The Reality of Barter and Trade in an SHTF Economy



Barter is a hot topic in prepper circles, so I thought we thought we should tap into Selco’s knowledge more deeply on this matter.


How quickly did people turn to barter once your city was locked down?

It was a matter of a few weeks.

Actually, for ordinary folks, it was a matter of few weeks because we did not get the new reality right at the beginning of everything.

Later when I remembered that period, I realized that even right at the beginning of SHTF there were people who did not want to take money for goods. They asked for valuables like gold, jewelry, or weapon for goods that they had.

Some of them were smart enough to realize that money was gonna become worthless really soon, and even gold and jewelry were only good in the first period, and then only if you had a connection to outside world to exchange it for something useful.

Ordinary folks needed few weeks. It was a process that went from buying goods with money, then buying goods from people who still wanted to take money (at outrages prices) to the moment when money was worthless, and only goods for goods were accepted.

It was rare, but sometimes you could find someone who would sell you something for foreign money but at the 20-50 times bigger prices.

For example if pack of cigarettes cost around 1,50 German Mark (outside of the war region) we could buy that pack for 40 German Marks.

US dollar and Canadian dollar had even worse value.

Obviously, people would accept that money had connection to the outside world, and some of them ended up as millionaires because of that.

Same ratio was for precious metals and jewelery.

For small and quick trades, the usual currency were cigarettes, because of the percentage of people that smoked.

Even values were expressed often like “Oh, that’s worth 10 cigarettes.” In other situations it was ammunition-bullets.

How were trade items valued? If someone wanted to make a trade, who set the terms?

Nothing was fixed.

Through the whole period, the value of goods went up and down based on a lot of things.

For example if a UN food convoy managed to enter the city and some local warlord (usually) took it all, and the majority of the food was cans of fish, you could count on the fact that that month those types of cans gonna be cheaper then the month before. Or if that day’s US airplanes managed to “hit“ with airdrops in our area then MREs were going to be bit cheaper to find.

Sometimes a simple rumor (planted by rival groups) for example about “poisoned“ cans of cookies meant that people did not valued it so highly anymore.

Some things did not change value too much during the whole period, like alcohol, simply because it was available.

Other things’ value was a matter of the situation.

For example, if you had a sick kid at home, and you needed antibiotic and you spread that word, you could expect high price simply because you give that information that you need something really hard and fast.

But usually, we knew the value of things (goods) for that week for example, at least approximately.

What were the general rules of trade during this time?

The value of things and trading “rules on the ground“ were similar to trade rules at normal life flea markets.

A few of those “rules on the ground“ during the trade were:

  1. If YOU need something then the price is going up. (Do not look like you desperately need something.)
  2. Do not offer all that you got in “one hand“ or on one try. (Do not go to trade with your best shots all together, it looks desperate, and you are losing all the advantage then.)
  3. Do not ever give a reason for someone to take the risk of attacking you because you have way too cool stuff (or way too much stuff) with you. (Have some amount of food, or ammo, or whatever, do another trade at another time with more of that. Remember people will take chances if they calculate it is a risk worth taking.)
  4. Never give info how much of the goods you actually have at home. ( The reason is same as above.)
  5. Never do trade at your home (unless you trust the person 100%) because you never know to who you are giving valuable information about how much you have, what your home look like, how many people are there (defense) etc.
  6. Doing the trade in other trader s home might mean that you are at his “playground“ (or he is stupid) so you are losing the edge. You are risking of being on unknown terrain. Always try to choose neutral ground somewhere that you can control the situation, giving the opponent the chance to feel safe. (But not safer than you).

It is most important that you understand when SHTF (for real) system is out, and only thing that protect you from losing everything is you.

Trade is gonna be a matter of carefully planning. It starts with information about who has something that you need, then checking that information, and rechecking, and then sending information to him that you want to trade, then setting the terms about the place and number of people where you’re gonna do the trade.

Usually, there was a rumor or information about who was safe to trade with. There was information about people who like to scam other people during the trade. If you did a good and fair trade with a man you could “save him“ as a safe trader (to some extent) for future trade.

Everything else is matter of trust and skills.

Maybe, just maybe, if you are living in some nice small town there is gonna be something like a market, where people freely gonna exchange their goods between each other.

I never saw anything like that because it needs some kind of system to back it.

Trade when SHTF is a high-risk situation simply because it is about resources, and there is no law, no system.

Are skills or products more valuable?

In the long run, skills were more valuable, simply because you can not “spend“ your skills.

If you had medical skills you could expect that people over the time (through the word on the street) will hear that, and that you simply will have opportunities to get something for that skill.

I pointed out in an earlier article that when a serious collapse happens, things fall apart around you fiscally, there are no services, so skills for “repairing“ were valuable, and so were technical skills.

