Prepping is never far from my mind. A few months ago I was talking with a friend and the subject of TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We know It) came up.
Tom (not his real name) said that he would like to prepare for upcoming emergencies but didn’t know where to start. The answer was simple; start where you are.
Obviously most people cannot start with a full larder and weapons/ammunition cache. That is of course, unless you really do have all of that, in that case…well, that’s where you are.
I asked Tom what scenarios he wanted to prepare for. “Like what?” he asked. You know… EMPs, natural disasters like the Yellowstone Super Volcano, earthquakes, social breakdowns, pandemics…what?
He said, “Yeah. Those things.”
I guess he’s a lot like me. I really don’t know when or why I’ll need my preps…I just know that sooner or later I will!
The only difference in the end will be the timeline of the disaster. It could be years with a war or catastrophic natural event, or just a few days in duration like a blizzard. I wanna’ live through it all and I want all of mine to live, too!
To help Tom get started we did an inventory of what he had: food, medical supplies, stored water, tools, gardening supplies, clothing and shoes, finances, cash on hand, firearms and ammunition, and skill sets. We also took a long and hard look at his home and property.
We then drew up a plan to go from where he was to where he wanted to be. Since he was on a limited budget we needed to get creative.
As we looked at his discretionary income we discovered that he could squeeze about $75 USD per month from his budget.
“Is there anywhere else we can find some money?” I asked.
“I don’t think so”, he replied. Wow, this could take a really long time. Time we don’t necessarily have.
Since Tom and I are really old friends he allowed me to look at his budget. Right away I saw a few places he could cut down to “find some money”.
The following is a running tally of where we were able to gather some resources:
He, his wife, and daughter all had cell phones. Eliminate land line, savings about $40 USD per month. Total $40 USD.
Downgrade his satellite TV to basic package. Found money- $60 USD per month. Total $100 USD.
Shopped for auto /home insurance (I know this guy…) savings $900 USD per year, equals $75 USD per month, total $175 USD per month.
Take coffee with him eliminating Starbucks, saving $4 USD per day times 20 days per month equals $80 USD per month, total $255 USD per month.
Tom eats lunch at a restaurant nearly every day. He spends $8-12 USD per, average $10 USD. If he packs his lunch and works through his lunch hour he can leave early and save $200 USD per month, totaling $455 USD.
He also usually bought a candy bar and a Coke most afternoons. If he eliminated that he would save the money plus cut several hundred calories a week from his diet. I suggested he take a piece of fruit with him. This cost him about $2.50 USD x 20 = $50 USD / month, totaling $505 USD per month.
Tom’s wife works about 5 miles from home and her vehicle gets about 32 mpg. Tom on the other hand commutes 80 miles per day and only gets 17 mpg with his SUV. Let’s do some math:
Tom – 80 miles per day x 5 days per week = 400 miles per week divided by 17 mpg = 23.5 gallons of gasoline.
Mrs. Tom - 10 miles round trip x 5 days per week = 50 miles per week divided by 32 mpg = 1.5 gallons of gasoline.
If they trade vehicles Tom would have 400 miles per week divided by 32 mpg = 12.5 gallons and Mrs. Tom 50 miles per week divided by 17 mpg equaling 3 gallons of gas. The savings would be 12.5 gallons (Tom) minus 3 gallons (Mrs. T) or 9.5 gallons per week multiplied by the price per gallon, which was about $3.50 USD at the time we figured this. The savings was $33.25 USD per week x 4 weeks or $133 USD per month.
This added to the $505 USD savings we already had came to$638 USD plus the $75 USD he started with, brought him to over $700 USD per month to start his preps. This totals $8,400 USD per year. Your mileage may vary.
With figures in hand we decided to start a “Prepping Budget”. We didn’t want to spend all $700 USD on food or guns or on just any one item. We wanted to spread it around so that if TEOTWAKI hits next month he will at least have a little of everything.
Water storage is probably the least expensive item to complete, and next to air and shelter is the most vital for survival. And so it was easy to get his basic water storage completed.
While normally there are only three members in his household, he also has two grown children; a single son in college and a married daughter who has one child and expecting her second. When TSHTF they also expect to take in Mrs. Tom’s handicapped (wheelchair bound) brother. This brought their total to eight. Realistically they should build in a fudge factor of 50%, or prepare for 12 people.
With this in mind we calculated the minimum amount of water to be stored. At two gallons of water per day per person (authorities recommend one gallon per day per person<remember the Preppers Code: two is one and one is none!>) and fourteen days worth stored equals 24 gallons per day times 14 or 336 gallons.
So off to Pepsi went Tom who bought seven used plastic 55 gallon drums that had been used for soft drink syrup for $10 USD each. (total expense was $70 USD) He brought them home and rinsed them out, drained them, made a solution of 5 gallons hot water with 3 tablespoons of dish detergent and placed it in a drum. We replaced the bung (plug) and rolled the drum between us. After a few minutes we drained the drum through a funnel into the next drum. (We let it drain for several minutes to get it as empty as possible) We continued this system until all drums were washed. We did have to change the water after the fourth drum, as it was pretty skanky! The drums were left upside down overnight so that they might drain well. The next day we repeated the process, again allowing them to drain overnight. Next about 10 gallons of warm rinse water was placed in each drum, they were rolled again and drained.
