What Threatens Your Self-Reliance?
Too many times when we think about being prepared for disasters (natural or man-made) we tend not to consider an economic downturn. Most people will not even discuss the topic. But it doesn’t even have to be a nationwide event. It might be the loss of a job that suddenly puts you in this position. Or it could be a health-related issue, far beyond your resources to handle. Most of us like to believe it can’t happen to us. I know that’s the way we felt—until it did happen.
In 2008, after avoiding 5 rounds of company-wide layoffs, my turn came up. I lost my job. Maybe I should’ve seen it coming, but honestly, I believed I was doing everything in my power to avoid it. And I was far from being alone.
10 Steps to Strengthen Your Self-Reliance
Our experience that year and beyond made us squarely acknowledge just how scarily easy it can be to suddenly find yourself on the streets with nowhere to go, and perhaps, through no real fault of your own. Thank goodness we were able to avoid that scenario, but it was a harrowing time and I have to say that today I have a different view on the homeless.
But this experience did much to strengthen us and we resolved to do our best never to be that vulnerable to the whim of others or the economy, ever again.
Here are the steps we took to regain control of our lives. I suggest you consider them, even if you don’t feel a threat to your self-reliance at this time. We will always apply these principles to how we live our lives from here on out, no matter how comfortable we feel about our situation.
1) Avoid Debt
The first step we took was to get out from under all our debt. And we still avoid debt like the plague! I’m not saying it was easy. For us it meant down-sizing and changing our lifestyle. But being debt-free is such a freedom, and the sense of relief that comes with it far outweighs anything a credit card could purchase, in my opinion. We have one credit card we use for monthly online business expenses and it gets paid IN FULL every month. This is one of the biggest steps you can take to being more self-reliant. You will never regret it.
2) Downsize Your Life
We downsized our living space to just what we need and are comfortable in. And we got rid of all that clutter that had been moved around from place to place for 20 years! We were determined to only bring items with us that were quality and things we really use or enjoy. It means that even though we’ve downsized, everything we have is very nice and has an honored place in our home. We only kept clothes that fit us and we feel good wearing. Everything else went to the Salvation Army. I can’t believe how much happier I am. Think how freeing it would be to know know every item you own and where it is. I spend so much less time cleaning, and have no clutter to deal with. It’s been a real blessing for our busy lives. And we can pack up and move with relative ease.
3) Build Your Emergency Fund & Have Alternate Streams of Income
Make it a habit to save some of your income every month. Having an emergency fund could make your life a lot less scary if there is a job loss or loss of work because of health issues. Either could happen without warning. Thank goodness we had an emergency savings account. Although it had to be entirely used, it was there for us when we needed it most, during those first especially scary months! We’ve also made sure we now have alternate streams of income as a backup. These can be as simple as a way to make some extra cash via a hobby or artistic venture, online affiliate programs, or handyman type part-time jobs. Having some kind of income that is in your control goes far to give you a sense of additional security.
4) Take Care of Your Health
I’ve already made the point of how important your health can be when it comes to maintaining your income and being able to take care of your family. Making sure you serve nutritious meals, keep a healthy weight, exercise, and take care of any health issues now. The last thing you want to worry about is how to pay for doctor, dental or eye care visits if you have a loss of income. Keep on top of it now while you can.
5) Keep Cash at Home
Even if you personally aren’t worried about an economic emergency situation, it always pays to have some cash hidden within your home. Remember your most recent widespread power outage. Remember how none of the stores could sell you anything unless you had cash? Debit cards and credit cards were useless. Having cash on hand makes good sense for any emergency situation.
6) Find Product Substitutes
In an effort to get away from using the harsh chemicals in store-bought cleaning supplies I discovered how easy it was to make my own cleaning supplies using common household items. It’s not only safer to use and easier on the environment, but it is extremely inexpensive. If the need arose, I also know how to make laundry detergent, bath soap and shampoo. Making my own cleaning supplies and knowing how to cut down on my use of paper products not only trims the budget, but could help me get through a tough economic time, as well. We also started purchasing the store brand instead of the bigger name brand for some products. Imagine our surprise when we often found we preferred the less expensive brand!