Medicines were substituted with home (natural) remedies so knowing that stuff was valuable, making simple cloth pieces was good, and repairing weapons. I knew people who did good because they made very basic cigar holders from wood and empty bullet shell simply because people smoked bad tobbaco hand rolled in paper.

Skills that made the new reality easier.

Skills were also more safe to trade simply because by attacking and killing you, the attacker cannot take away your skills from you.

What were the top physical items for barter? Do you recommend that people stock up on things specifically for barter? If so, what kinds of things?

In my case those were MREs, meat cans, alcohol, batteries, candles, cigarettes, weapons and ammo, drugs, and medicines… but if we are talking about the future, preparing, some things need to be mentioned.

There are lists about “100 things to store for SHTF“, and while they are good lists, they may be completely different from “100 things to trade when SHTF.”

Obviously when SHTF you will miss everything, because the “trucks are stopped“ and there are no stores and normal buying.

The basics that you need to cover are something that every prepper already knows: food, defense, water, shelter, fire, medicine, and communication.

Out of these essentials, you go in deeper. Like under medicine you’ll have antibiotics but also some knowledge about natural remedies. Under food, you’ll have cans but also some way to produce food like seeds or hunting or whatever.

If you are PLANNING to store things for trade then you need to have a strategy for that.

Let’s say you are storing huge amounts of food for you and your family for SHTF but you are also planning to trade that food for other items when SHTF.

Some advice for people who are counting to store things for trade are:

  1. Store things of everyday use, nothing too fancy. For example store rice or pasta (if that food is common in your region), lighters, batteries, or candles.
  2. Store small things, or in small packages, stuff that is gonna be easy to carry hidden on you, in your jacket, for example, lighters, spices, cigarettes, quick soups… not cannister of fuel, bags of wheat. I am not saying not to store fuel. I am saying it is much better to carry 20 AA batteries to trade then a 20-liter canister of fuel especially because value might be similar. Remember, do not give reason to anyone to take the risk of attacking you because you have something.
  3. Think about things that are cheap today, may have multipurpose uses when SHTF, and do not take too much space to store (alcohol pads or condoms for example).
  4. Think about things that you can “sell but keep“. For example, a solar panel with a setup for charging batteries for people. You are selling charging of batteries to people.
  5. NEVER be the “big trader“ or the person who has a lot of interesting stuff. Be the small person who is gonna offer good things through the network of a few people. Being big trader means attracting too much attention with too many cool things that you have. Hide your trading activities through a network of other traders.
  6. Understand today’s value and the value when SHTF. Think about the small things that save lives, antibiotics, anti-tetanus shots, povidone pads [iodine]. For example, candles are really cheap today but will be rare when SHTF.
  7. Do not underestimate things that are people addicted to, no matter what you think about it. Cigarettes, alcohol, or coffee (or whatever is case in your region) – the value will go way up.
  8. “Store“ skills and knowledge. It is best investment. Learn skills that are gonna be valuable like gardening, shoe repairing, clothes making. Maybe you can be the person who has knowledge about natural remedies.

Should you have precious metals as a means for buying goods when the SHTF?

Through human history, gold and silver were valuable. They were used for getting goods in all times, including hardest times like wars and similar.

Having precious metal for SHTF is big in the prepping community but I need to point out some things.

The value of gold went down during SHTF so much that you need to think about it very hard.

For example, in normal times (I am using these numbers as an example) you could buy with one gold ring 300 small cans of meat. When SHTF you could buy 20, and you could buy 20 if you could find a man who wanted to take that ring from you.

He did not usually want to take it because he could take stuff that he could immediately use, like weapons, drugs, or medicines.

He simply could not do anything immediately useful with it.

Having precious metals is a great idea for later, when some kind of system jumps in, because they are gonna be again precious.

Right in the middle of SHTF, the value of it is poor.

That is one of the reasons why some local warlords came out as very powerful people after everything. They simply took precious metal from folks for a “can of the soup“ value (or sometimes for nothing) and they had enough power to store that metal for the time when it would be valuable again.

Do not throw everything into precious metals. Store immediately useful things.

What were the top skills?

It was simple: skills that you might use to kill people or to heal them.

So fighting, security, medical skills, knowing herbal remedies, repairing a weapon, making a new one.

Right after those skills were skills about food.

Knowing what kind of herbs around us you could eat, or even knowing what kind of tree bark you could eat maybe, how to make some plants edible mixed with other ingredients, how to repair clothes and things in your home.

Were there markets for bartering or did people mostly do this in private?

In one period of time there was something like a market, but it was strictly under control of local warlord, so it was not smart to go there since you really could not know what to expect.

Almost all the trades were made in private arrangments after you got information about someone who had something that he wants to trade.

The best situation was if you knew that person prior the war so you had already built trust from before.

Scams were usual, attacks during the trade happened too, especially if the value of goods was high.

If you need to trade for something, do that in advance. In other words, do not wait to be completely without food and then go to look for food through the trade, because you are under pressure, you are desperate. It is not a good setup for trade.

