How Much Cash Should You Stash?

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

Crash-proofing your finances is one aspect of preparedness I don’t touch on as frequently as, say, self-defense techniques, natural disaster prep or what to do in the event of a home invasion. However, in this week’s mailbag, I address one reader’s question on how much cash you should keep on hand for an emergency — and how to keep it safe.

For more advice on how to weather a financial disaster, I suggest signing up for a free subscription to Money & Crisis. This complimentary e-letter is designed to give you simple strategies to bulletproof your finances against the next crisis — no matter how big or small. To take your financial prepping to the next level, click here.

Now let’s dive in to the mailbag.

I understand that it is a good idea to have a stash of cash available in case of a real “bug-out” emergency. How much would you recommend? What is the safest manner of protecting it? I am sure you are aware that Homeland Security is alerted by banks when someone withdraws $10,000 or more, so maintaining an amount like that would require several smaller withdrawals in order not to draw attention to myself — if you are recommending such an amount.

— Sam S.

I recommend having at least six months’ worth of your living expenses saved in a bank and at least one month’s worth of living expenses in cash in your home. Take into consideration your average monthly expenses and then decide how much cash you can realistically set aside each week or per paycheck based on your income.

Ultimately, I would make it your goal to keep at least $1,000 in cash — in twenties — in your home at all times. I also keep $100 in cash in my escape bag inside a Ziploc bag so it’s always ready to go in the event I need to bug out in a hurry.

To safely store your cash, keep it in a small, fireproof safe. Sentry is a reliable company that makes quality, affordable fireproof safes.

Thanks for the affordable $5/week prepping food list. But honestly, I’m not sure what to do with half of it… Any suggestions for recipes?

— Deb P.

I suggest doing a simple online search for food storage recipes. One cookbook I recommend is called I Can’t Believe It’s Food Storage. This book (and others like it) is available on Amazon. Pinterest is another great place to find a TON of recipes posted by other like-minded preppers.

Obviously, during a long-term survival situation, you will be grateful just to have food to eat. Even if you don’t have much variety, at least you will have something to feed your family.

Thank you for all the great information on acquiring food storage for a year. Can you explain what we should buy to cook the food since our electric and gas will likely be out in an emergency?

— Lou G.

Survival stoves come in a large variety of sizes and styles, making it easy to find one to suit your family’s needs. Here are a few things to consider before purchasing a survival stove:

  • Do you plan to cook indoors or outdoors?
  • Do you want a stove that is portable?
  • What kind of fuel is required and how easy is it to obtain and store?

If you’re forced to evacuate your home on short notice, portable stoves are great because they are typically lightweight and easy to carry. One portable stove I recommend is the Coleman Single-Burner Propane Stove. This stove is easy to use, clean and store. But there are other several reliable brands to choose from — I also suggest checking out stoves made by Camp Chef.

When it comes to fuel, I prefer propane because you can store propane tanks indefinitely. Whatever you decide, you’ll need to store enough fuel for at least a month.

Some time ago you mentioned two-way radios that you recommended. Can you mention them again and also address batteries required, battery life and recommended ways to store batteries?

— Jim F.

The Baofeng radio I own is the UV-5R. I have the second-generation model (V2+), but they do have a new third-generation model (the Baofeng BF-F8HP) that is worth checking out — although it is a bit more expensive.

These radios come with a programming cable to connect your radio to your computer so you can program all the frequencies into the radio instead of inputting each one manually. This would be a good idea if you plan on using the Baofeng as a ham radio.

In a survival scenario, having a longer antenna will give your radio a wider operating range. This one is highly rated — and at 15.6 inches, it’s much longer than the one that comes with the radio.

As for batteries, the Baofeng radio uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and comes with a charging base. Battery life depends on usage, but in my experience, I’ve used my radio for about two full days before needing to recharge.

Thanks for the great info on firearms. I have a quick question. What does imprinting on a holster mean?

— Carri C.

This term describes when the outline of a firearm is visible through a person’s clothes — which is definitely something you want to avoid. For example, if you have a gun on your hip and you’re wearing a tight shirt, the shape of the gun will “print” through the shirt and people will be able to see that you’re armed.

If you carry a concealed firearm, it’s important to check yourself in the mirror before leaving home to make sure your gun isn’t easy to see. My favorite way to carry concealed is with an inside-the-waistband holster. I prefer this type of holster because it holds my gun very well, doesn’t imprint and is comfortable to wear.

Stay safe,

Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson

Chris Campbell

Written By Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson is a former CIA officer and security specialist. He’s appeared on numerous television shows, including ABC’s Shark Tank and NBC’s Today show. To get free survival tips from Jason, click here.