A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
My first two rules, Don't Buy and Don't Borrow eliminate the need to pay interest to buy unending piles of worthless stuff so you don't blow a gasket like Douglas did in Falling Down. Now you can start getting to the fun part: reducing and diversifying your income. This is really the best part of living on the edge. For many years I struggled and sweated through my cheap dress shirts trying to make a little more money, first working for someone else on salary, then in my own business. Every time I succeeded in making more money I got a bigger mortgage, ran up more CC bills, bought (and replaced and replaced) ever more throwaway stuff. All the while I thought I was doing what I wanted but I was mostly just paying the Stupid Tax that keep the Bread and Circus Show on the air.
Just one word...
Mr. McGuire was right, plastics were the future, but they'll be past soon enough. What's the word now?
Telecommuting. I'm no guru and I have no crystal ball but that's my prediction anyway. I have a diversified income but my primary tool (most years) is a computer and internet connection. If you do any portion of your daily grind on a computer you can probably find a way to make a living anywhere you can get a connection. I can't express how convinced I am that one day not to distant, the current model of "driving till you qualify" for the size home you desire, then driving back in to work everyday will be untenable for a variety of reasons.
But best of all telecommuting puts you in charge of your time, get your work done by 6a? Cool, do something else!
And that's the key to making enough cash to keep the tax man away and buy a soda pop here and there, you need to diversify your income. Jobs - and job categories - are increasingly transient, very few people retire with a company pension any more. The last thing you should do is put all your eggs in one basket - the corporation don't do they?
I can't tell you what will work for you. Because we choose to live in the country, in addition to graphics we raise calves, do some odd jobs - carpentry, general farm labor (GASP! and a white man too!), wrenching, upholstery, sewing, sell some vegetable starts and excess produce, some hay once in a while (though I hate selling off fertility) and we're always casting around for something new - that we we like to do.
Another advantage of telecommuting is disconnecting income from cost of living. IOW, I can live in SW MO, with an extremely low cost of living, yet do work for clients in and at rates a shade below what I'd get in the Bay Area of CA - which I do (sometimes).
The flip side of that is if I can work from the Ozarks, someone else can work from Bangladesh and undercut me as well, I've tried eLance.com and Freelancer.com and I have gotten some work but it's tough. But the cat's out of the bag on that one. Whether you live in LA; Gutwater, Missouri and your job can be done over a cable it will be done from a cheaper place one day. You might want to think about that. My best advice is to get yourself a good rep (if you do freelance like me) or make yourself valuable in a way someone in Chindia can't before your job goes that way without you.
Working at the edge of the rich world takes a little bit of courage if you've been a company man your whole life. But this isn't your fathers world anymore and playing their game doesn't always pan out. Homo evolved to be the King of Adaptation, it's time to take advantage of your genes.