How did you remain safe when trading goods and services? What were the risks?

The basic rule is not to go alone to trade.

The reasons are very simple because you have resources with you for trade, you are possible target so you need more security – more people.

The trade place usually needed to be checked for possible ambush or scam setup. You needed people for that.

You needed a guard during the trade, someone to check up things during your negotiation with the other trader, someone who was going to watch for things.

The ideal number of people was 3.

The risks are scams (bad goods) or an attack.

You could lower that risk by trading with known people or simply by showing enough force so that they understand it is not worth the risk.

Scams were avoided by checking goods of course. If you are buying batteries you need to check them all. You need to taste coffee – is it mixed with old coffee that was used and dried? Cigarettes packs were carefully opened and 1-2 cigarettes could be missing and the pack glued again.

It was like a chess game. 

What are some myths about barter that most people think are the truth?

Trade is probably the survival topic with largest number of myths.

It is partly because we like to think that somehow the world will collapse but the majority of people will live by the rules from normal times, and partly because we are influenced by movies, shows, and fiction books. 

“When SHTF people simply get all together and help each other, and that goes for trade too.“

No, actually when times get really hard people jump into survival mode, or perish.

For you it may mean that you ‘l be nice, and do only good things, for another, it may mean that he will do whatever it takes so he and his family survive.

That may include killing you over 3 MREs during the trade.

“When SHTF I will thrive because I stored a lot of things for trade, and I will simply be the biggest trader.“ 

It is possible. People did that and survived. And even got rich after everything was over.

But they had gangs around them, enough manpower to protect the goods, the control to not be overrun, and they were ruthless.

Most probably, you are an ordinary person who just wants to survive SHTF. You do not have 100 armed people with you. You just need to be small and careful.

You are not a warlord.

“When it comes to trade it is all about weapon and force.“

Actually, it is not.

It is about the correct mindset to decide what makes sense in that moment and what you really need (and what you do not). Weapons help a lot but do not solve the problem alone.

It is very similar to bargaining at a flea market with the possibility of violence.

Anything to add?

After years of being in the survival world, talking with other preppers and writing my articles I found out that a great number of people  think something like “I cannot wait to go to trade when SHTF!“

In reality, one of the points of careful preparing is to delay the moment when you need to go out and trade as long as you can.


Because you’re gonna need time to scan what is going on and who is who in the new collapsed world. You need to gather information about who is good and who is not, who is trusted and who is a scammer, what area is safe

If you need to go out on the 10th day in order to trade something maybe you are doing something wrong?




More from Selco 

More information about Selco

Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution.

In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today.

He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations like Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months.

Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.

Read more of Selco’s articles here:

And take advantage of a deep and profound insight into his knowledge and advice by signing up for the outstanding and unrivaled online course. More details here:

Daisy Luther

About the Author

Daisy Luther

Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, leaving all links intact, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio. Daisy is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting, homeschooling blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. Daisy is the publisher of The Cheapskate’s Guide to the Galaxy, a monthly frugality newsletter, and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, She is the best-selling author of 4 books and lives in the mountains of Virginia with her two daughters and an ever-growing menagerie. You can find Daisy onFacebookPinterest, and Twitter.

First Trades after Collapse

trade post collapseThe items for trade during my SHTF very often changed value, and some of them became unavailable for some period of time, just to suddenly show up again much more expensive.

Yes, situation in the city dictated that, but also people, the black market lords made this happen. The whole situation was always changing where and if you can find what you were looking for.

Some of the items that were circulating in the city were completely new to everyone, one of the reasons was that all sorts of stuff from humanitarian aid was coming to the city through different channels and from all different parts of the world.

Some of those things became popular fast, others remained completely strange for us, but all had some kind of value.

Of course practical things like MRE were very good to have. Some other things like Turkish army crackers (salt cookies, or so called „Turks“) were strange for us. Taste was awkward, thats why they had lower value, but we were starving so of course everyone would eat it and trade it.
In one period there were big amounts of some French cigarettes in the city, we called it „black tobacco“.

It was very very strong tobacco, packaged in nice small boxes, and you simply did not need too much of those daily, even if you were very passionate smoker. Simply way too strong.

Some “smart” guy smuggled this into the city and it is perfect example of successful product besides weapons and ammunition for trading.

There were many new items for us, strange new kind of rice (was much too soft), canned meat without any declaration of meat type or expiration date (we called it „sick horse“). We ate it and used grease leftovers for lamps. Sometimes there were also big metal sealed boxes with dry cookies inside – some of the boxes had expiration dates that said it was expired like 20 years ago, we called it „Vietnam war cookies“ and we ate it and trade it as well.
Of course it was always a good few days when we had some sort of food. In many other periods (most of the time) we ate much much worse things. Often soup with anything we could find that could provide some energy.

One of the items in the beginning of everything that was very interesting for me was powdered eggs.

