Florida has hurricanes. California has earthquakes. Other parts of the country deal with flooding, tornadoes, or snowstorms. No matter where you live, it's wise to have emergency supplies ready for when you need them.
1. Assemble a list of what you need. Every shopping trip should begin with a list—specially this one. Overspending on emergency supplies can be costly.
2. Tap the Internet. A search will turn up a number of survivalist sites and stores. Use them to compare prices and to determine things you might have overlooked on your list. You'll also find items designed specially for emergency use.
3. Have a time frame in mind. Depending on the type of emergency and your location, you should have a reasonable idea of how long you'll need to be self-reliant. Add an extra few days just in case.
4. Prioritize your purchases. Determine which items are absolutely essential in an emergency. Put them on the top of your list and acquire them first. Add other items as they—and the money to acquire them—become available.
5. Set aside a few dollars from every paycheck. With a little extra cash, you'll be able to stock and replenish your supplies. Add it to your routine expenses. Most months you'll need to replace or add something. In the other months, you'll have a little extra in your budget for something else.
6. Watch for used items on your list. Many things you'll need can be found in local classified ads, on Craigslist, at thrift stores, and yard sales. A used thermal blanket is just as good as a new one.
7. Use seasonal sales. Many of your items will be on sale at the end of camping season. Take advantage of any season-end clearance sales.
8. Ask friends and relatives. They may be getting rid of items on your list. Many families camp for a year or two and then grow tired of it. They might be happy to clean their garage and help fill your emergency list.
9. Have a specific space to store your supplies. If you store them all over your house, something is bound to go missing when you have an emergency.
10. Rotate food items with your pantry. Unless specifically designed for long-term storage, most food items do not have an unlimited shelf-life. Replace items periodically and use the older emergency stock for your daily cooking.
11. Don't forget tools. In an emergency you may need to do some quick home repairs. Handtools are best. You might not have electricity available for power tools. Don't forget items like pry bars and large hammers.
12. Light is important. It’s vital not only for your safety but for your morale. Make sure you have sufficient candles and lanterns.
13. Ensure everyone has enough clothes. You could face hot or cold weather extremes in an emergency. Have clothing appropriate to the situation. Remember to have some work clothing available, too.
14. Test everything. Make sure everything works before you check it off your list. Don’t forget to try food items you're planning on storing. The time to find out that your family hates a specific food item is before you've bought a week's supply.
15. A generator can prove handy. Most households are dependent on electricity. Being able to generate your own can make an emergency much easier to survive. If you have one, test it frequently and rotate any gas you store for it. Ethanol separates after being stored for a while and cannot be used.
16. Don't forget the duct tape. Most men think that they can fix almost anything with duct tape. Here's their chance to prove it!
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded TheDollarStretcher.com. The site features thousands of articles to help stretch your day and your dollar, including more information on accumulating emergency supplies.