Top 50 Dirt Cheap Barter Goods

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We all know that having sought after barter goods will give us leverage to stay supplied after the stores are locked tight.  At the same time, most can’t store a warehouse full of “what ifs”.  And without a crystal ball to know exactly what may be needed outside obvious critical goods, it’s inevitable that we will be left short-handed during a long term crisis.

A dilemma most Prepper’s face when it comes to barter goods is finding the room to store them and the money to buy them.  Luckily, it’s an enigma that has an answer and it starts with squeezing out every bit of value from loose change.

Today’s post focuses on bartering goods, but it differs from most in that each of the 50 items listed below cost from $1.00 to $10.00 and most of these goods won’t hog valuable storage space.

Most of the items on the list can be found at Dollar Stores, yet each item will be difficult to live without.

Check and see what you can do with the coins rolling around in your piggy bank, and please add items that didn’t make it on the list in comments.  We’re all in the same boat. . . the more ideas for affordable barter goods, the better!

1.  Salt has built empires and has also torn them apart.  In  America the British intercepted salt shipments to cripple the settlers ability to preserve wild game.  Salt is cheap when bought in 50 pound bags. Check Costco, Sam’s Club and restaurant suppliers for bulk prices.

2.  Basic spices like Pepper, Garlic Powder, Oregano, Rosemary, Bay Leaf, Cinnamon, Allspice and Nutmeg will be highly barterable, and when bought in bulk, they are affordable as well.  Check with larger grocery stores.  They often sell in bulk.

3.  Vanilla Extract is a staple most would want to be without.  During a crisis, imitation vanilla extract will suffice.  Maple Extract is another item that I’ve included with bartering goods because with water, sugar and maple extract, it’s easy to make maple syrup, which will make it a popular staple during a long-term crisis.

4.  Sugar goes on sale this time of year and will be in huge demand.  A benefit of sugar is its indefinite shelf life.

5.  Flour will be more sought after than wheat because few households will have a grain mill to grind it. Flour always goes on sale during the holidays, and it is often cheaper to buy five pound bags than bulk while sale prices last, so do the math before buying.

6.   Sewing Needles will become a staple when clothing must be mended or altered.  Larger upholstery needles will also be needed to mend upholstered furniture.

7. Along those same lines, spools of thread will carry bartering power, as will heavier upholstery thread.

8.  Heavier gauge needles (hand needles), waxed thread, needle nose pliers and soles for shoe repair will be needed by almost everyone.  If you’ve been looking for a bartering business that doesn’t cost a bundle in start-up costs, shoe repair is a good option.

9.  Notions like Straight Pins, Safety Pins, Buttons, Elastic, Scissors, Zippers and Velcro are going to be needed and they are cheap enough to put a good store aside for bartering.

10.  Sand Bags will be in demand for home protection, insulation, flood protection, for gathering wild foods, and any number of things.  Uline has them on sale for .39 each per 100 bundle.

11. Dollar Store reading glasses are my favorite bartering items.  They take up minimal storage space, they are dirt cheap, and people who need glasses will be more than willing to barter for them.  I select different strengths and keep a large basket full of them.  Here’s another viable start up business that doesn’t require hardly any cash outlay.  An eyeglass repair kit and various size screws is all you’ll need for a viable eyeglass repair business.  Check out WikiHow How To Repair Eyeglasses.

12. Candles are must-haves during grid down.  Candle making is another business idea that won’t require heavy up-front costs.  A couple of old pots, a candy thermometer, a 10 lb. weight scale, wax, wicks and candle forms is all you will need to kick-start a candle making business.  As Mary mentioned last week and others have mentioned before, To get more bang for your buck, stock up on beeswax and cotton wicks.  Beeswax smoke is cleaner and has several other benefits over petroleum based wax.

13. Oil Lamps, Replacement Wicks and Chimneys and Lamp Oil offer great bartering leverage.  As mentioned in last week’s post, the cheapest prices I’ve found is at Walmart–in store purchase. 