As I can remember, we did not see that before, I mean we heard it from the stories of the old guys who survived WW2 that they used it a lot in the years after that war (and they call it Trumans eggs) because it was coming in the area as a part of humanitarian aid since everything was destroyed and folks were starving.

Those eggs were interesting for me because we loved eggs, and obviously it became impossible to have real eggs. That is why food in urban survival is just a very bad version of food in wilderness survival. Rats and pigeons and some people probably also ate all dogs and cats. That was in the later months after we were surrounded without any way out and lost all basics like power and drinking water.

One day we heard that powdered eggs can be bought from some guys who had lots of stuff taken from humanitarian aid convoy.

Violence and shootings were already happening everywhere in the city, but it was period when we still believed it was temporary. There were three of us who went there to visit these guys. One of us had pistol, but that was not much help because none of us already realized how dangerous everything had become.

It was time when the police force still existed but on the other hand other „police gangs“ started to operate and you could not say who is who, and what will happen when you run into them.

We had German money for buying the eggs, at that moment you could still buy something with (foreign) money, but you could not expect any fixed price and price of everything was completely based on what happens in the negotiation.

Guys were in apartment on second floor in apartment building that was maybe already half empty.

Man who opened door for us took us to the living room of the apartment after we told him that we want to buy some goods from him.
There were 4 more guys sitting next to table there, actually one of them was sleeping with his head on the table.

One was trying to make some kind of sandwich with dry meat using a big old bayonet, room stank like someone died there.
All of them looked pretty rough and ready for everything, three of us with one pistol looked like easy prey for them.

Man who opened door for us asked us who sent us, we said name and he said:
„Who is that? I do not know him.“

Silence was ankward, I could feel like something is crawling over my back at that moment, especially when I noticed rifles standing next to the chairs where those guys were sitting, and on the carpet under the table there was big stain that suspiciously looked like blood.

Man started to laugh and said „OK, I am kidding, I know him, just say what do you need.“

Fear that crawled over my back started to disappear slowly, but still we were like sitting ducks there.

We said what we wanted and he asked for how much money we want powdered eggs.

My cousin stupidly took his money from pocket and said how much money we have.

Guy said „Give me that!“

Few seconds there was nothing, but when other guys from the table started to stare at us, my cousin gave him the money. From one of the rooms, we herad that someone shouted „Oh you m$@#!erf!*&er“ and then sounds that someone is being beaten.

Man started to slowly count money, looking at us with smile, after he put money in his pocket and said: „Ok, you can have one box of powder for this money“

Three of us knew that we were ripped off, but I just said „OK, it is a deal, we need to go now“.
We took the box and left the apartment.

On the outside hallway we noticed one more guy who was standing there as a guard for the apartment.
When we were entering the apartment we did not even notice him.

We came home safely that time, feeling that we were scammed there was gone very soon because we realized that guys could kill us very easily if they wanted to.

Luckily at that moment they maybe did not feel like it, or what was most probable whole situation in the city had not reached level yet where they could do that easy and openly.

Everyone still thought absence of rules and law are temporary. That changed soon, people started to kill each other as a part of trade scams. Later often just out of curiosity what other guy might still hide in his pockets and did not show.

The one of us who had gun on his belt during the trade said „Oh man, I completely forgot that I had weapon with me there beceause how those guys looked“.

Then we realized it was luck too because he did not pull the gun there in the middle of everything because we would end up dead for sure. Do you see a pattern there? Yes, in post collapse so many things can go wrong and often did.

Thats why learning about survival and preparedness is most important right now. Do not delay when SHTF it comes out of nowhere. We still have registration for limited amount of students for the Survival Boot Camp open for few days if you want to get better insights into this.

I remember that trade very well because we were scared, but much more important was feelings afterwards when we all realized that feelings of „kindness“ but also „fear“ went away. That day we realized we are living in new world with new rules and acting like we did in civilized times or showing weakness can have brutal consequences.

We started to change and learn. We started to look and act like those guys during our trades, and whenever we found someone who was even harder and better at trading we also did what they did to us. We were lucky or maybe smart enough that we learned new rules very fast. There was little room for error. either you end up dead, or learn fast.

That was one of my first trades after the collapse, I traded many times later again, and I often used similar setup of intimidation like those guys there.

But there I learned for the first time few simple rules about trading like: never go to (closed) places where you do not know who to expect, how many, how well armed they are and similar stuff. Never have all your goods (or money) for trade with you, have plan what to do in case of surprises, never accept offers so easily because it can be seen as weakness, and weakness is sometimes call for problem, and many more.

And one more rule that we learned and you should never forget is to never go and risk your life because of pure „luxury items“ like that powdered eggs were for us at that moment.

Please comment below, discuss in our forum or if you act now you can still join my Survival Boot Camp before we close registrations.

