Cash Will Be King When the SHTF (Unless It’s Totally Mad Max)

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Author of The ULTIMATE Survival Gear Handbook and Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City,

Unless some extinction-level event takes the entire planet back into the Stone Age, cold hard cash will still be used.  Cash will be king when the SHTF unless it’s a full-on Mad Max scenario like the one Selco survived.

I get asked frequently about the role of cash during disasters and emergencies. It seems many starting in preparedness think we’ll jump from the pot directly into the fire if the SHTF, with greenbacks becoming a useless relic. 

In reality, SHTF is a slow slide into hell, the proverbial frog in the boiling pot nine out of ten times. It’s exactly what’s happening with COVID-19 and almost everything coming from it

I already wrote about the black market and how it precedes bartering in pretty much any scenario. The same can be applied to money: unless TEOTWAWKI happens, cash will be in use and thus necessary as a prepping item.

Cash is the primary means of payment when things are unstable

When I say cash, I mean paper money (a.k.a. legal tender). There’s currently a battle against cash, and it may become a collector item in the future.  But we haven’t got to that point yet, and objectively, it may still take some time. Also, one thing is what the elites and governments want and push for, and the other is reality. 

In this transitory and volatile moment, going with their narrative and getting rid of paper money “because it’s inevitable” is essentially entrapping and limiting ourselves. It’s the same with most government agendas, by the way – and the opposite of what preppers do.

Trading is a basic human necessity, but paying for it is something else

All the various forms of trading – formal, informal, black market, bartering, etc. – exist simultaneously, all the time, and everywhere. Whatever happens, these exchange systems will be present, and people will trade as they do today, generally speaking.

What varies is the preponderance of one system or the other according to the circumstances. Society will resort more to one or the other in direct proportion to the severity and duration of the crisis: the worse it gets, the more informal the whole economy will be, and vice-versa. 

But what good is plastic or virtual money if the systems used to process those non-physical transactions are out of order for some reason? 

When thinking about SHTF, consider that most people in most places aren’t used to dealing with precious metals and other alternative means of payment for goods and services (much less direct bartering). 

There’s little common reference for that, and it takes some time for society to adjust, even in extreme circumstances. In this article, Selco shared his experience with precious metals when the SHTF.

Cash is freedom and flexibility in any context.

It’s more sensible to prepare for what’s probable rather than for what’s possible

Said differently, it’s essential to prepare for sudden disruptions in the supply chain, especially for those living in disaster-prone or unstable places. But I’d argue it’s equally important to be financially prepared. 

Why? For one, economic crises are quite common and frequent. Between 1970 and 2017, financial meltdowns leading to systemic banking crises have occurred 151 times in 117 countries. Even in developed nations, for instance, twice in U.S. (1988, 2007) and Greece (2008 and 2011).

But here’s what should be more concerning

  • These slumps are getting worse and more contagious every time. 
  • Without the heavy intervention of governments, central banks, or the I.M.F. to bail the system out, things would have been a lot worse in most (if not all) cases.
  • Also, there will be a point when this strategy won’t work or even cause a crash.
  • Finally, these interventions blow the bubble even bigger, so maybe more countries, people, and institutions will be affected next time.

Financial preparedness comes in many different forms.

Bank holidays and account freezings come without warning

Granted, only seven times during that period have governments suspended banking activity. It’s an extreme measure to safeguard the apparatus and forestall even larger meltdowns. 

But when they do, it’s sudden and without warning. Governments, institutions, and the market act like that. Understandably so: warnings would precipitate events and cause everyone and everything to go into a tailspin. 

So, one day we hit the A.T.M., and there’s a huge line. Or, it’s either empty or just dead. Banks are closed, too. Plastic and other payment systems may be out of order or overwhelmed. But the bills will keep coming, and we still have to buy food, fuel, and pay taxes, of course.

When the SHTF, people run to the banks

“No, they run to the stores.” Sure they do – but the hordes still have to pay for toilet paper and food. They don’t do that with bonds or silver coins but with currency. In practice, it’s the equivalent of a bank run.

The modern economic and financial systems are profoundly complex and highly interconnected. Tradings, exchanges, and payments rely on automated algorithm operation: random movements can trigger stampedes with potentially cascading effects. And those are hard to contain. 

When things go bust, people need cash now. It’s that simple.

Compounding threats

I’ve already mentioned the surreal level of indebtedness that’s drowning the world in previous articles to highlight how fragile and unstable things are. Of course, no one in power will admit to that. Much less warn about its dangers and potential consequences.

Add the risks posed by cyberattackspower failures and blackoutslockdownsThe Great Reset, and other very present and real threats. At any point soon, we can have a systemic collapse sparked by a market crash or other Black Swan events as the catalyst.

Look at the places in which these things have happened before. The hard truth is, this whole thing is a castle of cards on top of a ticking time bomb.

How economic collapses unfold

Each country has a different economy and context, so each one gets hit differently. But the script is always the same since even before the Roman empire.

Economies going kaput and currencies failing constantly lead to a painful combination of inflation, deflation, stagflation, and more. Assets can lose value while first necessity items booms. Growth stalls, taxes explode unemployment skyrockets. 

The scope of government responses is equally predictable: a litany of measures that, time and time again, has proven to solve nothing and make things worse. Stupidities like price and wage control, rationing, and others derail production and supply chains, leading to shortages, bank runs, strikes, and other upheavals. 

Then, anything can happen: confiscations, devaluations, super-taxations, and other tricks

In 1990 the newly-elected president declared a week-long bank holiday in Brazil. A few days into it, the government seized 80% of the money from people’s accounts and savings (on average) as an attempt to tame the 84% monthly inflation. 

That confiscation amounts to an estimated US$ 100 billion, or 30% of Brazilian G.D.P. at the time. But hey, it’s not stealing when it’s official

A decade later, Argentina defaulted on its debt and instantly collapsed. People there also thought their savings in USD were safe in the banks. They were painfully wrong:

“On Thursday, Gonzales awoke to find that the government was holding his money hostage. Under extraordinary new banking restrictions, he won’t be allowed to make any withdrawals until June 2003.” [source]

If you know that cash will be king, you are far ahead of those staring at an empty ATM machine or a locked bank.