14. Solar Lighting is something we should all have put aside, and it will be in huge demand during grid down. 

15. Batteries are must-haves that few households store in the amount that will be needed during a protracted crisis.   For bartering purposes, regular alkaline batteries will likely be the most sought after, as most households won’t be set up to charge batteries. Rechargeable batteries benefit more from being stored in a refrigerator than do alkaline batteries.  If kept refrigerated, they should be stored in zip-lock bags to keep them away from moisture. Batteries go on sale during the holidays.  

16. Bleach will always be a staple in good times and bad, and it’s available at dollar stores, so the cost is certainly reasonable.  (You may also want to check pool supply stores for chlorine tablets)

17. Tin foil, plastic wrap, zip-lock bags  and garbage bags are staples people are going to need and they will have strong bartering potential.  Check the Dollar Stores.  (David’s note:  test out “off” brands before buying in bulk. We ONLY stock up on ziplock freezer bags.

18. Scotch Pads and Brillo pads are kitchen staples that are inexpensive and won’t take up storage space.  Buying them in bulk packages will save money. 

19. Clothes line and clothespins are cheap necessities that will be needed by everyone in grid down and it’s doubtful that most households will have them, which makes them highly barter able.

20. Dish Soap and Laundry Soap will be needed, and they’re definite barter candidates.  If you put Fels-Naptha Bar Soap, Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and Borax and a couple of 5-gallon buckets aside, you will have the ingredients for The Duggar Family Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap recipe.  The recipe makes 10 gallons, which could turn into a thriving bartering business. 

21. Matches and Lighters will be in HUGE demand.  The problem is, they’ll be difficult to part with.  If you decide to use them for barter, better get plenty!

22. Rope will be needed for everything under the sun, and it’s cheap. 

23. Tarps are another item that will become a must-have, plus they’re inexpensive and easy to store.

24. Fishing hooks, bobbins, lures, fishing line and trout line won’t take up storage space, and they’ll be in big demand.

25. The compass will make a comeback in grid down.  Even inexpensive $10.00 compass’ will offer bartering leverage. 

26. Can openers are something most never give a second thought, but they are a staple we should have several of and they’ll carry bartering power, even for the less expensive models. 

27. Cloth diapers, rubber pants and diaper pins will replace disposable diapers in a crisis and families are going to need plenty of them.  

28. Toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss are must-haves no one will want to be without and they can be purchased at Dollar Stores. 

29. Nail Clippers and Tweezers are extremely cheap and they will be needed.

30. Feminine Products will be in huge demand for bartering.  (David’s note:  the knowledge of how to make comfortable, effective, reusable feminine products will be even more valuable.)

31. Shampoo is another item people won’t want to do without.  Check Dollar Stores and Walmart that sell Suave Shampoo for around $1.00 a bottle.  (David’s note:  Keep in mind that in a true long term disaster, you can trade off all of your shampoo to people who don’t know any better and simply use wood ash to clean your hair…it’ll be just as clean, and probably healthier.)

32. Body Soap, either bar or liquid, are cheapest when bought in bulk.  Less expensive brands like Irish Spring will still carry plenty of bartering clout.

33. Suture kits will offer great bartering leverage that the average family will not have on hand.  Shop Med Vet has unbeatable prices on suture kits and many other medical supplies.

34. Pain relievers like Tylenol, Advil and Aspirin will be in huge demand.

35.   Antacid is another item that many depend upon and they’ll be great for barter.

36 Antibacterial Ointment like Neosporin can be lifesavers when medical care isn’t available.

37. Band-aides are cheap and as with all medical supplies, they’ll be in huge demand.

38. Ace Bandages are cheap at Shop Med Vet and can be purchased in gross.  

39. Playing Cards will be popular for down time when other forms of entertainment isn’t available.  Davids Urban Survival Playing Cards is a step ahead because they also provide critical survival tips at a time when we will need them the most. 

