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5 Steps To Figure Out Your Prepper Needs

Last updated on February 27, 2021

An old mentor of mine used to say that people planned their two week vacations, better than they planned the rest of their life. I was always fascinated by that comment. I personally find  a lot of truth to it. It certainly is reflected in the coaching I have done with people helping them put together some life plans.  

For years I contemplated why I found it to be so true. If I had to pick one particular aspect it is that most people can anticipate their needs when they go on vacation better than they can anticipate their needs for the rest of their lives.  

A vacation is for a finite period of time. At the end of the vacation, you will be coming home to the status quo.  Depending on what you are doing for your vacation, you may even be told ahead of time what to prepare.

For example: If you are traveling to another country, chances are that during the process of booking your trip you will be given a complete list of essentials to bring with you (certain types of Identification, immunity vaccination records if applicable) and you may already be warned about areas to avoid while traveling for your own safety.

Perhaps it is knowing that we are preparing for something that has an end to it, makes the process less daunting. Even if you forget something, it is assumed that you will be able to arrange to fix the situation given enough time and aggravation.

Planning for the rest of your life is a little more challenging.  Although we can count on certain things such as we will get older as time marches on, and if we work towards a goal, and have enough time, some of those goals are likely to be met.

We can also count on things to happen that we did not predict such as the death of a loved one, or succumbing to catching a disease, or an attack from an outside force starting a war (or an inside force like your own government passing laws that make your livelihood more challenging).

Which brings us to prepping.

Prepper Introduction

If you are new to prepping, knowing where to start can be a daunting task. 

When you are prepping for a worse case scenario (even if you are not sure what that worse case scenario will be), it can be overwhelming thing to figure out what you need to do. 

For some people, the mere contemplation that they have something to prep for can cause such negative reactions, that there are those that would rather ignore the probability and focus on other things to help them escape the unpleasantness of facing the potential threats.

Our Personal Story

When my wife and I found ourselves in a crisis, it was as close to rock bottom as either one of us had ever been. When we met and fell in love, we could not have anticipated how our life would change for us.  We were both reasonably healthy, hard working people who had dreams and goals we were working towards.(Admittedly some more lofty than the average person). 

We did not anticipate our health challenges, financial set backs, betrayals and abandonments, and the changing nature of our employment status. This is not a sob story designed to elicit sympathy. It is just to give the example that even with a good start, bad things can happen and those consequences can be life altering.

One night my wife and I sat down, and talked.

We took full accountability for how we planned  to make our way out of this mess. 

It does not matter who was at fault for how we got into the mess.

Whether it was our mistakes, bad choices, bad luck with health, or what others had done to us that contributed to where we were. 

All of that was not as important, as making a plan together to get us into a better situation.

The following is the process we took,
to help us assess our situation,
address our needs
and alleviate our fears.

 Step 1: WHY are you Prepping?

Identifying what it is you are prepping for will help guide you to specific resources and make starting your journey easier. 

Are you prepping for a war?  Financial collapse? Volcano eruption?  Rising waters and mass flooding?  Deep impact meteor collision?  Nuclear power plant meltdown?  Thawing of the ice glaciers?  Mass virus epidemic? If you think I have missed any reasons on this list, you are correct.

There are a lot more reasons to prep than not to prep.

With that said, not everyone preps for a major world changing catastrophe. Some preppers focus on other personal crisis that they face.

  • Are you prepping for the loss of your job as the industry you have been trained for, and working in a long time is dying?
  • Are you prepping in case of a home invasion as the neighborhood you live in has changed over the years and crime is increasing in your area? 
  • Are you prepping for your chronic diminishing ill health that will make certain daily tasks too painful? 
  • Are you prepping to be able to care for your child who has a condition that make them incapable of caring for themselves?
  • Are you prepping for the fact that you are not as young, fit and capable as you used to be, and need to prep for a life that will be easier and more affordable for you to manage? 
  • Are you prepping because even though you feel your family is safe and your grown children are safe, you worry about the future for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and want to create a space where they will survive when things implode during their lifetime after you are dead and gone?

Or maybe you just prep because you just enjoy being as self sufficient as a possible, and love learning new things.

Now there will be those people who feel they own the term “prepper” and feel entitled to assign who can and cannot be considered “a prepper” or “a real prepper”. 

