10 Skills To Help Beat a Bad Economy

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With the housing crisis, soaring unemployment, and crippling levels of debt the globe over, many people have nothing left to put away for “retirement;” but that doesn’t mean they’re out of options. Let’s take a look at a few skills that can pay off big regardless of economic decline.

Learn to think better

Before we get started, let’s correct a thinking problem developed over the last few decades: you don’t have to pay for schooling to learn, just go to the library and practice at home.

The first thing we need to do is learn to think better. For decades we have depended on others to provide things for us, now we need a return to doing more things ourselves, and that starts with our education. Go to the library and relearn the joy of reading and teaching yourself for free.

Making a habit of going to the library can help you build a better future, for little cost, and you can start right away.

Learn new skills

1. Gardening

Read books and start practicing. Don’t be afraid to fail. Start small and polish your skill, knowledge, and experience every year. Check out SmartGarden.com, an awesome and free online tool to help you plan and execute your garden from seed to harvest.

Many communities offer gardening classes ranging from beginner to master; check into it for your area and take advantage. Some charge a fee but it is always minimal, usually less than $100.

Talk to your parents and grandparents about it, chances are they still have some of these skills and their experience will bless you.

2. Using knives and firearms

Knowing how to buy, sell, shoot, and clean firearms is a valuable skill. Being handy with firearms empowers you to defend yourself and provide for your family.

Get started with a 12 gauge (I recommend a Remington 870), a 22 rifle, a 270 or 30-06 rifle, and a handgun like a 38, 45, or even 9 mil.

It has also been proven that knives are a more effective personal safety device than hand guns, so I recommend getting yourself a good bowie knife too. This is the knife I have.

3. Hunting and fishing

Some people grow up learning to hunt and fish; I wasn’t one of them. My dad lived and breathed sports instead, so that’s what I learned.

As I grew older I desired the knowledge and skill of hunting and butchering large game, so I taught myself. Last winter I bagged my first deer and did all the dressing and processing myself. I learned to field dress (a.k.a. gut) it by watching YouTube videos, and processed and packaged the meat with the help of my friend Rodney.

We still have a few packages of the steaks left and have been eating on them all year. Because I processed it myself the cost was only the price of a hunting license ($15) and a few beers for Rodney’s dad.

4. Raising livestock

Growing up we raised around 16 beef cattle and 100 chickens. It was a lot of work, but it provided for us, earned us money on the side, and taught us the value of hard work.

  1. Chickens provide eggs and meat.
  2. Rabbits provide meat.
  3. Goats are great for dairy.
  4. Cattle are also good for meat and dairy.
Some places have ordinances restricting livestock, so check with your local taxing authority; but don’t be afraid to get the ordinance changed and/or removed, a lot of that is going on now that the economy is so poor.

5. Cooking

Learning to cook is a skill that can save you a ton of money. Eating out of our fridge and pantry saves me and Betsy hundreds of dollars every month; and it allows us to eat a lot healthier because we control what goes into the food.

Read the article saving money on groceries so you can build a good, healthy home food store for less.

If you are unfamiliar with cooking altogether, go to the library and get a few cookbooks and/or ask a friend or family member to come teach you.

6. Food preservation

Whether or not you know how to garden is irrelevant; “putting food by” is a skill that pays whether you grew the food or not. If you know how to garden you can put your own harvest away. If you purchase your produce you can still preserve it and save your family a lot of money. Betsy and I do a combination of the two by growing a garden and belonging to a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.

Buy a good canner. We paid $200 for the one we use and it is well worth the investment. Remember that you need skills and tools, and a good canner is a priceless tool.

7. Sewing and knitting

Awhile back I posted “Real men know how to knit” on my Facebook page, the response was pretty interesting. It’s true, real men DO know how to knit.

