Fast Track Prep Tip #5: Every Prepper Needs a Cash Reserve

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We prep because stuff happens.  Little stuff, big stuff and everything in between.  And while the focus of our preparations is often a major disaster or collapse of some type, the reality is that our preps come in handy for all types of other scenarios as well.

As recent as December  2013, millions of folks were left without the ability to pay for their purchases when their credit and debit cards were caught in the Target data breach.  This was not something that was expected and those without supplemental credit or cash were left in a pickle during the busiest shopping period of the year.

Every Prepper Needs a Cash Reserve

For some, the loss of a job, unexpected repairs, or medical bills have resulted in little left over at the end of the week to pay food, gas or the utility bills. It is times like this when a cash reserve becomes handy.

Things do indeed happen and the solution that stares us in the face is the need to have a cash reserve.  We need to have the proverbial cookie jar with some extra change – or these days dollar bills – to get us through the rough times.  We also need to have cash so that if and when the ATMS and credit card machines don’t work, we have a fallback.

Today, Backdoor Survival Contributing Author Rob Hanus is back with his thoughts on having real cash, a savings account, and low debt.

Go Back To Cash

Debit and credit cards can be quite convenient, but they have an ‘Achilles heel’ in that when the power or network goes down, the electronic verification system cannot verify the card and the transaction is denied. This can also happen with paper checks. When this occurs, making purchases with your checks, debit or credit cards comes to a stop.

There was a time, not too long ago, when most people used cash. Today, the majority of us use cards to pay for purchases and carry few bills in our wallets, or have stopped carrying cash altogether. There are several significant reasons why you should start using cash again and veer away from the “cashless society.”

BENEFIT #1 – Cash is King

As noted above, there are any number of reasons that could prevent merchants from processing payments of cashless cards and checks. However, if you’re standing at the gas pump with an empty tank and the pump won’t accept your card, you won’t care what the reason is; only that you’re unable to put gas in your tank. Having cash can make the difference as to whether you are able to get fuel.

More seriously, if there was a collapse of the dollar or other economic collapse in this country, you’re going to see many stores stop accepting any form of payment except cash. In times of uncertainty, people become very protective and even business owners won’t be too keen on accepting forms of payment that they can’t be assured of getting reimbursed for.

BENEFIT #2 – Get to know your neighborhood merchants

When you use cash to pay for your fuel, typically, you go inside the station to pay for it. This gives you the opportunity for the small talk that occurs while you wait for your sale (or pre-sale) to be ran through the register. Likewise when you pay with cash at other places, there is a more personal interaction with the clerk. You never know when you may need the help of one of these people and them knowing you can go a long way.

BENEFIT #3 – Start a small savings account at home

When you use cash, you get change in return, including coins, but don’t spend any of the coins! Even if you can make exact change, use a bill instead. When you get home, put the coins into a coin jar. Depending on how many times you use cash throughout the average day, you could be adding $1 to $2 to your coin savings every day. It’s an easy way to save up a little extra money without putting a strain on your budget.

BENEFIT #4 – Keep your debt low

None of these benefits are more important than the others, but the importance of keeping your debt low cannot be understated. The less debt you have, the more financial freedom you retain. With the current average interest rate of credit cards hovering around 17%, using credit is tantamount to shackling yourself into financial servitude. We’re lured into thinking that, “it’s only a small payment, I can afford it,” when in truth, all it does is make you a slave to the issuer of the credit card.

By using cash, you’re paying for something now, not later. We’ve seen what happens when families get in over their head (repossessions, foreclosures, stress, divorce, suicides, etc.), but it can be avoided by not getting into debt in the first place.

The Final Word

Gathering new gear, learning how to use it and stowing it in a bug-out-bag is a pretty cool thing to do when you’re a prepper.  Some may even consider it fun (I do). On the other hand, the more mundane task of saving money, reducing debt, and accumulating cash can be a boring drudge.

If you have not done so already, I would like to challenge you to begin to stash away some cash as part of your ongoing preparedness effort.  As Rob suggests, setting aside  dollar a day – or even a dollar a week – will allow you to save up some cash without putting too much strain on the budget.  It just makes sense.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye

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Comments

Fast Track Prep Tip #5: Every Prepper Needs a Cash Reserve — 44 Comments

  1. The change jar does work! It may be slow, but you don’t really miss the small amount at the time. Years ago I started putting my change in a 5 gallon water bottle. The last time I counted, which was months ago, I had around $75. Not a fortune, but can mean the difference between eating and starving. I also have a couple of smaller jars with change in them put in different hiding places. That way if some theif breaks in while I’m away, they are not likely to find all of it.

