If the grid goes down from a Russian nuclear EMP, currency will be worthless.
If there’s a mass pandemic of avian flu, currency will be worthless.
If we’re hit by a Carrington Event equivalent solar flare, if there’s a full-scale war on our soil, or if the ‘powers-that-be’ decide that freedom is no longer something they want us to have… you guessed it; the currency in your purse or wallet will still be worthless.
However, the point of this post isn’t to depress you or make you feel like there’s no way to protect yourself or your assets from complete depreciation. Actually, let’s think outside the box for a second…
What Is Currency Anyway?
Ever wonder what your dollars actually are? You have these pieces of paper with intricate figures drawn on them–but is the paper itself actually worth something?
Not really. In fact, the paper itself is so loaded with nasty chemicals and bacteria that it’s probably more of a danger to you in an SHTF scenario than anything else.
In reality, what gives your dollars value (what little there is left these days) is the power it provides you to exchange it for something you actually want or need. In fact, if society declared Happy Meal toys to be valuable for some reason, you would be able to exchange a toy for a toothbrush… or a thousand of them for a bicycle.
So, the dollar itself doesn’t really have inherent value. It’s basically only worth what someone will pay for it.
Inflation happens when there are too many dollars in the economy, and when there is a high supply of something–it really isn’t all that valuable anymore, because the demand stayed the same. So, if you were ever wondering why your dollars can’t buy as many groceries as they used to… you can thank inflation.
To boil all this down, currency is a commodity of sorts.
So economically speaking, money isn’t really any fundamentally different from shoelaces or a yacht. It’s just a lot easier to trade for something you actually want–that is, if you don’t really need shoelaces or yachts.
The Biggest Key to Tradability … and Why This Matters to Your Survival
Remember how I said that during an SHTF scenario the dollar will be worthless?
This will be because the institutions that once regulated the dollar’s value (by regulating how many dollars were in the economy) will have become nothing more than heaps of rubble.
In the world to come, the dollar will get demoted to being as worthless as the diseased paper it really is. Society will change quickly into having one of the most primitive economic frameworks: the barter system. At that point, it will become more economically sensible to burn dollars for heat–rather than purchasing firewood. Think that’s absurd?
It will not have been the first time that’s happened.
Simply, currency would become anything that can translate to immediate value. Your assets (the things you possess) are worth what people will trade for them.
That’s one good thing that the dollar had going for it. Because it’s pretty much universally accepted, you can exchange your dollars for anything that’s for sale–and you can sell anything you own in exchange for dollars. If you want to own a CB radio, you don’t have to find someone willing to trade you for your surplus of postage stamps. You can simply trade your dollars, because heck, everyone will take those! (That’s called liquidity.)
In an SHTF scenario, nobody will want dollars because what’s paper worth when you really need ammo, a tank of gasoline or amoxicillin, right?
And that’s why I felt it’s necessary to provide a small economic lesson, so you can understand why these 3 items are going to be extremely valuable during a crisis.
Barter Item #1: Potent Adult Beverages: Bourbon, Vodka, Shine, Etc.
Before I talk about this, I am not advocating, in ANY way, the use, consumption, or abuse of these barter items. In fact, if you now have any problems with addiction to alcohol, then your dollars will serve you far better by exchanging them for a stay at a luxury rehab facility that’s worth your hard earned currency.
Even highly competent, fit and intelligent people, who are operating at 100% will have difficulty during an SHTF scenario. Addiction will only end up disadvantaging you needlessly.
Now with that said, another reason you should drop any drinking problems (if you currently have them) is because alcohol is going to be far more useful to you in other ways, rather than just consuming it.
One of my favorite articles comes from Cheaper Than Dirt, where they listed 47 reasons that high-potency, 100-proof, alcohol is an excellent survival item. From cleaning wounds to combat applications (Molotov cocktail, anyone?), that fifth of vodka could actually save your life.
That’s one reason why 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 (because it’s just far too valuable for that), others might not be thinking as economically.
Alcohol, and the alcoholism that often accompanies it, has been around about as long as gold has had value; so in an SHTF scenario, alcoholism will be a very, very costly vice for the customer–but a valuable one to the seller.
Thus, you will have just scored 300 rounds of 45ACP, because you traded it for a bottle of Jack. Economically speaking–you win.
Barter Item #2: Cigarettes and Cigars
Again, my same principal applies to tobacco products. If you use them today, you’ll probably have a tough time running for the hills tomorrow–because having smoke-laced lungs can really kill your ability to sprint.
Nevertheless, if you’re not looking to use them today, then cigarettes can provide fantastic trade liquidity. Actually, cigarettes and cigars offer a way to trade smaller things–because their value is broken into tiny segments (almost like coins).
You can even trade a carton at a time for larger quantities of things like food and ammo if you have a willing buyer.
And there will be buyers, because tobacco addiction isn’t going anywhere either… and when there aren’t any more cigarettes on store shelves, your own stash will become a wonderful sight to behold for a pre-civilization smoker.
Barter Item #2: Whatever Useful Thing You Can Make!
Perhaps the biggest downside to using alcohol and tobacco products as barter items is that they will eventually run out–that is, unless you have the ability, the equipment and the space to make your own. Some will have such a capacity, but that could be an extremely pricey/risky venture to explore these days.
Overall, I’m certainly an advocate for good business, and I believe that providing people with highly useful items will not only keep you sitting pretty when civilization ends, but you’ll also become a valuable member of your post-apocalyptic community. So in my perspective, tobacco products aren’t going to be your ticket.
Also, one of my major criteria for being able to manufacture your barter item is that you should have the ability to start BEFORE society waves the white flag. Thus, distilling 100-proof alcohol is out too (unless you live in Hazzard County with a couple guys who drive a car, called the General Lee).
So, here’s a list of items that you might consider trying to sell when the SHTF, and keep in mind, this list is certainly not exhaustive…
- Crop surpluses
- Livestock and poultry surpluses
- Milk (from your homestead’s livestock)
- Fishing poles
- Makeup (Yet another industry that’s almost as old as alcohol)
- Herbal medicines
- Archery gear
- Traps and kits
- Black powder
Also, let’s not forget about services…
If you’re good at something, like trapping, hunting, engineering, or building, you could offer your services to barter for items that you need. If you’re a soldier or military veteran, then people want to feel protected. If you’re a medical professional, then people will need your help to become well. If you know the art of blacksmithing, someone will eventually ask you to make them horseshoes, a box of nails or even a better way to cook their day’s catch.
The Main Takeaway?
Overall, the best way to survive the worst of SHTF scenarios is to think economically, and realize that you will most likely not be able to survive with zero human interaction. Humans traditionally need other humans.
Heck, even Davy Crockett had to rejoin society to resupply before heading back into the woods again.
Last, your ability to survive will largely depend on the knowledge, innovation and resources you gain before civilization’s end. A great way to get started is to go into business with your SHTF product today and use the money you make to practice your primitive manufacturing methods for tomorrow.