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Top 5 Cheap Items to Use as Currency After a Disaster

Jana believes in being prepared and self-sufficient. She also loves sharing prepper tips and community projects with kindred spirits.

When disaster strikes, existing systems of currency might become meaningless for a short time.

When disaster strikes, existing systems of currency might become meaningless for a short time.

Think About People's Basic Needs

In the case of a disaster, you won't want to trade ultra-valuable items already in your possession and necessary to the survival of yourself and your immediate family. These items include bottled water, food and prescription medication. However, when you are the one lacking such crucial supplies, you may be able to barter for them with somebody who has extra to spare.

The following items can be acquired cheaply before a disaster and should be useful to other survivors dealing with common problems such as lack of electricity, empty shop shelves and cravings that need satisfying.

1. Matches

A box of matches is very affordable and available in almost every shop. As cheap and common as matches are during the good times, they may quickly run out and turn into a hot commodity during a prolonged disaster situation. For example, if a storm wrecks the power grid and it won't be fixed for weeks, people will need matches to light gas stoves, candles, lamps and log fires.

You can also stock up on candles, lighters, fire starter bricks, charcoal and lighter fluid. Most, if not all, will quickly disappear off the shelves when something bad goes down. For now, stock up by adding one box every time you go to the store for groceries or milk.

2. Pain Medication

Aim for the foil-sealed, over-the-counter type. Tablets containing aspirin and paracetamol are two good choices because they don't need a prescription. You could also stock up on pediatric painkillers that also help with fever. There are affordable options at pharmacies, so this currency won't slaughter your piggy bank.

Painkillers are likely to be among the most sought-after items after a disaster. When everything goes to hell in a handbasket, people get hurt. Aspirin and paracetamol might not be as powerful as other options, but they can still bring relief when nothing stronger is available. They are cheap and readily available for stockpiling.

Blister packs seal each tablet individually. This heightens the chance that most pills won't be corrupted when exposed to a disaster event.

Blister packs seal each tablet individually. This heightens the chance that most pills won't be corrupted when exposed to a disaster event.

3. Sugar

Sugar is addictive. When the substance is suddenly not available, withdrawal symptoms can include headaches and irritability. The sweet crystals might not be high on the post-disaster priority list but might be welcome during a stressful time. Many people have developed a sweet tooth and crave sugar. Others might “buy” it from you to spoil their kids during this difficult time.

Again, consider the children and what their parents might want for them. As an extension of the “sugar” currency, one can also stock up on sweets that are cheap, yummy and shelf-life friendly. Toffies, sealed packs of jelly shapes, chocolate and even crisps (for kids that prefer salty food) can be used to trade for goods.

4. Caffeine

This is a big one. You'll have to throw a gazillion rocks into a tightly-packed crowd to hit somebody who isn't addicted to caffeine in the modern day. Its withdrawal symptoms are even worse than sugar. For heavy users, withdrawal can be debilitating—migraines, extreme fatigue, anger, cloudy cognition and even flu-like symptoms can manifest. Frankly, these are the last things the body needs during a survival situation.

There are several options when it comes to stocking up on this drug. For starters, there are caffeine pills. They come in sealed blister packs or foil sachets, which makes storage easy. You can also choose to buy coffee powder. It has a good shelf life and coffee is a high-level need after a disaster. It's not just for the caffeine. Most people can testify that a hot cup of coffee or tea has a soothing emotional effect during difficult times.

When supplies dry up, cravings for sugar, nicotine and caffeine can be debilitating.

When supplies dry up, cravings for sugar, nicotine and caffeine can be debilitating.

5. Cigarettes

This one is just as big as caffeine—nicotine. It has been said that quitting cold turkey is the same as trying to suddenly give up on a hard drug, like cocaine. Those who have quit or tried to might readily agree with that statement.

Cigarettes are a winner when you're bargaining with a smoker who's all out. This also needn't be an expensive currency to collect. Simply look for cheap brands with a high nicotine level. Most smokers look for average-to-high-nicotine-content cigarettes and will accept a cheap brand if it promises a hit. However, they won't be too pleased to trade something valuable for a “light” brand that won't help them even if they smoked it.

How to Store Your Currency

Location is important. Whether on a shelf or inside a container, your currencies need to be safe from moisture, temperature, children and pets. Fire-starting items such as matches, candles and chemically-enhanced fire starters need to be well-wrapped to avoid their smell from permeating everything. If you can, put them in a separate container. Sugar also needs to be sealed. The paper and plastic packaging sugar and candy normally come in is not very sturdy. Either wrap it with a good plastic or seal it in a waterproof container. Finally, check the expiry dates on the perishables. When you notice an item is nearing the date, simply use it and replace.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jana Louise Smit

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