How To Start Prepping on a Budget | The Atomic Bear
By: Jeff Truchon 25/04/2023


It’s easy to get the impression that prepping requires an almost infinite budget. Some prep lists include hundreds of suggested items. Potential prep shelters can run tens of thousands of dollars. All of these costs can quickly add up— but they’re not all necessary.

It is completely possible to begin prepping on the cheap so that you don’t stretch yourself beyond your means but still prepare for every kind of emergency. This guide will walk you through 6 tips for prepping on a budget, the importance of following a budget, and frequently asked questions about prepping within your means. Knowing how to become a prepper on a budget will put you one step closer to keeping yourself and your loved ones safe no matter what emergency comes your way. 

6 Tips For Prepping On A Budget

  1. Prioritize Items

Prioritizing prepping items based on their importance can help you create a budget and avoid overspending on unnecessary supplies. 

Consider categorizing items into tiers of importance based on potential disasters. For example, start with creating a 72-hour supply of nonperishable food and water. As your budget allows, add to this supply until you have enough to last 30 days. Prioritize life-saving prescriptions over first aid items that you may be less likely to need. Flashlights are likely more necessary than headlamps. Start with the essentials, then expand your emergency kit as your budget allows. Here are a few ideas of kits you can create so that you’re ready for any scenario. 

It’s also wise to plan which items to prioritize based on what emergency scenario you think you’re most likely to encounter— a car wreck, job loss, natural disaster all require you to be prepared in different ways. If you spend 20-30 hours on the road every week, you might want to prioritize a car emergency kit before you create a full-on bug out bag.

Finally, you can benefit from prioritizing items that serve multiple purposes. For example, an emergency blanket can be used to keep you warm or cool, to waterproof a makeshift shelter, or for first aid. A tactical pen can be used for self-defense or to break glass in an emergency. Buying items that can help in different emergencies helps you prepare for any situation that comes your way.

  1. Learn Practical Skills

prepping on a budget means learning practical skills such as building a shelter

In emergency situations, first aid and self-defense skills can be vital for your survival or the safety of others. Basic first aid knowledge could mean the difference between life or death after a car accident. Knowing how to use a tactical pen can keep you safe if you’re attacked on a walk. 

For long-term emergencies, you’ll need to know practical skills that will keep you and your family fed and safe. This could include:

  • foraging
  • gardening
  • archery
  • canning
  • fishing
  • dressing and cooking wild game
  • harvesting and storing seeds
  • dehydrating food
  • cooking on an outdoor fire
  • making bread, butter, cheese, and other staples
  • sewing and mending
  • reading and following a map
  • starting a fire with various resources
  • utilizing herbal medicines

    Many– if not all– of these skills can be acquired from free online videos or books from your local library. However, don’t rely on borrowed sources of knowledge. When you find a resource that walks you through helpful skills, consider investing in a physical copy as part of your survival kit. You may not always have the internet to fall back on.

    1. Take Advantage of Sales, Discounts, and Coupons

    Almost nothing needs to be purchased at full price. Instead, set alerts for price drops or bookmark pages to monitor for sales periodically. When you’re grocery shopping, check for sales on canned goods that you could add to your emergency kit. Some stores only allow you to use one coupon or discount code a day, but you can work around this by having all members of a household use the discount individually or visiting a store on multiple days to buy items on sale. 

    Some items can also be purchased secondhand, though you’ll want to ensure they’re in good condition and are safe to be reused, such as:

    • a cast iron skillet
    • a recently published first aid manual
    • firearms
    • an insulated sleeping bag and warm blankets
    • gas cans
    • glass jars
    • tarps

      1. Rotate Your Supplies

      Nothing lasts forever, even when stored in the most ideal conditions. If you allow consumables to go bad, you are literally throwing money away when you replace them. Adapt a first in, first out approach so that you use up items that are going to expire in the near future. Keep a close eye on items such as food, medicine, batteries, and bottled water so that you can use them up and replace them with fresh items as they near their expiration point. 

      If you have kids, it’s especially important to be mindful about rotating your supplies. Eventually, formula will need to be replaced with baby food and then food for children. Medicine that’s safe for children changes based on their age. Even clothes will need to be rotated frequently as your children outgrow their current sizes. 

