The civilization we know has ended, and the government and the rule of law are gone. In this new world, all forms of currency, money, credit, and all precious metals lost their worth. You are alone, and you have no resources to purchase food, water, fuel, or any gear you might need to survive. What do you do?
All you had of value may now be worthless, but you do have a remaining trick up your sleeve. You are a master trader, and the world has provided the perfect environment for you to shine and thrive in
The good old bartering system
Bartering is the oldest known form of acquiring goods, dating back to the prehistoric times of mastodons and cavemen. The art of trading goods and services was one of the main things that helped build civilizations like the Phoenicians and Aztecs.
The bartering system is cleverly simple. Suppose you need something that someone else has; you’ll need to find something of equal value that person wants. It’s a simple process that works based on supply and demand. However, unlike other systems (capitalism, for instance), for trading to work, the supply and demand must be present on both sides.
For instance, a traveler wouldn’t likely trade 5 gallons of fuel for something they don’t need, and a craftsman won’t want 5 gallons of fuel for a vehicle he doesn’t own or uses. The demand and the scarcity of the item determine its worth and set the price. In a world divided by conflict, we can assume that ammunition becomes scarce, and the value of such items will only increase.
The pros and cons of trading
The greatest advantage to trading is that there’s no money involved. Money is a complicated medium in which to do business, especially if there isn’t a government (or a gold standard) to back paper and coins.
With the bartering system in place, you can take some of your supplies and decide for yourself what their value is based on a host of factors such as:
- how much of the items you own is in existence,
- who needs it and who wants it,
- why they want/need it and what they might be willing to offer in trade.
If you don’t need anything, don’t trade for anything, and there’s no third-party currency to deal with. The downside of trading stuff, of course, is that you must gain the trustworthiness of the person with whom you are dealing.
Is he a looter just waiting for you to show your cache of supplies? Perhaps he’s trading you some carpentry work for a case of cigarettes, but he has very little skill in carpentry. With bartering, especially off-grid, end-of-civilization bartering, there are no warranties, no exchanges, no money-back guarantees, and no consumer protection advocates if a trade doesn’t go as planned.
What to stash and how
Stockpiling an assortment of stuff for trading in the event of a survival situation can be pretty tricky, depending on your situation. Of course, with everything related to emergency preparation, the time to start accumulating your goods (and developing your services) is now. Gathering a stash of items that you’ve determined will be rare and useful in a post-catastrophe world without money is important.
Consider things that hardly ever go bad, like grain alcohol, sugar, honey, evaporated milk, hard candy, and salt. These items can be stored indefinitely and are of great value.
Always stockpile items that fall into the five categories of supplies needed in and after an emergency: food and water, protection, fire, tools, and shelter.
Popular items will get used up quickly and steadily, and you’ll want to have plenty on hand to replenish people. This may sound cold and heartless, but you should take advantage of those with vices.
Caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol dependencies can become powerful tools, as people will go to great lengths to maintain their habits, so keep tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea, and/or soda in your supplies.
Build over time
The best method to avoid going broke when collecting your supply is to do so gradually, quietly, and clandestinely. For example, you can buy one or two boxes of ammo every month or two, but make it appear as if it’s within your usual allowance for ammo.
Financially, spreading out the payments for your bartering cache of supplies is easier on the wallet than doing it all at once. Plus, if you bulk buy something that has a shelf life—like gasoline or allergy medication—all of that one item will expire at the same time, leaving you flush with a lot of one thing.
With the exception of grain alcohol, honey, beef bouillon cubes, and a few other foodstuffs, very few things will last forever. Therefore, it is mandatory to keep your stores organized.
Start by writing the date on everything you purchased and keep a record of how much it set you back. Keep accurate lists of what you have and where you stored it because this will make finding a specific thing easier if you’re in a hurry. Also, if you know at all times what you have and how much you have of every item, it will keep you from buying too much of one thing.
The art of Trading
Ask any stockbroker, real estate agent, or lawyer, and they’ll tell you that to be good at making a deal with someone, you have to be good at communication.
If you can effectively explain what’s in it for your customers so that they believe they’re getting a better deal, then you’ve got it relatively easy.
Conversely, you need to maintain a level of value for your tradable stuff. Just because you really need or perhaps you want something, it doesn’t mean you should trade whatever the seller is asking.
Remember that in the trading business, trades should leave each person walking away happy with the transaction.
These specific guidelines will help you succeed in your bartering endeavors. You need patience when trading, and you should avoid doing business in too much of a hurry. You’ll trade poorly if you don’t take your time to analyze all the facts.
Never mention the price or value of an item. Let your trading partner come up with it on their own and get them to first mention the value of a tradable item in their own cache.
Keep them talking because a person engaged in a conversation becomes more relaxed and more in the mood to listen to your reasons for wanting to trade.
