Cost-Effective Preparing

Once you start reading through the information on this website panic will likely set in. Not because of all the ways things can fall apart, but rather how much it may cost to get all the gear you'll want to keep you and your family safe. Buying it all brand new, right now would:
1. be really expensive 
2. not be very wise unless you were loaded in money. 
Yes, as part of the Amazon Influencer program it would help ME out if you bought every item for which I created an Amazon link...but don't. Well, if you're loaded with money please use my links but for the rest of you, but for the rest of you, keep reading to learn ways to save a lot of money.

To give an overview of this post, saving money can be accomplished by:

  1. Buying the right new stuff at the right time.
  2. Finding deals on new stuff.
  3. Buying the right used stuff from the right place.

Buying New Stuff at the Right Time
Let me state again, you don't need to buy everything right now! As I'm writing this Texas has just come through the devastating winter storm of mid-February, 2021. We have over three months yet until June when hurricane season starts, and (knock on wood!) ten months before we may have worry about winter weather again. This means we have time to search for good deals on gear for hurricanes or winter storms, so let's explore some of these possible sources of good deals. 

Seasonal Sales: Stores love to lure you in with deals at the beginning of summer, end of summer, and a few other big seasonal events.
Spring Sales
  • Texas Tax-Free Emergency Preparedness Weekend is a good time to pick up big-ticket items such as generators, along with other stuff such as camping gear, flashlights, water purification, gas cans, coolers, tarps, carbon monoxide sensor, and a bunch of other useful equipment. Many big box hardware and sporting goods stores offer additional sales that weekend to convince you to go to them.
  • Big box hardware stores know people are starting to repair winter damage and prepare for summer activities. Look for deals on construction materials, plumbing and electrical repair stuff, and gardening tools. This may be a good time to pick up a 2-gallon garden sprayer, Gorilla Tape, and a shower nozzle to make an improved shower (see Sanitation & Hygiene Page) or a Deep-Cycle battery to attach to a solar panel system. Also look for deals on kerosene heaters and 5-gal cans of kerosene that didn't get sold during the winter.
  • Camping and outdoor sports stores have deals on camping gear, tents, camp cookware and other useful things to have on hand when the grid is down. But it may be even more cost effective to wait until fall. ;)
  • Department stores also may offer deals on things like insect repellents, sunblock, first aid kits, and even fire extinguishers. 

Mid-Summer Sales

  • Department and camping/outdoors stores are starting to put summer-weight clothing on sale to make room for the winter fashions and equipment. Keep an eye out for "quick-dry" clothing (good during/after hurricanes), and assorted cooling wraps and vests. Camping gear may also start to go on sales.
Fall Sales
  • Camping and outdoors stores are clearing out camping and backpacking gear, picnic stuff (plates, bowls, cups) and the last of their lightweight clothing and raingear. 
  • Grocery stores are clearing out summer seasonal goods such as coolers, Nalgene water bottles, hotdog/marshmallow campfire sticks, bbq equipment including grills, and other assorted picnic/outdoors stuff.
  • Big box hardware stores may be putting winterizing supplies and materials on sale. This includes small engine and chain saw oils/fluids, chainsaws, antifreeze, gas cans, pipe insulation, power inverters, solar-powered lawn lights, etc.
  • Department stores will be clearing out their "lawn & garden" stuff so deals are available on garden tools/equipment/maintenance materials, solar lights, bbq items, picnic gear, insect repellants and sunblock (best time of year to buy these!)
Mid-Winter Sales (Post-Christmas)
  • Outdoors/hunting/camping stores are clearing out all the cold-weather hunting clothing such as warm socks, hats, gloves, mittens, coats, sweaters, and long underwear. They are also clearing assorted warming devices from little, on-use chemical heaters to propane and kerosene heaters.
  • Auto parts stores often have deals on batteries, power inverters, and other spare parts for cars and other devices.

