Some people are curious about prepping because they want to be more self-sufficient, while others may be considering this lifestyle to ensure their survival during more difficult times.

If you are worried about where to get supplies after your stockpile runs out when SHTF, you can try to learn more about bartering and the basics of trading in a post-collapse world. (h/t to

The tips and information below come from Selco Begovic, a man who survived one year in Bosnia when his city was blockaded.

Begovic hails from the Balkan region, where residents struggled with harsh living conditions from 1992 to 1995. He lived there and survived for a year in a city without running water, food distribution, electricity, fuel or supply of any goods.

The area also did not have any organized law or government.

While the information below is from an interview conducted in 2018, the topics discussed are still relevant for preppers or those who want to start prepping in 2023.

Bartering after city lockdowns

According to Begovic, people started bartering weeks after the city was locked down. He added that ordinary folks only started bartering after several weeks went by because they did not immediately realize the severity of their situation.

As he tried to remember more about that time in his life, Begovic added that there were people who did not want to take money for goods. Instead, they asked for valuables like gold, jewelry or weapons for the items that they had wanted to trade with.

Some of these people were smart enough to realize that money was going to become worthless soon.

Even valuables, such as gold and jewelry, were only good in the first period, and you would only benefit from them if you had a connection to the outside world to exchange them for something useful.

Ordinary people needed several weeks to get used to their situation, said Begovic. The process went from buying goods with money to buying goods from people who still accepted money but at outrageous prices, to the moment when money was worthless and people only accepted goods for other items.

While rare, Begovic said you could sometimes find someone who would sell you something for foreign money, but with at least 20 to 50 times higher prices. To illustrate, if a pack of cigarettes costs around 1.50 German Marks outside the war region, Begovic could buy that pack for 40 German Marks.

US dollars and Canadian dollars had even worse value. The people who would accept that money had connections to the outside world, and some of them became millionaires because of that, said Begovic.

The same ratio was for precious metals and jewelry. For small and quick trades, the usual currency people used was cigarettes because of the large percentage of smokers in the area.

Sometimes, people would trade bullets. (Related: SHTF bartering must-haves: 13 Things that will be in demand after an EMP attack.)

How to determine the value of trade items and setting terms

Begovic said nothing was fixed. During the lockdown, the value of goods went up and down based on different factors.

If a United Nations (UN) food convoy was able to enter the city and a local warlord took it all, which Begovic said happened often, and the majority of the food was canned fish, within that month those types of canned food would be cheaper than the month before.

In other cases, if U.S. airplanes managed to “hit” with airdrops in their area, then meals, ready-to-eat (MREs) were going to be cheaper.

Begovic also said once a rumor was planted by rival groups, such as rumors about “poisoned” cans of cookies, people did not value such items highly anymore.

However, some things did not change value too much during the whole period, such as alcohol, because it was available. The value of other things was a matter of the situation.

If your child was sick and you needed antibiotics, once you spread the word, you can expect high prices because you gave out that information. Begovic added that usually, people knew the value of goods for that week, at least approximately.

The value of things and trading rules “on the ground” were similar to trade rules at normal life flea markets, said Begovic.

Some of those rules on the ground during trading were:

Begovic said the most important thing to do is to understand that when SHTF, the only thing that protects you from losing everything is you.

Trade will require careful planning. Start with information about a person who has something you need, then check and double-check that information.

Communicate with him, then send information to let him know that you want to trade. Clearly set the terms about the place and number of people where you’re going to do the trade.

Usually, there would be rumors or information about who was safe to trade with. Begovic said there was also information about people who like to scam others during a trade.

If you completed a beneficial and fair trade with someone, remember him as a safe trader for future trade. The rest is a matter of trust and your skills.

If you live in a nice town, Begovic said you might have access to a market where people can freely exchange their goods.

However, he never witnessed anything like that in Bosnia because a market like that requires an efficient system to back it. Bartering when SHTF is a high-risk situation because it is about resources, and there is no law or system in place to protect you and others.

Skills vs. items

In the long run, Begovic said skills were more valuable because you can not “spend” your skills.

If you had medical skills, you could expect that over time, people would know about them through the word on the street. After SHTF, you will have different opportunities to get something for that skill.

