[Archived copy of this original post]
There is a deep and important relationship between economics, self-sufficiency and sustainability. Learning about this relationship is critical to a brave new life philosophy. There are hundreds of books and blogs on each, but you will rarely see all three linked together. Their interrelationship is the reason why I chose to make them one basic principle.
It is very important to connect them together. Connect them in unison, let one support the other and become a philosophy. Some life decisions are difficult when you think of only one, but become very easy and obvious when all three support the same decision. And often all three support one decision.
Part 1 – Economy
Thrift, for most people, is a means to an end. For some (those who aren’t looking for a brave new life), this is a way to save money on things so you can spend it elsewhere.
Hey, if I cut the coupons and stopped drinking my $4 a day vanilla mocha latte with soy milk, I could save it on a Caribbean cruise (because I deserve it!).
This is not the savings I’m talking about.
For the BNL type, economics is a means to an end to achieving financial freedom. Financial freedom gives you freedom from doing things you don’t like, like sitting in a cabin on a beautiful sunny day. Anyone who is financially free can make personal decisions that make them happy and fulfilling.
Part Two – Self-Sufficiency
Self-sufficiency is the state of not seeking outside help in order to survive. But by “self-sufficiency” I don’t mean that you need to move to Walden pond, cut wood, and eat only what you catch or collect. (Although this sounds like a nice week’s vacation.) Instead, the self-sufficiency I’m suggesting is a group state made up of your family, friends, and community.
There are two ways to increase self-sufficiency:
1. Increase knowledge in every area of your life
Increased knowledge can be achieved by using books, the Internet, knowledge of friends and experimentation. Since I made the decision to become more self-sufficient, I’ve used all 4 of these in the past year. I read books on private money lending, attend free seminars to learn to make money independently of the job. I had a neighbor teach me how to tune my bike, which I had never done before. I used a website to learn how to diagnose a broken oven, and a youtube video to see how to replace a faulty oven igniter. All of these things led to an increased knowledge base and more self-sufficiency. This increased knowledge is so addictive, it becomes fun to do things on your own. In each of the examples I just gave, you’ve also saved quite a bit of money – and linked us back to the economy.
Now let’s explore this form of self-sufficiency with a hypothetical example. It’s below freezing outside, it’s snowing, and your oven is crashing. (This is not that assumption, it happened to me a couple of months ago). You can call an expert to attend, but the fee will be $200, and they can’t attend until Monday (Saturday), and the temperature in your house drops 3 degrees an hour. So you have to book a hotel for 2 days, pack the kids, and leave. Total cost is $400, 2 sleepless nights in a cramped hotel room with 2 kids, no knowledge gained.
Alternatively, you can go online and start diagnosing the problem. I found that your furnace does not have a pilot light, but instead uses a silicon carbide igniter – and you see that it does not ignite. According to the extensive knowledge of the internet, this means that it is either not getting the voltage input it needs, or it has gone bad. So you take out your voltmeter and measure the voltage which seems fine. Go back online, and learn that your igniter costs just $25 at a local HVAC store, and it can be replaced in minutes. Total cost: $25, 2 hours of work/research, 2 good nights of sleep, new knowledge about how your oven works, and a bit of self-esteem pride.
2. Reduce the complexity and quantity of what you need and want
The second way to increase self-sufficiency is to reduce the complexity and quantity of what you need and have. For example, why have a toaster that breaks at the end when you could instead use the grill in your oven? A toaster is just another thing that can break. Why have a complicated and noisy game for your kids when they are equally happy with play dough, crayons and some papers? Why own two cars when you can own a car and a bike? Again, in each of the above examples, you not only increase self-sufficiency but also increase economy.
Let’s once again explore a hypothetical example. Let’s say you own a Ferrari and your Ferrari is breaking down. This is a complex vehicle with a lot of foreign parts that would have to be ordered by a highly charged specialist. This is not self sufficient.
Now suppose you own a Ford Focus and focus is lowering. You may not know how to fix it, but you likely have a neighbor or friend who can help you get started. That would be self sufficient. Or maybe you don’t have anyone who knows how, but there are 10 mechanics within a 5-mile radius who can easily maintain a car. This is at least approaching self-sufficiency, and I did so by having a less complex product to meet your transportation needs.
Now let’s say you’ve decided to move somewhere closer to work and buy a nice bike. But your bike goes down, the chain goes off. Even if you’ve never repaired or replaced a string before, you’re one YouTube video, 20 minutes of work, and a $7 tool away from fixing it. This is self-sufficiency.
Once you start embracing self-sufficiency, you will realize that simple mechanical tools are preferred over complex ones. It is preferable to use a bike over a car. A manual pulley lawn mower is preferred over a self-propelled gas powered mower (which is still preferred over a riding tractor). A toaster is just another thing that can break.
The final advantage of being self-sufficient is that it saves money, and reduces your time in financial freedom and retirement, giving you more time to become self-sufficient. It’s a great positive feedback loop.
Part 3 – Sustainability
The Iroquois had what they called the Great Law of the Iroquois, now referred to as Seven generations of sustainability. Basically, it goes like this: “Do what you think will benefit your children seven generations down the road.” This is how I define sustainability.
Example: Planting a tree is good, cutting one down to make a parking lot is bad. Patching a hole in your bike tire is a good thing, buying a new one is bad.
Taking on this philosophy is a huge burden, but it is an important one. The unsustainable lifestyles common in the industrialized world mean that for every unsustainable action you take, you take away from your children and grandchildren. When we run out of oil, when we pollute the water, when we use limited resources for our pleasure, we take it literally. *
When we talk about saving, we are referring to spending cuts. Sometimes this is hard, even for me. Sometimes I want to drive to the store when I know I can walk or cycle. Sometimes I want to buy a new laptop, when the current one is working fine. Sometimes simply being frugal isn’t enough to stay on track for early retirement — and in these cases you need a commitment to sustainability to help you with that.
When I think of driving to the store, I think of the great Iroquois law. And I guess, would burning more oil (something that will likely go away in 7 generations) be good or bad for my children, their children, etc.? Or is it better for me to provide this limited energy to them, while also improving my health?
Would it be better for my ‘kids’ to patch this bike tube, or should I pull more resources out of the ground to make a new one?
It’s amazing how thrift, self-sufficiency, and sustainability line up once you start putting these things together. This close connection is the reason why some popular topics appear in books and websites (ERE, MMM, etc.).
- Riding a bike instead of driving
- Learn to cook healthy, simple foods from scratch (beans, rice, etc.), instead of processed foods
- Fix things instead of buying new things
All three of these examples are acts of thrift, self-sufficiency and sustainability. (Note: they’re all healthier too, which is a common by-product.)
Now your list is filled.
You will now notice that the pieces are starting to come together, and that support to each other.
So far, we have three sources of happiness –
- Active/healthy mind
- financial freedom
- A sound conscience.
financial freedom Supported directly and indirectly by the four contributing principles –
- Reject lifestyle hypertrophy
- A sustainable lifestyle.