How to Start Prepping When You Have No Extra Money

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Disasters can happen at any time. When the time comes though, being prepared is the way you can stay ahead of others in keeping you and your family safe. Having said that, prepping can get expensive. That is unless you know how to start prepping with no money.

When prepping on a budget you need to make sure to make each penny stretch further. So, focus on essentials first – like food, water and shelter. Later on, you can be savvy with your shopping to make the most out of the money you have. Also learn some essential skills and problem solving. Because in a survival situation your mind is going to be your most important tool.

In this article, I will take you through a complete and detailed guide on exactly what you can do for prepping for any survival situation with no extra money. So, let’s get started.

How to Prep with No Extra Money? 

As I mentioned before, prepping on a budget can be tough. You need to be thrifty with your money and more importantly, be smart about where you allocate it. Here are the things that you need to consider while prepping on a budget-

Essentials Items (Food, Water, Shelter) 

Let’s start with the most essential items that you will need for your survival. These include three things. Food, water and shelter. 


Whether you have thousands to spend or a few hundred, you will need food no matter what. A well thought out plan for your food storage will not take up too much cash. Plus, there are cheap foods you can buy that have a long shelf life too. 

For example, you can stock up on canned foods. They do not cost that much and also have a long shelf life. Hunt for discounts and coupons. Discounts and coupons will come in quite a lot in this article.

If you are already a savvy shopper, congratulations. You already have some idea of what you need to do to make each penny stretch further. 

Having said that, I really do not recommend you buy every canned food item out there. When you are on a budget, all your prepping efforts need to be well planned. Start by making a list of the food you will need – almost like a menu.

This list will help you stay focused and make sure you are not wasting money on unnecessary stuff. To help you with the process, here are some cheap yet filling foods you can start with. 

  • Canned Foods – Canned foods are budget prepper’s best friend. You will find a lot of choices when it comes to canned food. The best part is they have a long shelf life as well. You do not need to worry about them going bad. 

It is worthy of note though, do not go overboard. You do not want too much canned food and blow all your budget. Be mindful of what you spend it on. You can get canned beans! Honestly, I do not need to be buying beans for prepping. They are delicious for all kinds of scenarios. 

  • Ramen – I do not know about you, but ramen reminds me of my college days. Those were the good times. We used to have the most fun times in our dorm rooms and budget was a concern. Ramen was a staple for me at that time.

The great thing about ramen is it is cheap and also delicious as well. There are a lot of new flavors you can get nowadays too. Instant ramen is a great option for people who want to create a ration for emergency situations without spending too much. 

  • Pasta and Rice – Pasta is easy to store and cook. Plus, they give you energy. You can make some killer meals with pasta and some sauces. The same goes for rice as well. Packed with carbs rice can give you energy on the cheap.
  • Grow your own food – Here is a thought, why not grow some of your own food. If you have a backyard, you can get a small garden going. Not only will it make getting some ingredients for yourself cheaper, but it can also save you a lot on your food weekly food budget. 

Not to mention, it is healthy too. You know exactly how the food is grown – well because you grew it yourself.


Next up, you have water. Buy water in bulk and store it. But make sure not to store excessive amounts of water. You do not want the water to go bad which can be quite a gigantic waste of money. 

Although if you have a good storage system in place, the chances of getting your water contaminated are quite low. 

You can also and must look into natural sources of water. If you are on a budget, harvesting rainwater whenever you can is a must. This where a good filtration system is crucial. Not only this, with good water filtration

You can keep a portable water filtration system like a LifeStraw or a more permanent solution if you do not need to move.  


Shelter might end up being your largest investment. There are a lot of BOL (Bug out Locations) you can look into. There are some great deals on undervalued land. Buying land, no matter how undervalued it is can still be quite expensive for some people.

This is where having the right gear to create your own shelter is crucial. A good quality tarp or a tent will at least get the ball rolling. I will touch on gear a bit later on in this guide. If you know a prepper who has a place of their own, that is the most reliable way to secure shelter too.

