Preparing on a Budget

There are a lot of excuses people give for why they don’t prepare for emergencies. “I don’t have time.” “It’s too difficult.” My personal favorite? “It’s not going to happen to me.”

There is only one explanation that holds some validity, and that is for economic reasoning. It’s understandable that someone struggling financially may have a difficult time justifying spending money on unpredicted—or unpredictable—events. Unfortunately, though, disasters do happen. And if not prepared, the cost you pay in suffering has more than just a monetary value.

The good news is there are countless ways to prepare, all while staying in budget. I have compiled a list of techniques that are low-cost or even free of charge. As long as you have a willingness to think outside of the box and roll up your sleeves, you can be prepared for any emergency.

Savvy Shopping

There are ways to get all of your preparedness supplies without breaking the bank. All it takes is knowing the right stores, the best deals, and maybe using a coupon or two.

Grocery Stores

Scour the clearance sections. Most grocery stores and pharmacies have killer ones, often hidden somewhere in back. You can find canned and packaged foods, medicines, hygiene products, hardware, alcohol, and other useful items, all for a mere fraction of the original cost. While some items you have to be wary of due to expiration dates or denting, others are simply reduced because they weren’t selling.

Look for case sales. Every once in a while, some stores offer products sold by the case for discounted rates. You will get the benefit of buying in bulk without the Costco membership fee.

Utilize the purified H20 machines out front. By filling your jugs yourself, you save 75 percent of what it costs to buy them inside the store.

Don’t be afraid to cut coupons. These can really add up, especially if you pair them with the item when it is on sale. Every store has a weekly circular, which helps makes it easy to save on your preparedness list.

Look for stores that offer gas rewards. Big chains will give discounted rates on gas the more you shop. once it is important to keep your tank at least three-quarters full to be prepared for emergencies, try and coincide some of your fill-ups with your rewards.

Thrift Stores

Stores like Goodwill are excellent spots for buying items of preparedness. Not only is it much cheaper buying secondhand, but every day they have sales, providing additional savings. Here are some examples of items you will find.

  • Candles and flashlights
  • Tools
  • Kid’s size and up items for BOB (shoes/clothing)
  • Extra boots or sneakers to keep in your vehicle
  • Glass jars and containers for DIY projects
  • Garage organizational items

The beauty of thrift stores is that they change every day. If you can’t find what you need, just go back a week later. I guarantee if you are persistent, you will find many of the items you will need.

Dollar Stores

Dollar Stores may not have the highest quality of items, but for certain things, it is the perfect place to shop. You can walk away with a full cart without spending a bundle.

  • First aid products (Band-Aids, alcohol, aspirin)
  • Paper products
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Small tools
  • Batteries
  • Sewing kit

Home Protection

Your home is known as your haven, which is why you should want to protect it. From natural disasters to burglaries, these suggestions will help keep you and your home safe from harm.


It’s important to take the initiative to get work done before a crisis, and not after. There are tons of preventative projects you can do around your home that will help protect it. No professional required because these are all easy, simple, and effective solutions. For example, add additional locks, check door insulations, repair holes in roof, fill and store sandbags, dig small trenches to help with flood draining, trim away trees that may cause damage.


Not everyone has an alarm system, as they can be quite expensive. There are other, very free things you can do to keep your house secure. Take these precautions to help deter thieves from your property.

  • Keep all vegetation around your front door and windows trimmed back.
  • Light up your house in all of the right places, such as in entryways.
  • Don’t let your mail and newspapers overflow when on vacation. Nowadays you can put a hold on these deliveries online with a mere click of a button.
  • Keep your garage door closed. Don’t show off your goods and make others wonder what else is inside.
  • Discreetly discard boxes of any costly equipment. Don’t advertise, “Look, I have a new big screen TV” by leaving the box on the curb.
  • Get to know your neighbors, and consider starting a neighborhood watch.
  • Don’t advertise on social media your every move. If you are sharing pics while on vacation or even just out and about, you are also sharing the fact that your house is vacant.


You can own the coolest tools in the world, but if you can’t find them during an emergency, they are pointless. Keep all of your preparedness supplies organized and accessible. Being that the power often goes out during a natural disaster, it is also a great idea to keep your house in general free of clutter.

Multi-purpose Tools

Space can become an issue while preparing, which is why multi-purpose tools are definitely the way to go. In addition to clearing up clutter, they also save you money; instead of buying several separate items, you only have to invest in one.

Gear Up Center is well known for its love of multi-purpose tools. We are the home of the Crovel, NAX, Recon 6 Watch, and the new X Caliber Adapter System.


When it comes to your food supply, it’s smart to have ingredients that are interchangeable in your recipes. This is also true for homemade items such as soap, detergent, and hygiene products.

I said it once and I’ll say it again: coconut oil, baking soda, vinegar, Ivory soap, Borax, and washing soda are all cheap staple items you should have stored. Depending on how you mix them, you can make numerous products from toothpaste, to ailment cures, to cleaners, all for pennies on the dollar.

DIY Projects

It is much cheaper to complete a project yourself. There are many fantastic preparedness projects that produce items that work just as efficiently as ones that are store bought. With all of the money you save, you can reinvest in other areas of preparing.

Here is a list of DIY ideas.

  • 5-gallon bucket air conditioner
  • Campfire in a can
  • Solar cooker
  • Solar USB charger
  • Faraday cage
  • PVC bow
  • Hanging garden


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the January 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.

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