  2. Jim,
    My wife and I have had great success by saving loose coins. We’ve gotten into the hundreds of dollars saved a couple of times but our circumstances have required there use and having that cash readily available literally saved our bacon.
    I remember reading a story a few years ago about an old farmer who, over a 30 year time span, purchased two different cars with cash saved by doing this very thing. I wish I could remember the source but I can’t – sorry. At the time I verified it, though. That story was a great inspiration to me. Start saving and then save more.

  3. We also use the change jar at our house. Every night my husband and I faithfully place the change in our pockets into a 5 gallon water bottle. We’ve been doing it for 20 years without a withdrawal. My guess on the amount – probably $1K. Maybe I should count it!

  4. Thanks for bringing up such an important, and too frequently overlooked, part of prepping.

    When the electricity goes out, the credit cards are not going to do any good. In ‘normal’ emergencies -blizzards, hurricanes, earthquakes and the like- cash is indeed king.

    Getting out of credit card debt is also a key to financial preparedness. Paying off the cards is like getting a 17% or more return on your money.

    I keep an unusual amount of cash in my wallet because I hit the swap meets three times a week, and never know when I may need it for an unusually expensive item or items. I keep it separate from my ‘walking around’ money by folding the bills and fastening them in place with a big paperclip so they can’t fall out by accident. (I learned that from experience!)

    I also keep a couple twenties tucked behind my drivers license, and more in my Get Home Bag.

    Come to think of it, I have a couple more tucked into the compartment under the label of my hat, as well.

    Off topic, but useful: after locking myself out of my car twenty-five years or so ago, I put a second car key in my wallet. It has saved the day several times since then. AAA will open the door for you, but you have to wait for them to get there.

    Thanks again.

    • I like the idea of the key in the wallet. Implemented that today. I also, use the keeping of money of differing denominations in different places, though folded the same so even while in front of someone I can ‘rummage’ in my pockets to find just that right amount of change. 😉
      As to credit cards, I haven’t owned one in eleven years. I do have two checking accts, both have their own debit card. One I use for all my phone and internet purchases. Only enough money goes into the secondary to cover any purchases made. Two different passwords so if I need some money and can’t get to the bank myself, someone else *a trusted person* can get some money either at the store or the bank. Yes, I’m all for buying if you have the $$ and not buying if you don’t. I rest easy when my bills come in…I have only 5. I owe no one but my landlord and the ‘grid’. My be getting off cable if this current merger goes through because I won’t be able to afford it, though I will miss my internet.

      • I get my internet service through the phone company. We don’t even have cable service in my area and I refuse to pay the outrageous charges for satellite.

        • I don’t do those bundles, if you rely on one company and it goes down for any reason, where’s your service then? It’s happened to me which is why I have more than one way to communicate, phone—cable/internet—yelling out the window IF someone is home to hear. See i don’t own a vehicle to drive out. We each must do what we feel is best for our situation.

          • I agree Dee – in my case it’s either the bundle from the only landline telephone company or either satellite or cell phone internet (which either of which cost more). And my problem isn’t so much when the telephone service goes out as much as it is when the electricity goes out. The telephone system has NO backup power, so no electricity = no telephone or internet. Last time it lasted for a week, for which the telephone company charged me, although I had no service of any kind. Their excuse was “it was’t OUR fault” – – I almost told them to discontinue my service immediately. What happens if a terrorist hack takes the grid down for a year or so? Do I still have to pay a monthly bill?? By luck I had a cell phone to talk to family with!

  5. i save my coins when i got hurt at work i emptied my 5 gal water jug i had over 700 bucks.I have a question,What is the best way to store paper money long term?people talk of burying it but how do you keep it from getting destroyed by the elements?Im afraid of keeping it in the house in case theres a fire or break in.I saw a drug dealer on Tv he wraped it in plastic then put it in a lunchbox sized cooler then sealed the cooler in acrylic resin which he then buried in his yard and put flowers over them that seems excessive and not that easily accesable.has anybody every socked away cash and stashed it outside or buried it? if so how? not looking for guess’s just people who have actually done it

    • Joel – I have a fireproof safe where I store cash plus copies of important documents (paper plus a flash drive) and an external hard drive with a backup of my laptop computer. I also have cash sealed in mylar bags. Those zip type bags work great for this purpose. They are scattered in odd places around my house and co-mingled with other preps such as seeds and spices that are in packages of a similar size.

