Wolfe’s Self Efficiency Index 2015

From The Archives: 2015

I did a self efficiency index back in 20081, and haven’t done one since. I figure this year is a year of big changes, so I wanted to update this to the information I have available for 2014, and see the differences by this years end (2015). This whole index takes the cost of one silver troy bar as a base. In 2008 the cost of a silver troy bar was $13.20 (CND) and today it is trading at $20.53(CDN), that means that the average real inflation between 2008 when I did the first index and today has been about 155.5% (about 22% per year). In the original article I used several different indexes as a guide, and several factors that would effect my final result. The first set of factors can be figured out easy, they are the standard utility bills we all get, electricity, gas, and water. Currently, they are $120, $75, and $0 (water is free here still). Food is the other common factor, here that cost has jumped through the roof since 2008. In 2008, about half our annual income was spent on food and groceries, today that average is close to 60% of our income. My income hasn’t really changed all that much, I lost some sources of income and gain in other areas, which ended up working out a little bit ahead by the numbers, but not by much. The number in my household turned out to be the same, even thou the people themselves changed. Electricity usage in 2008 was about 1100 kW.h, of electricity per month, by the end of 2014 we were using 2242 kW.h, of electricity per month. (we moved). Gas was an average of 1.2 GJ per month in 2008, now it’s about 5.3 GJ per month. Rent is the same at $850, but I know that property tax for this place is over $10,000 a year. (The new landlord is really cool and has given us a break on the rent, this house is WAY better then the old one).

The changes are all against me for becoming more self-efficient. In fact there are somethings I did wrong with the original index, and it becomes apparent when looking at the changes. We use gas to heat the house and create hot water, in both the old house and the new house. Both the water heater and the furnace also use electricity, but for the moment let’s assume they don’t. What this means is that not only am I currently and before in 2008 at 0% efficiency for heat/hot water, but in fact have become even less, today I am 441.6% less efficient then I was at 0% in 2008. So my way of working out if am getting closer to providing for my own heat doesn’t take into account the original base line of usage. To make this even more complex, it occurred to me what if I use wood for heat, but don’t grow the trees? What if I buy cords of firewood? How do I figure it out then? I think I need to reset my train of thought on this idea. What I want to know is, how do I compare now with others, including my future self. How effective is one method of providing for yourself, compared to others, is location a factor, is climate, lifestyle, and other things effecting the way we are self-efficient? We all need food, clothing and shelter.

Those are the first three factors we should index. I should also add as a main index ‘water’. It is something that I really don’t spend to much time thinking about because the area in which I live has an abundance of it. Are there any other main points to include in the index? What about education and entertainment? What about health? In today’s internet era, being cordless should be a factor, so should homeschooling. Then there are other factors which might effect the way we even look at the main ones. Transportation effects how we get ‘stuff’ including food, or the ‘stuff’ we need to grow our own food, even if it is delivered instead of getting it ourselves. There is also one other factor that I completely forgot about in the 2008 index, and it’s the reason I based everything off of silver troy bars to begin with. That’s an index of Time. If it takes 100% of your time to grow your own food, your not really being 100% efficient. Time in this case doesn’t seem to be so apparent when looking at the final result, Time is converted as basic general labour to silver, so it’s there, but not as easy to notice.

There is one last thing I decided on to add to the index, that’s a marker of retirement/savings, which could include preps and supplies for emergency use in a disaster. The reason behind this one was simple, if you are depending on the government to provide you with a retirement income, your not being self-efficient in the future, so you need to invest in it now. So for the new updated index, I’ll include the following factors:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Transportation
  • Healthcare
  • Education/Entertainment
  • Retirement/Savings
  • Time

Food: Food can be broken down into smaller bits, or food groups, for this I’ll use Canada’s Food Guide2 like I did before but try to make it more clear. If like me, in 2008 you really didn’t grow or raise any of your own food your score is less then zero. To figure this out just take the total cost and divide it by 13.2 (Canadian dollars) for the full year. If on the other hand, you did raise /grow some of your own food you can use these charts3:

Children Teens Adults
2-3 4-8 9-13 14-18 Years 19-50 Years 51+ Years
Girls and Boys Female Male Female Male Female Male
Vegetables and Fruit 4 5 6 7 8 7-8 8-10 7 7
Grain Products 3 4 6 6 7 6-7 8 6 7
Milk and Alternatives 2 2 3-4 3-4 3-4 2 2 3 3
Meat and Alternatives 1 1 1-2 2 3 2 3 2 3


Vegetables and Fruit (10) 43.4%
Grain Products (8) 34.7%
Milk and Alternatives (2) 8%
Meat and Alternatives (3) 13%
Total: (23) 100.00%

Now a little math, you first have to know what the food is worth in terms of silver troy ounces. If your just buying it the grocery store this is easy to figure out as you just convert to the cost of spot silver. Similarly, you have to convert the produce of your garden to cost, the easiest way to do this is to figure out how many pounds of food you produced and the cost of it at the local market. (NOTE TO FARMERS: I would suggest that you don’t use gate prices for this, I know that it would be way easier for you to do it this way, and if you only plan to compare yourself to yourself last year, go ahead. But if you want to compare to someone else such as your cousin in another state, I would use retail prices).

