Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

Survival On a Budget

One question I see pop up from time to time in preparedness forums and comment threads is, “What can I do to prepare if I have a limited income?” Another variation of this question is, “So really, am I screwed?”

The problem with a lot of budget-conscious advice is that it always tends to assume that there is some luxury you can easily give up to help meet your goals. But what if you’ve already given up all the luxuries and you are already surviving on a diet of Top Ramen? Do you just plan on stockpiling as much ramen as possible and hope for the best?

Believe it or not, there are things you can do. If Top Ramen is literally the only food you can afford, then yes, try to stock up on extra every week. But look into more nutritious alternatives that are almost as inexpensive, like rice and beans, and inexpensive protein like canned tuna. You should do this anyway—ramen is just not that good for you, and you need protein.

But whatever you are eating, the key is to pick one non-perishable thing each week to buy extra. You don’t have to buy in bulk; even one canned item a week will add up faster than you know. And don’t forget water! Gallon jugs of drinking water are typically less than a dollar. If you drink soda, buy the two-liters and then rinse and refill those with water and add them to your stash. Whenever you get a bottle of water, refill it and save it. You get the idea.

Growing your own food, if possible, is an even better way to prepare. Seeds aren’t that expensive, and it does not take a lot of room to sprout them (and in a pinch, the sprouts of many seeds can be eaten in order to add greens to your diet). If you live in an apartment, you can start a container or windowsill garden. Few things in life are more satisfying than eating vegetables that you grew yourself.

And don’t forget the abundance of free food in this country. I am not even talking about Dumpster-diving. The fact is that almost every region of the US has a selection of edible plants that grow in the wild. Right now, if I had nothing else to eat, I could go in my back yard and gather enough dandelions to feed me for a few days. Other food that grows in my yard without my even trying includes wild strawberries, violets, a Redbud tree (the blossoms are edible) and a mulberry tree. Get online and go to the library to familiarize yourself with the edible plants and wildflowers that grow in your region. This knowledge could some day be the difference between life and death.

If you live in a region that’s prone to cold weather, have a plan to keep warm and to prepare food if your utilities get turned off.

Having plenty of food and water on hand (and knowing where to get more of it if simply going to the store is not an option) is necessary if you are going to ?bug in? and stay put in your home during a crisis. But in a lot of situations it might be safer to bug out and leave your home. In this event, you should try your best to invest in some basic gear, none of which is expensive if taken individually: a hunting knife, a hatchet, one or two tarps and a good length of paracord, something to carry water in, something to boil water in, a pocket survival kit that includes fishing gear and a compass, and a reliable way to start fire.

Of course, all of these things are useless if you don’t know how to use them, so it’s important to invest some time learning about survival in the wild. Watching shows like Man Vs. Wild, Survivorman, Dual Survival and Man Woman Wild will go a long way toward equipping you to take care of yourself if you find yourself needing to go camping indefinitely during a crisis. All of these shows are available on Netflix streaming, but if you don’t have or can’t afford a Netflix account, you can find pertinent clips (and sometimes even full episodes) on YouTube. You should also look up Ray Mears on YouTube. And if you are unable to watch online videos, then at the very least get thee to the library and look up books and/or DVDs on wilderness survival.

And don’t just watch and passively absorb this knowledge. If possible, try to get out every so often and practice what you learn. Chances are that you live within driving distance of someplace that offers free camping. This includes most lakes, beaches, national forests and many state forests and parks. I am not advising you to deliberately put yourself in a true survival situation, but simply going someplace where you can SAFELY practice building fires and fishing and foraging without incurring legal penalties will go a long way towards increasing your confidence in your ability to survive.

Whether you stay or go, another important consideration is self-defense and the ability to hunt for protein (personally, I hope and pray that the day never comes when I am forced to kill my own meat, but if that day does come I plan to be ready). Owning firearms is a personal decision based on a lot of factors, but if you do decide to purchase a firearm, be sure you can also afford an occasional trip to the local gun range (and the necessary practice ammo) to practice and learn how to use it properly. Gun ranges usually offer training classes for reasonable fees. As for purchasing a weapon and the ammunition to go with it, good deals can often be found at gun shows and private sales for second-hand weapons, and occasionally you can find good sales on brand new weapons at sporting goods stores.

Another option is more low-tech weaponry such as the cross bow, bow and arrow, or a plain old sling-shot, all of which can do some damage (and take down small game) and don?t require the constant purchasing of ammunition.