40.  Board Games of any kind will be something families will seek to fill down time at the end of the day. During Christmas they go on sale.

41.  Paperback Books that are gently used can be found for .10 to .25 at thrift stores and garage sales and they will be extremely popular barter items.

42.  Printer Paper will be needed for childrens projects and writing and it’s cheap.  Office supply stores have sales on full boxes of printer paper for half-off occasionally, so it pays to shop around.

43.  Notepads can be purchased for .50 each during back to school sales, but check around–you can sometimes find them at Christmastime.

44.  Pens, Pencils, Crayons, and Colored Pencils are popular stocking stuffers, so now is a good time to stock up on these must-have bartering items.

45.  Nails, Screws, Bolts and Washers in assorted sizes are going to be needed and will be highly barterable.

45. Shovels (both regular and folding) aren’t all that expensive and they will be in huge demand.

46.  Work Gloves and Garden Gloves will be needed as everyone work load increases.  They also have the benefit of being inexpensive, especially when purchased at the big-box hardware stores like Lowes and Home Depot, plus they don’t take up a lot of storage space.

47.  A Large Roll of Heavy Mill Plastic can be bartered by the yard, and people are going to need it.  Window panes will break, and there will be many other uses for heavy plastic.

48.  2 X 4’s will be needed for repairs and construction projects, of which there will be many.

49.  Basic Garden Tools will be sought after.  Just the basics like a Hoe, Rake, Garden Fork and Hand Fork are inexpensive tools that will be highly barterable.

50.  Garden Seed may mean the difference between nutritious food and hunger during a protracted crisis.  Check out Territorial Seed Company, and for those who live in a cold climate, consider purchasing individual seed, rather than a combined seed package where certain seed may not thrive in a shorter growing season.

(David’s note:  As I’ve stressed before, stocking up on stuff for barter is fine, but stocking up on barterable skills is even better.  Psychology, counseling, soap making, hunting, animal husbandry, firemaking, gardening, hunting, trapping, and dozens of other skills will all be worth more than “stuff” because knowledge and skill never run out.  Read more about 20 top skills for post-disaster bartering by going >HERE<

Do you have an item in mind that didn’t make the top 50 list?  Please sound off with your comments below!

God bless and stay safe,

David Morris and Survival Diva










  1. Great Grey says:

    One thing to watch out for is that they often put sugar and sometimes flour in 4 lb bags and looks cheaper when compared to 10, 20 or 25 lb bags until you see the they not in 5 lb bags.

  2. Most of us Americans love our coffee, so I figure that coffee would be a good barter item. I found a 25 year coffee that is very reasonably priced: 720 cups for $97.00 with free shipping which equates to 13.5 cents per cup. Beside being reasonably priced, it is delicious and I now drink it daily instead of store coffee. The link is:

    • Other items most folks don’t think about but VERY important.
      4) SOCKS ( all sizes; great barter item as them all wear out)
      5) Sand Paper (all grades)
      6) Shoe strings (all types; they always break and are in high demand)
      7) Q-tips
      8) Gauze/tape/Peroxide

      Great list. Hope these additions are helpful.

  3. Joseph-Lee Morehouse says:

    Love your list – I have most of these items already . I would suggest home library , books on home repair , sustainable heating and cooling , basic gardening,hydroponics, animal husbandry , new science dealing with solar, hydro electric , modern steam engines. just for a start medical books , pharmaceutical books herbals and homeopathic medical study books.
    Than book to enrich the mind literature of all sort and to help the mind to dream of better days. A home library will be a life saving to develop healthy mind and to keep children education going.
    Thank you again good article.

  4. One thing I didn’t see on anyone’s lists is Super Glue. Many, many uses, from medical (for which it was invented) to repairs and minor construction. Also comes in small, easily stored, containers that can barter for much larger items.

  5. Kathy Farmer says:

    Please tell me about using wood ash to clean your hair. Thanks.

