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Is homesteading really a cheaper way of life? That’s a loaded question. The answer is “yes” and “no”. The true answer lies in how to prepare financially to homestead.
Initially, it is absolutely NOT cheaper. One exception might be if you were able to purchase a turn-key homestead that had everything problem solved and all systems in place, but who would ever sell a place like that….if it EVEN existed. But “Yes” in the long term, if you’re determined and well-prepared.
The self-sustaining lifestyle isn’t the easiest path in life, but it is by far the most satisfying, in my mind. Anyone who lives this way will tell you that it takes time, money and preparation to get there. You’ve got to plan for the expected AND the unexpected, and believe me, there is LOTS of unexpected when you live rurally.
The very best advice I can give you as you prepare yourself financially to live off -grid or homestead is to SAVE now.
The best situation would be for you to be debt-free
Paying off all of your debt is the best way to live anyway, but it can be especially critical when you’re procuring the sustainable life. A family would have a very difficult time putting in enough hours at their “normal job” to make debt payments each month, while trying to set up a homestead. Actually, it’s very improbable.
Here’s how it works, and please take this point very seriously, because I’ve seen family after family leave the country and go back to their dependent lifestyles, simply because of their debt load. Setting up a homestead or sustainable residence takes TIME and MONEY. You need major flexibility from your day job to be able to work on your homestead. This type of work can’t be done only on weekends and evenings, unless you plan to live until you’re 150. That kind of flexibility can only happen when you have very few bills to pay.
It’s a very sad thing to watch someone with big dreams about being self-sustaining purchase a property, only to move away in a couple of years because they can’t afford to pay for it.
Sure, they start off like gang-busters. Suddenly, you’ll see a big crew of friends and family all working on the newly purchased property! Backhoes are digging, lumber is being hauled in and trucks of gravel and the like are all over the place, making the beautiful noise of of progress! Then one day, it all stops. I already know what happened….they ran out of money.
Take my advice, get out of debt first. Do whatever you have to do, and stick with it as you dream about your life on a homestead. If it takes you 10 years to pay everything off, so be it. Here is a good place to start.
Learn to live below your means
“Living below your means” is a sister to “getting out of debt”, because they work together. Just because you have the money doesn’t mean you have to spend it.
In the book “The Millionaire Next Door“, the authors describe attributes of the truly wealthy. Surprisingly, they live far below their means. The real millionaires of the world (not the people who look rich but the ones who actually have cash in the bank) are pretty comfortable in their skin and have learned that the secret to wealth isn’t necessarily making 7 figures, but living modestly and frugally. Saving, not spending, is what accumulates cash.
Learn frugality and practice it. Make it your mindset. Every time you think about spending, say to yourself “You have enough“.
Folks who are debt-free are disciplined, plain and simple. Check out “7 Successful Habits of People Who are Debt-Free“.
Find Your Money
Do you currently receive a tax refund? That’s your cash every pay period that you’re giving to the government interest-free! Here’s how to get your money now and start saving it.
Are you supporting adult children who could be standing on their own two feet? Do you have other dysfunctional people in your life who seem to find their way into your billfold? You might want to have a little chat with these folks and set some new boundaries.
Cancel cable, magazines, newspapers and gym memberships. Never pay retail and buy used only if it’s truly necessary.
Build Your Credit Rating
While you’re paying down debt, take a look at your credit rating and see what needs to be done to improve it. You might need to borrow some cash down the road for a large ticket item for your homestead property, and there’s nothing wrong with borrowing, as long as you have a quick plan to pay it off. The last thing you want to do, however, is be cash-strapped and then take out a loan. Taking a loan to keep your own cash liquid can be a good decision, but not if you’re just desperate. Use borrowing to your advantage.
Fancy term for “save a bunch of money”. You will need capital for your homestead to purchase:
*Large equipment (front loader, back hoe, tractor, etc.)
*Dependable car and or truck
*Tools (chain saws, hand tools, shovels, post hole diggers)
*Infrastructure (Solar panels, septic systems, wells, pasture fencing, barns, driveways/service roads)
How much money you’ll need to accomplish sustainability for your homestead will depend upon your skill set and the type of property you decide to buy.
You might decide to start with raw land and live in a mobile/tiny home for a while as you build your own home. Write down everything you could possibly need, item by item, all the man hours, etc that you will need to accomplish this. Count the cost ahead of time!
My husband and I went a different route, we purchased a home on 10 acres with public utilities already in place, with the plan to become grid-free over time. As income provides, we change systems and transition into sustainability. This works best for us for a number of reasons.
Another way might be to purchase a run-down homestead and fix-it-up! Once again, scrupulously investigate all possible issues with the property and plan appropriately! Never say to yourself “Oh, it’ll be ok.”. No, it won’t be. PLAN!
Expect the unexpected. About a year after we moved into our home, we had a pretty major fire in a pole barn that held all of our storage items, which included a “new” used zero-turn mower/front loader, most of our family heirlooms, tools, furniture, etc. You can’t plan for that kind of thing except for with property insurance. Even then, make sure you’re covered for the purpose you’re using it for, rural properties are insured a little differently.
It took us over a year to get the melted barn hauled away, new foundation laid and new building erected. Not everything was covered by homeowners, so we took a pretty good wack financially. It could have set us back even further (or worse, sent us back to the suburbs!) if we hadn’t planned ahead and saved.
My intention isn’t to scare you out of homesteading, but rather to prepare you to be successful by learning from the mistakes of others!