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How To Prepare For A Disaster On A Budget

(Last Updated On: March 9, 2018)
Preparing for a disaster on a budget doesn't have to be complicated.
How do I start?

Prepping For A Disaster Doesn’t Have To Break The Bank!

Prepping for a disaster does not have to be complicated or expensive. Sure, there are lots of things you can do to prepare, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to have everything done at once.

As a beginning “Prepper”, you want to know how to prepare for a disaster on a budget. Remember, being a prepper simply means you want to have yourself and your family prepared for emergencies or disaster situations that may occur. It doesn’t cost  a lot to be able to be prepared to handle many of the emergencies and disasters that are most common.


So let’s start with a simple plan.

There are many little things anyone can do to prepare yourself. Start small. Remember, prepping is not something that has to be completed immediately. It is more a way of life. You don’t have to go all out like the “Doomsday Preppers” type people that make interesting TV shows and news articles. Start with a few of the following basics and just keep adding to your preparedness plan on a continual basis.


Here is a simple “How to Start Prepping on a Budget – 6 Step Plan” for getting started:


Step 1.  Get Organized

I suggest you start with a 3-ring binder (Disaster Planner Binder) to keep yourself organized.  Use your binder to make your plans and just do a little each week.Use a 3-ring binder for your Disaster Planner

This is a great place to store:

  • Checklists
  • Action plans
  • Information from your favorite survival websites (Like this one!)
  • Emergency contact list
  • Copies of important documents
  • Emergency cash
  • Budget

We’ll be constantly adding new checklists, plans and “how-to” articles to this site that you can add to you binder.

Keep it handy where you can grab it quickly in time of emergency.


Step 2.  What Emergencies and Disasters Should I Plan For?

What emergencies or disasters are you likely to face? Everyone is different. Think of any of the things that could cause a hardship for you if things were to go wrong. Take a look at the list below to get some ideas.

Make a section in your binder were we can make a plan to deal with each of these disasters. Once we have some ideas of what we are likely to face, it will be easier to know how to prepare for a disaster within our budget.

Natural Disasters

We need to prepare for natural disasters, like this tornado

  • Flooding
  • Hurricanes
  • Tornadoes
  • Wind Storms
  • Winter/Ice Storms
  • Earthquakes
  • Wild Fires
  • Droughts
  • Landslides
  • Hailstorms
  • Heat waves

Human Caused Disasters

  • Needing a 1st Aid Kit for minor cuts or scrapes.Are you prepared for home injuries?
  • Your car breaking down.
  • House fires
  • Power outages (Ever had neighborhood blackout from a driver crashing into a utility pole!)
  • Robberies
  • Carjacking
  • Home invasions
  • Job loss (Yes, prepping can help ease the stress if you’re stock up on supplies!)
  • Terrorism
  • Riots/Civil unrest
  • Toxic chemical spills

These don’t have to be elaborate plans. Most people don’t stop to think about what they would do in any of these situations and are caught totally unprepared when they do happen. Take a look at the articles in this site and other survival websites for ideas on making a more detailed plan specific to your situation.


Step 3. How Long Should I Plan For?

Minimum of 72 Hours

Most preparedness plans call for a minimum 72 hour plan. Why 72 hours?  Most disaster relief organizations estimate that 3 days is the minimum time needed for emergency workers to be able to arrive during most disasters. You need to be able to take care of any emergencies until help arrives.

1 Week or Longer

I like to think of a disaster preparedness plan for a little longer time frame than the 72 hours. Think of how long it took to get help to the thousands of people affected in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Survivors were struggling for weeks just for basic items like fresh water, food and shelter. Start with the 72 hour (3 day) time frame, but build up a longer lasting plan.

1 Month or Longer

Many Preppers will plan to have supplies available for a complete year. That’s a great goal, but it will definitely take some time and budgeting to reach that goal. If wars, nuclear attacks, EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attacks, nationwide power outages, or major natural disasters were to happen, this is definitely where you would want to be in your Prepper planning. It may take weeks or months for relief aid to appear.


Step 4.  The 5 Basic Needs For Each Plan

Sure, there are more than just these 5 needs we all have, but I think these are critical to your survival in a disaster.

     1. First Aid/Medical Needs

  • First aid kits should be available for emergencies in your disaster preparations.
  • Accidents causing injuries are probably the most common emergency we are going to encounter. It make sense to have a first aid kit available everywhere accidents can happen. That includes your home, work, cars, trucks, boats, campers, workshops, etc.
  • First aid training in skills like CPR, learning the Heimlich maneuver for choking victims, and other basic 1st aid skills could save the life of someone.