If you want to be even more accurate, use the percentage in the charts above, because the cost of milk per pound isn’t going to be the same as the cost of vegetables per pound. In 2008 I spent about 1023 ounces of silver on food. Water: Water needs to be broken down into at least two sub-factors, mainly because it can come in two main purposes; drinking/cooking water, and everything else. But water is water, and no matter what you use it for, it still costs. The question is whether or not you provide for yourself. The simple way is actual dollar cost. This can include the cost of water bottles, utilities, or the rain collection system you purchase. All I’ve done here is convert the dollar amount for any factor into silver. You have to decide how you would place those costs in the chart, and keep note on it for future reference. For example if you spend $1000 on water utilities and another $1000 on a well, I think the well costs should be put into Retirement and Savings factor. If you are on city water, most would assume that your 0% self-efficient, however when I was figuring this out for myself I noticed that it isn’t true all the time.

The lower mainland is so abundant in water (it’s a rainforest area folks) that I counted the cost of water as zero, since that is exactly what it costs me. Even in summer if I used up all my preps for water, I could just put a bucket outside for it, yeah it rains here that much. For those that have to figure this out just look at shelter below. Shelter: If you rent, your landlord is responsible for the repairs on the roof etc… if you own, the maintenance is your problem. Providing for your own shelter is what we are trying to figure out here. If you are on welfare, you are 0% efficient on shelter. But if your working and own your own home are you 100%? Not if you hire someone else to repair it. And if you repair it yourself, what about the supplies needed for those repairs? I need to come up with a simple way to figure this out, because there are also the whole utility factor to consider. If my utilities were included in both houses, @ $850 I would figure the score out for 2008 and 2015 as follows…

2008: ($850 *12) / 13.2 (772.72) 2015: ($850 *12) / 20.53 (496.83)
Now you might be thinking, wait a minute, both years were the same rent so they should cost the same amount in points. That’s not exactly what we are doing here. We need a universal way to compare against each other, or our future selves.

Instead of paying rent in 2008 I could have saved 772 silver troy bars that could have been spent in 2015 on rent, and it would have gone a lot further now then it did then, that’s the factor in ‘Time’ coming into effect. Just keep that in mind as I continue. As sorta proof this works, in 2008 about 50% of my income was spent on food which worked out to about 1023 points, in 2014 it was closer to 60% and the income was higher which is why you would expect it to cost me more points, but instead it was only 905. That’s because the buying power of a silver troy bar is greater today then it was in 2008. All this is adjusted by the bonus points being generated at minimum wage to silver. (I make this more clear at the end)

Shelter: 2008 Rent+Utilities: $12540 / 13.2 (950) per year Note: I didn’t keep good records of the cost of gas and hydro, so I went with today’s usage since the family size and square footage is about the same.

Shelter: 2015 Rent+Utilities: $12540 / 20.53 (610.81) per year

Clothing: This factor seems to be a no-brainier, and it is likely that everyone here scores bad. We all buy clothes, not make them ourselves. It would seem that just removing this factor from the list would be the simple solution, but it would also be interesting to know how we compare to others. Maybe you knit your own sweaters, or buy only used clothing, that should be a point or two in your favour. The reverse logic also works too, if you make your own sweaters, and could have earned enough in silver to buy 10 times the number of sweaters you made in the same amount time, you weren’t really being efficient. Some would argue that being self-efficient and efficiency may not be the same thing. I disagree to a point. Know how to knit a sweater, and maybe actually doing it so you get the practical knowledge and skill instead of just head knowledge is important, and I would mark that down in retirement/savings rather then clothing. But being self-efficient doesn’t mean doing everything from scratch, it means providing for yourself. Doing that with the most gain is the point, a lawyer who hire out all the things here or buys them can be way more self-efficient then someone doing it themselves because they have the dollars/silver to do so. Hopefully that same lawyer realizes that if the dollar collapses he’d better know how to everything himself as well. The other point to consider is buying used clothes at the thrift store. It seems to me that this is better then buying new most of the time, although I can see how sometimes it isn’t. Different people will come to different conclusions for different reasons.

I again think the best way to resolve this is just follow the money. Transportation: If you walk everywhere instead of using public transport or your own car, your almost 100% efficient in this area. Groceries get delivered to the store so you loose points on that. I think transportation is the best way to look at self-efficiency. No one can score 100%, in fact if you manage to score100% in anything in this index, your doing it wrong. Fuel for cars per year knock off any gains you get in almost anything you do for yourself, even if you are your own mechanic. Creating your own fuel in wood-gas, or using reclaimed veggy oil gives you that back. I was trying to think if the cost a car you buy should be included in the year you buy it, or spread out over the life of the car. To make things simple I would suggest to include it in the year of purchase. Time: The reason this is last is because it messes up everything else. If your making $100 an hour, taking one hour to fetch water from the well is not very efficient then buying bottled water. This is also the reason for the base being a silver troy bar. You could use something that fluctuates even less on the spur of the moment such as the cost of zinc, but I find for this purpose silver is easier to figure out.

