Frugal Family History: On the Homestead

By , January 5, 2016

In my last essay, Frugal Family History: Before the Homestead, I described our frugal practices when we lived on-grid. Now, let’s look at living off-grid. For the full topic, begin with Homestead Core Values: Frugality.

I like to describe the acquisition of our homestead as “falling ass backward into land.” While that may not tell the whole story, it sums it up nicely.

I won’t detail the process of acquiring our land, I’ll just outline the facts:

We purchased remote property in partnership with my sister, but eventually discovered we couldn’t develop it equitably between two households. We decided to look for similar land we could share, planning to sell our commonly held property to pay for it. In the search we discovered our homestead. It didn’t suit my sister’s needs, but it intrigued us, so we pursued it on our own (see First View: A Homestead Made Holiday). We sold some of the common property. After a successful offer on the homestead, we sold our house in Juneau, using the proceeds to pay off that mortgage, and the mortgage on the homestead.

Once we decided to move to the homestead, we stripped our lives to the barest frugality. We sold much of our Juneau household just to fit the essentials into the cabin and outbuildings, and to reduce the burden of moving it to the homestead, mostly on our backs over the trail.

We reduced our primary household expenses to property taxes, gasoline and vehicle maintenance, and food and necessities. We pay no utilities, taking responsibility for those aspects of life ourselves.

This reduction in living costs allowed us to live for several years on savings alone. Since then, we’ve branched out. I work as a freelance publisher (Yeldagalga Publications, LLC). Michelle works in town part time, and we maintain micro incomes, mostly from the blog through ads on our pages, Amazon.com links on our book page and elsewhere, and our online store. We don’t make much, and little of what we do earn comes in steadily, but our extremely low cost of living allows us to manage, and even thrive. We consider expenditures long and hard, and look for used or discounted goods whenever feasible (see The Shopping List). We average about $1000/month in expenditures.

Life seems easier than those early days, although we often find that we must rein ourselves in. We live on far less than most Americans, yet we slip into spending too much now and then. We fight against complacency, and try to build our savings against emergencies.

Reducing the amount of money needed to maintain our home has revolutionized our lives. Were we to return to life on grid, we couldn’t get by as cheaply as we do today. Returning to “normal” society would add rent or mortgage, utilities, probably increased clothing and transportation expenses and more. Our cost of living would snowball precariously!

Presently, our low expenses serve as an extremely low baseline that frees us of the need to earn much higher amounts merely to survive. Rather than pay someone else to provide shelter, fuel (to an extent; we cut our own firewood, but must purchase propane for the cook stove) electricity, and all of our food, we produce these things ourselves. We operate on the philosophy of “more calories than cash.”

No one should think that we have “arrived,” or somehow live an idyll. We work hard to keep our homestead moving forward, and ourselves afloat financially. As I try to stress repeatedly, we do this because we like it. That makes it easier, even when the work becomes dangerous or exhausting. We give up much to live this life (see The Cost of Living) but the rewards outweigh the sacrifices.

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