This may have been covered before, but with the google search being used now I had no luck finding anything.
I consider myself to be pretty well prepared, at least more so than the vast majority of people. But I wasted a lot of time and money getting here. I'd like to see if we can come up with a pretty general list of things people can do, or buy, to become prepared for life's little hiccups. This may also help those of us here who tend to focus on some areas (BOB's and guns) while ignoring others (e.g. emergency funds and flood insurance).
I don't have any kind of thesis here, just brainstorming with you guys to see what we can come up with.
It's important to keep in mind that we should consider being prepped in light of reality, that one is more likely to lose a job than have their face chewed off by some shambling undead post-human. We'd all like to be 100% ready for the zombpacalyse, but everyone has to start somewhere.
1. I say the first priority is to prioritize. Cute, huh? By that I mean two things. First, go though some kind of list like this and make a realistic plan for what order YOU need to do these things in, and make a plan to get it done. Second, if you claim you can't afford $40 of food (or whatever) a month, but you spend $80/ month on cable, you might want to rethink that. I gave up satellite, I'm happier now without it.
2. Assuming you have a place to live, your number one priority (after breathing) is covered. Keep current with payments.
3. Now, if you cupboards are bare, your next step should be to get some food insurance. Of course it's just a matter of going to the grocery store and stocking up on some cheap food and bottled water, make sure it's food you and yours will eat. A roll of TP per person. You should realistically be able to provide a basic diet for everyone you provide for for around $20 for a week's worth. Watch those sale flyers, every week I see really good buys on food. Now you have the .gov recommend food and water taken care of.
4. If you don't already have the really basic household goods, you might want to gather those now. Manual can opener, matches or lighter, pots and pans, soap, first aid kit, bleach, kitchen knives, candles, warm blankets. No need for anything fancy here, just the things most every household has. A trip to the dollar store and Big Lots or any other deep discount store can help you out here.
At this point, the basis for short term life sustainment is covered. Now, what are you trying to prepare for? Start with the most basic things, and obviously the list will vary by person. If you're just barely squeaking by financially, your most likely disaster is running out of money. You very first prep priority is to do whatever you have to, sell something, get a part time job, to get some money squirreled away for that rainy day. Independently wealthy living on San Fransisco Bay, you need a good bug out bag, an even better bug out plan, and better still earthquake insurance. Step #1, prioritizing and planning, is the most important step to make sure you don't waste your resources going after the wrong things in the wrong order.
What are you more likely to need, a bug out bag or house insurance? Statistics say the insurance. Again, you have to look at your situation.
5. Insurance. This is all pretty obvious, we all know we should have it, but a lot of us don't. Own a house, have homeowners. Rent, have renters insurance. Live in a flood plain, have flood insurance. Health insurance, even if not provided through work, can be reasonably bought for most people if you shop around. Life insurance, everyone should have it, but if your married and/or have kids, you should definitely have it. A reasonable amount of term life insurance is too cheap not to have.
6. Papers, please. If something happens to your house or apartment, do you have copies (hard copies, flash drives, cd's) stored somewhere offsite? This is one thing that can happen to any of us, on any day, with no forewarning. Your stuff is gone. But as long as you have proper insurance, important documents copied offsite, copies of photos, receipts for big ticket items, etc, it can become more of a major pain in the backside than a life altering event. A fire proof safe can be useful here, especially if you have any important family heirlooms you would like to protect. Most of this doesn't take much money, but you do have to invest some time. An often quoted site to go for more ideas- http://www.theplacewithnoname.com/blogs/klessons/p/map.html
7. Money, money, money. Cash is king. For most of us, it's not something we can do at one whack but has to be done over time. Figure out a way to put aside a rainy day fund, in cash. Save whatever you can every time you get paid. Sell something you probably don't need anyway. Just have some cash. Put together enough to spend three nights at some dirt cheap motel and put it in your emergency bag. Build up enough to where you can cover your absolute bare essentials for one month. Having a little cash around should be one of the first things you do. Eventually it would be nice to have 3-6 months of super basic expenses covered put up somewhere, with around half kept as cash on hand.
8. Emergency bag. You ain't always gonna be home when sumpin bad happens. People obsess over this, building BOB's, GHB's, INCH's, etc. You don't have to get all fancy with all the latest camping gear, just put something together you can keep in your car. A backpack with a change of clothes, snacks, bottled water, matches, small blanket, cash and some quarters. Maybe a disposable poncho, space blanket. Look around for ideas on what you might need. You can build a nice kit, where you have to buy everything, for less than $100. But you probably already own a lot of things you would need to build such a bag, and could do it for a lot less. See here for some good ideas of good, cheap emergency bags. http://www.zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=54612&start=96
Consider carrying a small knife, flashlight, and pepper spray with you at all times. They're amazingly small and cheap these days.
9. Guns and ammo. Now we're talking. For the purpose of here and now, I'm speaking of a self defense weapon. You don't need a $2000 tricked out AR-15. Get a handgun or a shotgun, learn how to use it, keep it handy. There's more than enough info on guns here to keep you busy for a long time.
10. Tools and supplies. It's always good to have a least a toolbox full of basic hand tools, nails, screws, zip ties, etc. A lot of people don't think of these as preparedness items, but if you need them and don't have them.... If you own a car and only a few tools, consider keeping your toolbox in there.
11. Mundane things that can come in handy in small emergencies. Car cell phone charger, wool blanket in the car, can of fix-a-flat, spare house key in your emergency bag. Point is, take care of these little items before you go on to upgrade the bigger and better stuff.
12. Debt. The noose around our necks. It's very important to pay off debt, for numerous reasons I won't go into here except to say that less debt = more free cash flow. Make your decision of what your bare minimum supplies are, get those, then knock that debt out as fast as you can. For example, you plan might say: I'm going to build up 2 weeks of food, a cheap emergency bag for each member of my family, a scanner and some blank CD's to make document copies, put $1000 aside in cash, spend $300 for a used shotgun and some ammo, and at that point I'll start attacking my debt. It's your plan, you decide. But DO make a plan, then get about doing it.
Let's go back to the plan for a minute. Say you've decided that you might need to bug out to somewhere else. Have you made arrangements with someone at that location so that you can stay there if needed? Friends, family, just make a phone call. Tell them that if XXXX ever happened, could you stay at their place for a few days. Extend the same offer to them. Do you know how to get there, multiple ways? Mapquest and a few minutes time are all it takes.
At this point, if you've done all of this, you are a winner. Ding, ding, ding. You have a well rounded 'cushion' of supplies and ideas to land on if the rug gets pulled out from under you. You've started to pay down your debt. I say that every one of us should do these things first, before we move on to bigger and better things. Again, YOU have to prioritize what YOU are most likely to need. Some bigger and better ideas:
Increase food and water storage. Aim for one month first. Eventually may decide to go to 3, 6, 12, even 24 months. It's up to you.
More guns and ammo. Be careful here, a lot of people take this to an extreme, because it's fun. Keep this, as everything, in balance.
Upgrade your emergency bag. Better knife, better bag, whatever. Same advice as above on balance. I'd have reached my goals much faster if I didn't go crazy on bags, flashlights, knives.....
Fancier, long term options. Solar, efficient appliances, generators, on and on.
The whole idea is to make a plan that gets you where you want to be that is realistic, well balanced, and based on common sense.
Edited for clarity and typos