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How Much Money Do You Have in Your Bug out Bag?

How much money do you have in your bug out bag?
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The bottom just dropped out all of your warning triggers are telling you that it’s time to pack everyone into the family bug out mobile and leave town before it gets worse. Much worse. You thought ahead which is fortunate for you and your family. You have a vehicle adequately equipped for the journey to your bug out location with essential gear, plenty of fuel with extra in reserve and everyone in the family has their bug out bags stowed safely away. Nervously, you pull out of your driveway in the middle of night to avoid most of the trouble already brewing. This may possibly be the last time you see your home and just like every trip before, you have that nagging sensation you forgot something.

Many disasters that preppers think and plan for could require you to leave the safety of your home, possibly forever. In a situation like this, your well stocked bug out bags and any other gear and supplies you are able to load and carry could be the sum total of all your worldly possessions. Some disaster scenarios assume the worst, a complete destruction through various means that leaves the civilization as we know it destroyed beyond repair for years. In a complete disaster like that, we make assumptions that normal commerce as we know it would effectively be over so the subject of bartering after SHTF comes to mind.

In other scenarios, which some might argue are many times more likely, the world won’t just stop spinning overnight. Every store won’t be closed and you will be able to buy supplies with whatever monetary instruments you have on hand that are still worth a commonly understood value. For most of the world, certainly here in the US we look to cash as the main fallback, but some people are saving precious metals as well to hedge against a currency collapse where that cash you are stowing away is worthless.

Assuming that money in the common forms we are talking about here (cash, precious metals) is able to be used to our benefit during a bug out scenario, have you ever thought about how much you need to put into your bug out bag?

A reader asked me about this subject today and after he pointed out that I hadn’t really addresses the subject on my site, I decided to write an article.

Question from Sam:

I have one question, how much money or other valuables (gold, silver, etc.)do you have in your bugout bag to buy/trade or barter with? I have looked on many prepper sites and have not found an answer to this. Can you please give me some guidance or advice for me?

First, let me thank Sam for this great question and I would encourage anyone else who has questions, or comments about anything you have seen or not seen addressed on the Prepper Journal to please contact me using our contact form or through the comments at the bottom of this article. I personally read every single comment and try to respond as often as I can.

Back to Sam’s question, which reminds me that I had another question from a different Sam that we discussed last week. Popular name! OK, so how much money do you have in your bug out bag? That part is simple. I have as much “money” as I can carry but I will break this down into specifics with my reasoning why below.

What are some reasons to have money in your bug out bag?

Why have any money in your bug out bag in the first place? Well, there are many good reasons I can think of. Imagine a scenario where the power is out, possibly for weeks. You wouldn’t be able to use ATM machines because they rely on power. Stores couldn’t run credit/debit card transactions without power because they all go through the internet now which relies on power. If the electricity is out, the way we commonly get access to our money or conduct electronic transactions is gone until the power comes back.

You could just drive to the bank and pull out as much as you need, right? Not necessarily. You only have to look to the people of Greece who still can’t get more than roughly $50 out of the bank each day. Would you want to have your cash reserves limited by what the banks could or would allow you to take out? No, I wouldn’t either and that is the main reason why I advocate keeping as much money as logical for you personally out of the banking system.

So having a supply of cash makes sense for the simple fact that you might not be able to get it when you need it most, but what could you possibly need cash for if you were a good prepper and have your fully stocked bug out bag and your BOV with a full tank of gas? I can see situations where a cash bribe might get you past security or could buy your temporary safety. There could be checkpoint guards who could be swayed to let you past if you empty out your wallet and having some cash could facilitate your escape. What about being able to purchase a ticket on a train, plane or some other means of transportation out of a country that is collapsing? It happened all of the time in Germany back before WWII. There isn’t any reason to think we in the US would be immune from needing to migrate ourselves if it got bad enough.

Cash might still be able to be used to purchase supplies if you were out ahead of the panic or were prevented from leaving. If you needed to purchase additional fuel along the route for example and you found a gas station that was only accepting cash, you would be in luck. I think the majority of people might not realize the effects of a currency collapse or revaluation of the dollar, but if you were on top of your gain, you could find someone still accepting cash that could for all intents be worthless.

