When people talk about trading after the apocalypse, usually they start discussing whether you’re better off stockpiling extra ammunition or some surplus food. These are both great trade assets – for a while. Eventually they’ll run out, though, and then what? The guy who’s been bringing you fresh eggs every day isn’t going to keep doing it when you’ve run out of shells for his 12-gauge. Trading surplus supplies might be essential from time to time, but it’s never going to be a long-term solution because, in the end, your supplies will be gone.
How about gold and silver? Some preppers have a touching belief that they’ll be highly prized after society falls apart. I’m not so sure. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be too keen to trade a handful of rifle bullets or a sack of flour for something that’s basically just going to sit around looking shiny.
No, if you want a real trade asset, you can’t beat skills. Once you’ve learned a skill you have an inexhaustible supply of it. If you fixed someone’s generator today in exchange for a bag of apples from his tree, you can get more apples by fixing it again tomorrow. Years from now you can still be fixing his generator every time it goes wrong, and trading your time for his surplus fruit (unless he decides you’re either not so good at fixing generators or a bit too fond of his apples). Skills won’t run out, and in a prolonged emergency that makes them far more valuable for trade than anything else.
Here are 25 skills that are going to be in demand if we’re all thrown back on our own resources. Some of them will be valuable right away; others will kick in when hoarded goods start running out. Learning all 25 of them is probably beyond most of us, but if you get pretty good at three or four you should be able to barter your work for anything you need after the apocalypse.
Being able to keep cars on the road is going to be a vital skill. With society in disarray, most regular workshops will be closed. If you have a reputation as someone who can keep engines running that’s going to be a valuable skill – and you’ll be able to fix generators and pumps, too.
Related: Top 10 Vehicles for Your EMP Survival
If the power grid stays down for a while people are going to start looking for alternative sources of electricity. It might be a solar array, generator or wind turbine – in any case, it’s going to need wired up. That can be difficult and even dangerous. If you know how to adapt and extend house wiring, people will pay for that skill.
If people have electricity they’re going to want gadgets that use it – but eventually they’re going to go wrong. You probably aren’t going to be able to make a new microprocessor, but some basic soldering skills can fix a surprising number of faulty appliances. Their owners will be pleased.
When plumbing goes wrong things can get pretty unpleasant in a hurry. That’s why everyone’s immediate reaction is to call a plumber. But what if the world as we know it has ended, and the plumber isn’t answering the phone? If you can help people out with that, they’ll be glad to help you out in some other way.
Life is dangerous when society collapses; disease and injury will be more common, and the consequences of not treating them are more severe. Any medical assistance you can give, from basic first aid to advanced surgical skills, will make you a valuable asset to the community.
Related:Prepping to Power Medical Equipment When SHTF
6. Amateur radio
Most of the communications we rely on aren’t going to survive a major social collapse. Without people to run its infrastructure, cell phones and the internet will go down in minutes. Landline phones – the ones that haven’t switched to VOIP – might last hours or even a couple of days. If you have the skills to use radios, especially CB or ham radio, that’s going to be a skill lots of people will want access to.
7. Mending clothes
Nowadays, if our clothes get damaged we just throw them away and buy new ones. Our ancestors, even a couple of generations ago, fixed them instead. If you can repair rips, replace broken zippers and even make alterations for size, you’re not likely to run out of customers willing to trade.
There’s a lot of food out there if you know what to look for, in the form of edible fruits, berries, leaves, fungi and other plants. The problem is, if you don’t know what to look for you can get in a lot of trouble. Mistaking a death cap for a mushroom is a mistake you’ll only make once. If you have the right skills you can either teach them to others, or trade part of what you collect.
Related: Edible and Non-edible Mushrooms you Find in Forests
Not everyone has the skills or equipment to harvest their own meat. If you do, you have a valuable source of food that you can trade for other things you need.
If you’re elderly or infirm, and can’t do more physical jobs, you can still build up a tradeable food surplus with a fishing pole and some bait.
11. Crop growing
Not too long ago most families had their own vegetable garden. That’s a skill most of us have lost. If you still have it, it’s a valuable asset. Grow more than you need and trade the surplus, or look after people’s plots for them in exchange for a share of the crop.
12. Animal husbandry
Some livestock is a valuable asset, but it takes skill to keep it alive and productive. If you’re good at looking animals you can help out people who don’t have your experience. The most efficient way to do this is to keep their animals with your own and give them their share of the milk, meat or other products.
Related: Top 9 Animals to Raise in a Post Apocalypse World
Yes, this is the part of keeping livestock many people hate. It’s easy to buy Percy the pig as an investment in your future self-sufficiency, but a lot harder to whack him on the head with a hammer and chop him up. If you can do that for them, they’ll be happy to reward you with a few choice cuts.
A lot of people will manage to find or grow food, with or without your help, but won’t have the skills they need to store it safely. If you’re a canning expert you can make yourself useful by processing their surplus so they can build up stockpiles for the winter – maybe by trading your skills for a share of their crop.
