Is homesteading a good way to save money?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by cafeaulaitinfj, Oct 7, 2004.

  1. cafeaulaitinfj

    cafeaulaitinfj Well-Known Member

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    I'm a new member and have tossed around the idea of trying some level of homesteading for several years.

    My husband just began driving over-the-road in March. Next year we will make okay money, I think. For most of our marriage, though, we haven't really made enough to support us. We have quite a bit of student loan debt, but not a huge amount of debt otherwise. We have four kids who we homeschool.

    My idea is to try to get a house with a little land outside of town where I can grow some veggies and maybe some fruit, strawberries, at least. I'd like to have a few dwarf goats for milk and some chickens for eggs. Might use the goats and eggs for meat as well, if I can bear it. This would be for our own use, though I'm not opposed to some bartering. I would also love to be able to provide eggs (and whatever else) for my friends, family, church, the needy as a way to help out.

    I've cut about every expense I know how to cut. How likely is it that we could further cut expenses by homesteading?

    Heather
     
  2. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    They little homestead won't be your sole support, but raising 4 kids and enough garden to supply the bulk of your veggies and chickens for eggs and absolutely meat. will cut way down on the food bill. Having milk goats cuts a bunch more. We raised four kids and my wife stayed home and prodably worked harder than she would have in some local factory. She also sewed almost all the clothes the family wore other than jeans. It would have cost money to go to a job and it would have cut way back on the savings she created by being home and mothering the kids without hiring any babysitters. I had a decent paying job, and we gained more financialy than most of the people I worked with who had two full time jobs. Getting good on the sewing machine is one of the greatest savings you can spend time at home on. Especialy with six you can sew for. Keeping the car off the road when it's not really nessesary is a really biggy now. Gas costs over 4 times as much now as it did when we were raising a family. I guess everything does.
     

  3. diane greene

    diane greene Well-Known Member

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    I don't want to discourage you, but setting up a homestead can be expensive. I assume from your post that your husband is employed and will make the same money no matter where you live- that's good because country salaries are very low compared to cities.

    Most Americans spend about 11% of their income on food, assuming your family loves veggies and goat milk you can probably save on your food bill. However, everyone I know who has goats say they either lose money or break even - big topic- go to the goat forum for details. Same for small livestock like chickens and rabbits. They sort of pay for themselves if you sell the meat and eggs, but don't expect a big savings. I do not believe sewing clothing is cheaper than buying at garage sales and discount stores. I can get T-shirts at garage sales for pennies and often find great stuff at the end of season sales. You just can't beat third world labor when it comes to prices. I thought I would barter too when I moved to the country only to discover everyone wants cash.

    Also make sure you have a good working car or truck - you do more driving in the country. It costs the same to fix or purchase a car in the country as it does in a city and you will be more dependent on your vehicle.

    I think growing up in a rural environment will be a lot nicer for your children, but I think you will find you can live a frugal life anywhere.
    You also should put away a few thousand dollars before moving anywhere, stuff always happens in a new home and you should be prepared.
     
  4. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member

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    Rural self relience suitable to avoid industrial employment is possible . I retired from engineering at 41 following layoff from a 19 year 3 month career and a divorce from a 6 year marriage. By using my accumulated investments, the skills I learned in industry and the agronomics I grew up around, I established a lifestyle based in a rural setting utilizing 2 acres to garden, raise baitworms, run a micronursery, sell a few used cars, and small scale speculation online to develop a multi-stream income source to adequately support myself and 8 pets at this time without returning to industrial employment.
     
  5. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    I agree with Dianne... given the expenses associated with moving, buying a home, etc etc if saving money is the goal you would probably be way ahead by getting involved in a community garden or even putting plants in containers. Old milk cartons will grow a lot of stuff!

    In the beginning, homesteading can be hard on a budget. Especially if you MUST grow your own food because the food budget went to closing costs. While it isn't likely you'll starve, you might find yourself at the local food shelf, or more dependant on handouts than you ever expected to be. First year gardens are notoriously unreliable. Free range chickens might produce enough eggs to feed your family... but I'll be honest... mine don't. And they sure aren't even coming close to breaking even right now.

