One of the first things I am asked when I talk to people about self-reliance is finances: how expensive is it to get started, how soon will I start saving money and how much? My answer is always the same: “That depends.”
Ask yourself, what are your goals for yourself and your family? If you want to grow a few vegetables and you already have a spot in your yard, it may be as simple as buying some seeds or starter plants. Assuming success, you will certainly save money on tomatoes, which as my gateway plant to self-reliance! Soon, I had more tomatoes than I could eat, sell, or give away before they went bad, so I started to process and freeze them. So far, other than investing in some freezer bags, no major expenses. The same can be said for other crops like zucchini, basil, parsley, etc..
The best way to get serious about self-reliance is to start by educating yourself. Watch videos on line, many are free, or purchase a book to keep with you. I prefer books, as I like to have easy access to them at all times. When I first started, I purchased a “how to” style book with a comprehensive discussion of preparedness topics. I soon realized I wanted more, and instead of just living the life of a “prepper” and know how to deal with emergencies, I had a desire to be as self-reliant as I could be.
I sold my home in California and moved to a remote location in the mountains of Utah where I could pursue a lifestyle that is reminiscent of the older, frontier-style ways. So, you can see two extremes of this spectrum, with infinite variations in between. Starting with a garden, you may find yourself needing to purchase some gardening tools, fencing off an area, installing some irrigation, or even purchasing a green house. If your goal is to have a net-gain financial benefit, this may take some time, so if finances are an issue, start small and keep it simple. Maybe start a co-op with some friends and share your harvests.
There are also investments in equipment needed to preserve your harvests, such as dehydrators, hot water and pressure canning equipment, vacuum bags and sealers, and the largest investment, a food dehydrator. You can form a group and share the equipment, spreading out the cost, and this is a great way to work together, forming a community and building friendships.
If you want to raise animals, from backyard birds to livestock, then the investment gets greater, from purchasing or building a shelter to keep them safe from predators, to feeding them. Will the end result yield a profit? That depends, but such a goal will likely require a financial and time commitment many may not be willing to make when starting out.
This takes us back to education: start by reading books, following websites with videos and articles that focus on your goals. When I moved here, I decided to replicate life as closely as I could to a family living a frontier lifestyle, so reading about the history and ways of the “old west” was a great source of inspiration.
For me, personally, becoming self-reliant was never purely a goal to save money, although I have certainly saved in SOME areas, such as by stocking up on items as a hedge to inflation, purchasing goods on sale, and growing bumper crops like lettuce and tomatoes (assuming you don't have large set-up expenses). The ultimate gain has been a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, particularly when I see my friends and family enjoy the fruits of my labor, and having friends who happily trade with me for the fruits of their labor!
The ultimate benefit will be not having to rely on sources over which I have no control if the time comes when food and other supplies we take for granted are not as easily acquired. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions, and if you find my advice useful, there is a "donate" button on the Home Page of this website!