Prepping On a Budget

Prepping On a Budget

December 18, 2023 / Comments (11)


If you have been prepping for any time at all, you have probably hit the most common mental block that every novice prepper encounters when trying to get their GoBag and survival supplies together.

The overwhelming amount of information on what gear to choose may cause you to think:

Prepping On a Budget

The truth is, times are tough and if you try to jump on the bandwagon all at once, you can quickly dig yourself into a hole or become overwhelmed by all the available information.

When you turn to the Internet for survival tips and gear, you need to take every bit of information that you see with a grain of salt.

Not all the information available will be 100% accurate, and even if it is, it may not be the best information based on your location.

When you start gathering all of your supplies you need to make sure that it is all done within your means.  You can have all the supplies that you need no matter what your budget is, so long as you think and prep practically.

Let me give you an example of how I stay practically prepped:

Stainless Steel Military Mess Kit:

Army Surplus Store: $9.95

– Good Will Thrift Store: $1.99

Savings:                         $7.96

Hydration bladder and backpack

New Store Bought: $49.00

– Thrift Store:        $12.99

Savings:                 $36.01+

This was a real gem of a find and is one of the more unlikely things that you will encounter at a thrift store, but it can happen.

This particular hydration pack was branded LL Bean and sells new for around $129.00, yet I was able to purchase it at 10% of that price.  I would never purchase a bag that expensive, but it was still a great find.

If you are unsure of how to clean them, then by all means purchase a new one.  Wal-Mart is currently carrying some for around $19.00 brand new.  Also, at several of the thrift stores that I went to, there were literally hundreds of quality backpacks that could be used to create your own go bag for under $5.00.

I even managed to find a used military metal-framed backpack with a waterproof “dry sack” still inside of it for only $9.99.  This same pack at the army/navy surplus store sells for upwards of $70.00, in much worse condition.

Books:  Educational and Entertainment

New Store Bought: Varies

– Good Will Thrift Store: .1.99

Savings:                         Priceless

I absolutely cannot put a price on keeping physical books around.  The ability to escape into a literary world of your choosing is priceless in a survival situation.  There is no end to the entertainment value of a book.

You can also get lucky and find some real gems while perusing through the book section at Goodwill or any thrift store.  In this trip I found 100 home health remedies as well as a local plant identification book.

When going to the doctor is not an option, the knowledge and skill of what to use could very literally save your life.

Boots:  Hiking and waterproof

New Store Bought: $35.00-180.00

– Good Will Thrift Store: $15.99

Savings:                         $19.01-164.01

A good pair of boots can make a world of difference during any type of crisis.  Whether you are trodding through flooded streets or hiking through the backwoods, you need to keep your feet safe.

The second pair of boots in the picture are the exact same brand that I saw days before at a local army navy store, priced at $160.00.  They were at Goodwill, with the tags still on them, for only $15.99!

One thing to note about your footwear, USE IT.  The best hiking boots in the world are going to be useless if they are not properly broken in before you try to wear them for an extended period.  If TSHTF and you need to get out, you would be better off and much more comfortable wearing your old, worn out running shoes.

Magnesium Fire Starter:

 New Store Bought: $5-10.00

– Harbor Freight:        $2.79

  Savings:            $2.21-7.21

Having a lighter is great, and I have multiple lighters in my packs.  Unfortunately, lighters have one major flaw. They run on fuel and fuel runs out.

It is for that reason that I also carry one of these magnesium fire starters with me as well.  This little gadget will help kick-start your way to a toasty night as the sparks it creates burn at over 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.

This item comes with a saw “key” that will help strike it and create the sparks that you need, but I prefer to use my pocket knife.  After a little practice, you should be able to get a fire going in no time.

This unassuming item has an expected lifespan of 10,000 strikes before it needs to be replaced, couple this with the fact that it can’t seize up or lose fuel like any standard Bic lighter, and you have a near foolproof say to start a fire in any situation.

