7 Self Sufficiency Strategies

Source: Sean MacEntee on Flickr.

In my pursuit of the Minimalist Lifestyle, I’ve been convinced that complete self sufficiency is the highest degree of freedom. Self sufficiency can be achieved in many different ways, and even though I’ve personally decided on a homestead/freelancing-small business hybrid, I’ve written this list of self sufficiency options and strategies other people might want to consider:

1.  Homesteading

If you like the idea of having a small farm or ranch, homesteading may be your best option. Because you raise all of your own food, you become self sufficient in that category of expenses, and surplus can be sold for a profit. Some people like to pursue the extremes on both sides of the coin (no civilization/technology or highly advanced machinery and technology), but most like to find a comfortable niche somewhere between the two. The next two strategies are extreme forms of homesteading, one focusing on the bare essentials and elimination of the oppression of civilization, and the other harnessing the power of civilization for the owner’s benefit (and hopefully everyone else’s too.

2. Living off the Land

This is usually only accomplished by people with severe reclusive behavior, but if you live in a small town or village where your friends won’t look down on you for eating squirrel or smelling like deer urine, you may like to pursue this option. I personally love the idea, but my wife would never go for it, and in all reality, Wi-Fi is an absolute necessity for me. But if you have the ability to hunt, fish, and/or garden, in many areas it’s easy to find a small patch of land for under a $1000, and nice Tipi or Yurt can be bought on the cheap as well.

An option that may seem more feasible to some is the development of a permaculture garden, especially in a climate that stays warm year-round.

3. The Estate/Plantation Model

Estates and plantations have some very negative aristocratic/racist connotations attached to them, but they’re worth exploring. In countries where working as a part of a commune for food and shelter is an acceptable practice, you could build a self sufficient estate for a relatively low cost of operation. Even in America many people like to experiment with self sustained communities – if you buy the land and shelter, many people would volunteer to work on the garden/farm for free in exchange for their fair share of the produce, and many would even live there and take care of everything without pay as long as they get enough food and shelter from the “estate”. The main problem is the initial expense of buying land and shelter, and someone would have to be able to sell the surplus to cover living expenses.

4. The Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship requires a stronger stomach for risk than most people have. Even if you don’t like taking risks, you can still be an entrepreneur if you can conquer the safety addiction most of us have developed. In a broad sense, this strategy focuses on business innovation to make money. If the amount of money you make outweighs your expenses, you’re basically self sufficient, although the less expenses you have, and more money you have, the more self sufficient you are. The follwing options typically involve some form of entrepreneurship, or at least the guts of one ;).

5. The Nomad

This approach requires a dedication to travel and a strong counter-culture mindset. You won’t have a house, or many assets, at least in the beginning. A nomad has to have at least one strong trade that can be utilized anywhere. Most occupations won’t work, because employment typically requires a degree of commitment (although I have read about 1st world nomads who rely on temporary and short term jobs). The best options are the trades/careers that can be pursued on a freelance basis:

  • Although I’m not currently a nomad, my trade as a freelance writer is very compatible.
  • Gypsies are usually great salesmen – if you are gifted in sales, you have a skill that is very compatible with the nomadic lifestyle.
  • Photographers
  • Artists
  • Writers
  • Webmasters
  • Bloggers
  • Website designers
  • App-Developers
  • Tech-support

There’s many different options, and the more resourceful you are, the more options you’ll have.

6. The Frugal Entrepreneur

This option is a hybrid plan that can allow a person to free up time and become self sufficient through the cutting of expenses and a part time small business. This strategy calls for a tight budget; low spending and bargain hunting. Although it’s possible eliminate shopping expenses and even make money off of “couponing”, this option won’t be around long as grocery stores catch on. Although a minimalist budget can cut costs down to a minimum, there’s still expenses, so you’ll need a small part-time operation to cover the expenses that are inevitable. Many people are pursuing the automated business that entrepreneurs like Tim Ferris recommend.

7. Becoming Independently Wealthy

This is something of a “Holy Grail” for many people who are pursuing self sufficiency. The core of independent wealth is passive income – cash inflow from investments, whether real estate, stocks, mutual funds, bonds, or a retirement account (for the retired individual of course). If you’re able to set up an automated business, or any business that can function well without you being a part of it, the cash-flow from that business would be considered passive income.

When your passive income exceeds your expenses, or you’ve accumulated such a substantial chunk of change that you can live off of it without working for the rest of your life, you’ve become independently wealthy. This is one of my highest goals in my minimalist journey.

Clearly, if you drastically reduce or eliminate your expenses, you won’t need a huge source of passive income, so this may be the most feasible approach to start out with. As your ability to increase your passive income increases, you gain more and more self sufficiency and freedom.

Final Thoughts

As these 7 strategies show, there’s many avenues and options you can pursue with self sufficiency as the final destination. The question I’ve found is the most effective question is not which option is the quickest way, or the most beneficial overall.

The question to ask is “Which strategy aligns best with my goals and desires?”

If you love to travel, and don’t have the ability to set up an autonomous homestead, homesteading may not be the best option for you. If you love your career, but that career requires you to stay in one location like most careers do, becoming a nomad would be a very poor choice, but finding ways to invest into assets that generate passive income is a good choice.

Although attaining self sufficiency can be a long and arduous process, the benefits outweigh the costs by far, and I’m not the only one who understands this. Many prominent and successful historical figures pursued self sufficiency as if it were their life goal. For Thomas Jefferson it certainly was, as I learned in my research of his approach to self sufficient living. Read more about “Thomas Jefferson’s Approach to Self Sufficient Living”.

Hopefully this information can get you off to a good start in your road to self sufficiency!

-Josh

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