Similar situations happened in Cyprus, Greece, Venezuela, and others

It sounds like a third-world thing, and indeed the data backs that. Well, for the most part: F.R.D.’s Executive Order 6102 in 1933 was, in practice, a confiscation. One can argue that the current low yields are a “soft” confiscation, especially given rampant inflation. 

But whatever, my point is precisely that: the worldwide economy is looking a lot like a third-world economy (with rare exceptions). Don’t think for a moment governments won’t resort to extreme measures in desperation or that these things won’t affect you because of X or Y. Be prepared.

Below is a list of some recommendations based on real-life crises of the (recent) past. If you want the short version, here it is: Cold hard cash should be just another item in our prepping list, and balanced personal finance is an asset during any crisis. For more detail, follow on:

Cash will be king (stay liquid)

If a financial collapse freezes the system entirely or partially, it’ll probably be for a limited time. How long? Impossible to say. It depends on a lot of things.

If it’s localized (i.e., a few countries or markets), it can be anything from days to a couple of weeks to fix and reboot the system. If it’s something more severe and widespread, it could be longer. Remember, everything is connected.

Either way, it’s unlikely people will turn to gold and silver to pay their bills or buy their food in the short or even midterms. When the market crashes, such as it did early in 2020 due to the pandemic, cash disappears. Everyone has bills to pay and margins to cover, so people dump assets and rush for cash.

Reduce (or eliminate) debts

We’ve changed from a savings-based economy to a debt-based economy during the past half-century. With that, savers have been heavily penalized. Money parked is losing value and fast.

But the fact remains that debt is a drag. Regardless of what happens (Big Reset, a Jubilee, whatever), it’s hard to survive with debt, much less improve our standard of living during a difficult period when we’re overburdened with debt. Paying off debt is extremely important. (Although there are some cases in which you should direct your money elsewhere.)

Plan ahead

Millions in the U.S. (and billions worldwide) rely on their pension funds and social securities for their retirement. These funds are based on the stock and bond markets. 

A collapse in any of those would jeopardize the future of an entire generation. Or at the very least bring a lot of instability and concern to a considerable number of people. 

This is more of an a-side note to the topic but nonetheless important. Get to know how secure is your future. We’ve entered a period of serious generational changes, and this will accelerate.

Keep finances in order

Economic downturns force people to change their standard of living. But it’s much better to make any adjustments before the real storm hits. If nothing serious happens, well, even better.

There’s no telling when or how hard it will hit, but it’s never too soon to start and try to balance things out, if possible, creating a surplus that one may use to increase savings or invest.

I’ve recently moved to a place where rent is 30% cheaper than my previous home. It’s still a safe and decent place, and I can still walk or bike to work and most places like before, so I kept those savings. 

That’s just one of many changes I made in my finance and consumption habits recently. Having lived half of my life with high inflation, economic shocks, and all, I prefer to sacrifice now when it’s not yet too bad (especially when I see dark clouds forming on the horizon). Reducing your fixed expenses can really help.

Keep a cash reserve

This is a straight prepping tip and the main point of this article. Forearmed is forewarned. The purpose of such reserve is particular: to cope with sudden disruptions in currency supply or banking services that can come from market crashes and abrupt monetary policies.

The amount should be related to personal expenses and needs and in proportion to one’s finances. There’s no rule, but in general, I keep enough for three months, at least. Six is better. (Here’s some advice on building an emergency fund.)

Once again, this is not money for wealth preservation or investment but survival. It’s the getaway money. Inflation is running hot everywhere, so it’s a bad strategy to keep a lot under the mattress. Besides, any situation that’s not resolved in 90 or 120 days will require a shift in strategy. 

If possible, have this reserve in your local currency and some in a foreign to diversify. Yes, even if you live in the U.S., which still has the mighty USD, it can be a good idea to have a few Euros, Yens, Swiss Francs, and British Pounds stashed. 

Always OPSEC

Rest assured, people will knock on your door (or crash it) for money long before they come for food or water.

As with other preps and stockpiles, keep your financial plans and strategies to yourself. No telling friends or family, no extravagances or overspending – be smart and play fool about it.

Don’t go into debt to pay for preps

Sometimes, I get asked if I think it’s a good idea to max out the credit card to invest in stockpiles or prepping/survival gear. This is personal but based on what I know and see. My answer is “no.” 

Some might disagree, and it’s okay. But debt is a drag, and it weighs a lot more when things get worse. SHTF doesn’t have a set date, so why rush and risk a personal financial disaster with uncertain results?

Is it essential to have an emergency kit on the ready? Absolutely. I wrote an entire book on this. But the idea is to have something basic as insurance, not drowning in debt to stock up on food, fancy stuff, loads of guns, and ammo. 

It’s much wiser to build your preps and skills slowly, in a planned way

Go for the basics first: if history is any indication, being in good financial health and having some essentials is perhaps more important than having loads of stuff we may or may not use in a potential SHTF.

The pandemic also offered a good lesson that everyone should heed: cash, toilet paper, medicines, food, and other everyday items proved more useful than fancy B.O.B.s or guns in the types of situation most of us found ourselves in the past couple of years.

What about precious metals and cryptos?

Precious metals have been used throughout history as insurance to preserve wealth and survive during difficult times.

P.M.s have a high-value-density-per-size, so from a prepper’s perspective, I’d say it’s a sensible strategy to some silver or gold (or both) stashed around.  

It can be anything from official mint and suppliers’ certified bars and coins, all the way to jewelry and silverware. Depending on the situation, even precious metal scrap will do. Gold or silver-plated “semi-precious” jewelry can be useful in some emergencies if you know what you’re doing.

When it comes to cryptos, these too have some advantages, and the biggest, in my opinion, is portability. I personally don’t see any downside to having an emergency sum allocated in a crypto coin of preference, always in a personal wallet, of course. 

Cash will be king when the SHTF in almost every scenario.