Related: 7 Deadly Canning Mistakes Even Smart People Make
It’s amazing what you can make with some timber, a few basic tools – and a bit of talent at woodworking. A good carpenter can put together anything from a storage box to a serviceable timber frame home. In other words, lots of things people will need and be happy to trade for.
This is a really rare skill nowadays, but it’s going to be in huge demand if the economy implodes. There are still a lot of horses round, and they need shoes – but a good smith can make a lot more than horseshoes.
Weapons are going to be essential when the SHTF – but they’re complex things, and sometimes they go wrong. Any good shooter can clear a stoppage, but what about repairing a broken trigger mechanism or re-crowning a barrel? Gunsmithing skills are pretty rare – and very valuable.
There’s a lot of ammunition in the USA, but it won’t last forever. When stocks start to run low a lot of people will be willing to trade for more. If they can bring you their spent brass, and have it remanufactured into ammunition, that’s a very valuable skill to have.
In a sustained collapse, stocks of modern weapons and ammunition will eventually be gone. To help them last as long as possible, and replace them when they’re exhausted, bows make a viable hunting – and even defensive – weapon. If you can make arrows you’ll find plenty of people willing to trade for them.
20. Soap making
Did you remember to stockpile a large supply of soap? Probably not, but that doesn’t matter – you know how to make it, using lye and any handy fats. Do you think everyone else in the neighborhood remembered to stockpile soap? Unlikely, but never mind. They can trade with you for the surplus you made.
21. Candle making
A year or two into a major collapse electric light will be a lot less common than it is now. Help your neighbors keep the darkness at bay by trading home-made candles. They’re a lot brighter – and safer – than a crude oil lamp.
If you know how to make things from leather, you’ll never be short of work. Everything from shoe repairs to making new tack for horses will be in demand.
Civilization might have collapsed, but you can help rebuild it by passing on the knowledge the next generation will need. You don’t have to be a qualified teacher, but if you have knowledge and the enthusiasm to pass it on you can turn that to your advantage.
24. Playing an instrument
No matter how bad things get, people need entertainment. In fact, when it’s really bad entertainment is more valuable than ever. If you can play a musical instrument you can do a lot to boost morale, and human nature means people will want to show their gratitude.
25. Spiritual comfort
If you’re good at choosing an uplifting piece of scripture, or making an inspirational speech, that can be a valuable skill. It might not be essential to life, but it can make people feel a lot happier about their situation. In a major emergency death is a real possibility, for example, and if you can give someone a proper send-off their loved ones will cope better.
You may also like:
50 Tips From the Great Depression
An insanely effective way to build a 5-year food stockpile (Video)
30 Lost Ways of Survival from 1880 We Should All Learn
What Advice Would A 80 Year Old Person Give About The Way Life Should Be Lived?
Quality books can be purchased on all of these subjects today. This list is a very good place to start building your library. Just think, after a generation of subsistence farming, your grand kids will be rich.
Reloading is fine until you run out of primers and powder. You can alway mine lead at a local range and cast your own bullets if you have molds, but primers and powder are even more essential than cases and lead. Loading rifle cases runs through powder pretty quickly. That’s one advantage to 5.56, 7.62×39 or .300 blackout in that they take less powder than .30-06 or .308. The problem with .300b.o. is that presently it is not as available as the above-mentioned calibers
People with farm animal skills will also be in big demand. You don’t have to be a vet to know how to cure various ailments that afflict farm animals. Horses don’t have to be shod. The Indians never shod their horses and wild horses don’t have shoes either. I had an old horseman explain why horses don’t need to be shod but alas, I didn’t take notes and now can’t tell you why. That’s why folks who know about animals will be in big demand. Do you know how to help a cow give birth to a calf? Or help a mare? After I get past knowing which end to be checking I am pretty much at the end of my data banks.
I am very knowledgeable on the gardening, animals, training and a lot of vet skills, have herbal and some safe foraging skills, can build also. I hunt, trap and fish as well. A bit of a jack of all trades and master of none. If you are a reader you can learn darn near anything. I just think the more knowledge and skills a person has the better off they are over all no matter if it in our current world or in a shtf scenario. Oh and horse shoes really were only used if an animal had a hoof issue/lameness problem. Otherwise no, back in the day of dirt roads shoes were not needed. When we began bricking, paving and using concret which eats and chips the hooves then yes, we need them to protect the hoof from that.
Could have done without the dead wolf photo.
HI Marci: I was equivocal about the introduction of wolves back into the U.S. Really didn’t have an opinion one way or another. Then I read some actual news clippings from mid-19th century newspapers about the interface between wolves and people. I also read some accounts about what is happening to some ranchers and the elk herds in Colorado and a couple other states.
If an end of the world situation ever develops, I think you will be quite regretful, if you survive, that wolves were introduced into the U.S. Not only will they deplete natural food sources we depend upon for our own sustenance, we will be under attack from packs of wolves and have to defend ourselves from them. There were serious reasons why grizzlies and wolves were exterminated and it had nothing to do with greedy hunters or governmental plans for genocide of the indians. It had to do with survival.