     2.  Water

  • The human body can’t survive for long without water. We lose water as sweat, urine, and the water vapor in the air we exhale. If that water is not replaced, overheating and dehydration can quickly cause life-threatening problems.
  • The average healthy adult in a temperate climate needs a fluid intake of about 13 cups (3 liters) for men and 9 cups (2.2 liters) for women daily, according to The Institute of Medicine (A nonprofit organization established in 1970 as a component of the US National Academy of Sciences that works outside the framework of government).
  • So that’s a little over 3 quarts for bodily intake (drinking and food intake). You still need more water for bathing, cooking, sanitation (flushing toilets, etc.)Water should be stored or have filters to make safe.
  • So for safe measure, let’s figure you need at least 1 gallon of water per day per person. (According to U.S. Geological Survey studies, the average person in the US uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day, flushing toilets, showering, washing dishes and clothes, shaving brushing teeth, etc.!)
  • In a disaster situation, you may not have running water from your faucets. For example, if you use well water and your pump or the electricity goes out, or your pipes freeze in cold weather, you will need another source of water in your home. Several 5 gallon water cans work great as one possible source.
    • If you need to evacuate your home, you will need to find a source of water and a way to filter water or treat that water to make it safe for drinking. (Water weighs about 8 lbs. per gallon, much more than we could comfortably carry.)

     3.  Food

Stock extra food to prepare for disasters

  • We can’t survive more than a few days without food without our bodies starting to break down.  In times of emergency or disaster, we will probably be burning even more calories than usual, increasing our need for food.
  • Stock up on non-perishable foods: canned foods, dry box foods, etc. (think power outage and no electricity for refrigerator or freezer)
  • Longer shelf life foods. (May eventually be storing enough to last for months)
  • I suggest you start by buying just a little bit extra during every visit to the grocery store to store in some location in your home (pantry, basement, even under the beds are possible storage places!)
  • Have alternate ways to prepare your meals. (May not have regular kitchen appliances working)
    • Propane gas camping stoves, outdoor grills, etc.

     4.  Shelter

  • Get your home prepared for emergencies
    • A plan for blackouts- no electricity for heating, cooling, lighting, etc.)
    • Flashlights and spare batteries
    • Board/plastic to cover windows that may be damaged by wind, storms, etc..
    • Tools to turn off water or gas line that may rupture.
    • Smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.
    • Fire extinguishers.
  • Have an alternate place to shelter in case you have to evacuate your home. (Hurricanes, floods, fires, etc)

     5.  Sanitation

Many disasters will cause you to loose your utilities. You may not have running water, electricity, or gas. You still need to be able to keep clean and have good sanitation for you food water and cooking, and a way to eliminate waste. (Including human waste. You will still need to “go to the bathroom”!)

Stock up on a few of these items:

  • Toilet paper.
  • Plastic bags of various sizes (For storage & for waste).
  • Soap
  • Razors
  • Moist towelettes
  • Paper plates and plastic eating utensils


Step 5.  An Evacuation Planhurricane evacuation route sign

Some disasters may cause you to evacuate your home dwelling for a safer area.  (Flooding, Wild Fires, Toxic Chemical Spills, etc.). Often, you don’t have much time to prepare for these emergencies. For these situations, you will want your basic supplies already packed and ready to go. Plastic totes & buckets are great for food items. Suitcases, dufflebags, and backpacks are good for clothing and other personal needs.

Have locations both nearby (if localized evacuation) and a location out of the area in case the entire area need evacuation.  Traffic is often very heavy during evacuations, so have several alternative routes to get to your destination.

Create a “Bug-Out-Bag”  This is usually a backpack with emergency items you can carry in case you have to evacuate on foot or that you can throw in your vehicle.Backpacks make great "bug-out bags" for disaster preparations.

Your basic needs preparations will have to change a little bit to allow you to be able to carry your items with you. Preppers commonly call this a “Bug-Out-Bag. This is something you want packed and ready to grab quickly if the need arises.