Unless we are dealing with a Mad Max scenario or an extinction-level event, cash will be king. It remains utterly important to cover for necessities. Likewise, mid-term preparations should be in place if the situation prolongs or deteriorates, so we can adapt and move on with life. 

The Organic Prepper has a wealth of information and knowledge on how to cover both, with books (and new book bundles), boot camps, and articles aplenty, on all prepping topics imaginable.

I intend to keep insisting on (and preparing for) the gradual, slow-burning SHTF, with the economy at the epicenter (or the leading cause) of most forthcoming events. It’s already happening. In practice, this means being ready for disruptions, shortages, protests, decadence, stagflation, totalitarianism – and lots of social unrest. 

Whatever the scenario, I believe cash will remain important, and having some always in reserve and ready for emergencies should be every prepper’s priority.

Do you keep cash on hand for emergencies? Do you have any tips for those who want to build a cash emergency fund? Keeping OPSEC in mind, share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments

About Fabian

Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.

Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City, is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times. 

You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor

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Fabian Ommar

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  • Very relevant article Fabian! Very down to earth and globally useful. Question: if it’s a bad idea to keep too much money hidden under the mattress and bank accounts aren’t safe either, where then is cash best kept? Do you mean that one should keep only a certain amount, say 90-120 days worth of expenses, under the mattress?

    As for building preps, cash or stuff, I would think the standard method applies: acquire a little bit at a time. Perhaps a cash withdrawal from the ATM while shopping, and buy a few extra cans of this or that, an extra box of bandages or other medical supplies, a bag of charcoal for the grill. Take advantage of sales to stock up; no one will think this odd behavior at the store, and they’ll forget you ten minutes after you’re out of their checkout line. Supplies build up very quickly that way! But always remember: it’s no good having a pile of stuff if you have nowhere to live.

    And above all things: OPSEC! This isn’t a good time to try to get neighbors into prepping, especially by giving yourself as an example. Yours is the first doorstep they’ll come to when they’re in need. One of my neighbors has always said that he doesn’t need to store food because he has bullets. I take him at his word. If his grandchild is hungry he won’t care if I am. He’ll take what he wants, if he can.

  • As a child I’ve lived through hyperinflation of the 90s when the USSR fell apart. In a few short years my parents became millionaires, if you know what I mean 😉

    My concerns with keeping cash are practical. I’m used to the first world banking system being stable and secure with encrypted online banking and the consumer fraud protection of paying with plastic. But the value of cash is not lost on me.

    How does one practically maintain a cash stash that’s both secure and accessible? Which physical places should have those bundles (house, car, money belt)? How are they to be stored securely?

    • The think I thought 90s were mild. In the early 70s at least in the USA we had the gas shortage as well as rationing. We also had the meat shortage. And hyperinflation was to the point we had price freezes, which led to the rebates.

    • Here in Texas everyone has a tall, upright gun safe.
      They’re quite large & hold anything you can think of.
      I’ve taught my kids to keep emergency money in the car.
      Always keep a secret stash a home as a fallback.
      God Bless!

    • “How does one practically maintain a cash stash that’s both secure and accessible? Which physical places should have those bundles (house, car, money belt)? How are they to be stored securely?”

      If I told you I’d have to kill you! Seriously, any suggestions that are posted here will be noted by the powers-that-be and they will know where to look after they harvest your IP and visit your home. There are books on the subject. Try to find one in a used bookstore so you don’t have a trail of trying to hide your filthy lucre. Just saying!

  • I think this is mostly wrong.

    We are clearly quite close to a global cryptocurrency, at which point the various welfare schemes around the developed world will all be replaced with a universal basic income.

    At the same time, a digital ID is clearly imminent, using vaccination as a pretext.

    Put those two technologies together and you have a technogulag, with global crypto at its heart.

    Cash will be abolished, and a windfall tax placed on gold and silver. Private crypto like Bitcoin will simply be outlawed.

    So no, cash won’t be king. Soon, it won’t exist at all.

    There might be a black market of course amongst those unwilling to be imprisoned in the technogulag, but that’s likely to rely on barter.

    • Not to be cynical, but cash will ALWAYS exist as long people want things that their overlords have banned. Like drugs, or booze, or guns, or hookers. Heck, how’s about caffeine and snacks drenched in salt or sugar? Think people will be paying for that with UBI?

      “Might be a black market”? Oh dear lord: there is already a black market, and it will be bigger than Wall Street if this cashless crap is ever rammed through

      • Cash will cease to be printed, and can only be used privately, black-market style. I would not touch printed fiat at that point. Metals or barter.

    • @Ivor, fair enough, one should do as one believes right.

      But “quite close” how? One month, one year, ten years? A lot can happen until we get there definitely. People said we’d be driving flying cars and vacationing in Jupiter in 2010.

      It’s not betting, speculating, much less gambling. Just a prepping/survival strategy based on what has worked for the past, what, 2020 years? More?

      There will be a change, absolutely. But it won’t be quick, clean, smooth, that I’m sure. That’s why I believe cash will be king, at the very least during the transition period.

      What I’m trying to achieve with this is precisely to try and escape the technogulag for as long as I can.

      • -Fabian,
        Lot to be said about escaping the technogulag.
        There are roughly 80 million Americans who will not get the vaccine.
        Then there are a few million more that they may be vaxxed, they do not agree with vaccine mandates.
        There are thousands of Europeans whom are protesting against vaccine passport and the like. Some protests into the hundred of thousands.
        Then there is Australia. Dang.
        I think these are all the same people who would look at some kind of government mandate currency, cashless society, and just say “No.”

        • Noted, and agreed. Add to that the reported BAN of ALL cryptocurrency in China as of this week.
          I’m not saying that crypto wont someday become the established means of population control, but present reporting implies it will be gradual rather than sudden.

          When the Euro was implemented in the EU, and began circulating, many people resented the usurpation of their national currencies. Despite the official value of their currencies being zeroed out after the phase-in period, people were still trading informally with their national fiat currencies for YEARS after the deadline to exchange them for Euros.

