Apocalyptic Wealth: Trading, bartering and what to prepare

We’ve all seen the movies and shows where society collapses, people have to survive when money is worthless, but have you really thought about what YOU would do realistically?  The goal of this article is to get you thinking or maybe give you new ideas of what you can trade or barter with in a SHTF scenario. 

There’s things you can start saving and stockpiling now for barter and trade later and other things that you’ll need to learn how to produce as your stockpile will most likely dwindle faster than you think and you do NOT want to be left with nothing of value when you and yours are hard up for food, medicine or other life saving items. However this article will only be for pre-collapse prepping/investing.

Pre-Collapse Prepping: Hypothetically It’s present day and you’re feeling pretty good about life, you have enough money in savings to survive most modern day issues, maybe a steady job, 401k and some trendy crypto investments to “hodl” onto, but will these things help you during a SHTF scenario?  The obvious short answer is NO.  

During a collapse, electricity on a wide scale will undoubtedly go out simultaneously, bringing down the internet, and any electronic banking, investing or savings you might have.  If you’re a millionaire only in numbers on a computer, you’ll be destitute merely seconds after the power goes out for good.  

So what can you do to prepare for this sort of situation? This is a tricky question, and it depends a lot on your current situation and means that you currently have at your disposal.  Below is a list of some realistic ways to prepare pre-collapse: 

  • Physical precious metals like Gold/Silver
    • Gold/Silver has been a main purchasing power throughout nearly all of humanity and it will undoubtedly be one during a SHTF scenario.  
    • You can start saving and hoarding your precious metals even on a tight budget as there are local stores and online stores that will let you purchase as much or as little as you can afford. 
    • Even if a collapse never happens in your lifetime a stockpile of physical precious metals will have only gone up in value and can be traded back for cash value if needed or you can give them to your children as inheritance that the government cannot tax you on. 
  • Ammunition
    • No matter what your views are regarding firearms, the fact that ammo will be worth it’s weight in gold during a SHTF scenario doesn’t change.  Keeping ammo on hand and in large quantities can not only help you survive if violently attacked, but can also serve as a very valuable trading item.
    • Different types of ammo will be worth different amounts to different people depending on what type of firearm they have to shoot it, so keeping commonly used rounds on hand is preferred.  9mm, .45acp, .223/5.56, 12ga, 30-06, .308 and .22lr are all very common and keeping any of these on hand can help you out with bartering. 
  • Alcohol & Liquor 
    • Just like Ammunition/Firearms, your personal opinion about Alcohol will not diminish its value during a SHTF scenario.  Not only will other people want it for drinking, but others may need it for disinfectant or cleaning. 
    • Unopened liquor has a nearly unlimited shelf-life so you can start collecting your booze now, but don’t open it as opened bottles of liquor usually only keeps for 1-2 years before degrading. 
  • Hunting Gear
    • Getting food will not be as easy as it once was and you won’t just be able to stroll to your local Bass Pro shop or Walmart to pick up some bow arrows, fishing pole and or small game traps, so having a much of these items stored as you can (even if you don’t know how to hunt) is just a good idea.
    • You’re surely to run into someone in a SHTF scenario that either knows how to hunt that could use your items or could teach you to hunt and you can use your own items, so in either case, it will benefit you to have them. 
  • Salt
    • Salt is important, not only to make food less bland (which will be a huge issue during a SHTF scenario), but also because it’s a mineral your body needs (especially when running low on food and dehydrated).
    • Since you most likely will not be transporting large amounts of food long distances you’ll likely use it for your own food and to barter with as most people have no knowledge of how to find salt for their use outside of the grocery store. 
    • Buy and store as much salt as you can and you won’t regret having if the occasion should arrive. 
  • Medical & Hygiene
    • This section should go without saying, but knowing that you’ll pretty much ONLY be able to get these items pre-collapse might help motivate you to get a head start on stockpiling the more important ones below:
      • Antibiotics 
      • Scissors
      • Gauze Pads
      • Tourniquets
      • Tampons/Pads
      • Toothbrushes/Toothpaste
      • Tylenol/Aspirin
      • Disinfectant
      • Ointments
      • Pain Meds
      • Rubbing Alcohol
      • And anything else you can get your hands on
  • Clothes
    • Believe it or not, clothes will become a bigger problem than you think.  Wear and tear of your current clothes will be accelerated without proper cleaning and with heavy use.  Also running to the mall to scavenge some clothes will likely be unsuccessful as you’re not the only person who will be running into this problem.
    • One way of doing this might be to hold onto some of the better clothes you no longer wear instead of selling them at the next yard sale or taking them to goodwill, this will take up space, but also won’t cost you anything extra. 

There are many items that other preppers would potentially add to this list, but to keep this from becoming a short book, I’ll stop here.  Remember, skills you learn will always be worth more than physical items when it comes to preparing for a SHTF scenario, but a combo of both is the best plan.

Becoming more self-sufficient: Getting started and staying motivated

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, you can probably see for yourself how unpredictable the world has become.  The COVID pandemic woke a lot of people up to the cold hard fact that you can’t just rely on consumerism to provide and feed yourself consistently.   