For example: some will claim that if you are not prepping for a particular earth shaking cataclysmic disaster then you are not a “real prepper”.  

They are entitled to their opinion.  

I just happen to disagree.

“Prepper” is a mindset. 

The idea is that a Prepper aims to be as ready as possible, for whatever it is that you believe may be coming in the future that would destroy your life as you know it.

That’s it.

Only you can know what it is that you are prepping for.

With all that said you can in fact be prepping for more than one reason. You can have a hobby farm because you just enjoy aspects of being self sufficient, while at the same time also using that same hobby farm as the beginnings of your prep for a bomb shelter because you also believe that a war could start.

OK, now that you know what you are prepping for, you can begin researching it. Here are some beginner questions.

  • Who can you talk to about it, and who are the experts?
  • What can you do to prep for it?
  • Will you be traveling for it and need a Bug Out Bag (or Bug Out Vehicle) or are you staying put and will Bug In?
  • When did it happen last, and when will it likely happen again?
  • Where did it happen already, and where would you be to be safest from it?
  • How did people survive it in the past and how did they prepare for it?
  • Why is it happening and why aren’t more people prepping for it?

Once you know WHAT it is that you are prepping for, it helps you figure out your next steps to take.  For example if you are prepping for a tsunami in your area, you will likely be looking to build/purchase very different preps than someone that is prepping for a clean water shortage in a city near the desert.

Once you have identified what you are prepping for, move to Step 2.

Step 2: Identify Your Obstacles 

What are your biggest Obstacles that may interfere with your prepping? 

These could be the limits you must overcome in order to achieve your prepper related goals.  Here are some examples.

  • The very first obstacle is to list is how many people are you responsible for? How many of them are you prepping for?  What are each person’s medical, physical, and social needs? (I know that listing family and those you love as an “obstacle” may be offensive to some readers. It is not meant to be offensive. It is to bring to your attention that there are lots of challenges that come with being responsible for and taking care of others.
  • Are you on a budget that makes certain aspects of your plans not possible?
  • Do you have health issues that make bugging out (a hurried departure that is not planned, but is prepped for) near impossible?
  • Are you disabled in a way that limits your access to resources (not legally capable of driving a vehicle for example)?
  • Do you have a family history of diabetics? Even though you may not be suffering right now, you will need to factor in your potential future medical needs. This may dictate where you can live and what you will need to survive there.  
  • Do you have a current chronic health condition that requires medication which may not be available to you even if you survive whatever it is you are prepping for?
  • Are you alone, with very few friends or contacts, and have no one to rely on?
  • Are you reliant to your job and unable to move to a new location easily?
  • Do you want to learn to do things that would require you to apply for a license or permit, and you do not yet have it?
  • Do you have young children that are completely dependent on you which takes up most of your time, energy and resources?
  • Are you locked in a court case (custody battle or other case) that is zapping every spare coin and ounce of energy you have left that makes you unable to plan ahead?
  • Do you have a moral objection to owning weapons of any kind, but believe that owning weapons is a necessary component of being a prepper?
  • Perhaps you are very attached to your family and your community, and would rather stay with them (even if it means suffering and death) than to live with the guilt of abandoning them.
  • Do you have a lousy attitude that will get in the way of making contacts, and finding peace once the end of days occurs?

Once you can identify the obstacles that limit your options, you can start to tackle each one and see if there are ways to work around them. It is time for more RESEARCH.

Some obstacles may be temporary and will  solve themselves as time passes.

Other obstacles may get worse as time goes on, and you will have to plan ahead for them. Being aware of your limiting obstacles is a good place to be, because it gives you the vocabulary to start asking questions for your own research.

For example: let’s say the obstacles that limit you have brought you to the conclusion that bugging out is just not an option, and you simply will have to bug in (staying put and making your stand, usually where you already live).

In cases like that, you simply do what any prepper does:

You do the best you can with what you have.  

Start looking at your living space and see if you can sell things that you really do not need, to make space for things that would allow you to survive what you are prepping for. 

For example: sell all the knickknacks you are keeping in storage and fill that storage space with a used large aquarium, a grow bed for plants with grow lights and some water pumps, and set up an Aquaponics corner so you can have fish meat for protein and vegetables from the grow bed. This is just one idea, but such ideas are easier to think of once you know what limits you have to respect for your prepping.

