5 Boring (But Effective) Ways to Prep for an Economic Collapse

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you'll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

By the author of Be Ready for Anything and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

How do you survive an economic collapse? When you think about it, do pictures of Venezuela and Greece run through your head like a movie? Desperation, hunger, dirty faces…it’s like a third world country, right?

It doesn’t start out like that. It ends like that. There are many years of downward spiral before you ever reach that point. And if you’re paying attention, there are a lot of lifestyle changes you can make that will help your family become more “collapse-proof.” These changes are practical and realistic – and some would say, downright boring.

Many people would argue that the economic collapse of America began many years ago. After all, the cost of living has gone up exponentially, while incomes have either dropped or remained stagnant. Some families are still doing okay, but for most of us, that could change in the blink of an eye because we don’t have the same savings that people had in previous decades. It’s entirely likely that Social Security won’t be there for many of us. In fact, quite a lot of middle-aged people are now saying that they’ll work until they die. Retirement is a far-fetched daydream for a lot of Baby Boomers, and Generations X, Y, and Millennial can just forget about it. Something as simple as a missed paycheck or a trip to the emergency room could cause our delicate financial situation to crumble, leaving us broke, stressed, and unable to get back on our feet.

The suggestions below aren’t one bit glamorous. They don’t involve gadgets to make your gun sexier, fully stocked bunkers over an underground stream, gas masks, an off-grid retreat in the Rocky Mountains, or any other prepper paraphernalia that costs more than your kidney would sell for on the black market.

Many of you who are reading this are already living by these recommendations, but for others, these changes may be brand new life-changing new ideas.


Live more simply.

Sometimes when we look back with envy at the affordable lives of earlier generations, we’re missing a very big part of the picture. They owned homes and cars, paid their bills easily, and had enough extra to put some back for a very comfortable retirement. Heaven, right?

But what we don’t think about is the fact that they lived a lot more simply than we do today. There was, in many cases, a lot less waste of money. The things folks spend on now are things those generations wouldn’t have even imagined.

Spa days, going to the gym, weekly mani-pedis, bi-annual tropical vacations, eating out every day for lunch, $5 foo-foo coffee, a hundred bucks a month for television, a nice dinner at a restaurant a couple of times per week, fruit already peeled and chopped up for you, a separate phone for every member of the family that they carry with them everywhere … this stuff would have blown their minds. And yet for many Americans, this decadence is a way of life that seems completely normal.

The way we live now would look positively outrageous to our parents or grandparents, yet many today would feel shortchanged without at least some of the things mentioned above.

But we can exempt ourselves from a great deal of that frivolous spending without feeling like we’re living a third world existence. A lot of the folks reading this already have, and if you aren’t there yet, here are some links that will help you tone things down. You’ll be astounded at how much money you can save by making some cuts.

Change how you eat

The way Americans eat is taking a toll on both our wallets and our health. There are folks who go out to lunch every single day with coworkers. On average, Americans spend more money eating out than eating at home. Many people eating at home end up microwaving a prepared meal from the freezer or adding water to the contents of a box. It doesn’t have to be like this.

The first change you should make is to eat in tune with the seasons. The produce that is in-season is far more abundant and less expensive, but for some reason, people feel that it’s perfectly reasonable to eat blueberries in December or asparagus in November. By purchasing produce when the price is the lowest, you can drop your grocery bill dramatically. You can even take it one step further and raise as much of your food as possible in your backyard. It doesn’t get more seasonal and local than that!

Secondly, stop going out to eat all the time. Take your lunch to work and read a book instead of going out on a daily basis. Spend some time on the weekends making meals that you can freeze, then thaw so that you can have a tasty homemade dinner in a fraction of the time. Don’t underestimate your crockpot for providing a hot meal that is ready as soon as you walk in the door. You can even make a rotisserie style chicken in it, with all the fixings.

And speaking of eating at home, if you aren’t cooking from scratch, it’s time you started. If you’ve never really done it, it is so much easier and less threatening than it sounds. These tips can help you get started with scratch cooking and these tips can aid you in doing so in a fraction of the time. Be sure to keep the right pantry basics on hand for your made-from-scratch meals.