After an SHTF event, skills for repairing would be valuable, along with technical skills. Begovic added that skills were safer to trade because if someone attacks or kills you, they still can’t take away your skills.

If you raise animals on your homestead, you can trade eggs, dairy or meat for other items that you need. With a home garden, you can trade fruits and vegetables for other pantry staples like flour or cooking oil.

Before SHTF, learn the basics of bartering so you can find more supplies before your stockpile runs out.

Watch the video below for tips on how to color-coordinate your pantry.

This video is from .

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I hate ankle carry.  I can’t stand it.  I used ankle carry quite extensively in years past for deep concealment needs when dressed formally, but the advent of such deep concealment solutions as the Phlster Enigma have eliminated my need for it to accommodate such dress.  For medical, I daily pocket carry a minimalist kit of a tourniquet and a small pack of quick-clot gauze.  Not only do I find ankle carry inconvenient and rather uncomfortable, but it also does not work for me during the summer, when I wear shorts most of the time, and even in the winter I often use “athletic wear” sweatpants (again, with a Phlster Enigma or other belly band solution) which does not work for ankle carry.  It simply does not work well in my lifestyle. 

Still, the ankle proves my only means of carrying a backup gun, on the rare occasion that I do.  for most concealed carriers, the waistband usually can’t accommodate a second gun, and ankle carry serves the purpose well here.  Like the vast majority of concealed carriers, I rarely carry a second gun, but I consider ankle carry a reserve option for times of increased unrest or greater-than-usual threat, such as what we saw during the summer of love, or other periods in which we have witnessed heightened civil unrest that can catch us, unexpectedly, in significant danger from aggressive criminal actors; multiple, perhaps many, criminal actors. 

In the wake of such violence, many concealed carriers have looked into carrying discreet looking bags with further-than-usual armament and medical capability.  This may serve well, depending on the environment, and I also always have a good EDC bag in the vehicle, and even on my person, depending on where I go.  However, if things are more sketchy than usual, I like placing additional tools on-person, and the ankles are the only body location that can accommodate this, realistically, when in regular civilian clothing. 

My daily carry already includes a primary carry gun, a reload, a light, OC Spray, a utility knife, and the minimal medical kit that is kept in-pocket.  Therefore, my daily EDC already offers capability that is far beyond what the vast majority of the population carries to begin with.  During greater-than-usual threat, however, I add an ankle-worn backup gun and an ankle-worn complete IFAK.  This might be a good solution for you as well. 

Things to Consider:

First, the pants need to be loose enough to fit and conceal the tools.  Skinny jeans don’t work.  I admit that I often wear fairly tight jeans, daily, but during a bad situation, it is easy enough to switch to the baggier pants.

Second, ankle carry can prove uncomfortable, so you need the right ankle holster and the right ankle medical cuff.  A bad holster is like a torture device.  A good one will not really be comfortable, but it will be bearable.   The Galco Ankle Glove and the Wilderness Tactical Renegade are among the best here.  Same issue with the IFAK ankle band.  I like the Wilderness Tactical ankle cuff, but there are other good ones as well. 

Third, to add significant comfort, wear thicker, long, socks.  Another option I use, in addition to the full-length socks, is a sock that has the foot section cut off, leaving only the leg tube, that also goes on my calf below the sock, thus offering more padding, and going higher on the leg to keep the butt of the pistol or revolver off the bare skin.  I find this additional layer unnecessary for the IFAK, but absolutely needed for the holster.

Ironically, I find carrying both the IFAK on one ankle, and the backup gun on the other, more comfortable than carrying only one or the other, as it seems to offer some kind of balance to the body.  In any circumstance that compels me to wear a second gun, I certainly feel compelled to wear more medical gear, so the two additional tools together makes good sense.

In daily life when things are comparatively stable, I don’t wear anything on my ankles.  However, if dealing with unstable conditions, I add the backup gun and the full IFAK to my ankles, and this supplements my EDC quite well, adding considerable capability to my person, all entirely concealed from common observation. 

