Bartering – initial planning
I have seen a lot of discussion about being able to barter after the SHTF and I thought some initial comments might be useful. First of all, I think it is unlikely that we will completely abandon the use of a currency as a medium of exchange as it makes buying and selling so much easier. But it is possible in wartime situations where commodities are extremely scarce that money will be useless. In these cases, some items will be in short supply and if you have stored up extra stock of certain things (or you can produce more) you will be able to trade them for things you need.
While guns and ammo are going to be valuable, most everyone agrees that these are not barter items as you will need them for your own defense. Additionally, if there is no rule of law and someone else has guns and ammo and you don’t, you might not be in a position to do much trading for guns and ammo and it might not be so wise to trade away any guns or ammo you have. Strongly suggest you have purchased some firearms in advance (as in if you don’t have any guns, you should stop reading this and go get some right now).
Ok, everyone back? Let’s continue…
Here is my list of items you should be able to barter / will be in short supply.
► Alcohol – if you brew your own beer or wine, all the better. Right now distilling spirits in the US requires a ATF license so I won’t suggest that you do any distilling. But if you have a well-stocked liquor cabinet, that should come in handy.
► Coffee – the climate in the US doesn’t lend itself to growing coffee so this staple drink might become pretty scarce. If you have your own green house, you might try your hand at growing your own beans. Otherwise, this may be a hot commodity when shipments from South America cannot be transported to Starbucks all over the country.
► Cigarettes – even if you don’t smoke (actually better for you if you don’t, you won’t be burning up your supply), this is likely to be a valuable trade item. If the SHTF, it is better than even odds that the tobacco plantations will switch to food and the supply of cigarettes will be restricted by limited new production and limits on distribution.
► Salt and spices – if you don’t live near the ocean or a salt flat, you may not be able to get salt. Same with spices that are not native to North America or cannot be grown here (except in a greenhouse). Nice thing about salt and spices is that small quantities can be quite valuable as they don’t require a lot of space to store and are easy to move. Recommend you stock up on salt and any spices you like (or are required for your favorite dishes). Get extra as a barter item.
► Seeds – the benefit of a seed bank is that seeds don’t require a lot of space to store. But if you are growing food and can feed yourself, plant the next crop and in addition have some surplus seeds this will be a good barter item.
► Sugar and / or Honey – like salt and spices, people will want something to flavor their food. And again, unless you are raising sugar cane or sugar beets and know how to refine it, supplies may be limited. Bee keeping might be a pretty good investment. Both Sugar and Honey keep indefinitely as long as they are properly stored.
► Hygiene items – practicing good hygiene goes a long way to preventing disease and infections. So anything from toilet paper to soap, sanitary napkins to razors and toothpaste will be in demand. Not a top item on a non-preppers last minute shopping list so if you have stocked up in advance, you might be able to trade them for some of their looted booty.
► Vitamins – another easy to store item that will probably be in short supply after the SHTF. For people that lack variety in their diet / aren’t growing their own food, vitamin supplements should be good barter items.
► Antibiotics, OTC and prescription medicines – Not everyone will stock up on medical requirements. If you have a well-stocked medicine cabinet, these could be good barter items for you. Many medicines will be hard if not impossible to get, especially those that require refrigeration for storage. A tragic result of the SHTF will be many people dying due to lack of life-sustaining medicines.
► Food: some food items will be harder to get than others, but everyone will need food. If you are growing food or raising animals, you will be able to swap for items you need. Items that I think we will be particularly short supply will be bacon (hard to process) and fresh produce (subject to the seasonality that we just have become immune to in our global food supply chain). It will boil down to calories, people will need energy. Starving to death is not a good way to go. If you don’t have sufficient food in stock, you might find yourself trading away many valuable things for the next meal…
► Cooking oil: a staple for cooking many food items. Unless you enjoy all your food boiled or roasted, you will need cooking oil. This is a difficult to process item so supplies may be limited.
► Clothing: eventually everyone’s clothes need replacement or repair. Hard to produce cloth from scratch and clothes without a sewing machine, even crochet and knitting take time and effort so this commodity might be in short supply pretty quickly. Don’t forget shoes as a clothing item. You might want to keep any clothing that wears out and harvest pieces of cloth for repairs on those clothes you can still use.
► Specialized Services: whatever skills you may have might be core to your barter capability. Right now is the time to invest in yourself and develop a skill that will be useful in a survival situation: seamstress or tailor, barber, carpenter, plumber, mechanic, blacksmith or any vocation that requires some specialized knowledge. If you can produce something from your labor or sell your specialized skill for an item you need, you are sure to be able to garner things you need for the service you can provide. While general labor may be in demand when the power is out, you don’t want your only skill to be a run-of-the-mill ditch-digger.
There are plenty of other things that will likely be in short supply. I avoided discussing large or bulky items since they tend to be expensive to stockpile, require a lot of space, or difficult to manufacture or a combination of all three. Suffice it to say that any item you currently go to the store to buy will be a shortage item at some point. Bartering is one step beyond identifying your needs, it could be the system that allows you to get things you forgot to stockpile and that might be the difference between life and death for some people.