One of the most common questions that new preppers have is how to get started with prepping on a tight budget. This is a great question because out of all the different aspects of the preparedness lifestyle, I feel that financial preparedness is one of, if not the most important area. Pandemics, EMPs, Social unrest…definitely all things that could happen, but your mortgage or rent payment, gas for your vehicle and all the other budget busting expenses are things that I can guarantee WILL happen. To me, this means that before we worry about any of the remote, Hollywood type of disasters, we should be taking care of the ones a lot closer to home first. This is why I always advocate putting together a $1000.00 emergency fund as a very first step for new preppers and getting out of debt (along with starting an emergency food supply) as the second.
When you’re really focused on getting out of debt it can be difficult to stockpile food, water and other essential supplies. I feel that getting to at least 30 days of stored food, water and other essential supplies is extremely important to do as quickly as possible, but how do you balance that with your laser-focus goal of getting out of debt? Here are a few tips you can use to become a thriftier prepper while still becoming financially independent by getting out of debt.
Adding to your food storage on a budget
Food is getting more and more expensive every day and it can be hard to get to that first goal of 30 days of food storage while throwing every bit of extra money you have at your debts. One of the tips I personally use is adding a minimal amount to my existing grocery budget every couple of weeks for food preps. Most of the grocery stores in my area send out coupons once a month that offer great deals on all kinds of long-term storage foods. I don’t think there’s been even 1 week in the last year that I’ve not been able to at least store away a dozen super-cheap cans of food or bags of dry goods by utilizing sales and coupons.
Try adding just $10 to your grocery budget every time you go to use for things like canned foods, rice, beans and any other long-term storage foods that you can find a coupon or sale for. You’ll be surprised how quickly that small amount adds up. Realistically it should take more than a few months to get to at least 1 month of stored food at all times. If you can’t find a sale during a specific week, pull out that $10 and put it in your sock drawer and the next time there is a sale, just buy more.
The easiest way to solve any sort of money problem is to eliminate unnecessary spending wherever possible. Take a look at your budget and see what expenses you know you could physically live without. Cable is not a necessity. For most people, high-speed internet is not a necessity. Eating out, movies, happy hour cocktails and even unnecessary driving are all things you could strip from your budget if you really need to make some room for preps. It’s not always easy at first, but it does get easier. I cancelled my cable well over a year ago and am saving nearly $100 a month from that expense that is going directly into my preps.
One of my biggest expenses used to be eating out for lunch. You may not even realize it, but that super cheap $5 lunch you get at the drive-thru or the cafeteria every day is costing you over $100 a month and could be a lot more if you have children or a spouse eating out for lunch as well. Once I started pre-making our lunches at home ahead of time, I was able to save over $200 a month, which then went into more preps and to eliminating debt.
I love buying gear as much as the next prepper. Camping gear, firearms gear, knives, bags…you name it. I’m not a big fan of conventional shopping in general, but when it comes to preps I love shopping. However, what I love even more is finding a good deal. I would estimate that over 75% of all my non-consumable preps are second hand (if not third or fourth) I go to neighborhood garage sales religiously, I keep a close eye on the gardening and sporting sections in craigslist and I am a member of numerous local resale or bartering groups on Facebook.
Even outside of the prepping world, it just makes sense to shop second-hand when you’re working with a limited budget. If you have young children (I have 2) the cost of new clothes and toys is ridiculous, especially when your child will be using them for what… 6 months before the season changes or are too big for them? It makes no sense to buy a $20 t-shirt or $50 toy for my 4 year old, when I can go to a garage sale, find tons of clothes and toys that are in usually perfect condition and buy 10 times more than I could at the store. Then, once a year, I can easily resell all the things they’ve outgrown at my own garage sale (usually for the same price I bought it for) and then go out and repeat the process again. This means that aside from the first time investment (which is already much cheaper than buying new) I can keep them stocked up indefinitely.
Some people might put their nose up about garage sales and buying used. I’ve personally never understood this. I don’t subscribe to the “keeping up with the Jones’” mentality at all, and I’d much rather buy used things and smile as I watch my debt go down every month than spend that money on new things that will lose their value almost instantly. Not to mention, if you’re looking for a way to fight the rising costs that come along with inflation, buying used is where it’s at.
Skill learning is prepping too and can be free
Today’s last tip is about finding ways to prep that don’t require extra money. As much fun as it is to buy firearms, expensive survival gear and all the other vanity prepper items out there, there’s a ton of really useful prepper skills and hobbies that you can get into for next to nothing or with no money at all. Check out www.13skills.com. This is a site ran by Jack Spirko with The Survival Podcast. There are well over 100 skills listed on this site that pertain to preparedness, survivalism and homesteading, and many of them don’t require any money to get started. Additionally, you can check out our Free Downloads section to get tons of free ebooks about a lot of different preparedness topics. Skill building is an important part of preparedness, but doesn’t require a huge budget. Additionally, leaning more about these skills for free will give you a great background of information which can help you make a more informed decision and be a thriftier shopper if you choose to spend money on these skills and hobbies.
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