7) Long Term Bulk Food Storage
I don’t have the room or inclination to store up enough food for years upon years. But, besides keeping the food pantry stocked at all times (which would feed us for at least a month or longer), I also lay up some large #10 cans of freeze-dried foods that are easy to store. It’s a fairly simple system. I’m only rotating out cans of food in the pantry, knowing the freeze-dried foods are good for twenty years. No need to for an elaborate inventory system. For the freeze-dried foods I choose items that can be used in multiple ways for hearty soups or stews, basically meals that can stretch for multiple servings and are easily made in one pot. My husband and I figure if we don’t have the need to use these in the near future, they could come in handy for the retirement years!
8) Make Your Home Secure
In a worse case scenario, where we do see a nationwide economic depression (it has happened multiple times in our county’s history), thefts and crimes will rise. Think back to the recent civil unrest situations our country has suffered through to get an idea of what could happen when people go hungry. It should make you realize it can happen in your area as well. I suggest you do some research on ways to make your home or apartment more secure. There are many ways you can go about this. Although I have a background in self-defense and martial arts, my husband and I are also trained in firearm safety and home self-defense. Your mode of defense is a personal choice, but I hope you will at least consider your many options available.
9) Consider Buying Physical Gold & Silver
Speaking of cash, in these uncertain times, some of us feel better not relying totally on fiat money (such as paper money no longer backed by gold). This is my own personal opinion, achieved after doing much study in regards to economics, educating myself about the Federal Reserve, our growing government debt and the global economy. I understand it’s not for everyone. But for those of you interested, you can start out simple, by purchasing some junk silver and keeping it on hand. Junk silver consists of coins that were minted in 1964 or earlier. They are 90% silver (This was before the government starting replacing the silver with more copper). It’s rare to find silver coins in circulation any more these days. They’ve been snatched up by collectors or pulled out of circulation entirely. You can purchase them at coin shops dealing in silver and gold. Just to give you an example of why I keep junk silver on hand: A) It’s easily recognizable as currency, yet it is a piece of real and valuable precious metal—unlike today’s coins. B) A Kennedy Half Dollar from 1964 is now worth over $5 today—you get my drift.
10) Learn Self-Sufficiency Skills
I feel extremely fortunate that I taught myself how to grow a huge organic vegetable and herb garden and then to can, dry and preserve the harvest. At first I did it to save money and provide healthy food for my family. But learning to be self-sufficient became a way of life that I love. I know how to make applesauce and apple butter and berry pies. I learned to make bread, churn butter and make cottage cheese. I know how to sew and mend clothes. And I can build a fire and start it with one match (yeah, I know ways to do it without a match too), and I can damp down a fire in a wood stove so it lasts all night. I’ve chopped wood, fished and shot guns. I recently taught myself how to make candles, and there is much more to learn. These are things I used to take for granted, but today I’m shocked at how few people have any of these skills—skills our very recent ancestors also took for granted as everyday knowledge. To me, learning these types of skills is far more important than stockpiling years’ worth of goods (which could easily be lost to fire, flood or theft). Knowledge, experience and skills are what I’ll be working on this year to make myself as Self-Reliant as possible. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Take one step at a time. You’ll be surprised how quickly you make progress.
Remember: Even one step forward is better than no action at all.
A Word about the Naysayers:
Our country is more divided right now than any other time in my memory. And I respect the fact that many people do not agree with my philosophy. Even some of my friends have told me that wanting to be self-reliant, to be prepared for an economic downturn, or to want to be able to defend myself, is to live in fear. But I’m here to tell you, living with these skills lets me live without fear. To me it is simple common sense to want to be as self-reliant as possible. We’ve become much too dependent upon our technologies and government handouts. Listen to your own instincts and be true to yourself. Me—I keep striving to better my skill set and my knowledge base, and I sleep just fine every night.