How to Plan for Survival on a Small Budget, by N.G.

It’s no secret that being prepared takes time and money. These days, with the questionable economy, most people believe that they have to win the lottery or inherit a small fortune to begin preparing for an unforeseen disaster. Since I am married to a wife who is a full-time student and we have a small child and combined income of thirty thousand dollars per year, I also thought it was impossible to get started. However, whether it be supplies, equipment, training, or home modifications, anyone can get started just by starting on a smaller scale. The key is to minimize the things that are not necessary. All of the following methods are tools I have personally used to come up with extra cash or have used to save money. I’ve learned that the smallest budget can go a long way towards survival preparedness.

Tax Season

My personal favorite is when tax season comes along. Most people get tax money back, and then they start spending it on things they don’t really need, such as televisions, sound systems, video games, and the list goes on and on. Trust me; I used to be the same way. Now, getting five thousand dollars back is a nice amount to go towards my survival readiness. This past tax season, I was able to use the money I got back to purchase everything I needed for a couple of well-equipped bug-out bags, weapons, ammo, books, MRE’s, and I still had some money to spare. I have prepared my family for short-term survival by just using our tax money.

Pawn Shops, Auctions, and Yard Sales

Pawn shops are an excellent place to find a wide variety of items at a fraction of the original cost. I have purchased nice tool sets, fishing gear, and knives from the local pawn shops. They are also a good place to practice your haggling skills. Another good use of pawn shops is selling your unneeded and unwanted items from home. I have sold old videogame systems, DVD’s, televisions, and more to get rid of useless clutter and put extra cash in my pocket. On par with pawn shops, some specialty shops can be a doorway to extra cash. There’s a shop in my town that sells and buys used books and movies. I have sold many DVD’s and taken home hundreds of dollars from this one shop.

Auctions are a personal favorite, due to the fact that everything must go. I have bought all kinds of good stuff for next to nothing, just because I was the only one who bid on it. My best example is from one auction, where I purchased an entire bundle of gardening tools including rakes, shovels, hoes, and spades for only five dollars. Remember, you’re there to save money. Bidding can get a little intense and before you know it, you’re paying retail for a used item.

Another good way of saving and making money is yard sales. When I was younger, my mother would spend one day out of the week going to yard sales. That’s where a lot of my clothes came from as a kid. Along with clothing, you can find anything at a yard sale. I have purchased pots and pans, lanterns, and canning supplies very inexpensively on multiple occasions. One set of pots and pans were unused, still in the box, and only cost me eight dollars. I talked them down from ten dollars. Having a yard sale of your own is an easy way of putting extra money in your pocket. Teaming up with family and friends to have a large yard sale is best for attracting the most people. I have always made more money by having a multi-family sale opposed to doing it on my own.

The Internet

Internet websites, such as eBay, Amazon, and Craigslist, have always been a good way for me to save and make money. With eBay’s auction-style bidding, I have received excellent amounts of cash for electronics, books, and toddler clothing. In about a year and a half, I was able to make three thousand dollars on stuff around the house that I no longer needed. Selling on Craigslist is easy. Just be cautious of scams and shady people. Make sure you meet a buyer in a public place and never go alone. Most of the stuff I have sold through Craigslist are things my son has outgrown. Especially with Craigslist, people are not expecting new items. Think of it as an online yard sale. Amazon, along with eBay and Craigslist, are some of the biggest money savers I have found. I would say 99% of the books I buy are from Amazon. Amazon has just about anything you’re looking for, and their customer reviews are very helpful. On saving money alone, these three websites have saved me hundreds of dollars.

Scrap Metal, Cans, and Bottles

I made my first trip to the scrapyard a couple of years ago to dump off an old riding mower that had been sitting in the garage. I was surprised when I was given thirty-two dollars just for a junk mower. Since then, I have cleaned out my garage of all junk metal. Also, anytime friends or family are throwing out junk metal, I take it home and turn it in, once I have enough for a truck load. If you have any pieces of copper lying around, it’s selling at high prices right now. Instead of throwing an old stove out on the curb, take it to the scrap yard and get some extra cash.

Cans and bottles are a good way to pull in extra cash, as long as you live in a state that has can deposits. I’m always surprised when I learn that people just toss their cans and bottles into the garbage. They’re just throwing money into the garbage, because they don’t want to take ten minutes out of their day to turn them in. If you have friends or family who do this, ask them to set the cans and bottles aside in a trash bag; you’ll be happy to pick them up. My mother saves her glass bottles for me, because she doesn’t want to lug them around. That’s as good as free money.

Friends and Family

Friends and family can be very helpful in saving you money. Recently, my mother and stepfather were cleaning out their garage and throwing away perfectly good tools. I was able to sort through a random box of sockets and wrenches and create three full socket sets and one full wrench set. A few years ago, they were cleaning up their garage and gave me two disc grinders that were still in the box and had never been used. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Over the years I have learned many skills from friends and family. I started hunting with my stepfather when I was young. Because of his teaching, I can hunt, kill, and process the wild game that my area has to offer. My friends taught me everything I know about fishing and have given me the confidence in knowing I can use that skill to provide for my family. Gardening is a valuable skill that has been passed down from my grandfather to my mother and to me. These are all excellent skills to have in your toolbox of knowledge. Another skill that would be useful is welding. My stepfather is a welder by trade and would be the perfect person to teach me. Friends and family have a lot of knowledge to share. All you have to do is ask.

Live Off the Land

Living off of the land is another great way to save money. Start hunting, fishing, gardening, and canning to lower the amount of money you spend at the grocery store. At the same time you would be strengthening these skills for a time you may have to depend on them.

In my family, deer hunting is very popular. Most of my childhood, if we had steaks, roast, hamburger, sausage, and jerky, it came from a deer. If you process your own meat, it costs a whole lot less than buying it at the grocery store, especially with the currently rising prices.

Fishing is another strong staple in my family and a delicious money saver. We fished so much that we would have large, fish fry dinners for every summer holiday. We would feed 50 to 100 people every time. Eating fish two to three times per week makes our deer last longer and cuts the cost at the grocery store even more.

Gardening and canning really saves my family trips to the store. My parents have a large property in town, and we plant three large gardens every year. Tomatoes, green beans, jalapeños, potatoes, onions, and cabbage are some of the items regularly planted and utilized. Pickled tomatoes, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, and salsa are some of the items that we can or freeze. Time spent in the garden and a little money on canning supplies will highly minimize your need for the grocery store’s produce aisle. We have also planted fruit trees that are common to our area but still have a couple of years before they start producing. Another benefit of gardening that I have noticed is that it has brought us closer as a family. That alone is worth all the money in the world.

Minimize and Rationalize

I’ve learned that on a small budget, you have to minimize your wants and rationalize your needs. Today, we are made to believe that we need so much more than we actually do. We don’t need a cabinet full of DVD’s or a 90-inch television. Most of that stuff will be useless in the event of a survival situation and could leave you unprepared. If you are serious and dedicated to survival planning, anyone can get started on the smallest of budgets.