The Right Gear 

After food, water and shelter, you will need some gear. Although this bit is still very essential, I was hesitant to put in the same category as food and water. Nonetheless, the proper survival gear will come in handy in any survival situation.

The rule of thumb still applies in this case as well. You do not need to go overboard and overspend. Only keep essential gear that you think you might during a survival situation. There is simply no point in wasting money on extra stuff when you have little extra money or no extra money at all. 

You can also look into buying gear used. If you are savvy enough you can get some fantastic deals on used gear that are still in good condition. Many gears can even be bought at a dirt-cheap price and be restored as well – for example, a survival knife.  

Look around the house as well. Chances are you already have some items you can use as survival gear already. You may already have a flashlight, knife and other gear on hand. This takes us back to buying only the things you need. 

Check out online sites that sell used gear. There are great deals over there. Having a support network or joining a prepper community is also a great place to start looking for help. You can reach out to people from the group for used items. And since they are also preppers just like yourself, they can also provide some priceless advice and support too. 

Guns and ammunition are some of the things you might not need. Although you might depend on the situation. So, it is better to gauge what gear you might need before you go on a shopping spree. 

Some of the items you need to keep with you are:

  • Batteries 
  • Power brick 
  • Lighters
  • Survival knife 
  • Flashlights
  • Candles
  • Spear – it can be used for fishing
  • Plastic bags
  • HAM radio 

Hygiene and Medical Items 

When shopping for hygiene and medical items, look out for coupons and deals. You get bundle deals on toilet paper for example. Bundle deals and coupons will keep costs down and teach you to be savvier with your spending. 

Medical items can be expensive though. At least make sure to have the essentials on hand. For example, bandages, antiseptic and sanitizers. A first aid kit is also a good edition. 

Learn Survival Skills

Being a proper prepper is all about problem-solving and having the right survival skills. It is not just about savvy shopping. So, learn a few key skills that will help you in a survival situation. There are many trusted online resources just like this guide you are reading right now. 

It is a great way to learn and pick up new skills that can be crucial in a survival situation. Many times, if you cannot find the right gear for everything. 

Other times you might not have food or run out of food during a survival situation. What do you do then? You cannot just walk into a superstore and buy more. Your skills will come in handy here. 

You might need to hunt for food and build your own fire. Or find your way back to your base using navigation and hiking skills. Skills are an invaluable asset to have in your arsenal. Be resourceful and be knowledgeable. 

The more survival knowledge you have, the better off you are at the end of the day really. So, we always recommend brushing up on some of your existing skills. And also learn new ones.  

If you know other preppers, you can learn from them and also teach them how something is done. It is a win-win situation. 

Prep According to Needs

As you already might know, there are different levels of prepping. The levels are:

  1.  Basic Prepping – Most people fall into this category. Even those who do not identify as preppers. This is the basic level of prepping any sensible person does. Like buying a week’s groceries, etc.
  2. Unplanned Setbacks – Prepping for any unplanned setbacks that may happen to anyone. These can be minor or a bit serious. 
  3. Recession or Injury the third level of preparedness mostly to tackle economic recession or any medical costs.
  4. Disasters – prepping for any disasters like hurricanes or any other natural disasters which might lead to a survival situation.
  5. Doomsday – The fifth and highest level of prepping. This includes preparing for straight-up doomsday and expecting the worst.

When you are on a budget, differentiate between necessity, need and want. You might not want to prep for doomsday when on a budget, given there are no reasons to. 

You may choose to prepare for the 3rd or 4th level. This will end up costing you less money as well. And let’s be straight if you are reading this article then you aren’t quite flexible economically to buy a bunker for a doomsday event. 

Tips for Budget Preppers 

Now that I have most of the basics covered, let’s jump into some tips and tricks you can use to make the most out of your budget.  