Here as some items you should have for your evacuation/bug-out bag:

  1. First Aid/ Medical Supplies
  • Keep a small first aid kit in your bug-out kit.
  • Have extra prescription medicines in you kit.
  1. Water

Remember, water weighs about 8 lbs. per gallon and each person needs a minimum of 1 gallon per day. You can’t carry that much water easily, so you will have to find another source.  Most likely you will need to purify the water to make it safe to drink. There are many ways to do this, boiling, water purification tablets, hand operated filters like “LifeStraw” or “Sawyer Water Filters”, etc)

  1. Food

Remember, you want to keep your Bug-out-bag as light as possible so it is easy to carry for extended distances. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Dry, boxed foods from grocery store
  • Freeze-dried meals from a variety of vendors make nutritious meals with very long shelf life
  • Jerky
  • Protein/energy/snack bars
  1. Shelter

You need to keep your body warm, dry and comfortable to prevent hypothermia.

  • Proper clothing for the time of year. (Remember nights may be much colder than daytime)
  • Rain gear
  • Protection from sun and insects

You need a place to rest and sleep. Getting enough rest and sleep is often forgotten

about in survival plans.

  • Sleeping bag or blankets
  • Tent or Tarp (with rope or paracord)

Have your car prepared for emergencies

  • Clothing for rain, cold weather, hot weather, walking shoes,
  • Keep a full tank of gas
  1. Security

Others may want what you have! Keep your Bug-out-bag light enough that you can run to evade those people if possible. If you are not able to evade them, you may need to be able to protect yourself and your family.

  • Pepper spray
  • Personal firearms

Other Special Evacuation Needs:

  • Destination and route of where you will go
  • Method of transportation (don’t forget to keep a full gas tank ready)
  • Backpack to carry all your stuff
  • Communication Plan- How and where you will meet with any family members who get separated.
  • Copies of important documents (insurance, passports, driver’s license, etc.)
  • Flashlights
  • Battery operated or hand crank emergency radios
  • Emergency cash and change
  • Pet needs


Step 6.  Don’t spend too much time “planning”, but focus on “doing”.      Don't waste time. Start preparing for disaster now.


For example: Just having some bottled water, a few snacks, and a blanket in your car will have you better prepared than the majority of people without any plan. Add a few other things like jumper cables, extra quart of oil, phone charger, a flashlight, small 1st aid kit, etc. will probably put you among the top prepared “preppers” out there driving today.


Don’t wait. Go do something right now to get started on your plan.

Here’s my suggested checklist to start with:


First Aid:

First aid kit for home or vehicle
2-in-1 First Aid Kit. Get from Amazon here.

☐ Get a first aid kit for your home.

☐ Get a first aid kit for your vehicle.



☐ Buy a case of water.

☐ Better yet, get a 5 gallon container to store water in.

Portable water filter for water purification during disaster
Survival water filter for your vehicle and your bug-out bag. Amazon for $19.99

☐ Get an inexpensive water filter for when your stored water runs out.



☐ Buy a few extra canned goods for emergency.(Enough for a few days to start)

                 ☐Canned vegetables

                 ☐Canned meat (beef, chicken, spam,  tuna, etc.)

☐ Buy some energy bars or jerky to keep in your vehicle for emergency.

☐ Have an alternative source to heat your food and boil water

                ☐ Grill

Backpacking stove for emergencies and disasters
MSR backpacking stove from Amazon

                ☐ Camp stove or backpacking stove

Freeze dried food for disaster, bug-out bags, or camping
Mountain House freeze dried meals. Get from Amazon here

☐ Consider freeze dried meals. They are lightweight and great to have in your evacuation/bug-out bag.



LED flashlights are great for power outages and other disasters.
1000 lumens LED flashlight Get the pair for only $15.99

☐ Buy a couple flashlights and spare batteries for power outages.

Keep them in several accessable places you’ll be able to find them in the dark!

(kitchen, bedroom, basement, garage, etc.)

Tact Bivvy Emergency Survival Sleeping Bag
Get from Amazon Here.


☐ Get a couple emergency blankets or emergency bivvy bags (it’s like an emergency sleeping bag) for you vehicles.

☐ Have a set of jumper cables in your vehicle or a battery booster

Battery booster and compressor for auto emergencies
Battery booster and compressor for dead battery or flat tire. Get from Amazon here







☐ Put a roll of toilet paper and moist towelettes in your vehicle for emergencies.


Bug-Out Bag

Tactical backpack for a bug-out bag
Tactical Backpack $39.99 at Amazon

☐ Get a backpack for your emergency bug-out bag and pack with your emergency supplies. Here’s a good one that will hold your survival supplies in case of evacuation.



This will give you a starting point. When you’ve got these covered, go to Prepper Essentials to continue building your skills and getting even better prepared for disasters.


 Please share your comments, questions and suggestions with me below.

Welcome new preppers!



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