How to be Self-Sufficient as a Sustainable Future

Investigating Self-sufficiency as a Retirement Goal

My husband and I are in our early 50s so we’re not at the official retirement age and won’t be for over 10 years (67yrs in Australia for those of us born in the mid 60’s). The prospect of working for the next 13 years is daunting for me. I have chronic back pain caused by several back injuries and general wear and tear from over 30 years as a nurse. I’ve already reduced my work hours but the writing is on the wall – I know I won’t be able to work as a nurse for much longer.

I have been looking towards retirement for the last few years. Our current situation is that we have a large mortgage on a big property in a very busy city. It’s a rat-race and we feel like we are just rats in a wheel, chasing our tails – working long hours in jobs that aren’t easy, often not seeing each other for days at a time. Quality time together is limited. Our overheads and cost of living are huge. Living here is not sustainable in the long term, either financially or practically. So we must look at alternatives to our current lifestyle.

We have been considering downsizing as the first obvious choice. Once my older son leaves home and there’s just the two of us, continuing to live in our large house would be silly. It’s not designed so that we could create a self-contained unit to rent out so that’s not an option. So our first step would be to sell it and buy a smaller house on a smaller block – one that is easier to maintain.

We would still have a mortgage, however. To be able to buy a house mortgage-free we will have to sell up and move to a regional area where the cost of housing is much lower. The drawback is that we would probably be too far from medical services to be able to do it. That is why we are looking into becoming self-sufficient.

Being self-sufficient to us would mean being able to provide for most of our needs ourselves. It would mean that we would have to set up a property with energy, water and food supplies so that we didn’t have to rely on outside sources.

How to meet our basic needs

Basic needs for self sufficiency – water, food, energy, shelter.

Here is what we’re considering as our options:

Shelter – a small house on a small block. If we can afford it, a separate dwelling to rent out for income.

Energy – solar power, with a generator for back-up.

Water – rain tanks, with town supply as a back-up

Food – gardens with a variety of food such as vegetables and fruit. Chickens for eggs. A beehive for honey. Any surplus can be sold, or swapped with other gardeners. Any food that we can’t grow ourselves would be bought in bulk from bulk food supplies, or from local producers to inject money back into the economy. We love fishing so we could catch our own fish. I’ll be learning how to make my own preserves, bread, etc. – going back to skills my mother had like bottling fruit, making jam and sauces and cooking everything from scratch. It’ll be healthier as well as cheaper.

Other Considerations

Waste – Recycling and reusing everything we can. Septic tank for waste. Compost and worm farm to use our garden and food waste up and improve the growing conditions for the soil in our garden. We already have those in our current property.

Community – You need to have a network of people who are willing to share their expertise when you are starting on this type of venture, especially if you’re moving to a new area to set up your self sufficient household. Our future plans include being close to my brother so that we have support and can help each other. Getting involved with the local community is also important – being self-sufficient doesn’t mean isolating yourself behind a wall. Just the opposite – you need to be connected to the community in which you live. We’re no doomsday preppers!

Suitable property – My brother has been researching self-sufficiency for over 30 years and much of his knowledge stems from our parents. They researched much of this in their life-time, incorporating vast knowledge of using your property to provide most of the food you will need. They were avid gardeners and often experimented with alternative growing techniques – the first hydroponic system in New Zealand was set up by my father. I’m lucky to have this knowledge base to assist me.

He has stressed the importance of choosing land that is rich and fertile and slopes or faces North. We currently live in an area where the soil is very sandy and doesn’t hold water or nutrients which poses a huge problem for growing plants. We’ve dealt with this by having raised garden beds and containers, and choosing the right type of plants for our climate.

Our raised garden beds

Town planning / Council Restrictions – we would have to ensure that the property we buy is in a Council area that allows us to use tank water, keep chickens etc. Most Councils have restrictions on keeping animals, dwelling size and use of the dwelling for commercial purposes, for example.

