After years of prepping, I’ve been reflecting on what I would do differently if I were starting to prep right now. I’ll bet some of my mistakes are pretty common among all preppers and survival-minded people. These are some of the mistakes I made. Do any of these sound familiar?
1) I read too much Survival Blog when I should have watched more how-to videos on YouTube.
Survival Blog gave me a big kick in the pants for getting started in preparedness, but it also sucked my wife and I into near-panic attacks and bouts of despair. One day I came home from work to find her at my desk, still in pajamas, hypnotically reading article after article on Survival Blog. Doom and gloom articles had her frozen with fear, and although that blog and others like it motivated us, they also didn’t encourage us to learn more skills. It was all about stocking up and being afraid.
YouTube is filled with massive amounts of great information but in smaller doses and often accompanied by a friendly face and voice. I would have learned more about waxing cheese, bushcraft skills, primitive water filters, and stocking up on veterinary antibiotics, all of which would have been more practical than reading tips for buying property safe from rifle fire.
James Rawles is one of my prepper heroes, but for a beginner, YouTube videos would have been more helpful and encouraging. Just one of many prepper mistakes I made early on.
2) I should have bought less crap and more high-quality products.
Preparedness is best done in this order: awareness, education, and then action. In our initial panic, we steered clear of education and jumped right into the action phase. That’s my style, I guess. Early on I bought a lot of cheap “survival” products that were recently sent to a thrift store as a donation. My wife was quite the couponer and because she had a stack of “awesome” coupons, she bought bottles and bottles of salad dressing we never used. After a year or two, they turned all sorts of weird colors and she threw them out. I didn’t argue with her.
I’ve since figured out that buying the best quality we can afford is smart, even if we have to wait until we have the money. A high-quality pair of walking shoes could make the difference between life and death someday. We want tools, supplies, and even food that is meant to last for the long haul, not bargain basement specials that are cheaply produced and quickly fall apart.
3) I wish I had spent less money early on
I imagine that most preppers start off in a panic mode and begin amassing enormous quantities of stuff, just for the sake of having stuff. However, I have learned that doing a fair amount of research first is the smartest way to go.
We didn’t know much about food storage conditions, for example, when we first began buying extra food and soon found ourselves with packets and boxes of potato flakes infested with tiny black bugs.
4) We should have networked with others sooner
It’s always hard feeling as though you’re the, “only one”. The, “only one,” with a certain health condition or the, “only one,” going through a personal crisis. Feeling as though you’re the only prepper in town is just as hard. You feel isolated, a little paranoid, and yet there’s a deep need to talk with others who are on the same wavelength, but everyone you know isn’t a prepper for any number of reasons.
I felt very alone, year after year. A couple of fledgling prepper MeetUp groups began around that same time, but I didn’t take advantage of their meetings, and I should have. Joining in on forum discussions is a good option but it can’t take the place of face to face conversations. It would have helped me identify more quickly what my priorities should have been, and it would have been comforting to know that I wasn’t the, “only one.” Preppers University live classes offer one of the best ways to network with others who have the same survival perspective and get an education at the same time.
5) I should have kept my mouth shut around family and close friends
To this day, no one in my family or my husband’s family is on board with preparedness. In short, I could have saved myself a lot of awkward explanations and times of feeling defensive if I would have stayed quiet.
Eventually, preppers “self-identify” when they’re around people they know and trust. They are suddenly familiar with names like Gerald Celente and Alex Jones. City-dwellers develop an odd interest in raising chickens and turning their backyard pools into tilapia ponds. It’s not hard to figure out who’s prepping if you pay attention, and keep your mouth shut until you’re pretty darn sure they’re on the same page as you.
6) And, we should have focused on financial survival first instead of third, or fourth
In the beginning I felt a mad rush of urgency to buy, to stock up, to preserve, to read. I wish I had felt that same urgency when it came to money. I should have doubled down on paying off debt, saving money, learning about and buying precious metals. We did these things eventually, but it would have made life easier if we had taken financial survival a little more seriously from the get-go.
As an experienced prepper, I now realize the importance of financial prepping. In fact, you could almost say that it sets the stage for all other prepping steps but it’s overlooked by most prepper writers and websites, and that’s a shame. From finding ways to earn extra money to creative ways for cutting back on expenses, it’s possible for just about anyone to come up with enough extra dollars each month to afford a good first aid kit, freeze-dried food, a Sun Oven, and many other helpful products. I’m also a big fan of having extra cash on hand for emergencies.
Looking back, what prepper mistakes did you make?