Emergency preparedness on a budget

Banner image depicting ways to build an inexpensive emergency kit

Preparing yourself and your family for an emergency is a worthwhile investment, and if approached over time, can fit into most budgets.

Here are some cost-cutting ideas for getting prepared.

Emergency plan

Drafting an emergency plan is a critical first step toward preparedness – and it’s cheap! Get started with our free, fill-in-the-blanks plan (PDF) that can be completed in a weekend or couple evenings. 

Food and water 

Start building your kit with essentials like food and water, then work on adding other items over time as your budget allows.

Grocery stores and other retailers often have weekly and daily specials on a variety of emergency supplies. Keep an eye on their flyers and in-store promotions for things like flats of water, canned and other non-perishable foods, pet food, personal hygiene products and more.

Buying food in bulk can also help save money and effort. Find out if friends or neighbours are preparing too and combine your lists to help each other gather items at a lower cost.

Phone chargers

Before you go shopping, check that junk drawer for extra phone chargers, connection cords and battery packs. You might be surprised by what’s lying around. These items don’t have to be new or state of the art.

First aid kit

Try building your own first aid kit using extra items you may have tucked away like bandages, sterile gauze pads, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes or soap, tweezers and scissors.

You can also get a good basic starter first aid kit for between $15 to $25 and customize it to meet the needs of your family.

Seasonal clothing

You’d be surprised how many items you already have. Dig into your closets and drawers and pull out those rarely used pieces you can add to your kit.

Thrift stores can be another useful resource for items like extra seasonal clothing.

Garbage bags and plastic ties

For many items, visit your local dollar store to stock up. This can include foil blankets, rain ponchos, dust masks, tarps, zap straps, rope, utility knives, whistles, can openers, wipes, garbage bags and work gloves.


This is one item you may not want to scrimp on. Look for good quality batteries with a longer shelf life; this will save money over time. Keep an eye out for sales, promotions and coupons. Or think about investing in rechargeable batteries you can utilize more than once. Just remember to re-charge after using!


In an emergency, you want a sturdy and reliable flashlight. You can pick up hand-crank, solar and battery-powered flashlights ranging from $5 to $30 from big box or online retailers.


Having a radio that isn’t reliant on electricity during an emergency is key. You can find options ranging from $20 to $50 from big box or online retailers.

Also check thrift stores and garage sales for older, battery-powered radios. They don’t have to be new, but they must be functional.

Grab-and-go bag

Once you’ve completed your household emergency kit, start building your grab-and-go bags. These are smaller versions of your emergency kit that you can easily access at home, work or in your car if you need to leave immediately in the event of an emergency. You can use the same budget-friendly advice for all these items!

If you don’t already have an extra bag or old backpack to use, visit your local discount stores, thrift stores and local garage sales where you can find cost-effective options.