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Letter Re: Preparedness on a Very Tight Budget

Mr. Rawles,
I have recently begun reading your blog and I am intrigued by the ideas behind survivalism. As a Mormon who grew up in an area with frequent inclement weather, I have maintained an interest over the years and made, at least, some preparations. I presently have a well-equipped Bug-Out-Bag (FYI – Mormons generally refer to these as “72-hour kits”) for both my wife and I, an easily portable lock box containing all vital documents and an external hard drive with all digital documents, plenty of bottled water on hand, and sufficient food in our home for one month. We never let the tank get below half-full, and our car has a full emergency kit (food, tools, extinguisher, ice melt, etc.) just in case. One of our “Christmas presents” to us this year will be plastic sheeting to cover all windows/doors in the event of a crisis – most likely an earthquake or blizzard in this region, but one never knows. We presently own our own home – a townhouse – which has vast amounts of storage space in the attic, crawl space, and closets. I have a large tool kit from home improvement work. I do not, at this time, own a firearm.

Financially speaking, we’re strapped at the moment. We are both graduate school students with no income and, I’m sad to say, it will be that way for some time. That said, I would like to appropriate $100 of our budget over the next few months (from student loans, sadly) to preparing for the worst.

Clearly, $100 is insufficient for everything I will need. It will obviously not cover an acceptable firearm (not to mention ammunition, classes, etc.), nor is it enough for anything “fancy”. But, still, it is something.

How can I best prepare for the worst with this $100? Please keep in mind that we do have a Sam’s Club membership, so bulk buying is most certainly a possibility. We prefer to buy new or from an Army/Navy store as, in addition to being strapped for cash, we do not have much time to shop for used items. Thank you for your time, – S.

JWR Replies: Water should be first and foremost in every family’s disaster planning. I would recommend that you start by expanding your stock of stored water, as space permits. Well-washed used plastic soda pop bottles will suffice. Add 1/4 teaspoon of freshly-purchased plain liquid sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) bleach [1] to each two liter bottle. (Be certain that hypochlorite its the only ingredient in the bleach that you buy–do not buy bleach with added scents or other ingredients.) Next, Katadyn water filter [2].)

With any remaining cash, stock up at Sam’s Club on foods that store well. Rice and beans are both relatively inexpensive when bought in bulk quantities. Even with those “Under $100” preparations you will be far better prepared than most of your neighbors who have no stored water, no way to treat water from open sources without grid power, and no more than three or four days worth of food on hand. Don’t be discouraged by your current lack of funds. Just work at preparedness slowly and systematically. Every bit of “fat” that your can trim from your budget–things like dinners out, processed/pre-packaged foods, entertainment, candy, snack foods, and various fripperies constitute potential savings that can be applied to your preparedness budget.

Never lose sight of the fact that there is a direct correlation between sweat (or man hours), versus money. If you take the time to do some research and then use even more more time and effort to fabricate your own gear, then you can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Although SurvivalBlog is fairly heavy on gear recommendations (since we are, after all, talking about preparedness for in the worst case a multigenerational societal collapse), I personally have a very modest budget. In fact, if I were so inclined, I could probably qualify for food stamps. (Note: I’m not looking for sympathy. Rather, I’m just trying to illustrate that substantial preparedness can be accomplished on a tight budget.)

Here at the Rawles Ranch [3], we live out in the hinterboonies (25+ miles from the nearest town) on a veritable shoestring budget. We buy very few items “new, off the shelf”. We buy most of our clothes in thrift stores. The Memsahib [4] combs Craig’s List [5] and the local classified ads for inexpensive livestock, tack, gardening tools, and so forth. When it came time to erect our garden fence, I made all of the posts from cedar trees that I felled here on the property, rather than buying fancy uniform-looking chemically-treated posts from the lumber yard. Ditto for our deer stand. Again, sweat versus dollars. Instead of heating our home with propane or electricity (like some of our wealthy neighbors do), we heat almost exclusively with firewood. I cut all of our wood myself, either here at the ranch, or in the adjoining National Forest. The only expenses for our firewood are gasoline, gas mixing and bar oil, and an inexpensive wood cutting permit from the USFS [6]. Again, sweat versus dollars. Instead of buying hay, we swing a scythe for much of it. That is definitely sweat versus dollars! (OBTW, we are currently looking for a horse-drawn hay mower that our horse “Money Pit” can pull.) We either raise or hunt for nearly all of our meat, and we are ramping up to provide the majority of our produce in our garden. Yes, this all takes time. So does butchering, canning and dehydrating after harvest. But consider this: Not only are we pinching pennies, but we are also learning useful skills and building a small scale self-sufficiency infrastructure that will be invaluable WTSHTF [7].