Times have been rough. The old world you know is long gone, replaced with a blunt cruelty you never imagined possible. People are dispersed, cities are collapsing, and infrastructure is completely lacking.
It has been 20 months since the government collapsed, and various attempts to stabilize or form a new one have failed, taking the last traces of an orderly economy with them.
Cash will continue to play a significant part in how people buy and sell things in the early stages of any long-term crisis because people feel that those bits of paper still have worth.
Credit and ATM cards will be the first to go since a lack of electricity limits their usage, and paper money will follow any large-scale state collapse.
However, for a short period of time, perhaps a couple of months, as long as a guy has a wad of dollars in his pocket, he can still buy stuff from the uninformed and others who don’t understand how economies work.
As you stand in the rubble of a vacant grocery store, you understand paper currency is merely a nostalgic relic of a bygone era.
If you cannot generate what you require, you must either go without it or locate someone who does and is prepared to trade for it.
What can you barter?
There is a common set of needs that a person must meet in order to survive any disaster.
The broad stroke bullet points of that list are food, shelter, fire, water, medicine, and protection, as those categories must be supplied and refilled when they run out. Otherwise, your chances of surviving will be reduced.
Given this, the extra gear you get can be utilized to exchange for the consumables you run out of. Remember that the value of a single object is determined by the law of supply and demand: the scarcity of an item and the desire for it increase its worth.
Knives become much more valuable when they are in low supply.
The trick is determining what items are vital in a survival situation, and the most obvious are those that expire rapidly, such as food.
However, this presents a dilemma. Storing an extra loaf of bread or a few boxes of crackers with the purpose of trading them later will not help because it will only last a few weeks. Bags of wheat and grains, on the other hand, will last for several years.
The longer something lasts, such as sugar, honey, bouillon cubes, and salt, the more it can benefit you in the future when trading for veggies or fresh eggs.
People have vices, wants, habits, and desires, and you need to make the most of them. However, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol addiction can be a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, their need for spirits, cigarettes, and coffee may be so severe that they are willing to pay a premium price for them. These same addictions, on the other hand, may be so powerful that they are willing to commit crimes to satisfy them.
The following are some things you should save to utilize as bartering tools. They not only meet various demands in people’s lives, but they may also survive a long time if properly stored.
Alcohol and Cigarettes
People smoke and drink, and these vices will never go away. But their access to alcohol and cigarettes will shift.
Despite the ease with which distilled spirits may be produced and the ease with which tobacco can be grown, most people will continue to rely on bottled alcohol and packaged cigarettes.
Distilled spirits have an infinite shelf life and can be used for various purposes other than drowning your sorrows. Any alcohol that contains more than 40% alcohol (vodka, rum, whiskey, etc.) can be used for first aid and as a sterilizer.
Store three or four cases of inexpensive vodka (the price of alcohol has never gone down), and it will last forever if kept in a cool, dark spot. Get those 750mL bottles, which are easier to barter than the larger ones.
A pack of smokes does not have the same shelf life as a bottle of liquor. If you don’t smoke, storing a few cartons of cigarettes in the freezer will only keep them for another two to three years at most. After that, they go stale.
If you intend to use them for trade, you should rotate them out on a regular basis. Instead, stock up on raw tobacco and rolling papers, which last much longer.
Coffee and Tea
The caffeine in coffee and tea can be a powerful drug, even if it is not as strong as alcohol or nicotine.
Because of the nature of the bean, ground coffee beans lose flavor almost immediately and do not store well. However, freeze-dried instant coffee will last indefinitely.
Purchasing and storing multiple boxes of single-serving coffee packages will be a valuable commodity, as there will always be people who require a nice cup of coffee.
Ammunition and Knives
Protection may be the first priority for some people, especially if society becomes lethal—as it would in urban places when people exceed supplies.
Remember that stores only keep a few days’ worth of anything on their shelves. Ammo will always be valuable, and it may be stored for a long time if kept in a cold place and vacuum-packed to keep moisture out.
Because they feed the most common types of firearms, the ideal calibers to stock are 12-gauge shotgun shells, 9mm handgun rounds, and.22 Long Rifle (as do .308 and 5.56). Maintain at least 200 rounds of each.
Knives and sharp tools, like axes and hatchets, are extremely versatile pieces of equipment that should be cherished and treated as if they were gold.
Everyone needs a decent knife, and if you have tools for cutting firewood, carving kindling, opening boxes, packages, and even cans of food, you can sell them for a high price. Three or four knives, axes, and hatchets take up very little space.
People seeking a sense of normalcy will have an increased desire for soap, shampoo, and toothpaste to alleviate their pain. A clean physique and fresh breath are medical essentials for living a long life.
Shampoo, toothpaste/toothbrush, soap bars, razor blades, women’s sanitary needs, condoms, and toilet paper are all valuable items.
The first to go will be common, ordinary objects that most people take for granted.
How many tubes of toothpaste do you currently have in your home? One? Two?
You can go without cleaning your teeth till it runs out (as would the baking soda), but you need teeth to survive, and having a tooth infection isn’t the way to do it.