    • I think the author is talking specifically about cash during a short term crisis, as in during an economic crisis when the government suddenly declares a bank holiday, or after a natural disaster when card readers don’t work because there’s no internet access and the banks aren’t open because the power lines are down and no one has electricity. During a short-term crisis like that when you don’t have access to your electronic currency and yet you still have bills to pay (e.g. your grocery bill and dentist bill and utilities bills), cash does indeed reign supreme; it’s during the longer-term “Mad Max” crises the article briefly mentions at the beginning that cash is useless because no one will accept it as payment for anything and you no longer have any bills to pay because those goods and services and utilities for which you were being billed no longer exist.

      Basically, he’s saying civilizations and their governments rarely go out of business in a week; and in those months near the end when they’re in their death throes but society is still functioning somewhat, you’re still going to need some cash on hand to pay for necessities. There “might” be black markets? They exist already, though it’s true they tend to grow and thrive during hard times; and right up until the government and its currency collapses, they’ll typically take cash too, though they are in fact a good way to make your transition from using the official currency into participating in the barter economy.

      Yes, governments are trying to abolish cash, but it’s not something they can do all at once, much as they may wish to. Operating a purely electronic currency requires a government to have electrical infrastructure and an internet up and running at all times; and so many repressive regimes’ fatal flaw is that they’re no good at building and maintaining such grids and networks. As the old joke goes, what did Commies use to light their homes before they started using candles? Electricity!

      So yes, if you can afford to stockpile things, you should definitely always have some cash on hand to tide you over in those months between the failure of the banking system and the failure of the currency itself. For the longer term when the currency fails and all trade comes to be done on the black market through a bartering system, you should stockpile whatever barter goods are likely to be most popular with your local black market; for example, as detailed in the article “The White Ghetto” some eight years ago, Appalachia’s favorite black market trading good was (and probably still is) cans and cases of soda pop used as “pillbilly wampum” to purchase stuff like prescription drugs (without a prescription) and sexual favors from the local hookers. In your case, if lots of carbonated sugar water isn’t your idea of an ideal trade good (though I should point out it’s rather durable and fungible as trade goods go), cans of food are rather durable (even long past their “best by” date) and will probably get a friendly reception in almost any barter economy. Food certainly made a decent trade good for bartering when hyperinflation destroyed the Wiemar Regime’s currency.

      As for silver and gold, those are best kept for the very longest term: specifically, when a new government (even if it’s just a local warlord) has filled the power vacuum left in the wake of the previous government’s collapse and is maintaining enough semblance of law and order that you can actually display such precious metals in a marketplace without being immediately assaulted and robbed of them. As when ancient Rome was in its death throes, having lots of silver and gold to trade will do you no good in lawless times when roving gangs of bandits (quite often composed of the former government’s former employees) are preying on anybody they surmise to have anything of value. As in the early medieval times thereafter, however, having such treasures as family heirlooms can definitely help you with purchasing a citizenship in whatever new civilization arises from the ashes of the older one in your locale.

  • IMHO, cash always has and always will be king. The less one has to finance in life, the better. Paying cash leaves no paper trail though you might be on video IF the security cameras actually work. Even then, the retention time of security videos is likely not that long (relatively speaking).
    Paying cash also benefits small businesses. Yes, they’ve factored CC/DC fees into their prices but cash payment puts that fee into their pockets.
    Also IMHO, people fall into “rewards” traps. Talk about a treasure trove of info you’re allowing to be collected for a few paltry dollars. Few are disciplined enough to pay off CC balances every month. Sadly most cannot even if s/he wishes they could.
    The time to have cash on hand is before there are lines at the ATM. Since so few ATM only cards out there these days (chips pretty much forced their demise), you are able to pull out more cash with the DC than with an ATM card.

    • Agreed. Paying cash for things now is useful. Reward cards and paying with e-means/digital allows everything you buy to be monitored. Hell, in Australia I read they are using rewards cards to ‘track and trace’ people for the ‘disease monster’. Hard to predict exactly what causes will create future shortages and changes in finances but I would have to assume that loss of electricity is a very likely impact. How does crypto work without electricity? Barter is likely to be the most important and you want to have things on hand or skills that others will want – those will be your future ‘cash’.

      That’s my ‘five cents’ anyway. Thanks for a great site!

  • Something that isn’t addressed is what denominations of the cash that you put away. My gut feeling is that cash will be a lot like precious metals. Even if you find someone that will take your gold coins, at $3000 or more a piece, you are kind of limited on what you can buy or barter with. I recommend a combination of fives, tens, twenties, fifties and hundreds. Clothes with lots of pockets helps you in negotiating. Present the offer based on the smallest amount in one pocket. People will deal for a lessor amount if they think it’s all you have and it’s cash right then and there.

    • Stash smaller denominations. If you hand someone a 20 and the item cost 15, they may decide the item really cost 20 and you don’t get any change. Think in terms of paying the exact amount of any transaction. Ones, fives, tens — lots of them. There is a shortage of tens by the way.

  • Good article that primes a lot of thought and opinions.

    Only the right cash is king when it turns. Many times when it collapses the money is no longer good.
    American cash has always been good but that may not hold if/when we collapse.
    Sometimes using other countries cash can be dangerous as well. Feelings and emotions come into play.
    People wonder why you have that particular cash.

    There are those who’ve been caught with cash that isn’t good such as the Iraqi dinar. I know 2 guys who’ve got pallets of it that still to this day sweat it’s gonna hit ????

  • This past weekend our bank was switching over as it had got bought out by another chain. The new debit cards were supposed to go active first thing Friday morning. As of yesterday (Sunday) they were still nonfunctional. So cash it is. We were not as prepared in this area as we could have been. Will be from now on.

  • “Keeping OPSEC in mind”: Not that it will matter, in my case, as I’m looking forward to [unmentionable topic].

    All that said, I’m working on clearing my debts. Unless the crisis point happens in the next 6 months, I expect to be debt free and working on a stash of a few (sub-10) thousand. If it takes longer than a year, my liquidity will be turned into land (and interim property taxation).

