Skip to content

Disaster Preparedness When You’re On a Budget

2020 and 2021 taught us all that anything can happen. From a pandemic to the ice and windstorm in the south, plus many other disasters, many people found themselves without proper preparations. Disaster preparedness can be the difference between barely surviving and being okay until the world rights itself again. But how do you do that on a budget?

disaster preparedness on a budgetCreate A Basic Kit

Think about the four things you really need to survive:

  1. shelter
  2. clothing
  3. food
  4. water

That’s it!

It really is that simple.

In an age of technology, specialty foods, and getting everything in two days or less, it can seem overwhelming when it comes to creating a disaster preparedness kit. But you just need to start with the basics.

Here are a few things to pack in your kit:

  • Water ( recommends one gallon/per person/per day)
  • Food – including protein bars, canned foods, dehydrated foods like veggies and fruits, peanut butter, and baby food/pet food if it will be needed. Think long-term storage items, not food that can go bad in less than 6 months.
  • Batteries
  • Tool kit – including a pocket knife, pliers, and a hammer
  • Duct tape
  • Kitchen supplies that aren’t powered by being plugged in – this includes a can opener and propane stove if you can grab one.
  • Face masks
  • Maps of your local area
  • A few changes of clean clothing (including underwear and socks), as well as jackets/coats, hiking boots/shoes, or any other items that you may need in your area should you need to be outside
  • Paper towels and toilet paper
  • Cash – stored somewhere safe and not so easy to get into
  • Copies of important documents in a waterproof/fireproof container, including birth certificates and social security cards
  • Emergency services phone numbers (you can store this with your important documents)
  • Extra chargers, cords, etc for electronic devices
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Emergency whistle
  • Garbage bags
  • Flashlights, flares, lighters, matches, and candles (any or a combination of all)
  • Any prescription medicine that must be taken
  • Blankets

I know that sounds like a lot, but in reality, you have most of these items in your home already. So just find a place to store them all so you have easy access.

And here are some extras you can add if you have the budget and time to grab them:

  • First aid kit – this can be homemade or store bought if you get a good deal. But, it should include bandages, compresses, ointment, antiseptic wipes, a cold compress, tweezers, nail clippers, and gauze at the least.
  • Trauma kit – including medical scissors, a critical care pocket guide, splint, venom extractor, and liquid skin bandage.
  • Entertainment items, especially if you have young children who won’t understand what’s going on.
  • OTC medication – including Tylenol, NyQuil, Emergen-C tablets, allergy medicine (both drowsy and non-drowsy), vitamins, etc.
  • Sleeping bags, and other camping equipment (like a small tent) should you have to leave.
  • Hygiene and body care items – including soap, hair ties, shampoo/conditioner, towels, sunscreen, etc.

One of my favorite ways to get an idea of what I need to pack is to search “disaster preparedness bug out bags” on YouTube as well. There are many preppers who have created videos that fit a multitude of budgets, space constraints, and more.

Buy A Few Extras Every Week

As you can see, your kit can become extensive. But remember, you don’t have to buy everything listed in one week. What I like to do is set aside $5-$10 of my grocery budget each week, and use that to buy food, water, and other items that I can put in my kit.

For example, rice can last forever, and a bag of brown rice costs less than $1 per pound. If I buy the 10 pound bag, I only spend about $7 for the whole thing. Then the next week, I can buy protein bars, or extra nail clippers. If you keep buying items here and there each week, you’ll have a basic kit built in no time.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Off Brand

Don’t think that you have to purchase name brand items in order to get decent products. Off-brand foods taste the same as name brand, and are usually a few dollars (or at the very least, a few cents) cheaper. Remember, you aren’t using these items right away.

And, should an emergency never happen to you, you don’t want to throw away items and dollars that you didn’t have to grab. Stick to off-brand items when it makes sense.

Also, don’t be afraid to get dollar store products. I’ve found plenty of items at dollar stores that work just as well as name brand products, including bandaids, hair ties, storage containers, and even food!

Keep Things In Order

You may be thinking that all of these items take up a lot of space, but they don’t have to. In fact, I live in a two-bedroom home and I’m able to store my kit that could last my family an entire month (with some items being able to last us a lot longer). I use our hallway closet to store our kit, but you can use whatever works best for you.

I know people who keep their kits in their cars, RVs, basements, pantries, and even under their bed. The key is to make sure that everything is stored correctly, is properly labeled, and stored in items like storage containers so you know where everything is.

Reuse If You Can

Storing 50 individual gallons of water isn’t fun. Instead of doing that, you can also try something like a water filter, or buying those giant jugs of water for storage instead.

The same goes with other items as well.

  • Do you really think you’ll need paper plates, or would your regular plates work?
  • Do you HAVE to buy a bunch flares and matches, or will just the one flashlight and a fire starter work?

Disaster preparedness kits can cost you a ton of money, but they don’t have to. By thinking smart and reusing or finding reusable items, you can save yourself money in the long-run.

Have Backup Plans

Of course, you should also have backup plans. For example, my family lives in the midwest, where tornados are common. We know that we could always go to my mother-in-laws house should the weather take a turn for the worse.

She has a basement, and we don’t, so instead of building a huge kit just in case a tornado hits us, we built a smaller kit and will use her basement for shelter and temporary living arrangements should a tornado ever ruin our home (knock on wood).

  • Can you stay with friends and family should a natural disaster wreck havoc on your home?
  • Will your car get you to where you need to go?
  • Do you have emergency plans in place for your family, including your children and pets?

These plans don’t cost you anything to prepare, but can make all the difference should something happen to your home or family.

Disaster Preparedness: It’s Possible On A Budget

Whether you have a small budget or a large one, it’s possible to prepare for just about anything. As long as you keep your shelter, clothing, food, and water in mind, your kit will work out just fine. No one wants to be stuck in a natural disaster, but being prepared is better than not being prepared.

How is your disaster preparedness? Are you really ready if a disaster hits?

Money Save Money

AUTHOR Kimberly Studdard

Kim Studdard is a project manager for online entrepreneurs and small businesses. When she isn't spending time with her daughter and husband, or reading her growing pile of horror books, you'll find her working on her HR degree and working towards FIRE.


  1. I need to get this in order. Putting on to do list now!

    • Yup! Same here!

Comments are closed for this article!

Related posts