I’m excited to have another homesteading blogger sharing their story today. American Family Now is the blog of a family of six who have committed to pursuing a debt-free lifestyle–I hope you find it as inspiring as I did!
And pssst! You know that crazy bundle sale I’ve been telling you about–the one where you can get $2000 worth of homesteading, healthy living, and whole food content for $39? Well, it was supposed to end on Wednesday, but it got extended til Sunday! Grab it while you still can!
In a few weeks I’ll be 27 years old, and my husband and I, with our four kids, are on our way to living debt-free. Before I tell you how we are making that happen, you should know what I am not going to share. I am not going to tell you how you can pay off your mortgage in two years, or quit your job and make money online. Our family has done neither of those things, and our journey to financial freedom has not been an easy one. Instead, we are among the rising number of families losing their homes to foreclosure.
Now I’ll tell you what I will do. I will show you how an average lower-middle class family can not only survive financial difficulty, but thrive despite it and use the situation to invest in their future. I’ll tell you what we’ve learned about financial responsibility through our hardship, and I’ll give you some encouragement on your own journey to financial freedom.
So here’s our story in a nutshell
2007 – Seeing the economy collapsing, our family began preparing for hard times. We are thankful we did because…
2010 – My husband was laid off from his high-end carpentry job, and immediately began looking for work. We continued paying our bills until April 2011 when our savings was just about gone. Because we were moving, most of the bills were canceled anyway. We are still paying on our equity loan.
2011 – We bought a 31-foot camper with our tax return, moved with our three children into the camper, and began our off-grid, small homestead on family land with cash. Nearly one year after he was laid off, my husband was hired by another woodworking company. The new pay rate did not meet our previous living expenses, thus our new lifestyle was still the best route for us.
2012 – 2013 – We have built a grey water leach field, an outhouse, and a storage shed, drew up the plans and bought the building permits for our house, dug out the foundation, and bought our solar and wind power setup, all with cash. And we had another baby – born in our camper!
Our goal is to continue investing time and money as we can into building our house and developing our homestead until it becomes nearly self-sufficient. Perhaps one day my husband will be able to work part time or from home to meet our needs.
Two things I wish I had known before ~
- It’s okay to start small and work your way up. Before we married, my husband suggested living in a camper and building a house with cash. I didn’t like the idea so I said no, and he respected that. If I had changed my attitude toward alternative living then, we might have had a house right now with no debt attached, nor foreclosure in our past. Attitude is everything!
- If you’re going to get a loan, don’t get one bigger than you absolutely need. That means, for example, if you get a secondary home loan like we did, don’t invest part of it into a stereo system or top quality appliances – stick to the roofing and furnace. Thanks in part to that foolish mistake, we are still paying on our equity loan.
How we have learned to thrive despite financial difficulty ~
The most difficult part of our trials was living on unemployment insurance, which provided just over half of our normal income. We had to learn how to live comfortably on very little. We shopped with a budget, cooked with fewer expensive ingredients, found inexpensive clothing, and otherwise explored the world of frugality.
Even though our current income is more than what unemployment insurance pays, that experience helped to change my attitude and taught me how to be content with what I had. I decided I had a choice – since I couldn’t change how much money we had I could be thankful for what we did have and be creative in learning how to manage, or I could become depressed and have a sour attitude about life in general. The choice seemed clear.
Now, with an income which many would consider under the poverty line, we are living comfortably. Without a mortgage (other than the smaller, equity loan), without car loans, without credit cards, college debt, or personal loans, we are eating well, wearing nice clothes, staying warm, and building our house.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, being able to “thrive” depends not on someone else’s description of the term, but on our own. Each of us, you and I both, need to decide what makes us happy in life. Deciding that you don’t need to be like everyone else is the first major hurdle jumped in living debt-free, and every person who decides to live without debt has their own reason for doing so.
Encouragement for your journey ~
Those who are debt-free look at life differently than those who are not. Perhaps, even if you are not debt-free you have already begun to see life differently, like my husband and I. This change of vision effects our values and how we spend money.
Here are a few examples of what this often looks like among debt-free, and soon-to-be debt-free families ~
- You are aware of how much, when, and on what you spend your cash
- You save money to purchase things you need or want, and plan ahead for irregular expenses that are likely to come down the road (eg. car repair)
- You search for alternatives, considering how can you get the best deals
- You lower your cost of living, looking at all your expenses to figure out how to get the highest quality for the lowest price
- If you are living in a two-income family, you plan how you would manage on one income, so if the unexpected happens and one of you becomes unemployed for a while, you will still be OK
- If you are a one income family, you have started a rainy day fund!
- You have begun showing your kids how to be responsible with their cash and credit, before they start believing debt is necessary
Having no debt is freeing. You have control over your income – you can save it, you can spend it, but the point is, you will never owe anyone, you will never have to give up belongings as equity, and you will never waste money in interest.
The point at which you decide to live debt-free is going to be different than the next person’s. I am 27 and post-foreclosure. Perhaps you are 17, 32, 54, or 68. Maybe you’ve always rented an apartment, or you own two houses outright. It doesn’t really matter when you start as long as you make that decision and begin taking steps to live it out. And you know what? You can do it. You can live debt-free.
Mama is the owner and blogger at AmericanFamilyNow.org, and author of A Year In a Camper. She and her husband (known on her blog as Papa) live with their four children ages 7, 5, 3, and 1 in their off-grid camper in rural New England. You can contact her by email at email@example.com.