How Much Cash Should You Have If the Grid Goes Down?

56
1560
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

It is the final backup plan for a lot of us in the case of a disaster. A generous supply of cold hard cash to buy our way out of trouble, pick up as many last-minute supplies as possible or to acquire resources that are unavailable to anyone with a credit card in a world where the electricity is out and the internet is down. We frequently talk about having cash for emergencies, but how much cash should you have if the grid goes down? What will you be able to purchase with your doomsday supply and how long would it last in the first place?

One of our readers made a recommendation the other day to have between $500 and $1000 in cash for your bug out bag and at the time it prompted me to consider again if this amount makes sense. In my personal preparedness plans I have a supply of cash but I am always trying to figure out if what I have is enough or too much. Will it even matter when TEOTWAWKI comes and how can I best use the cash I have to survive?

Why do you need to have cash on hand?

You want to know the time when you will need cash the most? It will be when you can’t get to it. How many of you right now have no cash at all in your wallets or purses? I used to be the same way. I never had cash and relied on the ready availability of cash machines or most often the ability to pay for virtually everything with a debit card. How convenient is it to never have to make change or worry if you have enough cash when with the swipe of a card your bank account funds are at your disposal. This is a great technological advance, but the problem is that this requires two things to be functioning. First, the card readers and ATM machines require electricity. If the electricity is out, neither of these two machines works. The second thing is a network connection. If the network is down, even with electricity the transaction won’t work and you can’t pay for goods or get cash from your bank.

In a disaster, one of the first casualties is electricity. This doesn’t have to be due to some cosmic solar flare that has rendered the grid useless, it could be as destructive and common as a fire, flood, earthquake, tornado or winter storm. It could also be from simple vandalism or perhaps terrorism. A major fiber optic cable was cut in Arizona back in February leaving businesses without the ability to accept payments. When the electricity is out, you aren’t going to be able to access your cash via the normal means so having a supply on hand is going to be a huge advantage for you in the right circumstances.

Even if there is no natural disaster, you are still at the mercy of your bank. What if your bank closes or there is a bank holiday declared because of some economic crisis. In any of these situations, if you are dependent on access to money that is controlled by either technology or physical limitations like a bank office it is wise to have a backup plan should either of those two conditions prevent you from getting cash.

What is cash good for in a crisis?

I think there are two levels to consider when it comes to keeping cash on hand. There is the bug out scenario mentioned above where you would have some “walking around money” to take care of relatively minor needs like food, a hotel or gas. The second is for a longer or more widespread unavailability of funds. Let’s say the economy tanks and the price of everything skyrockets but stores are still open for business. Your bank is one of the casualties, but you had a few thousand dollars of cash stored away that you could use to purchase food, gas and necessary preparedness items for your family. In this scenario, the government is still backing the fiat currency and vendors are still accepting it as a form of payment. For this scenario having a few thousand dollars makes sense.

But what if we have an extreme event where the currency is devalued and is essentially worthless? Your thousands of dollars might only buy you a loaf of bread. Don’t believe it can happen? It did to the Weimar Republic after WWI so it can happen again. That isn’t to say it will, but you should balance how much money you have squirreled away under your mattress with supplies you can purchase now that will last and keep you alive during that same event. My goal is to make sure I have the basics I need to survive at home for several months to a year without needing to spend any cash. This way, if the money is worthless, I still have what my family needs to survive.

If we have a regional disaster where you can bug out to a safer location, your cash should serve you well. Of course if you are in a safer location, assuming electricity was working your access to bank funds should still be working. If this is truly the end of the world as we know it, how long will that cash you have be worth anything?

It is surprisingly simple to disrupt all credit and debit transactions. Do you have cash instead?
It is surprisingly simple to disrupt all credit and debit transactions. Do you have cash instead?

How much cash do you need?

So the million dollar question is how much cash should you have if the grid goes down? I always try to plan for the worst case scenario. My rationale is that if I am prepared for the end of the world as we know it, I should be just as prepared for any lesser disaster or crisis I may be faced with. The way I see it is if we do have a disaster, you aren’t going to be using that cash most likely to pay your mortgage, student loans, rent, or your credit card bills. Cash will go to life saving supplies and this will need to be used in the earliest hours of any crisis before all of the goods are gone or the cash is worthless. Once people realize for example that the government has been temporarily destroyed, they aren’t going to want to take your $500 for a tank of gas. They are going to want guns, food or bullets.

