How to Build an Emergency Kit that Will Be Good for Your Budget Before and After Disaster Strikes

Know what your particular kit will need, DIY whenever possible, and use coupons when it isn't

Hurricane / How to Build an Emergency Kit that Will Be Good for Your Budget Before and After Disaster Strikes
Image: NOAA
May 09, 2017

Happy Hurricane Preparedness Week!

If you live on the East or Gulf coast, chances are that you've experienced a hurricane, even if you live so far inland that you only got rain and some wind. If you live closer to the ocean, you may have experienced much more intense storms, such as Fran, Floyd, Hugo, or Matthew.

Wherever you live, this is an excellent opportunity to update your emergency kit (if you have one) or put a kit together (if you don't). And you can do it in a way that will cost as little as possible both before and after disaster strikes.

There are one-size-fits-all kits available for purchase, but these contain many extra items that you likely will not need. It would be much cheaper for you to put your own kit together, customizing it to your particular circumstances. Here's how to do it:

  1. Figure out what you'll need
  2. The first thing you need to do is to figure out what you'll need in the event of an emergency.

    The Red Cross recommends many bare essentials, including non-perishable food, water, extra clothes, and medicine. These are common-sense items that everyone should have on hand. But what else will you need where you live?

    Areas prone to earthquakes may not require the same tools as those that often have tornadoes, for example, or hurricanes, or blizzards.

    Bottom line: figure out what your kit will need and make those items your priority. No need to go overboard—you'll probably only need food and water for a week or so—but better safe than sorry.

  3. Take advantage of free prep
  4. Much of your preparation will involve getting together items that you already have: important documents, device chargers, maps, and spare emergency cash.

    Have you ever gotten a free sample at the grocery store? You can also get free sample items of other items as well, from toilet paper and toothpaste to feminine hygiene products and pet food. Next time you get an offer for a free sample, decide whether it would be appropriate for your situation and, if it is, go ahead and get it!

  5. Save by DIY
  6. Do you DIY (do-it-yourself)? If not, don't worry; these prep measures are easy as well as cheap.

    You can save money on water in a couple of different ways. Bottling your own will save you money in buying packages of bottled water and is relatively easy: simply purify a leftover two-liter bottle or two with bleach and fill with treated water. Don't use milk or juice cartons; these can harbor bacteria. Write the date on your bottles and replace them every six months.

    If a storm is on the way and you know you'll need water for hygiene, clean your bathtub and fill it with cold water. You will not be able to drink or cook with this water, but you will be able to use it to keep yourself clean and flush the toilet.

    Then there's food. If you eat meat, beef jerky is a great snack to have around in an emergency. You don't need to buy it; try using a dehydrator to make your own and save both money and sodium content. Note that you need to be very careful when doing your own food prep. If you don't sanitize and seal items perfectly and then put them in storage for a long time, they can become contaminated. The last thing you want in an emergency is to discover that you can't eat your food.

    If you live in an area with frequent hurricanes, you're probably familiar with hurricane shutters. You probably also know how expensive they can be. If you're experienced with woodcutting, think about making your own. You can buy plywood or polycarbonate many places, such as Home Depot.

  7. Shop smart
  8. When there's something that you have to buy, shop smart. Use coupons. Shop on the best day for the item you need. If you shop online, try a cash-back site and/or credit card to earn a rebate. Buy in bulk when possible.

    Buying batteries, hydrogen peroxide, bleach, or bandages? Generic brands work just as well as the name brands. Try the dollar store for items like these.

    Try to find battery-free tools like wind-up flashlights and weather radios. Keep your batteries charged before the storm hits and consider buying a battery pack to use as a backup power source for your cell phone.

  9. Plan ahead
  10. One of the best things you can do to save money is to plan ahead. Start looking for sales on necessary items long before your storm season and stock up. Don't wait until the last minute to avoid price gouging. Finally, include disaster prep in your budget as part of your emergency fund.

Whether you live in an area with frequent hurricanes or not, start putting together an emergency kit now. And stay safe out there!

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