How I Got Started Prepping, by Gary S.

You may be reading this and have not made the decision to get started.  You may be facing some of the same challenges I had or you may have your own.  I want to encourage you to find ways to overcome your obstacles.  Getting started is the biggest step. 

My family and I have always led a very frugal life.  My wife and I both work, and I have a second job as well.  The grocery bill stays under $30 per week through couponing and eating-in.  Money has gone into savings in case of emergency and we finally have a few months saved up.  Any extra at the end of the month is put towards a quickly dwindling mortgage.  The only expense we do not continually try to find new ways to lower is the tithe.

This was our lifestyle before I started ‘hearing’ the news last summer.  I had been reading and listening to the news, but I had not been hearing it (my ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ reference).  I quickly realized I needed more information.  With a Google search I found SurvivalBlog and started reading the main page… then the archives… then looked for other resources.  I promptly realized I needed to stop reading and get started.  I also realized I had two major hurdles before I could even start.

Hurdle number one was my wife’s fears.  Like most people, we were sheeple, making our way through life in the blessed assurance that the security blanket we had been given would always be there to keep us safe and warm.  Fortunately, we communicate about everything (we don’t always see eye to eye, but we do talk).  At first, the news scared her.  She could only handle a few minutes of my questions at a time a couple of days a week.  I just had to slowly feed her information.  I asked questions when making meal plans like, “What would we do if the food we needed for the week was not available at the stores?”  It is 10 months later and I am still asking questions.  She is involved now, but not as much as I would like her to be, or as much as she really needs to be if something happens.   It is an ongoing process, but isn’t everything about getting prepared?

At some point she conceded we had to do something, and trusted me to start.  She was okay with being prepared, but she is still not interested in imagining her life after TSHTF.  She helps by buying more at the store than we need when there are deals on goods with a long shelf life.  She also created storage options under the beds and set up a system to track the expiration dates on these purchases. 

In opposition to some of the advice we see, we do not always buy food we will eat if we still have it in two years from now.  We understand much of it will need to be donated and replaced at that time.  I have asked her to start with an easy goal of accumulating three months worth of food and water at the most economical price possible.   Sometimes this means purchasing things we have coupons for that we would not normally buy.  If TSHTF and I am hungry, am I really going to care that the food available consists of chopped tomatoes instead of Campbell’s soup, or am I just going to be thankful to have something to eat?  After we have three months stocked, I will explain the need for six months to her… or more likely, introduce the idea that we may need to have enough food for any loved ones who are not stocking up as well.

On a slightly out of context note: An unlucky squirrel blew a transformer in the middle of town here a few months ago, causing power to go out throughout the area in the middle of the day.  I attempted to buy from the local Wal-Mart, Publix and Kroger.  None of them would sell me anything because their computers were down.  They had the doors locked.  The stores are dependant on the barcodes to get prices for the products, and their inventory systems communicate with their corporate offices to reorder items.  In addition, they won’t be taking any credit or debit cards without their machines to approve the sales.  I often hear we should get to the grocery stores with our cash as soon as we see there is an issue, but if the power is out due to an EMP or natural disaster, it is probably be too late, even with cash.  Waiting to buy food at the first sign of trouble is not a viable option.

The second hurdle was finances.  As I mentioned, we are both conscious of our money and live a thrifty lifestyle.  Where was the additional money going to come from to buy supplies and additional groceries?  How would I start buying some silver coins?  For me, the answer was in something I had already been doing every week… yard sales.

I had been spending every Saturday morning in search of yard sale stuff already.  All of a sudden my list got longer.  I found two military issued backpacks just back from Afghanistan for less than $10 total.  I bought fishing gear, boots, warm clothing, storage containers, cabinets, five gallon gas cans, propane tanks, knives, two multi-tools, ropes, tarps, a canteen, and a second first aid kit.  Silver jewelry bought for dollars often finds a home in my new safe (also bought at a yard sale).  In addition, is a virtual 24 hour yard sale.  I have picked up all sorts of useful things, from 55 gallon drums to a new firearm, on there.

I also started looking at the stuff at yard sales as a way to make more money I could use to buy other things I needed.  This takes some research and I had to choose a few things I would specialize in.  The pair of silver plated candelabra’s bought for $5 sold at the local coin shop for $35.  A practically new 8-man Tent bought for $10 was sold for $50 on Craigslist.  I have learned to avoid certain things like watches which I can’t authenticate, vinyl albums which I do not know enough about to make money, and old cameras which are a pain to sell.  Selling the items is the hard part and it is work.  It may sound like buying something for $1 and selling it for $5 is a 500% profit, but with the cost of gas I use driving around and the time I need to put into selling things, I typically shoot for larger profits.

A cell phone is an invaluable tool while at a sale.  Want to know how much an item is worth?  Check it out at before buying it.  Ebay is the ultimate source to find out what an item is worth since it tells you the true value people are willing to pay.  Remember to look at the Sold listings.  Just because an item is actively listed for $50 does not mean it has sold in the past for more than $25.

This work resulted in enough money to start buying the things I could not find locally.  The essentials, such as a solar powered battery charger, a hand-cranked emergency radio and water purifying equipment I still had to get from Amazon.  Ammo still had to come from the store.  A small silver coin collection is financed from the yard sale profits and continues to be added to.  Watch sites such as for discounts on everything from flashlights to pistols.

You literally never know what you are going to find for sale.  One of my most surprising finds was ten AR-15 thirty round magazines for $1 each.  My advice if you want to give this a try is to get started early, and plan your route.  Craigslist and your local newspaper are good places to look for upcoming sales in your area.  I like to get a list of the ones starting at 7:00 AM or earlier and head that direction first.  I recommend getting there 30 minutes early (unless they specifically request that you do not in their ad).  Most people are setting up and do not mind you looking.  After those, choose a route going by as many populated areas as possible.  You have to get out early because by about 8:00 AM all of the valuable items, such as jewelry and collectibles, are gone.  There are lots of yard sale pickers out there searching for these.

Be prepared when you arrive.  Do you know how to tell gold and silver jewelry from the costume jewelry?  Have you written a list of the main items you are looking for?  If your spouse is not with you, bring a list of items he or she are looking for.  Be prepared to ask for a discount, even if the price being asked for an item is reasonable.  People expect to bargain at yard sales and every dollar saved helps.  More than half of the time they will discount their price for you.

Lastly, ask for anything specific you are looking for, even if you do not see it.  Sometimes people have things in the house or garage they did not consider selling at first, but are willing to part with.  I picked up a five gallon gas can last week just by asking.

I still have a lot more to search for, but I have the essentials and each week I become more prepared than the week before.

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