Stainless Steel Water Bottle:

New Store Bought:     $6.99

– Good Will Thrift Store: $.99

Savings:                         $6.00

As a side note, I don’t recommend using used water bottles. In theory, you can clean them to be almost like new, but if at all possible, purchase these new.

Also make sure that they are solid stainless steel and not one that has a steel outer shell with a plastic inside.  Only a solid stainless steel bottle can be used safely over an open flame to boil water.


New Store Bought: $6.00+

– Good Will Thrift Store: $.99

Savings:                         $5.01+

A lot of times preppers will forget about sunglasses, or they cast them aside as a trivial addition to a pack.

Sunglasses are an integral part of my pack. Living in the heart of Texas where we have more days than nights, having a decent pair of sunglasses will help to protect your eyes from sun damage.

I recently went to a baseball game and forgot my sunglasses.  After only two hours, it began to feel like I was blinking into sand paper.  I had developed a mild case of photokeratitius or snow blindness as it’s more commonly known.  It was several days before the discomfort faded, and I was able to fully focus on anything again.

Having this sort of visual impairment in a survival situation can become a serious detriment to your moral and your health.  You will be more prone to accidents, and you won't be able to fully focus on where you are going.

As trivial as it may seem, I recommend always keeping a cheap pair of sunglasses in my pack, just make sure that they are at least UV400 rated so that you get the most protection.

Animal traps:

New Store Bought: $74.99

– Harbor Freight:     $24.99

Savings:                 $50.00

Even if hunting doesn’t sit right with you, in a crisis you will need to eat.

Hunting takes years of training to master.  However, just about anyone can set up one of these traps with just about any type of bait and catch squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, or anything else edible that my wander in.

The best thing about these is that they keep your prey alive so that you can then decide if it is something you are willing to kill and eat or if you accidentally caught a household pet.

Unlike snares and other traps, these will not harm the animal at all.  Best of all, they are collapsible and fit just about anywhere.


While you can't find them at the thrift store, a pawn shop is a great way to snag a deal on a firearm. One of the best deals that I had come across in a pawn shop was a model 1897 Winchester 12-gauge pump action shotgun.

I managed to find one on “clearance” for  $110.00.  The previous weekend, I found the same gun at a gun show for around $500.00.

This piqued my curiosity and I had to know why it was so cheap. Was it broken or missing parts?

The simple truth of it was the shotgun had sat in the pawn shop for over 6 months in perfect functioning condition.  It was only being sold at such a low price to make room for other items.  This started me taking monthly trips to my local pawn shops to see what had been marked down or what I could negotiate down.

Once you start doing this, it is pretty amazing the prices you can get.

I got a set of power tools that retailed at $250.00 for a meager $80.00. Add to this the Dewalt power drill that I sold them for $40.00 (that was purchased at another pawn shop on clearance for $20.00) and I got a steel of a deal.

If you live near pawnshops, take a venture in every once in a while and hone your bartering skills a bit.

All in all, with one trip to my local thrift stores, I was able to save a minimum of $126.20.  This doesn’t include all the added benefits of adding thrift stores to your lifestyle.

I have saved so much money over the years through Goodwill and other stores of its kind.  This lifestyle may not be for everyone, but I personally enjoy perusing through stores to see the wares that other people toss aside as “trash” that I can use or re-purpose.

Up Next: My Bug Out Bag Has A Secret…

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Dec 18, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

11 Responses to :
Prepping On a Budget

  1. The Concrete Fairy says:

    I buy a LOT at the thrift stores, I can think of no good reason to pay full price if I don’t have to.
    I bought several magnesium fire starters from Harbor Freight, tried to use them, the metal was too hard to shave it off right, it didn’t shave off in shavings, I could only chip crumbs off. I have other starters that I bought elsewhere that I don’t have that problem with. Has anyone else had this problem? Did I just get a bad batch?

