The Stingy Guide To Prepping On A Budget

You’ll probably be the first one to agree with me when I say that prepping without money or with a low budget is really hard. After all, Google defines prepping as:

  • a way of life
  • stockpiling
  • purchasing gear

I have a tendency to overstate the obvious, but that looks to me like that a big chunk of your prepping activities involve buying one thing or another. So I started asking around to see if that is really the case. This is what my friend and colleague Hawk R Bishop had to say:

Prepping Is More Than Buying

I tend to agree with him… somewhat. Buying stuff is not that easy for some people. And you have to buy a lot of stuff if you want to call yourself a proper prepper, right?


Apparently you can start prepping with little to no money if you plan it well. You can dramatically reduce or even eliminate your expenses…

…if you prioritize, make the right choices, rotate your supplies and generally put some thought into the process.

How To Prioritize Your Prepping Efforts

This will help both beginner and advanced preppers to keep to their budget, no matter how small.

Prepping for shtf is exciting. It gives you renewed motivation and helps you sleep better at night. And it might even save your life in the future. But with so many ultimate survival guides, unbelievable offers and wonder gear out there, how do you you know if you really need that new tool or not? And don’t get me even started on all the different versions, brands, specs, sizes, materials and alloys.

Also read The Informative Guide On How To Start Prepping Properly for more general information and an extensive prepping supplies list.

You should categorize your prepping supplies in 4 different categories:


Survival & Sustenance

It is not only food and drink, but also the process of maintaining someone or something in life or existence.

Start stockpiling the items on this list first.

It is the stuff that you can’t do without such as:

  • water & water purification tablets
  • food
  • medicine – including pain killers
  • labels to write expiration dates and rotation schedules
  • light – hand cranked flashlight/radio/phone charger
  • fire
  • copies of personal documents (one of the most overlooked items)
  • shelter
  • defense (from animals or other people)

    Climbing Mount Everest

    Photo by danielle_blue

You could argue that breathing is a very important aspect of life and I’ll agree with you. Gas masks, dust masks and other respirators are useful in a wide-range of survival situations, from fires to biological hazards and dust storms. So, yeah, get one:

  • reusable respirator

But wait, what? How much are you supposed to buy? And what?

Make sure you have at least a 72 hour supply for the following:

    • water – you need at least half a gallon per day for drinking and cooking (keep in mind that water you consume from food counts towards that quantity). That means you will need 1.5 gallons of water per person for a 72 hours period. Water purification tablets cost around $15/100, purify up to 200 quarts & have a 5 year shelf life.
    • food – you can survive for up to 3 weeks without food. But my advice is this – if you are in a survival situation you’ll be a lot more active than usual and you will need all the energy you can muster. An active person requires at least 20-25% more food than a sedentary one. To better illustrate this, a climber on Mount Everest consumes 8000-
      10000 calories per day (the equivalent of 3 pounds) or 5 times more than what you eat on a regular day.

Bottomline: get yourself one of those emergency food kits with a high shelf life and a couple of protein bars that you can eat on the go. Budget-friendly alternative: download our prepping supplies list and pack some of the food supplies listed there. If you rotate them properly and use food you also use on a regular basis, you won’t even feel it financially (it does require more planning & effort).

  • medicine – if you regularly take any kind of prescription medicine, you should always keep your supplies close. Build a small reserve that you rotate regularly (very important) and keep away from children and pets. You can do that by ordering refills a few days ahead of time. Your pharmacist should be able to tell you the minimum time that you have to wait between refills.
  • escape plan & maps. Hopefully not a last minute one. Plan for both bug-ins and bug-outs. Make sure your family knows the plan details and can easily find the maps.
  • shelter. For bug-ins, start planning, building and organizing your best option for shelter. Basements are most often the best shelter choice for weather related emergencies (except floods). For bug-outs, plan your escape route ahead of time and try to see there are any natural formed shelters that you can use. Invest in a durable, quality tent whenever you afford to. It might even get you started on a few camping adventures.
  • defense – some shelters offer physical protection because they are hidden or because the entrances are blocked. The best defense weapons are long-ranged ones that you can also use for hunting. Some of your camping gear and most of the tools in your bug-out bug also double as weapons. But you do not want to face a mad bear with a sling or a gunman with your wood axe. There is much to say on this subject, but, for now, use your best judgement and obey all the governing laws. Keep in mind that owning a weapon does not mandate you to go on crusades or take the vigilante’s mantle. Too many innocent lives have been lost because of that.


To satisfy your prepping budget requirements, the list that I put together below is based on 2 criteria. It is must have gear for when shtf and you can comfortably use most of the items for day to day activities, helping you keep a low prepping budget.

I have also listed some of the day to day uses for those items, do not forget to put them back in your BOB once you are done with them.