    • What about a short piece of PVC pipe. Get cover ends and glue them on with the cash or whatever inside and it can be buried and whatever you put inside will be safe until you dig it up and open it. Just remember to have a hack saw or something to cut it open.

    • Joel, many years ago I covered a short wall in the kitchen with redwood planks. At the very bottom of the wall I broke through the plasterboard. On the other side of the wall was the bathroom tub, so I could put all sorts of stuff under the tub. Even without a tub, one would have a few inches inside a wall in which to put stuff like cash or metals, handguns, and some ammo.

      Then I put the baseboard molding on over the hole. I didn’t nail it in place, but slipped it in so that it was secure enough not to move. It was easy to remove for access.

      • folks these ideas are all for inside the home what if theres a fire ? as for a safe the small ones can be carried off.i like the pvc idea but im still wondering about mositure etc.even iside the tube the condensation will collect .thats why im asking for advice from those who have done it.thanks for the tips though keep em coming they are useful and may help others.and just for therecordim not trying to do anything illegal or encouraging anyone to do anything illegal justin case anybody is watching/spying

        • A good safe should be fireproof. And bolting from the inside to the floor is known for being difficult to remove. I live in a high humidity area. I learned long ago, to put some salt in piece of fabric and put it with anything I store. Can’t remember ever having a problem with mold when I’ve done so. Don’t know the science behind it, just know it has worked for me.

    • if you just want to stash a few bills, you can roll them up tightly and put them in an empty pill vial with a non-child-proof cap. that would be water-tight, and so small you could hide it anywhere, like in a shed or garden ornament. or, of course, you could bury it too, although i’d want to further waterproof it for that.

  6. I to emptied my pockets each evening of my coins. I had a coffee can for the pennies and quart mason jars for each of the other coins. I did have a break-in and they took my jars. You can Google and they can tell you exactly how much money is in the jars. Also, the detective on my case said he would go to Wally world and get the videos of the people putting coins in the cash machine, to see if I recognized anyone, or my mason jars. Wouldn’t you know it, the video was down that weekend. 2 months later though, in a road block, they found my AR15 in a car full of drugs. He is doing 2 years.

  7. I put the change away like most people. But 2-months ago I also started putting one-dollar bills away like i did the change. Every night I put any one-dollar bills in the safe, it has grown very fast as I have almost $100.00 in that pile. We all have high dollar prepping items we want, I’m going to use the one-dollar ill pile to painlessly pay for these items.

    The thing is I don’t miss the one-dollar bills any more then I do the change. And it feels to see a pile of cash growing seemingly out of nowhere.

  8. Some excellent tips here, but if you have the discipline to keep a cash reserve you also have the discipline to use credit cards wisely. Pay the balance in full each month and you are not increasing your debt; in fact, you are getting a 0% loan from the issuer. And if you use a Discover or other reward card, you are actually turning a profit! Periodically redeem your reward (Discover requires $50 increments) and add it to your cash reserve. One caveat: always pay the bill electronically. Credit card issuers are (in)famous for sitting on mailed checks until after the due date, then slapping on late fees and jacking up the APR.

    Keeping a high credit score will save you money when you do need to borrow. We paid off the mortgage in December; a month later I got a used-car loan at 1.74%.

  9. I received the notification of Dave’s comment but can’t find it here; so I’m including his comment to have a base of understanding my reply:
    “Author: Dave
    Comment:
    Some excellent tips here, but if you have the discipline to keep a cash reserve you also have the discipline to use credit cards wisely. Pay the balance in full each month and you are not increasing your debt; in fact, you are getting a 0% loan from the issuer. And if you use a Discover or other reward card, you are actually turning a profit! Periodically redeem your reward (Discover requires $50 increments) and add it to your cash reserve. One caveat: always pay the bill electronically. Credit card issuers are (in)famous for sitting on mailed checks until after the due date, then slapping on late fees and jacking up the APR.

    Keeping a high credit score will save you money when you do need to borrow. We paid off the mortgage in December; a month later I got a used-car loan at 1.74%.”

