This is an updated guide to the emergency cash stash that we first shared in 2017. We update our guides to be more current and thorough as we learn more ourselves and have knowledgeable survivalists join our team.
Stashing cash to carry with you every day may be the most important prep you ever do. If you don’t carry cash on you all the time, we strongly encourage you to do so. It should be one of the first things to consider when putting together an EDC (Everyday Carry) kit.
In the plugged-in world we live in, fewer and fewer people are carrying physical money with them as they rely more and more on cards and phones for payment.
Why Stashing Cash is Important
Cash is king. In emergencies, disasters, and SHTF, cash will be the way to get things done. Credit and debit are notoriously unreliable in these situations, and people are skeptical of taking checks or IOUs. Barter is always an option, but cash is much quicker and will still retain some value unless a total societal collapse is going on. Getting people to take notice of you and go out of their way to help you will usually require something in return. This is where your hidden money reserve comes in.
Whether you are using it for something as simple as food, a cab ride in an emergency, or buying last-minute resources in a SHTF situation, cash will come in handy. An emergency cash stash can get you home or to your bug out location, and keep you alive. If you do end up using it for any reason- be sure to replenish it as soon as possible.
Stashing Cash in Your Wallet
Most people keep cash in a wallet. It is a simple place to store your emergency cash, but because of that it is also very predictable. Here are a few reasons you may not want to stash cash in your wallet:
- Pickpockets– Pickpockets in crowded urban areas target wallets stored in back pockets easily. One bump and grab and you are out of all of your cash resources.
- Family “Borrowing”– If your spouse or kids are anything like mine, what’s yours is theirs. My wallet often has fluctuating amounts of cash based on how much my wife needs.
- You Will Spend it Accidentally– You spend cash in your wallet. Unless you fold it up and tuck it away where you can’t accidentally spend it, it is probably going to get spent.
- Mugging – It is usually a good idea to surrender your wallet if you are being held up for it. The best answer is a CCP or a decoy wallet, but the worst answer is having your emergency cash in that wallet you have to hand over. A decoy wallet is an easy thing to use if you have room. Just be sure to stash a few singles in there so it doesn’t make anyone angry.
- Lose It or Damage It – Getting your wallet wet, lost, torn apart, burnt… all these things happen! And they usually happen in an emergency which is exactly when you need your cash stash!
- Already Store Money Here – You already keep money in your wallet and it is a good idea to disperse your resources. That just means keeping your resources in different places, so if you lose one, you still have others. The military does this often with assets, like jet fighters, and it should be no different with your prepping gear.
Well, that list got long quickly. The benefit of stashing cash in your wallet is that it is the easiest thing to do right now. Just fold up $20-$40 and tuck it into a flap of your wallet that you would only check in an emergency. That’s an easy way to get started, although you may want to consider a better solution and a higher-dollar emergency fund down the road.
Hiding Cash on Your Body
The best way to store money is hidden on your body. The go-to for many preppers is in their shoes/boots/socks, bands of their hats, or even inside belts with hidden storage. While it may be inconvenient to get access to this money, it makes it that much better for security reasons. Being hard to get at also helps make sure you won’t use it to buy something on a whim if your wallet is running low. Here are the ways you can hide cash on your person:
- Shoes/Boots/Socks – This is a good spot, but be wary of moisture and comfort issues. Putting bills under the lining of your insole is a very secure location, but be sure it doesn’t affect the support your boots provide.
- Hat Band – This is an option, but not the best. Many of us do not wear hats regularly, and a hat band is not the most secure spot unless you also use tape. It is susceptible to moisture unless you first put it in a bag.
- Interior Jacket/Pants Hidden Pocket – Many jackets and some pants have hidden pockets these days. You may need to go with a tactical type of pant to find these pockets, but they can afford you some extra storage along with the hidden storage. TRU-SPEC and 5.11 are a few of the brands we prefer.
- Modified Clothing – You can cut your waistband or cuff to be able to slide bills inside. Depending on the fabric weight, it may be slightly visible though. Be sure not to forget about it when washing!
- Specialty Belt/Fanny Pack – Put away your neon one from the 80s- they make much more tactical solutions for body storage these days. Whether it is a belt meant for holding all sorts of stuff or a slim pack that straps around your waist, these are some of the most sophisticated solutions for bugging out or traveling.
- Bras – Women have a great way to store cash with their bras. It depends on personal preference, and whether it affects your comfort. This brings us to one of the last good places to keep money on you:
- Underwear – Storing money in your underwear may seem odd, but it works. Just make sure you seal cash in a bag to avoid moisture and odor issues.
Stockpiling Cash in the Safe
While we aren’t financial advisors, we know enough to tell you that putting all your investment and savings as cash in a safe is a terrible idea. As we touched on above and in our financial planning for preppers guide, diversification is key and the cash in your safe should be set aside as your emergency funds.
While the amount (and percentage) that you save as cash in your safe will vary based on your total financial plan, everyone should have an emergency fund for all of life’s unpredictable roadblocks.
Make sure that your cash is easily accessible and transportable in the event that you need to leave quickly, but also use a secure, bolted-down safe to prevent theft and burglary. When you consider fireproofing you can go for the safe itself, a fireproof bag, or both (we use both).
Stashing Cash in a Cache
Caches are unique to preppers and geocaching enthusiasts, in that we both like to squirrel stuff away to find again later. Caches are the ultimate way of spreading your gear out, known as ‘resource dispersal’. This helps in cases where you lose or can’t access some resources, but can access others.
Resource dispersal is widely practiced in the military to protect warfighting functions. Air stations would rather lose half their planes than lose all of them if they are hit with a tactical strike. Spreading them out is a small headache compared to having planes grouped together like sitting ducks.
We go into a lot of detail on survival caches and resource dispersal in our article: Survival Caches and Resource Dispersal.
The Final Word
If you want to start being prepared every day and everywhere you go, stash some cash. Whether you tuck it in your wallet or find a better way to keep it, you can know that you are more prepared than most. Encourage your family members to keep bills on them as well. Let us know your techniques for keeping cash on you in the comments section if you use a method we didn’t mention. You never know when you will need to pay somebody quickly, and a cash stash could very well save your life.
Here are some more guides our subscribers find helpful:
- Hide a Knife – 7 Best Places to Conceal on Your Body
- Financial Planning for Preppers
- Everyday Carry (EDC) Guide, Gear List, and Checklist
Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.