New Prepper Tips and Lessons Learned.
The first thing you need to know is this: I am not an expert in the field of prepping nor do I claim to be. I am not fully prepped in every category; I don’t live on a self-sustaining farm in Idaho with 5 years worth of food and water stored up in secret bunkers. I don’t have 100k in gold bullion and mercury dimes in my safe. I can’t fashion a windmill which will generate enough power to heat my home out of a paper clip and rubber band. However I have been doing this for a few years now and have learned quite a bit along the way, much of which I would like you share with you for your benefit. Take what you want, discard the rest. I will tell you that the more information you can get the better so make like a sponge and soak it all up. Read this website, read information on other websites, read books and watch YouTube videos. That said here is some of what I’ve learned throughout this journey.
Do your research first.
Quite often people read a few articles and wake up to the fact that the world around them is not what it seemed, almost like living in The Matrix. The general urge is to splurge to catch up, to buy and much as possible as quickly as possible. Resist this urge as much as you can. I fell victim to this initially and ended up making some purchases that I necessarily did not regret but in hindsight could have been made elsewhere with a substantial savings. Research not only applies to buying “things” but also researching what is going on in the world around you and getting a clear picture from which to make decisions. I say that because many who fear a potential collapse are quick to max out a credit card buying up tons of guns and ammo which is not exactly the smartest decision. Learn about what a well-rounded preparation plan looks like based on existing factors and then move forward with your plan.
Set goals and prioritize.
On the Prep Examples page I give examples of what I would do as a new prepper with various budgets. These examples highlight and important part of prepping: setting goals and prioritizing. You have to look at your available funds, what is important you to and your family and the timeline you are working with. Nobody starts from the same place and therefore each plan will no doubt be different. If you live on a farm and grow your own food, have guns and ammo and are able to exist in a grid down situation maybe your preps should start with adding ways to store water and medical supplies. If you live in an apartment and have nothing and a limited budget maybe you should (if legally able) look into ways to provide for your own defense while working your food and water supply, with the plan to work on your BugOut kit and major medical supplies later. When I first started prepping I made a huge spreadsheet and came up with a dream list of every single thing I could think of that I wanted. I listed where I could buy the item(s) from and their cost and then labeled each from 1 to 3 (1 being the top priority). I was able to then sort the items by priority and work on what I felt was most essential first before moving on.
Also consider the Prepper Pyramid as a useful tool when prioritizing. I posted about it here.
Use a budget.
In a best case scenario you won’t use any credit cards to start your prepper journey. Getting deeper into debt is never a great idea regardless of how you rationalize it. However if it is unavoidable you have to do what you have to do. Better to be someone who is well prepared with $15k in credit card debt if/when a major economic collapse happens versus someone who is debt free with a can of Vienna sausages in the pantry. Setting a budget should be done in concert with the prioritization process. It is important to know how much you are spending and very important to remain disciplined throughout this process. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a website solely intent on buying A and B, and end up checking out with A, B, C, D, and E. It’s like walking into Lowes, if you aren’t careful you can leave having spent way more than you initially planned.
It’s not always about guns and ammo.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say: “I don’t need to prepare, I have lots of guns and ammo! When the SHTF all I’ll do is take what I want!” Good luck with that. First of all if things did get that crazy who is to say that other people with guns won’t be out trying to take what they want? Do you plan on getting shot in a Wal-Mart aisle while fighting over cases of water? Even more dangerous than that would be attempting to steal from those who have already prepared and have large amounts of supplies on hand. It is inconceivable that someone who has gone through all the effort to prepare will not have a way to protect what they have worked so hard for. With that being said I do believe that people should legally exercise their right to bear arms. There is nothing wrong with having a few guns of various calibers and some ammo on hand but purchases of said items have to be aligned with the priority list and budget. After all if food shortages occur you will not be able to pop open a shell casing and eat the gun powder, moderation in everything.
Buy quality, cheap isn’t always better.