    My 5-year-plan includes rectified generator power, semi-subterranean greenhouses, 2 legal stills (water and fuels), solar (2+ kinds), and part-ownership of an acre-foot of water. (if you own a qtr-acre-foot, your one-time or two-time withdrawal, within your legal limit, for a cistern should not be a legal crisis.) Mind, I’m aware that it’s a tentative plan, not a “damn the torpedos” plan. Also, I hope to barter tech replacements for neighborly leniency.

  • I consider cash to be low on the list of my preps but some cash is absolutely necessary. If the powers ban cash like they did in India there will be a period of time allowed to deposit it in the bank. I’m not rich enough to have so much cash that a time limit will be a problem. I agree with having enough to pay bills for 3 to 6 months. I’m close to 3 months now but I don’t have any debt other than a small house payment. Don’t keep it under the mattress. Everyone will look there. Don’t keep it in your car. One bad accident and it’s in someone else’s hands. I keep mine next to the wood stove so I can use it to light fires when it’s worthless. Maybe I can barter with an extra can of spam. If it never gets that bad I will eat the spam myself. I like it.

  • Great article. Metals are being used in Venezuela to purchase everyday foods and needed sundries. IMO, those that know metals will accept it as payment at a properly valued price. I know I would. If someone has nothing to trade/barter but they have metals, I will trade with them.
    This reset is not some mismanaged financial situation, it has been planned since the creation of the US Federal Reserve. The means to get there by creating this man-made catastrophe is ccp virus, dumbing-down of USA citizens, money printing, and others. But yes, I do keep 6 months cash available.

  • How long will physical cash hold its value?
    Or anything, be it gold or silver, ammo, fat or lard, who knows.
    IF someone believes something has value, then it has worth.
    I think in the short term, cash will have value. But at some point it just may become worthless as the SHTF grinds on.
    Economics 101, supply vs demand. All the big box stores no longer with filled shelves (heck we are seeing that now), ransacked, looted or burnt down, suddenly that dozen eggs might go for a lot more than $3.99 a dozen. Like $50 or more. Saw an article about crab being pulled from restaurants as the price went from in the $20/lbs to the $50/lbs just the other day.
    How about PMs? What is their worth in that kind of SHTF? You might of bought a 1oz gold coin at $1,762.10 (as of this posting), but would it buy that much in a post SHTF world? I could say (supply vs demand) that a dozen eggs are worth that 1oz coin.
    Heck of a loss.
    But then, when the big box stores, the grocery store is gone, no more trucks bringing in food, a 1oz gold coin for a dozen eggs might be a bargain.
    Personally, I might be more inclined to trade for ammo, water filters, wool socks, alcohol, smokes, chocolate, coffee, tea, sugar, than PMs.

      • “One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.”

        Thomas Jefferson

        P.S. This is a prepper forum. Wake up.

          • Please stop with the snide, insulting crap. If you want to be a member of the community, act like one. Be helpful instead of sardonic and condescending. Stop being a troll.

            And so help me, if you quote me and toss out a one-liner, you are done here. I’m trying to give you an opportunity to build people up instead of tearing them down. The choice is yours.

            • How many of his (ant7) comments have you have to delete for racist/anti-Semtic/incel comments?

              Funny thing is that other sites, not affiliated to this site, commenters have noted the same racist/anti-Semtic/incel observations of ant7.

              He has quite a following.
              In the negative sense.

              I know. I warn all the minorities, or Jews in the PNW of his posts.

            • (the quotes are so people know what I’m referring to, especially as comments accumulate and spread out over the page. I am absolutely clueless as to why they would be irritating.)

              it’s not meant to be insulting. people put out their plans and intentions and it’s as if they’re putting out their alter egos, and they take any contrary comment as an attack or an insult. I understand you’re trying to run a supportive board, but honestly, grid down is going to be a lot meaner than me.

          • actually I have to congratulate you on your survival plan, 1stjarhead. it’s awesome, the second best I’ve ever heard of, and I’ve heard of quite a few.

  • This is an excellent article! The only thing I’d add: don’t forget having some extra cash somewhere when you travel. Lots of preppers seem to forget about prepping when they have to travel. A couple of years ago, I lost my wallet while travelling to another country and boy, was I glad that I always keep some cash for emergencies in a hidden pocket. It was enough that I could just report my cards lost and receive my replacement cards back home, instead of having to work out how to get my cards back in another country, that I suspect wouldn’t have been easy.

  • Money is best described as the coin of the realm that is accepted for taxes.

    Until the tax man accepts bags of potatoes or .999 silver for taxes they are barter between people not money.

    Plenty of ways for broke Governments to STEAL everything you have in “Money Terms” from the hyperinflation “Starving Millionaires” of post Soviet USSR when it collapsed, Germany’s Weimar Republic and Zimbabwe.

    Critically NEEDED Skills will always get you the Coin of the Realm in amounts that at least for the moment mean something as Hyperinflation is scary quick at robbing even that. Plumbers and so on with the Skills, Tool and spare parts will do well.

    Personally if you have a throbbing infected tooth what do you have to trade me for that to be resolved.

    My Grandparents lived through the Great Depression and both Dad’s job at Coors and both of them ability to raise chickens and garden plants for trade kept the Taxes Paid and Food on the table. Also they did room rent and board for employed people in Coors and such. Many Lines of Cash coming in.

    If you think Government will simply go away when things get crazy you need to read more history. The #1 Rule of Government is to Survive. Anything is allowed as long as they survive.

    Even a Mad Max Warlord situation has Government. Taxes, tribute, simple smash and grab, Protection Money all are the same to the average Joe.

  • “Cash is the primary means of payment when things are unstable”

    sure. but the supply system is so thin and people’s stocks so minimal that when things become “unstable” then shortages will be the first result. this will result in a positive feedback of hoarding and looting and more shortages.

    the time to use cash will be short.

  • “Reduce (or eliminate) debts”

    ineffectual. the government will assign debt through taxation and confiscations. it will have to – the federal reserve note is a debt pyramid. no debt, no dollars.

    • Believe me, it’s much better to start from zero either going up or down, than start with debt.

      The only exception: If you knew for sure high inflation is coming, then perhaps load up with debt to get into assets on low fixed rates could be a good strategy. But if deflation or disinflation comes, you’re toast.