  6. re #21: Disposable lighters, as Ms. Diva points out, will be an extremely valuable barter item. I prefer Scripto Views, which are transparent, unlike Bics, so your customer can see that they’re not getting ripped off, and they come in a 7-pack for under $2.00 at Walmart. I pick up at least one pack on each visit there and currently have over 200 lighters.

  7. Cam Stapel says:

    This is my Survival List.

    Be debit free.
    Go to church. Believe in YOUR God.
    Have your own private water source.
    Live near like-minded people where God still plays a role in real life and be ready to protect them.
    Align with people to share skills and labor. Better than money!!
    Know who your friends are. Keep them close, your enemy’s closer and your guns closest.
    Raise your own food. Know how to process it. Pressure canning preferred.
    I have a 1979 non-computerized pickup. We also have bicycles, plus two motorcycles that get over 45 mpg.
    I Have two good chainsaws (14” & 20”) . Know how to use and repair them.
    Have wood heat backup.
    Have a solar/wind-up radio, have extra light bulbs, batteries, bee’s wax candles and a way to make more.
    Use non-hybrid garden seeds only. Save harvested seeds for next year and for bartering.
    Have some guns and ammo HIDDEN. Know how to use and repair. Have supplies needed for reloading.
    Have a good security system. (Make it public, even if you DON’T have a Security system).
    (A good dog & a good gun is your BEST security system, let your feelings be known publicly).
    Have 1 year of survival food at 1 good meal per day per person. 25-year shelf life.
    Have medicine and First-Aid knowledge (books) plus medical supplies. Do NOT rely on the Internet, it won’t be there.
    Have the basic trade books. Carpentry, plumbing, electrical, tooling etc.
    Have a lath, mill, welder and variety of hand tools if possible.
    Collect & save assorted metal stock.
    Learn engine repair, also any other skills that will benefit.
    Have a good 6000 watt + gas generator. Will take care of water pump, freezer etc. (The essentials).
    Have 100 gallons + of gas with additives for longevity
    Have copies of important documents in a safe place. (Sealed container in the ground, PVC is good).
    Buy quality if possible.
    Sharpen your outdoor survival skills.
    Get skillful at bartering, worth more than money.
    Have 6-month cash on hand. Use money as last resort, (if that will be worth anything)!!
    Value all you learn by what you can earn.
    Be willing to protect your family, neighbors & country !!

    I am a retired Toolmaker and Process Engineer and have all the tools to make about anything and I can! This will help us if/when our economy goes in the crapper. My wife is also retired. We raise two beef critters each year, plus venison and other wild game and have a VERY nice 35 x 80 garden. We pretty much live like this
    I have a good Security System and a mean-ass dog. Couple that with my guns and my Viet Nam background, I wouldn’t want to break into MY house. (people around here know that)!!


  8. Mark Torrence says:

    Ammo of all kinds, especially odd calibers. Powder both smokeless and black, bullets, primers and brass. Stocking up on all the stuff you do not need directly. Alchohol both denatured and drinkable. TOILET PAPER! All good barter material if you have it in quantities large enough to have extra.

    • In a grid down situation, the new precious metals will be brass & lead.
      BUT, 90% silver dimes (1964 and earlier) will make purchases when
      paper currency is worthless. You can purchase kits that will make an
      alcohol still online. As long as it is in kit form it is OK to have now.

  9. About bicycles. It is far easier to store a new bicycle in it’s shipping carton than one that is assembled and ready to ride.

    I would add small LED flashlights. I just bought a package of 8 + 2 head lamps + batteries for $15.00.

  10. RightSideRay says:

    re #31 – baking soda in water 1:4 for washing hair. you should have a big stock of Baking Soda anyway – toothpaste, cooking, washing everything
    dry storage using vac seal bags then mark & store in mylar bags then food-grade plastic barrels w/ sealed lids keeps forever & no varmints.

