Prepping For Pennies: Hacks & Tricks For Prepping Without Breaking The Bank

prepping for pennies

Prepping For Pennies

One of the first things that hit most preppers starting out is fear. I’m not talking about fear of some disaster, although there are many who start out in prepping just because of such a fear; but rather, fear that they won’t be able to pay for it all. Granted, prepping looks pretty expensive when you first start figuring out what you’re going to need to do, especially if you’ve read some book that starts talking about alternative heat and energy, as well as building a survival retreat, over and above the cost of stockpiling supplies.

Before you get carried away in those plans, stop and think for a minute. Your prepping has to fit into your family’s budget, as well as your lifestyle. Oh sure, pretty much everyone has to make budgetary adjustments to pay for prepping, as well as some lifestyle changes to make themselves more self-sufficient. But that’s not the same as throwing your whole life away to focus purely on prepping.

There are a number of things you can do to save yourself a lot of money. Maybe they won’t be the ideal solution to a particular problem, but they are realistic solutions which will allow you to do your prepping, without breaking the bank. We’re talking survival here, so ideal isn’t really necessary. Nobody is awarding you style points for how your bug out bag looks or whether you have the latest and greatest gear. The only points to be awarded are for how well your family manages to survive a crisis.

With that in mind, start thinking about how to save money, before you start thinking about how to spend it. There are a lot of things you can do, which will ultimately save you a bundle, but still give you what you need, so that your family can survive.


Start out by looking at what you have and how you can repurpose it. Maybe you need a wheelbarrow for your garden, but don’t have the money for it right now. Okay, look around at what you have. What’s that? Is that a kid’s wagon and a pile of paint buckets? Looks to me like it’ll work for a wheelbarrow.

People in third-world and emerging countries have learned to do without a lot of things that you and I consider necessities. Part of this is that they use what they have, even if it’s not the right tool for the job. As I’ve traveled in Mexico and South America, I’ve been amazed by some of the ingenious uses I’ve seen for items. The old saw about “necessity is the mother of invention” is true, whether you believe so or not.

prepping for pennies


Ever hear that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? Well, if you’re a prepper, start looking for that treasure. We live in a disposable society and people throw good things away all the time. Figure out the trash man’s schedule and drive around the neighborhoods before he can get there. Look to see what people have set out and think about how you can use it.

Scavenging works real well with repurposing. Take an old ice chest for example. Someone might throw it away, simply because the handle is broken. That doesn’t mean that the ice chest isn’t any good. You can fill it with food and bury it in your backyard as a survival stash. For that matter, if it’s big enough, you can use it as a root cellar. Find a door that someone is throwing away from a remodeling project and you can take your root cellar to the next level.

Garage Sales & Flea Markets

Some people are smart enough (or industrious enough) to try and get a few bucks out of their old stuff, instead of just throwing it away. That leads to the great American pastime of the garage sale and it’s big brother, the flea market. You’d be amazed at what you can find at these two events. I’ve found motors for making wind generators, lots and lots of canning jars, candles which I could melt down to turn into survival candles (putting them in the canning jars) and old aluminum windows which I’ve used in making my solar panels.

One of my favorite things to find at garage sales is bug out equipment. Think about it a moment; all you need for most of your bug out equipment is camping equipment. Well, that just happens to be something that makes it into a lot of garage sales. So, keep your eyes open and pick up a tent, some sleeping bags and all the other gear for a pittance, rather than spending a small fortune on it.

prepping for pennies
A potential gold mine for the shrewd prepper

Learn to Shop Smart

Most of us don’t really pay attention to how much we spend on our groceries. Oh, we pay lip service to buying cheap, picking a cheaper brand out once in a while; but we don’t really take the effort to make sure we’re getting the best deal possible. But, you know, when you’re trying to buy a year’s worth of food, a few cents on each item can really add up.

There are a lot of things you can do to save money on food, personal hygiene products and other household products. Start clipping coupons, look for sales, buy in bulk; there are many different strategies. The point is to save money, regardless of how you do it.

Build it Yourself

Some things you might need for prepping are just plain expensive, and you can’t find them at garage sales. In all my years of attending garage sales, I have yet to see a solar oven, a solar panel or a wind generator. However, those are all things that you can make for yourself, rather than spending a fortune buying them commercial.

If you look at the cost of solar panels, you can save about half by making them yourself. They’re really not all that hard to do, if you know how to solder and have basic handyman skills. The hardest part is soldering the cells together, so if you know that, the rest is a piece of cake.

Let’s Talk Scavenging Some More

Scavenging is a great way to get things, and it doesn’t have to be limited just to picking through people’s garbage. Many people and businesses have things sitting around which aren’t doing them a bit of good. If you’ve got a sharp eye for these things and are willing to invest a little elbow grease, you can find a lot of useful stuff that is just taking up space.

You want to be careful here, because you don’t want to start stealing things. When some people talk about scavenging, they don’t worry about little details like locks on doors and fences. I’m not advocating that, although in a disaster situation it may be warranted, especially on abandoned properties. No, I’m talking strictly about legitimate scavenging, so that you can get useful survival supplies without having to pay for them.

Mostly, what I’m talking about is trading your labor for something that you can use. If you can save the people who have the item some money, they are likely to let you have it. But you’ll have to show them how you are saving them money, because they may not think of it themselves.

