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Tips & Tricks

4 Essential Barter Items For SHTF

Ever wonder what your dollars actually are? You have these little pieces of paper with faces printed on them. The paper itself isn’t actually worth anything. The US dollar isn’t even linked to a real currency like gold or silver anymore. A dollar is worth a dollar because we all decided it’s a dollar.

That’s a little crazy when you really start to think about it. What if that dollar isn’t worth anything because the government backing it no longer exists? It’s happened hundreds, maybe thousands, of times throughout history.

Whatever you’re prepping for, whether a natural disaster or a zombie apocalypse, one thing is for sure, you will most likely need to barter or trade with someone for something that you need if you live long enough.

So if that dollar in your pocket, or worse, the imaginary number in your online banking account, is suddenly worthless… how will you trade for what you need?

“That Will Never Happen”

If you truly believe that hyperinflation and 100% depreciation could never happen you need a history lesson and a reality check. Sorry, but it’s true.

If the grid goes down, the currency will be worthless. If there’s a pandemic, the currency will be worthless. If we’re hit by a Carrington Event equivalent solar flare, or if there’s a full-scale war on our soil, the currency will still be worthless.

The list goes on and on, and on….

During a SHTF scenario, the dollar will be worthless. When the government that prints, managed, and controls the dollar collapses the money goes down with it.

A quick look through history shows this is the case. You can look back 2000 years or 200 years or 20 years or 2 years and find the same scenario playing out all over the world.

When the institutions that once regulated the dollar’s value (by regulating how many dollars were in the economy) falls apart the money does too.

Right now, as I write this, it’s cheaper to wipe your butt with Zimbabwe dollars than use that money to buy toilet paper. Seriously. Three eggs in Zimbabwe cost about $100,000,000,000 ($100 Billion).

Count the money in your wallet or purse right now. If that happened here in America what would you be able to buy with it? When it takes $200,000 to equal $0.10, what is your backup plan?

You can forget going to the ATM or cashing out your 401k too by the way. They will be gone, or frozen for all eternity… if those imaginary numbers on the screen still exist at all.

It sounds so depressing. It sounds inevitable. It seems so BIG and scary, what can you possibly do about it? How can you protect yourself from 100% depreciation?

Let us start with a brief lesson.

Defining Currency

Currency is a commodity made of promises. The dollar itself doesn’t have any inherent value.

What gives a dollar its value is the power it provides you to exchange it for something you actually want later on. It is that simple.

Even when the dollar was backed by gold, the paper dollar itself had no real inherent value. It was, and is, just a promise that you can trade your dollar for a dollar of goods at some time in the future.

If society suddenly declared Happy Meal toys to be valuable (it’s happened), you could exchange a toy for a can of beans, a dozen of them for a flashlight, and you could trade a few thousand toys for a real car.

That might sound a little silly but economically speaking, money isn’t really any fundamentally different from Happy Meal toys. The only difference is that we’ve decided that pieces of paper cut, dyed, and printed a certain way are worth something.

Bartering … and Why It Matters

When the SHTF, people become impatient. Humans are funny like that. We need immediate value instead of promised value. All trust of strangers and their crazy paper money goes out the door.

That’s why our society collapses we will be forced to quickly switch to the barter system.

“Currency” would become anything that can translate to immediate value instead of promised value. Everything you own will be worth what people will trade for them, just like now.

The difference is no one will need that 60″ TV or fancy microwave with wifi anymore. They will need food, protection, medicine for their kids, and other basic needs. Our needs will become very primal, very day-to-day survival oriented.

The list of items people need is pretty large, but generally people will want a few basic things more than others. If you focus on stockpiling those items for trade, you’ll be the Bill Gates of the wasteland.

Barter Item #1: Food – fresh or canned veggies, meats, and seeds.

barter food

Food is a no-brainer to stockpile. People must have food to live. When they cannot find food for their kids your little can of pinto beans will be worth more than anything imaginable.

This is also a good reason to keep your food stores secret so you may choose not to trade food. I don’t blame you, you’ll eventually need that food yourself anyway.

If you do choose to barter for food I suggest stockpiling a special section of your food stores as cans specifically for trading. This is food that you still like to eat, just in case, but it’s set aside for this purpose.

Why cans instead of bulk food preps? Storing in bags is indeed cheaper, but tearing open a sealed 5 gallon mylar lined bucket that you can never properly seal back up because electricity and oxygen absorbers don’t exist anymore just so you could trade a handful of grains for a comb really is not a good idea.

With canned food, you have compartmentalized your “currency” much like a paper bill. One can of food will equal X amount of barter, decided upon during the trade. A single can is easy to hand over, no weighing or arguing required. Bartering with canned food will keep your bulk food safe.

Fresh vegetables, and to some extent herbs, will be just as valuable. Eggs, fresh meat, and seeds are also good barter items to keep in mind.

