There are actually a lot of ways to help 'fund' your preparedness plans. First is to examine your lifestyle and return to basics. Here is a great list of frugal lifestyle tips from Patrice Lewis at Rural Revolution.
I'll try to catalog some of my other favorites ways to raise alittle cash or barter here.
1. Write a posting for a product sold by Beprepared.com and if your posting is selected to publish on their blog, Preparedness Pantry, you will receive a $20 gift card!! It doesn't necessarily need to be about the specific product they sell, as long as they sell something similar. Example: they sell a lot of canned dry beans and peas. I submitted my favorite dry split pea soup recipe and won a gift card!
2. Prescription incentives: I use K-Mart pharmacy. About twice a year they offer a gift card incentive if you bring a new prescription to them or transfer one. I time my prescription renewals to take advantage of this. I then use the gift cards to buy some of their pantry staples like sugar and instant coffee that have long shelf lives.
3. Rewards Cards: Yes, I know these are like little spy cards providing free data to the stores in question. There are direct and indirect payments for your data. I am somewhat selective, but use several. Fry's (local Kroger affiliate) sends me coupons, often including one for a free item, such as peanut butter. I also use the K-mart rewards card -- especially presenting it for 'credit' when I pick up prescriptions. The points can be used as cash. About once a year I can purchase $20 to $30 worth of storage items with K-mart 'points.' Many of their food items are shelf-stable and well-packaged, so you can add canned meat or fruit, bottled water or instant coffee as a side benefit.
4. Use coupons. You are obviously on-line now. Sites like coupons.com can reduce your grocery bill or possibly help with dry goods. COMBINE COUPONS!! There are some great websites on couponing, but one simple fact from me is that you can combine a MANUFACTURERS coupon with a STORE COUPON for the same item. You may use 2 coupons like this per item, even if you buy 10 of them, at many stores. Target is especially good about this. Stores also have pricing cycles. If you can hit the coupon trifecta: store coupon, manufacturer's coupon and the cyclical low price, you can save half or more on the price of items. If you are old like me, shop at Kroger or Fry's on the first Wednesday of the month and save another 10%!! I did this recently at Fry's and bought cereal normally more than $4 a box for less than $2 per box. This recent survivalblog post on couponing for preparation is great!
5. Ask your friends: I have several coworkers/friends who are members of the LDS church. As family preparedness is taken very seriously in the LDS Church, I feel comfortable discussing and learning from their experience. Even before I became interested in family preparedness, I remember hearing about the 'cannery' and food storage. Most major towns (500K or more) have a LDS dry-pack cannery where church members can go, as a group, to package and purchase #10 cans of non-perishable or long-lasting food such as dry beans, rice, sugar, etc.. If you have a friend who is a church member and feel comfortable discussing your family preparedness concerns with him/her, you may consider asking if you can order and help in a canning session. If you do this, you must remember several things: this is a church function, so be helpful, work hard and enter with service in your heart. Learn from the Elders who will be orchestrating the work. Be prepared to take sanitation precautions such as gloves, aprons and hair-coverings for males and females (all provided on site) - nobody wants your hair in their oatmeal! I had the honor of doing this and found it to be a wonderful experience. The prices are essentially wholesale, which for some staples like dry milk and wheat, is a considerable savings.
6. Shop locally: We have a locally-owned bakery in town. I've been trading there for more than a decade --mostly a roll and coffee on the way to work once a week. I make a point of occasionally meeting friends there for lunch as well. Some of their ingredients are packaged in the most wonderful food-grade plastic buckets. They don't want to throw the empty ones out, so they give a few to their customers who ask. These would cost $5 to $7 new, so used once for free is a major bargain. Do you have a local haunt that may have some type of excess used storage containers you could use? Doesn't hurt to ask!
7. On-line discounts: If you trade on line with specific websites, sign up for their e-mails. Time purchases during their sales and 'free shipping' promotions. Some of the ones I (will) list have monthly sale items and specials for free shipping or additional discounts on a regular basis. Using these, I have gotten several items for my GO! bag at major discounts. Don't forget eBay. If you shop carefully and cost compare, you can also find great bargains. I recently found an item for $10 less than the sale price of the next best competitor, plus the one on eBay had free shipping. I spent 25% less on an important item.