Hiding cash is easy with these fake containers, just don’t forget where you put it.

I also don’t see you using your cash to buy passage to another country, but that’s just me. I know there is a historical precedent for that, but I am not planning on that being something I realistically attempt with my family. I am also not planning on bribing any officials with cash either. My cash is for last-minute necessities and then it is back into the hopefully safe confines of my home to plan the next steps. For that I have only a couple of thousand dollars in cash stored away. I figure if I need more than that I didn’t plan well. Also, I would rather spend my money on supplies like long-term storable food and equipment than having a large horde of cash. With that amount, I figure I can make one last run if needed or be able to weather any short-term emergency when I can’t access cash.

What is the best place to hide cash in your home?

I wrote a post awhile back titled, How to hide your money where the bankers won’t find it that had lots of good ideas for reasonably safe places you could store cash. As I said in that article, you do have risks involved with keeping cash in your house, but I think you have just the same, if not worse risks relying on banks to keep your money safe and give it back when you want it. There are a million places to hide cash, but you can get tricky and buy a fake shaving cream safe to store several hundred dollars in there. Just be careful you don’t throw that away. There are other options like wall clocks with a hidden compartment inside that might be less prone to getting tossed in the trash. Your imagination is really all that is needed for a good hiding place, but I would caution you that you don’t store cash in too many places or you could forget where you hid it. This happened to me when I had hidden some cash behind an item that I ended up giving to my daughter because I thought I didn’t need it anymore. Imagine my surprise when she came into the living room and said, “Dad, I found an envelope with a lot of money in it”. I gave her a twenty for a reward…

What about you? How much cash do you think you need to have on hand and what do you plan on spending it on if the grid goes down?

Leave a Reply

56 Comments on "How Much Cash Should You Have If the Grid Goes Down?"

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest
I think that this “concept” is so personal, that we need to be extremely discrete when discussing it on a public forum. My wife and I, decided a long time ago, that we needed to have a “year’s supply” of cash on hand(in our home) for emergency use only. We’ve been diligent in doing that. The amount itself has fluctuated for a variety of entirely good reasons. However, given the extreme volatility in the financial markets, and the political and civil instability, we’ve gone to a more long term strategic solution of having precious metals on hand as a means… Read more »
Pat Henry
Guest

Thanks for sharing your honest opinion and thoughts as always Egbert!

GregChick
Guest

I agree. Safes are made for this reason.

Bolofia
Guest
Pat, I think you hit the bull’s eye on this. If there was a collapse of confidence in the dollar and merchants refused to accept it in any form (cash or electronic), it doesn’t really matter how much cash you have on hand or the balance in your checking/savings accounts. And, as you have noted, there would be a severe, time-based constraint on the value and acceptability of cash. Initially, prices for basic commodities would skyrocket due to gouging, but once the public (and merchants) realize that the dollar has no value at all, other mediums of exchange would replace… Read more »
Bolofia
Guest

Footnote: The price of a 4’X8′ sheet of 3/4 inch plywood runs about $28 retail at Home Depot (plus tax) as we speak. If cash was useless, would you be willing to trade 10 rounds of 9mm ammo for a sheet of plywood at your local lumber store?

LWJ
Guest

Yes I would to be honest. Ballistic wampum and precious metals are things I also keep on hand. While I would be very hesitant to part with my Crticial Duty stockpile, I would trade some 9mm FMJ in a heartbeat for a critical need item.

Pat Henry
Guest

Actually, I would too because I think I can spare some ball. Now, the .30-06 ammo would be a different story….

LWJ
Guest

Look at Baltimore, with the curfew going on and parts of town being a bit unrealstic to travel through cash on hand could a life saver for some folks. If you can’t get to a bank or an ATM, and you have an event that might last for a week or two a spare grand could make it much less miserable.

Bolofia
Guest

True enough, but Baltimore has a functioning (but corrupt) city and state government and the dollar is still backed by the “good faith and credit” of the US, for what that’s worth. Your life and mine haven’t changed one bit because of the rioters – the country still exists. Strip ALL of that away and the cash in your wallet would have just about as much value as a pile of cow manure. On second thought, the manure would probably worth more.

