How to Prep When You Have No Money

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Written by Bernie Carr

With all the uncertainty and daily doses of bad news, more people are becoming interested in preparing for hard times. At the same time, people are feeling very stretched financially, with high gas prices, and inflation affecting food prices while wages remain stagnant. How would you even begin to prep when you feel you have no extra money?

Even with a very tight budget, you can still take steps to become more prepared.

Take inventory

You may have more than you think. Check your food pantry and take inventory of what foods you already have: canned food, staples such as rice, pasta, flour, sugar, salt, dry soups, cereal, granola bars, etc. Check your closets for camping equipment such as propane camping stove, flashlights, lantern, that may serve as backup emergency lighting.

Store water

If you do nothing else to prepare, at least store some water. Water is one of our top needs for survival, so get started by saving empty 2-liter soda bottles, washing them thoroughly and fill them with tap water. You need a gallon per person per day.

Improve your health

Hard times can be hazardous to your health, as we have already seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course even healthy people can become suddenly ill, but being healthy does help you in the event of a disaster. Even something simple like having to take the stairs when elevators are not working in a power outage can take a lot of effort if you are not used to physical activity.

Make an appointment for your annual checkup.  Many health insurance plans cover an annual physical.  You can also go to free health screenings at your local pharmacy, grocery store or health fairs.  Health issues are often overlooked, and being unhealthy when times are tough makes it harder to cope.

Get into shape by going on hikes, running or biking.

Do a safety audit

With crime increasing in many areas, now is a good time to do a safety check on your home and your habits. Have you gotten more lax in your security? Walk around your home or unit and identify any weak security points. Think like a thief and see what would catch your attention. Are your curtains or blinds wide open so anyone can see what you have such as computers and other electronics? Do you leave your purse on the passenger seat of your unlocked car as you put gas? Doing your own safety check costs nothing but can potentially save your life or possessions.

Learn for free

Use your local library. Check out books on that will help you with emergency preparedness, first aid and even financial tips at your local library. You’ll learn a lot and it’s all free.

Read free Kindle books to learn about home remedies, survival and self-sufficiency skills.  Many books are offered for free on Kindle for a couple of days.  Get the free Kindle app and download the books.  Read them on your free time. – Read eBooks using the FREE Kindle Reading App on Most Devices

Get training from your local emergency certification unit.  You can also get free first aid training from local hospitals and fire stations.

Acquire skills to become more self-sufficient

Take up hobbies that help you become more self sufficient.  Learn how to grow herbs on your windowsill, learn how to cook sew, crochet or knit from You Tube videos.

Easy weekend preps

Accomplish small tasks during weekends such as create a grab and go documents binder, build a texting tree for emergencies or set up an emergency plan for school and work days etc.

Backup your mobile phone contacts and make a hard copy in case you are not able to access your phone in an emergency.

Dollar stores

Try the dollar store. You can find a lot of prepping items at the Dollar Tree or at the 99 Cents Only Store. Recently, I stopped in and bought 10 boxes of matches for $1, along with antibacterial gel, to add to the preparedness supplies. You don’t have to spend a lot, you just need to add to your supplies consistently.

Start small.  It is easy to get overwhelmed and feel like it is pointless to even take the first step.  Getting just one or two cans of food each time you visit the grocery store is a good start.  Buy the loss leaders offered by your store and it won’t make a dent on your budget.

Bonus tip: Check out garage sales,moving sales or Freecycle for inexpensive or free items you can pick up that can add to your supplies.   This list is not all inclusive.  There are lots of things you can do without spending a lot of money.  Hopefully this list will help you get started.

If you found this article interesting or helpful, please consider helping us out (without costing you anything)! We are an affiliate of, which means we received a small commission if you click through one of our Amazon links when you shop, at totally no cost to you. This helps keep the lights on at the blog. Thanks!

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Bernie’s latest e-book, FRUGAL DIY has just been released on Amazon. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

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  1. “You’re only as strong as your friends are,” the old saying has it. So I have a suggestion for the non-prepped person who is also flat broke. Go to church. Or synagogue. Or mosque.Or temple. Go every week. Listen to the sermon. I mean, really listen. Meet people. Join the prayer groups. Take your kids to Sunday School. Make friends. And when hard times come, your friends will not let you starve. Nor will they let your children starve. Just as you would not let their children starve. Fair enough?

  2. Hi Bernie! Another very good basic thought provoking article. One extra thing I would add is home canning. So many people out there willing to give you a jar and lid or two to help get you started! Jelly is the first to come to mind. BTW I could not get your free kindle app to come up. All the rest seem to be OK.
    Stay safe and God Bless…

    1. Glad you like that one Bill! Home canning is a great way to prep inexpensively. Next week we’ll be posting a great home canning recipe from Ron Brown. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Walking is free and a good way to get fit. Start small. A block or 2. In all weather to increase endurance. Make it as routine as brushing your teeth. It is also a way to get to know the neighborhood; places to hide, alternate escape routes, short cuts.

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