  • 2 multitools (just in case you lose or damage one). Use them for house repairs, fishing trips, etc.
  • waterproof backpack – a good, lightweight one starts at around $30-$40 on Amazon up to a few hundred. Make sure it is a durable one. Oh, the color also matter, you want something that blends in easily. Chances are that a $75 backpack will serve you as well as $300 one if you choose it carefully. Use it for hiking, camping & as a BOB.
  • 2 sets of clothing – comfortable, preferably waterproof clothes and shoes that are light, blend in and sweat absorbent. Another usually forgotten prepping list item. Trust me, you do not want to run through the forest in your pyjamas or catch pneumonia because your sweat-drenched clothes are getting cold. Especially when you’re carrying a big backpack on your back. Use them for exercising or for anything else.
  • carpenter’s hatchet – there are plenty “survival” hatchets, but most of them will not beat a good ole carpenter hatchet that you can use both as a hatchet and as a hammer. Best thing is that they’re made for daily use and have been tested extensively by tens of thousands of people across the nation. The picture links to a top-rated hatchet on Amazon. Use it for repairs around the house and woodwork.
  • a field dressing knife and scaling knife kit. Use them in the kitchen.
  • knife & hatchet sharpener. Use it for your kitchen knives.
  • paracord. Wear it around your wrist as you would jewelry. 
  • whistle – make sure that you’re found before the 72 hours expire. Use it for games and sports.
  • work gloves – if you have your hands protected, you can work and build much safer and faster. Use them for work around the house.
  • wilderness survival book in a ziplock bag. Read for fun.
  • compass – maybe your multi-tool has one? Test for accuracy. Use it to teach your kids about cardinal directions.
  • sleeping bag. Use it for kids’ sleepovers.
  • foldable shovel. Use to hide dead bodies (just kidding); use it for garden work.
  • camping cooking set. Use them for your Sunday cookout instead or along with the grill, it’s going to be fun.
  • winter gear. Use it for skiing and more.
  • 1-2 rolls duct tape. Use it for…everything.


They are prepping items that can be depleted. You will notice that food, water, medicine, fire starters are also consumables, but since they are listed in a more important category, I will not list them here again:

  • first aid kit.
  • personal hygiene items – hand sanitizer, soap, TP, etc.
  • gas for your car, gas for your generator (bug-ins)
  • sunscreen & insect repellant
  • firewood
  • batteries for your electronics


I’ve seen everything listed as prepping must haves on other websites, such as:

  • stethoscopes
  • seeds
  • canning supplies
  • chainsaws
  • baking supplies

…and the list goes on. Our needs are many and hard to meet. I have listed only prepping items that:

  1. Will keep you alive for a few days until the emergency goes away or until rescue teams can find you.
  2. Are likely to have the biggest positive impact on your survival chances.

Should you need anything else, such as baby care items, medical supplies for the elderly, etc, I trust that until now you got the idea of how you should plan for it.

Free Prepping Supplies

There are a number of prepping websites offering “free prepping supplies“.

Usually these are low value items that are free as long as you pay Shipping & Handling charges. Here is what you should do when you see such an offer:

  • look for an affiliate disclosure, it says something like “Self Help Institute writes about stuff we believe you’ll find useful. We have affiliate relationships, meaning that we get a percentage of the revenue from your purchases”. It means that they are open and honest about it. They might be trustworthy. After all, they have to pay for the website related expenses and make a living somehow.

Affiliate Link

  • Shipping & Handling usually covers at least a part, if not all of the item cost
  • a buyer is a buyer is a buyer. You are likely to spend on survival supplies again, in the future. They get the chance to advertise more prepping gear to you
  • read everything and use your common sense

Some of these offers look good and might be a way for you to get some very cheap or free prepping must haves.

Rotate Your Prepping Supplies

This is probably the most important factor of prepping on a budget. The idea is simple – use items that you also use at home, on a daily basis. And you will definitely save money on survival supplies.

However, the execution of this apparently simple idea is a lot harder.

Here are just a few things you need to consider when you put together your prepper stash:

  • you can only carry about half of your body weight. And this varies based on your age, physical shape, health, terrain, weather, etc. No, I’m sorry, you can’t possibly fit that massive “2000 items you desperately need if zombies attack” list in your backpack. And even if you could, it would crush you.
  • a lot of the said prepping items have a limited shelf life. If you do not have a rotation schedule you’ll be spending a small fortune every couple of years. Take out the old batch before it expires and use it at home.
  • you should buy items with similar shelf life at the same time so you can also rotate them at the same time. This way, it is less work and you’ll know about the expense with plenty of time in advance.
  • you should try to ask the seller you’re buying from what’s the expiration date or how far along your item is into that expiration date.

Click on the button to download the free prepping on a budget kit (PDF format). Do not forget to subscribe to our mailing list for more amazing survival articles.

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Prepping on a budget or, in some cases, without money is definitely possible if you put enough planning, time and patience into it. Put aside items based on their importance and you’ll have an enviable stash soon enough.

Please let me know if you have a different way of getting cheap or free survival supplies.

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