Stand your ground if you feel that it’s a great deal. Remember that you don’t have to trade (or, at the very least, they don’t have to know if you really need something).
If their sales pitch is swift and feels slick, and you get the idea that they’re trying to steamroll you, they’re probably dishonest (for a reason). Never let slip your maximum trading limit. Giving that information away can hurt a deal before it’s even begun.
Stay focused. Start your trade low (so low that they might get insulted). How would you feel if they immediately said yes to your first reasonable offer? They likely would have gone lower. Find out how low. Make an offer, and then don’t say anything else until the other person responds. If you say too much, you sound anxious, as if you’re trying to justify the offer you’ve just made.
Use body language. If you’re offering a box of matches in trade for a tube of toothpaste, physically hand him the matches and try to get hold of the toothpaste while you’re dealing. When you make your offer, nod your head and politely smile. Sending out subtle positive messages reassures the other person in their perception of a good deal.
Most importantly, be willing to walk away. If you aren’t too emotionally involved in the barter, you’ll be in a better position to leave if the situation goes south or you don’t feel you’re getting a fair deal.
Also, be fair. If you screw someone out just because you had the opportunity to do so, they will remember you, and you likely won’t ever trade with them again.
Ten skills worth trading
If there’s no store to shop at tomorrow, do you know where your food would come from?
Can you butcher a rabbit or a pig?
Can you can vegetable and fruits?
If your house was severely damaged by a natural disaster, would you know how to rebuild it?
Can you make concrete? How about the cordwood building technique? Have you ever heard of it?
If your vehicle needed work, would you know how to fix it?
Every one of these questions requires a specific set of skills, and many folks out there don’t have such skills. Those that do have such skills will be sought after.
They may not be important at first, but these jobs have value because few will be able to do them, and they’ll need you.
That being said, here are some of the most desired skills, the ones with the most value to a community trying to rebuild:
BLACKSMITH/METALSMITH: Not only can they produce weapons and tools, but they’re very adept at fixing almost any metal object, such as lengths of chain, wheel hubs, gears, and farming implements.
BUTCHER: A good butcher will not only cut, grind, and process meats, but he or she will also understand health practices. They are able to spot if the meat is suited for human consumption, and they are also able to take good care of their knives. A good butcher will know slaughtering techniques for all kinds of animals.
CARPENTERS/MASONS: Building a simple shelter is easy enough for most folks, but having the ability to plan and construct a structurally secure shelter that can accommodate more than one person is a whole other matter. Stonemasons work diligently with chisels and trowels and have a deep understanding of hard materials like rocks and concrete (they can even make some like in the old days).
CLERGY: No matter what this world turns into and the events that change our way of living, religion will always be relevant. Some folks fail to consider that there will still be the need for prayers for the sick and dead and counseling for the distressed. Even more, as the dust settles and things begin to somehow turn to normal, weddings, funerals, and baptisms will continue to be performed.
DOCTORS/NURSES/EMTS: Trained medical professionals know how to handle almost every trauma case, can administer blood transfusions, and have extensive knowledge of medicines and their uses.
ENGINEERS/MECHANICS: The modern man fails to complete simple tasks like repairing a bicycle or adjusting the brakes on their car. Mending the firing pin on a pistol can be insurmountable to a lot of people, not to mention that setting up a septic system or a clean-water filtering site becomes an impossible task for most people.
FARMERS/RANCHERS/DOMESTIC SKILLS: Farmers know the land, the crop cycles, and the nutrients needed for a variety of soils to produce abundant crops. An experienced farmer understands the weather, the soil composition, the water needs for crops, and what grows best in different climates. On the other hand, a rancher has the skills to organize and maintain a sustainable source of livestock for food (and clothing.
LEADERS/GOVERNMENT/LAW: A community cannot function without leadership, and there will always be the need for rules and laws. The leaders and decision-makers will help drive people toward a common goal, and without them, a group of people cannot evolve into a society.
MOONSHINERS/BREWERS: Alcohol is the social lubricant, some say. Brewing beer, making wine, and distilling grain into alcohol can be prized skills in a community where vices are still alive. Even more, alcohol has many medicinal purposes as well. Did you know you can use wine as medicine?
HUNTING/ MARKSMAN: The ability to hunt and fish is just as valuable because it takes a lot of practice time in the field to master such skills. Knowing the game’s habitat, how much meat a certain animal will provide and what is necessary to harvest that animal quickly and humanely can benefit a whole starving community.
Trading is a skill of value in a world where money has lost its worth. You may not have the skills listed in this article, but you can always become a master trade in a post-economic moneyless world. Having a collection of things that would likely be in need after an emergency or disaster is important, but knowing how to trade those things to obtain maximum yield for yourself is the real trick up your sleeve.
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