Mental Well Being: Why Live Off-Grid, Really?

Reader Contribution by Aur Beck and Advanced Energy Solutions Group
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My dad’s motto: “We can travel along a meaningless path or we can know that our only task is Recreate the Garden and love one another.”

Since I am now a “grown up” of 41 years of age, I sometimes forget the simple life I had growing up. I, too, in spite of my upbringing, have been known to be sucked into the treadmill that is modern society — the striving to keep up with the Joneses, the desire to have the latest and greatest doohickey or electronic, the working not for enjoyment but for money, the dream of when my debts are paid off, the willingness to go into debt for a vacation away from it all.

My dad had decided that instead of material wealth, he would provide us with their time (and somehow he convinced my mom to join him). I saw my dad’s social security earning statement and during my whole upbringing he never earned more that $6,500 dollars, which was the minimum required to file federal taxes. One of his reasons for not wanting to pay federal taxes was that half of the federal budget was going to finance war and, since he had seen war up close and personal, he didn’t want to finance it. In his first life, he had made it big with a house in Connecticut and one in Long Island. Dad never did things halfway, so he went to the other extreme for the second half of his life.

I remember as a youngster having my dad take me to his “work.” Whether it was working on someone’s farm or finish carpentry on someone’s house, I was welcome to spend time “helping” my dad.

Off-Grid Lessons from Mom and Dad

My mom taught me sewing, food storage and tons about medicinal herbs, which she learned from a Native American medicine man, Amoneeta, who I can proudly say called me grandson. My parents considered their full-time job to be our (us kids’) friends and mentors. 

As I briefly stated in the previous post, we did have bills but only if they would earn us money. We almost always had a basic workhorse truck and would have a telephone for earning money/business. The phone would only be on the hook 9am to 5pm for work calls.

To this day, I am extremely reluctant to sign anything that would cause me to have a long-term bill without it earning money. I don’t like to rent or lease equipment or houses but rather figure out work trade (for example I “rented” a house in St. Louis while doing a series of solar installs there one summer in exchange for rewiring parts of their house), or buy outright instead of rent (I paid cash for my truck and house).

A recent example is cell phone companies are now requiring you to buy a new cell phone with a monthly payment plan. There are a few choices: Do the payment plan if it is just the full price of the phone divided by, for example, 12 payments with no interest — but only do that if you have the full amount of money already set aside. Or, do like I did, and buy a used cell phone on the internet. I have done both. Either way, I wouldn’t be stuck with a regular bill and have to worry about the future.

Home Economy for Self-Sufficiency

My biggest regular expense is food as I like to eat. I don’t prep as, in my mind, that means buying for an emergency, but rather I stockpile as that means buying what I normally eat but buying enough for longer term use. I buy in bulk and I buy things that are good for long-term storage under all conditions. I buy rice, beans, legumes, flour, and sugar. I make sure I buy what I actually eat and rotate.

This makes me not dependent on a job to live. I cannot worry if I want a few weeks off to rest up, take time off, or if I don’t earn money for awhile. By doing this, it makes it so I don’t have to make future decisions based on whether I still need that job/income. But I don’t have extra money to do what you do, you say!

We all have money, but it is how we spend it that is hard to break free of. The “Living Off Grid, Really!?!?” mentality says: I will only spend money on things that will make money or make my life better long term.

• NO instant gratification — although, like a diet, it is OK to break this rule every once in awhile.

• Don’t eat out.

• Eat rice and beans. I cook them on Sundays and have them available as my meal base. I now love curried rice and lentils.

• Don’t buy things on credit.

Want lots of money? Figure out how to not have a car. Work from home or walk/bicycle to work. We traveled by wagon. 

This has starting to come across as dictating how you can simplify your life. Everyone has different ways. I do find it strange to talk to people who drive 45 minutes or an hour every day to work so they can pay for the car to get them there and the clothes they need for that job, and to pay for the huge house that they spend almost no time in except to sleep. Are you ready to decide that you will move closer to work (maybe even a walkable distance), live in a smaller place, and not have to work so hard?

Beginner’s Weekly Savings Plan

One of my favorite money savers is start on week 52 by putting $52 in a jar or savings account and each week put one dollar less. By starting with the higher number while you are enthusiastic you will save more. Even if you are like me and you quit towards the end of the year, I always do end up saving more than $1,000 dollars doing this.

Living simply makes it easier to not have bills, which leads to a greater ease of mind. Stress and worry about paying bills will and does kill us. Someone once said, “Live simply so you can simply live.”

I look forward everyday to the interactions I have on my Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Facebook page and hope you will join the discussion there. Stay energized.

Aur Beck has lived completely off-grid for over 35 years. He has traveled with his family through 24 states and 14,000 recorded miles by horse-drawn wagon. Aur is a presenter at The Climate Reality Project, a fellow addict at Oil Addicts Anonymous and a talk show cohost at WDBX Community Radio for Southern Illinois 91.1 FM. Find him on the Living Off Grid, Really!?!? Facebook page, and read all of Aur’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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