Rule Number 1: You will live in a barter economy and you must be a producer or offer a valuable service. Those who own the means of production or who can independently produce a valuable good, who are proficient in their trades, or who can readily prepare and distribute products to market are economic survivors, plain and simple.
Rule Number 2: You must have cash, durable goods, or precious metals to use as currency. There could be a disruption of the system that doesn’t harm the perceived value of the dollar, which is a great reason to keep some on hand – especially if you can offload them for something you need after a catastrophic event occurs.
Rule Number 3: The width and depth of your “tribal network” will determine the quality of your life above survival. Pre-collapse, you must meet medical providers, those with means of mass transportation (truck drivers, delivery drivers, etc.), others in the “merchant class”, radio operators, local law enforcement, and all your neighbors. These people are going to facilitate transactions so you can meet your immediate needs.
Rule Number 4: You must have a means of communication aside from land line or cellular phones. In a grid down situation, cellular towers will not work. You need a shortwave radio and a citizens band radio, at a very minimum, to keep up-to-date with your environment, external factors, and emergencies. These will allow you to communicate short range with your neighbors and others in your community; and will be a highly effective way to barter or make trade agreements. Information regarding external factors such as aid or community meetings will be communicated over radio waves. Finally, if you cannot communicate in an emergency, you or someone you know will become a casualty. Similarly, your community must set up its own farmers market/trading post. Supply and demand will make themselves aware here. Farmers markets aren’t just for goods; they’re also places where you can make yourself available if you provide a service or find someone who provides a service you need.
Rule Number 5: Your community must have a mechanism to enforce basic laws. Theft, unlawful violence, and the unlawful threat of violence can derail your community’s ability to trade. If you have goods to trade or you need goods from someone else, those items must arrive safely and on time. Maybe your local law enforcement will not be affected; but maybe it will – and what then? If you have no plan to secure yourself and your property then you will not thrive, much less survive.