Let me confess from the start that I am not a prepper. You know the type – they’re busy loading up on guns, ammunition, canned beans and bottled water, so they can retreat to a bug-out hideaway somewhere in the back woods. I’m not looking down at what they do, I just question the complexity and desirability of preparing for a multitude of disasters no one can accurately predict. But at the same time, I think going partially off the grid is something we should all think about.
What do I mean by “going partially off the grid”? More than anything, reducing our dependence on the various systems in our lives.
Generally speaking, most of what we need in life is provided by systems. They aren’t inherently bad. But they are subject to malfunction. And I think we can all agree that the various systems that both service and control our lives are becoming increasingly complex. And with that complexity, comes more stress, and a greater likelihood of system failure.
Let’s consider different strategies we can use for going partially off the grid.
This is not a call to quit your job and start a business. But it is a reality that in a lot of respects jobs are at the very heart of the grid. Conversely, a person who can run their own business, doesn’t need a job. That’s not necessarily living off the grid, but it is escaping the employment grid.
I mentioned how things are getting more complicated with the various systems that are dominating our lives. This is self-evident in the jobhunting process. To apply for a job in the 21st century, you have to apply online. There, you’re competing with hundreds of other applicants. Computer programs will sift through the applications and resumes, looking for certain keywords. If your application doesn’t include the desired number of keywords, it will be rejected. You won’t even get a response.
Let’s add to that the plethora of rules and regulations surrounding most jobs. Political correctness dominates the workplace, and unequal distributions of workloads are quite common. But the reality is if you want a job, you must put up with these irritations, put on a happy face, and be a “team player”.
In my experience, it’s gotten a lot harder to pull that off. You can go at least partially off the grid – the employment grid – by starting a side business. Not only will it offer you an opportunity to increase your income, but it will also make you less than 100% dependent on your job income alone. It also opens the prospect of eventually turning into your primary occupation.
My freelance blog writing business started out as a side hustle. Now it’s my primary occupation. Choose a business venture, and carry it across the goal line. You’ll never regret it if you do.
Grow Some of Your Own Food
In Quiet Revolution – Young People Becoming Farmers, I mentioned in a comment exchange with reader Bev that growing your own food has a spiritual component. There’s something deep in planting seeds in the soil, and nurturing it all the way to your kitchen table.
Not so long ago, most people did in fact grow their own food – at least some of it in a backyard garden. That’s not true today. The vast majority people are completely dependent upon the food chain system. Food often comes from thousands of miles away, and most could care less how it gets there.
But the ability to produce at least some of your own food will at least partially relieve you of dependence on the food chain. If you could grow even 10% of the food you consume, you’d always know you could grow more. At least some of your food production would be off the grid.
Keep Some Money at Home
The financial cyber world has thus far proven to be remarkably efficient. But there have been data breaches, such as the recent Equifax databreach that compromised the identities of an estimated 143 million people. That was hardly the only data breach. It does point to certain systemic vulnerabilities, that may eventually disrupt the free flow of money across the web.
It makes no sense to pull all of your money out of the bank or out of investments. But it’s never a bad idea to have at least some cash at home.
I’ve heard 30 days living expenses recommended, and it makes abundant sense. If there is some sort of disruption to the financial system, you’d be able to hold out for at least a month. By then – hopefully – everything would be back under control. The basic idea is not to leave yourself completely exposed to some sort of systemic financial disruption.
Create or Join Networks and Cooperatives
Our society has developed a formality about just about everything, and that includes networking. But for our purposes here, networking should be more informal. It’s mostly about maintaining a circle of friends, service providers and business associates who can help us in a time of need. At the same time, we should make our time and services available to reciprocate.
One of the problems with networks today is that they’re often centered around a single capacity, like occupation. But if you’re an accountant, there’s only so much a group of accountants can do for you – and most of that is on the job front.
An informal network – one that’s close to the ground – should include people of different backgrounds. For example, if you’re an accountant, you might want to network with some auto mechanics, home repair people, in-home care workers, writers, marketers, hairdressers, and computer professionals.
That’s the kind of network that can enable you to find trusted sources of service providers. But since it involves people in various occupations, there’s probably an excellent chance that kind of group will provide a rich source of potential accounting clients.
In fact, that kind of network functions more as a community than as a formal network. It’s about relying on people connections, rather than formal networks.
Add a Renewable Energy Source
This suggestion is of course primarily for homeowners. But renewable energy, particularly solar, is becoming increasingly affordable. Installation is still cost prohibitive at an average of $18,840. But there’s a federal energy credit that will reduce that by up to 30%.