LWJ
Guest

Nonsense it would be a good fire starter in the apoc!!!

Pat Henry
Guest

Maybe a nice fan on a hot day? I did see stories of people in the Wiemar Republic burning cash because it was cheaper than wood.

Pat Henry
Guest

That’s what I am thinking. My cash in a collapse scenario is mainly for last minute additions. I plan on having everything I need before hand, but it might come in handy. I am not keeping stacks of bills out but trying to spend judiciously on supplies (tangibles) now. I also have some precious metals but I can’t see those being valuable for a long time post-collapse.

Buddy Bob
Guest

Weimar Republic after WWI NOT II

Pat Henry
Guest

Thank you for catching that! I need an editor….

Buddy Bob
Guest

Welcome

Bob Kellogg

NRP
Guest
I believe you should keep the same amount of “cash” you need (totaling up your monthly expenses) as the number of months of the other preps you have on hand (water, food, ammo, fuel, and so on). SHTF is not only about the world end, or total economic crash, but about those little things, like losing your job, a hurricane, breaking a leg, ice storms,and so on. Balance your spending, put “cash ” away for those “rainy days”. Everyone always seems to think only in the EOTWAWKI, not a bad thing I guess, but you need to think about if… Read more »
Bobcat-Prepper
Guest

With the interest rate at my bank current 0.1% annually, why would I keep a savings account? It just doesn’t make sense anymore, given the chance that I might not be able to get it out someday soon.

Better to keep it at home, and build up the stockpile of the bullion, beans and bullets.

Pat Henry
Guest

My thoughts precisely Bobcat. Soon, they will start making you pay to keep your money in the bank. They are already talking about it http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/11/26/banks-fees-deposits/3711987/

Bolofia
Guest

Bobcat – Bingo!
In a nationwide catastrophic situation, the first thing the government would do is close the banks to prevent a run on them. Step 2 would be to limit the amount of cash you could withdraw after they allowed the banks to reopen. Of course, that begs the question of whether the currency still has any value after the event that forced a nationwide bank closure.

Pat Henry
Guest

I know what you mean NRP and i used to think the same way. I would have 6 months worth of cash saved up in case I lost my job. Do you keep that in the bank? What if something does happen and you have 6 months worth of worthless cash. Wouldn’t you wish you had bought maybe 5 months worth of food?

Impossible to tell the future, but I am betting on bad times, worse than me losing a job. Hope I am wrong.

NRP
Guest
Actually NO, I do not keep “extra” cash in the banks or savings accounts. I do use the banks to pay “some” out of town bills, and to keep the accounts active. Even with the planning for SHTF, life does go on, so keeping some accounts active does help the old “credit score”. To be honest having several months of worthless cash will be the least of the worries of the dung does hit the fan. That is why I build all of the “preps” at the same time, food/water/cash/ammo/ and so on. I feel it’s just as important to… Read more »
Elizabeth
Guest
So it occurs to me that his group of commentators has the security and means to maintain a stash of cash. Thankfully I’m doing fine now but when I was a young single mom, I had to use what I earned because the math simply didn’t work. BUT I thought it might be useful to communicate to people who are in that same spot now as I was then that it’s possible to do what you guys are talking about, albeit with a very different technique. learned a few pretty useful things: 1. Cash your paycheck, don’t use a traditional… Read more »
Elizabeth
Guest

And I totally forgot daycare – I’m so used to it I consider it the price of admission so that goes in priority 1!

LWJ
Guest

The best way to start a cash stash is with your spare five and one dollar bills. Throw in a 20 or a 50 on occasion and over time you will have a nice little nest egg. I have also for the most part given up the Xbox and drinking. You would not believe the money I have now because of that…… The perks of not being 22 anymore!

Dick
Guest

Quit smoking!!!

Pat Henry
Guest

Good points LWJ. I agree with the Xbox – never had one, but drinking? Come on man, where is your humanity?!?!?! 🙂

LWJ
Guest

Gone, I have two kids one is almost eight and the daughter turns two this weekend. So time is a factor, I don’t have as much as I used to. I don’t want my kids to see my wasted at a young age. Lastly acholism is an issue for both sides of the family, so when I do drink these days I cap it at two. Very rarely do I tie one on. Quite the far cry from a decade ago…..I am just getting old.

