Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it.
1 Corinthians 7:21
A little exploratory search on the term “wage slavery” is interesting. If you have the time, you should give it a little bit of your time. A man that I admire very much and would love to meet someday, Herrick Kimball, wrote a deep and thought-provoking essay on his escape from wage slavery. I definitely recommend that you read that. This conversation would go deep into economic theory and application, which I would love to do, but for the sake of this particular post I’m going to move on . . .
While it’s difficult to admit, my husband and I are of the Millennial generation (albeit the earlier part of it). Stereotypes and misconceptions aside, this does mean that we’re the first generation in the history of our country that was projected to do worse economically than our parents; looking back over the past plus-fifteen years of adulthood and supporting ourselves and observing our peer-group, I can say this is true.
When I was growing up, my Dad was able to get an unskilled worker factory job with benefits for more than nearly all people our age have been able to find. Not only that, but most of us (not us, thankfully), are saddled with near-crippling student loan debt from following the advice we were all given in high school: a college degree will set you up better for life.
Not true, not true, not true.
But why is it not true? Because while real wages have been historically going down since the seventies, inflation and taxes have also been going up. Now we pay more for homes, cars, and all the “extras” that are apparently necessities at this time (cell phones, anyone? Our parents didn’t have them — ie, pay hundreds of dollars a month for a “necessity”) while simultaneously making less — spending our lives “going backwards,” as economist Richard Maybury says.
We’ve experienced it. And yes, while we have made the choice in the past several years for one parent to be home (me), up until the (when???) that was a normal scenario. It wasn’t until the seventies that the economy changed to require two parents to work to “get ahead,” and those that choose family over getting ahead are really just getting farther behind.
Many economists are saying that the only way off this wheel in a government-controlled economy (yes, ours) is entrepreneurship. Coincidentally, that has always been a dream and a goal for both of us, albeit so hard to achieve; however, much time and consideration has allowed me to break down a huge goal into four achievable (by the grace of God) steps. There’s no order to them, for they can be accomplished at any time, but these are the four steps that I believe to be crucial to disembarking from the economic crazy train:
- Water and Power Independence
Readers of this blog will probably recognize the importance, as Jefferson did, of a piece of land for a free and independent people. With that being said, there’s not much freedom in having to pay “whatever” price for the power to live on that land — electricity to heat and run the well pump (no power=no water does not equal a sustainable equation). Since our power sources are not part of the free market economy, we’re subject to whatever prices the politics and economics determine.
Not only that, but anybody that’s lived in the country long enough will agree that having the power go out every time it storms is more than an inconvenience. It’s an expense, a liability, a PROBLEM. And for those of us on a budget, a very expensive gas-powered generator is not an option; building our own power generators is a little more our speed.
Several years ago Mr. Buckeye purchases the cd-rom from Power 4 Patriots with the manuals to build your own generators. We’ve not had the time, energy, or money to this point, but we have reordered our finances and priorities enough now that that situation is different. Since having a sustainable homestead that is not subject to the whims of politics or weather is much more a priority to us than it has been able to be so in years past, this is now on the table of projects we are intent on tackling soon.
2) Setting Up Shop
Per the economics of entrepreneurship making more sense than the employee/wage model, running our own business has always been on our burner; however, *life* (can anybody relate?) has made it so hard. The timing right now, though, with everything going on with society and the deterioration of Mr. Buckeye’s mental health, has pushed this step much higher up the list. We literally can’t afford to not invest in our own skillsets, because his job is becoming more and more of a liability than an asset.
For us, “setting up shop” means stewarding our already God-given abilities in order to model our lives in a way that makes more sense. Mr. Buckeye is extremely gifted in craftsmanship and mechanics, and I in writing (the blog is a humble representation, I admit). In the past ten years, we’ve not invested any money in stewarding these gifts, but now we are. For others, it may mean something different: stewarding different gifts, or looking at what the local economy needs and providing that. Our paths are different, and that’s good.
Case in point: we finally bought Mr. Buckeye a new lathe!
3) NO. MORE. DEBT
This has been a struggle many married couples have experienced: different approaches to money. Our marriage is no different. I am *good* with money, budgeting, and saving. He was not, and we procured a lot of debt over the years. It’s taken much time to get on the same page financially, but by God’s grace we’re still moving towards that end.
Mr. Money Mustache calls debt an emergency, and I agree. I hate it. Thankfully, we’ve paid off a lot in the past couple of years and are finally ready to put this step on the back burner for some of the other steps for a while. Of course, before we truly consider ourselves to be “free” this needs to be paid off, but Mr. Buckeye’s current mental health crisis and the state of society compels us to move it back a bit.
And finally, 4) Food Sustainability
We’ve lived on a homestead for over ten years and have always gardened and kept chickens, but never to a true sustainability level. For instance, we’ve never saved seed, we’re actually really terrible at starting plants from seed, we’re stuck paying whatever feed prices the government is charging for our livestock, and only have about a month’s worth of dry food in storage. So despite our “commitment” to homesteading, we’re in just as much trouble as city folks if/when the system goes down.
So there it is! I’ve put much thought into this over the years. The idea of establishing a sustainable homestead is pretty overwhelming, but I think these four steps cover the bases pretty well. Tackle any, then all, of them, and when the time is right and God wills we can all achieve a bit of the freedom that our early settlers intended.