In the aftermath of a catastrophic disaster, cash may be in short supply, and if the financial system collapses, maybe even worthless. Food goods, fuel and other basic staples will likely be the more acceptable medium of exchange, (i.e. bartering), because of their scarcity.
And, until an acceptable currency is established, people will be forced to use whatever available goods or services they have to offer as their medium of exchange. Barter has been used throughout civilization where a monetary system did not exist or during time of monetary crisis. Even today, in the digital era, barter is a popular form of exchange on websites like Craigslist.
But in advance societies, bartering can only be a temporary currency replacement because of the difficulty in establishing any common unit of exchange. Also, barterable goods will eventually become scarce, creating a society of haves and have-nots.
If you intend on being one of the haves, you will need to be able to store a significant amount of food goods, fuel, commodities or staples that are in demand. Then, should civil society begin to deteriorate into marauding crowds intent on getting their “fair share”, you would simply become a target.
Still, it would be important to emerge in the aftermath with as big a supply of bartering goods as you can safely store. Canned goods, raw grains, seeds, powdered milk, freeze-dried foods, ammunition (stick to popular calibers such as .22 and 12 gauge), toiletries, liquor (think airline-sized bottles), cigarettes, chewing gum, batteries and matches will be in demand.
Because it will be difficult to know in advance which types of goods and supplies will be in demand, and which will take on some sort of monetary value, it wouldn’t be wise to simply go out and buy things that you might not use yourself. Buy and store what makes sense for your particular circumstances and then use any excess as barter.
Certain skills and services will also be valuable in barter, such as car repair, tutoring, sewing, personal care, medical care, self defense training, wild foods expert, construction, well repair or construction, soap making, appliance, ammo reloading and electronics repair. Any one of these would be a worthwhile skill or trade to learn anytime, but would be especially valuable during an economic collapse.
You might want to also consider developing core negotiation skills for bartering. At a time when value is in the eye of the beholder and the exchange rate of barterable goods is subject to the specific needs of individuals, the ability to negotiate with the right combination of stern and tact could by extremely valuable.