Live fire practice is essential. To buy the ammo that I use for training at the best possible price, go to:

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There is no denying that, if we have the choice, a long gun completely outclasses a pistol for actually stopping threats, be they two or four legged.  A shotgun reigns supreme in decisiveness within its performance envelope, and the rifle can dominate a far more extensive plain.  The pistol has only one advantage over long guns; concealability.  However, this advantage, for many applications, far outweighs the disadvantages as compared to the ballistic power and hit potential of long guns. 

There seems to be the notion that the handgun is the primary of the armed citizen while the sun shines on our republic and society is functional, but as soon as the lights go out, literally or figuratively, the long gun, particularly the rifle, will become the tool of defense and survival beyond any other.  I vocally disagree with this assessment.  All men who consider themselves citizens rather than subjects should own and know how to use a modern rifle.  There is no denying that.  Should the worst come to pass, we want that tool at the ready.  However, even during social collapse, I propose that the concealed pistol remains the most important weapon.

Picture what a long-term collapse looks like.  Is it a Mad Max-like world with loincloth wearing bikers roving the countryside and ravaging the other survivors?  Could be.  But here is what is far more likely:

Society collapses for an unspecified amount of time and you are on your own.  There is no dialing 911 (not that there is now in many places) and the criminal element that has always been present, simmering below the surface, is now completely emboldened.  Kind of like San Francisco, Portland, and other blue hell holes, but worse.  There is no law enforcement, so criminals have no fear of consequences. 

Even if you live in a rural environment, during a prolong collapsed, ask yourself, what are you going to be spending most of your waking hours doing?  If you said, “roaming patrol with your rifle,” you would be wrong.  You will be working.  You will be growing food, splitting wood, fixing buildings, tilling the earth.  That is what you will be doing, in an effort to feed you and yours.  There is nothing at all sexy about such dystopian scenarios.  Ask yourself, will you be splitting wood or hoeing your garden with your rifle slung and your body armor on?

No, you won’t.  And when the likely threat, in the form of two local violent criminal actors (not a hoard of cannibalistic bikers as in the movies) shows up standing behind you because you did not even see or here them as you were busy trying to plant crops so you don’t starve to death, you will not be wearing your rifle.  If you are a rifle lover who despises that pistol because it is so much harder to shoot than your rifle, then, at that moment, you will wish you had your rifle, which is twenty yards away leaning against a tree, because why the hell would you be wearing that puny pistol when you took your AR15 along with you to the field?  Except, there are two monsters standing ten feet away and your rifle is over there, under the tree.

See how that might work?  If it comes to that, be practical: Have the rifle nearby, but have your pistol, concealed, on person, as the primary defensive tool, and that is what you will great the monsters with.  Sure, maybe it will be a matter of “using the pistol only to fight your way to the rifle,” a saying that I truly hate, but if you actually practice with your pistol, you probably won’t need the rifle by the time you get to it. 

Yes, own and train with a rifle.  However, as unpopular as it may be to say it, the pistol is the primary defensive weapon of anyone not actively in a theater of war and wearing a uniform.  Wear your pistol, wear it concealed, and continue to do so no matter if society is functioning or collapsed.  Keep the rifle near, but the handgun stays on. 

Live fire practice is essential. To buy the ammo that I use for training at the best possible price, go to:

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Author of and the online course

Years after my SHTF I am definitely better prepared and organized for anything similar in the future, but just like all things in prepping it is so easy to get again in the same false feeling of being “secure.”

Once it was, “Oh it can never happen here.” Now it can be, “I am much better prepared now, I am safe.”

We all sooner or later get ourselves in a situation where when we buy physical things for SHTF, we are actually buying the feeling of safety and peace of mind. I try to avoid that, but of course just like everybody else I often find myself there.

One of the questions that I get often goes like this: “What would you choose to have now for SHTF after going once through it?” And it is easy to answer it more or less.

But taking into consideration how most preppers prepare for SHTF I must say that while a lot of things would be easier, the same problems would be there even with having a lot of physical things stored for SHTF.

Here are some examples.

Security and resources

Of course, I could have used more weapon at that time, and more ammo, especially at the beginning of everything when there was complete and absolute chaos everywhere. It was a time when you still do not know exactly who is dangerous and where you can go to be safe.

