How People Survive (Or Not) in a Collapsed Economy

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No matter what the media says about how things are now, how you perceive reality is what truly matters. I know keeping false hopes can be hazardous. (I have experience with that, trust me.) Confirmation of that is found in deep insights like the ones in this Hopium article.

After one month of adjusting to my perception of this little town in Venezuela where I lived more or less peacefully until my early adulthood, I can acknowledge my vision while away was not exactly the most accurate.

Observations of the businesses and trades here

Those wealthy enough, for sure, have no problems, even if that wealth is mainly invested in facilities within our borders, machinery, vehicles, real estate, and properties. However, I do notice many empty commercial rentals. One primary reason for the empty rentals is people are not adequately analyzing the market here. I see this all over, not just here, but in many other cities, Lima included. It’s not something new, but the cruelty of a deprived economy reinforces terrible business choices.

Lack of planning and preparation is a sure way to kill any entrepreneurial endeavor. One MUST do a proper market study before entertaining the thought of opening a business in the middle of a slow-motion collapse. This process involves plenty of experience, knowledge, and a critical capability: awareness. 

For example, if you’re the only shoemaker in town, you can expect an overwhelming amount of shoes to repair, along with some basic sewing and clothing repair.

I see the economy has been more or less working

It is a skills-based economy. In our small town, the diesel engine and gasoline engine mechanics, car electricians, home electricians, plumbers, and non-specialized laborers are usually busy. Hairdressers seem to have enough customers to keep them more or less busy. (During the pandemic, they went to their customers’ homes.)

Most people who repair things, whether they’re good at it or not, can make a living. We even have a pair of locksmiths, something unexpected in a town this small. 

Of course, those who produce food always have consumers. Our traditional white cheese, grain coffee, and stuff like semi-industrial homemade cornmeal (flour) for arepas will find their way to the market. Those selling semi-processed foods (birthday cakes, fried dinner items), pastries, semi-industrial sausages, chorizo, and industrially smoked pork chops find a market, too.

Daisy has talked about this before – producers vs. consumers.

Everyone wins with good, honest trade

I saw a young man buying some groceries right before me in a small produce shop. He had a 10 dollar bill. The shop cashier quickly calculated how much local currency was, according to the official rate. As the staples he wished to purchase did not total 10 dollars, and the cashier had no change, she asked him to add another item. He chose a few popsicles for the kids from a jar on the counter, a little garlic, a couple of onions, and some oranges. He was a little bit over the 10 dollar mark, but she let it pass. Everyone wins. 

Those 10 dollar bills surely will land in someone else’s pockets and will remain as hard currency for quite some time. $5 banknotes are hard to get. $1 coins are usually not accepted, while $1 bills are sold at 25% to 40% above their worth. Merchants buy them to have change available. (I talked more about money exchange here.)

People who could not leave found a way to survive

Luck is a factor, but a minor one. Developed and polished skills are undoubtedly a major one in such success. My family and I have had plenty of time to talk. After five years of not being face to face, you may guess we have much information to share. My family’s consensus is people have survived with some degree of relative comfort because they: 

  • never stopped working
  • did not wait for any handouts
  • did not expect things just to get better

As for the others…

Those who did not fare so well were those who lacked the aptitude to produce or generate. Less creative people accustomed to routine work had their world suddenly torn apart, leaving them in a living hell. Many people who worked in retail selling clothing suffered because people can reuse the same clothing for years without too much trouble.

Under these circumstances, one needs to barter whatever and whenever it’s possible. 

The best possible advice is valid in any economy: produce something that requires less investment and adds the most significant value to your customer’s lives.

Some things are not exactly ideal

Oil industry jobs, as well as most of the related service and product industries, are gone. Salary in the national oil industry is a total joke. Buying a new car is impossible. The only new motorcycles a person can buy for a reasonable price are inferior Chinese brands that won’t hold together after a couple of years of regular use.

