Here are some of our more radical money saving, life changing, planet-improving tips. Not only do we save money but we also save resources and live lives that are more connected to nature and our community.
Live electricity-free. Not only do we have no electric bill but we also don’t have all the gizmos that go along with electricity. No buying, replacing, or fixing of i-phones, laptops, appliances, flat screen TV’s, cable, internet…Without electricity we have started playing instruments, play board games with our family, make, use, and sell beeswax candles, get lots of great sleep (especially in the winter), and get up with the sun. We also spend lots of time outdoors, whatever the season. Our kids spend lot of time creating games, building things, drawing, helping with chores, running around outside, and generally using their imaginations and bodies. Without a TV and computer in the house we also avoid the bombardment of ads telling us what to buy and what to crave.
Live car-free (and fossil-fuel free at home). Again, no bills for lots of things like insurance (yuk!), gas, repairs, payments, oil changes…We bike for most of our needs thus getting exercise and seeing our neighborhood and city more closely at a slower speed. This also causes us to slow down in general since we can’t just zip around here and there burning gas buying stuff we don’t need made in sweatshops in China.
Scavenge! We tap into the waste streams of society. We use recycled materials for a huge portion of our building projects. We glean from schools, farms and markets, and food pantries (“expired food”) for animal feed. Clothing dishes, and the like are second hand or thrift. We also glean fruit for ourselves for cider, jams and preserves from city trees and nearby old orchards.
Unjob. We have given up careers and work piece-meal as we need money. This frees us up to garden, raise animals, get to know neighbors, bike for travel, play with friends, hike, make and share meals in our neighborhood community, do service. It also reduces our costs for job-related expenses like travel to and from work, work clothes, and beer at the end of the week so we can decompress. We also have less stress and are healthier. Unjobbing was essential to transforming our lives.
Create. We make a lot of what we need from natural materials – cob and earthen plasters for home improvements – and from what we harvest, grow, and collect. We buy no meat but raise rabbits and pigs. We create classes and workshops with great teachers for our community and ourselves furthering our growth as people and deepening community ties. We make low-tech (affordable and appropriate) systems for hot water, waste, heat (masonry heaters and solar wall heaters, for example), cooking (our stoven), growing through the winter with cold-frames and greenhouses, etc. We often build toys with our kids (they last wanted wooden battleships and crossbows!) and also make and sing music.
Share. We ask friends and neighbors to borrow tools, books, materials, cars or a pick-up truck when needed, to help with labor and so on. We also give what we have from seedlings to eggs to labor and expertise, to classes offered on the gift economy … to keep the loop intact. (six and a half): Cultivate Satisfaction with Having Less Stuff: We have put a fair amount of time in for reflection on the meaning of life. On spiritual pursuits. On knowing ourselves and what truly makes us happy. With this knowledge has comes some wisdom and some strength to pursue a more authentic path.
Our family of four on a half-acre in Reno, NV, lives abundantly on about $6,500 a year. With this lifestyle comes time for hobbies and interests, time for being with our children and time with my wife, time for play and rest, great health and great food, time to do lots of service, and deeper connection to nature and to our friends and neighbors. It’s been a great journey so far.