One of the hottest trends today is prepping. There is a huge population of people that would consider themselves preppers or survivalists. This may be offensive to some, but I consider the terms interchangeable. Perhaps survivalists are more hardcore than preppers.
You can meet two different preppers and they may be preparing for completely different things. Prepping can be for anything – terrorist attacks, hurricanes, earthquakes, nuclear war, asteroids hitting the earth, an economic meltdown, or any number of other things. Preppers will differ in their top fears, but their strategies are often similar.
I do not consider myself a prepper, at least as the term is used today. However, I do learn from reading and watching what other preppers do and I think there are useful lessons for everybody.
I do not have the time, energy, or dedication to be prepared for a terrible scenario where the entire division of labor economy breaks down. If you think this is a likely scenario, then you pretty much have to devote your life to it. Storing some extra food and water isn’t going to save you. You better move out of the country or move to a rural part of the U.S. that is isolated and self-sustaining.
On the other hand, I do think it is important for everyone to take some action in preparing for a temporary breakdown. This could be for a weather related event, an electrical grid failure, or any number of possibilities.
It is always a good idea to have a couple of weeks’ worth of food available, along with water. It doesn’t have to be bottled water. It just needs to be clean enough to drink. You should also have some other basic necessities for light, cooking, and heat, particularly if you live in a cold climate. You should also build up a small extra supply of any medication you need and just remember to rotate it so that it doesn’t get old.
One other thing that people forget about is cash. It is a good idea to always have some cash available in case ATMs don’t work and stores and gas stations can’t take credit cards. You don’t need to have a lot, but a few hundred dollars is probably a good idea. It should be somewhere that is safe, but accessible. You will also want to keep most of it in smaller denominations, particularly one-dollar bills. You don’t know if others will be able to make change.
Aside from some common sense necessities to hold you over for a couple of weeks, I’m not sure it is worth it to go beyond that, unless you are really going to go hard core.
I’m not sure that people really think through a worst-case scenario of a total economic breakdown. If there are no longer any stores available to do your shopping, then you really better be a hardcore survivalist to have a chance. I’m not sure how many people would want to survive in such a world.
It isn’t just a matter of providing food and shelter. There is sanitation and plumbing. There is medical care. There is heat and air conditioning. There is refrigeration. There is communication. You can live without these things, but imagine a world without them. What will you do after a year when your sneakers have worn out and you don’t have any reliable shoes? If you sit there and think about it for a while, you could probably list a hundred things easily that you would no longer have available and miss dearly. Again, it wouldn’t be much of a life.
There probably are some preppers and survivalists who really would be prepared for a worst-case situation, but there would also be many that would fall short.
Interestingly, one piece of investment advice I give to people with lower income levels and savings is to buy things in bulk and store them, if possible. This could include things such as paper towels, toilet paper, razor blades, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, bottled water, or really anything with a decent shelf life.
When you find a good sale on something, buy more than you need at that time and store it. What are the chances that the price will be any lower a year from now? Most likely, the prices will be higher. You will save money by buying in bulk, buying sale items, and hedging against price inflation. And for the sake of this article, it also will make you more prepared for an unexpected event where you may not be able to get to the store for a few days.
In conclusion, while I don’t adopt a prepper lifestyle, I think anyone can learn some good useful strategies from preppers. You should always prepare for a situation where you may not have access to a store for a two-week timeframe.