      Too risky IMO. We don’t know the future, and most important we don’t control much beyond ourselves.

      Third world lesson for first worlders, take it or dump it as you wish: don’t enter an economical storm already burdened. It holds true for nations, corporations, businesses, families – and individuals.

      Countries doing this (overblown sovereign debt and high debt to GDP ratio) is exactly what causes these crises.

    • Can’t carry a gun in an airplane and various other places, even in collapsed countries. But can’t buy an airplane ticket without dollars, or do much without some, too.

      Using a gun in any scenario other than total and complete lawlessness will have consequences. Even for self defense, though that may be justifiable.

      But you can use cash anytime with great, perhaps even greater, effect.

      This is what has happened in 10 out of 10 SHTFs in the past, dunno, 200 years? Reality is different than most preppers fantasies.

  • Two things to consider:
    1) The Dow Jones Industrial closed at -614.41 today.
    2) Weirdly, the price of gold has dropped, supposedly due to the lack of demand from microchip manufacturers from it’s recent peak of US$2,067.15 per ounce last August, down to $1,755.00 as of today, Sept. 20, 2021. I say weirdly because usually the price goes up as inflation increases.
    What does this mean in the context of the conversation?
    In my opinion, I believe that we will see another stock market crash, like 2008 or possibly as bad as Black Friday.
    I would be sure to have enough cash on hand for at least a couple of weeks of daily expenses as there could easily be another bank run and subsequent “holiday” to control it.
    I don’t know how it would affect electronic banking for paying bills, rent, etc. I would assume the worst, but maybe someone else here knows.

  • I think each of us should have a ‘cash stash’. A little or a lot depending on your resources and comfort level. “Cash is king” we hear, once electronic means of buying and selling are unavailable, temporarily or for a much longer time period. But cash will be king only as long as people believe it has value and are willing to accept it. That could be a very short period of time, and it will depend upon how much trust people will maintain in the institution who issues it. Remember that the “Dollar”, or Federal Reserve Note, is not real money. It is an IOU… debt… passed from one to another that each believes the US Government can and will make good on. How is another question. After all, we can only exchange a FRN for other FRNs with the banks, not silver or gold. Everything is debt. Basically, we have been suckered. This was in the news this morning… Let that sink in. What cash will we use after a default? FRNs is all I have!

    • “What cash will we use after a default?”

      there’s about $143 in physical change per person in the united states. not much else available, so there’s your post-apocalypse monetary system. unless someone thinks they’re going to trade in ammunition – not a good idea, in an environment of mass hunger no-one is going to be handing over ammo to anyone who doesn’t already have it.

      • Ant7:

        A serious question if you don’t mind (or two): how do you see SHTF playing out? Everything goes to poo in a week? Over a month, a year, a decade?

        And based on what?

        I honestly would like to know your views on this, if you will.

        • “how do you see SHTF playing out?”

          honestly there’s no way to know. spent a long time getting ready for the nuclear apocalypse, then it was imminent economic collapse with the “golden horde” (it won’t be golden), and now it’s descent into venezuela (for which strictly by chance I’m very nicely positioned).

          best guess is it’s all poised to fold up in a couple of weeks, but exactly when that happens is not at all clear. looked like it was happening in 2007-8, but in my opinion it was pulled out by china’s economic output continuing to be traded for the federal reserve notes. maybe this evergrande thing will start the ball rolling – china is a cesspit of lies fraud and deceit and colossal debt far greater than anything in the west- but until then there’s time and resources to keep getting ready.

          a couple of definites. 1) it will be uneven. some places will fall off the grid (like detroit now), and some will continue along normally for a while longer. 2) the news media won’t tell you when collapses occur (for example, by the time gold goes to $10,000, they’ll never say so). 3) rural areas will collapse first and harder than urban areas. 4) lots of survival teams are organized and ready now to move into prime survival locations, eliminating anyone that gets in the way, so all these guys who think they’re already located and ready to repulse the ravaging hordes are going to be rolled over.

          as for inflation/deflation, what we’ll see is 1) the money printers will have all the federal reserve notes they want, and 2) we’ll have as little as they can force us to get by on.

          “would like to know your views on this”

          looks like I’m about to be banned, but I’ll answer what you ask as long as I can.

          • Thanks for the reply mate, those were great insights and I must say I agree with a lot of what you said.

            I too got alarmed in 2008, and going down the rabbit hole of macro and finance brought me into prepping. As you said things should’ve crashed there and then, but the system is resilient and managed to kick the can once more.

            At one point this won’t be possible though, and I agree we might be approaching that time. It’s ramping up and accelerating, and that is a sign.

            Impossible to say how it will unfold but yes, it will be different in different places, that’s for sure. There will be a period of turmoil, confusion and unrest. How long, impossible to know. Then things will start to accommodate. It’s always like that.

          • I’m wondering why you think rural areas will collapse first. In my experience, most rural areas are better at community than cities. Yes, probably poorer people, but poorer people are used to living frugally, bartering, and cooperating with their neighbors to get things done. In addition, those who would prey on others can more easily do so in an urban setting. Serious ask, why do you think urbanites would fare better?

            • “I’m wondering why you think rural areas will collapse first”

              most rural areas are “banana republics” – they produce one or two goods at most, and buy absolutely everything else they need from outside sources. they won’t last long without it.

              this is true for cities too. but – cities have the political power, the financial power, and the trade routes, to monopolize and grab anything that is available first, before the rural areas get anything. and they will.

  • And remember to rotate your stock. New security features have been known in some countries to literally render older banknotes as obsolete, with limited opportunities for exchange.

    I also keep a cache of vodka and cigarettes as an alternative medium of exchange for SHTF, or just to kill time if need be.

  • There are various reasons to keep cash, the paper variety, on hand.

    The two big ones for me are last minute supplies as things are spiralling down the drain and ATMs or credit card terminals aren’t working.

    In any crash or emergency there will be a period of time that cash will still be accepted. If you want some last minute supplies this is the time to use it.

