Becoming totally self-sufficient is the ultimate goal for all homesteaders and preppers, but no matter how much we struggle, money is still part of the self-sufficiency equation. Learning to live on a budget as a homesteader is a challenge for some and the lack of money is the number one reason why people abandon the homesteading lifestyle.
People all over the country drop everything in search of a more fulfilling life and they drop a pile of money for their land and home, hoping to have a new start. They think they will be able to adapt to this new lifestyle, then run up enormous debts and lose it all.
If you want to become a homesteader you shouldn’t become naive about money, you will still going to need it. If you follow the guidelines outlined in this article, you may find you’ll need a lot less than you thought. Even more, you’ll find ways to make it while still pursuing your dream of becoming self-sufficient.
Make up your mind and decide what you want!
Before you experience your new lifestyle and learn to live on a budget as a homesteader, you should decide on what level of preparedness or self-sufficiency you want to attain. Do you plan to use your retreat until the situation settles and you are able to get back to your old life? Are you reaching for the ultimate goal, to become completely self-sufficient? Or are you just setting up a functional bug out location as an insurance policy for a long-term disaster?
Once you figure out your goal, you will need to make a list of the skills, equipment, knowledge and tools you’ll need to reach your desired level of preparedness. Go through your list and set priorities for everything you’ve put there. This will help you later on because you will need to get the most important items first, once you save money. Having such list will help you keep track of your progress, but most of all; it will provide you with motivation to continue your efforts over the long haul.
Pennies add up, so pay attention!
If you want to live on a budget as a homesteader you need to keep track of every penny you spend for one full month. When I lived in the city and had a desk job, I used to spend an average of $5 a day for snacks and soft drinks from the vending machines at work. It didn’t sound like much until I had to calculate my monthly budget to get rid of some credit cards. I realized I was spending way too much on junk food to rot my teeth and increase my weight. The lesson here is that if you can save just one dollar a day, every day of the year, you will have $365 to spend on other things, things that you need. Learn to set money aside for the things you really need and want.
Downsizing, the key to saving money
Are you able to eliminate a vehicle for your daily routine? If yes, you’ll spend less on taxes, licensing, insurance, repairs, car parts and gasoline. If you want to live on a budget as a homesteader, you need to learn how to downsize. How about your home? Are you willing to try with something smaller or cheaper? Having a smaller apartment within walking distance of the work place, was how I started downsizing and saved money to buy a piece of land for a retreat. I applied the same principle for my parents when they decided to buy a retirement home. Their wish was to get a house with three bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, but after I’ve explained that large houses are costly to heat and cool, difficult to keep clean and expensive to maintain, they settled on something smaller. Taxes and insurances are atrocious for big proprieties, so you would be better with something smaller that fits all your needs. The first homesteaders and pioneers didn’t need much to survive and thrive. Why should you need a big house and a big car?
Related article: Homesteading lesson – Living in a 1800s SOD house
Insurances, the bottomless money pit
The average American pays insurance on his life, health home and vehicles, and although it’s important to have adequate insurance, a long discussion with a salesman will make your wallet thinner. If you want to live on a budget as a homesteader, you need to carefully analyze what you need to meet the legal requirements on property and vehicle. Everything else will just increase the commission of the salesman. Medical care and insurance is the most difficult obstacle to overcome when you aim to become self-sufficient. You will need to look for county, state and city sponsored clinics that handle most routine medical needs and bill you according to your income.
If you live on a budget as a homesteader, you need to be energy efficient
Driving an old clunker that consumes gas like there’s no tomorrow is not a good money saving strategy and you need a vehicle that will save money on fuel. Even so, you need to be careful and add up the differences in miles per gallon savings versus the cost of the newer vehicles. You might find it cheaper to drive the old car if you can’t afford a more fuel efficient one.
The same logic applies for your appliances, like water heaters, refrigerators or freezers. If they are a few years old, they are probably power wasters and you need to plan their replacement in time. If you plan to live on a budget as a homesteader, you will need to get some energy-efficient models. If you’re not there yet, you can use all sorts of tricks to save a penny here and there. Wrapping insulation around hot water tanks and putting the freezer in a colder room are tips that will make a difference as well. Get used to connect your TV, microwave and gaming console to power strips and turn them off when they’re not in use. Many of the modern appliances have clocks and “always on” circuitry that use power when they are turned off.