Plants have come to a halt. I had the gut feeling this would happen, and that was why I tried to put some stuff together over ten years ago and begin prepping. 

I see many elders on the streets that could be doing better

Many elderly people walk the streets with a handcart, offering vegetables or fruits. Children usually walk with them while they sell or barter whatever they can harvest or grow. They may not be the more giant tomatoes or potatoes you find in the shops (brought by truck from the mountains 3-4 hours away), but surely they will keep you healthy. And, they are tasty and locally grown. 

Many of them receive rice packages, eggs, pasta, beans, and other things in exchange for their goods. 

You are the creator of your own story

One reason I came back, other than feeling un-rooted and disheartened, was to create a different meaning to my life. I chose to travel back and live in my country (for a while at least) to make a decent living on my terms, on known terrain. And to avoid dependency on someone else to keep my pantry and kiddo’s belly full. With The Great Reset marching on, it’s more important than ever to have a place of my own with decent land to grow food, herbs, greens, spices, something. Anything. 

The most important lesson that coming back has taught me is how keeping stress under control can improve your life. Maintaining a balance between proper relaxation and the “beneficial stress” state (if such a thing exists) is highly productive and makes us work more efficiently, where it matters. 

Have you thought about how you’d survive in a full-on economic collapse?

Do you have any skills that will enhance your survival and lifestyle in an economic collapse like the one in Venezuela? What are they? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

About Jose

Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t  go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible…But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.

 Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on PatreonDonations: or the BTC address 3QQcFfK9GvZNEmALuVV8D6AUttChTdtReE

J.G. Martinez D

J.G. Martinez D

About Jose Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations:

Leave a Reply

  • Once again you provide invaluable analysis and advice, Jose. I know all that to be true and real.

    Twenty years ago, Venezuela had one of the biggest GDP per capita in the world, and one of the most thriving and dynamic economies.

    Something similar has happened in Argentina, another great country with a highly educated population but that unfortunately got lost with a leftist government and other derailments.

    It’s a shame what has happened, but this should work as a warning for others. I honestly can’t say this could happen in more developed countries (not without a civil war or some serious internal turmoil), for various reasons. It’s a different setting, a different culture and context too.

    But I know it can happen here where I live, and it doesn’t have to get that bad for life to become a lot worse. IMHO you’re on the right path, you left during the worse and are back now that things are more stabilized, to get ready for what’s coming. Good call. Keep up and stay safe, mate.

    • Fabian,

      I believe that this is coming for all of us. The Globalist movement masquerading as Liberals are bringing poverty, strife, and turmoil to every corner of Western culture. The powers that be seem to want mass populations to perish by any means. In the United States they have legalized dangerous drugs, (The States of Washington and/or Oregon has decriminalized ALL recreational drugs including heroin, meth, etc.) eliminated all mental health care facilities, politicized healthcare, removed access for large swaths of the population, and normalized debauchery by removing all sense of morality in society. Look at cities like New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco, Los Angeles; the drugs, violence, homelessness, and lack of law enforcement are by design. The politicians at every level of government are either the problem or they are effective tools of others pulling the strings, and as a result Western “civilization” is on the precipice and tipping towards the abyss.

      On a world-wide scale the Bank of International Settlements is actively working towards replacing the American Dollar as the world’s reserve currency and is being aided by Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen. Considering that every nation on earth’s currency is fiat and only backed by the American Dollar, this will create a worldwide depression that will make the 1930’s look like Summer camp. (with the notable exception of Iran’s currency)

      It is beyond time to prepare, but better now than later for those that haven’t begun to prep. Everything from water purification, food stuffs, etc. are great to put on the shelf while you can get them. Trade currency for commodities. Gold and Silver for portable wealth, Land for what it can produce, and most importantly skills and knowledge to maintain, repair, and produce all that your family and community can use.

