Your disaster kit should always contain cash. Survivalist and preppers budget is significant during an emergency because ATMs can be emptied quickly, power and phone outages will impact the ability to use credit or debit cards, and banks may be closed.
Survivalist and Preppers Budget
Even if all of that infrastructure is still in place and operating normally, having folding money on hand will allow you to avoid the crowds and evacuate right away.
Also, you may need to replenish your supplies by purchasing them from another individual, and most people aren’t set up to swipe a card, nor will they be inclined to take a check from a total stranger.
In the above scenario, we’re assuming a local, limited emergency, and that once you get out of the affected area, the rest of the country is just going about its daily business.
But what if that isn’t the case? What if the disaster affects the whole country? Or the world?
What if society has to be rebuilt from scratch? In pop culture, this is known as a post-apocalyptic scenario. In the prepper community, it’s given the acronym T.E.O.T.W.A.W.K.I.
No one agrees on how to pronounce it, but it’s faster than typing out “the end of the world as we know it” over and over.
Doomsday Prepping on a Budget
If that much of society falls, you can rest assured that there will be no whipping out a credit card to buy food. And that stack of hundred-dollar bills you squirreled away may be of more use as fire tinder than legal tender.
The full faith and credit of the government won’t mean much if there’s no longer an operating government. The question to ask yourself is: What do I have to offer in exchange for the things I need?
A Brief History of Currency
The first currency system was bartering, in which valuable goods were exchanged between individuals. Someone with an excess of wheat, for example, might trade some of the extra in exchange for a piece of pottery.
The limit to bartering is that it relies on the people involved in the exchange needing what the other has.
If our wheat farmer has plenty of pottery, there will likely be no exchange. As agrarian society began to flourish, and supply and demand chains became longer, an indirect medium of exchange was required to more easily facilitate trade.
In the Bronze Age, commodity money—objects that have value both as themselves and as a unit of currency—was in frequent use. Cowry shells are the best-known example of commodity money.
In the Roman Empire, soldiers were paid, in part, with salt (that’s where the term “salary” comes from). Metals were most likely first used as a commodity currency due to their divisibility, durability, and portability. The Egyptians used standardized gold bars as currency as early as 4000 BCE, and standardized coinage began to appear around 1000 BCE.
Paper money was developed in China during the seventh century and eventually spread around the world. Whatever system of currency is being used, everyone involved in an exchange must agree on the perceived value of the items, and that is driven by factors such as need and availability.
In most depictions of post-apocalyptic society, a staple location is the Barter Town. Similar to a village market, the Barter Town is where everyone goes to find the things they need. Depending on the plot, the Barter Town may be a lawless free for all, or it may be a neutral location, where grudges are left at the door.
It may have happened organically, growing out of local need, or it may have been set up by an individual as a service, for which they receive the first pick of the goods.
Some may even be traveling caravans, protected by armed guards. Whatever form it takes, the visitors hope to be able to trade their goods for whatever it is they need.
As with the first bartering systems, if someone doesn’t need what you have, you probably won’t get a trade.
You may have to make several trades to eventually get what you need—your extra shoes for a knife for a backpack for the canned goods you came there for—but again, you’re assuming you’ll be able to line up all of those trades quickly enough for it to do you any good.
As this scenario becomes more common, some sort of commodity currency will probably come into effect. Anything that is universally needed, in short supply, durable, and easily portable is a candidate for commodity currency. It’s not so far-fetched to imagine that different calibers of ammunition will take the place of coin denominations.
Seeds also have great potential as currency, because everyone has to eat. Pharmaceuticals will be extremely valuable if our manufacturing base has disappeared.
If everybody in your area has access to fresh water, it won’t have any local value, but a traveling peddler may offer you a bottle of antibiotics for fifty gallons of it, then take that to the desert, where he can sell it for two or three bottles of medicines in return.
Historically, the use of precious metals and gems as currency indicates a higher availability of leisure time in a community. By itself, gold isn’t useful for much more than ornamentation.
It’s too soft to be an excellent working metal, and you certainly can’t eat it. Its perceived value is tied up in its scarcity and difficulty in extraction.
In the short term after a worldwide catastrophe, no one will be concerned with digging up more gold, so it probably won’t have very much practical value.
If you have particular knowledge and can produce items from raw materials, you will be in a better position than those that have to glean their trade goods from the remains of civilization.
There is a social group called the Society for Creative Anachronism that specializes in learning ancient techniques of production.
From weaving cloth and forging weapons to making paper and preserving food, participants might be laughed at by anyone outside of a Renaissance Festival. But these will actually become valuable skills in the absence of an electrical grid.
If you know how to make gunpowder, distill alcohol, or repair gear, you will be in high demand.
If all else fail, and can’t make anything, you can try to offer your strength as a laborer who is paid in goods.
You might work in a farmer’s field to get shelter in the barn or be a guard at the Barter Town or for a traveling caravan in exchange for regular meals.
Over time, communities will begin to accrete around collections of resources. These may be natural resources such as a river or fertile soil, or personal resources such as a surgeon or blacksmith. Each person in the community will contribute their goods or skills to the survival of the collective group.
As they become more settled, they will begin trading with other communities for goods that are not available locally. Eventually, established trade routes will assure long-term survival, and people will be able to start looking beyond day-to-day subsistence.
The value will start to be attached to items based on want rather than need. At that point, your gold coins may be useful again.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this post! Come back next week, when we will talk about prepping for special needs, review various communication methods, discuss preparing for pandemics, and more. We hope to see you then!