For many, the costs involved in preparing for any kind of emergency, whether man made or natural, is too high for most people to afford. It can be expensive to accumulate the things that would be necessary to give us some options in an emergency situation. I have always been cost conscious and have striven to get the most for my money, so this struggle is not new to me. Even if we had lots of money, it is still wise to try and get the most bang for our buck.
When I first started preparing, I made some purchases I now regret. Some things I acquired were either not really needed or too expensive for the benefit they provided. Most everyone who travels this path in life will make these mistakes. Adjustments must be made as you go along and lessons are learned. Some of these items I have sold at a loss and replaced with items that fit my plan better. This type of process is unavoidable, because it is a part of learning and growing. It is impossible to understand the game until you are in the game. With that knowledge, we then can make better choices.
However, there is one practice I have adopted that has saved me more money and provided better “stuff” than anything else. One decision I have made has allowed me to have more items I need at lower costs and many times without a reduction in quality, many times giving me much more than I ever dreamed I could have with the money I had to spend.
That practice is using estate sales and auctions to find the things I need. I will give you a few examples. My wife and I attended an estate sale that was liquidating the life’s accumulation of a household where both husband and wife had passed away and the estate was selling all their worldly goods. That scenario is fairly typical of these sales. The estate sale managers usually do not have emotional attachments to the sale items, so the pricing is more reasonable. At the above mentioned sale, we found the front porch stacked high with canning jars of every style and size. Most were in the original boxes. It was not the first day of the sale and it seemed no one wanted these jars, and the people running the estate sale were getting a little nervous about what they were going to do with them if they did not sell them. I negotiated to buy all of them for $2 a box. For about $50, I got all the canning jars we could ever use. At the same sale, the garage had shelves on one side that were completely filled with baby food jars, old boxes, and plastic storage cabinets full of drawers that were all filled with all kinds of hardware, nails, screws, bolts, nuts, et cetera. I told the estate sale person that if they did not sell the hardware that I would like to make an offer on all of it. I intended to offer a ridiculous price if in fact the hardware was still there later. Two days later the estate sale man called me and said that the hardware had in fact not sold and asked if I would come back by. My wife and I did, and we found that several other items we had been interested in had not sold either. When we told him we were interested in several items, he told us that if we would take all the items we wanted, he would give them to us free just to get them out of his way. Over that past several years we have made it a practice to find out when these estate and garage sales were taking place in our area and make the time to go to them. I have even found an app for my phone that I downloaded that will allowed me to be sent an email with a listing of the garage and estate sales in my area with specifics on what is for sale, the address, and the dates of the sale. Most of the estate sales in our area are conducted using the same modus operandi. That is, they normally run from Thursday through Saturday of any given weekend. On Thursday the price on everything is the price marked. On Friday the prices are reduced to 75% and on Saturday the prices are 50% of the original price. My wife and I usually wait until Saturday, when we have more time anyway; then we go and get the things we want at a great price. I bought two nice sleeping bags this way for $2 each. These bags were priced at more than $2, but it was Saturday and I made them an offer of $2 each, which they took. I also bought several camping items at the same sale for ridiculously low prices as well. All the merchandise that is left after these sales are over have to be discarded or disposed of by the estate sale people, so they are really motivated to get rid of the items as the sale progresses.
Another example is there is a community auction not far from our home that occurs once per month. It is in a farming community, so most of the items are farming things; however, there are many household things as well. It is held outside, and the items are lined up on the ground in long rows. If you can think of it, you will find it in this auction; they have everything from tools, animals, hay, guns and ammo, furniture, appliances, food, farm equipment, and all kinds of items to care for animals, to everything you would need to prepare for hard times. One day we were there and noticed a large flatbed trailer in one of the rows filled with boxes of food. The food consisted of bent cans and slightly outdated food items of other types. We ended up buying the entire trailer load. We gave a lot to our children and their families. We gave several boxes to our pastor’s family. We separated what we wanted and filled up our food storage closet. We took what was left, rented a space at a local swap meet, and sold a lot in order to earn enough to pay for the entire trailer load of food. Now I understand many will not have the money to pull this off, but the point is anyone could have bought several boxes of this food for a really cheap price and filled their prep shelves. All of the food was good and edible.
I have found fencing, fence posts, tools, building materials, buckets, appliances, canning equipment, cast iron cooking utensils, furniture, chicken houses, fruit trees, storage shelving, how-to books, and all kinds of things I wanted at a fraction of the cost. This same auction has been very useful in getting rid of items we don’t want any longer. We sell these items and use the money to buy the things we need.
Of course I have used craigslist for much of my stuff as well. There is even a section there of free stuff that people are giving away that sometimes contains items we can use.
I recently put up a greenhouse, and the shelving, the workbench, and the lumber I used to frame the raised bed inside the house was all purchased at estate sales. I even bought my strawberry plants at the community auction as well as my fruit trees.
The point of all this is that just like so many others who have shared their ideas on prepping in this forum, there are ways to get yourself in a better position, if you will just look around and do a little investigating as to what your options are. No matter what your budget is, there are ways to get prepared. I pray every day that our way of life will not die and that by some miracle things will work out, because even the most die hard prepper does not understand what our world will be like if any of the possible life-changing events happen. We tend to see only the romantic side of a forced simpler lifestyle, instead of all the human costs it would bring. I hope it never happens, but I do not see how we can go on the way we are. There are simply too many signs pointing to a very dangerous conclusion. I think some sort of accounting is inevitable. That does not mean we simply sit down and wait for the anvil to drop. Too many times in our history have we seen hard time come to people; the prepared survive, and those that didn’t prepare perished. I intend for my family to have some options when tough times come. I pray you will be ready too, and it is with that thought in mind that I offer this advice. By the way, my thanks to all those who took the time to write their advice in this forum. I would be much less prepared today without your help.