First off, I think I need to clarify a few things right off the bat…
I struggled a bit in titling this post, because it makes it sound like homesteading has to be an expensive endeavor, and that’s not true at all.
As I’ve stated in my Your Custom Homestead eBook, as well as all over this blog, you DO NOT have to move to the country or shell out the big bucks in order to ‘homestead.’
If you’ve read my About page, then you know our personal homestead/farm consists of 67 acres, cattle, horses, various smaller animals, multiple outbuildings, tractors, a one-ton truck, and several trailers.
Land and animals are expensive. Ideally, we would all be able to make our homesteads pay for themselves right away, but it doesn’t always work like that.
I’ve had several readers send me emails expressing a slight bit of skepticism as to how we, a young couple, have been able to afford our lifestyle. I think some folks wonder if we are independently wealthy or if we inherited our land.
(FULL DISCLOSURE/UPDATE: Since writing this post almost 3 years ago, things have changed a bit. My blog and online business now generate a full-time income for my family, in addition to my husband’s income.
HOWEVER– during the formative years of our homestead, we only ever had one income. And even now, we are FAR from extravagant. We still drive used cars and buy old equipment. We put the bulk of my income in savings and plan to pay off our mortgage entirely in the near future. All the other information in this post still holds true.)
So for those of you who are wondering how we homestead on one income, I’m going to spill the beans today.
You see, we really do live on just my husband’s income. (I quit my last “real” job in 2009 when I become pregnant with Prairie Girl.)
We aren’t trust fund babies…
We don’t have rich relatives and haven’t inherited a single cent from anyone…
We don’t play the lottery…
And we’ve never borrowed money from our parents…
The big secret is…
Actually not really a secret at all. There are lots of different little factors that enable us to do what we do.
How We Homestead on One Income
1. We stay out of debt.
We were very fortunate to come across Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book (affiliate link) right after we were engaged. We entered our marriage with ZERO debt and a plan to keep it that way. We committed right from the beginning of our relationship to be different than the average American and do everything we could to live beneath our means.
For our first year and a half of marriage, we rented a single-wide trailer, out in the middle of nowhere, with dirt-cheap rent. This enabled us to squirrel away a healthy chunk of savings. We knew that we would take out a loan for our first home, but set our price range far, far below what the bank was willing to loan us.
So yes, we do have a mortgage payment on our homestead– but it’s less than what some folks pay for rent in the neighboring town– and it’s the only bit of debt we have. Plus, we’ve been able to refinance and get an awesome interest rate, so our plan is to pay off the loan in 15 years (or sooner), instead of 30.
2. We buy things used.
This goes along with the whole idea of staying debt-free. We are strict about only paying cash for our vehicles, tractors, or trailers.
Although that might sound glamorous at first, it means we have a lot of older equipment. Functional? Yes. Shiny and fancy? No. We do end up spending time tinkering on the stuff that breaks down or needs maintenance.
I’ll be honest, sometimes I feel a little dorky driving my old sedan… But then I remember that I don’t have a monthly payment on it, and that makes it all worthwhile.
The concept of buying things second-hand goes beyond just vehicles– I am a yard sale fanatic and purchase a large number of our clothes, household items, and kitchen stuff that way. People are shocked when I tell them that most of my home decor is repurposed yard sale finds. If you are creative, yard sale stuff doesn’t have to be tacky.
3. We are Obsessive DIY-ers.
I was fortunate to marry a very handy man. Not only is my hubby a Master Electrician by trade, he can weld, mechanic, woodwork, fence, and he’s knowledgeable with general construction stuff. These skills have proven invaluable in allowing us to build and maintain our homestead on a budget.
When at all possible, we don’t hire others to do work that we are capable of… Even if it means some long, sweaty days.
Of course, there is no shame in hiring a professional when the task requires it (when our sewer line backed up last weekend, I wanted to kiss the repairman that unplugged it…), but we’ve saved a lot of cash by doing all of our own fencing, painting, landscaping, and remodeling.
But, there has still been a lot of skills we’ve had to learn along the way…
Neither one of us was raised on a farm, and we had no prior experience with any of those skills. So if we can learn all these crazy homestead skills, so can you!
4. We Barter
Whenever we can, we like to barter for goods and services. This can really help to take the strain off of the budget. This year I traded some of our home raised grass-fed beef for a big box of cucumbers from my friend. We’ve also been blessed to trade some of hubby’s electrician skills for hay, and I swapped some goats for a Jersey bull calf this spring.
Of course, bartering greatly depends on your location and needs, but look for opportunities whenever possible.