ad banner

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

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: November 24, 2020
Fast Track Prep Tip #5: Every Prepper Needs a Cash Reserve

This site contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Full Disclosure Here.

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!

Click Here To Vote For Me at Top Prepper Websites!

If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Facebook which is updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.  You can also follow Backdoor Survival on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ and purchase my book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage from Amazon.

Bargain Bin: For your discernment, here are of some budget friendly items that I personally own.

How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget:  This book, by my blogging colleague, Bernie Carr, is a concise, easy to read guidebook for getting started without all the falderal about building a bunker full of stuff.  Instead, it offers a roadmap for getting started with emergency and disaster preparation in a practical and pragmatic manner.

Mini Compass & Thermometer:  I have been working with BDS Sponsor, Vivogear on a special promotion for Backdoor Survival readers. Check out this compass and thermometer combination for $1.99 with free shipping using coupon code BACKDOOR. I have ordered one for myself and will include it with the pocket survival kit that I carry on my keychain.

FordEx Group 300lm Mini Cree Led Flashlight Torch Adjustable Focus Zoom Light Lamp:  Here we go with another flashlight.  It is super mini sized, bright and waterproof.  Plus, it uses a single, standard AA sized battery.  This my number one deal!

Survivor HK-106320 Outdoor Fixed Blade Knife with Fire Starter:  Equipped with a full-tang, matte-finished, black stainless-steel tanto blade, this versatile and practical military-style tanto knife is a terrific choice for knife enthusiasts. The knife also includes a thick green cord-wrapped handle that allows for a secure and comfortable grip, along with a pommel lanyard that keeps your blade handy at all times. Other features include a durable green nylon belt sheath with a Velcro securing strap, a magnesium alloy fire starter, and a total length of 7 Inch.

ProForce Commando Wire Saw Bulk, Ideal For Survival Kits:  Here is what one reviewer had to say:

“When I got the saw, I thought it was a dinky little wire. My expectations were blown away!! I can cut a three inch tree in three min. I would much so recommend that you get this saw.”

FROM THE ALMOST FREE DEPARTMENT –  SURVIVAL GEAR FOR $5.00 OR LESS:  This page is due for an update but the deals are still good.

The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage:  My eBook will provide you with everything you need to create an affordable food storage plan, including what to buy and how to store it. Nothing scary and nothing overwhelming – you really can do this!


EMERGENCY ESSENTIALS Mountain House SUPER SALE! 25% – 50% off all cans!

This month the big news is that all Mountain House tins are 25% off.  Of course my favorite is the Mountain House Chili Mac iconbut I know the Beef Stroganoff iconis really popular as well.

Mountain House

A recent Mountain House Order

Other specials to consider are the Fruits and Vegetables Favorites Combo and Freeze-Dried Fruit and Vegetable Favorites Combo – both at a whopping 49% off.

These are just a few of the items that are on sale.  Click on this link for more:  Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials.


I earn a small commission from purchases made when you begin your Amazon shopping experience here.

The Amazon Top Ten Most Wanted Survival and Outdoor Items
Emergency Preparedness Items from
Shop Amazon Tactical – Great Selection of Optics, Knives, Cases, Equipment

Help support Backdoor Survival. Purchases earn a small commission and for that I thank you!

Aff | Emergency Blanket

[DEAL] Emergency Survival Blanket

Pocket-size survival blanket could save a life - throw in your bag or car.

Get Cheap Security
Aff | Tactical Pen
[DEAL] Ultimate Concealed Weapon Stay Protected

44 Responses to “Fast Track Prep Tip #5: Every Prepper Needs a Cash Reserve”

  1. 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
    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.

    • When making changes, there is usually some glitches which need fixing. Just letting you know so you can fix or I can. 🙂

  2. 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%.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  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.

    • You can also just lay the pipe next to existing water pipes in the basement. It is pretty unlikely that anyone will be looking hard at those.

    • 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. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. You need to convert the coins to bills at some point, but put them away in reserve. Requires discipline to do this.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

Leave a Reply