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How to make a home emergency kit for less

Are you ready for the zombie apocalypse? OK, that may be going a bit far, but are you at least prepared in case there’s an emergency or natural disaster?

You may think that the safest (and easiest) bet is to purchase a pre-packaged emergency kit. Well, that’s better than not having any kit. However, it could also cost you upwards of $150! Not only that, it may include a bunch of stuff you don’t need, or worse, lack some absolute essentials.

To make sure you’re ready for almost any emergency, the smartest and most cost-efficient thing you can do is make your own emergency kit. Not only will it cost you a fraction of the price of a store-bought kit, you can customize it so you’ve got exactly what you need in there.

What is an emergency kit?

Before diving into how to make your own emergency kit, it’s important to know exactly what they’re for and how they work.

Broadly speaking, an emergency kit should contain food, water and supplies that you would need in order to survive 72 hours. And when I say you, I mean just you. Each kit is per individual, so if you have a family, every member should have their own emergency kit.

Moreover, depending on where you live, your kit may look very different than someone else’s. You’ll want to tailor your kit for the emergencies that could affect your area. For instance, if you live in a location prone to flooding, that should be taken into consideration when making a list of items you’ll need for your kit.

What to have in your kit

But before tailoring your kit for specific events, it’s always good to start with a solid foundation. No matter where you live, these items should be in your emergency kit:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • Water purification tablets
  • 3-day supply of non-perishable food (think energy bars, dehydrated food, and canned food)
  • Manual can opener
  • Utensils or spork
  • Flashlight (with batteries or crank-operated)
  • Radio (with batteries or crank-operated)
  • Copies of keys to your home and car
  • Cash in small bills and change for payphones
  • Change of clothes
  • Blanket or Heatsheet
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Whistle
  • Duct tape
  • Lighter and/or matches
  • Candle(s)
  • Pocket knife
  • Basic tools (hammer, pliers, screwdriver and wrench)

How to save money when building your emergency kit

That list looks pretty long, so I know what you’re thinking. How can you get all of those items for less than $150? The simple answer is, you probably already have a number of those items in your home already.

For instance, maybe you have a pocket knife you use for camping. You don’t have to get an extra one just for your kit. Put the one you already own in your kit, and if you have to use it, make sure to put it back when you’re done with it.

As for other items, you can easily get them for bargain prices at the dollar store, on Amazon, or from other big-box stores that offer cheap prices. To make sure you also take advantage of sales and deals, keep that list in your wallet or purse and when you see an item on sale, take advantage of your good luck then cross it off your list.

Where to store your kit

Once you’ve built your kit, the next step is to store it someplace safe and accessible. When storing it in your home, you may want to tuck it away in your attic or basement so it doesn’t take up precious storage space, but that would be a big mistake. By putting it in your basement or attic where it’s hard to get to, you are virtually making your emergency kit worthless. What’s the good in having one if you can’t grab it with a minute’s notice, am I right? Instead, put it somewhere you know you can reach in an instant, such as your coat closet or underneath your bed.

You may also want to have multiple kits for different locations. For instance, you may want to have an emergency kit you can store at work, and you most definitely should have a specific kit to put in the trunk of your car.

Hopefully you won’t ever have to use your emergency kit, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. And for another turn of phrase, hope for the best but prepare for the worst! Plus, you never know—if there is a zombie apocalypse, you might actually have everything you need in that handy little backpack stored under your bed.