February 13, 2017

Should You Pay Off Debt or Buy Preps?

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

A friend of mine, let’s call her Marie, called me about buying items for her stockpile while she was shopping at a big box store.  We went over beans, rice, sugar, canned foods, toilet paper and others good bulk items.  Marie told me she’d call me back after she got through the check out line.  Not even 30 seconds later, she called back telling me how mortified she was that her credit card was declined and she had no other way to pay.  I tried to make her feel better but I don’t think it worked.  We hung up soon after, as she left her cart of bulk items behind, muttering something about getting a drink on the way home.  I felt bad for her – it must have been awful to have your credit card declined in front of a whole line of people.

I had no idea she was having issues with debt; it is not the sort of thing that is comes up in everyday conversation.   I think many people are in denial about being debt, just as they are in denial about the need to prepare.

It is unfortunate my friend was not able to get the bulk items just as she was getting started but I think she can start by prepping in small steps.  When someone finally wakes up and feels the need to prepare, it is often accompanied by panic.  Thoughts about not having enough money to get all the gear you think you need fill your mind, and these thoughts might make you even more paralyzed.

How do you find money to prepare, while you are also trying to dig yourself out of debt?

Make a spending plan. 

On one column, list your income.  On the opposite column, list your expenses including rent or mortgage, utilities, food, gasoline then list your debts, and possibly savings.  Your income less expenses should have a small amount left, and you can allocate that to prepping.  I believe you can prep even if you start with $5 a week, as long as you do it consistently.

Stop charging.

I have seen advice or comments in other sites saying just run up the credit cards and buy all the emergency supplies even if it’s on credit.  I’d stay away from doing making additional charges, because that just sinks you further and further into the pit of debt.  In a year or two, if nothing happens, you will still be in debt and you will just blame yourself even more.

It is hard to put the cards away, but that is the only thing that works.  If you don’t carry it in your wallet, and it’s out of reach you are less likely to use it.  Switch to using cash only.

Try to get more money coming in.

There are lots of ways to make some money on the side.  Consider moonlighting, or making money from hobbies.  For more ideas, see Coming Up with Cash for Preps

While technically not getting more money coming in, using coupons increases your stockpile at a lower cost.  See Extreme Couponing to Boost your Supplies.

Learn money saving skills

Part of prepping is learning to be more self-sufficient and many of these skills can be learned for free.  Start now by visiting my section on Self Sufficiency  

I encourage you to try out even just one project a month, and you will end up saving some money.

What about Emergency Cash?

I would say as long as you are current on your bills, and are able to set aside a small amount for water, food and emergency supplies, then you should do so.  Having a small amount set aside for emergencies will help you avoid relying on credit cards then next time you need to replace a tire, pay for an emergency room visit or other unexpected expense.

Get help and inspiration.

If you are trying to recover from credit card debt, these sites offer excellent advise on  giving debt free living advice:


Although it is a paid member’s site, the free side is excellent and gives enough information to get started.

I also like the Surviving and Thriving blog by Donna Freedman, which features a bit of everything but also has some great advice about living well on a small budget.

If you are new to this site, please check out the “Getting Started” tab  and read our Monday feature, Money Mondays.

Being prepared for emergencies and having a small stockpile of your necessities will actually save you money in the long run.

© Apartment Prepper 2015

For more money saving and preparedness tips, read Bernie’s latest book:

The Penny Pincher Prepper pic

10 Comments on Should You Pay Off Debt or Buy Preps?

  1. This is such a great post! We are always walking the fine line of “should we really spend that on prepping” even though we have very little consumer debt at this time. We try our best to do little things as much as possible and we noticed yesterday that our stockpile is really starting to add up.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Hi Amanda, That is great that you have very little consumer debt-that stockpile that you have will really come in handy.

  2. My wife and I started the “Total $$ Make-over” last year, and it changed everything. It’s a very simple system: Get some envelopes and write either an expense, bill, or something you want to save for on each one. Every month, after all bills are paid (and for us, tithe too) whatever $$ is left gets put into the different envelopes. $5 here, $20 there, etc… After just a few months, things were getting paid off, and saved up for. We started a “Prepper” envelope after we got a new windshield. The “Windshield $$” went into that envelope every pay period thereafter. In less than a year we were able to save up for a year’s supply of food, a month’s supply of water, and several other things.
    Debt is a monster, and we’re almost out of it (student loans are a bear) but with some discipline, and developing delayed gratification, it can be done. Don’t use your Debit cards…just cash. When the cash is gone – you stop spending $$. Takes a while to get used to, but if you’re a Prepper…this is a skill you must develop.
    Great article, and very timely. God bless whoever “Marie” is, and her situation.

    • Hi Joseph, Thanks for sharing your experience with the Total $$Makeover. I think the envelope system really works. Congratulations on paying off all that debt!

  3. If I wasn’t already prepped to the gills, at this late stage of the game, I would sell everything I own, at ten cents on the dollar if necessary, and make a short list of survival items and start prepping right now. This is no time to be worried or concerned about retirement, investments, real estate, or portfolios, or for that matter paying off or reducing any debt, great or small. Nothing past the immediate future is worth having. Think for the now, because that is all we have left. Really folks, if we thot there was time for building the proverbial nest egg would we really be prepping, except for maybe a minor disruption of some sort. The firing squad is standing in front of us for gosh sake, are you really concerned with what color blindfold you’ll be wearing. THINK…respectfully as always, and prep with all your might, assets, and resources.

  4. “In a year or two, if nothing happens, you will still be in debt and you will just blame yourself even more.”

    Of course the inverse is true also…in a year or two if the SHTF your creditors may cease to exist, whereas your stomach and the stomachs of your family are long term creditors who likely will be with you till the day you die…

    You can live with debt, you cannot live without food, or any of the other basic necessities. I hear what you are saying but if you are smart with your debt there are ways to manage it. Long term low interest balance transfer options are always being advertised to me. So if you can lock in $5k in preps, nothing extravagant just the minimum need to survive, for 24 months with a low one time 4%transfer fee shouldn’t you?

  5. I began some months ago to only pay the minimum on my credit cards. I draw cash out to spend, not hold on to.. I think it’s best for me to buy more emergency supplies than worry about interest on debts that will be impossible to pay when the dollar is worthless. Priorities.

    I spent a lot of money on survival gear in the last two years. Now, I will continue to stock up and add to my caches in the wild. Others should be doing the same.

  6. padre makes a good point. If you have no preps and have credit it makes sense to buy a few basics; in fact, most people can spring $1000 on a 1 year package and pay off the loan at your leisure. I think $5K is overboard if you need to finance it for years. At least have a good stash of water/filters, rice, beans and canned food (meat). If you live in the city you should leave now.

  7. In my opinion, being debt free is part of prepping. I would recommend that you pay off all debts first and make your necessary prepping, i.e. food and water part of your weekly shopping budget.

  8. Dave Ramsey is for people who can’t think for themselves, the purveyor of common sense / aka captain obvious…and he got rich selling his plan to people. Good for him. We don’t subscribe to his plan but managed to pay off almost all of our debt and still have plenty of disposable income to enjoy life. Pay off debt, roll over that extra income to pay off more debt, live in a way where you don’t spend outrageously. WOW…that is some genius stuff!

    Anyways, I subscribe to the earn MORE plan vs save and cut costs. Extra income solves a lot of problems. If you make 50k a year, why not find a way to make 75k, 100k a year? Not possible? I beg to differ. Good luck.

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