I believe in creating marketplace alternatives when I'm not happy with what the marketplace has to offer.
I also look for alternatives within the marketplace when I don't like the way things are offered or the asking price.
This is America - we have a choice, even if it means that we create our own choices. There is a price to be paid for stepping outside the traditional marketplace, but there is a special freedom and satisfaction associated with it too.
Let's look at several examples of alternatives to the traditional marketplace that could make sense for many of us engaged in frugal living. In some cases, it can make good "cents" to create our own alternatives, especially if they represent small business ideas that have the potential to create appreciable revenue streams for us by serving needs and interests that others have as well.
For this discussion I'll assume that your interest in marketplace alternatives is based on your desire to save money, improve quality or availability, or enhance your personal convenience.
Grow Your Own Food
Of all the marketplace alternatives, this one is clearly out if front. Seeds, water, soil, warmth and sunlight can produce an alternative to the grocery store that tastes great, is right outside your back door, and costs little more than your time in the garden.
Grocery stores are constantly being restocked. That means a steady flow of trucks across the country to carry our food, often for a thousand miles or more, just so we don't run out. It's part of the marketplace, and the cost of fuel, drivers and warehousing is all added to the cost of feeding ourselves.
If you don't like the cost of food, then one of the marketplace alternatives is growing vegetables of your own.
Raise Your Own Food
As a companion to growing your own food, another of the marketplace alternatives is to raise your own food. Small animals like rabbits, ducks, fish, chickens, goats, turkeys, rabbits and geese are commonly raised on small farms and ranches to provide a source of protein.
Some can be raised in your backyard!
For the non-traditional among us, our cuisine can include frogs, turtles, dog, Guinea pig and snakes. If you're more traditionally minded, you can raise cattle, hogs and sheep. Butcher them yourself or take them to a processing facility where they'll do that kind of work for you.
In any event, you have options to choose from in this area if you're interested in marketplace alternatives in the area of food from animals.
Solar, wind and hydro offer marketplace alternatives to the power company. Except for solar cells, you can probably create much of these power producing resources yourself. If you don't like the reliability or the cost of energy from your local provider, then you can create your own.
One of the reasons these marketplace alternatives aren't more prevalent is their cost. Energy in America is relatively cheap, especially electricity, and the idea of shelling out $25,000 for a commercial system that allows you to be energy independent just isn't all that appealing.
The return on investment for expensive systems can really suck!
Nevertheless, there are some cases when alternative energy is a must, or at least highly desirable. If you choose to live in a remote area not served by the power company, you'll be quite unhappy with the cost of running an electric line to your place of residence. In many cases, the cost of establishing your own alternative energy infrastructure might be the same as having the electric company build you a line.
Heating with Wood
In addition to solar heat, you can make use of wood heat to keep yourself warm during the winter. This is another of the long standing marketplace alternatives. Long before we had natural gas piped to our homes, there was wood heat.
If you have a source of wood such as your own wood lot, then you can make use of this alternative to save money. Outdoor wood furnaces allow us to interface hydronic heat from wood burning appliances with our conventional furnace and domestic hot water systems.
There are costs associated with heating with wood, but for those of us that are fed up with the roller coaster ride of fuel prices, we can switch to this renewable energy alternative and exchange our labor and a bit of inconvenience for a reduction in the cost of home heating.
Cell Phone Instead of a Land Line
The telecommunication industry has provided us with it's own marketplace alternatives - use a cell phone as your primary phone instead of having a traditional land line. In many cases, this can save money, and give us the added convenience of having our "home phone" with us wherever we go.
In addition, pre-paid cell phone service provides yet another alternative that can eliminates monthly charges. For those of us that seldom us a cell phone, this is the best way to go if you're interested in saving money. And, who isn't?
Do It Yourself
Minor repairs and other projects around the house can be done by the homeowner to save costs associated with contractors. If you know you can do a good job, and you have the time, often you can save 50% or more over the cost of contracting out a project. For minor repairs, you can save 90% or more if you do it yourself.
For example, you might pay $60 for a service call to fix a faucet with $3 in parts that are available from the local hardware store. That's a 95% savings.
How about your tax return? They aren't necessarily all that complex for an individual, once you have some experience preparing one. If you're the average person that doesn't itemize, you can certainly fill out a 1040 or 1040EZ without any assistance other than the instructions.
If you're at all familiar with this site, you know that one of my marketplace alternatives to expensive greenhouse kits is to design and build my own. This approach has worked well for me. I lend a hand to readers with a "build your own greenhouse" attitude.
Your Own Water System
Have you considered drilling your own well? I know people in areas where the municipal water is restricted or very expensive, and they have created marketplace alternatives by drilling their own shallow wells or setting up a gray water system.
Expect government rules and regulations concerning both activities. Anytime you're trying to make yourself less dependent on the government, you can bet they'll have something to say about it.
Internet Instead of Corporate Media
Television shows, news and lots of other entertainment can be found on the Internet, so you can use it as one of the marketplace alternatives for television, newspapers, magazines and other corporate media.
I haven't had TV service in my home for about 15 years. Also, I've never subscribed to a newspaper at any point in my life. I can't say that I've missed anything important because of this deliberate avoidance of corporate media.
Once I was accused of having my "head in the sand" because I don't watch television. That's a bit like saying you're not much of a leader because you don't follow what most everyone else is doing. I think my critic was ultimately disappointed in themselves because they just couldn't see their life without the regular entertainment of TV. Perhaps too, they recognized at that moment their own TV addiction staring them in the face and made the "head in the sand" comment as a knee jerk reaction, instead of a thoughtful response.
If I do feel compelled to research a topic or a story I've stumbled across, I use the Internet. The benefit of marketplace alternatives like the Internet is that the information or entertainment I seek is there when I want it. It's convenient and often provided in just the right size and format for easy consumption.
Wrapping it Up
Whether you're trying to get off the grid, ditch the cable bill or the telephone bill, enjoy healthy whole food, live a more satisfying life, or you simply want to lower your cost of living, the traditional marketplace doesn't always satisfy your interests. This is where marketplace alternatives can help.
Whether you create them or someone else invents them, there are usually alternatives to the marketplace. Make use of them when it makes sense.
It's wise to understand what the costs are, and balance them with the anticipated benefits. My approach to frugal living and independence has me focused on growing and raising my own food, creating my own energy, and doing it myself. It's a challenge, but it can be fun too.
Here's to all my friends that enjoy frugal living in part because they have created their own marketplace alternatives.
Done with Marketplace Alternatives, take me back to Growing Vegetables
Done with Marketplace Alternatives, take me back to Small Animals