A good self-defense class, if you can afford one, is also a good idea. Often community centers and churches will offer free classes in basic self-defense, especially for women. Ditto a first-aid class.

Finally, the biggest piece of advice I can offer someone struggling financially who wishes to prepare for an uncertain future is: learn a new skill. Preferably a skill that will be in high demand after the SHTF, but one that can be put to good use in the mean time starting a side business to earn the extra income you need to help you prepare. Learning how to make and repair clothing (knitting, crochet, sewing), how to preserve food (canning, drying), how to repair weapons, cars or machines, how to make things like soap or candles that will be hot commodities after a disaster—these are all things that you can learn quickly (well, with the exception of mechanical repairs), that you can start making extra money from right away (if nothing else, open an Etsy shop—it’s easy and the fees are nominal), and that will be a welcome addition to a community of survivors, or at the very least, can be used for bartering.

Even if you can’t pick up a new skill, chances are there is something you can do to make money on the side while people are still willing and able to spend money on luxury items and services. If you are good with computers, it’s easy to set up a virtual assistant business. Like dogs? Get paid to walk them. Like kids? Get paid to babysit. Do you play a musical instrument? If you live in a city, find out if there’s a spot where you can busk for tips. You can also offer music lessons. Do you already knit or crochet, or know another type of craft? You can not only sell your creations on Etsy, you can also get paid to give lessons. If you have a reliable car or truck, you can start a courier or delivery service. There are all kinds of ways to increase your income if you put your mind to it. And if you ever lose your meager-income job or your social security check, your side-business might just be the thing that keeps you afloat.


  1. Grimm

    As a fellow female survivalist I love your ideas and posts. They help remind me of the things that need to be kept in the forefront of the mind.

    As far as cheap survival tools keep it simple.
    A good knife is a must. A non folding knife is best. A wide tang knife is perfect. The “survival” knifes with a compartment for small tools are a rip off as your main knife as the tang is short and the knife can fall apart or break at the hilt. Winchester knives are made by Gerber and are a smart choice for those on a budget. You can find a nice even new Winchester fixed blade knife with sheath for around $10 on ebay.

    Don’t forget that old wooden baseball bat makes a great weapon. Don’t throw it out. My husband found an old bat in the crawl space of the house we rented when we first got married. It is a great “Oh SHIT” weapon to have under the bed or hall closet for most situations. Never had to use it but much safer to have in the house with our daughter than guns and faster to grab than having to unlock the gun safe.

    25 feet minimum of paracord is smart. You can separate the strands down to a thin thread and repair clothes or use as fishing line. 100 foot packages can be bought for $10 online or at your local surplus store.

    The survival bottle kits can be a good place to start for those on a very tight budget. You can get a kit with a poncho, thermal blanket, whistle, matches, tiny first aid supplies, compass, a BPA free water bottle and much more for $10-20 depending on how many extras the kit has.

    As far as a bag to keep it all in I am using my old back pack for high school. I just ran it through the wash to clean the dust but it is in great condition and worth hanging on to! It is an Eastpak bag with 4 compartments, compression straps on the sides and a leather bottom. It is over 15 years old but no rips or tears. You can find Jansport or Eastpak bags for cheap at thrift stores or Ebay rather than spending $50+ for a new one.

    A cheap protein source is TVP (textured vegetable protein). It is dehydrated so it has a longer shelf life than most proteins like tuna or tofu. Since it has little to no flavor of its own you can add it to your other survival food without altering the taste but boosting the protein levels. $1 if you can buy it from the bulk dry goods at your local health food store.

    A great way to build your BOB or GOOD bags with great items but staying in your limited budget is to buy your supplies one at a time and to shop around. Research can help you decide on the items you want and the average price range. Save if you have to to get quality items rather than dollar store crap.

    Samples and trial sized items can help fill the gaps. Contact companies and ask for samples/trials or coupons. Companies will give these out if it means you will try them and maybe buy their products.

    If I can put together 3 complete GOOD bags for my husband, my daughter and myself on one income as well as some smaller things in a fourth bag (in case we have another surprise baby) you can too!

    • PrepperGirl

      Thanks for the feedback! And these are some great suggestions. I’m going to link to your comment from the homepage to make sure more people see them.

      • Grimm

        Thanks! I will share more with you soon. I am currently putting together our home disaster box with supplies for our cats and dog.

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