In a world where we are all encouraged to be interdependent, to choose a speciality, a career to adhere to throughout life forsaking almost all other professions and avenues in life , why would we want to choose to do more of other things for ourselves ? Maybe it’s just a case of making better use of spare time.
Not the good life ?
When I (frequently) refer to self sufficiency, I’m not necessarily talking about the Tom & Barbara type of existence made popular deep in the suburbs of Surbiton during the 1970′s, involving turning the entire garden over to producing all they eat and drink, trading the surplus for goods and money, and using that earned cash to pay the rates. No, what we are aiming at is just reducing our overall dependence on having a single source of income combined with enjoying a more rural pace of life. In essence what that really means to us is diversifying our income stream in the first place, and finding alternative ways of funding and doing certain things.
Part of what that means to us is working towards having several sources of income of varying shapes and sizes, from a variety of different activities. Initially, and most importantly at this stage, there is the day job, the main source of household income and bedrock of our current strategy. Without it several of our other strategies would flounder in the early days, so maintaining a stable source of income is key. Don’t give up the day job as they say.
Sowing the seeds
Next comes the money saving activities that first and foremost allow us to maintain or improve our current standard of living at a lower than expected cost. It starts with getting good value for money, and being in a position to take advantage of special offers on any purchases from everyday shopping to major purchases. It’s just a case of buying what we really need at as reasonable a price as possible, or being a bit frugal. This releases more cash on a day to day basis, and provides the basic funds for savings into the penny tin.
From those money saving activities we have then been able to fund some further improvements in our lifestyle and also invest in certain things that reduce our cost of living expenses. Our energy saving bulbs and remote control sockets are examples of cost of living reduction that only requires a low level of investment, whilst the wood burning stove and new boiler require a larger outlay, but then provides us with a much better rate of return. The next levels may include solar panels, a more fuel efficient car and other higher value investments that also make for a good rate of saving against our cost of living expense.
All these things again put more money into the snowball and ultimately fund further projects, but eventually the rate of return for money saving projects only no longer make financial sense to us. Sure there are projects that could eventually reduce our outgoings to practically zero, barring council tax, but the amount of investment required would take far too long to ever be recovered. It’s at this point we would look to other avenues for a better rate of return.
Some things we would consider are buying a smallholding or separate plot of land nearby that we could use to grow plenty of vegetables and soft fruits, maybe have a small orchard and keep some hens and a few other animals to provide us with food. Ideally there would be a woodland element to the land that would give us a guaranteed firewood supply and perhaps some wood for greenwood craft work. As much a rural dream as a working homestead. The return from this investment would probably be as much a reward for the soul and general happiness as it would be to bolster the income stream, as eating our own produce always tastes much better after the bit of back ache involved in growing it
Clearing any liabilities to lending institutions would mean a major reduction in outgoings too, as the cash flow, and more importantly, the cash retention cycle accelerates ever faster, and paying off the remainder of the mortgage and any outstanding balances is going to be a liberating experience for us. The large chunks of cash that would normally be paid to banks and credit card companies etc will be found a much better home where they will earn more money for us instead.
After that we might consider getting into higher forms of investment, such as share investments through an individual savings account (ISA) or perhaps even consider buying property to rent out. Whatever those additional investments may be, they would need to be relatively low maintenance and not sap time from all prior existing activities, unless of course they provide a much improved return for the amount of effort invested and prove to be much more enjoyable.
Having several small sources of regular income and a reduced need for as much of that combined income can alleviate many future hiccups such as losing a single income source, as it also provides a greater sense of security. Many of our behavior patterns are rooted in fear and insecurity, so removing some of that insecurity and replacing it with a sense of wellbeing, and a knowledge that things can never really sink as low as we once feared could be very beneficial as well as providing a financial safety net. What would we do differently if we knew there was always going to be some source of money at any given time ? We’re aiming to find out
As it happens, extra income never goes amiss at anytime, and can be used to offset any form of debt whenever there is a surplus of money or provide well deserved moments of fun. Sure though, the danger is always there that we could slip and start to spend up to our means, and when we have been scrimping and saving for so long we can often get an urge to splurge, wanting to feel some immediate benefit for all our efforts. We just have to moderate those desires by ensuring we do some of the things we really enjoy on a fairly regular basis. It serves as a reminder as to why we’re doing all these things, and also provides a small reward or incentive to keep going.
I guess my definition of self sufficiency could quite easily be classed more relevantly as self reliance, or even financial independence. Either way we would be providing more of what we need as a direct result of our own actions with less reliance on outside influences. Who knows, maybe one day we will get there and find out just what it means in reality, and whether or not it really is the good life. What would self sufficiency look like to you ?
Summary: Independence day