    There is an assumption made here, I suspect, that if someone has the discipline to do this and such, then they can do that then. Example: the discipline to have a cash reserve means one can do the same with credit cards. In my working with helping people manage their money better, I’ve met people who, if they have checks in a pad, then there is money in the bank to cover that check; if they have a credit card, it’s free money until you pay it off, which means keeping the card(s) maxed out.
    This isn’t about education necessarily, although for some that’s there, it can be a mindset. I can’t say I understand the whys, just know it’s what I have seen in others. These people are, for the most part, educated, just have this lack for various reasons.
    I understand the idea behind the Zero balance and keeping a credit score high. For me, this is an area where I’ve chosen to live “off the grid” and do not participate in the credit market. Yes it can be inconvenient when you first get started, just like prepping; the thing is, this also goes back to knowing your local merchants. You’d be surprised at how much they like knowing you’re willing to pay a bit higher cost for their personal service so that if/when you need a hand extended, you and the merchant can come to an accommodation which works for both. If there is one thing preppers know, it’s that we can live ‘in the world, but not of the world’ when we make the choice to do so. 🙂

    • When we were first married – and we both had good jobs – Shelly was of the mindset that if there were checks, there was money. He was never a spendthrift but that was his mindset especially since I managed all financial matters

      That mindset is more common then one might think and can most certainly come back and bite you in the fanny.

      • i don’t carry too much cash on me for a similar reason: if i do, i “feel rich” and tend to spend impulsively. not flattering, but true.

    • “I received the notification of Dave’s comment but can’t find it here”

      I just had the same problem with Gary and Leslie’s comments below, and Gaye’s reply to Leslie.

      For some reason hitting the Refresh button brought them up.

      • Interesting about things not showing up (troublesome, actually). I have not caching set up for my website at this time so it is nothing at my end.

        A bit of news though. My site will be moved to some superfast servers next week – my goal is to really speed things up. Fingers crossed since this is a big step cost-wise but should result in a fabulous user experience.

        • It is odd. From time to time I have hit my bookmark for BDS and gotten a home page on which nothing has been published in several days. I finally went to the archives page and found multiple new postings and clikked on them individually to read them. Next time I hit the bookmark it took me back to the old page again.

          It only happens sometimes though.

          If that happens again I’ll just try refreshing the home page and see what happens.

          • I was using a CDN until a couple of days ago. It is now gone, hopefully forever. Instead, I am throwing money at a VPS which should be very fast with no delays.

            BTW< I post Monday, Wednesday Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I have no life.

          • It just happened again. I got an email notice of your 4:46 pm response, but when I came to the site it wasn’t there. I hit refresh and it appeared. Go figure.

            The problem for me is that unless I remember to hit Refresh I may miss new material within a post. Altho I suppose I would have gotten an email about it, so probably not such a big deal.

  10. Personally I think a cash reserve is a bad idea.Gold and silver and barter items makes more sense to me.I mean if the economy collapses what good will your money be.I say if you can’t afford gold or silver get barter goods and have no money.I’d hate to be sitting on a lot of money that was worth something when I stashed it but is worthless once I need it.Your barter goods will probably be worth 10 to 40 X’s what you paid for them and your cash will be worth pennies on the dollar

    • I think that is exactly the kind of issue we need to decide individually. Partly the decision hinges on what we are prepping for.

      If we prep only for the worst case scenario, though (like a sudden, total economic collapse) then we are not as well prepared as we could be for anything less than a worst case possible collapse.

      In most such lesser cases money will be hugely important for most people for such things as buying gasoline as they flee a major hurricane by driving a few hundred miles inland, or paying rent or doctor’s bills in a lesser personal emergency like loss of a job.

      It is those less than worst case problems which are the most likely, and we need to get through them more or less intact if we are to survive a Big One.

      A major power outage which lasts several days or a few weeks is far more likely on any given day than TEOTWAWKI. Here in Hawaii, a bad hurricane is more likely than a major earthquake, but both are certain to occur at some point, and they are more likely than most other problems.

      I don’t think we can survive TEOTWAWKI in Hawaii, so we don’t bother trying to. We do prep for the most likely problems, and do so reasonably well if not perfectly. Part of that is a cash reserve for buying whatever might be both needed and available, and ideally having enough cash to buy plane tickets out of here if credit cards aren’t working but fleeing the state seems like the best option. Airlines are highly unlikely to take gold coins in payment. They want cash or a credit card.

      I am not knocking gold or silver at all: I think they are both part of a balanced prep plan. I just think that cash is as well. There are few cases where cash would lose all value overnight, so having a meaningful amount is one -but only one- part of financial security.

