Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Click here to read Part 1 in this series.
In the military, we were taught combat first aid with these four life-saving steps: Stop the bleeding, start the breathing, protect the wound and treat for shock. I want to relate these life-saving steps to handling finances in preparing to homestead.
Stop the Bleeding
Most people, in our modern culture, believe the lie that tells us we need to build credit by working on our FICO score. Lots of strategies exist to improve scores over a certain amount without ever considering the purpose of the score. What is the purpose of having a good credit score? So you can borrow more money. How do you raise your credit score? Borrow more money. Do you see the pattern? The system desires that you stay in perpetual debt. Homesteading with a lot of debt is very prohibitive. It almost guarantees the requirement for an off-homestead job.
The first step is to stop the bleeding. Stop adding debt. This is a really important step. Stop making excuses, put the pressure bandage on the wound directly press down until it hurts. We need to stop calling things needs that are really wants. You need to make sacrifices. Take a hard look at yourself. Are you addicted to shopping? How much are you eating out? Most likely more than you think.
Have you subscribed to the lie that your kids will be deprived if they don’t have many different events to go to each week? If you have not done so, go back and read part 1 of this series. You need to unplug your family from the matrix. In order to stop adding debt you need to develop a budget. Yes, you need to have a written budget that accounts for every dollar you bring in to the household.
Start the Breathing
The second step is to start the breathing. Having money troubles and especially mountains of debt is extremely stressful and is literally health-impacting. The number one stressor in America? Money. Dave Ramsey’s first step in his highly successful book, A Total Money Makeover is to save a $1,000 fast. This does several things.
First, it helps to keep the bleeding from starting again. Second, it provides a small emergency fund to deal with the inevitable surprise expenses that will come. Third, by having this emergency fund the stress of money starts to ease up. Finally, it builds confidence and motivates you to continue to improve your financial situation.
Protect the Wound
The third step is to protect the wound. This part of the analogy is about eliminating debt. If you are lowering your debt aggressively the chances of the bleeding starting again become less and less. There are many different “get out of debt” programs that are beneficial. Find one program and ruthlessly execute the program.
My point here is not to promote any one program but to simply get out of debt. We also have to protect against infection. It is easy to get off track and lose sight of your goals. Don’t get infected! Build your immune system. Continue to develop healthy habits and shed unhealthy habits regarding finances.
We found that it was satisfying to implement the debt snowball plan. We eliminated our smallest debt first and then applied those monies to the next smallest debt and so on until we were debt free. If you have any particular problem area, for example eating out, then take an envelope and put cold hard cash in it, a monthly budgeted amount of course, and use the envelope to pay for it and when it is gone, it is gone.
Treat for Shock
The final live-saving step is to treat for shock. You’re not out of the woods yet. Don’t get complacent. Sometimes when getting out of debt is easy, for example, if someone comes into money through inheritance or cashes in a retirement account the vision, sometimes, doesn’t stick. Before you know it, you are falling into the same habit patterns that got you into trouble in the first place.
The problem is you are interested in improving your financial situation but not committed. You need to constantly monitor spending habits, the debt pay-off plan and ways of generating additional income.
Once debt is eliminated it’s time to start saving (beyond the emergency fund) for the prepared homestead life. Unfortunately, it still takes money to live a simple and prepared homestead life. Don’t make the mistake of becoming a minimalist in the financial realm.
It goes like this: if I live simply, I won’t need much money. Guess what? Everything takes longer and costs more than you anticipate. I admire minimalists but they still have expenses no matter how minimal they go. Start saving so that when you do get back to the land you will be able to hit the ground running.
Sean and Monica Mitzel homestead with their family on 40 acres and are using permaculture techniques and strategies for the property. The property will eventually become a demonstration and education site where they raise dairy goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, and ducks. The Mitzels have planted more then 50 productive trees and enjoy wildcrafting, propagating mushrooms, and raising and training livestock guardian dogs. Listen to The Courageous Life Podcast and to learn more about the Mitzels, visit The Prepared Homestead. Read all of their MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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