Recycle Whenever You Can

Whether you are on a budget, recycling is a good idea regardless. It can save you money and time. Reusing the items as much as you can will help you save up more money over time.

When throwing things out you can check to see if anything can be repurposed. When a survival situation hits, your resourcefulness is going to be one of your key assets.

Manage Your Budget 

This is just good life advice. Do not wait to save money only when you need to prep. Learn proper money management for simple day to day living. This in the long run will bring in greater rewards.

You will have more resources to prep when the need comes. Budgeting and being good with money, to begin with, basically sets you up for success. To start you can prepare a budget for all the things you need. 

Doing this will give you a proper overview of where to put your money. You can then make minor adjustments and allocate money to where it makes the most sense. There are also a lot of free apps and tools you can use to help you budget your daily life expenses better.

A lot of budgeting is just being disciplined with your spending. If you are not overspending on the things you do not need, you are in a good place.

Join a Group (Or Create One Yourself)

Look into joining a prepper group. I mentioned this before as well. This is quite important. Having a reliable group of people whom you trust is of utmost importance. During a survival situation, you do not want to be left alone.

Surround yourself with like-minded and knowledgeable people that are just as passionate as you. Having a group is also great for access to information and support. You can learn a ton of more advanced tips and tricks from your group. It can basically work as a support network. 

You can ask for help if you need to know. A close tightly knit group is therefore a high priority. If there is no group in your area, be the pioneer and create one. No one is stopping you. On the contrary, you will come off as someone who takes initiative and is supportive. 

You can create the tone for your group just the way you want. Whether it be a group for budget preppers or a prepper group in general, it is all worth it.

Get Thrifty 

Time for some hard talk, when you do not have extra cash to spend, you need to take some extreme measures. Those measures might be visiting the dollar store or straight up dumpster diving. That is fine. Because you are trying to make the best use of the situation. You can visit thrift stores and dollar stores if you are hunting for good deals. 

Moreover, there are some great options to be found on sites like eBay or Craigslist as well. Dollar stores for example can come in handy if you absolutely need to buy something brand new. Also, they are great for buying food items as well. Since you are trying to prep on a budget, you do not need to care about what brand of items you get, right? Hit up the dollar store if you have one nearby and see what great items you can buy.

Thrift stores on the other hand can be a bit of a gamble. I find thrift stores are mostly good for buying survival gear and clothes on the cheap. That is if they happen to have them in stock. This is one of the biggest reasons why they tend to be hit or miss. You can find good cooking and camping gear in thrift stores for cheap. Some are actually quite high-quality as well. 

For someone like me, who has always been a bargain hunter, a thrift store is a usual spot. But I have to warn you, you might not always get what you are looking for. When you do though, the payoff can be quite big. 

Dumpster Dive for Free Stuff 

Dumpster diving can be another option if you really want to stretch your budget. A lot of grocery stores sometimes throw away a lot of food that is still perfect for use – yes, this is just as shocking as it sounds.

You can use this food to trade with others or dehydrate it and use it later. Of course, all foods cannot be dehydrated though. So, keep in mind what you are getting. If you need tools and other gears, construction sites are a great place to get some. 

Alright, let’s point something obvious. Do not steal. You can ask the workers there if they have any old gears or tools you can get. Some of them might have just ended up in the trash anyway, so you can even get some for free. 

Dumpster diving not only will save you some cash but will also help you learn a valuable lesson on being resourceful which is going to be very useful in a survival situation. 


Whether you are new to prepping and do not want to spend too much, or just cannot afford to, this guide is an easy way to get you set up for success. Hopefully, now you know how to start prepping with no money. 

The prepper community has people from all walks of life and backgrounds. There is no reason why someone with no money cannot prep and be safe and secure.


Shanna is the 2nd half of Top Outdoor Survival. Like Forest, she has a passion for guns and knives. They love to go on a survival trip at least once a year. They love to go camping, hiking, and traveling.

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