  11. Plain white socks and underwear sm/med/large. Think of the immediate neighborhood and buy sizes for the majority. Large sizes will benefit the most. Remember, a small foot will fit into a large sock but a large foot will not fit into a small sock.
    Also, thermal underwear should be in huge demand since some folks won’t have any heat without the advantage of a wood stove.
    Sweat pants are also a good item since they are unisex in most designs and a few sizes will fit the most people.
    Store in large totes that are stackable to minimize space.
    Suggest keeping the 2x4s banded to prevent warping and store inside to keep from weathering.
    Other table games that have multiple games in one set are nice for variety in addition to card games.
    Triple Antibiotic Ointment (at Walmart) is an inexpensive substitute for Neosporin but it does not have the added pain reliever that Neosporin has. Great overall list!

    • Survival Diva says:

      Thanks Arlene. I like the idea of sweats & thermal underwear, and they’ll be on sale during the holiday’s.

  12. Toilet Paper – While rolls of toilet paper take up a large amount of storage area, there is an alternative.
    Whenever I go by a Thrifty Nickle stand (weekly free paper), I pick up 5 or 10 of them. The ink used is vegetable based and is non-toxic. A half-a-page, wadded up and rolled to soften it, will provide the necessary function.
    If you are not on a central sewage service, don’t flush it into your septic tank. Get a barrel or dig a pit to burn it in.

    • TraderBob says:

      Years ago our great Grandfathers and Grandmothers hung a Sears catalog in the outhouse. Nowadays, I never throw out an old phone book for that same purpose. They are free and you can pick up extras everywhere when the new ones come out.

    • Survival Diva says:

      TraderBob & Jerry,
      T.P. is a must and saving catalogs, newspaper and phone books is a big cost saver. People whose learning curve will need to be “tweaked” to keep fires going to heat their homes and cook over an open fire pit could use them as well. Too many don’t realize this is a skill that requires practice! Thank you for the ideas.

  13. One of my brothers-in-law passed away a few months ago. He was a former building contractor, as well as a hoarder. Being overwhelmed with hundreds of used hand tools, we helped my sister clean out her garage and shed. All excess hand tools were sold at a garage sale in a “Bucket’O’Tools” at $0.25 or 5 for a buck. They went like hot cakes and will make fantastic barter items if necessary for those who bought them. Bottom line is don’t overlook yard, garage and barn sales to pick up barterable bargains. And be prepared to dicker the price down to get the best bargain.

    • Survival Diva says:

      Bob R,
      I’m accused of being a “neat freak”. . . a place for everything, organized, and don’t keep anything that doesn’t have a clear purpose. BUT if I’d stumbled on that garage sale, I would have become and instant hoarder! A bucket of tools for $0.25 or 5 for a buck is amazing. Wished I’d been there : )

      • My wife accuses me of having at least one of every tool ever invented. However, my brother-in-law had a few that I had no idea what they were. Guys who came early to the yard sale asked what they were used for, but none of us knew. Those were among the first tools to go! As one guy said, “You never know when you might need one of these. Whatever it is.”

        Most of the tools that we sold were old and, in some cases, in need of repair. But, when SHTF, even the most rudimentary tools can be great for barter. After all, even a left-handed metric screwdriver is better than none at all!

  14. I love when people do list. Helps me figure out what I have missed. Great ideas. Also great for barter small achool bottles

