The Day After

by The Omega Man

"Economic Survival"

This time around the Interzone we will take a departure from our usual fare of discussions on the more "hardcore" survival, and enter the important, but seldom discussed realm of economic survival. Economic survival consists of techniques to expand the spending power of your money. More so than most other survival topics; economic survival is of more immediate benefit. It helps you survive today and now, and also makes preparations for "The Day After" easier.

There are several ways in which you can save $$$ when purchasing needed items. By applying these techniques, you can cut your spending 50%+.

Garage Sales/Flea Markets

At garage sales and flea markets, quality new and used merchandise of all types is available at as low of 1/10 retail cost! All sorts of stuff is available ranging from clothes, to hardware, to firearms, to furniture, to home electronics. Between the two, I find greater values at garage sales, but greater variety at flea markets. This is because at garage sales people are trying to get rid of unwanted stuff, where flea markets are used to make money. However since flea markets have much more vendors, you are more likely to find something specific you need at them. At garage sales, it's best to look slightly impoverished when you go visit. By appearing to have limited funds (which you probably do anyway), you can gain an advantage in haggling price, one of the keys to saving $$$. However, still maintain an average appearance, as looking "strange" will sometimes leave people with a negative impression, reducing your haggling ability. I usually check the classifieds sections of newspapers, and local supermarket bulletin boards (the old fashioned variety) for garage sales on weekends, and make a run around the town. While you really can't tell if a garage sale is good or not, the ones described as "multi-family" are usually the best.

Flea Market buying relies less on appearance, but on making people think what they're selling isn't worth a lot. In such a case, try to avoid looking like an authority on something. If you do, the seller might assume it's worth more than he's selling it for, and be less willing to haggle. In certain instances, the price might even go up! The best time to go to a flea market depends on whether you are looking for something specific, or if you're just looking for bargains. If you go in the morning, you're more likely to find something specific, but towards closing, haggling becomes easier as the sellers don't want to pack everything back in their truck. At a hamfest (more on those later) a few years back, Icom had hung around until close, and managed to fill the rear seat and storage area of his station wagon with old, but still useful FREE electronic test equipment. The sellers didn't want to re-pack it, so he offered to "take it off their hands". The end result was him getting about $600 of usable toys for nothing!

Gun Shows and Hamfests

Gun Shows and Hamfests are specialized flea markets which offer great values on items which every cyberpunk needs. As the name implies, a gun show is a flea market which deals in firearms, although military surplus dealers are often there, and other related merchandise. Saving money by purchasing used firearms in good condition, discount ammo, and related equipment has some obvious advantages for the survivalist. Hamfests are less well known. They are flea markets which cater to amateur radio operators; most of whom also have interest in computers. In short, at a hamfest one can save money by buying used computer, radio, and other specialized electronic equipment. Hams are also a generous lot, and often give price breaks to fellow hobbyists. Any self-respecting cyberpunk should be able to see why going to a hamfest can be useful.


Great savings can be made by shopping in used clothing "thrift shops", and also at the Salvation Army. You can pick everything from three piece "designer" suits, to work clothes for almost nothing. Sin picked up a Brooks Brothers suit at his local Salvation Army for $5. I've also picked up dress shirts and slacks in new condition for as little as 50 cents each! Another good thing about thrift shops and Salvation Army stores is that the money you spend is used to help a worthwhile charity, instead of buying clothes at "the mall", and lining the pocket of some rip-off corporation.

Another great place for clothes is at your local military surplus store. Any good military surplus store will also sell foreign military uniforms which look just like all that "adventurer" designer clothing which has been popular recently, as well as standard U.S. military clothing. The military stuff not only looks great, but is also more rugged, and less expensive. You can also get rugged duffle bags, and day packs which last longer than the civilian made stuff. While you may not be able to get hot pink, or other such colors, you do have the choice of various shades of green, black, and blue in your color choices, which are adequate. My personal favorites are the "Wooly Pully" sweaters; which are worn by the British, and U.S. Military. These are all wool, come in blue, green, tan, and black, are warm, built ruggedly, go with everything from casual to business wear, and are reasonably priced.

Clearance Sales and Such

Better than good savings can be had by buying clearance items in some department stores. This is what they do to merchandise which has been discontinued for various reasons. All of this stuff is in new condition, and stores have been known to s ell stuff way beyond their cost, just to get rid of it for tax purposes, because it's last year's model, or whatever. Just about everything can be put on clearance from clothes to housewares, to appliances. Just a few nights ago, my family visited one of the area department stores, and acquired, among other things, a new set of Corning Visions cookware for $10. This is just representative of the savings you can find.

Most clearance sales aren't advertised, and the clearance items are often stuck in some corner. So, to really find the good stuff, you have to go looking in the aisles. However, you will be rewarded. The exception to this is clothing. Clothing clearance racks are usually out in the open, with a easily noticed sign advertising its presence. Clearance sales are most useful for buying gifts, as the merchandise is new.

For savings on home appliances, and other higher priced items, check out a store's Scratch and Dent Room. This is where they discount items which have suffered minor physical damage such as a scratch or dent on the cabinet; but the function of the device is unhampered, demos which have been sitting out and handled and have no boxes/documentation/ accessories, and also stuff which has been discontinued. Since the stuff isn't new, and keeping it poses a financial liability; they slash the prices to get it out of the store. In a scratch and dent room you will find CD players, washers, driers, microwave ovens, stoves, computers, etc. at up to 70% off their regular price. One store was selling a demo Atari 130XE Computer with Disk Drive and Printer for $50. It's only fault was that it had no boxes, and got a little dusty from sitting around. Personally, since I know an appliance is going to get beat on in daily use around here, I don't mind it having a little scratch on it because it's going to get alot more.

Also keep an eye open for places that are going out of business. I've seen places sell everything for 75%+ off, particularly on the last day of business.


There are a few things you can do to save food costs. The first is to look for no-name and "store" brands. These cost less than the other "name" brands, and the quality is still the same. When buying bread, and other bakery products, look for the day old stuff. It is discounted because it isn't "fresh". Actually, there's no difference. You can start a small garden to produce vegetables, and if you have land, even raise animals for food. Many books are available on gardening and livestock raising. Self- sufficiency not only saves you money, but is also good in preparing for the day after.

Throw Aways

It often pays to take a walk around the neighborhood on trash day. You'd be surprised at the perfectly usable, or easily fixed stuff people throw away. I've picked up home electronics which had many salvageable components in it, and once some years back, a 10-speed bike which was perfectly serviceable, except for a bent front tire; which was easily replaced. Your best bets are affluent neighborhoods, where people don't have any repair skills, and the attitude of "throw it out and buy a new one" if something goes wrong with it.

As you see, there are several ways one can use less money to maintain a standard of living. What I mentioned here is just the tip of the iceberg. By keeping an eye open, and being aware of the opportunities; much savings can be made.

Back to Cybertek Index