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We are all starting our New Year looking for ways to make changes.  Some of us may have started a new budget, but are secretly wondering if it is one we can finally stick with, as we eye that new pair of shoes in the store window, or pass by the tractor store and see all that shiny new paint.  Whether we like it or not, we really can’t have it all.  Maybe it’s time to regroup, and ask ourselves a very important question:

“Is it a push toward our dreams, or is it the shovel that will dig a financial hole?”

In order to get our budget done, we put our dream of living as self-sufficiently as possible in front of us on the table.  This is a list that was done 12 years ago when we first moved to the farm.  It includes a lot of practical things, as well as some wild-ride dreams.  It has helped to keep us focused on what is important on the farm.  There are some things we have checked off, like getting Bossy, our Jersey cow.  We knew that would be a ‘push’.  There are some things that have been crossed off, like getting wool sheep.  After a lot of research, we realized that wool sheep raised here in the hot, humid South would be budget busting.  We would have to build an air-conditioned barn just to keep them alive in our 100+ degree / 100% humidity laden summers.  Definitely a ‘shovel’.

All budgets have to have ‘overhead’ expenses – utilities, fuel, feed, vet.  And whether we like it or not, most of us still have to purchase things under the grocery heading like flour, sugar and salt.  As much as I want to do it, the ability to produce these things on our small farm are either cost-prohibitive or non-existent.  (There is, however, a salt mine somewhere around here that I would love to try my hand at, but haven’t figured out where it is or how to mine it.  Yet.)  Still, there are ways we can cut back on those expenses.  Buy in bulk.  We buy flour and sugar 50 pounds at a time.  It saves us a few pennies per pound, but also saves us money in the fuel column.

Other things to consider are: growing at least a portion of your food; turn the lights off in rooms you aren’t in; turn the air/heat a little higher – adjust to the warmer temp in the summer, and wear a sweater in the winter; don’t leave the water running when you aren’t using it.  And for Pete’s sake – get yourself a clothesline!  The money you save drying your clothes outside really does make a difference!

The trick to living a more self-sufficient lifestyle – or even just saving a little money – is more in the attitude and heart than anything.  Your first step is determining what you want out of your overall life. Who we want to be and where we want to go in life should be an important consideration in drawing up our budgets.  Want to live on a farm?  Love to travel? Have dreams of starting your own business? Lay those dreams out on paper.  Examine everything from the most practical to the wildest idea.  Then start working on your budget.  Ask yourself, ‘Is this really necessary?  Is it a push in the right direction, according to what my dreams are, or is it nothing more than a shovel, standing by at the ready to dig me into a financial hole?’ 

Once you get started, you may feel a loving push towards your dreams, and you might just realize how deep a hole you have been digging with that shovel.  But don’t sweat what has been done in the past.  Just start over, and remember, all that working digging a hole just might make the start of a great vegetable/herb/fruit garden!