      1. Focus on Quality Over Quantity

      It will do you far more good to have an emergency kit that includes a high-quality version of the most necessary items than the dollar store version of 200 items. Research reputable brands and invest in supplies from their companies. 

      In addition, your beginning survival budget should prioritize the most important essentials: food, water, and shelter.  For example, many cheap snack foods have a shelf life that lasts for years, but you’ll be better off investing in top-quality staples that will meet your nutritional needs. Instead of buying three dozen gallon water jugs from the grocery, invest in buying food grade plastic containers that can safely store water long-term. Even if this means you can afford to store less water as you start out, you’re not risking your water supply being contaminated by dangerous chemicals from cheap water bottles. 

      1. Build or Join a Prepping Community

      building a prepping community and meet to learn working together

      Photo by Samuel Bordo on Unsplash

      Prepping is most effective when you connect with like-minded people. To find others who prioritize prepping, you can join online groups as well as local clubs. You can find dozens of prepper groups on, and many are designated by area, so you’ll be able to meet people within your geographic location. 

      To meet people locally, visit places where other preppers are likely to frequent, such as gun ranges, farmers markets, and hiking clubs. If you want to take it a step beyond knowing other preppers you might consider forming a group that meets on occasion. At these meetings you can participate in prep-related activities, such as:

      • completing CPR and first aid training
      • practicing at the local shooting or archery range
      • exchanging seeds or plants
      • wild food cooking competitions
      • camping

      Of course, the ultimate goal of a prepping community is simply to have other people you can rely on in an emergency. Not only can you share supplies, but you can also share knowledge and support. A large community takes once impossible activities and puts them within reach. You all can go in together to split the purchase of a local cow for slaughter, or work together to watch for sales on important prep supplies. 


      The Importance Of Prepping On The Cheap


      importance of prepping on the cheap

      Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

      Prepping doesn’t necessarily mean you’re anticipating the end of the world. It means you’re preparing for almost any kind of emergency you might face, from a child trapped in a hot car to a hurricane that knocks out your power or forces you to evacuate your home. You still need to be able to financially support yourself as you prep, so it's important not to spend everything in your bank account.

      In addition, you need to have money left to have a supply of actual money: cash and precious metals. In an instance where you don’t have access to money in the bank, emergency cash, silver, and gold may be instrumental in helping you purchase the essentials.

      In Summary: How To Become A Prepper On A Budget

      Being prepared doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands of dollars you don’t have. It requires you to be wise with the resources you do have and mindfully invest in your future. Prepping can cost as much or as little as you want it to.  By prioritizing the most important items, taking advantage of free knowledge, building a community, and utilizing sales and discounts, you can successfully prepare for almost any emergency life throws your way.

      prepping on a budget means adding good gear slowly but surely

      Photo by Hybrid Storytellers on Unsplash

      Frequently Asked Questions

      What are some essential items that preppers should have in their survival kit, even on a tight budget?

      The most essential items in an emergency kit are the things most necessary to your immediate survival: food, water, shelter, items to keep you warm or cool, and life-saving medication. If you have money to go beyond these basics, next invest in a weather radio, lighting source, and basic tools. 


      How can I prioritize my prepping needs when I’m on a limited budget?

      Focus on acquiring the basics and then allotting a small amount each month to add to your emergency kit. You can also save money by buying items when they’re on sale.

      What are some ways to acquire prepping supplies and gear for less money?

      Take advantage of sales, discounts, and coupons to buy more for less. You may also consider buying some items secondhand, such as firearms, sleeping bags, and hand tools. 

      How can I make the most of my existing resources and repurpose items for prepping purposes?

      Consider what items you own but don’t often use which could be added to your emergency kit. Try to avoid double dipping, such as moving matches and a lighter from your bug out bag to your camping kit every time you go camping. Doing so increases the risk that you won’t have what you need when SHTF. 

      What are some common misconceptions about prepping on a budget and how can I avoid them?

      One common misconception is that you need a giant arsenal of supplies. Instead of falling for this misconception, stick to gathering a quality version of the most necessary supplies. Another misconception is that you need every suggested item on every survival list. Avoid this misconception by choosing items that have more than one function. For example, a 5 gallon storage bucket can also be used to catch or transport water when it’s not being used to store food. 

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