Here’s the thing… we recently discovered we’re very rich. Right now we are only lacking money. Thankfully, we have pretty much everything else in abundance. I can only say I am pretty shocked at my own reaction to this realization. And it’s that reaction that I’d like to share with you, expecting to perhaps bring you a little bit of your sanity back should you relate with this scenario and think you have just lost your mind.
The idea of not going after more money in a capitalistic society can make just about anybody’s skin crawl. Feelings of incompetence, failure, and just plain stress used to fill my mind, too, when this idea came to me in the beginning. Even saying I could do without money, or without some of the comforts it can bring to my life, would result in mean looks from some people. I even had a close relative ask me with a look of disapproval, “So… what does your mother think about you keeping a garden and raising animals?” Given her tone, I believe she was expecting to hear how devastated my mom was that I had abandoned the money-making career I was supposed to have kept in exchange for this “dead-end” way of living. I just laughed it off; I could totally understand her point of view.
I should take a moment to emphasize that I said more money. I know money is a necessity. I don’t dislike money. I just will try to need it less and not put as much effort into getting more.
Our family has come to terms with homesteading. We have been through many transitioning stages to get to the point where not having more money is really not the biggest deal. We actually don’t want to make more money anymore. You see… I said it! Nothing happened, I’m fine. One second… *scanning the room*… yes, everything’s fine. It has also taken us time and adjustment to get reassurance and confidence from sources other than money. We want to need money less and less every day. We can say that’s our focus now; and by that, I mean we say it aloud and not just think it quietly anymore, in fear the gods get offended.
Coming to this conclusion and making the decisions we are about to make has not been a thing of a couple of weeks or months. From the day we moved to the countryside five years ago, to beginning homeschooling and planting the first seed, many big changes have taken place. There have been attitudes, goals, mindsets, values, and great philosophical changes; the awakening of new possibilities; the abandonment of previous plans.
Some of those discarded plans have made us feel relieved and unburdened in our spirits and others have made us grieve. Knowing that, with this lifestyle, we are closing the door to some life events we previously worked toward has not always been a matter of celebration. On the other hand, starting with a clean slate, making some new plans and projects, has been exciting and scary at the same time.
I used not to like looking back to events in my life. I now think it was probably because I felt so many of them were totally random and just happened to me. I did not feel part of many of my previous life decisions and experiences. Accepting an option out of given choices did not give me a real sense of ownership. However, since we began homesteading, that feeling disappeared and looking back is a continuous enjoyable exercise. That is, to see both the good and the bad about the decisions we have made, and, of course, always to try to improve and build upon those for a better future.
Reflecting a little on those stages, I can recall four main transitioning phases that have taken us from seeing money as a desired goal and means to get through life, to thinking we want to have less of it and not miss it at the same time. Here are those four phases so far:
Phase 1: Homesteading will be an “on the side” thing. I believe our first approach to homesteading was that it was a hobby-like activity. I recall not much planning, nor commitment, in the beginning. It was a weird feeling, because deep inside I wanted it to be a serious thing, but lacked the knowledge, confidence, and guts to tell others I was for real. I’d timidly share my initiatives with family and friends and they would just smile back at me as if I had just shared my new stamp collection with them. Homesteading activities were done in our spare time and in the smallest scale possible. Looking back, I can also see now that this stage didn’t last long. From the moment I tasted freshly grown pigeon peas, corn on the cob, cucumbers, and our first fresh egg it immediately stopped being a hobby.
Growing a vegetable garden took us all away from the TV set, and caring for our first farm animals created a special bond with the land. They needed us, and we were getting so much from them in a surprisingly little amount of time. Farming became such an important part of educating our family it just took over as a part of our family philosophy. We also found it provided easy, natural, and inexpensive opportunities to integrate and get to know each other. We discovered a sense of freedom growing our own food. We even found relaxation and entertainment, too. Sustainability easily became part of our family’s backup and emergency plan for the future.