The Benefits of Becoming Self-sufficient

Self-sufficiency makes a lot of sense to me, both financially and as a way of being more environmentally friendly and reducing our footprint globally. It comes as no surprise that it’s a cheaper lifestyle and it appeals to me to not have to pay large energy bills and rely on the government to supply our every need.

The initial costs will be the house and land, solar system, water tank, gardens, and septic tank. If we purchase a dwelling that has the basics, we can supply the rest initially or over time.

Comparing ourselves to our parents, my husband and I will probably have at least 30 years of retirement because most of our predecessors lived to at least 80. Our superannuation will not stretch that far and the Government pension will not be enough to live comfortably on, so reducing our cost of living is essential. Providing most of our own needs will save money in the long run, even if the initial set-up costs are high.

I’d love to hear other ideas that my readers may have for self-sufficiency or reducing their living costs. Please feel free to comment.

Our goals for retirement include being as self-sufficient as possible in order to create a sustainable lifestyle

25 responses to “How to be Self-Sufficient as a Sustainable Future”

  1. Great article! I am into the idea of tiny houses and the concept of living off the grid. We have lost the concept of being self sufficient . It’s very liberating to not have burden and just what you need.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved reading about your dreams for self sufficiency. We made the big decision a few years ago to try to live a sistainable life. We moved to an off grid property with solar and backup generator. We have no power connected to our property at all. We rely on rainwater and our dam. We grow our own veggies which I’ve started bottling and making into relishes etc. #MLSTL Sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That was such an interesting read. I think you’re over-estimating how much income you will need to live on once you get rid of the huge mortgage. I’m astonished at how little we spend these days and the small income we have more than meets our needs. Superannuation will definitely boost you through to pension age and the Australian age pension for a couple is approx $40,000 in hand + that wonderful pension card that gives you a discount on rates, doctors, etc etc.
    I think we could easily live on that (big overseas trips are the only loss and I’m happy to give them up for the freedom of getting out of the 9-5 grind). When I was reading about your self-sufficiency plans my first thought was “they’ll need good soil” but you have that covered, so I think you’ll love the change in lifestyle – and hopefully your husband will too. You might even find a little job (for your husband?) locally once you’re settled in. I’ll be excited to see where you head with this.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 😊


  4. Thankyou so much Leanne. I’ve even thought of a job for my husband – doing maintenance and gardening (which he’s awesome at!) but he’s not quite on board yet. He can’t imagine a life outside of working at his current job so I’ll need to do a lot more work on him! I could easily forego traveling once we retire so it won’t be an issue for me either. Thankyou for your encouragement!


  5. I love that you are looking to the future and having a game plan in place for retirement. It will certainly help with the transition and I think your ideas are very achievable. We spent 11 years living downstairs from my in-laws as my husband cared for them. After my FIL died and my MIL moved to aged care we could finally move to our apartment on the Gold Coast. Unfortunately, no opportunity for a veggie garden but it suits our lifestyle and I love living by the ocean. Thanks for sharing some ideas for those in a similar situation which I’m sure will be very useful. Great to have you join us at #MLSTL and have a great week! x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for your comment Sue. Your husband is very special to care for his parents as he did. I’m looking forward to being able to downsize, Everyone has their own dream for retirement and I think it’s good to plan ahead. I hope it inspires other people to consider what it is they want for retirement because it’s easier to do that in your 50’s than get to retirement age and think “what do I do now?” I really appreciate your feedback, regards Christina


  6. Your self-sufficiency article is excellent! So well thought out and covering so many facets that people might not think of. I have always loved the idea of being able to grow lots of fruit and veggies in our garden, and even having bees, although that would require a lot of research and prep! Good luck on your journey- it will be so worth it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Jenny. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I love researching things, and also talking to people who have been growing produce for years. I’m lucky I have so many green thumbs in the family! It all comes down to trial and error, so give it a go if you are interested in growing your own produce. It’s so rewarding. Regards, Christina


    • Hi Diane, I’ll check it out. Thanks for the link. With all the latest events since I wrote that article, I really wish we were living self sufficiently now! It makes me more determined to reach that goal, regards Christina Henry


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