Consumerism Vs Self-Sufficiency: There Is Only One Logical Choice
Let’s Begin with Two Definitions
For the purpose of clarification, we will begin this article with two definitions.
Consumerism: the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable; also : a preoccupation with and an inclination toward the buying of consumer goods.
Self-sufficiency: The term self-sufficiency is usually applied to varieties of sustainable living in which nothing is consumed outside of what is produced by the self-sufficient individuals.
As you can see, these two theories are mutually exclusive when their definitions are strictly applied.
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Let Me Ask You a Question
If you lost your sole source of income tomorrow, how long would you be able to pay your current bills? How long could you pay your mortgage payment? How long could you pay utilities? How long would you be able to pay for food?
It is estimated that nearly one-third of Americans are one paycheck away from homelessness. Think about that for a second and then ask yourself if you are one of those 100 million people.
A good friend of mine wrote to me recently and told me that his wife, who had worked for the same hospital for 32 years, arrived at work on a Friday and was given her termination notice along with 22 other staff members. 32 years and gone in one day! Could that happen to you in today’s current economic climate?
If the answer to that question is yes then you have some things to consider.
A main problem in today’s society is that most people are reactionary. They will blithely go about their lives, consuming goods, working long hours to pay for those goods, hoping that catastrophe doesn’t hit, and when it does hit they scramble to find a solution. Instead of being proactive and taking steps to minimize the financial risks, they continue on with the current financial path even though it is a crap shoot at best.
But it does not have to be that way. The madness can end, but it requires a massive change in the way people think.
Let’s think logically for one moment. If your dead end job cannot pay for your consumption, then you only have two choices: you either have to get a higher-paying job (or a second job) or you must cut back on your consumption.
Are you with me so far? Is there another option I have failed to see?
Where Your Money Goes
According to the latest statistics, the average American household spending breaks down like this:
- 13% food
- 34% housing
- 4% clothing
- 16% transportation
- 7% healthcare
- 5% entertainment
- 11% insurance and pension
- 10% miscellaneous
Naturally a break down of your expenditures might look differently; these are simply averages based on the entire population of the United States. So where do we find more money? Our basic needs must be met, right? Food, clothing, shelter, those are things that we must have to survive. In fact, from those statistics above, most people would say the only thing that is not necessary is entertainment but man alive, we all need a break from the grind, so a movie once a month is not asking too much, is it?
Where Do We Find More Money?
Well, if you are Houdini then you just pull it out of the air. If you are the average American family, then you start looking for a second job. Of course, a problem with this approach is that you will have less time for family and friends; another problem is that once you have more money you will spend more because, well, that’s what consumerism is all about.
I am going slowly and taking this one small step at a time because I really don’t want to lose any of you. The main point is this: if making more money is unlikely, and you are rapidly sinking like the Titanic, then you need to change your spending habits. You need to gradually move away from consumerism and towards self-sufficiency.
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Here’s What It Looks Like
Take a look again at the spending percentages up above. If you are spending 13% of your income on food, then self-sufficiency says you should start growing food and stop buying it at the grocery store.
If you are spending 34% of your income on housing costs, then self-sufficiency says you should live in a smaller home, learn how to do repairs yourself, and cut down on utility bills by a variety of ways.
If you are spending 4% of your income on clothing then self-sufficiency says you should learn to make your own clothes, mend your own clothes, or find cheaper clothes at the Goodwill.
If you are spending 6% of your income on transportation, then self-sufficiency says you should either find a cheaper form of transportation or learn to do your vehicle repairs yourself.
And if you are a smoker or a drinker and you spend part of your much-needed income on booze and cigarettes, self-sufficiency says get a grip on reality! (not really but it was fun to write that)
And on and on we go! Get the picture yet?
But I Don’t Have Time for That Nonsense?
And this is where consumerism really becomes nutso! People work more, work harder, spend less time with loved ones, spend more and then get up the next morning and do it all again, all to pay for……stuff!
The average home in the United States in 1950 had 983 square feet. The average home in the United States in 2010 had 2,400 square feet. In 1950, the average family household had 2.9 people; in 2010 it had 2.6 people. Now could anyone tell me why, if the family size has decreased, the average home size increased?
Why do families need more living space today than they did in 1950? There is no logical reason; the simple fact is that they don’t need more room but they do want it, so they are willing to pay for it, and pay for it, and pay for it.
Why does the average American shudder at the thought of fixing their washing machine themselves, or break out in a cold sweat at the thought of doing their own car repair? Their parents and grandparents did those things in 1950; why can’t their children? Well, again, it isn’t a matter of can’t; it is a matter of won’t.
But I don’t have time for that self-sufficiency nonsense! Well, from where I am sitting, you can’t afford not to find the time.
It Does Not Have to Be All or Nothing
I understand. I really do. There are certain conveniences that even I am not willing to give up….yet. However, the time for backwards, reactionary thinking in this country is over. It is time for citizens of this once-great country to get proactive, and self-sufficiency is the poster child of proactive living.
You do not have to homestead in the wilds of Alaska to begin a self-sufficient lifestyle. Start small and build. Raise your own vegetables. Learn to do some repairs yourself. Mend your clothes. Cut down on utilities during the summer by drying laundry outside. Little actions add up to big savings. I have no doubt that I could walk into your home, observe your lifestyle, and save any of you 10% on your expenses the first year…..but would you be willing to do what is necessary? That, my friends, is the question.
- Leaving The Rat Race For A Simple Life
Saying goodbye to an old way of living is a lifestyle choice. Social issues like unemployment and debt can be guarded against but it takes a conscious decision and willingness to change.
Yes, I Live What I Preach
Four years ago I quit a teaching job that paid $60,000 per year. Today I work for myself and make $20,000. I want for nothing. All of my needs are met.
In the span of fifty years we went from being a country where most households practiced at least some self-sufficiency to a country where most family members cannot even spell self-sufficiency.
It is time to reverse that trend!
Are you willing to try?
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)