If our economy ever does collapse and the dollars we’ve saved become worthless, one thing is for sure, a system of bartering will emerge, along with a black market. As you stock up on food and other goods, you may have had the thought, “This would be good for bartering.” Prepper bartering is a very popular topic on most prepper forums and blogs. But is it something worth planning and prepping for?
The weaknesses of barter
Most people think barter is merely “I’ll trade you this for that.” In a pure, simple sense that is so. However, where the rubber meets the road, where theory smacks hard into the face of reality, it isn’t nearly that simple and easy. There are definite drawbacks.
Let’s use the realistic example of a parent in search of an antiobiotic for his child. If he’s lucky enough, he’ll come upon an acquaintance who happens to have a stash of antibiotics, maybe even fish antibiotics that are available in livestock stores or on Amazon. The parent explains his need and requests a week’s worth of amoxicillin.
The owner of that antibiotic now has to make a tough decision. His own loved ones may be in need of those pills somewhere down the road. It may be impossible to purchase any more in the near future, but perhaps this desperate parent has something of value to trade.
Here is where bartering gets interesting because now the parent has to think of things he’s willing to give up in order to acquire amoxillin. Food? A Berkey water purifier? Gold or silver? A firearm? Ammunition? What?
He can offer any number of items in trade but until the owner of the Amoxicillin decides he wants something that is offered, the trade isn’t going to happen. In my situation, I’d be thinking:
- Food? We already have a year’s worth, and I don’t need any more.
- A Berkey? Got that, plus a few other water purifiers.
- Gold or silver? Maybe, but how much am I willing to lose?
- A firearm? I could always use another but look at what I’m giving up: a drug that could save my own life or my child’s life someday. Not sure it’s worth it.
- Ammo? Same reasoning as above.
The trade for amoxicillin in this case may be dead in the water and the parent in search of the drug may have to move on and find someone else with that drug stashed away somewhere.
So is prepper bartering something you can count on as a survival strategy? Obviously not. There’s no substitute for being very well prepared yourself and thinking ahead to what you might need.
By the way, if the proposed barter runs into a dead end, guess who is vulnerable to robbery or worse? Yep. The guy who let it be known that he has a supply of life saving drugs. Not smart and may very well become a major reason why many people simply won’t turn to barter. It reveals what they have during a time in which scarcity is the rule.
If you DO want to prep for barter…
First, make sure you are stocked up with the basics for yourself and your family before worrying about adding items for barter. Consider these points:
- Do you have extra funds to purchase barter goods?
- What percentage of your prep budget will go into buying barter goods?
- Do you have room to stock up on items specific for barter?
The next steps are:
- Review lists of barter goods and consider costs. What items can you most afford and do you have room to store them?
- Think about which potential barter goods can double as useful items for you if you need to raid that stash. Example: if you never, ever drink alcohol, then maybe you shouldn’t stock up on dozens of bottles of liquor.
- Consider stocking only items whose uses you know very well. The more you know about them, and thus their usefulness and value, the better a deal you can haggle.
- Prioritize your shopping list, but be prepared to deviate if a great deal pops up.
- Look for your chosen items on sale, clearance, or have coupons. Over the counter drugs, nutritional supplements, and cosmetics often show up in clearance aisles.
What to buy for your barter stash
Most barter items fall into two main categories: comfort/luxuries and survival essentials.
Imagine living for weeks or months without a bar of soap or a bottle of shampoo. After weeks without electricity, imagine the incredible value a pack of matches might have. Other suggestions in the comfort/luxuries category are:
- Nail polish
- Feminine hygiene
- Paperback books
- Hygiene supplies: soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo
- Candy, chocolate, chewing gum
- Anything that will help make life more pleasant
- Baby wipes
- Candy, chocolate
Among essentials that would be welcome in a barter exchange:
- Long-term food
- Water filter/purification
- Seeds (Read this article about mini seed banks specific for bartering.)
- First Aid supplies, many are on this list
- Over the counter medications and medical supplies
- Baby supplies: diapers, formula, baby clothes
- Camping gear
- Insect repellant
- Matches, fire starters
You can read long lists of barter-able items here. Remember that skills and knowledge are great for bartering and won’t impact what you have stored away.
The bottom line is to give this some thought, don’t over-spend, and keep your eyes open for bargains.