18 Ways to Prepare Without Spending a Cent

There are many great ways to use a percentage of your income or extra spending money to prepare for an uncertain future. Survival food with a long shelf life is a big one, of course, as are a water filtration system, a generator, non-GMO seeds and others.

But not all survival preparation requires a budget. In fact, there are many ways to prepare for a disaster without spending a dime. We will cover some free disaster prep ideas here, where the only investment will be your time.

Educate Yourself

This is a great preparedness strategy, as there are numerous ways to teach yourself about a variety of survival topics. Research everything you can regarding how to survive a disaster.

Head to your local library to see what disaster planning resources you can find there. Then go online.

You’ll easily find a wealth of free information on surviving a crisis. Read prepper blogs, find tutorials and watch survival videos on YouTube.

You can also connect via social media with survivalists and preppers. Get to know them and learn as much as you can from their experiences, including their mistakes.

If you need emergency survival topic ideas for research, the list below and book recommendations will get you started.

Medical Preparedness

Start with these books if your library has them:

  • Emergency War Surgery: The Survivalist’s Medical Desk Reference
  • The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help Is Not on the Way
  • Where There Is No Doctor.

Dental Preparedness

Start with the book below if your library has it. If not, there are some great online resources for this topic:

  • Where There Is No Dentist.

Food and Water Preservation

Here are a few books to start with:

  • Survival Pantry: The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage, Water Storage, Canning and Preserving
  • Harvesting H2O: A Prepper’s Guide to the Collection, Treatment and Storage of Drinking Water While Living off the Grid.

Survival Foraging

You can find a lot of foraging information online, but if you prefer books, look for these at your library:

  • Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
  • The Complete U.S. Army Survival Guide to Foraging Skills, Tactics and Techniques
  • The Illustrated Guide to Edible Wild Plants.

Securing Your Home

Start with the books below and then head online for more information:

  • Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense If It All Falls Apart
  • Barbed Wire, Barricades and Bunkers: The Free Citizen’s Guide to Fortifying the Home Retreat.

General Survival Information

There are so many books on this topic, but here are a few favorites:

  • Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide: Food, Shelter, Security, Off-the-Grid Power and More Life-Saving Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living
  • Urban Preppers with Kids, Pets & Parents: Disaster Survival for the Family
  • How to Survive Anywhere: A Guide for Urban, Suburban, Rural and Wilderness Environments.

Discover Your Community

Take a look around your neighborhood. It’s likely you know a few neighbors but not everyone in your community. Now is the time to get to know many of your neighbors. After all, they can be excellent resources when push comes to shove, and that’s who will surround you when a disaster hits. Bonus points if you live close to a trained medical professional. Make them your new best friend.

Map out the vicinity and figure out who can provide what in a crisis. It’s more than knowing what they do professionally. Keep in mind an avid hobby hunter would be an excellent friend to have when you’re left to provide meat for your family.

Ask friendly questions to get to know more about their interests. Figure out who is the hiker, gardener, etc. If you have the resources, you can host a neighborhood party, or just get in the habit of taking an evening stroll and start chatting with everyone you see, seeking out those you don’t know.

Beyond neighbors, learn more about your general area. Find the public lands close by and spend time reading trail maps and hiking the area. You never know when that knowledge will come in handy.

Home Planning

There are a few ways within your home to prepare for free. Start off by gathering personal documents such as proof of identification, property records, insurance policies, medical information and financial records.

If you have a fireproof safe, store everything there. If not, make sure documents are hidden away and in a waterproof bag.

Next up, know how to shut off utilities. Many natural disasters result in broken utility lines. Test yourself and make sure you can quickly turn off gas, electricity and water.

Do you need a special tool to shut any of these off? If so, store it in a place where you can grab it fast. Teach others in your household how to shut off utilities as well.

Another preparation item for the home is planning evacuation routes. If you have children in the home, this is especially important. Teaching them how to escape quickly — and escape from different areas of the home — may save their lives. Make it a game and time them to encourage speed.

Learn a New Skill

Do you know how to can food or start a garden from heirloom seeds? Are you an expert in self-defense? What do you know about home repairs or car repairs?

These are all skills that will come in handy during an emergency. Check locally. Often you can find free classes through your library and community centers.

Conserve Water

Why not start collecting rainwater for harvest? Are you able to collect rainwater legally? Check city codes before you start, as this is a great way to prep for free. Ideally, you can find a free food-grade barrel.

Make friends with local restaurant managers and owners and then ask if you can have their used barrels. You can also check Craigslist, local classifieds and freecycle.org.


These are all free yet important ways to start prepping for a disaster. However, keep in mind you’ll still need to spend some money to have the essential prep supplies such as survival food, water filters, a generator, etc.

Regardless, educating yourself should always be a top priority in disaster survival preparation.

And at the bare minimum, both FEMA and the Red Cross recommend Americans have at least 72 hours of nonperishable food on hand for an impending emergency.

Well, right now — we have one more incredible tip to save yourself some money.

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