OK, you know what it is you are prepping for, and you know what obstacles limit you that you can either focus on fixing, or work around.

Next comes…

Step 3: Identify Resources

This is where you look at resources you already posses and those that you still need to acquire.

List your assets to start with, and see what can be used towards supporting your prep goals. Also list things you stand to inherit.

  • Do you own any property?   
  • Do you have a back yard that you can make use of?
  • Do you have valuable collectables that you can sell to earn money, or trade for your preps?
  • If you live in an apartment building, would the landlord be agreeable to setting up a roof garden if you head the project?  Find out, since your apartment might be where you have to bug in.
  • Do you have old furniture or appliances that you can re-purpose into tools for prepping? For example: an old unused metal bathtub can be re-purposed to start worm composting. A small toy play-set (like a house or airport) can be turned into an actual bird house or bird-feeder to attract more birds to your land to eat the insects that would harm your garden. Any scrap wood and metal brackets can be turned into shelves placed above doorways for more storage of whatever it is you want to collect for your prep.  Old plastic food containers can be recycled into pots for seedlings.   

Part of this section of the process is to also identify those resources that you will NOT be able to count on.

For example: If you list your car as one of your resources, you would need to verify that it is in fact capable of being a resource towards your prepper goals.  It it turns out that your car wouldn’t be able to accommodate your prep goals, at least it has brought to your attention the fact you may need a new and different vehicle.

This is also a good time to identify people that would be good support people to know.

Ideally it would be great to find out who in your social circles are already interested in prepping, or at the very least are knowledgeable enough to explore your preps with you.  

When you do start to probe your social circles and find people who are also into prepping (at some level), it could be the start of a good bond.

More often than not, people do not fully realize the resources they have at their disposable because they never thought to identify their resources.

A Real Life Example:

one prepper couple I know were making plans to one day purchase a piece of land for prepping, but between bad credit and debt,they were not yet in a position to even save up enough money for the down payment. As they explored their resources, they discovered that one of them had a grandfather who had a unused piece of property with a rundown house on the land (no plumbing or electricity). The grandfather was simply going to let it be inherited by the couple when the time came, so he never mentioned it, until the couple spoke to the family about resources. The couple was able to arrange to acquire access and eventual ownership of the grandfathers land to start turning it into their safe haven immediately, instead of waiting to inherit it.

Once you identify the resources that you have, you can start to figure out what resources you are still missing by studying the effects of the “Step 1” (the what your are prepping for), and the “Step 2” resources to help you cope with all your limiting obstacles.

This is where the list gets long. 

A quick way to get through this part, is to always go back to your Steps 1 and 2.

If the resource you are trying to acquire will not help you survive  either Step 1 or 2, then focus your attention on a different prepping resource.

Next comes the part that most people fail at.

Step 4:  Making Sacrifices

Depending on what your plans are, your existing resources, and what you still need, you are going to have to make certain sacrifices to ensure you achieve your prepper goals.

For example:

  • If you need more money, can you sacrifice every Saturday to work a part time job to earn the extra income you need to fund the prepper related purchases you intend to make (and some of those purchases are costly)?
  • If using your time to earn more money is not possible, then you will have to sacrifice some of the expenses you currently have to redistribute your funds to your prepper needs (spend less money on your social life activities and hobbies and more on your prepping).
  • Instead of spending money on a new sofa that you were saving up for, would you instead buy a chest freezer, frozen foods and a solar panel to keep it running? You could then store foods and meet one of your prepper goals.

Are you capable of making sacrifices like these?

It will not stop there. 

Remember the part above where you need to see about finding like minded people in your current social group? 

  • While finding out they are also preppers is an ideal, it is just as possible that you might actually turn some of them off with your talk about prepping. You might lose some of your friends that would judge you.
  • You may also have to risk revealing your prepping interests to people who instead of actually supporting you, plan to use you.  You will see how many will invite themselves over to stay with you when the crisis hits, without ever contributing to your prepping. This is a risk you may have to take, and with that you will have to set some boundaries that will upset those users.  You may have to sacrifice peace with them.

Are you capable of making sacrifices like these?

  • Maybe the sacrifices might mean rationing your medication so that you have extra to take when the crisis hits, and dealing with some regular ill health discomforts along the way.(please discuss with your doctor before you decide to do this)
  • The sacrifice might include all the things required to getting in better shape including quitting smoking, losing weight, eating better and exercising regularly.  
  • The sacrifice might be forcing yourself to put in the TIME to LEARN things that at the moment really do not interest you.