Stock up

One thing that I’ll bet a lot of folks living through an all-out collapse wish they had done is stock up on supplies. The extra food that you purchase today can see you through all manner of difficult times. I had a couple of incidences of job loss back when I was in the corporate world. (Downsizing and cutbacks make this all too common.) The food and supplies that I had put back meant that I didn’t have to spend my savings on groceries and could spend it to keep a roof over our heads.  There are loads of ways you can eat from your stockpile when you don’t have the money on hand to buy groceries.

Building a food stockpile doesn’t have to be an outrageously expensive undertaking. I am a single mom and have managed to have a pantry that would feed us for many months even though I have never been rolling in money. In fact, when I relocated from Canada to the United States, I had to completely start over with a bare cupboard and in just a few months, managed to acquire a year’s worth of healthful food. You can read all about it in my book, The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide to Whole Food on a Half Price Budget, in which I share all of my shopping strategies and stockpiling tips.

Another addition to your long-term stockpile should be buckets of food. Yeah, I sell them here at my online store, but that’s not the reason that I’m telling you to get them. They are professionally packaged to withstand years on the shelf. Yes, you can do this yourself, but will you? Most people won’t, or they won’t do it correctly. I have enough buckets stacked up to get us through quite some time of financial difficulty or shortages. This is an important, long-term investment that I strongly recommend if you can swing it.

And remember, the stockpile method isn’t just for your pantry. You should also be adding all the things you normally use that you can buy in advance. Bandaids, toilet paper, feminine hygiene supplies, shampoo, toothpaste. You get the idea. There are two reasons. The first is that if you run into personally difficult times, it will be extremely helpful to have all the basics on hand so you don’t have to spend your thinly-stretched money on them. The second is that in a really bad economic scenario, you could be dealing with both shortages and hyperinflation. These items won’t be accessible during a time like that. Here’s a list of 50 important non-food things you should be stockpiling.

Pay off debt

Debt in America is at an all-time high. By the time folks end up paying things off, they have often paid the original purchase price several times over. If you have credit card debt, store cards, and unsecured loans, chances are that you are paying epic amounts of interest every month.

If you’re in debt, take a look at the snowball method to help pay things off quickly. I’ve used this technique in the past when I used credit to help us through some difficult times.

What about your home? Similar to credit card debt, many people end up paying several times the cost of their original mortgage due to the interest that accrues over a 20-30 year term. If you can, start applying money to the principal of your loan each month. As well, by setting up bi-weekly mortgage payments, you can end up paying your mortgage off about 5 years earlier without any other extra payments.

Another big monthly expense for a lot of folks is their automobile payment. There are a few things you can do with this. Can you pay your vehicles off so you don’t have those payments? Can you dial back to one car? Can you possibly get by without a vehicle at all? (That won’t work very well for people living in the country or suburbia, but city dwellers can save a bundle by using public transportation.

Reduce your living expenses

Finally, this is the biggie. You need to slash your expenses so that if you end up experiencing a financial SHTF event, you will be okay. It’s time to audit your spending on just about everything and see how much you can reduce your budget. Some of these changes may be radical, but many folks have found they were able to reduce their expenses by half when they took the plunge. Get radical about cutting your costs and you can change your life.

Is your home reasonable and affordable for your family? Maybe it’s too big, too expensive, or in an area with outrageous property taxes. This isn’t a cut that is practical for everyone, but you might want to look into moving to a less expensive place if you can. You could live in a smaller home, one in a smaller town, or rent out a room to a college student to help cover the costs.

Are you as thrifty as you should be regarding utilities? If you keep your air conditioner and heater cranked, you’re throwing away money. Learn to adjust to the weather by piling on sweaters and using these other tips, or using strategies to keep cool without running the AC nonstop. Utilities can be completely out of your control in certain parts of the country, but these black-belt frugal tips for reducing your utilities can help. When I lived in California, even in a home without air conditioning, I was spending up to $500 a month on my electric bill, no matter how frugal I tried to be. Now in Virginia, my bill is regularly under $100 and I am not even as careful as I was previously. Some areas have times of day when utilities are less expensive. If your local utility is like that, choose off-peak times for things like laundry, dishwashers, and other tasks that use lots of power.

If you’re still paying a cable bill, it’s time to cut the cord. As long as you have internet, there are numerous streaming services out there which cost less than $15 a month and allow you to watch all sorts of TV programs and movies anytime you want – and without the annoying commercials. We haven’t had cable for years and have been with Hulu, Netflix, and/or Amazon Prime.

Here are some other ideas for reducing your fixed expenses.

What changes can you make?

