Preps or Barter? Which, and WHEN?

Some preppers with a moderate amount of time in the game have built up their stocks to where they feel fairly secure in their ability to go it on their own for a few months.  At some stage, the question arises, “Along with plans to increase our reserves, what else can we do? What about precious metals, feel-good stuff, comfort items and barter materials?

Every project worth undertaking is worth planning
. Without that in place, first, you’ll waste far more than you think. Get your planned preps in place first.  For the first timer, shooting for the basics to a 3 month level is a must, in my book. That’s three months of water (either on hand, via filtration of local supplies, or both…), food and medicine, to go along with your shelter and defense. As pertains to shelter, the “3 months” is your rent or mortgage payments and taxes, association fees and utilities. Within these categories, include your own preferences for fun and sanity items. Stock some comfort foods, games, movies, toys, practice ammo…. Some of these you have in abundance now, so organize them and call them done. The others, well, have at it. Items that are expended in pursuit of a hobby should be stocked up, too.

These things are important to your future, and need to be secured. Others will have an eye on them, if discovered, so be watchful.  Think security, but not to the point of paranoia.

Because the are important to you and others, they classify as barter items in the right situation
. If you can, stock up on extra for trade, or charity. Rotate these items as well, and keep the whole inventory fresh and up to date.

Precious metals are monetary hedges, first. They will help you preserve some of your capital in the event of a dollar slide. In that case, you’ll still need to sell them, and that requires buyers.  If your are hedging, pick your exit time wisely.

PMs serve another purpose. This is secondary, in my mind, but it is possible that PMs will have utility in a post-TEOTWAKI world. If things get so bad that communities need to be rebuilt, or even restarted, an agreed upon system of currency will be necessary. Gold and silver are universal exchange media. Short of a destroyed world, where they are useless, they will always have some value – conceivably even when paper currency, or even credit, is non-existent.

As for items that are purely dedicated for barter purposes, the lists are seemingly endless. Here is an extremely short sampling, taken totally off the top of my head.

  • Tools
  • cigarettes and alcohol
  • garden seed
  • salt
  • long term storage food
  • medical supplies and first aid kits
  • clothing
  • footwear
  • feminine supplies
  • razors
  • deodorant (do the world a favor and stock up on that!)
  • religious materials
  • oil
  • fuel
  • bicycles and parts
  • paper and pens
  • flashlights and batteries
  • cheap radios
  • cheap knives
  • anything other than self protection items that you might find in a BOB….

The internet has a lot of lists, and some are excellent. Some will boggle your mind.

I suggest that your list of barter items be developed and rounded out per plan. Here is a sample plan.


  • if you have excess funds for barter goods.
  • what percentage of your prep budget that will go into barter goods.
  • if you have barter items that you don’t want to stock, and sell or trade them away.
  • Review lists of barter goods and consider costs.
  • See what potential barter goods can double as useful items for you if you need to raid that storehouse. (The Three-fer rule!)
  • Consider stocking only items you know well enough. The more you know about them, and thus their usefulness and value, the better a deal you can haggle.
  • Prioritize your shopping list, but be prepared to deviate if a great deal pops up.
  • Look for your chosen items on sale.
  • Review your plan at least quarterly and update it as needed.

Pulling cash away from your own preps is not a good idea if you are not yet squared away on them. Your barter plan should take a solid back seat to your primary plan. Targets of shopping opportunity do present themselves, so be flexible enough to snatch them up, but always remember you primary goals. With a plan, you can succeed. Without a plan, you are gambling your substance away.

Barter items can often be found at discount places like Goodwill Industries, Dollar Tree, Grocery Outlet, Salvation Army, 99c Stores, etc..  Second hand stores sometimes get new items in. Our local Goodwill store gets overstock from Target semi-regularly. Don’t overlook them, or look down your nose! I have a lot of nice items that cost me just a few dollars.

Another place for barter things is a swap meet. You can find tools of all sorts, spare parts, raw materials, defense items and all manner of supplies depending on the nature of the meet. These meets can be themed on the open mall model, gun shows, automotive swaps meets, fairs and others.

There are also online swap meets and barter houses. Here are a few:

….. and of course, Craig’s List

Be creative. Have fun. And don’t be afraid to turn around a good deal to make a few bucks.

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