How planning for disaster can save money, even if the worst never happens

Woman holding grocery shopping list

Reading about all the folks who have been stranded, lost power or been flooded out because of Hurricane Isaac might have you wondering if you’re prepared for the worst.

Whether you live on the gulf coast, along the San Andreas fault line, in Tornado Alley or anywhere else, you're at risk of some type of disaster.

You should be prepared.

Insurance and a savings account are all well and good, but they aren’t going to help you when you can’t get out of your house because the roads aren’t passable.

No amount of cash will help you if you have no water, no way to communicate with the outside world and no way to get to the store (which is closed, anyway).

What you need is a stockpile.

Stockpiling isn't just for crazy survivalists, and it doesn't require a lot of extra space — a few shelves or the space under your bed will do the trick.

What's more, the planning mind-set you need for stockpiling can save you money on groceries and household staples, month in and month out. Having even a small stockpile also prevents last-minute trips to the store and impulse buys that can add up and throw off your budget.

And it comes in handy any time you're too busy to shop or if you get sick or injured.

It also could spur you to prepare for unexpected setbacks on a broader level like:

Here are 3 smart moves for how to create a stockpile with little impact on your time or budget.

Smart move 1. Make a list of all the items you’d want to have on hand in case of emergency.

Your list probably will include bottled water, batteries, first aid items, flashlights and nutritious, nonperishable food that doesn’t require cooking. Also make a list of all the toiletries and household items you buy repeatedly. Don’t forget about pet and baby supplies if these apply.

Smart move 2. Rely on coupons to save money.

Each time you go to the store, buy a couple of items from your list based on what’s on sale or what you have a coupon for. Your dollars will go furthest if you combine sales with coupons, but waiting for these deals requires patience.

Many people think couponing is incredibly time-consuming, and shows like Extreme Couponing haven’t helped. You can keep couponing simple by printing only coupons you know you’ll use from free websites like and

Also, many grocery stores now let you load coupons electronically to your store loyalty card from your home computer. The coupons come off your bill automatically when you scan your card at checkout.

Smart move 3. Track store sales.

If you get really enthused about stockpiling, you can create your own price book and track stores’ sales cycles to get the lowest prices and create your emergency stash with items you get for 70% off or more.

But a lot of us won’t bother with stockpiling unless we make it as painless as possible. Seamlessly integrating stockpiling into your regular shopping routine means you’re more likely to actually do it.

Eventually, your stockpile will exceed what you need for emergencies, and you can start relying on it for everyday needs.

It’s never possible to be completely protected against a disaster, because we can’t perfectly predict what will go wrong or when.

But taking care of the things that are within your control can make riding out a disaster less expensive and less stressful.

Join all of the savvy savers following on Twitter and Facebook.