Why Be Self-Sufficient?
Do you just wake up one day and say "I'm going to change my lifestyle and become self-sufficient”
Maybe it's the way you are raised, maybe you're born with it (cue Maybelline music!).
Not me! I grew up frugal and self-sufficient by default. When you don't have the money you don't spend it, simple really.
Lucky for me I worked my arse off to get a good job. My hatred of paying interest meant I only had a small credit card. Tracking along in life, I bought and sold a few houses. Doing pretty good all things considered.
Good job, pays well, not silly with money..... suddenly the world is crashing down and I'm wondering where my 2 kids and I will live!
It's the scariest thing I've experienced, and I've been in some pretty hairy situations. I lived in Papua New Guinea during the Sandline Crisis, I travelled through Nepal against government warnings, and I backpacked around the UK and Europe as a single female, which was actually a lot of fun, even after watching the horror movie Hostel.
I would not advise you to watch that before travelling solo.
What Went Wrong
Great question. I was living above my means is the short answer, the long answer is very complex, but involves me being too tired to be fully aware of what was going on around me.
I think parents of small children would understand the fogginess. Shift workers would also have a pretty good understanding of that same level of confusion.
My blinkers were on due to long hours, lack of sleep and me just working my arse off to pay for everything. Not really living, just existing.
My relationship dissolved, I actually thought the father of my kids was having an affair! It was an affair of sorts, but it was with a poker machine. It’s his story to tell not mine but I will say any addiction will destroy a family, and until the addicted person chooses to stop they will never stop completely. For those around them, they can either be 'enablers' or they have to walk away.
I Walked... Well Not Really
I asked him to leave and get help. I was the primary breadwinner, so I figured I should stay in the house and care for the kids while he got help. But it was the beginning of the end of our relationship.
So, I did what most single parents do in that situation, head down bum up, work hard to forget and try just to cope.
Unfortunately, the lovely house I was living in was a house built for a dual-income family.
I had just gone to a single income with no savings.
Mortgage, childcare and car costs took the vast majority of my salary. Despite being paid higher than the national average, I was still f*$#ed!
We started to tighten the belt enormously! I had to keep a roof over the head of my kids, and that meant non-essentials stopped!
As I watched the bills start to pile up, I started to increase the number of direct debits going to these bills. I was trying to stay out of the deep water that was slowly drowning me.
Change Can Be A New Opportunity
Over the 2 years that I was financially drowning a few changes happened.
I was formally diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my work as a first responder.
I was very lucky that suicide has never been an option for me. My real issue is nightmares and lack of sleep. I am now technically in remission but I am aware of the dangers of relapse.
Secondly, I met my current partner, who I refer to as the Handy Helper. He was a separated dad of 3 who bonded with me over a love of motorbikes. We didn’t plan it, it just happened.
We are very lucky to have found each other and have an honest (sometimes too honest) relationship that allows us to talk openly about any topic. No secrets and no taboo subjects.
Thirdly, a workmate introduced me to the Barefoot Investor, Scott Pape. Not physically introduced me, although he would definitely be on my dream dinner party list. She told me to go and buy a copy of The Barefoot Investor book. It changed my life, thank you, Nicole.
Selling My Dream
Making the decision to sell my dream house that I had built myself was not made easily.
But having started my Barefoot Journey, I knew it was the right decision.
The house was also on a land rent block, an ACT government scam that is designed to allow low-income earners to get into a house sooner. It doesn’t work and just increases your debt each year.
I was devastated about the choice. As the sole provider for the kids, I needed to have a roof over their heads. But I also needed it to be one I could afford without me needing to do overtime to pay for it.
As stressful as selling a house is, this went smoothly. A fantastic real estate agent and the Handy Helper made the process less stressful.
A kind friend rented me her house while I placed all my belongings in storage and started searching the market.
Allhomes became my default page on my slow second-hand laptop.
First New Opportunity
The town I was renting a house in was some 50km away from where I had been living. It was cheap and this allowed me to increase my deposit for the next house. I had money from the sale but not enough for some fancy house in Canberra, way too expensive there. And given I wanted to reduce my liabilities to control my dependency on overtime from work I had to look further afield.
At this point, I sat down with the handy helper as my sounding board and made a note of what I wanted from life in the next 10 years.
Did I want to live in a small townhouse in one of Canberra's outer suburbs? Mind you, I wasn’t even sure I could afford that.
I wanted financial freedom! Not to retire, I actually enjoy working, but to be financially independent with my income. Working the 9-5 was not going to get me there at the ripe age of 45.
If I had been 20-something when I worked this out, it is more likely that the 9-5 with a small side-hustle would have been enough.
But the closer you get to retirement the quicker you need to act.
What was the first set for me to improve my chances of reduced dependence on my wage? Become more self-sufficient and need far less money to live.
This realisation changed my property searches to those with a bit more space. Room for chooks and a garden.
Mojo Homestead Mkl
I loved her as soon as I found her, 2 acres, a massive old farmhouse, a huge 3 bay shed, neglected but established fruit trees and a price tag that was very manageable for me on my own.
We moved in August 2017, and the handy helper stays there every second weekend with two of his kids as well.
At 3 years in we have a gorgeous Maremma bitch, 2 beehives, veggie gardens, fruit trees, 16 chooks, 2 milking goats and their 3 kids, and a sheep that is soon to be in the freezer.
I have learned to grow food, preserve food, make cheese, make soap and beekeeping. I have also hatched and raised chickens and helped birth goats. I have removed bee swarms and pruned fruit trees.
Our grocery bill is next to nothing and I trade eggs with friends and family. I also trade with others when we all have a glut of different things.
I started an Amazon selling business and have begun to dabble in shares.
And then something happened…….
Mojo Homestead Mkll
I had been banned from Allhomes by the Handy Helper but even his threats were not working. I had a taste for this life and wanted more. We had savings and we were doing well. But I wanted more land with more opportunities. Enter our final move.
I came across a listing for 120 acres closer to our major centre. Near a school bus stop and completely off-grid. Instead of a massive farmhouse, it had a tiny house!
But it was in the perfect location! In what I had referred to as the ‘Golden Triangle’ of where I would live if I could.
Could we move all of us to a tiny home just to have more land? What if they wanted too much? What if someone else got it? My head was spinning. Could we do it?
Yes, we could, and we did.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done, I don’t think I’ve ever been so stressed as seeing I was $950,000 in debt! But then the little farm sold and I could breathe again.
We’ve been 18 months on the “big farm” and have increased to 9 beehives, 20 chickens (and an egg mobile is being built as I type), 8 milking goats including a new purebred Anglo Nubian buck, 8 Angora goats and 4 horses.
It's not quite heaven but you can definitely see it from here.
I am not financially free yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
That light shows us eating and drinking our own produce (selling the excess), making our own fibre and crafts, not having to pay bills each week and enjoying the life around us.
It is physically hard work but it is so rewarding you actually stop seeing it as work.
Being semi-self-sufficient is the best thing that has ever happened to me. And it's driving me to become fully self-sufficient.
I hope that by seeing our journey you can begin your own and would love to have you along for the ride.
It made me realise my new aim in life is to help others live the lifestyle they choose and I want to teach everyone how to do it.
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