10 Rules for Trading in Long Term Survival Scenarios

All of us rely on our skills when SHTF. So we all hope that we can cover all of major skills that can lead us trough all basic needs in order to survive. So we choose to learn lot of things, how to fight , how to can, how to grow food, how to heal people. And we are buying equipment and learn things.

We choose different approaches, someone chooses to learn just basics from one skill, or someone chooses to learn one particular skill in depth. Like to be very good in growing food when SHTF.

But most of the people take trading and bartering in long term survival scenarios for granted. Most of the people see trading like scenes from the movies. So there is some kind of accepted picture that man gonna be able to go out with bag of potatoes for example and trade it for something, for batteries or whatever.

Or there is gonna be something like trading place, where you can go and check what is on offer there.

It is actually strange how lot of things are covered good at lot of places on forums and blogs when it comes to some skills and equipment, but when it comes to trading it is accepted more or less that it is common sense that it is gonna be easy to trade things.

When SHTF we all going to trade things, no matter how great we are prepared, because it is gonna be way of living, one of the few ways of obtaining the things we need, especially for long term survival.

It makes sense to think today about trading when SHTF. It can be major source of resources and provide for your living in hard times, and if you prepare carefully and act smart when SHTF, you can live much better than other folks around you.

Because differences between regions in the world some things about trading can not apply everywhere, just like advice about which weapon you should have.

But some things are common everywhere, just like you can say that shot in the head can kill you, no matter what kind of gun we are talking about.

So here are some things to keep in mind.

1.SHTF (real SHTF) = no law anymore

When you are taking your time today and think about being trader when SHTF, you need to stop for a moment and accept the fact that there is no law when SHTF.

After you accept that fact, only then start with thinking how you can improve your role as a trader in collapsed world. You can see what I store for trading in my supply list in course area. What you pick for trading depends on many things I also mention later in this article.

The point here is that you have to really understand how drastically things change when there is no law. It is hard to imagine but you look at life from whole different angle and from that angle you have to approach trading.

2. Look around you, today

Some common sense again. When people struggle to survive they gonna need everything. But use common sense. So there is no too much sense in storing something that can be found easily around you.

3. Small things, always

Whatever you trade, and whenever you trade do only with small things and small portions. For example you are not offering 5 liters of alcohol, you are offering ½ liter of alcohol. And thats it. Do you have right bottles for that? Why are you doing this? Other people might not take your life because it is not worth half liter of alcohol, but for more, or when they think that you have more at your home it is maybe worth.

Also it is much easier to go somewhere and carry with you 50 flints for trade than to go and carry 10 liters of fuel.

4. You wanna be big trader? Dont

If you have some big plan to do very well when SHTF and you store whole bunch of interesting things you need to keep absolutely low profile. So if you want to be big trader that means that nobody outside your house can know that you have whole bunch of things for trade.

Only thing that is standing between lot of nasty people and you and your storage is fact that you are not interesting for them. You can say that you are very good armed and prepared, and that you have friends with you, and that they are armed too.

I will tell you that sooner or later someone will come with more friends and more arms and you are dead and your stuff gone.

So stay low. You can not be anything like „big trader“ for other people around you. Whatever you have to trade you are gonna need to have some kind of smart strategy to trade / distribute that. Watch your ego too. Having resources means power, but showing that power gets you killed.

5. Middle man- golden solution

For best results in trading over longer period of time, you need to be something like „middle man“ in process of trading, not a guy who owns things. And of course this means that people need to think that you are only middle man, not a man who actually has things.

So if you are prepared for trading and you have lot of different things to trade, you can not go and offer things as yours, you need to be the guy who can obtain things.

If you have 1000 lighters for trade, and SHTF tomorrow, and after a month you realize that lighters have good price for trade, and you want to go and offer lighters, best solution is to be something like a man who knows a guy who has lighters for trade. So when you walk with few lighters in your pocket and trade them, they are „not yours“.

You are acting as a guy who has information where something can be found for a trade, you can „go there“ and find things for trade.

6. Basic security rules

Again and again, you need to be not interesting, so common sense again about security of trading:

  • Never trade in or in front of your house
  • When you trade with unknown people, always watch carefully if someone is following you on your way home
  • No matter how great deal you can make never do too much trading with one person in short period of time (for example, do not trade 10 liters of fuel 3 times at week with same person, or in the same street)
  • Make compromise. Trading with known people increases risk because known people know where to come if they conclude that you have lot of interesting things at home, on the other side trading with unknown people has risks too, because you do not know them.
  • I never trade bigger amounts of things, or some really interesting things with folks from my really close neighborhood unless I trust them 100%, which I usually dont. If I need to trade something bigger and interesting I take risk and go in other parts of city and do trade with people who do not know where I live.

7. Pricing, value of things

It can be very specific depending on the regions what things will have more value, and what lower. You may think that food will have biggest value, but there is a difference from what will be always wanted and what will have BIGGEST value. So yes, probably you will be able to trade food always for something usable, but better idea is maybe to have some interesting valuable things that YOU can trade for food.

