Most people don't bother to prepare for uncertain times until it's too late. It's the "ant and the grasshopper" parable written on a human scale.
"The problem is that while fear is a great motivator, it isn't conducive to smart decisions," said Diane Vukovic of PrimalSurvivor.com, an online personal preparedness website.
"No matter how terrified you are about a certain event happening, you still need to go about prepping in a calm, logical way."
Once considered a fringe "conspiracy theory," the idea of preparedness has gone mainstream as global events unfold. Many online "preppers" have said that only a small percentage of Americans prepare for potential food shortages and civil unrest.
However, the concern among would-be preppers on a limited income is the cost of preparing in an inflationary environment.
The good news is that prepping is still relatively inexpensive to do, Vukovic said.
"Chances are you don't need an expensive gas mask, bulletproof vest, or other hyped-up survival gear. You'll see that most preparedness supplies are very cheap," she said.
Rule No. 1 is don't buy out of fear or panic.
What's on the Menu?PrepperWebsite.com host Todd Sepulveda recommends that budget-minded preppers start with a menu of necessary items such as dry food and canned goods, which are still plentiful at the grocery store.
"People trying to prep their food storage sometimes go to the grocery store and start buying random items. Later, they have to try to figure out how it will all work together and put dinner together," he told The Epoch Times.
"Starting from a menu takes out all the guesswork and ensures that you won't buy unnecessary items at the grocery store."
Sepulveda advises making a one-week menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner of what your family usually eats, making a grocery list, and keeping a clean copy for the following week.
"If you want to stock up a month's worth of food at one time, just quadruple your list," he said.
"You can bring more variety to your family food storage if you make a two-week menu and double that. That way, you are not eating the same foods every week."
Food storage isn't hard and doesn't have to be expensive.
"You just need to plan it out," Sepulveda said.
Other websites that cater to preppers of all experience levels include Graywolf Survival, Apartment Prepper, Bioprepper, Mom With a PREP, The Prepared, and many others. These sites cover a full range of topics on disaster preparedness—from creating emergency kits and bug-out bags, medical and first-aid supplies, water filtration, cooking without electricity, solar power, and living off-grid.
"Even if you have zero money to spend, you still have a budget—it's just zero. And, yes, it is possible to prepare with absolutely no money," Vukovic said.
She said once you have a list of everything you need, prioritize the items: trash bags and buckets, for example, are inexpensive or even free.
"To make sure you don't forget anything important, divide your list into categories. As you buy supplies, make sure you get items from each category," she said.
Live Within Your MeansEven if you have no money for prepping, you'll need to know about wilderness survival and how to make supplies even on a shoestring budget.
"For example, you can get free buckets from local stores. In an emergency, these buckets could then be used for things like collecting rainwater or making an emergency toilet, which is incredibly important but something a lot of people forget about," Vukovic said.
If you have a small budget, divide your list into expensive items: propane camp stove, propane heater, personal safety, and inexpensive items such as canned food, tarps, tape, and bleach.
"Buy a few inexpensive items every week and set aside a certain amount of money each week or month to go toward pricier items," Vukovic said. "Consider shopping at thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales for lower prices on gently used items."
For those fortunate to have a large budget, she recommends that beginning preppers resist the urge to buy "fancy" or "cool" gear and supplies at the outset.
"Instead, do your research and invest in quality items that have good reviews [or] come highly recommended by those who have used the item," she said. "Otherwise, you might find the item you bought is unsuitable for your needs and have to buy another."
It's also important to back up all essential documents in the event of a significant life-altering event, she said.
"Having backups of your important documents might not be a life-or-death issue, but it will make the aftermath of a disaster much less stressful," Vukovic said.
"For example, if your entire home is destroyed in a fire, knowing your insurance policy number and having a list of valuables in the home will make it easier to get a refund.
"Likewise, if your children had to switch schools after a disaster, you'd be grateful you backed up copies of their school records."
Backing up your documents can be done cheaply or at no cost, she said.
"You can put them on an encrypted USB and keep this in a bank safe or other secure location. There are also some secure cloud storage platforms you can use," Vukovic said.
"While you are at it, back up all of your family photos. If your home is destroyed, at least you won't lose all of your children's baby photos and other memories."