But once the system is installed, the energy flows free of charge. It’s a way to minimize your reliance on the electric grid. And as old as that grid is getting, that’s not a bad strategy.
Use a Credit Union Rather than a Bank
In recent years, banks have developed an unfortunate reputation for paying low rates on savings, charging high rates on loans, hitting you with a plethora of fees, and providing questionable customer service. You don’t have to put up with that. You can switch your basic banking over to a credit union.
My wife and I have been using primarily credit unions for several years. To start, credit unions are owned by their customers, who are referred to as members. They provide free checking accounts, higher interest rates on savings, and lower loan rates. In addition, you’re more likely to have your loan application approved than you are at a bank.
Credit unions function like neighborhood banks of old. It’s not like they’re off the grid, but rather less on the grid than banks. It’s a worthwhile transition.
If you don’t know where to find a good credit union in your area, check out the government website, My Credit Union.gov.
Get Out of Debt
With the possible exception of being dependent on the job market for your primary income, there’s probably no more intractable system than lending and credit. Simply put, when you owe money, you’re beholden to the system and the institutions that provide it.
Getting out of debt is one of the very best ways of going partially off the grid. Once you get off that treadmill, a lot of options open up. For starters, you gain full control of your income. For another, your life becomes more flexible. Is easier to change jobs, start a business, or make a geographic move when you’re debt free.
We can even think of debt as being less of a grid, and more of a spider web. This is a good analogy because debt can feed on itself. You get one debt, and it’s followed by another, and still another. Each debt you take further reduces your cash flow, creating the need for additional credit.
Perhaps more so than anything else, debt keeps you locked into the grid.
Have Plenty of Savings – Especially if You Aren’t Rich
If debt keeps you locked into the grid, having plenty of cash reserves frees you from it. Yet, technically speaking, the savings are primarily held within the grid. But at the same time, they reduce the stress and control imposed by other parts of the grid.
There are a number of reasons why this is true:
- Savings lower stress levels – your pile of bills just doesn’t seem as big.
- The larger the savings you have, the more options you have in virtually every area of life.
- Having a savings cushion that will cover several months will make it easier to quit a bad job.
- Having savings makes you less dependent on credit.
- Savings can turn emergencies into minor inconveniences, because you have the funds to deal with it. In fact, an emergency is only an emergency because you don’t have the money to cover it.
People might associate having plenty of savings with being rich, but that’s not actually the case. In fact, having plenty of savings is even more important if you aren’t rich. After all, the rich are always able to tap resources to cover whatever situation might arise. It’s the poor person who can’t, and will feel most trapped within the grid. Having adequate savings enables you to feel at least some degree of insulation from the grid.
Don’t worry if you haven’t been able to save money up to this point. It’s mostly a matter of getting started, and you just need a good strategy to do it. But once you get it rolling, it becomes second nature. And at that point, you’re less dependent on the grid.
Get Serious About Taking Care of Your Health
The healthcare system has become another integral part of the grid. Obviously, you’re more dependent on it if you have chronic health problems. That’s not always possible to avoid. After all, many chronic illnesses are genetic. And still others develop for reasons not known to medical science.
The two strategies here are to 1) take care of your health to minimize the likelihood of chronic illness, and 2) work to minimize the impact if you already have one.
This isn’t about self-medicating. But it is about being proactive. That includes eating a better diet, getting regular exercise and reducing as much stress as you possibly can. It also means avoiding bad habits, like excess alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, and over-eating.
One of the reasons why this is so important is because the healthcare system is already walking on wobbly knees. So far, the government has managed to keep it afloat with increased funding. But when it begins to dry up – and it will – the deep dysfunctions of the industry will become more apparent.
Final Thoughts on Going Partially Off the Grid
Notice that with each of these categories, we’re not building a fortress in the woods and stocking it with survival paraphernalia. But we are reducing our dependence on the formal grid, whether that’s the job market, the banking system, the healthcare system, the food supply chain, or even the utility companies.
One of the problems I’ve always had with the survivalist mindset is that it seems primed to survive in some sort of Mad Max world. That’s an apocalyptic scenario, and one most people would never survive. Call me simpleminded, but I don’t think that’s likely to happen.
What’s far more likely – and what we really need to be prepared for – are lesser disruptions. Or even more precisely, the creeping influence the grid has on our lives. But by going partially off the grid, we minimize that potential, and give ourselves more options to resist.
Whether we like it or not, the grid – however we define it – is an entrenched and necessary part of modern life. We can and should minimize our complete dependence on it, but that shouldn’t require going full on Neanderthal.
Do you ever think about going off the grid? Do you see any advantage in going partially off the grid, and simply reducing your dependence?