Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How to Become More Self-Sufficient

As most of you know, this site is about taking control of your own life and reducing your reliance on people you don't even know. There are a few things we all use in our daily lives, such as shelter and a place to put our belongings, transportation to and from all the places we need to go, communication with the outside world, and energy to heat and cool our homes and power all the appliances that make our lives easier.

Our lives hold the possibility of being so much easier than that of prior generations, because of cheap technology that has removed a lot of the drudgery of life; and because we have been blessed with so much wealth that even one who works part-time at a minimum wage job can live in greater luxury than all but the very richest people only 100 years ago.
But it doesn't seem that way from the inside.

The problem is, with the growth of wealth and cheap technology has come an exponential growth of leeches draining off that wealth, to the point that it has become more difficult than ever to survive. Homes, for example. The price of a house is artificially inflated. When a house is built, every person who so much as drove past the house in an official capacity got a cut of the profits. Every penny that was spent in producing that home was taxed at least twice, and every bit of work done on the house was permitted (money), inspected (more money), and finally added to the property tax assessment (even more money, paid annually). The housing market is inflated to cover these expenses and taxes. If you buy a preexisting house, you don't pay for just the house and land; you are also paying for all those permits and inspections, the painter or brickman screwing up and having to go back and fix it, the profit made by the builder, etc. When someone sells a house in good condition, they usually get back at least what they originally paid for the house, and maybe even the taxes, maintenance and improvements they have made on the house. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, just that there are ways to avoid a large percentage of those money drains by building your own home and doing as much of the work as possible yourself. Even better if you can do so in a cheap area with few restrictions and taxes.

Utilities are as bad if not worse. When you buy public utilities, you pay all kinds of taxes, and probably additional "services" that you don't want or need, but that are required in order to receive the basic utilities you do need. Examples: you would rather have a well and septic tank, but you can't get public electrical service unless you also buy water service, and then you also get charged for sewer service whether you use it or not. There is also a good chance that you will be charged for trash pickup, even if you never use that service, because it is automatically added to your utility bill. And then there are all the taxes and fees which are added on. The only way to get away from all this is to provide your own utilities.

Almost everything else we do in life is similar; a bunch of leeches draining away our lifeblood to provide a few services that we could provide for ourselves. Today's technology is just as available to those who wish to live a self sufficient, diy lifestyle, as it is to those who just shell out money to the established networks to provide it. Maybe even more so.

Here is a link to more information about becoming more self reliant.


Don said...

We are also buying MUCH more than we need. RV owners may live in 400 sq ft but a house is likely three times that size. Thus materials, heating, cooling, taxing, whatever is multiplied.

I admire people who are leading the way to smaller and more efficient homes.

Nan said...

"3 times that size"? Oh, Don, you poor naive person. The average square footage on new construction now is well over 3,000 square feet. The American public has been sold on the consumerist lifestyle: bigger is better, every house has to have half a dozen rooms that will probably never be used, including front room, formal dining, home office, family room, "media" room (a tv in the front room just doesn't cut it these days), play room for the kids in addition to the family room, and so on. You no longer have a master bedroom -- it's now a "master suite" with enough square footage to land a 747 . . . and all built using the cheapest, crappiest materials possible because the average buyer is too ignorant to realize the crown molding they're gushing over is plastic or the "granite" countertop is a composite. I will confess to an addiction to HGTV and am perpetually amazed/amused when watching "House Hunters" by the buyers who have decided that a four-bedroom ranch just isn't big enough for a couple with one kid and a dog. Most people aren't capable of going as self-sufficient as Tracy and many other readers of this blog see as an ideal, but just stepping back and being a little less materialistic and addicted to stuff strikes me as a good idea for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a 3500 sq ft home. Married and moved into a 790 sq ft home. For years complained ti was "too small" didn't have enough room for all my "stuff" Been here 13 years now and finally 5 years ago realized that the problem was I had too much "stuff" (aka junk). I found this blog because next week we are moving into a rolling 32ft travel trailer and are amazed at how much room we have and how much more "stuff" we are able to do without.

Tracy said...

Congats on making the break!