your thyroid medication, food and water, etc.) one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for the possibility of a SHTF scenario is to develop a close community or network of support. A tight-knit family can offer immense support during a crises or emergency, especially if many of the members are children, grandchildren or other younger relatives.

      For those who don’t have much, or any, family, another option to consider is to develop ties with a local militia or outdoorsman / survivalist group. Many of the men and women who take part in clubs like these are military veterans and other patriots, and most of them are friendly and willing to share knowledge, preparation tips and plans for mutual support in the event of a disaster.

      And if you feel a little daunted about approaching a survivalist group comprised of younger people, just remember that there are plenty of things that need done even after SHTF or TEOTWAWKI. Meals still have to be cooked, clothing has to be cleaned and repaired, medical care is needed, and plenty of other mundane chores abound, so in all likelihood you have skills that the group could potentially use in a crises.

      In any event, good luck with your preparations and don’t hesitate to look around your local community for like-minded people you can network with for mutual support.

      – G. Rady

  • RU Prepper’ed. Our government is warning us to be prepared. For those wishing to help themselves with a medical emergency may I suggest becoming educated in the value of essential oils from plants. Not all oils have the same therapeutic quality; many are created for smell and the perfume industry. I am a trainer/leader for my company. I can help guide you to oils that work as antibiotics; oils that help balance the body; oils that deter insects; oils that help with spider bites like the Brown Recluse; oils that can stop bleeding; etc. My company’s oils have a long shelf life and are packaged for easy travel as you prepare your “oil medicine cabinet”. Contact me at [email protected]

  • Just in case folks overlook Diesel fuel and how useful it can until you run out, its the same fuel in my fuel oil tank folks use for heating, its illegal to run on red fuel but it is the same thing, only red dye. And its cheaper when you buy the red fuel. I will run red when SHTF.

  • I am thinking that I need to record the things I have learned, by trial &error as well as researched, so that if I am not “here” my family can carry on.