When I talk about “taking the plunge,” I do not mean in an abstract, sitting-around-the-table-after-dinner, philosophical way. I’m talking about, “let us identify the absolute scariest thing you can think of and then do it.” In real life, like going from one income, to no income!
I can imagine a number of scary things, some of them more plausible than others: alien invasion, torture, etc. My very worst, more realistic nightmare would be a major earthquake. The next best (worst?) thing would be my husband getting laid off and our family making do with no income.
So it makes sense, doesn’t it, that my husband actually is going to quit his well-paying, benefit-providing, stable job so he can go to school full-time to finish his bachelor’s degree.
Choosing no income
That’s what I call taking the plunge! We’re choosing to go from one income to no income.
“Eek!” I hear you say.
“Tell me about it!” I reply.
However, we’ve been preparing for nearly our whole married life for some nebulous event known as an “emergency,” or a “survival scenario,” not knowing what exactly that could be, but really, really hoping it wasn’t going to be an earthquake. We’ve spent a lot of time developing skills and exercising discipline that we knew we would need to cope with such a thing, never knowing when we might need it.
Well, we need it now!
The decision for my husband to quit his job in favor of school was made possible by a series of small choices: buying a little food storage here, paying down our mortgage just a bit there, trimming expenses just for the sake of frugality. At the same time, he was growing increasingly restless at his job as a software engineer, yearning for something better; not necessarily higher-paying, but definitely more interesting. We had many circular discussions about how to make this happen.
One day a light went on in our brains and he said, “What if I just quit my job?” He and I looked at each other and at our stash of hard white winter wheat, and I said, “You know, we could probably swing it.”
So, starting in the very near future, we won’t be merely storing our wheat, we are going to eat it, along with all our other stored food: the corn, the beans, the obnoxiously large stack of peanut butter jars.
It’s kind of like we’re going bungee jumping, except without the bungee cord. However, this doesn’t mean we are jumping off a bridge with no safety net. Each little thing we have done to prepare for this change is like a tiny filament connecting us to safety.
Our preparations for the plunge
- Early on, we established frugal and responsible spending habits. We learned how to create for ourselves a comfortable lifestyle on a small amount of money and were able to save the rest.
- Food storage, food storage, food storage. In particular I paid attention to when certain online retailers were having sales. I also was able to inherit some from my grandparents. (I know they say you shouldn’t keep it around for your grandchildren to inherit, but in my case it worked out well!)
- Hoarding the food is not enough, you also need to eat it. I’ve been cooking with our wheat on a regular basis for a while now. We eat whole wheat pancakes, whole wheat biscuits, whole wheat tortillas, whole wheat pitas (with falafel made from food storage chick peas!), and whole wheat bread. It’s part of our routine now, and part of who we are. It’s not bland “food storage food,” it’s our normal diet. I’ve also learned to actually use what I had stored. I didn’t wait for a disaster before I learned how to grind wheat and make bread.
- We developed and honed a whole slew of new skills. I learned how to can fruit, my husband picked up some woodworking know-how.
- We refinanced our house. Not everyone can do this, financially, but we were fortunate enough for it to be an option. We were able to get a much lower interest rate, which not only shortened the length of time we will be in thrall to the bank on our mortgage, but also lowered our monthly payment.
- Most importantly, we adopted a self-reliant attitude. Everywhere you go you will meet people who say, “You can’t,” or “Who does that?” or “That is so weird.” We are conditioned by our culture to think that we can’t do things ourselves, that we need factories and corporations and elaborate bureaucracies to do them for us, complete with elaborate, brightly colored packaging. But the truth is that you can do things yourself. Making bread is not weird. Sewing your own dress can be great fun, and very satisfying! Why not learn how to knit socks? Today?
Before now it was all by choice that we lived frugally. We could have afforded a more opulent lifestyle if we wanted it. In the future, this lifestyle will be due to necessity, and that is the scary part. We will most likely be stretched to our limit. After all, we have a mortgage and three little kids who need things like socks and homogenized milk. We might have to be extra conservative in our spending (actually, that’s probably a safe bet). Heck, we might even run out of funds. It could get scary pretty fast. It could, as they say, get “real.”
One positive thing about all this is that it will be a good exercise in discovering the extent in our preparations. Did we think of everything? Do we have any gaps? What will we run out of? What will we end up not eating? Will I ever learn to cook successfully with dry beans? This will be invaluable information if, in the future, we are faced with something much more dire. When our “no income” adventure is complete, we will build our food storage supply back up again, and reinforce our preparations for the future with what we have learned.
When I wrote the first draft of this post, we thought this would take the plunge in the middle of December 2014, but fortunately we have another few months now, until April, to prepare even further. We’ll probably get even more food storage (because can you really have too much?). In the meantime, has anyone else been down this road before? What did you do to prepare? How did it go? What do you wish you had known when you started?
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