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One of the things that I like to do at the end of the year is evaluate the past year and make plans for the next. I do this to see what worked this year, and what didn’t work. It’s great to use this opportunity to improve upon my big picture goals for the coming year. I like to make yearly self reliance goals, and I incorporate these goals into my New Year’s Resolutions. But these Resolutions, unlike most, are more of a marathon, instead of a sprint. It’s not “all or nothing”. It’s about continually progressing and improving.
I use the end of the year to reflect on the past 12 months so I can effectively plan for the next. What did I enjoy? What wasn’t cost effective? What was just a complete fail? Here are my tips to set yearly self reliance goals.
Tally up costs.
I like to total up my homestead costs at the end of the year. I’m not organized enough to keep receipts, but if you are, you’re ahead of the game! Having a homestead binder is so helpful with this. You can track expenses for each category of your homestead. I would suggest a gardening binder and an animal binder with different categories of your animals. You should also keep track of costs for animal shelters, sheds, and greenhouses.
Knowing what it cost you the last year on your homestead will give you a more realistic idea of how much it will cost this next year. You may need to cut back on your animals, or learn how to reduce expenses. You can adjust your plans to fit your budget for the next year. If feed cost you too much this year, I would suggest checking into fermented feed, growing fodder, and shopping at the local grain mill instead of the big box stores.
– Subtract the profits.
If you make any kind of profit from your homesteading efforts, you can subtract that amount from the yearly costs. Also keep in mind that many of the costs you have are going to be one-time incidentals. So even though that coop cost you $600 to make, it’s only a one-time cost. If built properly, that coop with last for years and years. The fencing? Again, if done right, it’s just a one-time cost.
If this is your first year at homesteading, you will be in the dark on this. I can tell you that running a self reliant homestead is not cheap. But I can’t tell you the specifics. Everyone’s idea of self reliance will come with a different price tag. Just try to do some research on costs before you dive into each project.
Figure out a rough budget.
I know, budgeting for a whole year is nearly impossible. But you should get an idea of what to expect from figuring out the costs for the last year. Keep in mind that every year will be different. Feed costs vary, and if you add new animals or new plants, those costs will be different as well.
You want to make sure that your self reliance goals aren’t going to break you. Realistically figure out what you can afford to do. One thing to remember is that usually the costs to grow something is less than the cost to buy it. It’s just spread out more. Take into consideration the initial purchase price, the feed costs, and the butchering costs if you don’t do it yourself. I have a post on saving money on the homestead if you would like more ideas.
Decide what you want to be self reliant on.
For most people, there are a few key things that they want to be self reliant on. You need to develop a plan that focuses on those things for your family. Decide if you want to produce all of your own eggs, or your own dairy products. Decide what kind of meat your family likes to eat, and plan accordingly.
This of course will be different for each family. If you have food allergies, you can tailor your self reliance efforts to accommodate those. People who have dairy intolerance can usually handle goats’ milk, or A2A2 milk from Jersey cows. If you eat a lot of organic vegetables, you should consider growing an organic garden to cut costs.
If you have the (lofty!) goal of not relying much on the stores for your food, you need to focus on several different areas. You will need eggs, meat, vegetables, fruit, and grains. Grains usually need a lot of room to grow, and you need to figure out how to preserve your summer bounty of eggs and produce.
You might also need some tools. With a milk cow, you might want to get a milking machine. If you grow your own grain, you need a wheat grinder. If you plan on butchering your own meat, you will need a large refrigerator to hang the meat, and a way to store it. Always plan within your budget, and grow what you eat.
Make a vision board.
I love vision boards. They are a visual representation of your goals. Put it in a place you see often, and it’ll keep you on track. It will help you solidify your self reliance goals.
Not familiar with a vision board? They’re easy and oh so effective! Take a poster board. Then you either print out pictures from your computer, or cut out pictures from a magazine. Use images that speak to you, that represent your goals. Cut the pictures out and arrange them on the poster board. You can go more artsy, or you can be more technical about it. I like to draw out the layout that I have, then add the pictures in the way that you want to add the correlating items. I basically do a map of my property with it, with my self reliance goals added.
Create a timeline for your self reliance goals.
You should create a rough timeline for when you want things done. This doesn’t have to be set in stone, but you need to lay out a good foundation for your timing. There are some things that are time-sensitive, like putting in the garden. Plan that for when it needs to be done, according to your growing zone. Then you can plan the other self reliance goals around that. Give yourself plenty of time to complete your desired tasks.
Don’t tax yourself, or your budget, by trying to do too many things at once. Realize that each self reliance goal has its own time commitment and cost. If you stretch it out accordingly, you will find it much less stressful.
Execute your plan.
Now that you have your self reliance goals clearly laid out, it’s time to execute your plan. Don’t go overboard. Take baby steps. Do what you can with what you have. Don’t bite off more than you can chew!
Okay, enough with the idioms!
Seriously, though, the number one reason that people fail is they try to do too much at once. Don’t overwhelm yourself, or your budget. This mistake causes many homesteaders to bail on their self reliance goals. Homesteading is hard work. Finish one project before you start another one. That way, you can reap the rewards of a job well done before you move onto the next.
Self reliance is a never ending journey of self-improvement. It is a labor of love that is never really “finished”. There is always room for improvement. I hope you’ll take this opportunity with me to set yearly self reliance goals for this new year. It’ll be fun! Share in the comments what steps you’re going to take to be more self reliant this year.