Of course this will be limited by your budget and if you are starting from scratch you might have to make some concessions and sacrifice quality just to get the ball rolling. Yet I can’t stress doing your due diligence while looking to bump up your preparedness level. Actually this is one of the main reasons I started this website. Hopefully this site will be a tool that people can use to access consolidated information regarding good deals on quality products out there for preppers (among other things).
Back to the original point of buying quality, I can’t stress this enough especially if you aren’t a DIY’er. Quality dehydrated/freeze dried food might cost more from a reputable company but you will have peace of mind knowing that they stand behind their product and that they frequently cycle their inventory. This versus the guy selling a few boxes of whatever at a local trade show for cheap, and of course he won’t tell you that the boxes were sitting in a shed outside for the last 10 years. Would you trust water strained out of a $15 filter in a homemade Lowes bucket not to get you sick versus a $230 Berkey filter system? I could go on and on but I think you get the idea. In the beginning I made these very mistakes and ended up spending more money than I should have. I bought the cheap DIY water filter and later bought the Berkey systems. I bought tons of cheap canned food (that I never planned on eating unless SHTF) at the local supermarket only to watch it expire on the shelf. I’m relating these examples because I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did.
The Dollar Store isn’t quite the bargain it would appear to be.
There are some good items to be had at the dollar store (or whatever they are called in your area). Cases of industrial sized bleach and some hygiene items come to mind but you have to be very careful. Twice I have walked into a dollar store looking to save money only to walk out with multiple carts full of stuff and a bill easily in the $150 range. Did I really save anything or did I end up wide eyed over the perceived savings and just end up buying a bunch of stuff that I normally would not have? Be very careful when going into dollar stores, trust me.
Don’t limit yourself to one source.
Loyalty is good but options are better. If you are a member of Costco that doesn’t mean you should buy everything from Costco. The same goes for any other retailer, don’t become emotionally attached and definitely explore your options. Again that is one of the purposes of this website, to do the research and provide people with choices. If you limit yourself you never know what you will be missing out on. In the beginning I spent quite a bit of money primarily using three main retailers and in hindsight that was no doubt foolish. Had I been willing to do some research and explore other options I would have realized that there are many places which compete for the business of preppers and that there were products out there that I never even knew existed.
If you are married get “buy in” from your spouse, or at least keep them informed.
I’m married and my spouse supports our journey together as preppers and I can’t tell you how much easier this has made things for me. If you are married I would encourage you to get “buy in” from your significant other, otherwise conflict most definitely will arise. I’m not a marriage counselor but this topic is almost one of common sense. I’ll leave it at that and say good luck.
Operational Security (OPSEC). Just because you feel the need to tell someone about your preps does not mean that you should.
Once you realize that you are in the 1% of the population who actually sees what is going on in the world and has started to prepare there will be an overwhelming desire to tell people you know about it. Avoid that urge at all costs. If you engage in conversation about prepping keep things at a high/generic level until you see where other people stand and never volunteer information about what you have. If things do get crazy never underestimate the power of a hungry person who wants to feed their family. How would you like it if you spent 2 years stockpiling food and supplies for a major event, and once that event happens all those people who you told show up on your doorstep begging for assistance. You might be able to turn them away…initially. Once the hunger pains do set in and they see their children crying friendships are things of the past and they will do whatever it takes to make what is yours theirs. Stay below the radar!
It’s not always about STUFF, it’s also about SKILLS.
Probably the most important tip on this entire page. I have spent quite a bit of time writing about money and budgets and “stuff” but realize you have to have skills in addition to a large stash of supplies in order to make it through tumultuous times. Knowing how to fix things around the house, how to grow food if necessary, how to perform basic repairs to your car, how to employ your gun(s) in various circumstance, how to raise animals, how to hunt animals…the list goes on and on. I am nowhere near what I would consider the perfectly well rounded prepper but I realize my shortcomings and am working to resolve them. I can’t stress enough that you should do the same. Recently this post was contributed by one of the readers of this site, and makes a pretty good argument as to why skills will be so important once the S Hits The Fan.