    And, Dianne mentioned cash. She nailed that right on the head. This is rural economics 2004 not 1904. People out here need to pay their satelite TV bill. We can occasionally talk people into a labor exchange but we're talking "amateur labor" and not much of it. I even fork over serious cash for someone to come and watch the stock overnight. You'd think I could at least barter that!

    But no.

    I just HATE it when someone dashes my hopes and dreams, even when they're impractical, because I am CONVINCED that even if nobody on the planet ever did it... I can. In fact, I detest Joel S's book "You Can Farm" for its overall depressing tone. Because I believe he is wrong on so many points and I'm living proof of this. But the one thing I do have which Joel didn't (and you probably won't either) is an off the homestead job. Cash coming in regularly. You can make mistakes and recover if you have cash coming in. If you don't you can end up in real trouble.

    I was at a farm show not long ago having a lively conversation with a group of homesteaders we'd found over the 'net when this very unpleasant man horned in on the conversation to say he "loved" people like us because when we realized we were overextended we "had" to sell our animals to him. Apparently he regularly collects animals from homesteaders in trouble and then I assume from the disgusting way he was talking, tortures them to death before eating them. Really, quite a vile man, but there are enough people in his part of the country that he can suppliment his income doing this and be smug about it.

    Rather you didn't end up as one of his victims!
     
  6. Meg Z

    Meg Z winding down

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    Like folks said, setting up a homestead can be expensive. Building animal housing, putting up fencing, basic supplies like hoof trimmers. It all adds up. Once you get all those basics, though, then the outgo slows down. My chickens pretty much pay their maintenence costs by me selling eggs. So, the eggs we eat, and the meat we get is "free"...but it doesn't pay off the building we put up nor the fencing.

    If you're in town, I'd start a garden there. If you're renting, and can't dig up the yard, do container gardening. You can keep rabbits for meat in a city yard, with little start-up costs. Depending on local laws and neighbors, you may be able to keep enough chickens to keep you in eggs...but look at feed costs against eggs costs in your area. You could also free-flight pigeons for squab.

    What I'm saying is that you can start testing these things while you're in the city. Use planning a garden, and implementing it, as a homeschool research project on planting dates and companion planting, and you have an added benefit. Doing these things without moving will help you decide if this is really what you want to do.

    Good Luck,
    Meg :)
     
  7. CarlaWVgal

    CarlaWVgal Well-Known Member

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    I have to agree it's hard to save money initially. Last years garden was mostly a bust, we had to cull our 2 mean roosters and 3 of our 6 hens were killed, there went our ideas of chicks this spring, had to buy more, for the money spent we haven't broken even on them yet. I do sell a few dz eggs but the girls aren't laying enough yet, and here comes winter. We have had set backs on the house, it's not quite done and we are out of money :rolleyes: The garden this year was over abundant, but I realized I do not have enough space to store everything. The few canning supplies I had are not enough, I NEED a freezer so I could have stored more of what I grew. These things cost money, that I don't have right now. Next year I will know more and be able to plan better for it. Maybe 10 years from now I will have things figured out :confused: Right now I am not saving much more money than if I lived as I normally would. The potential is there but there is a learning curve too.

    For me trying to be more selfsufficient is fulfilling on a personal level, I have yet to reap any benefits that are monetary.

    Carla
     
  8. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

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    As others have pointed out "homesteading" is really and expense. Learning more about money and how it can be used and saved is a better plan for right now. You say your husband drives and should start making good money, he should be making money now. I drive OTR and know a little about it. His expenses on the road can be high and can be cut usually with good planning which can save you money.
     
  9. sisterpine

    sisterpine Goshen Farm Supporter

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    Greetings from Montana! When we first moved from Tucson to Montana I had dreams of living a totally self sufficient life on top of our mountain- once we got the land paid off that is! I have found that even though we have income still coming in from retirement and part time jobs we live pretty much month to month just like the rest of the world. Of course we are still building houses, barns , coops and the like and that uses about every spare cent. I am raising chickens and planting a small fruit orchard in a few weeks but it will be years before any of this provides income. So our plan is to get our expenses as low as possible, work off the mountain as little as possible and enjoy providing for ourselves and living in this wonderful place as much as possible!
     
  10. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

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    Homesteading is a mindset and can be accomplished ANYWHERE, with just about any type of funding, no matter what you do or where you do it you will have set backs and disasters arise around you to some degree.