  • Sources of light and energy: lamps, batteries, candles, burning cubes (paraffin cubes for starting fire), lightsticks, flints, solar chargers, fuel…
  • Always have things stored that people in your region use in everyday socializing rituals.

You may think that when SHTF people habits gonna be erased and everything connected to that will be stripped to bare simple survival living, basic food and water intake. Yes, for great number of the people it was like that, but reason was that because they did not have these social / comfort things stored, or they did not have enough items to trade for them. If they could they would have got these comfort things.

What that meant in my case, people here drink coffee… a lot, 3-4 times per day, and most of the folks smoke cigarettes or tobacco. Drinking the coffee is more like ritual where good friends, or family sit down and have some special time.

When SHTF people were in hard situation of course, and some habits or rituals from normal life gain even much more importance. I mean when everything falls apart around you, to have some special moment with your family with coffee becomes even much more important.

As a result, coffee was very valuable. I mean very very valuable. Even some poor substitutes for coffee were very important and valuable. Same was with cigarettes. So depending where you live, check for those things, and have it in your storage. It can be coffee, cigarettes, tea, beer…

Have some kind of system in your storage to know what things you use for yourself, or for trading. For example you store food for yourself and your family only, but you store great number of batteries for yourself and for trading too.

8. Charity

There is no golden rule about trading process, other than those security measures that I already mentioned. But few more things to have in mind.

Charity in good times is good, charity when SHTF is wrong and dangerous. I know I disagree here with one big survival blogger but my advice is never do real charity when SHTF. I mean it is crazy if you give things away for free if others struggle to survive. What do they think?

This guy has a lot so we get what we can and then more even if that means taking with force. You can give things to people but it can not look like charity.

You need to get something if you give something. If you do real charity and word go around, you are done. I saw this happening several times. Even people everyone thinks who are always good went out to “convince” charitable guys to give them something and this ended up very bad sometimes.

If you see your kids starve to death but this one guy has food but is not giving it to you what do you do? Exactly…

9. Scams

Of course always expect scams, people will do lot of wrong things in order to get things, plaster in baby food is only one example from my time (they take out half baby food, stuff plaster in there and cover it to make it look like full).

I know how to make 1 kg coffee with just 20 % of coffee and 80 % of other stuff, and it looks and smells like real coffee, 90 percent of people will not notice difference, bad is that that mixture screws up people’s blood pressure really bad. That’s one example.

So common sense is to trade with „unchecked“ persons only for „canned“ or sealed things. If man gives you half bag of powdered milk for something, you only have his word that he did not mixed that with something in order to make it more heavy.

Different dried plants mixed with tobacco and sold as a tobacco, different seeds grinded with small amounts of coffee and sold as areal coffee, alcohol… I have more examples of this in my course.

10. Pick the right moment for trading

Value of things changed during my year in war, depending of lot of things like entering of goods in area, rumors and word on the street, state of black market or simply security situation, so in first month pack of batteries were worth maybe 5 kilos of flour, but in third month it was worth 15 kilos of flour.

Or another good example would be that candles were worth more in first few months of SHTF then after that. Example would be that people find some substitute for light in house like oil lamps, and also realize to have light in every room is just unnecessary luxury.

Watch carefully for rumors and word on the street. I mean do not go and trade some of your precious stuff for few gas masks just because someone told you on the street that you gonna need them really hard. Luckily he is knowing someone who has few of them of course.

Word on the street or rumors will work for you, but also against you and there will be moments when people or groups of people produce specific news in order to gain something or sell something.

This is basic advice for trading during long term survival scenarios.

How do you prepare for trading part of SHTF?

Post Shtf Society: Corruption as a Way of Life

corruptionI read often in discussions in survival forums that people say that people from poor countries have easier transition into chaos and collapse scenarios. I agree. One of the reasons is that they already live in some sort of shtf scenario every day.

Today I want to tell you about major aspect of what keeps broken systems going all around the world. Corruption.

When resources are few and many people want something and person who decides who gets it is short on stuff too (or just greedy and there is no one who enforces law) then you enter into world of corruption.

I think it is important part of understanding how things work in corrupted systems. This does not only help you in post shtf scenario but even when you travel or move to what I call „unorganized countries“.

I live in one so this is something like everyday school of survival, after the Balkan war my country never recovered. If both parents work full time and you still sometimes do not have enough money to feed your kids something is wrong. (Money from my course helps, thank you for everyone who signed up).

Anyway, I hope you can benefit from my experience of living in such broken system. First thing:

„I have certain rights!“


This is first and most important rule of surviving in unorganized country. You do not have right to anything. Right of freedom of speech, right for job, right for some protection from the law or any other „right“. Now do not get me wrong, laws are same like in any other European country here, and they say that you HAVE all of the rights, but reality is different.

You need to fight for all rights, and find a way to make them work for you in some cases.

