Two Letters Re: Advice for City Folks on a Budget?

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I am writing to ask for your advice and for your charity, and also because I think this subject may be of interest to many of your readers. I discovered your web site a week ago and have found it to be both very informative and also very alarming! It was major wake-up call for me.

In my opinion, I am not at all prepared for the upheavals that are already underway and that lie ahead of us.

I would very much like to change that situation, but it all (considered as a whole) seems so overwhelming. I don’t know what to do, where to start and how to go about it. Also, I don’t feel that I have the same resources and freedom as some of your other readers.

I also have the feeling that many, perhaps most, of your readers may be in exactly the same situation as me:

I am a 50 year old average guy with a wife and two young children to support. I work in a medium sized metropolitan area and live in an average house in the suburbs, about 10 miles out of town, on a 1/5th acre lot. My kids go to public school, my wife works part-time and I work full-time. We depend on the income from my job to support the family. It is not the kind of job that allows me to just uproot myself and live out in the sticks. My wife and I make just enough to pay the bills and set aside a little bit for my 401(k) [retirement savings account]and my kids’ college education. We do not own any real estate aside from our home. We have about $50,000 in savings, $90,000 in home equity and about $190,000 in my 401(k) .

In my opinion, we are not prepared at all for any sort of natural, economic, social or political upheaval or disaster:
– We don’t own a ranch or farm or remote property of any kind.
– We don’t own gold or silver.
– We don’t own any weapons and don’t know how to use them.
– We don’t have any food or emergency supplies stored up.
– Our house is not “hardened” or “secure”.
– We don’t have a generator, etc.
– We are not EMTs and don’t know how to grow crops or butcher a hog.
– We don’t have a G.O.O.D. plan or vehicle or provisions.

In short, we are probably just like most of the other average families in the USA (and perhaps like most of your readers) except for our awareness of the problems that may be coming and our desire to be prepared.

My wife and I both believe in being “prepared” but my idea and hers are different. My wife things that the problems we are facing are temporary, so she would like to be prepared too, but she doesn’t want to rock the boat or uproot our family to do it. I am alarmed and would like to be very well prepared, but I don’t want to wreck my marriage and family in the process.

Mr. Rawles, please tell us what we can do given the situation I’ve described. What specific steps should we take and in what order? What would you do if you were me in my shoes?

I know you get a lot of letters, but I sure hope you answer this one on your web site. For my sake, for my family’s sake and for the sake of what may be hundreds or thousands of people just like me that read your web site and want to do something but don’t know what to do, how to do it, where to start and what’s most important to do first, second, third etc.

Thank you in advance for your kind consideration. – Mike H.


Hello Jim,
I’ve been reading your blog off and on for several months, but I’ve yet to see anything substantial for us poorer citizens. When it comes to TEOTWAWKI, then it’s all well and good if you were wealthy enough to be able to afford a nice out-of-the-way location to save yourself, but what of us who are stuck in an apartment in the city, like Denver? Or worse, people in metropolises like Chicago and New York? Where could millions of people all possibly go to get away from it all? All we can do is to arm ourselves to the teeth and wait it out? We’d like to get out of the city too, but we aren’t able to buy property, which is why we’re stuck in apartments, rather than homes. I’m afraid that if such a disaster should come our way, then we will be on our own. Even if we have a network of people, they are often driving distances that are impractical in a time of extreme crisis. Do you have any suggestions for those of us with extremely limited incomes? I’ve searched your site, but if you did have something, I may have missed it.
Thanks, – Ken R.

JWR Replies: I realize that buying a rural retreat is not within the means of most SurvivalBlog readers. There have been quite a few articles on both urban survival and budget conscious survival, and they are available in the archives, all of course free of charge. OBTW, a brief description of how to search the archives can be found here. Here are a few SurvivalBlog letters and articles that I found in just a few minutes of searches, using “urban” and “budget” in my search phrases. (There are many more available.):

Budget Preparedness–Survival Isn’t About Stuff, It is About Skills

Letter Re: Hunkering Down in an Urban Apartment in a Worst Case Societal Collapse

Letter Re: An Urban/Suburban “Stay Put” Survival Strategy

Ten Things That Will Get You Killed While Bugging In, by Paul C.

Letter Re: Advice on a Budget Water Filter

Selecting a Rifle for a Budget-Constrained Prepper

Letter Re: Preparedness on a Very Tight Budget (Also see: Follow-up letter from J.F., and Follow-up letter from R.L.)

Letter Re: Advice for a Canadian with a “Just One Gun” Budget

Letter Re: Will Peasant Farmers Fare Better than the Rich in TEOTWAWKI?

SurvivalBlog is intended for people from all walks of life. One point of clarification: My own income is quite modest. In fact, if I still lived in a high cost region, then I wouldn’t be able to afford a mortgage payment on a three bedroom house. It is only because I’ve been preparing very gradually and systematically for 30 years that I now have a squared-away retreat here in The Unnamed Western State. And it is only by God’s grace that I have a wife that is agreeable to living in the boonies, and that I’m able to work from home.

Regardless of your income level, start with a list of lists. Tailor your procurement plan based on your personal circumstances and to match what you see as the most likely chain of events. Just be systematic, and set your priorities carefully. The smaller your budget, then the more important this is.

In answer to the question on 401(k) accounts: Many 401(k) accounts can be rolled over into IRAs. If that is the case, then I recommend doing a rollover into a Gold IRA, available through Swiss America Trading Company. I have had a gold coin IRA since 1998. Once established, these accounts are measured in an “ounce” value with a “Beginning Cost Basis” noted for when your dollars were first converted into U.S. Gold Eagles. In my case, most of the one ounce Gold Eagle bullion coins they put in storage for me cost $315 each (IIRC, this was when spot gold was $298 per ounce). Gold has nearly tripled since then. The coins are physically stored by Goldstar Trust, a bonded vault company in Texas. The annual storage and administration fee is now $90 per year, but in my opinion that is a small price to pay for knowing that when I eventually cash out my IRA it will be in tangible form, rather than an investment vehicle denominated in dollars. I have no way of knowing how much the US Dollar will depreciate in the next 15 years, but it is pretty safe to say that gold will still have the same–or nearly the same–buying power that it does today. I strongly recommend that if you have an IRA or 401(k) account that you conduct a fund rollover into a Gold IRA.