Quality of Life vs. Standard of Living

Reading Time: 6 minutes

While the quality of life is excellent out here in the country, sometimes it’s mighty quiet on the homestead. So, what does a modern homesteader contemplate while checking off the chores?

Surprisingly, I find myself thinking about economic and social unrest trends more than I would like.

Yes, even as my fingers sift through the soil I wonder if the social unrest in our increasingly undivided states of America will escalate. And if harsh economic times are ahead. In these moments, I feel comforted by the choice we made to opt-out of the rat race. Very comforted.

Still, I can’t seem to kick the habit of keeping up with world events, including increasing violence and quality of life economic indicators. One of the economic indicators that directly affects the quality of life is the rate of inflation. In recent years inflation has been tame. Yet, here we are in February 2021 and investors are becoming very concerned by the potential for rising costs.

I don’t give it too much thought.

Does Inflation Matter to a Homesteader?

The truth is that inflation doesn’t have much of an impact on essential items.  We have pastured livestock and hunting land, to be sure. And most of those animals eat grass, grubs or brush. That’s not only free food, but they mow the grass at the same time. That saves me the expense of mowing acres, not to mention the fuel, repairs, and labor of extra mowing.

The chickens and rabbits do get a feed ration. But, for the most part, we ask them to forage for grass and insects, a task they take to gleefully.  Sure, giving them minimal feed cuts down on egg production, but what do we care if the few eggs are essentially free?  No inflation there.

When we eat meat at home it’s from an animal that we raised and processed. Or it’s from fish or deer that we harvested from our property, meaning no expense for a hunting or fishing license. Again, meat and fish for us are free. We have the ability to slaughter and butcher pigs, cows, deer, and other animals here on the homestead. Last year I built a walk-in meat cooler where we can hang and age the meat just as they do in the fanciest of restaurants.

Our veggies used to cost a little bit as we had to buy seed, which is very cheap. And, of course, there was the upfront cost of building the raised beds and the greenhouse. But now we save some of our seeds so the cost for those is nothing other than our labor. And for fruits and other plants, we’re constantly propagating and adding beauty and food to our property.

We all have to spend our days doing something, so why not grow our own food instead of sitting in a cubicle?

Fruits such as berries, grapes, and apples cost a homesteader virtually nothing but time. The same is true with rough lumber and firewood that can be harvested from the homestead.

Even the canning of food costs little, once you get past the one-time cost of our indispensable and awesome pressure canner, canning jars, and the nominal cost of the reusable canning lids. And if you take care of them the canning jars last a lifetime.

Can Low Standard of Living = High Quality of Life?

But…if you were to look at us through a different lens you may conclude that we don’t have a high standard of living.  Standard of living seems to be most often expressed in terms of tangible concepts, such as net worth, the exclusivity of the country club you belong to, first-class travel, dining at trendy restaurants, how much your car costs, or how much disposable income you have.

As time goes on I am increasingly a poor demographic target for retailers, a fact for which I am thankful.  Heck, in terms of income, I could barely even afford my own artisan cheese when I saw it in high-end supermarkets, what with all the mark-ups.

While I earn far less income than I once did, our ongoing expenses are also MUCH lower. Property taxes are dirt cheap in the country, and there’s no need to spend money on fancy clothes, expensive lunches, or on filling the tank twice a week. So our “disposable” income hasn’t really decreased at all, but our quality of life has skyrocketed.

It’s not about the money. It’s about the freedom.

If we want to go out to dinner or a movie, we can. We could even take vacations if we wanted to get away, but our vacation choices now mimic our lifestyle. In the “old” days that meant trips to Vegas or a tropical island. Today it means camping and hiking, which costs very little.

We haven’t bought a new vehicle in over a decade and I can’t foresee ever buying a new vehicle again.  We just keep fixing the truck and making it go, which is just fine because with each passing year it seems we “go” less and less.  There’s no job for us to go to, little “need” to go to stores, and no desire to sit in traffic. And when the truck stops going, we’ll find something used but dependable. After all, who do we have to impress?

And with all the senseless acts of violence, we have little desire to travel to densely-populated areas.

So, from a standard of living point of view, I guess I’m no Donald Trump…no Hillary Clinton.

And that’s a good thing.

What is Quality of Life?

I don’t care about the measure of standard of living…I care about the quality of life, which is defined much more intangibly.

To me, qualify of life means…

Wait…hold on for just a moment.

Sorry. My eight-year-old daughter just barged in from the next room, having the nerve to want a quick hug and show me her drawing of a fox. She’s so proud. So am I.

But, that’s it…right there. Qualify of life.

You see, my wife and I are home every day with our daughter. If I were still working in a cubicle or flying on an airplane, I would have missed this moment. And I mean miss it in every sense of the word. That moment is now gone, but I was here for it.

For a modern homesteader, every day is a “take your daughter to work day.”


Our quality of life is maximized through ideals like the freedom to spend days the way we choose. It’s also being reasonably free from an industrial food system that cares far less about food taste, quality, nutrition, cost, and safety than we do.

So we produce better, safer, and more nutritious food than they do for very little, and we do it together as a family. I’m not sure what they’re teaching in public school, but our daughter is learning to grow food. Turns out she likes to eat. And she’s learning her readin’, ritin’, rithmetic’, and social skills.

Still, in terms of the more “common” definition of standard of living, I suppose we’re lacking. After all, we don’t have new cars. But we do have a tractor.

We don’t have a country club membership. But we have a pond, streams, springs, low taxes, no commute, unlimited family time, a hot-tub, AND time to enjoy it.

We don’t have a beach home but do have lush pastures and rich woodlands that reward us with mushrooms, edible & medicinal plants, meat, camping, miles of trails, and firewood.

I’m hard-pressed to think of anything that we want at all. It’s in those moments that I realize that our quality of life is pretty darn good. Far better than it was when I was Founder of an Inc. 500 company.

This brings me full circle to concerns about the economy and social unrest.

The life that seems so predictable…so stable for most people is predicated on a delicate financial system of global interdependence that could easily turn into a cascading trail of dominoes.  It won’t take too much as economies are so dependent on importing to and exporting from distant and unstable markets.

From an economic perspective, modern countries are about as “un” self-sufficient as their inhabitants.

But as horrific as the acts of terror are, they’re nothing compared to what would happen if we lost the power grid that everything is dependent upon. Read or listen to the exhilarating novel, One Second After, to get a sense of what that world would look like if the grid went down. Sure, I know, the odds seem low of the grid going down. But you’re taking an incredible risk by not being prepared, so you may want to start preparing.

While it took a half-hour to write all this, this represents a few minutes of thinking while I’m doing chores here and there.  Wondering what will happen one day if someone tries to come and “occupy” my farm because irresponsible government policies, increasing violence, and economic crisis shatters their quality of life.

My hope is that more folks will find the strength to opt-out of being completely dependent on “the system.” Then, they too can stop worrying about life and start loving life.

As for me, I don’t miss the cubicle. What. So. Ever.

And I’m thankful for our life on the land.

But enough about me. How do you rate your quality of life?