    • Thanks Fabian.
      Sadly, my take is, before the world goes better, a lot of countries are going to see their economies decline. I realized I can live with the bare minimum, and the investments I made over 10 years ago are still there to be developed and become productive entities. Some of my countrymen in Brazil are now scared because lefties there are gaining momentum…and they don´t know where to go.

      Blessing for you and yours, amigo!

  • Excellent article as always! I really appreciate reading the words of one who’s experiencing these things. Actual experience means so much more than theoretical musings.

    “Those who did not fare so well were those who lacked the aptitude to produce or generate. Less creative people accustomed to routine work had their world suddenly torn apart, leaving them in a living hell.”

    I can totally see the truth in this. In the States, we call these people “unskilled labor” and they’re the ones who fall off of the face of the world during bad times. They’re the first to become homeless and the last to recover, if they recover at all. This is why I’ve been working on skills development. Even a gardener will have a way to get by, vs a factory line worker or sales person with no other skills.

    I think it’s ugly worldwide and going to get uglier, but people will survive. Things will change but we always survive.

    • Dear Jayne,

      Thanks! it´s quite encouraging to see the message is being received, even though it has to be processed from my native language. As societies are similar in basic aspects all over the world, the “crumbling patterns” once the economy fails are likely to be the same. You´re right. A gardener producing food is very likely to sell at the end of the day whatever he/she produces.

  • “You are the creator of your own story”

    Jose, that is a great line.
    And I like your attitude.
    As a lot of preppers know, attitude or mindset can be key to survival along with skills.

    I have mentioned in the past, I try to do a brutal, self assessment of my skills every year. See where I not only excel, but where I am lacking. And then try to address those areas accordingly.
    At one point, I was lacking in medical knowledge/skills. So, I took a EMT course and then a Wilderness EMT course from NOLS.
    Still working on my woodworking skills. Could I build a barn like my Amish neighbors (they also built my barn)? Nope! But I think I am getting better with each small project.
    I have raised slaughter, processed about two dozen hogs now. I know how to cure cuts of pork, bacon, make sausage without getting anyone sick or worse.

    Regardless if you are just starting out, or have been living the prepper lifestyle for a decade or longer, always strive to learn more or something new.

    • Dear 1stMarineJarHead,
      Thanks 🙂

      Just like it´s important in the financial world, diversification of skills is quite useful once the economy crumbles like ours.
      BTW that´s (another) small business I´m interested in setting up. We have enough space in one of our fridges to cure like 5 kilos of salami per week. Maybe more. An advantage is, we have plenty of spices grown locally and they´re available.
      Thanks for commenting!

    • Dear ant7,
      Maybe people is afraid of someone counterfeiting them; US currency is (was) widely unknown for most of the inhabitants since it was forbidden in 2005 by Hugo.

  • “I see the economy has been more or less working”

    how much of this “skills-based” economy was already part of the general economy before it collapsed?

    • I don´t know the exact number, but I remember years ago an article where the formal economy was close to a 65%. Meaning the amount of business and people paying taxes. However, in the 90s this sector was close to the 90%, even though the political system was completely different. What has strangled our economy has been the currency exchange control, in my take.

    • It has increased a lot. However, there are still some good cops trying to get the streets clean. And some vigilantes are appearing, too.

  • “Do you have any skills that will enhance your survival and lifestyle in an economic collapse”

    lots of preppers/survivalists think they’re going to get jobs as guards for someone who will otherwise support them.

    • I wouldn´t rely on that…at the end of the day, people will respond lethally if their subsistence means are under jeopardy. The worst enemy we have are the intelligence collectors. Crime has used psychoterror for decades to threaten people. These agents should be targeted and neutralized as soon as they are under reach. And yes, this has several interpretations.