    I grew up on a small farm of 240 acres that never ceased having money pits, and yet mom and dad raised 4 kids who have so far never seen the inside of prison if that counts....

    On the farm we lost one day to bloat 7 head of ewes and a ram, all registered suffolk, all 4-H projects of one sort or another, one spring we lost 5 calves to Golden Eagles, half that years calf crop..... bears ruined fruit trees and frost took others..... but it was survivable.... my folks ended up losing that farm in the mid 80's but still are together being married on the 21st of this month for 43 years.....

    My current homestead place is 5 acres, we have 4 horses, and a passle of chickens and cats.... last year my neighbors lab came over and killed ALL of my pullets just as they started to lay really good, he had promised to pay but never has, this year I started with 50, lost 2 the first day, and am down to 40 after 6 months.... but they pay for the feed they eat by the eggs i sell. The garden was late this year, and never really produced as much as it should have, and it has not frosted yet so it still has a few things growing..... no profit in it, and really no savings BUT it tastes better than 3rd world veggies or those grown outside the area and picked green and shipped in...... and i know what was put on them.... COMPOST.

    The roof blew off the barn last winter and the whole thing needs torn down and started over.... it was built in 1947, remodeld slightly 7 years ago..... cost for replaceent would be near $20,000.00 as it is built, but i could get by with a smaller barn and more efficient built one maybe $10K in materials and build it myself..... my tools will suffer this winter if i dont get a small shed up to house them in cause the barn is no longer winter proof and it is getting near to snowfall...... working in town has its drawbacks.... when the horse stepped thruogh the fence and tore half his foot off, i was fortunate enough not be working dalily to tend to him for about 1.5 hours daily for therapy.

    But my 3 kids have space to run naked if they want and no one is gonna snatch them from the yard..... lest they kill the dog first and that is gonna take some doing.... wolf hybrids dont kill that easy......

    Cats breed fantastically and if you dont have dollars to get them broken then you need a good shotgun to taske care of the excess, but without catswe would be infested with mice, cats produce no income, even my Manx cats, but i can give most away, and have not had to shoot any yet, but they cost a bundle to feed when they out populate the rodents.......

    Homesteading can save you money, but as other said it can cost you a bundle as well....

    We use homeopath and herbs as much as possible, we have no medical insurance, liability only on the vehicles, vehicles that need repairs and are 20 to 25 years old [more reliable and i can repair them as much as any intown mechanic and no computer problems] books on repair become a pastime to read, or internet reading on repair works too..... but we learn every day to do things most people pay others to do for them, as my folks did on the farm years ago.

    buy bulk foods, can some freeze others, grow veggies in containers while you wait for the place in the country.... ue a small grow light for indoors in the winter.

    It can be done, and most people dont have the same problems i had...... but i still wouldnt trade them for mine, it makes me who i am.

    William
     
  11. cafeaulaitinfj

    cafeaulaitinfj Well-Known Member

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    My husband would for sure keep his job. Whatever growing and raising we do would be done by me and the kids.

    Our grocery bill, including cleaning and paper products, runs just under $100 a week. I can get it lower than that, but it starts to hurt.

    My husband just started driving in March. He's making .27/mi and the lowest he's been able to get his expenses (food, calling home, etc) is about $160/week. He's a company driver, so he doesn't have to pay for fuel, etc. After his expenses, taxes, and insurance, it doesn't leave me a whole lot to work with. By next spring he'll make .31/mi and the only expense that will go up will be taxes.

    I've tried a garden in this yard, but it is pretty well-shaded and the soil is not too good. Other places I've lived, I haven't had trouble growing a few things, but this place, the two cherry trees do okay and so do the black walnuts, but the apples and grapes don't have much of a chance, neither did the veggies I tried. Maybe container gardens will work.

    We were wanting to buy a house sometime soon, but maybe that's not the best idea, since our rent is pretty low. It's just that we're pretty crowded here (house is a little too small) and the neighborhood is kind of rough. Not violent crime, just a lot of theft and property damage kind of stuff. I haven't seen signs of a drug dealer, but one of my neighbors is suspicious of the small salvage yard/garage on the corner, that they may be running a meth lab. Who knows? Since we got dogs, and fenced the yard, we haven't had anything stolen (except one of the dogs when she was a pup, but we were able to get her back).

