While it feels like I’ve been on a life journey for self-reliance out of necessity, it’s also both practical and hugely beneficial. As we watch what is happening in Ukraine and Russia, and pay attention to the cost of inflation in the US, it’s not so far-fetched to think about what could happen if we had no access to our money, the power grid was hacked, or food became so cost-prohibitive we had no choice but to grow our own. I don’t like to live in fear but that doesn’t preclude me from wanting to be prepared. And that’s what self-reliance is – being prepared for whatever comes your way.
When I was a kid, I used to practice for all types of calamities so I’d be more prepared for life (we can unpack that another day). One experiment I did was to pretend my right arm was broken just so I’d be prepared if that ever happened. I never did break my right arm but practicing this helped me be a better basketball player (shooting and playing with both hands) and to this day, I eat left-handed. So, hey, I’m still prepared just in case.
This blog post isn’t about pretending to break a limb though. It’s about being prepared for an emergency situation as much as you can. If you are just starting your journey to self-reliance, here are just a few tips to get you started (or to help continue your journey).
1. Where’s Your Head?
As is the case with everything, it starts with your mind. You have to believe you can learn the skills you don’t have today. This requires the confidence that you can start a fire, grow a garden, learn food storage, live by candlelight, and shit in the woods. People don’t acquire that confidence overnight. You acquire that mindset by attempting small tasks and having success. Spend one evening or a weekend living by candlelight. Turn off your electronics for the day. Grow some lettuce indoors. Just do something that will help you to be a little more self-sufficient. And then build on that. Over and over again.
2. Eliminate Debt
One of the best things you can do to become self-sufficient is to commit to getting out of debt (and staying there). The last thing you need is for a bank to go under and call your loan to be paid in full immediately. Believe me, I worked for the FDIC during the banking crisis in the 1980s and it was not pretty. Pay off all your consumer debt and go cash. You can’t be self-sufficient if you are dependent on everyone else’s money!
Related Article: 5 Steps Toward Financial Freedom
Related Article: 13 Tips to Help You Save Money and/or Get Out of Debt
There are a variety of ways to approach getting out of debt. But really it starts with just two very simple tasks.
- Quit spending so much. If you just cut back on your daily afternoon Coke or Coffee to 5 days a week instead of seven, that’ll save you $6-$12 per week (depending on size, etc.). If I average that to $10, that’s $520 per year. It doesn’t sound like much but you can still do a lot with $520 per year. Do this in every part of your life – stop and think before you purchase.
- Take that $10 per week and pay down one of your debts. You’d be amazed how much $40 per month paid directly on principal will impact a debt.
3. Strength Training & Cardio
This is going to sound strange but staying healthy is paramount to self-sufficiency. If you don’t have the physical stamina to haul wood for a fire, hike a few miles, climb, or lift objects, it’s difficult to be self-sufficient. Maintain your health by staying as fit as possible and continuing to strength training for your entire life. If you routinely use your muscles (like on a daily basis) doing manual labor, there is no reason to invest in a set of weights or gym membership. But if you spend most of your time on a computer, get some exercise every day!
Here are a few tests regarding your strength and flexibility to see if you need to up your fitness.
- Can you do 25 sit-ups and 25 push-ups?
- Can you get off the floor without using your hands?
- Can you walk five miles without being winded?
Related Article: My First 10 Mile Bike Ride
4. Grow Your Own Food
One of the best ways to be self-sufficient is to grow your own food. Again, start small if necessary. A packet of 50 seeds or virtually any vegetable will cost you $3.00. Let’s just take bell peppers as an example. If half of those 50 seeds germinate, that’s 25 plants. You can count on at least 5 peppers per plant. In the store, two bell peppers would cost more than the entire package of seeds.
If you are interested in growing your own food, start with this article: How To Grow Your Own Food – The Basics
5. Voraciaously Learn How to Do Things
One of the best things you can do to become more self-sufficient is to learn how to do things for yourself. You can learn by reading books, watching videos, asking people, and just paying attention to what others are doing. Just a few topics to have in your arsenal of information might include:
- Money management
- Growing food
- Hand tools and how to use
- DIY topics
- Food storage
- Energy – how to install and use wind, solar, water, etc.
I’ve curated a library of books on My Amazon Storefront. Feel free to look there and see if there is anything that piques your interest.
Just start small. Find a few blogs that show you how to do the things you want to do. Get a first aid kit and make sure it stays stocked. Make sure you have a good flashlight in the house and plenty of batteries. Don’t let the fear cause you to go into debt to buy a bunch of stuff you may never use but also start to pay attention and find small ways to add to your self-sufficiency. You can start to make a list and ask for items for birthdays and Christmas that can be added to your supply. Or you can visit second-hand stores, yard sales, etc. periodically for needed items.