We at 7th Generation Design just posted this on our blog, but I thought I'd post it in its' entirety here as I think it may prove helpful to some. None of these strategies will be new to the regulars here at Permies, this is just our take on things in this especially interested moment when we're all receiving "free" monies - and our compilation of strategies.
We all just received $1,200 in our bank accounts (some of us more) - and this may continue to happen for a few months. While undoubtedly these stimulus checks will prove to be hugely helpful to many, we would be ignorant to think that it is free money. Money is a representation of energy – it is a “claim” on energy. And the first law of thermodynamics, discovered long ago, tell us that energy in a closed system can neither be created or destroyed. To create energy (represented by money in this context) in one place means that it will be removed from another place or time.
All of this means that the money (energy) that was just seemingly just created out of thin air will have to be paid for – either by people in a different place, or by our future selves or generations (through the form of incredible inflation, degraded natural environments, etc). It’s what’s been happening for decades – this is just a particular massive borrow in a particularly short amount of time. Likely, it will be a combination of the two – we’ll pay, and someone else will pay, for the $1,200 we each received.
Knowing this, how can we prepare for the eventual settling-up that will inevitably occur? Perhaps a time when a wheelbarrow full of cash can barely buy a loaf of bread? (Actually happened in Germany in 1922, and many other places throughout recent history). I would like to suggest that the best way we can utilize these stimulus checks, and our surplus financial resources in general, is to become familiar with the other 7 mostly-forgotten-but-much-older-and-more-stable forms of capital besides money (intellectual, experiential, material, natural, cultural, social, and spiritual), and implement strategies that reduce our requirement for financial capital and build those other forms of capital moving forward. Savings in those other forms of capital will help to carry us, and hopefully spare others in some other place, through the payment due period from this time.
A few of the perhaps the highest leverage ways (among many) to reduce the need for financial capital and invest in the other forms of capital are listed below, in rough order of effectiveness at reducing the future requirement for financial capital:
Buy/move into a smaller house – they’re cheaper to buy, fill, and maintain (reducing mortgage/property taxes/maintenance costs), you’ll use less energy (and thus reduce money requirements for utilities), own less unnecessary stuff, and have more space outside to enjoy/implement strategies discuss below.
Even better than buying a smaller house, but bringing in the challenging people piece: turn your large house into a duplex, and invite another person/family with shared values to co-own it with you (huge savings all around, including shared energy input into building/growing/maintaining). This may also make it feasible to buy a home rather than rent. [This strategy simultaneously presents an opportunity to build natural capital, material capital, and social capital]
Change habits surrounding energy use. Start a game with your family to develop a habit of turning lights off. Close the doors and windows when it’s hot, open them when it’s cool.
Install a clothes-line or rack, and build the habit of doing laundry/drying clothes while the sun shines – it’s free!
For the energy use that remains (probably far less than there was), invest in energy efficiency upgrades. Learn about passive solar design, and implement those strategies where you can. Add insulation. Seal up your building envelope. Replace the following on a “procurement strategy” (as they burn out/fail – sending perfectly functioning equipment to the dump is a larger environmental issue): incandescent and fluorescent lights with LEDs, refrigerator w/ energy-star rated (or better yet, replace vertical fridge/freezer with a chest fridge and chest freezer, which are far more energy efficient – you can convert a chest freezer to a chest refrigerator using one of these).
Only after you’ve reduced your energy usage using the above strategies, install solar. At this point, your energy usage will likely be 50-85% lower than it initially was, so you won’t need much of a system. [also builds material, and if you can go off-grid with batteries, builds natural capital]
Redirect your laundry and showerwater from the sewer “away” to food-growing systems in your landscape –reducing your sewer, irrigation, and grocery bills. You’re already paying for the water once – don’t pay for it twice, and also pay to get rid of it! [also builds natural, experiential, intellectual, and spiritual capital – gardening and being outside is good for the soul]
Get a bike – and use it for some of your errands/work commuting/school drop offs/etc. [also builds natural capital – muscles!]
Grow a garden, plant fruittrees, learn about backyard livestock and get some. [builds natural, experiential, intellectual, and spiritual capital]
Invest in developing skills, real world skills – fixing your bike, your car, your home, growing and processing food, etc. [builds intellectual, experiential, material, and natural capital]
Meet your neighbors, build relationships with them. Start trading childcare, garden surplus, ferments, etc. [builds social , cultural capital]
For the food you’re not growing/raising, pay a little bit extra your local farmer doing things in an ecologically-sound way (join a CSA!), to support them so you have established nearby farms that are improving your environment and relationships with those folks running them. [builds natural, social, cultural capital]
These are just a few ideas, but they’re big leverage points for preparing for a time of having to correct the balance sheet – and not just the financial balance sheet. The added benefit of doing all of these things is that they result in greater personal, community, cultural, and environmental health, for only a small sacrifice in luxury – or perhaps none, when we look back.
Let’s put these stimulus checks to good use – not just so that we’ve already been working to restore the balance sheet before the payment is due, but also so that they’re entirely unneeded in the future when something like this, whether it be a pandemic, a natural disaster, a personal crisis such as a health issue or job loss, or something else, inevitably happens again.