The way to survive the economic downturn is to dial back the clock to simpler times and focus on preparing for those rainy days that are coming. The bonus to this is that many of the things recommended here to help you survive an economic crisis will help you through other types of emergencies as well.

By changing your lifestyle, you can change your future. When the economy goes downhill – whether it’s just something that affects your family or a larger, nationwide collapse – you will be in a far better position to survive than those who go about their days frivolously ignoring the warning signs. Your costs will be rock-bottom and you’ll have the skills you need to survive with aplomb while others are panicking.

How can you go back in time a few decades and cut some of the fluff from your budget? If you’ve already slashed your spending, what are some recommendations you can make for others who want to get their financial lives under control? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • I go to garage and estate sales to find my deals. We have been needing a vacuum cleaner, it took a while but found one in excellent shape. Also found a generator for 1/3 of what it would’ve cost me at the store. I find most of my paper goods, and cleaning supplies at estate sales for excellent deals. Just a few things I do………….

  • The best piece of advice I could give to someone new to this is put extreme limits on how often a tv is on. This goes for watching movies on the net or renting videos if that is still available.. Spend that money and time on preparedness books and tools. Much can be learned and produce even if one lives in an apartment. Make it a goal to be self sufficient even if it seems impossible.

  • Thank you for doing what you do! It’s nice to get a reminder to be prepared through your newsletter. I really enjoy reading it.

  • As a hedge against food shortages (and/or high prices), we’re in the process of ramping up what the gardens produce, and working on preserving techniques. We added a small flock of chickens a few years back as a home protein source.

    We’re well into the scaling back of lifestyle: cutting Cable, cheap cell phones and plans ($12.29/mo!) and other frugalities. While we’re in the process of examining what our bare-bones budget would be, I have to admit to some non-frugal spending on things like a corn grinder, wheels for the generator, etc., thinking that some things will make it easier to live independent from the economic “grid” — things I would probably wish I had bought while I could.

    The frugal / simple life is actually kind of refreshing. Quiet is good!

    — Mic

  • Preach on, sister. I try to talk to my grown grandkids about all this but it’s a brick wall. When I was a kid my family was considered upper-middle class. I was an only child & both my parents worked. Our house was nice but not large, we only had one car even after I started driving; my mother walked to work. Looking back I realize something – even tho we probably made more money than many in our neighborhood we didn’t live differently. I believe much of today’s indulgent behavior is a form of “showing off”. Seems low self-esteem is national epidemic; we buy things to try to fill that big, gaping hole inside our souls.

  • Walk, or run. With family if possible. With gear, if possible (not necessarily at same time as with family).

    Other exercise.

    Simple, effective, no-cost.

  • The biggest way to cut spending has been said over and over. Separate needs from wants and work on cutting out the wants. You need to eat,you want to eat out. you need to have a car,you want to have a new car. You need a phone you want the newest I phone at 700.00. Start by looking at where your money goes and see where you can cut. Do you pay comprehensive coverage on your older cars( that was me and I saved 500.00 a year when I switched ) Do you pay for premium channels you don’t watch? ( cut 40.00 a month on that one ) Do you smoke,buy coffee out each morning,That soda in the afternoon? 7.00-15.00 a day there. There are almost always things you can cut or trim but first you need to find out where the money is going.

    • @Poorman, I agree. I use to eat lunch out through out the week. Now (most of the time), I bring my lunch. And it’s better for me.

  • As a someone who has been very lucky to have the personal advice of someone who has lived through times of debt and extreme frugality (to the extent that they could barely afford tea and coffee), here is the biggest, number one tip I have received.

    If you are just starting out, start out frugal. Don’t let it get to the stage where you have to make massive cuts.

    Buy a car that is fuel efficient, cheap to repair, and with a starting cost of under $8000.

    If you go to college, start out at the cheapest college you can. It’s okay to go to a community college if you won’t be saddled with college debt for the rest of your life. Student debt is the largest debt in the US today. As well as going to a cheap college, shop around for your loan. The first loan you come across is unlikely to be the best. Find scholarships and apply. See if you are eligible for a government loan or other government assistance.

    Make a deal with your service providers (water, electricity, gas, telecommunications, mortgage etc. ) that you pay your bills when you are paid. If you are paid every two weeks, then pay your bills every two weeks. This ensures that you get your bills out of the way when you still have money in the account.

