Prepping on a Budget – How To Get Survival Supplies When You Have Almost No Money

For as little cash outlay as possible, I look at the prepping lifestyle as getting your preps. I’m losing plenty of my cash just trying to get around in the world and I don’t have anything else to plan for.

I’ve come across many ways to get a lot of my preps for little to no cost. I’m pretty sure you can use one or more of these ideas to help you save money on your own gear and supplies no matter what your situation.

Dumpster Diving

I’m going to start with the free stuff, for that’s where you should start. I found just about everything under the sun while diving in the dumpster.

Check out grocery stores, if you want food. Literal tons of produce are thrown away. A great deal of that can still be used. You’ll find expired bread, rolls, bagels, pastries, cakes, frozen entrées, dented cans, and much more. You can eat it yourself, feed it to your livestock, cut it up and dehydrate it for food storage or even trade it to others.

Diving construction sites should provide you with all the building material you’ll ever need. Of course, you won’t find too many plywood sheets or full-length dimensional lumber, but you should be able to scrounge enough for most prepper construction projects. Make sure to seek permission from the foreman to go through the “Scrap”

Business dumpsters are usually full of cardboard; you can get anything you want for free if you have a use for that. Sometimes you will come across returns from the store that were tossed in the dumpster. These are repairable at times or may not even have anything wrong with them in the first place.

Apartment dumpsters are usually pretty good to hit at around the end of the month. They have whatever the tenants moving out did not feel like having to move. Many times I’ve found boxes full of food where somebody emptied their pantry and put the box next to the dumpster.

You may be lucky enough to have a friend who works at the dump and allows you to wander around during working hours in search of things.

Just keep an eye out in all of this for things that you can use or sell. Still bringing decent money is aluminum, brass and copper and dumpsters are full of the stuff.
Dumpsters are a gold mine with free prepping supplies, or things you can sell to buy those supplies. I even found ammunition, money, tools and military items.

Related: 11 Survival Tricks Learned from Homeless People

Dollar Store

There are some YouTube videos out there, with the dollar store challenge. You get $10 and you’ve got to buy enough to get you out in the wild for a night, start a fire and provide three meals.

I had my own thoughts after watching a couple of these and went to my grocery store for nothing over a dollar shop.

I found your usual lighters and matches, but I also found a 10×12 drop cloth that is lightweight and ideal for a bug-out bag.

If you were taking up the challenge or had very little money, one of the chef’s knives for a dollar would make a useful knife for survival.

But what really surprised me about the dollar store is that mine has shelf stable milk for a quart. Most is at least six months out of date. There are also a number of other food items that you might want to check out if you’re willing to pack your own MRE type meals.

 Thrift Store

I consider thrift shops to be hit or missed. When they hit they actually pay off, and they tend to be kind of boring when they miss.

Thrift Store - DisAbility Partners

Look for cast iron pots, Dutch ovens and skillets in the cooking section along with knives or other utensils you may not have that would help you butcher, store or otherwise prepare food for storage. Through the years I’ve seen a lot of dehydrators; if you get one, make sure it’s one that has a fan to move the air. The still air ones are not working well (that is why they are in thrift stores).

If they have a section on camping, look well over it. I saw a lot of Coleman stuff there. For $5, I got my existing two burner stoves.

Look for good work boots in clothing section. I picked up a pair of nearly new insulated Chippewa work boots for $0.45, yes, that’s cents. If you search hard enough you will have Camo and used BDU’s.

The last thing will be to look at the books. I noticed that it looked as if someone’s mad prepper uncle has died and all his books were donated by the family.

Thrift stores can have some really good finds for very little money. Here are 50 prepper items to shop for at the thrift store or yard sale.

Antique Stores

Antique stores are great to find that one Item thayout want or need, and you just don’t want to spend money on a new one.

If a prepper wants a job completed, you can be sure that the same form of work was most likely done by someone 100 years ago. What the old timers used to do that job will be found in an antique store.

Flea Markets

Many of us preppers like to rummage around a flea market looking for supply and gear deals. I’ve had too many good deals to list, but you can find things to invest in like knives, guns, animal traps, military surplus, farm and homesteading equipment, or even silver coins to invest in.

In a flea market, you never know what might pop up.

Salvage Grocery Store

A few miles from our house we have what they call a salvage grocery store. Every week we try to go and see what’s being thrown into the bargain bin.

Such shops buy by the truckload expired, nearly expiring, damaged and overstocked goods and make them available to the general public.

Ours is similar to a regular grocery, with only the small side of its aisles. Where it differs is that, every week, much of the stock turns over. One week they might have a lot of coffee (lots of different brands really cheap) and none at all next week.

We found some incredible offers. A few months ago we saw tuna wrapped with oregano in olive oil. It looked like high-end product, packed with olive oil that it could store for ages to come. We bought everything that they had at $.59/can. I looked up online when we got home and found it was some European tuna which cost 5 euros/can!

These salvage grocery stores can be great places to pick up food you’re planning to store, and sometimes if you’re lucky you can get some real high-end stuff at a price.


I love local auctions. I have gotten lots of gear at auctions for much less than it would cost me even in a surplus store. I have picked up a shotgun for $20, cheap ammo, prepper and survival books, Backwoodsman magazines (primo stuff there) and lots of other things, sometimes by the boxful for a $1 bid.

Just be careful you don’t get into the auction frenzy and pay more than things are worth. Here are the 50 low-priced items that will be invaluable when SHTF.

Online Shopping

When I’m searching for something unique, I keep an eye on items like eBay and Craigslist. I figure out how much I’m going to spend, and not go over.

A few years ago, I decided that everyone in the family needed a fiberglass hunting bow. It took me about a month but for them, I paid less than $20 each and now we each have one along with a couple of spare parts.

Shop around and be prepared to let someone win the bid; it’s not a competition.

Second Job

Need a Second Job? |

When anything else fails and you still don’t seem to be able to scrounge up your stuff, you may need to bite the bullet and find a second job.

I have a mate, who as an accountant, makes a comfortable living. He also has a second job in a grocery store, as a clerk. He puts his entire second income into a different bank account and makes use of it for mad money. Events like vacations and hunting trips.

If you have taken a similar approach to your preparations and have designated one income stream or a portion of one to purchase gear and preparations you should be able to set a budget and plan how to purchase any piece of gear your heart desires.


The main thing to consider is to always look for a cheaper or even free way to get it. When you see something on a deal and can get more than one, get it and then swap it for something else you like. Always, keep an eye out always for items you can sell. You may not need it, but you would have the extra cash if you can sell it.

Without much cash, our predecessors did fine for themselves. Despite no capital at all, the Native Americans did well by themselves.

All it takes is the right way of thinking and keeping your eyes open for opportunities to keep your hard-earned cash.