  • I think that if the U.S. economy breaks down, I will survive for 2 months after. I am; unfortunately, much too dependent on certain technology, but am as prepared as I can be none the less. 7 years ago both my kidneys ceased functioning and I require dialysis 5 days/week. I could stretch that to every other day if I had to. I spent a year training to become a dialysis technician and acquired my own dialysis machine. I now dialyze at home doing for myself what a team of 22 others once did. I have emergency power if the grid goes down, and I have access to ingredients to make most of the supplies I would need to continue my care and the knowledge to manufacture more. The main one – a liquid called dialysate – I already make at home every day. But there are some supplies I just can’t make and they cannot be safely re-used. Of these I can keep a standard month’s supply on hand, which again, I could stretch to 2 months, but after that, sayonara.

    • Steven, I’m honestly impressed with your story. I’ve volunteered at a kidney support center here for some time and I know that this is really, really complicated, and from what you said, you went beyond anything I’ve seen to get some independence and self-reliance in this difficult and complex matter, I can tell. Congratulations mate, keep at it i’m sure you’ll do fine!

    • Dear Steven,
      You´re one of a kind. It´s very likely that those 2 months could become one year, or even more. I´ve seen how people here has become incredibly supportive of others.

      It´s real inspiring to see brave people facing the storm head up high.

      Bravo, amigo.

      Stay tuned!

  • I sew, mend, remake or make all new clothing with lots of materials on hand. I have reconditioned
    a treadle sewing machine. Clothing always need repurposed or mended .. especially if you’re not buying new.
    I also grow a large garden, sun dry and can a lot. Selling or trading food items is possIble.
    I have a few extras of shovels and rakes. Just have 2 hoes but more than a dozen shovels. Those could be sold or traded.
    I have a rabbits, chickens and ducks. I raise them for our meat, eggs, and rabbit furs become glove liners for our cold snowy winters. Sometimes I make boot liners too. A simple rabbit fur vest lined with cloth is warm. While I’m not bank I ng on selling or trading I’m working ti care for us

  • I quit my corporate job and started farming. Invest my income back to my homestead like greenhouses, irrigation, tools etc.. Collecting seed bank to my basement.. I am prepared.. let the great reset come.

  • “waiting for handouts”

    Anyone expecting “help” from the same tax fattened parasites who’ve caused most of our suffering is gonna be waiting for a looooooooooong time.

    Neither Big Business nor Big Government nor Big Tech gives a frogs fat rear end whether any of us live or die. Worthless woke piles of flaming garbage, every one of them

  • I left corporate life 15 years ago after being made redundant. I studied Jin Shin Jyutsu with approved instructors, and have studied nutrition, cellular / functional medicine and global finance / economics online. The corruption in the EU, IMF, WHO, UN is accelerating. On the practical side, I have started a permaculture food forest and vegetable plot, and regularly stock up on staples for barter if it becomes necessary. We live in rural France and have installed a well, a greenhouse and a wood burning stove. We also have a small plot of land where we are allowing native trees to grow. We have spent the last 10 years trying to reduce our dependence on medication, and are almost there. My next topic of study will probably be medicinal herbs that can be grown in the garden since the pharma cartel are trying to shut down all access to supplements.

    • Dear Alice, that´s great.
      Make sure to get some silent defense tools, like a Benjamin .357 and enough ammo for a lifetime. A couple of gillie suit and some former-gen military specs NVDs just in case wouldn´t be a bad idea neither.
      I know France is a developed country, but the red thin line maybe thinner than what you think. And you´ve had plenty of migrants these last few years. Use your imagination to establish a few scenarios involving personal hazard.
      Those who´ve been in corporations have a tendency to ignore our primal instincts in time. That makes us vulnerable to threats living under relative isolation conditions.
      Stay safe!

  • Pay attention to your tools. Do you need non-gasoline or electric powered backups? Do you have replacements for vital items? If you are able to make or repair something useful in an economic sense, will you still be able to do so when it breaks or someone steals it, or you use it up? The only point is, get this stuff while you can, if you can. Tools is more than just, say, a shovel. Fertilizer, fuel, drill bits, saw blades, batteries, storage containers, refrigeration, sutures, burn cream, butter churn, lathe, who knows, it’s your specialty. Think about what could shut you down, and then back it up with extra. I enjoyed the article.