It may seem like a minor inconvenience to show up at the grocery store one day and not be able to get a few key items that you need, but it’s telling of what it might look like during a more serious situation that can very well happen to anybody. 

Venezuela is currently experiencing the scenario that I am talking about above due to a mix of political and economic stress brought upon by their adoption of socialism.   Their money devalued to the point you can find it in the gutters,  food shelves mostly barren and if you can find it, it’s prices have inflated to the point only the wealthy can afford it.   What would you do in this type of situation?  

In lieu of recent events my wife and I have recently decided to start becoming more self-sufficient.  We live in a small neighborhood about 30 minutes outside of St Louis, Mo.  Our home is almost the stereotypical one family house (minus the picket fence) with a front/back yard and a garage.  The rest of this will be applied to similar settings so if you live in an apartment or have other arrangements you’ll need to adjust your methods, but there’s still some good thought provoking parts that might interest you. 

For my home I have some grand plans that my wife may say is a bit lofty, and she’s probably right, so we’ve decided to take it slow, not only so we don’t overwhelm ourselves, but to also use this as a learning experience for us both.   If society really starts to break down and you have a long period where you need to provide for yourself and your family, the knowledge of how to do so will be the most valuable thing you have, considering the internet may not always be available to you to pull information from. (keeping physical books on hand is one of my backups to work around not being able to access the internet). 

Below are some steps that I recommend to get you going in the right direction, taking into account resources, cost, time and labor. 

Planning: Not only do I consider this one of the easier and funner parts of the process, but it’s also one of the most important.   At this state you can really envision what you want and what is actually possible for you and your current/long term situation. 

You’ll want to ask yourself questions like: 

  • Do I have the time and space? 
    • Whether you have a farm or if you have an apartment, there are ways you can start becoming more self-sufficient.   There are plenty of articles and books on how to do just that, but you have to set aside time to learn the methods that others have worked so hard to record.  
  • What would really benefit me and mine if resources become hard to get? 
    • Here you should think about how you’d start to save water, grow food and what things YOU can build or create that just might save your life when you need it most like Water collection, a garden that produces a good amount of food or simply shelter and heat if you live in an area that gets cold for months at a time. 
  • Prioritization
    • Now that you have an idea of what you need and where you’re going to put these plans into place it’s time to prioritize your work.  The more time you spend planning the greater this list will grow.  It may seem daunting at first, but this is why taking the process slow is so important.  Not only is the work you’re doing potentially life saving in an emergency, but it’s also A LOT of fun, so enjoying yourself during the process is key for my wife and I.    
    • You wouldn’t want to start buying seeds and plants for your garden if you haven’t even tilled up your yard yet and if you’re on a budget prioritization will be key in ensuring you don’t break the bank during the process. 

Getting started: Again, this process should be fun for you and anybody else that is helping you.  If it feels forced or if you’re stressing out too much about it, you’ll be less apt to doing it regularly.  Remember, motivation will get you started, but habit keeps it going.  

  • Changing your life habits is an important part of this process.  Lot’s of people like to claim they “don’t have time” or “I’m just too busy” when in reality there’s plenty of time, but you may have to cut some “less important” aspects out of your life like going out with friends every weekend or bing watching T.V.  Once you get into the habit of getting out in the sun and dirt you start to realize how fulfilling it is to do work that benefits you directly by your own hands and going back to binge watching T.V. or going out drinking will not seem as important.  
  • Set aside specific times that can/will become regular habits.  My wife and I use weekends for this.  Instead of saying “I’m bored, what do you want to do today” we are already excited to head out to the backyard to weed our garden or plant new plants.  Not only is it healthier for the both of us, but it’s also been great for our relationship to spend quality time together and build something together that will benefit our family. 
  • Start small.  As I said before, it can be a daunting task, so stick to your prioritization list.  One example could be “This weekend I’m going to till the plot that I plan my garden to be” or “I’m going to purchase the wood to build a raised bed”.  With each small step you complete, the closer to your self-sufficiency goals you will be.   

Keeping it going: Like I usually say, I’m not an expert on any of this stuff, I just have an active passion for it and I’m extremely excited to produce and maintain something that is completely my own and for my family’s well being.  This passion of mine is my motivator for keeping it going and repetition becomes habit.   

  • Start thinking long-term.  Once you get going, whether it be a large garden or a water collection system you should start thinking of how you’ll store this stuff for practical use.  Do you plan on canning veggies for use during the winter?  What happens when my water collection tanks freeze up?  Do I need a fence to keep out critters from eating my crops?  There’s lots of problems to solve, but if you get into the passionate mindset about your plans it becomes not so  much a problem, but a learning event for you to experience.  

The process of becoming more self-sufficient is an ongoing process that never ends, so get used to learning new things, but keep in mind that the things you’re learning is knowledge that fewer and fewer people possess that can be invaluable when/if the time comes.  You may find yourself listening to podcasts on homesteading, watching youtube videos on gardening or simply collecting “How To” books for reference in case of a disaster.  Many people have different hobbies, but learning to become more self-sufficient becomes less of a hobby and more of a skill the longer you practice it.  Good luck with your future projects!

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