Pat Henry
Guest

Oh, I completely agree that you shouldn’t get trashed ever, but I do like to have a nice glass of Scotch every now and then. I’m getting old too brother… Moderation is the key for a wise man or woman in everything.

Sideliner1950
Guest

“Moderation in all things, especially moderation.”


Ralph Waldo Emerson

That said, if you’re a Scotch afficionado, you’ll surely appreciate the holy elegance that is Highland Park Scotch Whisky, from the Orkney Islands in the north. 12-year old, 15, 18, 25, etc. all available, but the 12-year old is exceptional in its own right. Enjoy moderately, and raise a glass to me while you do.

GregChick
Guest

There you have a great stash! Whisky! get a basement full of booze and you have bargaining power especially with those who are stuck on booze. Cash too, but booze is universal!

Pat Henry
Guest

Excellent points and tips Elizabeth. I know that some can set aside more than others, but we should all be able to set aside something. Even if your amounts are lower, having a small rainy day fund is better than nothing. I had to start somewhere too and in the beginning I was happy to have $50 set aside for emergencies.

Elizabeth
Guest

I agree, no one should be in a spot where they’ve got nothing on hand; I was just trying to illustrate that even when things are tight, that if one is employed, often one has more financial choice than one would otherwise think 🙂

Mike Lashewitz
Guest

Good post, but you are missing one thing. We has a power outage here because of a hurricane. Walmart closed and they would not allow cash purchases because their employeed on average were too uneducated to make change.
We are proud in South Carolina to be 49th in the nation’s schools! At least we are not fiftieth! Get my point?
Do what you can to prep every payday. Stop buying the flashy stupid bulshit. Nobody needs a collection of wind up chickens that shit candy.

NRP
Guest

HEY!!!!
Don’t go picking on my “wind up chickens” HAHAHAHAHA
Great Point, stop buying stuff that’s worthless in a week.
I have seen people buying $1000s of kids toys at Wally World. and 5 days later tossing them out.
Heck when I was a kid, it was a stick and a rock for a baseball.
Our society has gone to a use and toss.
NRP

Mike Lashewitz
Guest

OMG kids toys! Make a to and then make a cartoon so idiots will buy it. 5 cents of plastic for $5 (or more) Bakugan!! Rock Knights, Sky Landers, YUGIO, Pokemon, gummie bracelets, Sky Dancers, things that are Toy-etic . . .

EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest

My brothers and I played pirates for YEARS, using the galvanized steel garbage can lids as shields and old broom sticks for swords. Then we started playing “jousting” on our bikes, BAD, BAD, “idea”…..”lances” often fell into the opponents bike spokes with the predictable launching of the seated knight….

BobW
Guest
The idea of preparing for a rainy day (my philosophy) is different from ‘prepping’ in that it is more broad than looking at a TEOTWAWKI event. As NRP mentioned, I’m concerned about the injury that puts me or my wife out of work for an extended period, child illness that forces us to exhaust vacation/sick leave, as well as civil unrest, and the other, worse events that could strike our community/state/country. The idea of having enough cash available to sustain operations until the situation changes is important. 18 years ago, Household 6 and I discussed having $10k available for a… Read more »
Pat Henry
Guest

I think you are right about precious metals Bob. I think in a total collapse you won’t be able to trade gold for food unless that person you are trading can do something with the gold. Not that it doesn’t have value, but we as a society will need to learn what the value is and device means for trading it and verifying it’s purity to some extent first. Absent pawn brokers or bankers, the people who can do that will be few and far between I think.

MrApple
Guest

I think that this is a great option for hiding some cash in your bag. Get the can dirty, even kind of crusty, and it is highly unlikely anyone is going to mess with it. (Would work even better if it was jock itch.)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000I2Q1PS/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000I2Q1PS&linkCode=as2&tag=theprejou-20&linkId=P6MLEFLINSHQOO6Z

George Washington
Guest

Hmm none, because it will be worthless at that point. When the grid goes down in your entire city for example, you know that it is not ever coming back. Then all bets are off.

Adam
Guest
A total economic collapse could potentially bring either the outlawing of precious metals as a currency or even a confiscation of gold and silver to prop up the country. Something similar has already happened in the last hundred years here with citizens mandated to surrender their gold and given something like $20 per oz. Then jacking up the price to 30 something dollars per ounce once it was all at Knox. In an extreme case any currency could be assumed to be worthless as anything that can’t feed or clothe you is only worth what you believe it is worth.… Read more »
Pat Henry
Guest

My thoughts exactly Adam. Thanks for the comments!