The next step was to put about 5 more gallons into each drum with a quarter cup of chlorine bleach. We rolled each drum several times over the next day, after which we emptied the drums.
We removed the drums to his basement storage area, wiped the outsides of the drums and placed them on pressure treated 1x4’s covered with ¼ inch plywood. This was to keep the drums off the concrete floor which could affect the plastic drums.
We then placed about a tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach into each drum and then filled them through a food grade water hose with tap water.
We date labeled the drums so that they could be used and refilled in a consistent manner.
Total expense for his water storage was about $102 USD plus the actual water from his tap.
Keeping in line with an across the board spending he next purchased a solar battery charger online for around $70 USD. Also in the order he spend around $20 USD on each, “C”, “D”, “9v”, “AA”, and “AAA” rechargeable batteries. Total was ~$170 USD.
The next trip was to the LDS Family Food Storage Center where Tom spent $200 USD on commodities. He placed an online order for plastic pails, Mylar bags, and oxygen absorbers. Cost – around $100 USD, subtotal $300 USD, total $572 USD.
Off to Wal-Mart where he bought a Coleman propane camping stove and a 20 pound propane tank. Total there was $120 USD. Total of all $696 USD.
And so Tom was able to get a good handle on his beginning preps with his water storage well started, as well as batteries and charger, a small stock of essential food storage items, and something to cook it on.
After another planning session Tom made his purchases for the second month:
Another $100 USD in rechargeable batteries.
An AM/FM/SW/ NOAA radio - $120 USD
A Big Berkey water filter - $320 USD
3 Dietz kerosene lanterns, a 5 gallon safety fuel can, and 5 gallons of kerosene - $115 USD.
All of these purchases totaled $655 USD. I suggested that he put his $45 USD away for seed money.
He took me literally and bought a number 10 can of heirloom seeds from Emergency Essentials.
This time when I met with Tom his list was already made. After a review I agreed to his plan:
150 12 gauge 00 (double ought) Buckshot shotgun shells for $99.99 USD (Tom already has a 12 gauge shotgun)
2 cases of MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) at $60 USD each, $120 USD total - $220 USD.
2 large and 1 medium “Alice Packs” for total of $95 USD – total $315 USD.
3 “experienced” USGI sleep systems @ $80 USD each, for $240 USD, total - $555 USD.
The $145 USD balance was spent on USGI canteens, web gear, and pouches. Total spent $725 USD (Tom went a little over budget).
As I write this Tom is purchasing this month’s preps.
As this is canning (bottling) season there are many canning supplies on sale. His goal is several dozen quart jars, extra lids and rings and a pressure canner. I also recommended that he purchase a good reference manual on preserving food.
(Sidebar: Tom did not have a garden this year but plans to purchase some produce at the local farmers’ market and can some vegetables for the experience.)
We estimate this cost at ~$200 USD, although the produce itself will come from his household budget.
Other purchases this month will include:
4 Family channel radios (2 sets) with headsets and external mic - ~ $120 USD.
A handheld GPS and USGS maps for each section to the family farm (BOL) ~ $250 USD.
Hiking boots for Mrs. Tom $125 USD.
Tom’s shopping list for the near future include handguns for he and his wife, along with appropriate ammunition, holsters, accessories, CCW class, and CCW. He also plans to purchase three new shotguns, a 12 gauge pump (tactical style) for him, and two 20 gauge pumps for his wife and daughter.
Of course his food storage, gardening tools, medical supplies, solar/generator, tactical clothing, BOV, MBR and ammo, and a myriad of items remain to be prioritized and purchased.
THE MAIN THING IS THAT Tom, et al, has found a way to afford the things they need. If only TIME will allow them to complete the basics they should be all right. If not… well, they’re already better off than they were!
In summary I would like to add a few observations:
- No matter your budget there are almost always some extras you can cut and use that “found” money for your preps. (I wish the US Government would follow this advice!)
- It is always better to have 30 days of a wide variety of preps, rather than a year’s supply of any one or two things. Plan accordingly.
- Have a plan and for the most part stick to it. An exception might be a really good sale or bargain on something you were going to purchase soon anyway.
- Never borrow money to buy preps. If you do use your credit card then pay that purchase off before using it for another prep purchase.
- Understand that you will never, never, never be ready for TEOTWAWKI. There will always be one more thing you need, one more skill to hone…
Start where you are, examine your lifestyle and yourself, enlist those who mean the most to you and trust in the Lord. All will be well.
JWR Adds: In addition to budget trimming, to generate cash I would recommend developing a small second income stream, such as home-based mailorder business. And if the inventory that you develop for that business is of items that would be good for post-disaster barter, charity, and your own family's use, then it is a "win-win." Excess frippery (such as collectibles) can also be gradually sold off via eBay. Don't make the excuse of just saying "I don't have the money to prepare." The money is there if you just get creative, as Louie suggested.