    • I have been buying those little hard liquor bottles at the liquor store for some time. Most cost around a dollar each, and since I do not drink the harder stuff, ask the liquor store clerks to help me choose those which most people will like. Also have purchased beer making kits (I do drink beer), wine making kits, and Mr Beer kits for making hard cider and for making root beer.
      I have also put in some of those pouches of loose tobacco and some rolling papers, although I guess the only people who would really be able to use that would be people who know how to roll their own cigarettes. To keep the tobacco from going bad, have it currently stored in the fridge in sealed plastic bags.
      I have also been buying large containers of disposable razors, combs and the such, which are likely to be in demand. Walmart has bags of 10-15 disposable razors for next to nothing, and when I place an internet order, which I do once or twice a month, I just add another bag of those razors to the list.
      I have learned how to oven can flour and the such, to insure that what flour I have on hand will not be full of bugs once I need it. Also helps to poke flour and rice and other grain products in your freezer for about 48 hours when you buy it to make sure any bugs in it pass away before infesting your product. then when you oven can it you are doubly safe.
      I am 67 with circulation problems in my hands and feet (Reynalds) so I already keep hand warmers and toe warmers in stock for myself. Might be another item to have for barter since I am sure there are many others who will need them if heating comes to be difficult to keep us older people warm enough. Recently bought rechargeable hand warmers from Walmart, have not yet used them. They recharge from a USB port, and I have three Goal Zero recharging stations and corresponding solar panels to keep small items charged.
      I have also purchased some mosquito netting for the eventuality we might have to sleep outdoors, plus futons, inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags in case we have to sleep out on the patio. The mosquitoes are really bad around here, and with all the diseases they can transmit, you need to have some effective way to keep them off of you. Also lots of citronella candles and oil.
      I am sealing my patio off this winter with 4 mil sheeting to make a somewhat greenhouse for my fruit trees, olive trees, and blue berry bushes. I have also purchased 6 mil trash bags in case I need to seal off a room in the house for a “safe” room, and in the eventuality we have need for body bag(s), and unpleasant but realistic consideration. The 6 mil bags are black and can also be used to black out light from getting outside the house if need be. The 4 mil sheeting is clear, so it will allow some sunlight to get to the patio so I won’t need grow lights to keep the plants alive. Am moving most of my herb garden inside for the winter, and have grow lights plus lots of grow light bulbs for down the road.
      Beside the three goal zero charging/power stations, I have one of those things for charging batteries which can also be used to charge anything that has one of those plugs that fit into a car light/charger port. And I have two separate power inverters for my car, an extra in case either craps out. There is an old, junked out car in the driveway with flat tires, etc, but with an engine that could be made usable and would not be destroyed by an EMP. Also some of those bags to protect smaller items from destruction in case of the same. Am told mylar bags might work, so long as completely sealed, and stored inside metal trash cans, with insulation between the mylar bags and the inside of the trash cans, such as old Styrofoam or bubble wrap. Was told the trash cans would need to be completely sealed as well.
      Am backing up Kindle books with real books, and printing up info off the internet and storing in notebooks, something Dave recommended a couple of years ago.

  15. Canning lids

    • Survival Diva says:


      Have you ever used Tattler lids? They are reusable. Good suggestions to store canning lids and small bottles of alcohol.

      • From another site, Tattler lids have only about a 74% success rate for sealing and can be used only 4 or 5 times. I decided to just purchase Ball or Kerr. Having not used the Tattler lids, I am going by someone who has.

        • Survival Diva says:

          Thank you for your feedback. I have a small percentage of Tattler lids stored and the lions share are Ball canning lids. Most I’ve compared notes with have liked Tattler lids, but if home canners you hear from are only getting a 74% success rate, that would be a VERY bad thing for survival canning. I’ll look into it more. Personally, I haven’t had any problems, but I also didn’t use many Tattler lids when canning–wanted to save them for later.

  16. Norman Witzler says:

    Bicycle inner tubes and compact tire pumps. Braided steel wire for bike cables. Tools and skill to make bike repairs.

    • Survival Diva says:

      Bicycle inner tubes and tire pumps and bicycle repair tools really will make a great bartering business. The tables will turn, and instead of teenagers begging for the car keys, parents will be borrowing their kids bicycles to get around.

      • Bicycle tube patch kits! Locally we have what I call “goat head” burrs that
        will easily puncture through even off road bike tires and tubes. I was constantly patching my kids tires and in grid down, those weeds will
        spread everywhere….like weeds.

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