The Skills You Need to Do It Yourself

Let’s be clear, I’m a lover of technology. I’m grateful that, over time, inventors have created tools and machines that lighten the load and make chores easier. I’m not an un-thinking ‘greenie,’ unappreciative of the progress that man has made: roads, cars, jet travel, telephones, computers, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, double-pained windows, insulation, and central heat. All great!

One shouldn’t take for granted, however, the fragility of some of our modern day conveniences. When oil prices spiked to $147 a barrel in the summer of 2008, joy riding wasn’t just environmentally unfriendly, it was financially detrimental. Our habits had to change. Economies change all the time. Cities and countries rise and fall along with the quality of living of their citizens.

Detroit’s population has been cut in half in the last 30 years and Baghdad was once the world’s most prosperous city. Hundreds of cities that you’ve probably never heard of have risen to greatness, full of prospering populations, and fallenManaging Rain water will save you money into antiquity. Memphis (not Tennessee), Babylon, Ur, Lagash, Nineveh, and Avaris were all the largest, richest cities in the world in their days. Things change and luxuries come and go and come and go. The ascent of man is the longest trend in motion and things keep getting better, but we definitely endure bumps in the road. What would you do if hydro prices rose 10 or 20 times their current price? How would you change your habits? Your diet? What skills would you use to maintain your quality of life?

Economically, good times come and go, and bearing this in mind, I think it’s prudent that people acquire practical skills to help maintain a great quality of life, regardless of the  Gardening in order to Thrivepolitical and economic events of the day. What sort of skills am I talking about? Well, how about cooking? Beyond that, butchery, gardening, and food preservation are all food-related skills and so are hunting, fishing, and foraging. I guess the most relevant way to look at practical skills is to evaluate them on their practicality or their relevance to survival. How thrifty is the skill?  Water is vital, so shouldn’t we know a thing or two about collecting, rerouting, and purifying water? Shelter helps to keep us warm and keeps the rain off of our heads, so carpentry, knowledge of building materials, building, and maintaining structures is a logical third choice. Or maybe clothing is actually the first line of defense against the elements, so sewing, spinning, knitting, quilting, and weaving may rank high on the list. Learning to Sew will Save you Money

But, with so many conveniences like malls and the frozen food aisle, why even bother to learn any of these things? No doubt our era and our culture have enjoyed very good times and, therefore, we’ve been able to spend less time learning practical skills and more time learning about less practical and useful things or not learning at all, but merely ‘chilling out,’ ‘kicking back,’ relaxing in leisure and luxury. Yeah, it’s pretty great isn’t it? Of course, it is. However, if the ‘good times’ were to slow down or even cease, how easily could you pick up the slack? If things that were once cheap became very expensive, or if your source of income disappeared, what could you do to save money and thrive? What practical skills do you have?

Ben Franklin wrote to his wife in 1766, praising her thrift and knowledge of practical skills and their usefulness in tough times, hypothetically discussing the creation of trade barriers.

“Had trade between the two countries totally ceas’d, it was a comfort to me to recollect that I had once been cloth’d from head to foot in woolen and linen of my wife’s manufacture, that I never was prouder of any dress in my life, and that she and her daughter might do it again if it was necessary.”

It makes sense to acquire useful practical knowledge and skills, but it seems that the last few decades in western culture have seen a steady decay and practical skills are at an all-Preserve food in a back yard smoker and save moneytime shortage. Very few people have them, especially in the most concentrated populations in cities and suburbs. In fact, we have seen a rise in the number of young people that are acquiring very expensive and very impractical knowledge – rampant anti-thrift in post-secondary education. So many young people waste 2-4 years of their lives ‘learning’ information that is practically useless. Most degrees have little real world value. Few want to face this fact, but sociology, gender studies, anthropology, philosophy, and English literature most often fail to put food on the table. So, what’s the risk of this trend?

Looking through history, one can see that on a very regular basis–about every 60-80 years–a major crisis takes place and it comes in all shapes and colours, but it’s always widely felt. Most recently, the Great Depression era which butted up with WW2 was a time when economies, politics, and cultures changed dramatically. There’s no shortage of pundits predicting what may happen or what started the current crisis era ; 9/11, credit crunch, the housing bubble, Iraq, and Afghanistan all relate to an unsustainable trend of unsustainable expansion. But, one thing is certain, as a culture, compared to our fore fathers in the last crisis era, we have next-to-no practical skills. Things were different then,Raise crops at home and save money the culture was more agrarian, there were more farmers, more tradespeople, and generally a larger rural population. Nowadays, our culture is less thrifty and our quality of life is at a much greater risk, in my opinion. But, for individuals and families it’s never too late! Cities, corporations, and countries may decay, but for thrifty, ambitious individuals and families there’s no time like the present to begin to thrive.

Encourage your children and teach yourself as many practical skills as you can. Look at where Learn about the seasonality of food and master food prices in order to save more money you life and evaluate the skills solely on Thrift and practicality. No sense learning about raising cattle if you intend on living in the suburbs. Start with a chicken coop perhaps.

Sewing, weaving? Weaving requires equipment that’s expensive and bulky, and though it’s a practical skill, it may be impractical to spend hundreds or thousands on a loom when so much inexpensive clothing and fabric can be bought online and at factory outlet stores. Knowing how to sew, however, so that you may mend and maintain your clothes is very smart and practical (stay tuned for our ‘Thrifty Sewing Lessons’).

The skill that can be applied most easily, and that can have the greatest financial effect, is cooking. Learn to cook. Leaning to cook from scratch will save you money Learn about the seasonality of food and food prices. Learn to process and store bulk portions of food, meaning butchery, canning, curing, freezing, etc. This is absolutely crucial to one’s thrift in the future. Of all the bills we pay, the grocery bill is the one we have the most control over. It’s the bill which we may cut by the largest percentage. On that note, review our ongoing cooking lesson in ‘Thrifty Cooking’ and review it often. This ongoing article will be a discussion of practical skills in a modern age. It’s quite exciting to look at technology and old world skills and apply them in a way that’s very thrifty. Our first ‘Thrifty Blogger’, Kate, is a great example of a smart suburbanite who’s applying practical skills and present-day technology in a modern setting and thriving at it. If you have a story of your own thrifty work or practical skills, we’d love to hear about it.