Quality of Life vs Standard of Living

It's not about the money. It's about the freedom.

While the quality of life is excellent out here in the country, sometimes it’s mighty quiet on the homestead. So, what does a homesteader contemplate while checking off the chores?  Surprisingly, I find myself thinking about economic and social unrest trends more than I would like.

quality of life

Yes, even as my fingers sift through the soil I wonder if the trend in terrorism and social unrest will escalate and if harsh economic times are ahead. In these moments, I feel comforted by the choice we made to opt out of the rat race. Very comforted.

Still, I can’t seem to kick the habit of keeping up with world events, including increasing violence and quality of life economic indicators.

From time to time I look at the real inflation trends. Not the government numbers that suggest 2-3%, but the ShadowStats numbers that calculate inflation the way it was before the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) changed its methods, making the Consumer Price Index appear low.

real inflation

Why would the government want inflation to appear lower than it actually is? As this Forbes article explains:

“The CPI is tied to the incomes of about 80 million Americans, specifically: Social Security beneficiaries, food stamp recipients, military and federal Civil Service retirees and survivors, and children on school lunch programs. The higher the CPI, the more money the government needs to spend on these income payments to keep pace with the cost of living. If the CPI is low, the less money the government needs to spend on cost of living adjustments.”

According to the methods employed by ShadowStats inflation is actually closer to 10% than 2%. And, while some economists dispute the ShadowStats methodology, most people don’t need a chart or a government spokesperson to tell them the effect of inflation.  We can discern this by looking at the cost of beef in the supermarket, or livestock feed on the farm. As many of you know, beef costs have really soared in recent years, making it difficult for many families to put quality food on the table.

beef price trend

Does Inflation Matter to a Homesteader?

For us, however, the truth is that inflation doesn’t have much of an impact on essential items.  We have plenty of livestock, to be sure, but mostly they eat grass, grubs or brush. That’s not only free food, but they mow the grass at the same time. That saves me the expense of purchasing a mower, not to mention the fuel, repairs and labor of mowing.  

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The chickens do get a feed ration, but, for the most part, we ask them to forage for grass and insects, a task they take to gleefully.  Sure, giving them little feed cuts down on egg production, but what do we care if the few eggs are essentially free?  No inflation there.

When we eat meat at home it’s from an animal that we raised and processed. Or it’s from fish or deer that we harvested from our property, meaning no expense for a hunting or fishing license. Again, meat for us is free unless it’s a cow and we pay a processing fee, but even then it turns out to be less than a dollar a pound for the organic grassfed beef that’s all the rage.

Our veggies used to cost a little bit as we had to buy seed, which is very cheap. And, of course, there was the upfront cost of building the raised beds. But now we save more and more of our seeds so the cost is nothing other than our labor.

pressure cannerFruits such as berries, grapes and apples cost a homesteader virtually nothing but time. The same is true with rough lumber and firewood that can be harvested from the homestead.

Even the canning of food costs little, once you get past the one-time cost of our indispensable and awesome pressure canner, canning jars and the nominal cost of the reusable canning lids. And if you take care of them the canning jars last a lifetime.

Can Low Standard of Living = High Quality of Life?

But…if you were to look at us through a different lens you may conclude that we don’t have a high standard of living.  Standard of living seems to be most often expressed in terms of tangible concepts, such as net worth, exclusivity of the country club you belong to, first-class travel, dining at trendy restaurants, how much your car costs or how much disposable income you have.

artisan cheese elberton blueAs time goes on I am increasingly a poor demographic target for retailers, a fact for which I am thankful.  Heck, in terms of income, I could barely even afford my own artisan cheese when I saw it in high-end supermarkets, what with all the mark-ups.

While I earn far less income than I once did, our ongoing expenses are also MUCH lower. Property taxes are dirt cheap in the country, and there’s no need to spend money on fancy clothes, expensive lunches or on filling the tank twice a week. So our “disposable” income hasn’t really decreased at all, but our quality of life has skyrocketed.

If we want to go out to dinner or a movie, we can. We could even take vacations if we wanted to get away, but our vacation choices now mimic our lifestyle. In the “old” days that meant trips to Vegas or a tropical island. Today it means camping and hiking, which costs very little.

We haven’t bought a new vehicle in over a decade and I can’t foresee ever buying a new vehicle again.  We just keep fixing the truck and making it go, which is just fine because with each passing year it seems we “go” less and less.  There’s no job for us to go to, little “need” to go to stores and no desire to sit in traffic. And when the truck stops going, we’ll find something used but dependable. After all, who do we have to impress?

And with all the senseless acts of violence, we have little desire to travel to densely-populated areas.

So, from a standard of living point of view, I guess I’m no Donald Trump…no Hillary Clinton.

And that’s a good thing.

What is Quality of Life?

I don’t care about the measure of standard of living…I care about the quality of life, which is defined much more intangibly.

To me, qualify of life means…

Wait…hold on for just a moment.

quality of lifeSorry. My four-year-old daughter just barged in from the next room, having the nerve to want a quick hug and some of the duplo’s she left scattered on the floor behind me.

But, that’s it…right there. Qualify of life.

You see, my wife, Liz, and I are home every day with our daughter. If I were still working in a cubicle or flying on an airplane, I would have missed this moment. And I mean miss it in every sense of the word. That moment is now gone, but I was here for it.

THAT IS QUALITY OF LIFE…even if she really did want the Legos more than the hug from dad 🙁

Our quality of life is maximized through ideals like freedom to spend days the way we choose. It’s also being reasonably free from an industrial food system that cares far less about food taste, quality, nutrition, cost and safety than we do.

quality of life gardenSo we produce better, safer and more nutritious food than they do for very little, and we do it together as a family. I’m not sure what they’re teaching in public school, but our daughter is learning to grow food. Turns out she likes to eat.

In terms of the more “accepted” definition of standard of living, I suppose we’re lacking. After all, we don’t have new cars. What we do have is ponds, streams, and wells that pump LOTS of water.

We don’t have a beach home but do have lush pastures and rich woodlands that produce mushrooms, edible & medicinal plants, meat, and firewood.

I’m hard pressed to think of anything that we want at all, and it’s in those moments that I realize that our quality of life is pretty darn good. Far better than it was when I was Founder & CEO of an Inc. 500 company.

Which brings me full circle to concerns about the economy and social unrest.

power gridThe life that seems so predictable…so stable for most people is predicated on a delicate financial system of global interdependence that could easily turn into a cascading trail of dominoes.  It won’t take too much as economies are so dependent on importing to and exporting from distant and unstable markets.

From an economic perspective, modern countries are about as “un” self-sufficient as their inhabitants.

But as horrific as the acts of terror are, they’re nothing compared to what would happen if we lost the power grid that everything is dependent upon. Read or listen to the exhilarating novel, One Second After, to get a sense of what that world would look like if the grid went down. Yeah, I know, the odds seem low of the grid going down. But you’re taking an incredible risk by not being prepared, so you may want to start preparing.

While it took a half hour to write all this, this represents a few minutes of thinking while I’m doing chores here and there.  Wondering what will happen one day if someone tries to come and “occupy” my farm because irresponsible government policies, increasing violence, and economic crisis shatters their quality of life.

My hope is that more folks will find the strength to opt-out of being completely dependent on “the system.” Then, they too can stop worrying about life and start loving life.

As for me, I don’t miss the cubicle. What. So. Ever.

And I’m thankful for our life on the land.

Question: How do you rate your quality of lifeYou can leave a comment by clicking here.


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