How much money do you keep in your bug out bags?

I try to keep as much cash as possible where I can access it relatively quickly without needing to go to the ATM or bank. If I had to bug out I would be taking all of the cash I had with me. I don’t have tens of thousands of dollars or anything like that so weight isn’t really a consideration. Money in smaller denominations will probably be better to take with you on one hand because people might be less likely to make change. I don’t imagine anyone is going to worry about getting change for a dollar back but if you needed something that cost $5 and you only had a $100 bill that might hurt a little more. $20, $10 bills seem to make the most sense for regular day-to-day transactions where in a society like Greece, the stores are open but capital controls are keeping you from freely accessing your cash. You could use these small bills at stores to purchase food, pay for meals etc.

In a total collapse though, $100 bills might be needed or could be used more appropriately for extreme inflationary prices. If gas went to $100 a gallon, and you could find someone selling, that $100 bill could spend nicely. Flashing a $100 bill to buy your way through a checkpoint is instantly recognized and might get you through faster than a stack of $20s. I keep a mix of both, but the overwhelming majority is smaller bills ($20). I think if I had $1000 in my bug out bags that would cover me for most conceivable disasters so that is what I plan for.

I would not keep all of your money in whatever form together. I would store some in a shirt pocket maybe. Some in one pants pocket, some in the wallet, maybe more in a fake wallet, maybe a shoe or elsewhere. You don’t want to get robbed of all of your cash in one instant. Diversifying where you have your money could allow you to act like you are giving a bad guy or even a someone driving a hard bargain that you have given them all you have.

BugOutWithSilver

Should you take silver coins in your bug out bag?

Is silver and gold a good idea for your bug out bag?

But the other part of Sam’s question had to do with Gold and Silver. Do precious metals make sense for your bug out bag? I think they could, but the situation would need to be pretty unique I think. Some advocate buying 1/10 ounce gold coins because they are worth less than a standard 1 oz coin and they rationalize that one of the biggest complaints about having gold would be reduced. Most people would have a hard time bartering a 1 oz gold coin because they are worth about $1200 each today. Can you imagine trying to get some groceries and giving the person at the register a gold coin? Even if they knew what it was and the worth of it, do you think their manager would allow them to take the coin in the first place, much less give you the accurate change for your transaction? I don’t see that happening.

The 1/10 oz. gold coins are worth about $130 now so the change factor might be lessened, but you would still likely not be able to purchase anything at a traditional store with Gold. What about Silver? The benefit of silver is the value is much smaller, approximately $20 right now in July, 2015. The lesser value makes this precious metal easier to purchase for preppers with limited funds and would seem to be easier to trade with because the change factor wouldn’t seem to be as prominent. You go buy $100 worth of groceries and give the person at the register 5 Silver coins. However, I still think you would have the same problem using these after the grid goes down, at least for a very long time.

Do I keep precious metals set aside for bugging out? Yes I do but I am not counting on using them in the short-term. I probably wouldn’t take more than 10 coins per person with me for the reasons I mention above and their weight. At the present time that gives me roughly $200 in silver if I can use it in some way.

I know that some will say that Gold and Silver always have value so their worth after a collapse would only go up. I disagree with that from the standpoint that anything you are talking about only has value if the person you are trying to conduct business with agrees with you on the value. A gold coin might be worth $10,000 after an economic collapse, but what good is it if you can’t get anyone to give you something worth $10,000 for it?

If you are talking about taking a box with all of your precious metals to another country and finding someone to give you fair market value, then that does make sense, but getting back to the Bug Out Bag scenario, I think precious metals have a low potential for usability in the days and months after some calamity and that is why I am not taking too many along with me.

That’s what I think anyway. How much money do you have in your bug out bag?

If you liked this article, please rate it.

  • LWJ

    I would say 1k in cash, half of them 100’s, the other smaller bills. A few smaller gold coins and some Silver Eagles to cover the what ifs. The Silver Eagles might be able to fool some people, if you told them they were the new US currency. They look official enough!

