emerging from a status quo

This is an entry inspired by the realization that we still couldn’t take out a housing loan even if we could afford it.

The past year has been a trying year for us, especially financially. Sure we get by, we send our kids to school, eat lovely meals, live peacefully in our quaint little home, run our own farming business and be bosses of ourselves. We have a good life. We live simply and sustainably and pose little harm to our environment. We have time to pursue the things we want to do. In this day and age of stress and hurry, who still has time for things like composting, making pizza dough or walking? We do. And we are proud of how we have turned our city-dwelling lives around to our now low and slow lifestyle.

Sometimes, though, low and slow has its setbacks. After Turo left his job more than a year ago, nobody in our household remained formally employed. As for me, I’ve worked freelance ever since Uri was born so I practically have zero employment footprint. Turo, on the other hand, was supervisor-level for the past how many years. Being employed for so long, he was the de-facto provider of all legal documents, be it for credit card or loan application requirements. At least that was the case until a year ago.

Now, utility payments can be a pain because we had been used to Turo getting his salary at the same time each month which we used for all our expenses, paying bills, included. My income, which comes in highly irregular streams, was kept and saved for bigger, intermittent purchases (eg. annual insurance payments, car registration, etc). Over the past year, while we generate enough income to pay for everything, money doesn’t always come in as timely as it used to, sometimes not even in time for the due date. We are currently highly illiquid, and we are lucky to have considerate landlords and school principals who let us go with late payments. They’re angels, I tell you.

Related to irregular income is our declining savings rate. We’re already going on a limb managing our finances, it’s even more difficult to set aside a regular stash each month for savings. But again, we’re making good progress with managing our fluctuating incomes, good enough to resume our monthly savings modus, at least as of the previous month.

All living expenses aside, our next big struggle is reinvesting in our farm business. For those who are not aware, agriculture requires cyclical investments. Constant capital infusion is necessary for expansion and intensifying production to generate larger revenues. Early this year we were able to secure a loan which we used for the construction of a second greenhouse where we grow lettuce hydroponically. Now that the greenhouse is complete and nearing its maximum production capacity, we are astounded by the fact that our lettuce supply still could not meet local demand. To further increase our production, we need more working capital, which right now we just don’t have. We couldn’t take out another loan, because aside from the fact that we’re still paying up previous debts, we no longer have the necessary documentary requirements for loan application.

We are literally forced into a status quo—a situation that is really emotionally difficult for me to put up with. I’m the type of person who likes to think that something can be done about anything. But right now, we’re faced with too many tradeoffs. We refuse to sacrifice our glorious low and slow lifestyle just to earn a bit more and be more liquid. We don’t want to  go back to work in the city where we could earn like we used to but deal with bigger expenses—we’ve already left that part of our life behind. We don’t want to seek help from investors and venture into a highly commercial farming enterprise, because our vision for the farm is for it to be small-scale, family-managed and sustainable. In short, we want to work with what is available to us, with what is within our reach. It’s just that right now our wingspan has shortened, tightened a bit.

The best thing to do really is to be patient and work towards our goals slowly as we are able to. We need to remind ourselves that “in an instant” and “right away” are nothing but a thing of the past. Sure there are opportunity costs linked to this kind of attitude. But we are continuously learning, and learning is an opportunity that is given too little economic value. We, on the other hand, put a premium on the really valuable things we learned in the past year. In our own little world, this is compensation enough.

So yeah, we are still a bit far from the financially comfortable life we are dreaming of, but we will patiently wait for it to happen. In the meantime, let’s make pizza and walk.

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