    Your first house should be a small 1 or 2 bedroom house or unit. Don’t be afraid to not have a backyard or to live further away from your work if it means a smaller mortgage. If you do choose to live further away from your work, ensure that petrol costs, as well as the time it will take to get to your work, is not going to negatively impact your budget in the long term or negatively impact you in the long term. Remember, your first house is your first step to a bigger home. Upgrade either when you can afford the mortgage on a larger house and it’s necessary for that larger house, or when you have paid off your small first home and are able to sell it.

    Don’t attempt to get a loan for anything other than your house and your college degree. Loans for cars are the worst, as many may start with loaning you too much money and by the time you pay off your car, the car will have likely lost more than half of it’s value, and the interest on the loan can have you pay for more than twice what the car was worth when you first brought it.

    Don’t get a credit card. Credit card debt is some of the worse debt in the world, as you are rewarded from spending and discouraged from trying to pay off your debt.

    Finally, be prepared for unexpected rises in price. Recently, the cost of disposing grey water from my property tripled due to a monopoly the water and sewage company has in my area. These unexpected rises can sock you even if you have a carefully calculated budget. So be prepared for rising costs.

    I know that this is not helpful if you’re already in debt with these things, but if you’re just starting out, or if you have children/neices and nephews, this advice may prevent them from falling into a trap of debt that is perpetrated by big businesses who are interested in getting all your money.

  • Your article is great public service! It not only helps people drop their living cost, it also helps save world resources and Gaia itself. I have downsized by necessity and desire. Below are a few things I’ve learned to do in a household of only one person (me), mind you.
    – Laundry: I used to think it was really stingy of a rich grandaunt of mine to wash off minor stains on clothes right away, instead of throwing the clothes in the dirty laundry basket. It saves not only in laundry but lengthens the life of the clothes.
    – Small crazy money: Whenever I have some small crazy money, I put it aside until I need a pick me up time and some window shopping won’t do it. Then I take my grocery shopping list and stock on durable items that do not have expiration dates and which are preferably on special.
    – Mid-range crazy money: I usually use this money at the pharmacy on items that do not expire soon and do not need regular refill, perhaps even off season items, like cough drops.
    – Big crazy money: I keep a wish list for that so that I won’t impulsively splurge on the most advertised or attractive item before my eyes.
    – I keep dry food such as oatmeal, crackers, etc., in see through jars so that I know to refill them regularly, not too soon, not on an urgent basis either. This on top of keeping a small stock on them, as budget allows.
    – Cleaning: I clean small messes as I make them. As with laundry, I used to think this is lazyness or cheating on major cleanup until I realized cleaning day or money for a cleaning lady might not be an option. Spray bottles for cleaning liquids and a spray bottle with alcohol in the kitchen have been handy and economic. Brushes: Dry brush cleaning an item is a new biggie with me, whereas before any lnding of crums on a lid of something would take the lid or the something as well to the sink. A spray of alcohol and a brushing are great for cleaning on winter when things take a while to dry, especially in rainy days.
    – Style: I pick colors I like for decoration and dressing , not the fad ones, and stick to them. Mix and matching comes easier. It’s amazing how much further an old rag will go if its color still matches the newer stuff.
    – Hobbies: I make it a hobby to keep parts of broken stuff that are reusable or recyclable. If I don’t use the parts (or scraps of stuff, like notepad covers/bottoms, for example), at least they are ready for selective garbage collection. And it serves as mindful meditation or meditating with movement ,while taking things apart. It’s also sort of therapeuthic to discard some of the negative feelings or even rage in the process as they threaten to pile up anyway.

  • Another key(also a Dave Ramsey idea) is a WRITTEN budget and a general accounting of your expenses. for most It is impossible to really understand what is getting spent and on what. keeping a simple log of daily, weekly , month and yearly expenses will get you/keep you on track with short and long term goals. As simple a a notebook and a pen with 5 or ten categories or a full geeked out excel spread sheet will work. Honestly once you get rolling with it it’s sort of “fun” to document your finances and see how you can fine tune things.

  • Saving money now to build a more self sufficient lifestyle is important, however in the event of a full financial meltdown (think Venezuela) your Money and your savings will be almost worthless due to inflation and shortages. so the important thing will be your self sufficient lifestyle not your bank account. It’s a balancing act like anything else.