Whatever your gender, knitting, sewing, darning, and the like are all valuable skills. I taught myself how to darn socks (by watching YouTube videos). My Aunt Patti taught me and Betsy how to knit. My mother-in-law Janice taught me how to run the 42 year old sewing machine she gave us. I still need to make some family cloth with that thing – but that’s a topic for a different day! (Google “family cloth.”)

Knowing how to make, maintain, and repair your own clothing is a valuable skill to have, especially in a bad economy. The socks I darned would’ve ended up in the trash over a year ago, instead – thanks to my new skills – they’re still going strong.

Oh, and thanks to Aunt Patti we now knit all our own dishcloths, and knit extras to give away as gifts.

8. Lumberjacking

Don’t laugh, Betsy calls me a lumberjack all the time because I was raised in a home heated primarily with a wood stove. A continual chore every year was harvesting, hauling, sawing, chopping, and stacking wood. Growing up I rather loathed the process, but the older I get the more thankful I am for having the skill.

If you don’t live on land with a good wood source, watch Craigslist; there are always posts offering free wood if you’re willing to cut it and haul it away. You can’t beat free!

I’m very thankful my dad taught me how to lumberjack. When friends would try I was always amazed at how few of them were adept at splitting wood. I used to take the skill for granted, but not any longer.

9. Home repair

Grab the honey-do-list and get to work. If you don’t know how to do something, go to the library and read a book about it.

Call your uncle/friend/neighbor who is handy with a tool belt and offer him pizza and drinks if he comes over to help you with the project. You’ll learn along the way and build up a great set of skills that you could use to earn money on the side or simply save your family money by completing projects yourself.

10. Auto repair

I have always done most all my own peripheral car repairs (everything but engine and transmission work); it’s another skill I’m thankful my dad taught me. He always worked on his own vehicles and I was his flashlight guy who could never quite hold the light in the right place. Despite my lack of lighting skills, I always paid attention and was able to pick up on a lot of the automotive skills he had.

I’m no expert, but you don’t have to be an expert to try. Invest in a Haynes manual and try your hand at repairing your own vehicles whenever possible. If you get into a job and find it’s beyond your skills, take it to your mechanic; at least you tried.

Think and live outside the box

Become a Renaissance (Wo)Man (a.k.a. Polymath) – a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. It’s not popular in our culture, but the concept is on the rise and it’s no wonder – knowing how to do your own work in a bad economy saves a lot of money and makes you feel better about yourself. It makes plain sense.

Think of your grandparents – they knew how to do a lot of these things and more… so why don’t we? It’s a great question to ask yourself.

It’s high time we started living outside the box and teaching ourselves a diverse set of self-reliant, money saving skills.

What skills are you learning that are saving you money and increasing your ability to take care of yourself and family?


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1 Matt Jabs

Awesome Jeff; I love finding fellow Renaissance men!

2 Sue

Great post! It’s so true about our grandparents – my grandfather started slaughtering chickens on a tree stump at age seven!!! Wow! And I’m chicken (pardon the pun) to raise two or three in our backyard. Ha. I do need to diversify.

We are cloth diapering our first child and planning on it for our second (due in July). I’m blogging about it this week at our family blog: jambalaya. You can check it out at the link below! Cloth diapering saves A LOT in this bad economy.

3 Matt Jabs

Awesome Sue – if Betsy and I are blessed with children we will definitely cloth diaper them. Keep making positive steps to change the world.

4 Olivia

Thanks for your post. It is amazing what you can learn from watching, reading and plowing ahead. The Internet is a wonderful resource. Necessity is a great incentive. Since being on my own, I’ve learned to garden, can, cook, mend, frame, drywall, paint, tile, lay linoleum, replace light fixtures and electrical outlets, budget, quilt, and use power tools. Nothing expert, but serviceable. I think often of building a tiny portable home (likeTumbleweed Tiny Homes) for our retirement years. Who knows?

5 Matt Jabs

Awesome Olivia! Your comment made me smile… it’s exactly what I’m talking about.

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