    • That’s basically what I have but the denominations tend to be more smaller bills. Good point about the silver eagles but one problem could be with that official labeling that says “one dollar”.

  • Kula Farmer

    Money in my BOB?
    Ha! Im lucky on most days to even have anything in my wallet! If Im bugging out where i am headed money wont help me much, one of the drawbacks to a small community on an island! But may also be a blessing,

    • True that island might be a huge advantage if it all goes south Kula.

    • Thomas Paine in the butt

      I’m with you on barely enough to have money in my wallet. I’m about a year and a half into purposeful active prepping and a lot of my resources were used getting started and preparing to relocate.

  • Jack

    An equally good question is how much cash do you have in your wallet? 99% of grown men I know have somewhere between $0 and $2 at a time. This is crazy and makes them look foolish when we end up somewhere that doesn’t take cash and they stand there dumbfounded. Especially since it costs you virtually nothing to have at least $50 on you at ALL times. If you never need to pay cash then fine, it can sit there untouched for months but what a cheap insurance policy (sure you’ll lose out on the 0.25% interest rate you could get on it in your savings account so kiss that 12 cents in interest goodbye). Very worst case scenario you are mugged (which has happened to me zero times) and you lose the $50 and aren’t financially destitute. Bottom line ALWAYS have cash on you and as an extra little tip think ahead. If you always want $50 on you and you open your wallet to see $60 in there but know tonight you are splitting a $50 cab ride, guess what? Yup, you need to go to the ATM BEFORE tonight! Sort of like keeping that gas tank above half, costs you nothing except the ability to be lazy and make excuses.

    • That is a great point for less than disastrous times Jack. I was caught in a similar position one time traveling out of town on business and the cab driver only took cash. Since that day I always try to have cash in the wallet as well as a hidden stash just in case and trips out of town always involve a trip to the ATM before I leave.

  • Bolofia

    Pat,

    I think I’ve probably said something like this before: Cash will have severe, time-limited utility if the grid is down. A station owner might desire to sell gas for $15 per gallon, but if the station has no electricity, the pumps won’t be working. And if the station needed more gas, it wouldn’t be able to purchase a tanker load on credit – there would be no way make the transaction. Likewise, you wouldn’t be able to buy 5 pounds of hamburger meat (which will probably be spoiling without refrigeration) if the “cash” registers aren’t working at the supermarket.

    The idea of having a good bit of currency on hand is important, perhaps even several month’s worth. If the banks are closed (and the grid is down), there simply will not be enough cash in circulation to meet the needs of the “gray” market – that is, person to person transactions. Checks, debit and credit cards would be useless. I’m not at all sure how the government could pull off a shift from an electronic and credit-based economy to cash and carry overnight.

    • Great points Bolo and I agree with everything you say. Building up my stocks as we speak.

  • Mike Lashewitz

    Never carry more than you are willing to lose.

  • EgbertThrockmorton1

    We now, only keep enough funds in our accounts to cover normal monthly expenses. Everything else comes OUT and goes into the emergency fund/s, and/or PMs-in the fractional denominations. We’ve found these to be far easier to use internationally as well as within CONUS.
    The Family Bank is there for short-term capital needs(cash only) and long-term wealth protection(PMs). We have no, nor do we carry any bills larger than $50 denominations.

    • That’s what we try to do Egbert. I’d rather chance holding on to my money with the state of things these days.

      • EgbertThrockmorton1

        I’ve never been a “fan” of Greek/Cypriot/Argentinian style of hair cuts! What hair I have left, needs to be well-groomed just for my own ego.Having some faceless bureaurat(intentional spelling) tell me what he/she wants me to sport is not going to happen. When the re-set hits, we want to be as prepared for LONG-TERM as possible.

  • NRP

    $200 in the GHB, another $500 in the BOB, $500 in the “welded to the truck safe” with a small “surprise” if opened incorrectly. All bills under $20 and no coinage (to heavy to lug around). Usually $50± in the wallet. All other funds go into the house safe, also with a larger “surprise” if opened incorrectly….. NADA stays in the bank except to cover checks plus $10.

    • Sure would love to see that setup NRP! Anything you can share?