Phase 2: Let’s try increasing household income to compensate. We began homesteading as a result of me leaving my full-time job to homeschool our kids. At some point during the first couple years, or maybe throughout those first years, we had the intention of bringing in at least part of that previous income we now lacked, in some way or another. My husband thought about adding another part-time job to his already full-time job to make ends meet. We thought we needed more money. I also took an occasional part-time job, thus lessening the time I had available for the family and the homestead, all for just a couple more bucks. After some time, we realized that wasn’t the solution and we found an easier faster. Instead of bringing in more money, we have compensated through spending half of what we were. That is not as hard as you may think. You just do it. No new clothes unless it is strictly necessary. No cable TV. No expensive haircuts (I do them all for free, cool styles and everything). No brand names on anything. No air conditioning, clothes dryer, long showers, lights on in empty rooms, expensive phones, dining out, and the list goes on and on.
Phase 3: I can make money from this. Ok, so we were already committed to homesteading, and, with our spending under control, needed less money, which meant we did not have to worry about making ends meet. My husband’s salary was finally enough. Still, not more than we needed, but just enough. Yet, we were still looking for it, although in a more subtle and relaxed way. You can always find a use for money once you have it right? Well, that was still our mindset. By this time, the homestead was already unintentionally producing more than we could consume and I immediately thought about a business.
Nevertheless, the same issue arose each time. Once it began being a job outside homeschooling and farming, it became a burden and no longer served the purpose of leaving my full-time job in the first place. I ended up extremely tired and important things were left undone in the household, so, I stopped as soon as I began. That doesn’t mean I have stopped selling and making some cash here and there with our farming surplus, but it’s definitely not done as a steady, serious business. Making homemade goodies is something I deeply enjoy, though, and it does work as a savings account for family vacation trips and the rare dinner out.
Yes, I know money is important. But yes, I will say it… I also think it’s overrated.
Once savings and the necessary money-related issues (hey, really necessary ones) have been covered—that is to say safety nets and health-related expenses (I have yet to find a doctor that would get a couple pounds of rabbit meat for a visit)—money has pretty much served its purpose for us.
So, where are we right now?
Phase 4: Less is more. We aren’t wanting more money than we really need anymore. And we need it less. We now want to maintain, increase, and improve our newest found wealth: the quality of life homesteading provides. For us, that means the money we spend on what we now see as unnecessary luxuries will have to be taken out of the equation. We are giving up on those for more time and freedom to homestead.
That is scary… but also exciting! And please don’t forget this is just a plan. We don’t know if it will work, but we have hope it does. Our first step towards our Phase 4 goal is that we will go “tiny” on the housing front. After considering this for around two years now, we have decided to build a tiny house and pay a fourth of what we pay now for housing. This project will include expert advice, the work of our hands, and all possible considerations to make our living as sustainable as possible. We hope we can share this project every step of the way with you, too.
Also, a great shift in our family’s diet awaits us. In my opinion, this is scarier and harder than moving to a tiny house will be. Our homestead produces all the meat we need, goat milk, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and carbs/starches like sweet potatoes, cassava, plantains, yautia, and taro root. The problem is, we are still consuming most of our food from the grocery store. That’s what we learned to eat and are used to. Although we also eat what we produce, we still need this chunk of money because we haven’t given up on our store-bought diet. In this case, less being more means we need to reduce the variety in our diet.
We really don’t need to eat all the rice, beans, cereals, pasta, or the canned and boxed stuff we are eating in addition to what we produce. We are doing it because we are used to doing it. Of course, we will not eliminate it all, but some consumption changes will take place.
There are some expenses, though, we want to leave untouched. Some decisions we make are for our lives and we don’t want to affect our children’s ability to make their own decisions in regards to their future. We live on a small piece of land where very few people do what we do. It is not like in other countries where you can get to a community of people that live like you, and, as a result, have a sense of belonging. Here, we volunteer in various community organizations, attend church, Boy Scout meetings, soccer practice, and music lessons with people that really love our family but would never truly understand the way we live. Many of them appreciate and “admire” what we do, but would not do it in a million years. Who would want a smaller house, or to give up TV, or canned food? Nonetheless, the money we spend on those activities will stay. Right now, my husband and I don’t have a group of people with whom to share this lifestyle and we are fine with it. Yet, we want our kids to experience both sides and make their own lifestyle choices as adults. We believe they are still developing the skills they will need in case they decide to go off on a different route than ours as adults. Had I been exposed to this lifestyle as a young child, I would have chosen it a lot earlier than I did. Thus, we want the same for the boys.
In the meantime, they get to experience and enjoy their family’s newfound fortune. With this new set of goals, we hope to build upon our wealth and those assets we really value, and leave money the tiny little space it deserves in our lives.