In that period of time, it is, as I mentioned before, it is best to stay put, and even better to have some resources and means to defend that resources.

So yes, I could have used more of both at that time – better resources and better means to defend it.

But do not mistake that and think with a lot of resources and means to defend it you have completely solved your problems. Actually, you need to have a philosophy and strategy to be able to have that for a prolonged period of time. Which brings you again to the point where you will have to go out and “interact” with people on one or other way.

You can not interact (trade, negotiate, barter, fight…) if you do not have strategy and skills for that, a network of trusted people, great knowledge of your surroundings ( different groups of people, customs, criminal mindset, communication skills, fighting skills…)

So do not get me wrong here. I would love if I had more physical things at that time, it would have helped me a lot. But in the end, it would have turned out similar-interacting with other folks. It would be easier yes and it would take longer, but again it would come again to that interaction.

And do not think that interaction means sitting in an armchair and shooting at people who are attacking your home. It means a lot more than that.


No matter how much physical things I would love to have had in that time, or that I wish to have for some future time, here is one other thing that preppers often forget.


It is much more important to be mobile than to have a lot of physical things with you in your home.

Now again, do not take this “mobility” too literally. It does not mean that you only need to have a backpack and weapon and head to the hills or wilderness when the SHTF.

Actually, it means a lot more than that.

When SHTF, there are huge chances that you are gonna be forced to abandon your home, either because you are bugging out or you temporarily have to leave, or whatever. There is no sense of putting “all the money” in your home.

Develop a strategy where you can be highly mobile, but still have resources, either through survival caches, or a BOL. Have multiple plans where you gonna go in case of some serious event. Have multiple planned ways to there, have a network of people who might help you on the way there (and vice versa).

In the best-case scenario yes, you may stay at your home. But most probably you are not gonna be able to stay there all the time.

So no matter how much physical things you have – do not count on the belief that it will be possible to keep it with you in your home.

Be ready to be mobile, not to blindly run away. Have a strategy ready for that.

(Looking for more advice on crafting a proper strategy for emergency evacuations? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide.)

Recognizing signs of the coming SHTF

Let’s be honest here. No matter where you live today, you can probably say that things are going to s..t.

Does that mean that you (or I) will blindly go to survival mode? No, actually.  We will try to enjoy our life as much is possible, otherwise what is the point?

Yeah, there are chances that we gonna recognize the arrival of the SHTF and that we will act accordingly. But chances are bigger that we will be caught in the middle of it by surprise.

And then?

The whole point of survival is to act properly in a given situation. You are still gonna be ahead of the majority of folks around you. So while the majority of people are panicking you will act according to the situation.

And that is good enough.

For me, there is not too much sense in living in fear of possible collapse. Enjoy your life while things are more or less okay.

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Concluding thoughts on strategy and mobility

As a form of conclusion here, there is the thought that no matter how much physical stuff you have ready for SHTF, it will not save you from all the hard work when it happens.

It will make things easier for you, and that is great because every help is gonna be appreciated, but you still gonna need to have strategies for interacting with the people around you once when SHTF. In my book, Dark Secrets of Survival, I shared some stories about those interactions. (Available in PDF or paperback.)

It is much better to develop those strategies before SHTF, while you have time and choices.

Once the SHTF is happening, the events unfold around you at a different speed.  Or we may say “frequency” so it is hard to “tune in” to all that and stay safe.

Here is only one example – trade. It is such a huge topic on all survival forum everywhere, with people fantasizing about trade when SHTF. But point of it is to be ready for trade before SHTF, and it can be to have strategy about: what is gonna be needed in your region, what is easier to sell (to carry, trade), what kind of groups of people living around you, what they prefer, what kind of organisation will emerge and own black market and what that means for you, where are possible trade places…I wrote more about that here.

There is a lot that you can think about today, before the SHTF.

What are your thoughts?

Does Selco’s advice make you rethink your current strategies? Had you considered these things previously? How can you become more flexible in your preparedness?

Let’s discuss it in the comments section.

About Selco:

Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. He is currently accepting students for his next physical course here.

In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today.

He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless of what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months.

  • Read more of Selco’s articles here.
  • Buy his PDF books here.
  • Buy his #1 New Release paperback, here.

Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.

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