    The second reason is for greasing palms aka bribes as things are sliding down hill and you’re bugging out. If you’ve left for your bug out location before everything has gone into the crapper and you’ve been stopped at a checkpoint that cash just might get you through. There is a chance that those manning the checkpoint will be looking over your things to see what they like before they let you through. Offering them easier to hide cash may work.

    On a purely financial level having cash on hand isn’t a bad thing. If you’re worried about the govt doing away with paper money and going to digital currency then I’d suggest withdrawing money from the bank and keep the withdrawal slip with the money. Maybe every other payday you take out $100.

    I’d have denominations 20 and under for the first $2000 then 50s and 100s to $5000, then 100s if you were going above $5000.

    Everything we do requires weighing the risks involved. If you choose to keep some paper money, or precious metals, on hand make sure that it is an amount that you can stand losing of worst comes to worst.

  • I was just hearing about this on the radio this morning. I’ll admit that I’m one of those guys who prefers to just carry a debit card, but the guy (and now this article) have me revising my strategy a bit. I will take some cash and keep it in my gun safe.

  • Cash will be king, as long as a Government that prints and supports it, is still in power.

    Many SHTF scenarios, will not have a Government in power, or at least not for long.
    That was part of the original meaning of SHTF – no existing Government.
    Today it has been watered down to apply to any out of the ordinary, disruption of daily life.

    After the Government supporting the “cash”, no longer exists, the value of the “cash”, will be about as much as toilet paper.
    So at that point Barter will probably take over. I doubt precious stones and metals will be of much value in the general marketplace, at this point. Some smart individuals might trade for them, but a lot of people will not.
    They will mainly come into play later on, after society starts to rebuild. When commerce starts to no longer be limited to local transactions, then they will become very valuable and useful.
    Especially for Farmers and merchants who can not transport crops or supplies safely or economically over the longer distances.

    So a wise prepper will be prepared for all three stages of commerce, in a “SHTF” society.
    Don’t be caught holding just “cash”, some governments struggle and survive a long time, others collapse overnight. So beware putting all your excess wealth into just “cash”.

    • SHTF can’t be watered down because it’s an expression, the acronym of a slang actually. If something, I’d argue the opposite: when preppers adopted SHTF, they “promoted” the expression into an absolute concept.

      But since it precedes even prepping and survivalism, and how we describe reality doesn’t really affect it much, I guess using it freely doesn’t detract from its meaning, much less its power. Anyway that’s just my opinion.

      As for the currency: the government” is not a person, not even in a dictatorship such as NK. Currencies aren’t personalized, but institutionalized. The “institution government” will always support the actual currency, because it’s one of the main pillars of control, and ultimately they issue it.

      Even if the economy is collapsing, or especially in that case. They’ll use every trick in the playbook and yes they might even kill the currency, but that doesn’t mean it happens overnight. Reality and history shows no currency is turned into toilet paper suddenly.

      I don’t pretend to know the future, but I know the past: my country has been through 8 different currencies between 1942 and 1994. Six or seven of those changes happened in my lifetime (I’m 50). Sure there was a lot of confusion, volatility, some turmoil, losses and gains, a period of transition.

      But cash, both in the outgoing and newcoming denominations, was always important and used during these times. In an unstable economy you quickly learn the power of cash, that’s my message but each one should do as one finds best.

      Bartering does happen, but it’s too time and energy consuming, too inefficient on a big scale, to be widely adopted, or for too long. When it’s a full scale SHTF, it’s even more risky. That’s why currencies exist and are favored.

      • Fabian,

        I would very much appreciate if you could write a separate article expounding on daily life as your country’s currency shifted from one to another (e.g. cruzeiro –>> Real). I’m aware that different governments will choose different paths, but it’s my sense that everyday people’s lives will proceed in a substantially similar way.

        A couple of mentions of India banning cash suddenly have appeared in this thread. India did TRY to ban all cash with a very short deadline to turn in all fiat in exchange for digital bits, but it didn’t work. The government had to backtrack and to this day has not succeeded in actually, effectively ending the use of cash. It’s been 5 years now, and the denominations of fiat currency still in existence are very much a force in the economy.
        “India’s love affair with cash also remains strong. ATM withdrawals dropped in 2016–17, but picked up pace when currency was freely available again. ”

        • Goldie Cash, that’s a good suggestion. It’s important to understand that the government is a machine, not a person. I keep saying that because even though most governments tend to change things in the bureaucracy when they’re elected, and especially when the new government is from a different party, a great part of this “machine” tends to stay in place.

          That, and the fact that there are constitutional limitations to what governments can and cannot do in regards to economic and financial policies, puts some limits to more adventurous initiatives such as the confiscation of the early 90’s, and the substation of currency.

          For various reasons, it was easier back in the 80’s/90’s than it’s been for the past 20 years (2000-2020). But I can see the same context forming today, so that waters can be tested and adventures tried, just like it happened here in those times. It’s all done under the justification of ”.fixing the problems”.

          It’s happening now: all the money printing, all the social agenda smuggled in budget approval (who reads those 2-3K page documents used to approve budget increases and spending programs???). Just today I read the Democrats are proposing the government and treasury should be responsible for the approval of budget and debt ceiling, so they can keep printing and spending freely.

          In other words, that’s completely taking power from the congress and thus society to debate and vote such important, defining matters. These things are done in steps to isolate society and leave the psychopathic bureaucrats free to try their economical and financial adventures. The Rubicon has been crossed many times over already.

          My apologies for going off on a tangent here, but this is how things happen. That’s to say a currency shift is unlikely in US, but the USD is being purposefully eroded, and this will lead to it losing its status and value. Besides, they now want to use money (currency) as a social control system, so the USD will likely be replaced by its digital brother.

          That won’t happen overnight, or in orderly and peaceful fashion. it will be as tumultuous and conflicting as the vax (passports and mandates and such), at least, if not worse because the pocket is the most sensitive organ of the human body: once they really mess with money and currency, people will react.