Finding Deals on New Stuff
Stores want you to buy from them and to help draw you in many have free or low cost "club" memberships. Often they'll send out weekly email adds with assorted coupons or other special deals. Create an email account specifically for these ads so they don't fill up your main email, but check the newsletter emails for coupons and other good offers. Some ones I like include: 
  • MooseJaw Outdoors - big names gear are decent prices, especially with coupons or on clearance. Check them for clothing, packs, camp cooking gear, sleeping bags, etc.
  • Campmor - another good outdoors gear site selling brand name stuff. Sign up for their newsletter for even better deals.
  • Harbor Freight Insider Track - yes, a majority of the stuff is cheaply made imports but for things like tarps, rope, zipties, security cables, safety glasses, etc. As often as once a month they send out 25% off coupons and several times a year the offer even bigger coupon discounts. They also offer Insider Track members cheap, free stuff coupons such as flashlights, screwdriver sets, and other things just for coming to the store. The clerks generally let you keep the coupon so you and family members can re-use them to build up a stash of trade goods and goodwill gifts to help with bartering. Harbor Freight's line of solar panels and solar equipment is a great way to use the big coupons to start learning the ins and outs of setting up a solar power system.
  • Northern Tools Advantage Club - pretty much Harbor Freight's main competition with all the same sorts of stuff and deals.
  • O'Reilly Auto Parts Rewards  - saving money on auto parts such as batteries, tools, and free vehicle diagnostic checks to make sure your vehicle is ready to get the heck out of Dodge if necessary!
  • Camping World - while their RVs and campers are really expensive a lot of the support equipment is reasonably priced and can be tempting when it goes on sale. Joining their club does cost $29 per year but they give you more than that back in coupons. They have a lot of hard to find stuff like generators, generator power cords, overly large or unusually small propane tanks, 12vdc lighting and kitchen devices, and interesting solar stuff.
  • Renogy - this is THE company for solar power. Sign up for their newsletter to get assorted tips, deals, and notice of sales. Their equipment costs more than the Harbor Freight stuff but the smaller size and higher quality makes up for it. A Renogy 100 Watt solar panel is 1/3 the size of the equivalent power HF panel but only costs about 15% more.
  • Sportsman's Guide - if you want military surplus they have everything. Sign up for their catalog just to drool. Lol! Their clearance deals can be awesome.
Buying the Right Used Stuff from the Right Place
Buying used gear is an excellent way of saving a lot of money. Things I buy used include cookware, blankets, clothing, storage tubs, water bottles, assorted tools, and even shoes & boots. Things I would NOT buy used are generators or other things with a gas-powered engine, kerosene or propane heaters for use indoors, wood ladders, or electronics such as CB radios and walkie-talkies. Places I like to shop for used gear include:
  • Goodwill - this is where I get a lot of clothing, tools, cookware, and even camping equipment. They have a great online store, too.
  • Salvation Army - another store like Goodwill and they also have online sales but it seems to have a smaller selection of goods.
  • St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Stores - the Catholic version of Goodwill/Salvation Army. They sell clothes, bedding, tools, etc.
  • Pawn Shops - simple tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches, socket set are cheap at pawn shops. Machetes, heavy-duty chains, bicycles, and firearms are another thing to check for. Pawn shop generators may be tempting but it's likely they were either abused or stolen.
  • Craig's List - you can find great deals over time but some of the people you'll meet can be a bit scary. Follow safe purchasing guidelines such as meeting during daylight hours in a busy location. A number of police departments have set up exchange zone for strangers selling/buying stuff.
  • Next Door - find out what your neighbors are selling (or giving away!). You can also ask if anyone is selling items.
  • Facebook Marketplace - kind of cross between Craig's List and Next Door. It can be useful for finding older ham radio gear!
  • Garage Sales - someone else's trash can be yours...but occasionally good finds occur. Tools, camping gear, kitchen stuff...
  • Flea Markets - a bunch of garage sales in one place! These can be a fun way to kill a few hours.
  • Local outdoors clubs - many places have one or more social groups devoted to hiking, camping, off-roading, hunting, fishing, hammocking, etc. People are constantly upgrading gear and then selling or even giving away older stuff. Sometimes they even organize swapmeets where everyone brings the gear they no longer want to trade or sell to others. Those are really fun!
  • Ham Radio Swapmeets (HamFests) - ham radio operators often thrive in setting up impromptu radio broadcast stations in weird places. This means they usually have a lot of off-grid solar panels, battery systems, camping gear, and other preparedness items. Unfortunately, many of these events have been cancelled due to the coronavirus.
Hopefully this helps give you ideas of when and where to buy emergency preparedness gear. You don't need to buy everything and right away. A side benefit of buying things over time is that gives you a chance to "play" with the items, learning how to set them up, use them, and pack them away again. That experience will reduce the surprises caused by untested gear.

Of course, if you DO have tons of money and want everything NOW then check out my Amazon stores and help me out. :)

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