8. Sell what you aren't using or don't need: This can be a yard sale, swap meet, auction, eBay or other way to trade your stuff for cash. Used items in moderately good condition have some value. Don't sell things you still use or really need. If you have kids that will soon grow into Junior's hand-me-downs, it will cost more to replace them, so don't sell them. If you have 2 toasters or 20 mugs but only need 10, sell a toaster and some mugs. If you have something special that you don't need, consider eBay or a consignment shop. Both of these will take a portion of the sales price. If you have a vase worth $500, it is better to get $300 from eBay than to get $5 from a yard sale.
A variant on selling excess stuff is to save $$ by repurposing these items, if in great condition, as part of gifts you would normally give to family or friends. Use the $$ you would have spent for your prudent reserve or preparedness.
9. Enter contests on reputable websites: What do I mean by reputable? They do not ask for anything but your return e-mail address when you enter. They will need it to contact you to get your address if you win. Any 'contest' that requires a bunch of personal info to enter, I recommend NOT entering. The Honeyville website (button on upper right of this page) runs a contest or two each month. They only ask for your e-mail address. I entered recently and just won a # 10 can of hot chocolate! That's about $10 AND free shipping to go in my supplies. Not bad for 30 seconds of work. The Preparedness Pantry, Beprepared.com's salesblog, also has one or two nice give-aways each month, along with recipes, so check them out.
10. Special Occasions: My sister is always asking me what I want for my birthday or Christmas. For a long time, I did not have a 'list.' Now I do. For my birthday, I'd love a 20 lb propane canister please! Oooh, Christmas? I picked out a beautiful oil lamp! How about gift cards for your favorite warehouse store (Sam's Club, etc.) or grocery store, hardware store, website, etc. can go a long way to helping you prepare. Of course, this is a long-term proposition but if there are 3 or 4 people who normally spend $10 to $50 per occasion, you could improve your preparedness in a hurry. Happy birthday to you!
11. Bountiful Baskets: There is a wonderful program called 'Bountiful Baskets' that is available in many communities. If you are not aware, the website is: http://bountifulbaskets.org/
It's a little tough to describe properly, but essentially you pay $15 on Monday and pick up a lot of fresh fruit and vegies on Saturday. They also have bread and seasonal items for very low prices. If you want to use your grocery $ for other things, this is a really good deal. If you are a canner, they have some items each week in volumes that would allow you to can them.
12. ASK about cash discounts: this is especially true for locally-owned stores. Some owners or managers will give a 5% discount for cash.
13. Negotiate: Often, what I want in a local shop isn't what the 'average customer' wants. I'll make a mental note and watch an item for a few weeks - possibly even marking an X with my finger through the dust on the back of the item. If it hasn't sold or been marked down in a month or so, I'll approach the manager for a quiet discussion. It goes something like this: "I've noticed this item has been on the shelf for more than a month without selling. I'll pay you $X cash for it right now." Usually X is at least 10% less. If it is an expensive or bulky item, I may go as low as 20% less, because in either case they may want to move it and back fill the space with something that will sell. About 70% of the time they accept or negotiate the discount. Know what you are willing to pay AND have the cash, including tax, on you when you make the offer. If you ask for 20% off, and the manager offers 15%, do you accept -- or thank him/her and indicate that you don't have the cash on you for that price. Either way, be polite and DO NOT be offended if the manager does not accept your proposal. Some are not empowered to negotiate. If you do your homework well, you'll even know in advance who can negotiate -- possibly only the owner, but in other stores it may be as low in the hierarchy as the section lead. The process will feel odd the first time because we Americans are not accustomed to bargaining and bartering. Do not confuse bartering with begging. You are not asking for 'something for nothing,' but for a fair exchange in which both parties are satisfied and have their need met. That is the essence of capitalism -- what could be more American!?!
14. Healthcare Spending Accounts: These are pre-tax payroll deductions that you can then use to repay yourself for medical and dental expenses. If your employer offers, study and consider signing up. It is usually a deduction from each pay check, but you set the amount. Example: for $1000 for the year, $38 and change would come from each 2-week paychecks, or $83.34 from a monthly check. If you know you'll be having a child next year, sign up for a higher level of deductions during the selection period (usually later November or early December) the prior year. You save twice. First, they lower your taxable income. Second, you get reimbursed for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. I figured that I in addition to getting my $1000 back, I also saved about $100 in tax that I would have paid on the $1000 of regular income. Not bad! My employer's health insurance sent the info right to the Spending Account management company, so I didn't need to send paperwork, except for dental work or eyeglass reimbursements.
15. Sales and Group Specials: I watch the Emergency Essential Group Specials and monthly sales for better deals on long-term storage items. You can find products at up to half off by careful comparison and timing.