BobW
Guest
I completely agree that a lock box full of gold/silver would be a pretty stupid play. Sure its going to give marauders a work out getting it open, but when the feds come for mandatory confiscation of guns and precious metals, it will pose no issues for them. I’m pretty sure this is why Pat posed the idea of hiding loot in/around the house. Spreading your resources around, some in plain sight, some more imaginative (they do have wall scanners by the way) is a means of protecting some if not all of your resources once the Shiz has hit… Read more »
EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest

I have NO confidence in a “full-federal-military-takeover” ever being successful, outside of any major metropolitan area. The people who are smart enough to live OUTSIDE the metro area’s “sphere of influence”, will most often have the resources to prevent themselves from becoming dependent upon crumbs and handouts from FEMA.

Pat Henry
Guest

I don’t either Egbert which is what makes me wonder what the plan is to take that event off the table. How do you subdue a nation without firing a shot?

EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest

I truly don’t believe “they” have a plan at all. “They” will wing it, I believe, just like they are winging everything else….so far.
Then again, I’m a cynical pessimist!

Pat Henry
Guest

Good suggestion! Maybe some rust and a dirty old band-aid stuck to the cap and an all over stickiness…

Sandy
Guest

Have as much as you wish to retain!

RDPaul
Guest
In a real emergency I can’t imagine a prepper spending more than $1k. First of all as a matter of justice, because hopefully we are prepared already buy huge stocks last minute is probably immoral, and prehaps illegal-hording laws. Secondly…its also dangerous, because other people who are not preppared will likely be frantic. Do you really want to be that guy who has $3k in cash to pay for your groceries when most people around you have less than $100? I do believe that if you are perceptive, there is a possible window before people panic, to shop for a… Read more »
Pat Henry
Guest

Getting out ahead of everyone else is key I think RDPaul, but how can anyone be sure of when “IT” is actually hitting the fan?

RDPaul
Guest
There is no such thing as a sure thing Pat but I think a big part of it is reading the tea leaves right. Once folks begin to realize that the situation might last more than a day they are going to make a run on the grocery stores. Hurricanes and Bluzzards prove that. So the trick is to get to the grocery store before the media is reporting on any potential disruption–e.g. realizing a power outage is not just a power outage–and go for fuel and tools while most people are still thinking a few days at home off… Read more »
BobW
Guest
Not exactly sure what constitutes an immoral purchase at the end of the world. The last palate of MREs? Two 55 gal drums of gas/diesel for the genny? The last loaf of bread at 7-11? The last of the 12 gauge at Wallyworld? Not sure I can envision an immoral purchase at the end of the world. If someone will take the currency, and it helps me and mine its a moral purchase. The idea that when things start looking sketchy that I can run to the store or gas station and boost my stocks a little before its all… Read more »
theone
Guest

Has anyone taken a look at the society that is out there now. Riots and stealing for lno reason. I don’t think cash is going to help one bit. Guns and lots of Ammo is what you will need. Buying anything with cash, won’t work, haven’t you noticed the cashiers can’t count and they need a machine to tell them how much change to give. We are doomed.

sootheater .
Guest

The most efficient means of survival would be too find looters and kill them, take the entire supply store. There is a reason why the Vikings were so successful. Don’t even need to use bullets if you are the ‘gruff’ type. That may sound distasteful but keep in mind that a large percentage of the population does not live in the countryside. There isn’t much space for long term sustainability in the vicinity of urban areas. All things considered those looters deserved to die by the simple fact that they voted for the ones who helped bring about the collapse.

Observations99
Guest

Getting your SHTF cash in singles will ensure it will at least have value for the pit toilet you dig in the backyard….

RedClay
Guest
I have my cash in several places – some hidden in an envelope, some in a fire safe box, a lesser amount in my office, & some in a bank deposit box. Yes, I’m aware of the risk that the govt could take it, like in the 1930s, but there are also risks w/ keeping it all in my home & office. & we can handle losing 1-2 parts of it. Similar idea to the reduce the investment risk thru diversity principle. For a while, our son kept some cash in an envelope in a book in a box –… Read more »
wpDiscuz