God forbid we be forced to live in balance with nature. What do you think there will be a sudden population explosion of predators? If anything there will be more competition for the resources and they will go extinct.
Yes, I do think there will be an explosion of predators. Every predator eats fresh kill and some eat decaying kill. A bear is not fussy about how long the kill has been laying in the sun. A mountain lion generally prefers fresher kill. A coyote is not fussy about its diet and I don’t know enough about the culinary habits of wolves to comment except to opine that they probably are close to coyotes when it comes to dining preferences. Only weapons elevated man to the top of the food chain. Without weapons he was prey for every form of flesh eating animal. Even with bows and arrows or spears he was still a pretty fair choice for dinner. Human kind will not only be prey for flesh eaters, any livestock that he may keep for his own table will also be prey for flesh eaters. In addition, Fido, man’s best friend will roam in packs and man will be a source of food for feral dog packs. Actually they mayl be a bigger source of danger to humans than many animals that are presently considered wild.
that could be dinner for a lot of people. in the early days of this country dog was a favored food.
Yes, I have read that one of the reasons why native Americans kept large dog packs, in addition to serving as an early warning system, they served as MREs when game was scarce. I don’t know about early white settlers, but I suspect when colonies were starving, Fido was on the menu. Are you going to feed Ole Spot when your kids are gaunt and their ribs are showing? Nope, Spotty is going to be the main course.
As an update on having Fido for dinner, I recently read an article about trichinosis. It turns out that Fido can be a harborer of trichinosis too, along with bears and pigs, so be sure to cook Fido extra well done when he is the main course for dinner. While trichinosis is rated as being rarely fatal, from the sounds of the symptoms one suffers, you will probably wish you were dead and in an ETOW situation, you wish just might come true.
I was thinking the same thing , only I crochet.I already make and give away like items. I was thinking about sweaters and (for infants and toddlers) pants and outfits.
In the late 60’s and early 70’s we were in Asia and observed truck loads of dogs going to the slaughter house for food.
What about KNITTING – socks will need replacement in not too long – especially with growing children. Mittens & hats for everyone, shawls for warmth while waiting for more slowly made sweaters, and of course – cardigan and pullover sweaters for extra warmth. Don’t forget QUILTING – turning clothing too worn out to be used into scraps for warm blankets….and SEWING clothes for growing kids – repair and ‘sizing up or down’, as you mentioned – and special events like a wedding. I got a BRAND NEW TREADLE sewing machine just for this purpose (made by Janome, about $300 plus treadle table for it). It has 10 of the most used ‘electric’ machine stitches – and is totally foot powered and sews beautifully! STASH UP, LADIES! YARN, FABRIC, BATTING AND THREAD…and don’t forget the needles!!!
I was thinking the same thing , only I crochet.I already make and give away like items. I was thinking about sweaters and (for infants and toddlers) pants and outfits.
Very good info….keep up the great work as it is much needed. Thanks
Another useful skill, -if you aren’t afraid of heights- is knowing how to find and repair leaks and storm damage to roofs. Get to know what materials are used in your area, how they are installed, and what causes them to fail. Get hold of the necessary tools and supplies e.g: a good ladder, roof jacks if there are steep or slated roofs in your area, spare tiles/slates (and encourage the owners of such roofs to stockpile some that match their own roof) and a good stock of the necessary nails, screws, clips and sealants needed for whatever you might need to fix after SHTF. There are some good publications out there to get you started, such as The Slate Roof Bible, and installation guides published by the various product manufacturers.
Be mindful. With some of these skill sets, the potential to be enslaved by stronger people that want that skill is always there. Be careful of who you do business with.
I am surprised military experience isn’t on here. Mercenaries could make plenty after shtf.
What about the skill of bartering?
re: 25 – you can include trauma and bereavement counselling in this one. You should also have a number for massage, chiropractor, physio therapists and other non-computer requiring healing practitioners.
In the old west, it was the women that handled the birthing and death. My Mother used to say, A women touches death every time she has a baby. I’m very cognizant that my two children are a gift, I have C’s. Natural birth will be all there is. My great grandfather had 5 wives, all but the last died in childbirth.
One of my favorite Sci-Fi books was called, I think, Farnham’s Freehold. It was post nuclear event and every Saturday people met in the center of town to barter. Pretty unrealistic book, but I remember the beekeeper was golden, could get anything he wanted for a little honey.
great book… alternate reality situation…
Actually that was Alas Babylon by Pat Frank. It’s a great look at what happens after SHTF. Definitely a part of my library, fiction and all.
The spiritual component is vital. Get to know Yeshua and be saved. No matter what happens in this world, we will have joyous hope for life everlasting. That can get you through anything.
Yes, Janna, the idea there is a beyond. That sets us apart from animals, that we care for our sick, elderly, and dead. Having said that, those that have my way or the highway will not be welcomed. Reincarnation is not well thought of here in america, so then what.