How to Survive in the Barter Economy

Trading After SHTF

If SHTF, the banknotes we use as a medium of exchange today would effectively be worthless. United States dollars only have value because they’re backed by the strength of the US government. If the US government loses its power following a SHTF event, what would we use to trade? How can we prepare for a potential return to a barter economy? And if we are to one day return to a barter economy, what tangible or intangible media of exchange would be the most valuable? Below I detail how we can survive in a barter economy.

Humans Have Vices Whether or Not SHTF


We can trace vices back to human civilization’s earliest days. The Wari Empire that preceded the Incans of South America had a lengthy reign of 500 years in large part due to their beer. The Wari brewed a corn-based beer called chicha that helped them build a lasting empire. The ancient beer was only drinkable for a week after being brewed. This encouraged the Wari and their guests to engage in chicha filled communal events and festivities. The Wari endured five centuries because of alcohol. Unfortunately, the Native Americans were destroyed by it.

The early European colonists were used to the effects of distilled spirits and wine. When they exposed the Native Americans to alcohol upon landing in America, though, they found inexperience with the vice could be devastating. Alcohol abuse wreaked havoc across Native American communities. Unfortunately, the problem continues to this day. While the argument could be made both for and against alcohol, demand for it has and continues to be strong. Should a barter economy emerge following a SHTF event, alcohol will undoubtedly be highly valued.


While alcohol may be one of the more popular vices, it certainly isn’t the only one. Coffee, tobacco, and drugs will each be in high demand. The market for coffee today is worth over $100 billion. It’s addictive and stimulating effects ensure its popularity will continue in the Barter Economyaftermath of a SHTF event. For an entire SHTF coffee guide, I suggest you read this post.


Tobacco is a known carcinogen, yet the market for cigarettes is still enormous. In financial downturns, cigarette sales actual increase. If SHTF, we might expect cigarettes to be one of the most highly demanded products. We can read about the power cigarettes had over the characters in the One Second After series. Far be it from me to doubt the author William Forstchen.


barter economyThe potential legal consequences of using drugs hasn’t dissuaded millions of people from using them. The pleasurable effects of drugs will be demanded even more highly in a post-SHTF world. Some survivors of a SHTF event will have the mental fortitude necessary to rebuild society. Others, however, will turn to drugs as a means of coping with massive decline in their standards of living.

To succeed in a barter economy, it’s important you put any qualms about appealing to human vices aside. The market for vices after a SHTF event will be large, so you should be prepared to capitalize on it. Sometimes it’s more important to be pragmatic than it is to be principled. The period following a SHTF event is one of those times.

Remember Learning about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Focus on the Bottom

Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who proposed a theory of human motivation that consisted of five stages. At the bottom of this hierarchical pyramid of needs is physiological needs. At the top is self-actualization. Maslow theorized that we must satisfy the lower order needs barter economybefore addressing higher order needs. If there’s truth to this theory, then it’s important we focus on physiological necessities like food and water. Moreover, helping people sustain themselves through hunting and water purification is just as important. By having an excess supply of essentials needed to survive, you will thrive in a barter economy. Additionally, survival skills can be as strong a currency as tangible goods. You can become an incredible asset by teaching survival skills to others. In a post-SHTF world, the “give a man a fish” adage can be applied literally.

As we move up a stage of the hierarchy, we arrive at safety. Again, survival skills are critical. Learning self-defense is key to survival in a world with a decreased amount of resources. Survivors of a SHTF event should also have medical supplies like antibiotics and bandages. Those without medical supplies will definitely be willing to trade for them. We also can’t lose sight of the value of maintaining personal hygiene. The continued use of soap helps to protect against contracting diseases. Following a SHTF event, disease may be more likely to spread, so soap is essential. Lastly, contraceptives will be a great bartering item. If SHTF, people won’t necessarily lose their desire for sex. They may, however, feel it imprudent to have children. Condoms are therefore an item everyone should have in a barter economy.

Be Shrewd to Survive in a Barter Economy

Money as we know it hasn’t always been around. Long before the days of metal coins, bartering was commonplace. To survive in such an economy, you have to be shrewd. Humans have their vices, which creates opportunities for those willing to capitalize on human weakness. Following a SHTF event, those with alcohol, coffee, tobacco, or drugs will be successful. I’m not saying doing so is the right thing, but it’s barter economyshrewd maneuvers like these that differentiate the survivors from those who perish.

Addressing needs of the physiological and safety varieties are also important. This doesn’t just mean providing others with tangible goods. Your skills are marketable and can be exchanged in a barter economy. Learning survival skills therefore serves a dual purpose. You’ll be better prepared to survive following a SHTF event while also developing marketable skills in high demand. A barter economy won’t be easy to navigate, but the shrewd will manage to survive. I suggest you begin preparing now.

Do you have thoughts about how to survive in a barter economy? Leave a comment below or contact me directly.

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