      How much constitutes a meaningful amount is something we can only decide for ourselves. Maybe a week’s normal total expenditures, or two weeks, or six months (tho that would create a security issue if kept at home in cash!)- it is up to us.

      • whos to say gold or silver will be worth anything? you cant eat it and its real value is as a commodity,in a SHTF situation the commodity markets will have collapsed.barter items is a great idea however,food ciggs,tobacco, booze ,lighters, batteries will be very valuable and sought after .Im going to start stocking up on 1/2 pints of booze ,lighters and granola bars and
        bottled waters for barter

        • “whos to say gold or silver will be worth anything? ”

          Exactly. No one can know for certain. However, we do know that throughout the last several thousand years, gold and silver have been considered a store of value and a medium of exchange worldwide.

          We also know that in major upheavals people have always in the past fled to gold because gold is also seen as flight capital: you can sew it into your clothes and flee across borders to countries where your home currency would be worthless precisely because of the conditions which cause you to flee.

          We can decide that 5000 years of history is no predictor of the future and at some level be correct, but 5000 years of unstable economies does give enough evidence for me to choose some gold and silver, but also some cash, because all disasters are not TEOTWAWKI.

          Like investing, where one spreads out one’s bets between stocks, bonds, money market accounts, and possibly real estate, gold, etc, because events which cause one sector to decline should help other sectors balance things out, what one might call a balanced portfolio of preps is useful. Some will not be needed, while we might wish for more than we have of others.

          Trade goods also have their place. We know that certain things have almost universal appeal- cigarettes, liquor, chocolate, but also gasoline, potable water (and hence water filters), sugar, salt, and the like.

          My point is that each of us can decide what problems are likeliest to occur in our situation, and balance likelihood against severity of consequences, and settle on what preps are appropriate for us in our situation.

          I want some gold, some silver, and some cash. There are very few problems in which cash would become worthless overnight. If one of those does occur I’ll have the other preps. That’s why a ‘balanced portfolio’ works for me. For other people maybe not.

          • i think in the short run, cash is best, because people will still be expecting a recovery; in the medium-to-protracted emergency when sheer survival is the priority, then goods are most useful, like seeds, tools, and even booze. gold and silver would be most useful after society has been somewhat rebuilt and people once again have the means and desire and spare time to make things out of those metals. what good is an ingot if you can’t make anything out of it and can’t trade it for basic survival goods?

  11. I personally have a full size, fireproof gun safe bolted to the floor with about 3000 rounds of heavy ammo in the bottom. It took 2 men and a dolly to bring it in empty, so I feel reasonably sure it is here for the duration. I keep cash for my immediate needs, but for long term storage, I keep coins. Rolls and rolls of coins. They don’t wear out. As far as storing bartering item, I go for the ones that don’t have an expiration date. Salt, sugar, honey, wheat (all grains), alcohol, and all sorts of gardening tools. These will never lose value. Always the 4 “B”s. Beans, Band-Aids, bullets, and booze. No I don’t store gasoline. I don’t plan on going anywhere. No work is complete until the paper work is done, did I say TP?

  12. Change jugs work! Each year I start Jan 1st. Last year got close to $700.00 by dropping change daily. My wife empties her purse and I empty my pockets. Really works. Spend it on preps and silver.

  13. Gaye, Glad you got up and running again, was missing you articles. I have learned that tylenol/arthritis works really good for sore/tired muscles.
    Been awhile since I’ve posted. been in bed sick for 10 days now with a cold, funny how a cold affects you differntly the older you get. We have always put change in a jar of some type. I think it is very prudent to have a sizable amount of cash/change stashed. But.. if things dont improve for some time, no cash or medals of any type will be good, simply because after an initial event, systems will still be down. As goes for radiation fallout, if its really bad, how long can you keep going with those mimimal preps you have saved, or be able to consume food stuffs after, say 2 months.soon, you will either run out, or, no one has anything to barter with. these are at best, temporary, although nessesary. Hence the long term resolution of storing food, having skills, and a means of procuring things primitively. i know from experimenting, that tupperware is waterproof. rubbermaid is good, but not water proof for storing outside somewhere, above, or below ground outside, I would vacuum seal, then place the items in a tupperware container. if you have a garden, or chicken coop, you can hide them somewhere around these areas, or in a hollow log or tree and plant a daffodile with a colored rock or something. by the by, if anyone knows of a reputable source for purchasing small denominations(ie dimes, quarters,etc) silver/gold, I would be quite interested. I am on a limited budget, but would like to purchase a little at a time.

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