You are only one man with whole bunch of other people who are all equally jobless, tired of crime, political nonsense and many years of hopeless economical situation.

So at the end you find out that only thing that you can do is to blend in, to act like most people. If you want to live you are gonna have to bribe people on every step, you are gonna have to accept bribes.

Sounds bad? Unmoral? Read on.

If you want to work in some company you gonna need to start to look for people who have connections with people from management in that company. The person in the management who decides who gets job knows that having work is worth something but he will not ask directly for bribe. No matter what qualifications, somehow he will just not give you job.

Nobody openly accepts bribe in most cases because its against the law. You need someone the person from management trusts and then send the bribe through this middleman.

You are giving money to the middleman, he is giving money to the management guy. Rich management guy gets richer, middleman takes cut and if middleman did not screw you, you get a phone call when you can start working.

If you are lucky enough there is gonna be just one middleman between you and management guy, because if there are more middleman you need more money. Everybody is taking their cut.

After you get, actually after you buy that crap job, you start to work for crap salary that is clearly not enough for feeding your family. So you are starting with small things in your circle or network of people you know. Small wrong things.

For example if you are policeman you are gonna have something around 600 USD salary per month in country where you need 1300 USD for living for family with 3 members per month. And that is living under poor conditions.

So you start to “close your eyes” on some things. Small things. Taking bribes for traffic tickets, then you gonna cover some drug dealers in your street, then you gonna figure out that you can earn more if you take out some infos and give it to some guys, for example just to call some guys and tell them where next police raid gonna be, some drug action.

If you don’t do this, your colleague does and you have to explain your child why there is no decent food on the table.

This is how it is for great majority of situations in unorganized countries. As soon as you plug into that weird and corrupt system you gonna have better chance to live, to feed your kids.

Another example. If you are having some bigger money and want to start some job, for example lets say you want to open some small business or whatever, bakery shops. OK law says you gonna need some licenses from state, some workers, some building, equipment etc.

So you go to government offices or whatever and start to work on paperwork and licenses, and you figure out that on every step those people making problems for you. And you may ask yourself why? I want to start normal job, to earn honest money, to give job to 10-15 people and they cause all these problems?

And sooner or later you realize that whole system does not give sh!t for your intentions, because every small or bigger clerk want bribe for his stamp on paper. Or in other case your paperwork gonna be strangely lost somewhere, or you gonna be faced with some weird sanitary regulations or whatever.

So you finally bribe people, have all paperwork, rent buildings, employ workers and start to work. After 10 days you gonna have some inspector coming over who says that you do not have suddenly all what it takes for doing that business, because some of your paperwork is not correct. And of course you need to bribe again.

Anyway if you are not part of that weird corrupt system you are going down.

If you have mother who is sick, and she needs to go to hospital, you will find out that no room in hospital is available, and that she can come in for next month, not before.

So you are looking over to your friends who have some connections there, with some physicians. And you offer some money over that friend to some physician, and miracle, there is a room free in hospital for your mother on same day.

Then what you need is only to find some nurse there and offer something to her, so you can be sure that your mother not gonna die in the middle of the night because some equipment malfunctioned or whatever.

OK if you decide to go to police and talk about fact that somebody asked bribe from you because of whatever you will be welcomed. Police guys there gonna listen very carefully to whatever you have to say, after you finish with your story they gonna take all notes, and say to you that you fulfilled your duty as law abiding citizen and that you did right thing because this region is suffering because of corruption, crime etc etc.

And then you are screwed for real. Suddenly some small junkies gonna start to threaten your kid on the way to school, local police officer always stop you and ask for funny things and mistakes in your driving or find problems with your car. You can find your car without wheels or maybe even burned out. And if you still trust in law and order you call police, and circle is going again and again and again.

And then one morning you wake up with the great idea that you are living in a sh!t country, and it is time to start to act like everybody else. Do not hear, do not see, do not talk. You plug yourself into corrupt system and become part of everything.

So you are starting to do small scams with your employers, tax scams, you find connection in taxing department, bribe guy there, steal from your employers, split cut with that dude from taxing department.

Your employers start to steal from you, whatever they can. And again circle is going on.

Point of living in unorganized country is how many people you know, I mean how many people with connections. You can become rich or powerful by just being the man with many connections. Corruption becomes not only part of system, corruption is the system to get things done.

In order to finish whatever job, you gonna need connections and bribes, smaller or bigger. And at the end to survive you become one of those people with connections. Man who can finish some business that helps others.

You are finishing jobs for people, sometimes for money, sometimes for favors, sometimes for friends, and you are expanding network of people you know. Word “human capital” gets new meaning. More people you know (people who can finish something) more power and money you have.

If I order something from Ebay in 80% I have chance that item gonna be held in customs, and some ridiculously high tax for that gonna be sent to me, import tax or whatever, usually 20X more tax then value of order. So I need to find some guy there and offer him maybe 2-3x value of order in cash, and order can be mine.

