Cash and the BOB

Should you have cash with your bug out bag or other emergency kit? I see that question pop up from time to time. Here’s my take on it.

What seems to be a running theme in many forums is that cash will be worthless in a major collapse, such as an EMP. While that’s probably true, cash has value right up until it doesn’t. If the disaster hasn’t reached national proportions, odds are that those dollars and cents will still be accepted in most places.

Don’t get me wrong, if there is a financial collapse and the bottom falls out of the dollar, then of course our current currency will be worthless. But again, it still works just fine up until that happens.

Cash can solve an awful lot of problems in an emergency. It can get you a place to stay for the night, food to eat, clothes to wear, and just about anything else you need. Cash is king 99.9% of the time.

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How much cash should you have in your BOB or with your evacuation supplies? I’d recommend at least enough to pay for a full tank of gas, a decent motel for a night or two, plus meals for a couple of days, maybe a little extra for a cushion. Stick to small bills, nothing larger than a $20, as many smaller businesses don’t like big bills or may have trouble making change.

Related to this is whether you should keep gold or silver in your BOB. If one has to choose between cash and precious metals, I’d go with cash every time. While there are definitely SOME gas station attendants who would gladly accept precious metal instead of US currency, I am reasonably certain that ALL of them will accept cash.

Even though you might be utterly confident as to exactly what that silver coin is worth, the 17-year-old manning the register at the Mobil station in the middle of nowhere might not have a clue and may be reluctant to accept it in lieu of what he sees as real money. If things are so serious that you’re needing to use precious metals to pay for gas, do you really want to waste time trying to convince him that it is real?

Let’s put it this way. If you and I pull up to the same gas station at the same time and I have $100 cash and you have a gold coin, want to bet which of us is going to be able to put gas in their vehicle or buy some food?

If you have the means to keep precious metals in addition to cash in your kit, go for it. I’m just saying that if you need to choose between the two, cash is likely to get you further.

What about credit cards? If there is a major power outage, many places may not be accepting credit cards because their systems will be down. In those cases, they may still accept cash. However, if you have a card you that can use for as long as those systems are running, that can extend your cash supply for a bit. Every purchase you can make with the credit card is one you don’t need to spend your cash on, right?

Also something to keep in mind is that some businesses, such as motels and car rental agencies, typically require a credit card. This applies even if the system is down, in my experience. Not that many years ago, my wife and I were doing some traveling. We stopped for the night at a motel that, as luck would have it, had literally just opened for business that morning. Turned out that not everything was running smoothly, including their merchant account and they couldn’t run credit card charges. They still required a card from me though, and wrote down the numbers from it to run later.

Before people get all riled up, let me also say this – I’m not insisting anyone stash cash or a credit card actually IN the bug out bag. The point here is to have money available to use during an evacuation. If you aren’t comfortable keeping it in the pack, find somewhere else to keep it.

If you’re thinking that there’s no way you’d ever need to spend money on anything during a bug out, you lack imagination. There are any number of things that could happen that would cause you to end up deviating substantially from your bug out plan. Better to be prepared than to be caught flat-footed.

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