El Cheapo Prepping 101, by Christopher S.

In today’s economy you maybe having a hard time keeping up with the bills let alone preparing for the next Armageddon. Are you sitting in your cheap Wal-Mart chair staring at your computer screen wishing you had a Kifaru pack. Are you wishing you had the money to go to the range even once a year? Let me get out the chalk board and you get your pencil ready. I am about to school you on prepping that will take you to the next level without skimping on the good stuff.

First off I would like to explain I am not cheap, but rather clever in getting what I want. Let me start off with an example of what I mean. Would you rather shoot brass or steel cased ammunition? That’s obvious. Always do your homework and get the right item the first time. I would shoot brass any day over Wolf steel cased. Every time I go to the range I pick up at least three times the quantity of brass that I just shot. Why would you do that you say? There are lots of reasons, but here are just a few:

  1. You can have free brass rather than pay for it.
  2. You can swage cartridge cases you don’t use into projectiles for reloading.
  3. You can also trade brass to reloaders for stuff you may need. All of this can be done with just paying a range fee.

[JWR Adds: Show great caution when collecting range brass. Keep in mind that you know nothing about its origin. Inspect each case very carefully before re-using it, and put any that are suspect in your “scrap melt” bin. For the sake of safety, watch carefully for dented or split necks, stretched or bulged cases, or odd head stamps that might indicate poor quality brass. Also be sure to use a bright light to check for twin flash holes, that indicate Berdan primed brass. At a minimum you will bend a decapping pin if you accidentally try to de-prime Berdan brass with a standard American reloading press. But at worst, you might destroy your die. Talk about the ultimate in “false economy” !]

Learn the art of barter and trade when your money supply is thin. This is why you should do some planning before you go out and spend the few copper pieces you have. Do the research on items you want for your bug out bag first. You don’t want to buy a $100 item to find out on your first camping trip that it failed. I like to start out by checking out forums like survivalblog.com and see what people are recommending. Then I head over to Youtube.com and get a confirmation from reviewers before I make a big purchase. When in doubt by quality gear rather than saying to yourself I will upgrade later. You will thank yourself in the long run. Learn from me because I bought five packs before I found the right one. After that wish list is complete you are ready to start hunting gear.

This brings me to my next point, buy online, out of season, and only on clearance. Everybody likes to walk into their local Gander Mountain [sporting goods store] on a Saturday morning and just gawk at gear. That hard earned dollar will not go far in these overpriced brick and mortar stores. They charge those prices because they are trying to nickel and dime you to pay their bills. Instead head online and sit in your pajamas and scroll over the next few sources I provide. Online stores provide goods less expensively because they have a lower over head and also they have to compete with search engines. Always buy your gear out of season. I like to check out Sportsmansguide.com when summer is over for camping gear. They have good deals on surplus Gore-Tex rain gear, 5.11 pants and shirts for under 20 dollars, and other great deals like wool blankets. Always Google the store along with the word coupon or discount before you check out. I can not even begin to tell you how many times I have gotten free shipping along with $10 or $20 dollars off an order. Next everybody likes name brand gear. Why not roll out in TEOTWAWKI in style? I like to go on E-Bay and look for factory second gear. I once found an Ontario Rat-7 knife (MSRP $180) which was a second for $60. I then contacted the seller through a question and asked if he would lower his price even more. The seller then set the item as a buy it now for the haggled price of $55 with free shipping. Yes when it doubt contact retailers for haggled prices or shipping discounts. I also like to go on forums which relay deals onto their readers. Lots of times people will steer you onto deals you could only dream of. This brings me to my next point, which is to network with coupon clippers and bloggers.

I like to buy about ten Sunday papers and trade with people online (or ask neighbors for theirs). Sounds crazy right? Its not as bad you may think. People will sometimes trade five times as many coupons for a single coupon they are looking for. Once again this is the art of barter and trade! Set aside fifteen minutes a day into reading coupon forums and watch for those deals. Usually the thrifty shoppers know days or even weeks in advance to when a retailer is having a sale (which you can apply all coupons towards). I usually trade exclusively for food coupons and trade away the rest of the coupons I may have. If dates are getting close on coupons I sell bundles of them on eBay.com. Do not let anything go to waste. Remember you are trying to trade virtually worthless things to deck out that B.O.B. So be a smart shopper and get educated by reading those online forums. If you want to even go cheaper watch daily deals or get involved in your local Craigslist. I watch these sites like a hawk and only buy when I find a super steal. My favorite sites are woot.com, steepandcheap.com, and dailysteals.com. These sites can change items fast so you have to be quick. Also I watch Craigslist for my area.

I like to keep my eye out for people trying to get rid of stuff for free. I have seen lots of free 5 gallon buckets, timber, and even tents. When it comes to Craigslist you need to be quick and call fast. Lots of people are weary about meeting people they don’t know on a forum. I always like to do trades and purchases in public places (like a park and ride, or a fast food parking lot. Also you need to train yourself to live like a prepper. That means buckling down and lowering that monthly budget. My wife and I only go shopping at the local food market on double coupon day. Yes there is such a thing! Get to know your local retail managers because they will tell you what days they put out the fresh clearance. Maybe they will even set something aside if they know you are interested in such items. I have even gone out on a limb a few times and asked if I buy in bulk will they sell me the items just above their cost. It never hurts to ask because I have gotten toilet paper that way and I only paid 25 cents above their cost for the big packs. Guess what! I used coupons too. Try to cut down those everyday expenses so that you can splurge on that new Kifaru pack (last years model on clearance of course). My wife and I know our neighbors well and we share a wi-fi connection and split the cost. Trust thy neighbor it can be done. In these tough times with high gas prices we also car pool to work. Why not? Not to mention all the car repairs and oil changes this saves.

Another great saver we do is unplug electronic items that are not in use. When I first started doing this we were saving about $15 a month. You are also less likely to turn on five lamps if you have to plug them all in. [JWR Adds: Power strips with switches are your energy-saving allies. And every power cube is your enemy!] Don’t forget those special energy saving light bulbs. I found them on clearance for a buck each at a local Walgreens one time. Search those clearance shelves high and low. Look for deals on rent and other bills. You would not believe me if I told you that you can haggle with your debtors. I once told my land lord that I would move if he did not shave off a hundred dollars off the rent. He called his boss and thirty minutes later I had a new lease (was the end of my year contract of course). I then thought hey this is easy so I went to my cellular plan. I got my wife and I on a family contract and busted that bill down by another thirty dollars. After that I tried haggling with my cable service and I got them to give me the introductory rate for two years. Of course I will renegotiate when that is up. You have to speak up when it comes down to penny pinching, otherwise they will walk all over you. ? In conclusion get your wish list ready and check it off as the deals reveal themselves. Do not get impatient just keep checking your sources regularly. Always do your homework and get the right item the first time. Make sure you buy quality gear rather than buying cheap. Get those deals buy bidding, couponing, and watching the deals. When in doubt haggle with people and they will usually give in. Also do not settle for high rent. Talk it over with your landlord. Last but not least network with your neighbors they are your best asset. Good luck and thanks for stopping by for TEOTWAWKI 101.

Sources for gear reviews on YouTube.com:

Sources for Inexpensive Gear: