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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Little Things Add Up

A lot of the ads that I see in the prepper magazines and online offer food and other supplies in large quantities. The common “year's supply” of food for one person starts at around $1000 and there is no upper limit. I'm seeing a year's worth of MREs going for $5-10,000 depending on the vendor.

Shelter is often sold the same way; tents are still fairly cheap, but buying/building a cabin or underground shelter starts to get into the “second home” price range. Folks around here that live in a flood plain (which means they have no basements) have been buying tornado shelters that sit in their garages. These are essentially a concrete box with a heavy door and which cost as much as a good used car. Getting pricing is difficult due to the costs of shipping and varying local codes and conditions, but I've seen reports on underground concrete bomb shelters that cost $100,000 and up. Around here, $100k will get you a starter home in a small community.

Firearms are another field where every “expert” has his/her ideal combination of “required” guns that everyone should own. A quality handgun, shotgun, and rifle combo will start at around $1500 and again, there is no upper limit.

This form of sticker shock can be daunting to new preppers. Being expected to shell out large sums of money that they don't have is one of the more common replies I get when I ask friends why they don't prepare more. If all you read is the ads, prepping looks too expensive for a lot of people, but that's not the case. There's no reason anyone should be expected to pay out a year's wages just to get the basics covered. If you have an extra $100k laying around and can spend it on preparation, more power to you, but you're in the minority; most of us have to take another route.

It's been stated that anything can be built given enough time, money, and manpower, and that a shortage of any one of those three can usually be made up for by increasing the other two. A prime example is the Burma Road project of 1937-38, when the decision was made to build a road from British-held Burma through the lower end of the Himalayas into China to supply Chinese troops fighting the Imperial Japanese Army shortly before WW2. 200,000 laborers built 717 miles of road through mountainous terrain in less than two years, mostly by hand. Time was short, but manpower was plentiful and money was available, so two of the three made it possible. Building up your supplies can be accomplished in the same manner.

If you don't have the money, invest your time and manpower. Repairing/modifying your gear, preserving your own food, and building your own shelter are three good examples of this. I know that canning and drying your own food allows people with food allergies the option of having stored food since very little to none of the commercially produced stuff completely is free of gluten, soy, dairy, or nuts. Storm shelters can be built by hand with a small crew a lot cheaper than having a precast box delivered, but it will take a lot more time.

If you have the time to do the research and money is coming in slowly (I know people with a “preps” line in their monthly budget), start small and trade up to what you want. I have a friend who really wanted a top-end 1911A1 pistol, but couldn't afford the $3000 price tag. He started by buying a cheaper, polymer-framed pistol in .45ACP and as his budget allowed, he traded it for a lower-priced 1911A1. After three or four more trades he eventually got the pistol that he wanted, but it took him a couple of years and he probably spent a bit more that the $3000 due to losses in trade value. At no time was he ever without a serviceable pistol, and he didn't have to go into debt to get the one he really wanted, both of which were important to him.

If time is short, getting what you want is going to be expensive. If you've ever been around when a natural disaster strikes, you'll know all about the price-gouging and profiteering that happens with essentials like water, fuel, and generators. It's human nature, and the law of supply and demand is about as flexible as the law of gravity. Manpower can mitigate this a bit if you have the bodies available to seek out smaller supplies at more reasonable prices.

If you're alone or working with a small team, money will make things happen faster but time is usually what gets spent. I could spend thousands of dollars to stockpile ammunition for the various firearms I own, but I prefer to spend a couple of hundred to buy the equipment and supplies to reload. Spent brass is cheap (or free), and the components cost about 25% of what store-bought ammo does. I can also tailor my ammo for specific guns, increasing my accuracy which means more efficient hunting.

Don't let the lists and big price tags scare you away from getting better prepared. Break things down into smaller, more manageable pieces and take them on one at a time. The old joke about “How do you eat an elephant?” applies: One bite at a time.

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