Replacing incandescent lights with low-watt fluorescents or LEDs is recommended and it really helps in the long run. Leaving the lights on when you’re not using them is a money wasting habit and you should get rid of it. For outside areas, you should use motion-sensitive lighting rather than leaving a watch light on all night. Personal savings can range from a few dollars to more than $100 per month, but the big difference is seen as these savings add up over time.
Saving money on phone and internet
If you plan to live on a budget as a homesteader learn to cut on the “deals and extras” the phone company sells you. Call waiting, caller ID or unlimited long distance are all options that you could live without. Getting cell phones for everyone just to take advantage of the “family plan offer” is nothing more than a trick to get you hooked on the new technology. Do you really need to “save money” and sign a contract just to buy your kids some expensive toys? Internet access is crucial in these modern times and it helps people stay connected even if they are living in remote areas. However, internet providers have different plans and you need to make sure you get the one suited for your budget, not the one that makes the salesman the best commission.
Habits, they rule our world…
If the world would end tomorrow, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, pornography and gambling will still be in high demand. This is the reality and everyone has their vices, more or less destructive. I’m not going to debate about the moral or health issues here, but I’m going to discuss about the financial issues. When we started our homesteading adventure, my husband was still a smoker and it really showed at the end of the month. A pack of cigarettes in my area was $6.75 and a pack a day would end up costing us $47.25 a week. After long discussions with him, he finally understood that spending $2268 a year to get in an early grave is not the way to go. Spending money on vices that decline your health and productivity is not an option if you decide to embark on a self-sufficiency journey.
If you live on a budget as a homesteader, you need to become frugal
If you plan to live on a budget as a homesteader you need to spend only on what is needed. You will live your life by following a general rule: use it up, wear it up, make it do or do without. This is hard for some, but it gets easier if you’re prioritized and willing to understand the difference between needs and wants. Fewer trips out means savings on fuel, food and you will avoid impulse spending. Each trip should be carefully planned and you should make the most of it. As example, if you plan to be out all day, you should pack lunch and avoid eating at a restaurant. Bring snacks and soft drinks for home and keep your cooler ready.
Related articles: Useful strategies to pay down debt
Don’t become part of the pack
Many of our friends are on a constant rat race and they have newer vehicles, larger houses and boats. The thing is that they might seem they have it all figured out, but they depend on others to provide food, fuel and electricity. With the current economic meltdown, many Americans are on unemployment with no prospect of a decent job in the foreseeable future. They are all trying to maintain a lifestyle that is no longer possible and they are struggling to keep their homes out of foreclosure. You should develop an independent lifestyle and break free from the chains of modern society. Why would you accumulate debt just to buy things that you don’t really need, just to compete with others? Who are you trying to impress?
Don’t buy what you need, try to rent it
One of the big mistakes of those who live on a budget as a homesteader is to buy things that they need only for a specific job or for a short period of time. They think that they will be able to rent it to others in the future, but they don’t have any idea if there is a demand for what they bought, in the area they live. Rather than spending money on things that you use only once and hope they will bring you an income in the future, you should rent them. Motor homes, trucks, trailers, carpet cleaners, paint sprayers and almost everything that you might need can be rented at a fraction of what it would cost you to own them.
Money saved, now what?
When you save money by following the suggestions listed here, you should put it aside. Don’t trust banks because they are just loan sharks protected by the government. You should keep your money in an envelope a home, somewhere safe. All the money you set aside should be used only for the things designated in your homesteading master plan. When you have a super deal coming along that fits with your plans, you’ll be able to cash in on it.
Living on a budget as a homesteader is not for everyone and most people will give up after the first year. This is a hard life that takes time to be put in place, but once you manage to do that, you will enjoy the rewards of a free spirit life. Any real homesteader and off-gridder will tell you that there is no better felling in this entire world than the one you get by being able to provide for your family without depending on others. Before you go for the real thing, try to adapt these suggestions to your current lifestyle and see how you’re able to handle it all.
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