          And yes, it does have an impact on everyday life too, once currency changes in any away (cutting zeroes, changing cash, issuing new notes or whatever), this causes a lot of confusion and the system takes some time to adjust, both people and the commerce and industry. But it comes with other things such as inflation, which adds to the confusion because we quickly lose reference of value. This is already happening, prices are crazy and all over the place.

          But the worse part of it all is always the responses and measures from the government, because really if people are left to their own devices they find a balance, but bureaucrats have no clue and f**ck everything up worse every single time.

  • I went to a local CVS, they did not take cash, debit or credit only Next to Walmart, at self check out, debit or credit, cash accepted in the check out line. Will cash be legal tender if all goes digital?

    • “Will cash be legal tender if all goes digital?”

      no. might have a window of opportunity to trade it it (the indians didn’t …), but then that’s it.

  • But most of this diatribe is just pure B.S., because when we experience hyperinflation, ALL of the power grids will go down within days of each other. NOTHING else matters after that.
    When the power companies cannot afford to pay 5 , 10 or more times for the fuels they burn to make electricity, they will go cold and dark! Without copious amounts of electricity, we will NOT have any banks or telecoms. When the banks are shut down, ALL bets are off as to how serious it will be. No fuels will come out of refineries when the power is off. Without fuels, no crops will come out of the fields. Without power, no fresh water will come out of your taps and sewage treatment will stop. EVERYTHING will grind to a halt.

    • This is possible. Everything is possible. But what is probable?

      Based on history, the scenario you just described hasn’t happened in modern history. Only in fiction movies and books, and in the fantasies of doomsday prophets and preppers, many of whom love to cash in on the TEOTWAWKI fear porn BTW.

      Civilization does collapse, but it’s more resilient than we think. Hyperinflation happens frequently, as I mentioned in the article we were battling 84% monthly inflation in the 80’s and early 90’s. Not Zimbabwe-hyperinflation, but I can assure you it’s a lot and makes life pretty crazy.

      Nothing of you said happened. The grid would go down, then up again, and life would resume. That’s how it is in reality, 99% of the time. Sure, there was disorder, protests, crime, life was hard and we all suffered. But we went to work, to school, to the theater, we partied, dated, traveled.

      Life was normal, a hard and more dangerous normal than today but still normal.

      The world may end, but only the Mayans and a few others really disappeared from the face of the earth. It’s not the rule, but the exception.

      Fear sells, everybody loves doom and gloom. Especially in these days. I can only share that what I’ve seen and lived, it’s a hard reality but not the end of times. If anyone wants to prepare for that, by all means, they’re free to do it.

  • “lots of survival teams are organized and ready now to move into prime survival locations, eliminating anyone that gets in the way, so all these guys who think they’re already located and ready to repulse the ravaging hordes are going to be rolled over.”

    Eh,.. I don’t know…

    It sounds like you have some experience, maybe not, I don’t know about that either.

    Thing is, you don’t know me. You don’t know my or my neighbors strengths, familial ties, background, terrain strengths or weaknesses. You describe organized teams and rampaging hordes as the same. That’s odd.

    Oh,well, ultimately we’re all dead I suppose. But, this is a guarantee. Organized raiders are like pirates. And pirates hang togeather until the community’s start hanging them one at a time. Disney lies.

    • “Thing is, you don’t know me. You don’t know my or my neighbors strengths, familial ties, background, terrain strengths or weaknesses”

      don’t have to. THEY do, by recon or insider.

      “You describe organized teams and rampaging hordes as the same. That’s odd.”

      same goals – “get the stuff”.

  • Sorry, but cash will be worthless when the SHTF.

    Cash today is all fiat money, almost useless paper without the “backing” of a strong government behind it. No cash today is actually backed by anything tangible, only the “full faith and credit” of the government that issued it. Just ask Venezuelans how well years of saving Bolivars is working out for them. Once the SHTF, the price of everything will skyrocket, meaning your likely meager cash reserves will very quickly lose buying power.

    To really protect yourself financially during a SHTF crisis (read: be able to trade) you’re going to need to stash away a few things.

    1) gold – be sure to have a decent amount of it ($2500 – $5000) in small units (i.e. grams) that you can use in place of dollar bills, which will be worthless. Gold has always, and will always be, a medium of trade. Silver and other precious metals and gems can also work, but nothing beats gold.

    2) alcohol – yes, both kinds. Both will be in short supply, and there will be no shortage of people looking for both, and they will be willing to trade other necessities for the ability to clean a wound, or at least get so drunk they don’t have to think about that wound. Obviously, you can’t carry much of it, so you’ll need to find a secure storage location, and you won’t be able to move it with you easily if you leave your home area. The value will quickly be established on the SHTF black market.

    3) toiletries – these long shelf-life items (e.g. soap, shampoo, deodorant, sanitary products) will also be in high demand, and there will be no shortage of people willing to trade for them. Like the alcohol, you won’t be able to transport much of it, so think about where you’re final SHTF location will be and stock your supplies there.

    4) medicine – pretty clear on why these will be important trade items. Don’t forget to stock up on any medicines you yourself take, because they’ll also disappear when SHTF

    5) dry foods – another no-brainer. Wet foods will spoil very quickly, and the hunting scene will be brutal during a societal crisis. Make sure you have several months of dry food for you and your family, maybe even your friends if you like and trust them enough.

    Again, convert that cash to gold while you still can!

    • If anyone is still interested in this, and willing to abandon prepping fantasies and fiction, here’s how an economic SHTF happens in stages:

      That’s why cash always has a role. It’s all there: bank lines, finance freezings, currency trading, black market, paper money, and yes, even bartering as I said in the other article. All happening in an SHTF, just as they happen now, everywhere.

      People and society don’t just change overnight and become barterers, peddlers, precious metals specialists. The system doesn’t just stop working overnight, only parts of it may freeze, fail or become impaired. It has never, ever, been different.

      If we haven’t been through something, we can learn from others, from history, human behavior, and the facts. Or think “this time it’s different”, or “we’re different for this and that”. Either way the world will go its own way and reality will assert itself.

  • Software developers, especially those who design software for financial institutions, have a saying: cash never crash 😉

    Cash is always preferable than digits in a computer database when you stability over convenience.

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