      • NRP

        Would love to share the “setup”, but it has to do with very LARGE amounts of electricity. Picture a stun gun hooked to the handle. probably illegal as hell, of course so is driving 56 in a 55.

    • BobW

      I like the distribution approach. Not sure I’ll weld a safe onto my beautiful new truck, but the idea of a small emergency fund stashed inside makes too much sense.

      As I think about it, in normal times, where will you be most likely that will require cashola to get yourself out of a tight spot? On the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. A tow, emergency repair, blown tire, or other calamity in the sticks will require either a real good friend, or some cash to effect the remedy.

      I agree that with the state of the world, and the emergence of hyper-friendly banking law changes coupled to near zero savings rates, it makes more sense to have a stack positioned somewhere I can use it, and the bank can’t bail themselves out with the little money I’ve managed to save.

      ******

      I find the dichotomy of thought on SHTF cash interesting. It appears that 1/2 the prepping world supports the notion of having cash available for the immediate after, and the other half sees little to no value in having cash immediately after.

      I firmly support the concept that there will still be limited ability to procure goods immediately preceding and for a very short time after. Even after the hypothetical EMP, there will be places that will take your cash for items. Sure, you won’t get through the checkout counter at MalWart, but there are enough stores out there that can actually do a cash transaction that will accept my greenbacks up to the point that they realize that the “shit just got real.”

      Along this line, I think its important to inventory the smaller, likely owner-operated stores in your area that might support cash transactions computed by hand. There are likely more out there than you realize.

      If your idea of emergency last-minute procurement AFTER is hitting up the large grocery stores, it seems to me that a large caliber firearm is more likely to get you what you need vice a small wad of cash. I wouldn’t advocate something like this, but reality will be reality.

  • northern raider

    Yet another well thought out article of the highest quality, this web site never fails to impress me.
    I keep roughly £200 in cash and a few 1 oz Silver coins ( US Eagles etc)

    • You are too kind Northern Raider, thank you very much!

  • fortunes4

    Cash is one thing…bartering items should be included in all this talk. Another prepper in your area will likely not want your cash, but something else of value would be very handy.

    • That is very true Fortunes4, but how much of your bug out bag (size and weight) are you going to devote to bartering supplies. Cash in the short run (very short in some cases) will still have more value than most barter items I can think of. What about something like liquor, cigarettes? Those in the case of liquor weigh more and take up more space than I want to reserve.

      • fortunes4

        Yeah I totally see what you are saying. Small items (unless you are fortunate enough to be able to travel by car can be very valuable – in a limited approach. Thanks for the great articles!!!

  • Drew Bowler

    The thing with silver and gold is they have always had intrinsic value since they became “precious”, almost since the inception of civilization. Our fiat “money” has only the value that we give it…. if this government falls, it has the value of toilet paper. So gold and silver, even scrap jewellery and other bullion and a scale that can be shown calibrated (which is where a dollar bill MIGHT come in handy since most know it weighs a gram)… But I’ll tell you what will have value, common calibres of ammo, especially for those who haven’t picked up the skill and materials for reloading. Because what is money but a facilitator of trade, a higher level of bartering.

    • All things Drew are only as valuable as we think they are. Currency is simpler because we over time have agreed on what the value of those numbered denominations means. Gold and silver do have intrinsic value, I completely agree but their value to a person is the only thing that matters. What a person will give you for a hunk of metal is an important consideration too.

  • Rick554

    I’m an OTR truck driver. I bug out every week :-). So this is what I carry with me for money…..200 dollars in 20s. One 1 oz gold corn . Ten I oz silver coins and one hundred dollars in ones! I can ,and have,spent a week with the truck stranded , once in what must be the only forest in NJ!! I live by the Boy Scout motto….Be Prepared !!

    • Thanks for sharing your preps with us Rick554. You carry a good bit more than me on a daily basis, but if I was out of town as much as you I think I would have a similar stash. Can I ask why so many ones?

      • Rick554

        Ones are generally the easiest to use everywhere. And even a NYC bridge toll taker will take a silver dollar. The gold coin is in case the SHTF so I can get home! Thanks to all at the prep per journal. Some very interesting advice Rick