Andy Fleming writing on living off the grid…
You’re ready for the move. In fact, it can’t come soon enough. You’ve spent a few months to a year saving and you’ve sold all the extra stuff you don’t want to bring with you. One way or another, you’ve managed to stash away a few thousand dollars for that initial push.
So what now? What exactly do you need to start living the peaceful, meaningful, off-grid life you’ve always dreamed of?
First things first…
Before you start spending, it’s a good idea to have a plan for your future income. There’s a number of ways you can make money while living off-grid. You’re really only limited by your imagination and drive, and if you desire this lifestyle you probably have lots of both.
If you or someone in your family has the ability to work remotely from home keep that job! At some point in the future you may not need it, but for now you’ll gain a lot of flexibility by keeping one foot in the door.
If not, you can easily make homesteading itself into a job. Raising livestock and learning to produce multiple goods from animal byproducts is always a good bet. Goats, for example, are easy to keep and raise; and their milk can be sold on its own or turned into cheese, yogurt, or soap.
Selling produce and flowers at local markets is another option here and the demand for locally farmed produce in high-end “locavore” style restaurants could lead to a healthy profit. Curtis Stone, the founder of GreenCityAcres was able to make between $60,000 and $80,000 annually doing this. And he only farmed about a third of an acre during that time.
Even if you only produce enough food for yourself, you still have lots of options for homemade products and crafts. Americans are hungry for stories of life on the homestead, and you could easily write about your experiences and self-publish the stories through Amazon or iTunes. Depending on your location and the community around your homestead, you may even be able to make some money teaching classes on off-grid living or survival skills or hosting hiking and camping tours.
Homesteading lends itself easily to a creative lifestyle. You may find time to learn an artsy craft like woodworking, making organic soaps and makeup, or clothing and jewelry manufacturing. There are tons of very successful, niche shops on sites like Etsy and eBay that do exactly this. Even if you don’t have an internet hookup you can usually find easy access to one at a local library or get a cheap laptop and head to a nearby café with free wireless.
The Four Things You Need…
To get off-grid there’s only four things you’ll need. Land, shelter, water, and power. Obviously food is also a concern, but the cost of setting up a garden is zero if you build raised garden beds out of recycled materials. If you’re smart about it, you can get all four without going over $10,000. The most expensive investments are the land and shelter components, and you always have the option of putting a down payment on one or both if necessary (this is why it’s a good idea to have a plan for future income).
It’s a personal preference weather you want to buy shelter or land first, for now we’ll focus on land. The cheapest plots can be bought at auctions or through websites like LandWatch or Lands Of America. The average price for land runs a little over $3,000 per acre for a five-acre plot, but it’s not unusual to find cheap land for around $500 per acre if you keep an eye on auctions and the sites listed above. Even if you decide to buy a big five-acre plot for $15,000, with good credit you can probably negotiate a 20% price cut and end up with a $6,000 down-payment. The most important thing is that you find land with a natural water source or a pre-dug well. Digging a well is a big expense that you can cut out entirely if you shop smart.
The easiest way to get a comfortable shelter set up is by buying a camper van or tiny home. A new camper runs tow between $15,000 and $25,000, but depending on your credit you may only need to put about $2,000 down to get going. You can also find campers for under $2,000 on auction sites like eBay and Craigslist, just be careful about what you’re buying and make sure it’s not going to cost more in repairs than a new van. The important thing here is to get a van with a septic system, so that you have plumbing covered for the foreseeable future. This might make buying a new van your best option.
The idea of taking on some more debt in order to make the move might seem counter-intuitive. Remember though, that moving to a homestead will cut your regular bills down to nothing and that you’ll be saving money by living sustainably. You might end up saving up to $1,000 a month if you’re smart about it, which could more than cover the monthly payments on land and/or shelter. Really the trick here is making sure your land and shelter costs cover your water supply leaving power as the only remaining concern.
To achieve water independence, you’ll eventually want to aim for digging your own private well. These can cost anywhere from $3,000-$15,000 depending on how deep your licensed well digger has to drill.
If you can’t afford a well initially, you can easily find places to get cheap or free water as long as there’s a town nearby. If you’re moving somewhere especially remote, consider contacting local farmers or homesteaders to see if you can purchase water from them on a regular basis.
If you went with our suggestion to purchase an RV for shelter, it probably came with a water tank that holds around 30 gallons. You can often find water refill stations at rest stops, gas stations, campgrounds, and national parks. Refill stations like these are usually either free or offer more water than you can carry for around $0.25. Always keep a length of hose with you in case the refill station is difficult to access.
Of course, moving your RV every time you need to refill its tank can be a hassle. Instead, you can simply buy some 6 gallon containers like these and load them into the back of a truck or SUV to go on water runs. Folks who live this way usually end up spending less than five dollars a month on water.
You should be able to cover your basic power needs with a small 500W AC solar system, which can easily be bought for less than $2,000. Here’s one we found on Amazon for just $716.69.
This is more or less everything you need to get off-grid as quickly and easily as possible. A $5,000 down payment on a plot of land, plus a $2,000 payment on a camper and a $1,000 solar system adds up to just $8,000. This is sort of a “max cost”, that could very well be reduced if you wait and look for the best deals. That leaves a bit of spare change for food while you get your farm going or if you find you need to upgrade your solar system. Once you’re set up the possibilities are endless. You can take your time building or financing a more permanent residence, and then sell or rent the camper once it’s complete. Either way, you’ll be living the dream, cutting costs, and building a happy and healthy future.
Main image: ©iStock.com/fotolinchen
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