Poverty Prepping: Getting Ready With Less Than $10,000 a Year

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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from M. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.

I have a tight budget. I’m talking, poverty level budget, and with survival products being over the top expensive, prepping can be really hard. There are hundreds of articles about prepping on a budget. They present us with products that are “budget friendly,” and ideas on what is the best way to prep and save money, but those products don’t fit the budget, those ideas don’t fit the forced lifestyle of the poor. The “Impoverished.”

I’m a college student and currently I gross $8000 annually, and have had to work extremely hard to get up my preps. The following are a few tips to help others with getting ready in a similar situation.

Be Patient

Every step of this process is going to take some time. It’s tempting to blow a whole paycheck on survival gear, I know, but it’s better to show yourself that you can work and wait for what you need. Think about growing vegetables, you can’t pick all of your tomatoes just because one of them is ripe. Everything has to be ready, at it’s own time. Don’t rush anything, even if it feels urgent. We’re turtles, and we will win the race.

Cut it Off

Get rid of what you don’t need. You can use a towel and wash it, instead of using paper towels. Doing dishes is not going to kill you. You don’t need Air Jordan’s if you aren’t on the college basketball team. Why do you have Wifi, if it comes free with your apartment? It’s slow, but it works.


Save money wherever you can, just to save it. Take shorter showers, turn off the water when you brush your teeth, and open the blinds, instead of turning on the lights.

P.S. You’ll be lucky to have running water, let alone internet, when SHTF.

Budget Everything

Budget gas, groceries, rent, savings, insurance, bus fare, fun. Whatever you need to pay for each paycheck, budget. Write how much you can spend, on each item and only spend that much. Seriously. For people like me the most important things are going to be rent, and gas/transportation to make my next check. Write what that costs, and then prioritize and move down the list. Fun is the last thing you budget after you read the next two items.

Budget a savings amount, I save 8% of each paycheck, when possible. After two years of doing this, I have a month of cushion, if I were to lose my job.  After your “Normal” expenses are accounted for, you need to budget in prepping. Just $10 per month. Less if you have less, more if you have more, this is a priority, above going to the movies or the bar; be responsible.

Make sure your math adds up, don’t have a $1,000 spending budget with a $500 paycheck. A good tip for those who are really struggling, is to make payments each paycheck; save a little from each paycheck to put towards your bills.

Learn and Practice

No book you buy can teach you more than you can learn for free, you’re on the internet, use it. Learn to make a fire, learn to make a shelter, learn how to fish and make traps. Learn to do this with just I knife and what nature has given you, because buying a tarp, might not fit your budget.
Learn what is edible and poisonous in your geographical area, how to identify it and how to cook it. I love clover, in salads and as an add in, in curry.

Practice all of this. It’s fun and free. Those two words are beautiful to see in the same sentence. Practice with kids in your family. Practice on a date; firelight and natural shelter in the woods, with some soup boiled over the fire… I say romantic. Run drills, for everything from fire and power outages, to riots and looters.

Don’t be a Gear Snob

I understand the importance of quality, the $1.00 knife you have is better than the $100 knife you would have someday. If you’re struggling to even eat, you don’t need to be turning up your nose. There is a time and place for quality, and yes, one $50 shovel may outlast five $10 Shovels, but we need to make sure that we have a shovel. Search before purchasing, find the best deals, that you can.


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This article was posted as part of a contest, hell, I’ve won knives, flashlights, even a tent. Put in the work, it’s like applying for scholarships.

Hoard, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

If it is safe and reasonable to keep using something, do. It saves money. Your backpack for school is your edc, last year’s backpack is your bug out bag. Make do. Use what you have. You can even learn to make a gas mask from a coke bottle and a beer can.

Shop the bulk aisle for groceries and for preps, I watched the store employee pour brand name flour in the bulk bin, once… that’s quality and quality at the cheapest price.

Public Resources

Use the library for information. Use the food shelf to find canned and bagged food to stock pile. Get help, if you’re below the poverty line, these resources are for you. — USE THEM. My food stash is all canned goods from the food shelter, I just keep track of the date.

Save up

Now, I mean this as in after you have your basics. Once you have a decent emergency box BOB, car kit, and edc, you can buy more high quality products to replace what you have, especially when something breaks.

Live, Now

I told you how to save money, throughout this article, you should have preps and maybe even some money left over. Save up for something fun, with your leftovers. Life spent only planning for the future, isn’t really a life at all.

I could write books on this, but I have class, a job and a daughter to deal with. I hope I can help even one person in my situation to be ready for whatever the future may bring. Do what you need to do, only you know what you can do.

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Linda Messer
Linda Messer

The best advice you gave is: “…. the $1.00 knife you have is better than the $100 knife you would have someday….and yes, one $50 shovel may outlast five $10 Shovels, but we need to make sure that we have a shovel.” I’d like to add a couple of things. When you go to the store, buy ONE extra can of food. It doesn’t break the bank and it adds up. DON’T FORGET TOILET PAPER. I like to save the last 3/8 to 1/2 inch of tp on the roll. Fold it down and stick it in a Ziploc bag.… Read more »


Nice point about partial TP rolls, Linda. SHortly after getting into the idea of being more prepared, I noticed the janitorial service at work took the ‘short’ rolls out of the dispenser and set them on the rail on the stall walls. I carefully started collecting good, clean partials into a Wamart bag for future consideration. They eventually went into 1/2 quart ziplock bags, and stuffed into hiking packs, BOBs, GHBs, and trunk bags.

Understand, I wouldn’t grab a half roll from a roadside gas station, but my work environment is a professional/executive workplace, reducing, well…cooties.

Linda Messer
Linda Messer

Good added advice. It is VERY important, in all aspects, to avoid the horrid cooties. On everything that you pack in your assorted bags. You need to periodically check the bags, to make sure nothing has expired, broken, rusted or the cooties have not multiplied.
Remember: Humor can help you cope with many situations.

Talon Erdley
Talon Erdley

Glad to read another article from a fellow college prepper. I use Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, and friends who need money to sell their knives, camping gear, etc. Great deals are to be had all over. You just have to keep your eyes and ears open!


Great article.
Not really shtf but what the heck!
When I was first at uni I was told to invest 25% of all future wage rises by auto deduction as soon as the rise started. I stopped after three wage rises. 25 years later those three funds coughed up $30000 between them. I should have kept at it.
you are probably not inclined to use a good bank but they are good sources of savings and prep foods. At your income level you should consider them

Nosmo King
Nosmo King

I too, live on a budget and have gone to the food banks and gotten free food because I’m under the poverty line. I also buy at least four extra cans of vegetables and one or two cans of something like beef stew or corned beef hash and especially the creamed sausage gravy because of the high calorie and carbohydrate content and serving amounts. I am able to set aside at least $20 a week for prepping items and I also go to garage sales and the dollar stores. I recently found two of those three drawer Sterilite storage shelves… Read more »