Are you capable of making sacrifices like these?

Part of being a Prepper is to invest in whatever your prep needs of you, so that you can survive and hopefully thrive at a later time, when that “Step 1” situation happens.  

Be prepared to sacrifice your money, your time, your personal connections, elements of comfort in your current lifestyle…whatever it takes to meet your prepping goals.  Once you know what the sacrifices will be, you will be in a position to assess if you are actually capable of making those sacrifices and if not, start a plan to work around those unmet sacrifices.

Sacrifices can scare people.

Those who are the best preppers are the ones that are more scared of the reason they prep for, than the sacrifices they have to make in order to be prepped.

Which brings us to the final step…

Step 5: Defining Your Schedule

There is a sense of urgency when it comes to prepping.

Whatever the reason you prep, for some people it can feel like there just is not enough time to fully prep.  

It does not matter what our intentions are as preppers.

When the SHTF and TEOTWAWKI (Acronym for: The End of the World as we Know it) it will happen when it happens, and there isn’t really much we can do to stop it.  We do not control the elements that will bring on the Armageddon, but we can control how we prep for it (at least to the point we are able too).

For some people that have the resources, they can move quickly, transitioning their lifestyle over more easily, and may already be living in ways that are preparing them for doomsday. 

For others, there is no easy fix, no fast changes, and we have to create every opportunity to move us closer to our prep goals and only go at the pace we can (which may take years).

In step 5, you take into account everything you have learned in the previous four steps and you create a schedule that helps keep you on track. If necessary, write out a timeline with today as the starting point, and whatever your end goal prep close to the other end of the line.   

(Hint: the end of the timeline should include about 3 years after the day your “Step 1” happens, as part of what you are prepping for isn’t just to survive D-Day, but to thrive well after D-day)

Start with what your end goal is, and work your way back to present date. 

With each new resource you intend to acquire, mark it along the timeline as to when you will REALISTICALLY be able to have it.  If you plan to buy big ticket metal shipping cargo containers, and it takes you 6 months to save up enough money (outside of your established expenses) then make sure that 6 month savings time is reflected in your schedule.  

This will help keep you on track, as well as, keep you grounded in the reality of exactly where you are in your prepper plan.

If your schedule does not match the schedules that other preppers are following and you end up being slower, then so be it, and you end up being slower.

Yes that sucks.

However, putting extra worry and pressure to move a schedule forward, when the timeline that was set takes into account the things you do not control, is only going to hamper your own mental health.  

Maybe you will make it in time.

Maybe you won’t make it in time.

Worrying about it will not help in either circumstance.

Taking the actions you need to take will help, and that is what the schedule is designed to do.

To help motivate you to take the actions you know you need to take, and keep pushing forward.

Our Personal Story Revisited 

My wife and I have been working towards our plan now for a few years.

To be honest, we are well behind where we wanted to be at this point, but still processing forward. We are always learning, always re-assessing our needs, and as new issues come up (such as test results and diagnosis) we adjust our plans accordingly even if it means setting us back.

Will we make it in time?  

I honestly do not know.

I hope so.

However, giving up really is not an option, so we take it one day at a time, knowing that the rest of the world does not care how hard we work. When a crisis hits, it hits on it’s own schedule, not ours.

All we can do, and all we have control over, is to focus on the actions we take every day, while we balance planning our survival for the future, and managing our immediate day-to-day existence.   

In Conclusion 

I have presented a lot of information in this article, because I have a desire to be complete in the advice I am giving.

Yet, all this article does is provide an outline of things that you need to consider. This is by no means a complete list of everything you need to survive as a prepper.

Note, we haven’t even mentioned anything about finding love, or a prepper life partner, or how to form strong connections with the people that you will survive with in the future; how to manage those relationships that will become your new family. (This will be for a different series of articles)

Prepping is about anticipating your needs when the Step 1 thing you are anticipating will finally happen.

There is no “one way” to prep. 

Prepping is as individual to a person as anything else.

Each person’s needs are different,
and so too will be their preps be different.

Do not let anyone intimidate you
into prepping “their” way
if their way will not meet your needs;
just like in any other area of life
where what others want for you is not what you want.

Hope this all helps.

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