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Survival 101: What to expect when bartering after SHTF
By Zoey Sky // Oct 09, 2023

Some people are curious about prepping because they want to be more self-sufficient, while others may be considering this lifestyle to ensure their survival during more difficult times.

If you are worried about where to get supplies after your stockpile runs out when SHTF, you can try to learn more about bartering and the basics of trading in a post-collapse world. (h/t to TheOrganicPrepper.com)

The tips and information below come from Selco Begovic, a man who survived one year in Bosnia when his city was blockaded.

Begovic hails from the Balkan region, where residents struggled with harsh living conditions from 1992 to 1995. He lived there and survived for a year in a city without running water, food distribution, electricity, fuel or supply of any goods.

The area also did not have any organized law or government.

While the information below is from an interview conducted in 2018, the topics discussed are still relevant for preppers or those who want to start prepping in 2023.

Bartering after city lockdowns

According to Begovic, people started bartering weeks after the city was locked down. He added that ordinary folks only started bartering after several weeks went by because they did not immediately realize the severity of their situation.

As he tried to remember more about that time in his life, Begovic added that there were people who did not want to take money for goods. Instead, they asked for valuables like gold, jewelry or weapons for the items that they had wanted to trade with.

Some of these people were smart enough to realize that money was going to become worthless soon.

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Even valuables, such as gold and jewelry, were only good in the first period, and you would only benefit from them if you had a connection to the outside world to exchange them for something useful.

Ordinary people needed several weeks to get used to their situation, said Begovic. The process went from buying goods with money to buying goods from people who still accepted money but at outrageous prices, to the moment when money was worthless and people only accepted goods for other items.

While rare, Begovic said you could sometimes find someone who would sell you something for foreign money, but with at least 20 to 50 times higher prices. To illustrate, if a pack of cigarettes costs around 1.50 German Marks outside the war region, Begovic could buy that pack for 40 German Marks.

US dollars and Canadian dollars had even worse value. The people who would accept that money had connections to the outside world, and some of them became millionaires because of that, said Begovic.

The same ratio was for precious metals and jewelry. For small and quick trades, the usual currency people used was cigarettes because of the large percentage of smokers in the area.

Sometimes, people would trade bullets. (Related: SHTF bartering must-haves: 13 Things that will be in demand after an EMP attack.)

How to determine the value of trade items and setting terms

Begovic said nothing was fixed. During the lockdown, the value of goods went up and down based on different factors.

If a United Nations (UN) food convoy was able to enter the city and a local warlord took it all, which Begovic said happened often, and the majority of the food was canned fish, within that month those types of canned food would be cheaper than the month before.

In other cases, if U.S. airplanes managed to "hit" with airdrops in their area, then meals, ready-to-eat (MREs) were going to be cheaper.

Begovic also said once a rumor was planted by rival groups, such as rumors about "poisoned" cans of cookies, people did not value such items highly anymore.

However, some things did not change value too much during the whole period, such as alcohol, because it was available. The value of other things was a matter of the situation.

If your child was sick and you needed antibiotics, once you spread the word, you can expect high prices because you gave out that information. Begovic added that usually, people knew the value of goods for that week, at least approximately.

The value of things and trading rules "on the ground" were similar to trade rules at normal life flea markets, said Begovic.

Some of those rules on the ground during trading were:

  • If you need something, the price is going to increase. Begovic advised that it's best not to look like you desperately need something to avoid this.
  • You shouldn't offer everything you have in "one hand" or on one try. Don't go to trade with your best items altogether because you will seem desperate, and you are losing the advantage.
  • Don't give someone a reason to take the risk of attacking you because you have too many desirable items or too many things with you. Before meeting up with someone, Begovic advised that you should only bring a set amount of food or ammo. If you need more items, do another trade at another time with more of your items. Always remember that people will take chances if they calculate it is a risk worth taking.
  • Do not volunteer information about how much of the goods you actually have at home to avoid any incidents.
  • Do not trade at home, unless you trust the other person completely. This is important, especially if you are trading with someone you don't know that well.
  • Agreeing to trade at another person's home might mean that you are at his "playground," or he is stupid, and you are losing the advantage. Do not take the risk of trading on unknown terrain. Try to choose neutral ground where you can control the situation and give the other person the chance to feel safe, but not safer than you.

Begovic said the most important thing to do is to understand that when SHTF, the only thing that protects you from losing everything is you.

Trade will require careful planning. Start with information about a person who has something you need, then check and double-check that information.

Communicate with him, then send information to let him know that you want to trade. Clearly set the terms about the place and number of people where you're going to do the trade.

Usually, there would be rumors or information about who was safe to trade with. Begovic said there was also information about people who like to scam others during a trade.

If you completed a beneficial and fair trade with someone, remember him as a safe trader for future trade. The rest is a matter of trust and your skills.

If you live in a nice town, Begovic said you might have access to a market where people can freely exchange their goods.

However, he never witnessed anything like that in Bosnia because a market like that requires an efficient system to back it. Bartering when SHTF is a high-risk situation because it is about resources, and there is no law or system in place to protect you and others.

Skills vs. items

In the long run, Begovic said skills were more valuable because you can not "spend" your skills.

If you had medical skills, you could expect that over time, people would know about them through the word on the street. After SHTF, you will have different opportunities to get something for that skill.

After an SHTF event, skills for repairing would be valuable, along with technical skills. Begovic added that skills were safer to trade because if someone attacks or kills you, they still can't take away your skills.

If you raise animals on your homestead, you can trade eggs, dairy or meat for other items that you need. With a home garden, you can trade fruits and vegetables for other pantry staples like flour or cooking oil.

Before SHTF, learn the basics of bartering so you can find more supplies before your stockpile runs out.

Watch the video below for tips on how to color-coordinate your pantry.

This video is from The Urban Prepper channel on Brighteon.com.

More related stories:

Prepping for collapse, famine and nuclear war: 12 Tips that will help you be more resilient when SHTF.

Staying under the radar: Tips for efficient stealth prepping.

Prepper skills: How to barter effectively after SHTF.

Sources include:





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