    • Dear Greg the American,

      Thanks. I enjoyed writing it, as most of what I have written. You´re right. Tools have to be seen as production assets.

  • Great article. Having hard skills and being willing to work will help people get through what is coming.

    I remember my grandmother talking about living through the Great Depression and I’ve taken those lessons to heart. That’s probably the reason I’ve been a preppee. While she lived in a big city she had a small garden and was able to provide a fair amount of food with it.

    I grew up in a rural area, while it wasn’t on a farm I had friends who lived on farms and worked for a pig farmer as a kid.

    While I work on IT now that wasn’t always the case and working with my hands is how I relax now.

    I’ve always enjoyed fixing or building things. I think I have a varied enough skill set to make a living should it all go sideways.

    People with hard skills will have an easier time tham those who have soft skills and have spent their life working in an office.

    Many skills can be learned from books, at least enough to get get you to the practice and building experience stage – and this will put you ahead of many people. Your work may ot be very good but it is likely better than the average person who doesn’t have any idea. I’ve collected s fair number of books to provide a knowledge base for my group even though we have many of the basic skills needed.

    I like the idea of taking a wilderness EMT course. That is one area I could use more training in. I have no illusions about my skillset – I have a lot of basic to mid level skills in a lot of areas. I have enough knowledge to know that I can learn from books and enough tools to allow me take a stab and putting that knowledge into practice.

    Collecting old hand tools has been a hobby that me in a grid down society. I’ve been a mechanic on tools one step away from water/steam power using belts to power individual machines so many of my power tools have external motors so I can convert them to some other form of power if need be.

    Of course with my luck an asteroid will hit my shop while I’m in it. Then none of my prepe will matter.

  • Dear Jose, Another great article that provides valuable insights into the psychology of not only surviving but thriving in difficult times. I also benefitted from your advice about the NVDs and gillie suit – Learned something new today!

    Wishing you the best as you settle in. I look forward to hearing about how your garden is growing and what you’re up to in terms of preps and strategies (salami, bus, repairing, etc.). Kind regards to you and kiddo and your family!

    • Dear Happy Homesteader,
      For the time being the garden is waiting for all the compost (over 2 years old!) to be aired and mixed with some other soil to give it volume and consistency. My mom has decided to empty a couple of cement planters we have as integral part of our home where she has some ornamental plants that never did well. I convinced her that if you can´t throw them in a pot to make tea or stew, it´s not worthy having it.

      She has accumulated too much material as part of her past hobbies (knitting, canvas painting, tile painting, ceramics, doll-sewing, among some others I´m not sure I know about)…and that makes their house somehow overloaded with all sort of stuff.

      Now that I think of it I should be writing another article detailing that compost thing prep. We have tons of banana and plaintain peelings, as well as all sort of vegetables waste, even if we eat lots of beef, cheese, and other groceries. With kiddo and I living here, that is surely going to increase at least by half. Oh and I have yet to build the biodigestor. It´s not that we need the gas, but I surely will need it in our hut.

      You´re very kind 🙂 I will make sure they receive your regards.
      Stay tuned!

      • Hi Jose, I am definitely staying tuned, and looking forward to hearing about your garden and the compost preparations. I keep thinking about all of your mother’s hobbies! She is quite multi-talented. What is the local market like for arts and crafts?

        Hope that all is going well in the meantime before your next post!
        Kind regards, Happy Homesteader

        • Hey Happy Homesteader!
          For some reason, when someone writes a comment I don´t receive the notification email. My Bad. A friend of ours runs a shop with all sort of fabrics and materials; she just set up an exhibitor with some of her crotchet pieces to sell, and people is interested but this is a small town; I´m sure that maybe in larger cities where there is more wealthy (because in some cities there is still people with money in their pockets, believe it or not) this would result much better.
          Thanks! 🙂

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