Barter Item #2: Traditional Vices – vodka, whiskey, shine, cigarettes, etc.

barter booze

Before I begin, if you have any problems with addiction to alcohol you are far better off avoiding it. Especially during the end of life as you know it.

Even if you’ve kicked the habit in the past you WILL have extreme difficulty during any SHTF scenario. Addiction will only end up hurting you or getting you killed. Avoid it.

But, if you’re like me and can have a drink or two and not need more and more then consider stockpiling alcohol.

100-proof alcohol is an excellent survival item.  From cleaning wounds to trading it with the neighbors, that fifth of vodka could save your life.

Alcohol is one of my top barter items, as it possesses a wide array of survival uses, and it’s going to be darn easy to trade.

While you obviously wouldn’t drink it someone else will. And they will pay dearly for it.

Alcohol, and the alcoholism that often accompanies it has been around about as long as gold. Alcoholism will be a very, very costly vice for the customer but a valuable one for you.

Again, if that thought bothers you don’t stockpile alcohol.

This same principal applies to tobacco products. Cigarettes will have amazing trade value. Since their value is in each cigarette a pack can be used like coins. or you can trade a carton at a time for larger quantities of things like food or medicine.

During SHTF, a stash of cigs will be a rare and welcoming sight, like as an old friend during dark times. That means instant profits for you.

Barter Item #3: Antibiotics – animal and fish antibiotics in bulk powders.

barter medicine

Antibiotics are a HUGE game changer. Having a stockpile of medicine takes you from barterer to life giver. Not only could you sit happy post-SHTF but you’ll also do a lot of good.

I’m not suggesting you play doctor post-collapse unless you’re already a doctor or you really have no other choice, but you could become the local pharmacist if all the laws of the land are gone.

I’m not talking about prescription medications either. Those are too hard to get in large enough quantities. If you have a prescription it’s because you have a medical condition. You should take your medicine now, not damage your health to hoard it for later.

Animal and fish antibiotics can be bought in bulk, are easy to administer, and can be used on humans. Do your research, get a couple of good reference books, and know what you’re talking about if you’re going to stock up on antibiotics.

Barter Item #4: Homemade Items or Services

Perhaps the biggest downside to using products as barter items is that they will eventually run out. No matter how much you save now or how much money you put into your preps they WILL run out one of these days. Having something to trade that you can make is another big game changer. Even better is a service that you can perform.

barter for service

Learn a few skills now so that you can make highly useful items or provide a much needed service. This will not only make a comfortable life for you when civilization ends, but you’ll also become a valuable member of your community.

Start now, BEFORE society falls apart. Hone your skills when knowledge is as easy to find as a google search or a trip to the library. Right now a broken tool or simple mistake means a quick trip back to wal-mart or the hardware store. One day there could be nearly incomprehensible difficulties in acquiring what you need to start anew.

Learning how to grow a garden or cut hair isn’t that hard for now. Making soap and weaving baskets can be done as a hobby. Setting up a blacksmith shop in your backyard could make or break your entire community.

Below is a list of skills you might try to learn or  items that you might consider selling when the SHTF. This list is certainly not exhaustive…

  • Traps and kits
  • Crop surpluses
  • Rope
  • Baskets
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Knives
  • Black powder
  • Glue
  • Candles
  • Livestock and poultry surpluses
  • Soap
  • Fishing poles
  • Archery gear
  • Haircuts
  • Blacksmithing
  • Makeup
  • Moisturizers
  • Nets
  • Herbal medicines
  • Hunting
  • Trapping
  • Leatherworking
  • Tanning

If you’re good at something offer your services to barter and see how it goes.

If you’re a medical professional, offer your services to those in need of them. If you’re a soldier, military veteran, police, or fireman you can use your skills to protect your community.

The Big Lesson Here: Don’t Go “Lone Wolf”

Overall, the best way to survive the worst is to think about what you have to offer others and what items can you trade for what you need.

You will most likely not be able to survive with zero human contact. Civilization as we know it started when humans abandoned the nomad  lone wolf lifestyle and settled in groups.  SHTF isn’t going to change thousands of years of human intuition.

Your ability to survive will largely depend on the knowledge, wisdom, and resources that you acquire NOW

Good luck out there.

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Sergeant Survival

I spread the news of disaster preparedness and homesteading skills to the masses. My mission is to teach the keyboard commandos out there some real life skills.

1 Comment

  1. I recently posted something like this on another forum (reddit). In a disaster, life depends on food, water, shelter. However after a month/year of limited power and resources, you start considering what else keeps people alive. Knowledge/information will be invaluable. Today we use Google/Internet to answer most questions. Post-disaster, think how valuable it would be to know how to do ANYTHING that you’d otherwise Google now. Saving files, instructions, manuals, or printing them and storing them securely would be a good idea.

    Also, if we’re really being honest, I’d add p0rn to that list of a barter item. Like it or not, I think there’s a market for it.

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