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Emergency cash – where and how much to store?

How much cash do you stash for emergencies? Where do you stash it? What mix of small and big denominations of currency do you use?

TP tells us to store cash both at home and in our BOB. I do have a little cash at home, but not very much. It’s all in small bills. I also have a small amount of cash in small denominations tucked away in my car. Nothing in my BOB. I don’t really have a sense of how much is enough. Also, where to keep it is somewhat of a problem.

I live with housemates — one housemate at a time. Generally speaking they are honest, but I’ve had my share of losers. I hope that my judgment has gotten better in this regard, but early on a housemate learned that I had some cash in my emergency supplies and he stole it!

(Ridiculous aside: I didn’t know that he had stolen it until he told me about it after he moved out. He was “coming clean.” He said he wasn’t proud of stealing it, but he’d given it back to me. Since I didn’t remember getting any extra money from him I asked him when he’d given it back. He said he’d used it to pay part of his rent the following month! In his mind, because he had given me back the actual bills he’d taken from me, he’d returned the money. It didn’t do any good to explain to him that it was the amount of money that mattered, not the physical bills!)

Now I keep my money in less obvious places and I don’t tell my housemates, but my BOB is a pretty obvious presence in the living room.

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  • Comments (8)

    • 3

      Jonnie, The governing philosophy to your question was clearly explained by the Duchess of Windsor: “You can never be too rich or too thin”.

      I keep my money in wallet, some in a small plastic folder in shirt pocket and the bigger supply of money – all small bills – in my document vest I wear, over T-shirt, under regular shirt. Call my document vest ($, passport, med records, etc) a component of my BOB.

      I did not explicitly answer your question about how much. It’s like an analogy to what some Israeli General once wrote in Armed Forces Journal about military supplies: “In combat, too much is never enough”.

      • 2

        Bob, point taken, but really though… There’s got to be a “best practices” range for different levels of emergency? I mean, I could just convert ALL the money I keep for various future expenses and emergency savings into cash in small bills, but then I’d have an unwieldy mountain of small bills, and if my house ever burns down they would only be kindling.

      • 4

        There is a “best practices” but it is “best” only to the specific requirements after a through evaluation of one’s “realistic worst case scenerios”.

        For me, anything over a $20 is big. If I can evacuate 150 miles away from here, such as Charlottesville, VA or Northern Virginia Autonomous Oblast, a $ 100 equals a 20 in purchasing power.

        In my specific situation, with a worst case envisioned as a forest fire during an enroute hurricane with some more “beltwat snipers” active shooters, I would not leave any paper money here. What I keep stored in my BOB doc vest is in a fire resistent container. The container is small because the bills are few.

        Of course, much can still be lost. My life is governed by my knowledge and lessons learned from the WWII stories.

        A roommate situation really means the $  always be in your possession. Even room mates like Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa can accidentially start a fire. Just work around  situation.

    • 2

      After following The Prepared’s guide on financial planning (https://theprepared.com/prepping-basics/guides/financial-planning/#rainyday) I’ve been able to build up an emergency fund of three months of my living expenses. (would like six months eventually)

      Half of that is in the form of cash in a small safe I have with me and half in the bank in a separate savings account. The cash is a mix of all the bills and has been super nice to be able to break a 20 or break a 100 that I have in my wallet without having to go to the bank. I do half and half because cash is wonderful and I can bug out with that or pay for things at my gas station if the power is down, but not everything can be bought with cash. Maybe the pest control company that I have come out and bug bomb my house unexpectedly only takes online payments, I’ll have half available online to pay that.

      I don’t think there is any hard rule about how much you should have here or there, but is very dependent on your situation. When in doubt, store as much cash as you can. That’s my thoughts from a prepping perspective.

    • 4

      As with many things, some is better than none.  I decided a few years ago that I need at least enough cash at home to buy a week’s worth of groceries and a tank of gas.  We had finished weekend brunch at a busy Black Bear Diner when their credit card machine crapped out.  Things got rather tense very quickly.  Very few people (including us) had cash.  I got tired of standing around and walked to an atm a few blocks away and came back.  I realized how fragile our electronic payment systems are.  My assumption is that an isolated loss of that system (whether due to cyber attack or IT blunder) is reasonably likely at some point in my life and would be fixed within a week or two.

      I keep money in small denominations in my gun safe.  I intend keep $20 and a few quarters for parking in my EDC kit, but it’s used frequently and replenished less frequently.  That’s it.  I’m leery to keep too much cash at home due to risk of fire and theft.

      • 2

        I love the Black Bear Diner! 

        That’s a good idea to have at least a week’s worth of groceries and gas on you.

    • 2

      I have cash in my GHB, BOB and stashed at home.  The GHB has the least as I typically would be ~15mi or less from home.  I can walk that in a day if necessary.  I have quarters in there as well as small bills as I would pass vending machines on my way which may be functional.  The BOB has enough to cover gas, groceries, or even a hotel room which during an emergency is likely to be gouged to expensive rates.