You should have at least 20 tubes of toothpaste, 10 bottles of shampoo, and a large supply of razors, among other things. These things will sell out quickly, and there will be no way to replace them.
When was the last time you saw someone making soap?
Medicine and First Aid
Survival is difficult. It’s perilous, and danger lurks around every corner.
A well-stocked first aid bag will be invaluable to you, and you will almost certainly not exchange anything from it.
But how much is a bottle of aspirin worth?
Or what is the worth of a bottle of medications such as amoxicillin or doxycycline?
Bronchitis, pink eye, ear infections, strep throat, urinary tract infections, and skin infections are all very common.
Medicine to combat these infections will be in high demand, making it a valuable commodity, so keep a well-rounded stock in your supplies.
Antibiotics are heat and moisture sensitive, so even if they may last for a few years, keep them carefully, preferably in the freezer.
Do your homework before stockpiling medications, as some may degrade over time, losing efficacy or becoming harmful. Some antibiotics, such as tetracycline and erythromycin, can become harmful after they have expired.
Fuel and Batteries
Your bug-out vehicle, like your generator, runs on petrol. When the world comes to a halt, setting everyone back 200 years, gasoline will be in short supply, despite the fact that people will still need to drive and operate their equipment.
If you plan to stay put, 20 or 30 gallons of gas will serve your immediate needs and can be swapped if not required. To keep fuel fresh for as long as possible, store it in metal containers and add a stabilizer. Gas storage is problematic since it is bulky and difficult to transport in large amounts.
Most flashlights use standard batteries, which will be in limited supply if the power goes out. Long-term battery storage necessitates a cool, dark environment, such as a refrigerator, but make sure you cycle them out every a year or two.
Stock D-, AA-, and AAA-cell batteries, as well as a few lithium CR123As for current torches.
Save some seeds
What happens after you pull the carrot from the ground? Do you know how to prepare the seeds for the following season?
If you plan to raise crops after the collapse, you should learn how to propagate various seeds. It’s simple, but many people are unaware. Not only do you have a sustainable food source, but you can also begin gathering and drying seeds for commerce.
Carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, green beans, spinach, and tomatoes are the easiest vegetables to cultivate. These types flourish in novice gardens all around the world, so if you’re going to collect and store seed packages to trade, start with these.
Bean, lettuce, pea, and tomato seeds can be stored cool and dry for up to eight years. Cucumber and melon seeds can persist for more than ten years; however, most seeds only last three.
In the aftermath of a disaster, goods aren’t the only thing that can be useful. If you have valuable expertise, your services can be excellent bartering tools.
A doctor or nurse, for example, can trade surgery for food, or a skilled carpenter can fix a roof or a shelter wall in exchange for a box of 12-gauge shells.
A preacher, teacher, farmer, mechanic, blacksmith, butcher, mason, brewer, and leader have abilities that few people in our society have, and they will command a premium when bartering commodities for services.
These abilities will always be in demand.
Have you ever had any of them?
A prepper would do well to research them and become acquainted with a variety of low-tech occupations that have withstood the test of time.
However, it is common for an apprentice to aspire to be a jack of all trades, but the apprentice becomes a master of none. Make a pastime out of anything that fascinates you.
How to barter
We have become so reliant on others for our basic requirements as a society that the idea of not being able to run out of fresh fruit or new clothes is impossible to comprehend.
A world without money will include trading surplus products for what you lack because there is no formal mechanism to buy commodities and services.
There are always some risks
Bartering is as old as humanity itself and has been used for millennia to trade commodities and services.
Bartering works well in tiny communities where everyone knows each other or is in a comparable situation with similar mentalities.
It only gets dangerous when interacting with strangers. Consider the consequences of trading ammunition with an unvetted outsider who may use that same ammunition to take the rest of your supplies.
Never show your entire hand when negotiating a bargain. Always keep your cache of items hidden and only bring what you intend to trade ahead.
Even better, avoid trading near your stockpile. If someone notices that you have 10 cases of vodka, economies of scale will work against you, making each bottle of vodka less valuable.
Now, if the person with whom you are trading believes that there is only one bottle of vodka within 10 square miles of him, the value of the bottle rises, and it may be traded for more.
How much you need something—and, conversely, how badly someone needs something from you—influences how much that object is worth. Remember that the perceived worth of any object is totally important to a person’s degree of satisfaction.
Play it cool
The finest agreement is one in which both parties believe they have won. But, even if you have the upper hand, don’t enrage the other guy. You might do business with him again.
And never, ever admit your desire for something specific.
Conversely, constantly think about every transaction and be courteous if someone declines to deal or does not have what you need. However, as in any survival emergency, you must ultimately care for yourself, your family, your crew, and your best interests.
When something happens that decimates our society and destroys our government to the point where its currency becomes worthless paper, it will cause such a seismic upheaval in our lives that even the concept of commerce will become foreign to us.
Those possessing commodities or services for trade are the only ones who have a chance of survival.
Your first step in survival is to make sure you’re well supplied, not just with items you’ll need today, tomorrow, or next week, but also with things other people will need—enough that they’ll want to trade with you.