5 Tips on How to Prepare for a Disaster on a Budget

Whenever I think about emergency preparedness, it sounds like a lot of work and a lot of money. When money is tight, it’s hard to make emergency preparedness a priority. Since it is National Preparedness Month, I decided to find ways to help save money while preparing for an emergency. Here are a few tips to make emergency preparedness kit less expensive.

Tip #1: Start with Things at Home


In my home, I have a lot of stuff. I started building my kit by taking things from my house that I already have, such as flashlights, batteries, bandages, moist towelettes, spare clothes, old blankets, and antiseptics. Small supplies like these can be in a centralized location and, if needed, I can use them in non-emergency situations and replenish the supplies afterwards.

Tip #2: Gather Supplies Gradually and Wait for Sales or Coupons

pexels-photo-51202Unless you are under an immediate emergency warning, you don’t need to get all your supplies in one day. If you’re shopping on a monthly budget, getting extra things–such as food, toiletries, and more–when you are doing your normal shopping can help slowly build up your emergency kit. Buy non-perishable food that you normally eat—if you don’t usually like eating sardines, you probably won’t like them in an emergency, either. If your favorite canned food is on sale, buy an extra for your emergency kit. There are also plenty of coupons for these types of supplies. Taking the time to look at weekly ads or at manufacturer’s coupons can help reduce the amount of spending for your emergency kit.

And you can eat the food supplies in your pantry as you need them in everyday life. Just remember to restock them. It’s certainly not a good use of money to let them expire!

Tip #3: Store Your Own Water

bottles-60474_960_720Whenever I buy 2-liters of soda from the grocery store, I usually end up recycling the empty bottle in the recycle bin. Instead of tossing the soda bottles away, wash the bottle and store water in it for your emergency supply. Most plastic bottle can be filled with water and stored in the freezer, which helps keep freezers and refrigerators cold in the event of a power outage. For recommendations on how to do this, the Seattle Office of Emergency Management has some great tips.

Tip #4: Buy Off-Brand Merchandise when Buying Supplies

FlashlightPreparing for an emergency isn’t necessarily the time to buy a bunch of fancy gadgets. The most important thing is that the equipment fulfills its purpose. Items such as radios, flashlights, and bandages do not need to be top brands. Buying off-brand products saves you money and fills the same purpose of top brands without the cost of a brand name. You can look for things like battery-operated radios and flashlights at garage sales, too.

Tip #5: Buy in Bulk

Cans Tin Packaging Background Durability Lids

Buying in bulk is typically cheaper than buying things individually. Supplies like food come in big packages, which allow you to buy important supplies for the whole family. About a weeks’ worth of food per person is recommended. Don’t have a big family? Find a neighbor or friend and go in on bulk items together. Food should be non-perishable, cooked, and somewhat nutritious. In the long term, nutrient-high foods will sustain someone longer than calorie-rich, but nutrient poor food, so try avoiding buying junk food for your emergency supplies.

Do What You Can

Remember, there is more to emergency preparedness than setting up a kit, and many steps don’t cost any money (like making an emergency communication plan for your family). Even if you can’t afford to buy everything on the recommended list, add what you can afford now, because whatever you can do will make you more ready. To know additional steps to prepare for an emergency, visit http://makeitthrough.org/.

Originally posted on September 19, 2017.

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I am a recent graduate from the University of Washington and my interests are in public health emergency management, climate change, and environmental health.