  • Living simple is easy when you realize that the greatest luxury is health. When one is healthy then almost everything will be a great experience to him. Healthy people always enjoy themselves because they always feel good and feeling good is fun. It matters little whether they are going on an expensive trip or just taking a dump in the woods. They feel good and thus have fun.

    On the other hand unhealthy people are never happy. No castle will make one happy if one feels miserable inside.

  • This was rather enjoyable to read. Over the years I have read many of the “Prep” articles from a lot of sources and usually they are not too good of advice, or impractical, this was spot on. Being country people we have always lived like this with the exception of a few years of the “American Dream”, and you have to be asleep to believe it. You have written a no nonsense article.

    TV has mislead the public to what Prepping actually is quoting a Doomsday event of Biblical proportions, yet Doomsday may be a personal event, just as real, just as devastating. For me, my wake up call was a heart attack, which actually saved my family from hunger years later when I contracted throat cancer. Expensive treatments drained us but we never went hungry. Bottom line, prepping makes sense and you never know when your Doomsday will occur.

  • Thank you for sharing this article. It’s beautifully written with useful tips and straight to the point. I think that many people are just too busy finding money to use it for luxury. They even forget that any type of disaster can happen at anytime and everything that they work for can be lost in a blink of an eye. We should all be aware of this and make some preparations for it. I love how you gave us advice to live moderately and not just waste our money on the things that are not very important. I think everyone should have at least the basic survival skills. That way if any crisis happens, we can survive those hardships.

    When speaking about survival, it reminds me of one of my favourite survival book. It’s really easy to understand and very useful in so many ways. It contains so many survival guides that most of us don’t even know of. My favourite part of the book is that it helps the readers to learn making their own medicine using medicinal plants that most of us don’t even know that it can be use for that purposes. The book teaches how to identify and prepare the plant for medical uses. But that’s just a small part of it. There are so much more survival guides in that book.

    If you’re interested in that book, you can go HERE: https://tinyurl.com/ycsvbxe7

    Thank you again for sharing this wonderful article. I really appreciate it : )

  • Some big, and some little, money savers

    1. Shop for liquid laundry detergents that work in either cold or hot water. (Powder-based detergents need the hot water to dissolve). Most clothes do well and last longer when cold washed. (There are a few exceptions). Not using hot water for laundry saves about 90% of the energy cost of doing laundry in your washing machine.

    2. The return on a college degree is nowhere what it once was 50 years ago, with a few exceptions. Online education or universities in other countries can be vastly less costly. A trade school or tech school or apprenticeship is usually a lot safer return on your money today. Especially, don’t co-sign for children on a student college loan today. Since the banks lobbied Congress to rule out bankruptcy as a safety valve, the squeeze between low earnings after college and high loan repayment obligations can wreck a former student’s life for many years, AND if parents co-signed for that loan, even their Social Security checks can be looted by the lender well into their golden-turned-to-garbage years. I’m hearing stories from a friend who gives relocation tours in a Central American country about tour attendees who can no longer afford to live in America because they unwisely co-signed on a college loan that “went sour.”

    3. The Federal Reserve has been in the counterfeiting business since 1913. That has a lot to do with actual living expenses going up from around 8 to 14% PER YEAR, depending on which major city is relevant to you. For real numbers, see chapwoodindex.com for city by city numbers — NOT the blatant lies published by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which are designed to keep the Social Security payments artificially low, instead of COLA increasing with expenses.

    One newly available way for us mere mortals to help defend against the dollar’s purchasing being stolen away year by year is a new (to this country) debit card from the UK, in cooperation with Mastercard, that’s backed by gold in Switzerland, via Glintpay.com. It allows even little people to purchase even a small fraction of a gold bar (or more if they can) and make purchases here with that debit card.

    The only two hindrances might be 1) if the internet goes down, and 2) if the IRS decides to apply their 28% “collectibles” capital gains tax on precious metals to the value of that debit card as the global price of gold rises.

    4. Laissez Faire’s updated for 2018 315 page “Big Book of Free — Over 120 ways to get what you want & need for free, or for pennies on the dollar” is well worth chasing down.

    5. With the monopoly / cartel prices of healthcare skyrocketing, and especially for prescriptions and procedures designed to keep you hooked by masking symptoms instead of solving original causes, it’s well worthwhile to learn about alternative medicine from the naturopathic / holistic community. A couple of excellent places to start are EarthClinic.com and GreenMedInfo.com — plus NaturalNews.com.


  • You Need More Than Food to Survive

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