It is in every aspect of society, you can not live without it.

And I mention only very harmless examples of corruption…

Already living in corrupt system and making things work through people you know is one of the reasons why it is easier for people in unorganized countries to live better through consequences of collapse. People have already adapted to fact that they need connections to make pretty much anything happen.

So how does this information help you? I hope this article gave you basic understanding how corruption works in real life. This can help you when you travel, when you want to make things work in unorganized countries and also should give you ideas for your preparations. Store some “presents”, think about skills you can learn that you can trade as favors. Corruption will be big part of post shtf society… at least in beginning before law is enforced.

If you have questions or stories about how presents helped “someone you know” to make things work, please share in comments.

On Buying Gold & Silver for Survival Preparedness

I am very sorry because i have to destroy some popular opinions on some things, but i just have to do that. When i said and keep saying “no rules” i mean that. You can not have something like ideal preparations, you can only try to have it (and then hungry man down the road still might shoot you with his antique hunting rifle for a bit of flour). survival fear

So again on bartering and gold and silver:

No, gold and silver was not like second money, or second value during SHTF, it was not even worth like in normal times, and in most of the cases it was dangerous to have it a lot (actually it was too dangerous to have anything in great amounts and let other people to know that) If you had for example 1000 gold coins, and let s say that one coin worth 150 USD in normal times, you could think that you are rich in shtf.

But in reality it was hard to find someone who give you some food or battery or whatever useful for one coin. Gold coin was not useful for 90 percent of people, what they could use it for? Eat it? Start fire with that?

Only people which could use that gold were people who had connection to outside world, so they could use it for buying things trough their connections. In most cases they just used situation to acquire great amounts of gold for the future and in exchange for some simple things, like food, or fuel or…

They did that because they had everything else.

But thing is it was hard to make trade with people like that, because bad kind of people had connections or were gathering gold, so they can just gonna take that gold from you and give you nothing, or bullet in your head.

So yes gold was useful and not useful, it dependeds what kind of people or group you belonged to.

If we have worldwide crisis and you can not get food anywhere the first currency of choice will be food or useful things, not gold or silver. If you want gold to keep some kind of value for one day after all is over make sure you are prepped for long, long time crisis before that.

It is better to have some useful stuff in your prepping, then to waste money on gold or silver. And of course if you still want to have a lot of gold as a part of your preparations, i suggest you buy lot odd simple gold rings, or simple cheaper gold necklace, it makes more sense than to have gold coins.

In hurry it is gonna make more sense to offer “your wifes gold ring” someone for cans or something else then to offer someone some “strange” gold coin for food or one of the typical gold coins you can buy from gold sellers these days, it can raise some questions, and you do not need raising questions in situation like that. Stay low key. Be the guy with the last family jewels not the guy with gold coins from typical gold sellers.

I would say that in SHTF it is gonna be easier and cheaper to get gold then in normal times. Bartering was not a thing of some regular prices or regular places, even “expensive”things changed. Meet the guy with terrible toothache and you are only person who can do an ok tooth surgery. He will give you some gold for that if he can or a lot of other valuable things to simply get out of this situation.

As i remember coffee and cigarettes was hard to find and expensive through all of the time, everything else changed, sometimes was expensive and hard to find, sometimes not.

But important to remember is to make it easier to you, so obliviously, it is much easier to carry and trade candles and batteries than 20 liters of fuel. There is no sense of letting everybody know that you are “man for trade” and that you have a lot fuel for example, because then you might end finished robbed and probably dead.

If you can be, be a traveling trader and do not trade too often with same people if you can avoid that. People also got shot after trading with one person a few times before. Other person might just run out of things to trade and call on you to come to trade and all he has is bullet for you in exchange for what he needs (and he knows you come with what he needs).

In some hardest period cigarettes was sold at one piece, i mean you could buy one cigarette for something, it was so expensive. Same was with coffee, even some substitutes for coffee were expensive. Now you need to know that traditionally here people drink coffee a lot, so maybe some other thing is so “important” in your area, like tea, beer or something else.

But do not expect that people will loose their addictions because times are hard.

One of my older relatives smoked cigarettes while he had it, after that he smoked tobacco (pipe), after that he bought from some folks pieces of dry tobacco roots or tree, used knife to cut small pieces of that and smoked that, and after that he used some dry leafs from tree and smoke that. He never quit smoking.

So in short instead of getting gold and silver to preserve your wealth you might consider getting useful stuff and if you like gold there is always option to get it from unprepared people in exchange for useful stuff if you think you need this for times after. If you already have everything you really think you could need then gold and silver might be good, better than just money for sure.

I do not believe in any quick recovery. Even with help from other states (thank you all for that) it took long time before things became more normal again.

If things don’t get better you do not want to be stuck with gold and having to do risky trades. Do not think that other people do not see when someone is desperate and take advantage of it.