Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
I graduated college as a shiny new bachelor of science in May of 2009. In March 2010, I got lucky and landed a pretty sweet job that was actually relevant to what I studied in school. It’s full time with benefits, even! Made my mom proud. Between those two important dates, I was kind of/partially employed and a real broke joke. I could barely pay my bills and afford to eat at the same time. When I did sleep, I dreamt of a real paycheck. A real job would make all the difference.
After many months of working my new big kid job, I was getting a little discouraged, even depressed! I still couldn't save any money to do all the exciting activities I saw my friends doing in pictures on Facebook. They were buying houses and going on cruises, getting nicer cars than the ones they drove in high school and college... I felt left out and immature.
This is no plea for pity. I don’t make terrible money, nor am I a shopaholic, or any -aholic for that matter. My problem is different; student loans. A gigantic pile of them, looming dreadfully over me each and every single month since my six month post-graduation grace period. Uncle Sam and Ms. Mae watch over my shoulder every time I go to a department store to just window shop, traverse down the road to the grocery store for bare necessities, or even buy a meager cup of coffee. They shake their greedy heads in disapproval so that I wince and cross my fingers every time I reach for my debit card in the checkout line.
After a long bout of severe in-home budget cuts, I still didn't save much money at all. Something would always pop up that I forgot to budget for; an extra tank of gas from driving too much, extra dog food in the winter because you keep the heat down so low, extra human food in the winter because you keep the heat down so low, beer because you're still cold, a birthday lunch with coworkers that you'd be considered a jerk if you didn't attend, etc. The whole thing was very discouraging.
One winter evening I sat down on the cold living room floor with my budget, a pen and paper. I really thought about all the things I paid for that a person could do without. Couldn't stop eating, and probably not the best idea to give up my cell phone. But internet, that could go. I didn't even get online that much at home anyway. Maybe I should just get rid of my computer altogether? And while I'm at it, why not just get rid of electricity, too? This digressed into "Who needs to live in a damned house anyway?!!" That was it, one of my biggest costs. I'd cut out my rent payments when the lease was over. But how? I recalled an article I had recently read about non-traditional and possibly debt-free structures in Mother Earth News a few months prior. Because I don’t own land, I couldn't build any structures, and I still have no idea where the wind will take me in a few years (presently a little commit-o-phobic). Yurts are awesome but there was no way for me to save up the 10k+ for one. They're astronomically priced for the tiny budget I've been awarded at this point in my life. Plus, I don't know how to build a deck. I’m just a girl, you know?
Wait… a tipi? Oh, duh! It's smaller and much different than what I've ever been used to, but it's very possible. After a fair bit of doodling, planning on paper, jotting numbers and figures and thinking really hard, I decided to purchase a tipi with my next year's tax return.
And live in it.