But Time in this system is also the base for everything else combined with silver. There are about 250 working/business days a year, and about 8 hours per day for paid labour. If we use a silver troy ounce as equal to one or two hours of basic general labour we have a measure to compare to everyone else. If I used the cost of a silver troy bar on August 12, 1971 the day before the Nixon shock and the end of the gold standard it won’t really help this index because it’s about being self-efficient and using silver troy ounces as a base, so the real thought here is how long would it take to get one silver troy ounce in 2008 or 2015 for a person working general labour, or minimum wage so we can compare ourselves to each other. This is a good measure since minimum wage in Washington DC is different than in Toronto or Vancouver, but a silver troy ounce is still a silver troy ounce. In 2008 the minimum wage for workers was $8/hr, that works out to about $16,000 a year using the 250 working days, and 8 hours a day. Converted to our point system here, $16k/$13.20 is about 1212.12 silver troy bars worth of income that year (I made 2045.45 that year so I was doing better then the average bear). Since everyone who reads this survived that year, you get 1212.12 points for that year on top of what ever else you made (Assuming you were in BC). I give these points so that those who made no income, but grew their own food get points for it etc, this also work for figuring out if your general labour for yourself is better then hiring someone else to do deal with the garden for you. The other advantage to this way of doing it is that if you are trying to figure out if moving to Idaho is a better a plan, you take the minimum wage, and how much you expect to make there per year as your base against how many ounces of silver you could have at today’s prices and compare that to your final scores in both scenarios. Just for the sake of comparison, the minimum wage in British Columbia (2015), is $10.50/hr or about $21,000 a year in income, at $20.53 an ounce, that’s 1022.89 points for 2015.

Healthcare: Obamacare and Canada’s Provincial social healthcare systems are not the same. They aren’t even the same between provinces in Canada, neither are they identical between states south of the border. My wife and I looked into how much it would cost us for healthcare coverage from Obama’s great plan (tongue in cheek), if we moved to Idaho or Montana (Search for James W, Rawlers’ American ReDoubt), and were shocked to find out our bill would be over $10,000 a year. We used to be Caravanners (Full-Time Working Travellers) and our Healthcare back in the 90’s was about $4,000 a year, and covered a lot more then Obama’s Universal Mess Up. But even if you get free healthcare there ae other thing likely that it does not cover, anything you buy for health, painkillers, medical aids, testing strips for blood meters etc. I added up here. Retirement/Savings: Since retirement and savings are used at a later date the only difference here is that instead of marking it down as points used against your total at the end, this should be added so that you use the points later as part of your income. Preppers can use this automatically since and costs in silver used to increase your preps can be marked down here, you’ll use them later when rotating and it will make up for the difference. (For Rawlians I’d add your term life insurance here too).

Calculating the Score: This is the simple math part of all this. All I did from here was add up all the points used and figured out what percentage I had left from the total. For example in 2008 I had a total of 3257.57 points (one point equals one silver troy) and had used 1995 points over the year. That’s about 61.24% leaving me with a score of 37.76% self-efficiency. The factors by the numbers: 2008 annual point spread = $27,000 / 13.2 = 2045.45 2015 annual points spread = $32,000 / 20.53 = 1558.69 (Based on 2014) 2008 Index Updated:

  • Index Score: 37.76%
  • Income: $27,000
  • Silver Troy Ounce Cost: $13.20
  • Minimum Wage: $8 (BC, Canada)
  • Base Points:
    • income: 2045.45
    • bonus: 1212.12 (minimum wage converted at 250 days / 8 hrs a day)
    • total: 3257.57
Index Item: Points Used:
Food: 1023
Water: 0
Shelter: 950
Clothing: 30
Transportation: 34
Healthcare: 18
Retirement/Savings: -60
Total: 1995

2015 Index (February):

  • Index Score: 42.13%
  • Income: (2014) $31,000
  • Silver Troy Ounce Cost: $20.53
  • Minimum wage: $10.50 (BC, Canada)
  • Base Points:
    • income: 1509.98
    • bonus: 1022.89 (minimum wage converted at 250 days / 8 hrs a day)
    • total: 2532.87
Index Item: Points Used:
Food: 905
Water: 0
Shelter: 610.81
Clothing: 29.22
Transportation: 9.74
Healthcare: 31.22
Retirement/Savings: -120.01
Total : 1465.98

Conclusions: At first I thought my thinking was completely screwed in coming to the conclusion that I had increased my self-efficiency by 4.37% since 2008. Mainly because our cost of food had gone up, our utilities had gone up, and our income had not increased all that much. But after spending some time thinking about it I figured this was pretty accurate. It isn’t a lot that is for sure, and we have actually become a little more self-efficient since then in areas that are hard to put into numbers, but over a year or two it does add up. What is going to be the real test for this system is what happens by the end of 2015, since I intend to make huge strides in becoming more self-reliant. Added Note: You’ll notice that I ended up not including Entertainment and Education, I don’t have any records for this, so I’ll include them in the update at years end. – wolfe Last Updated: Feb, 23 2015