    1. Joe says:

      Thanks for the Comment, I had the same issue with the harbor freight fire starters. I had to actually use my pocket knife to scrape through a few layers before it started to actually shave off. It almost seems like they either put a coating on the outside of the magnesium block, but after a few layers peeled off the shavings came off pretty evenly and it sparked really well. Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you.

  2. brian says:

    Great artical I will definetly start looking around I am basically new to this but with all the civil and political unrest happening I decided to start preparing . This artical really helped me cause I was feeling overwhelmed with all the websites and the outrageous prices seeing how I am now on a fixed income after suffering a work related accident that has put me out of work for the rest of my life and I have a wife and five kids to worry about also …. thanks for the advise

    1. Joe says:

      Hi Brian,
      Sorry to hear about your accident. I am glad that I could help lessen the stress involved in prepping. You are a very good case ( if I may say so and absolutely no disrespect intended) on why prepping is not just for an end of the world scenario or natural disaster. Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to us is to have our “normal” life taken from us ( ie: loss of a job, loss of a loved one, disabling accident). It takes time to begin rebuilding and any preparations that you have to help you push through whatever life throws at you help out a lot. I look forward to hearing more from you and best of luck!


  3. Anita Wallace says:

    Wow! You found some really good deals at Goodwill. I’ve had to live on their ‘products’ a time or two — so yes the best place to look for survival items.

    1. Joe says:

      Hi Anita,
      I was extremely surprised at the deals that I found. I think it all really depends on the area you live in. I have several stores around me that I’ve been to that never have anything good, but the one that I took the pictures from always has something interesting. I even have a “blue hanger” store near me. You should look them up, they are a by the pound goodwill. They cycle through the goods in the back room about every hour or so. It is hectic but boy is it a experience. I got a brand new shirt that had the original tags on it for $125.00 and it only cost me about 30 cents. I’d love to hear about any good deals that you found at a thrift store!

      Thanks again

  4. Ann Wilson Kingsley says:

    They are a little larger, but how about using a welding single flint spark lighter? I used to use one on an old gas stove top. Certainly this should be part of our camping supplies, if not our 72-Hour Packs.

    1. Joe says:

      Hi Ann,
      The welding spark would work in a pinch, but the key with the magnesium flint starters is that they are an all in one kit. The Welding strikers only have the flint, which will get you sparks but you don’t have the magnesium to help catch your tinder on fire, even if its wet. They do put out a good shower of sparks and might work on very dry kindling but otherwise the magnesium starters would be best.

      thanks for your comment and I hope to hear more from you.

  5. Al says:

    Joe and all,
    I buy and sell prepping and hunting/outdoor stuff on ebay and gun auction sites. I have found bargains on books, shortwave radios, candle lanterns, knives, sleeping bags, military surplus etc. When I say sell, I do not have a business or anything, I just sell small odds and ends of things that I no longer need, want or does not fit anymore. I do not make much, but it does free up a little cash to buy more stuff that I need. Most items are new or near new. You have to be patient and “scrounge” around and wait for the price and shipping that you want to pay. Amazon also often has stuff cheaper than items that I have checked out elswhere, often with free shipping.


    1. Joe says:

      Hi Al,
      Thanks for the response! I have been watching amazon recently ( I recently took the plunge and bought amazon prime) I have to say its amazing the amount of items offering free 2 day shipping with the option to overnight ship for as low as 4 bucks. I honestly had all but forgotten about ebay ( been burned on it a few times) but it would definitely be a great place to look. I’ve been looking through some but it seems like that is going to be extremely area dependent. Austin does not seem to have many people tossing out old camping equipment. That’s awesome that you are able to sell off items that are no longer useful to you! So many of my friends just throw stuff out and it sickens me to think that some one else could re use it. Keep up the good work! I look forward to hearing from you in the future.


  6. Oneway says:

    Don’t forget yard sales! A lot of the things you mentioned are a quarter!

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