Scavenging Firewood

You really shouldn’t ever have to pay for firewood, if you have a chain saw and a pickup truck (or trailer). There are always people who have trees that they need cut down or trimmed. All you need to do is keep your eyes open for these situations and be ready to go to work.

You might put up a flyer on your grocery store’s bulletin board, offering free tree removal. Specifically, you want to be offering this service for dead trees, but you can do live ones as well. The deal is that you remove their tree, cutting it down and hauling it off, which gives you the free firewood and saves them the cost of having to pay a specialist to do it.

It’s easy to take that idea a step further, by keeping your eyes open for trees with dead limbs. Those dead limbs can be a safety hazard to the family, especially in a storm. Knock on the door and offer to cut down and haul off the dead limbs. Just be sure not to drop it on their house or car.

prepping for pennies
There is surely a safer way to transport these but this person has the right idea

Scavenging Other Wood

Wood is useful for other things than just making fires. There are 1,000 projects or more on the Internet for making things out of pallet wood. Big companies often have a deal with someone to haul their pallets off, but smaller companies probably don’t. hook up your trailer and go around to a bunch of small warehouse type businesses and see if they have any old pallets that they want hauled off. They’ll be happiest about getting rid of the broken ones, which is fine for your needs.

Keep your eyes open for construction, especially remodeling projects that require a fair amount of demolition. Most contractors don’t want to spend the money to pay one of their workers to pull nails out of boards so that they can reuse them. Offer to haul them off for free. You might even be able to get windows this way, especially if they are replacing the house’s aluminum windows with wood ones.

Some contractors sell those windows, so you may have to offer him something extra to get him to go alone with letting you have them. Just remember, those will save you a lot of money when you make your solar panels, so it’s worth buying him a bottle of whiskey or even slipping him a $20 bill.

Speaking of Contractors

Another useful thing I’ve gotten from construction sites is rebar (reinforcing bar for concrete). When rebar gets bent wrong, they usually toss it aside and start with a new piece. Sometimes those bad pieces get cut up, but most of the time they get tossed out as they are.

Let me tell you a secret about rebar, it doesn’t have to be straight. For that matter, it doesn’t have to be new. As long as it can fit in the mold for pouring your concrete, it will work. For that matter, you can also cut off the ends of rebar from concrete that is being busted up, like when they are replacing a bridge. Those pieces of rebar may only be two to three feet long, but they will still do the job.

Televisions and Antennas

A neighbor a couple of blocks away just put a big screen television on their curb with a “free” sign on it. This was one of the old big screen TVs, that take up the whole corner of the living room. I didn’t want to watch TV on it, but I hauled it off anyway. Behind the screen of those units is a big Fresnel lens, which is great for making a solar cooker.

prepping for pennies
Get creative, there are useful resources all around you!

As I was picking it up, I noticed that they had an old satellite TV antenna in their backyard. You know, one of those big monsters that they used to have before they came out with the new ones. I knocked on his door and asked him if he’d like to get rid of it. He said “Yes, but it was mounted into cement and he didn’t have anything to cut it off with.” So, in addition to the Fresnel lens, I got a parabolic dish, which I can turn into a parabolic solar cooker.


Restaurants and bakeries have one thing in common, they buy their ingredients in bulk. That means that some ingredients, such as vegetable shortening, come in food-grade five gallon buckets. They have to dispose of those buckets, which of course costs money. You can easily talk them out of the buckets, just to save them the hassle. Cleaned up, they work great for your long-term food storage.

Speaking of restaurants, another great thing you can get from them is cooking oil; especially from fast-food restaurants. If you have a diesel car or truck, you can convert that used cooking oil into bio-diesel and save yourself the cost of buying fuel all the time.

More About Oil

I’ve got a buddy that goes to the local auto parts store and talks them out of used motor oil. Most auto parts stores accept oil back for recycling. It’s nothing but a hassle for them, and they don’t make any money off of it. My buddy takes a 55 gallon drum in there and puts it beside their normal collection point. When it’s getting filled, he replaces it.

That oil is what heats his cabin up in the mountains. He has a oil-fired heater that he installed, rather than a wood-burning stove. Since it was built before current EPA regulations, it’s grandfathered in. So, he’s able to heat his cabin and has about 500 gallons stored for an emergency; a great, inexpensive heat source that he’s scavenged.


You know, there are a lot of ways that you can save money by scavenging, shopping smart and repurposing items you already have, amongst other methods. Few people take advantage of these ways of cutting their prepping costs; but that’s because few people know how to do it.  When prepping always remember to be resourceful and that improvisation is your best friend.  Good luck prepping!

Your Thoughts?

Do you have any tips for saving money while prepping?  Share them in the Comments Section below!


Chris Ruiz

My name is Chris and I created this site to help ordinary people prepare for the uncertainties of the modern day world. I believe that a well-prepared society is the best safeguard against any natural or manmade disaster.

2 comments on “Prepping For Pennies: Hacks & Tricks For Prepping Without Breaking The Bank

  1. I am so impressed with your resourcefulness and inventiveness! WOW! So cool. I think I’ll have my son try to build some solar panels as a summer project. Thank you so much for the video tutorials.

  2. How can small storage space be used for prepping? I am single in a 2 bedroom apartment. That I do not own of course. How can I maximize the small space I have. One room is part of a repair place for clothing.

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