    Since our grocery bill is one of our biggest expenses, I was thinking I could save some money by growing some of our own. Sounds like that may not be realistic. Hmmmm . . .

    Thanks for the info. I'm not going to totally give up on the idea, but I will certainly think hard before I get any critters, etc.

    Heather
     
  12. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I agree that there are a lot of start-up expenses before homesteading starts giving a return.

    In the meantime....lets see...

    For clothing, yard sales and thrift stores are good, once you figure out who has what.

    The wealthier neighborhoods have the better yard sales, as well as having the cheapest prices. I have gotten clothes for my youngest with the origional price tags still on them. The homeowner had her child out-grow them before they had even been worn once.

    Also, a Goodwill store near here often has clothes with the origional tags still on them. If it does't sell, they donate it for a tax write-off. The shirts are pretty boring, but a new pair of jeans is like any other new pair of jeans.

    Some Goodwill stores have nothing good, others will have lots of new clothes. Check them out.

    You are doing pretty well on the groceries, I feed a household of 5 on what you do. I would like to mention that when money is tight at my place I watch for sales. For example, if I had intended to buy 2 boxes of mac'n cheese, and they are on sale, I will buy 3 boxes for the price of 2. The third box gets set aside for later.

    After a month or so I will have enough sale things set by so that I will be paying full price on only a few items. If there is a great sale, I will buy a few items. If there aren't sales, I have it in my larder so I won't bother to buy it. I try not to have too much of any one thing, as variety keeps things interesting.

    Speaking of food, don't they have little heaters and refridgerators for trucks? Leftover pot roast would make a FINE home-cooked meal the first night your DH is on the road, especially if there were biscuits to go with it.

    Of course, it has the same drawback that homesteading does: the start-up costs. :rolleyes:
     
  13. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I've always considered rent as money thrown away. I would definitely search high and low for the best deal on a home with some property and stop paying someone else's mortgage (know what I mean?). Then just start slow...have a garden the first year, add your animals, fruit trees, etc. as you can afford to, or as they fall into your lap. Sometimes people will give away chickens, etc. or barter for them.

    Shop at a grocery store that doubles coupons. Be sure to match coupons to sales for maximum savings and always compare prices to get the best deal.

    Shop clearance racks for clothing. Yesterday I got my nephew three shirts at Target. One was .98, one was 1.24 and I got him a nice long-sleeved shirt for $1.49. You can't sew shirts for that price.

    Look into cutting down your hubby's road expenses. Can he take a cooler stocked with homemade tea, offbrand cold drinks, etc.? Perhaps a family cellphone plan would be cheaper for calling home. You can cancel your regular phone service or long distance service. We never use the regular phone for long distance.

    Check out freebie websites online. I just ordered a $5 gas card from BP today, plus other free samples like shampoo, etc. These samples really help out and they make great gift baskets, Christmas stocking stuffers, etc. You can find lots of free educational items for homeschooling too.
     
  14. cafeaulaitinfj

    cafeaulaitinfj Well-Known Member

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    I shop at save-a-lot for a lot of things. I try to buy paper/cleaning stuff at walmart. I started making my own soap, not to save money, but because my skin didn't like the stuff I could buy. I know how to clean with baking soda and with vinegar and I know how to boil down soapwort for cleaning dishes and clothes, but I haven't been doing that this year. I nearly got run down one time, harvesting soapwort on the side of the road and I've been a little gun-shy about it since. Plus it takes a lot of plants and I haven't had any luck growing that either, lol.

    We don't buy clothes too much, or haven't in the past. People would bring us bags of hand-me-downs. I'm about to hit the thrift shops because the oldest girl and the oldest boy have had growths spurts and last year's winter clothes aren't going to do it this year.

    My daughter grew into my shorts from a couple of years ago this last summer and her feet are already two sizes bigger than mine, so no more sharing shoes :no: My jeans don't make it to hand-me-downs because I mess up the knees so bad (maybe they'll be second daughter's shorts in a few years).

    One good thing about living in the hood is that there is a "free store" nearby. They put the donated clothes outside on tables and you just rummage through it and take what you need.

    The shoes are going to get us here pretty soon, though. I'm just going to have to go get some and let the chips fall where they may. The kids gotta have shoes.

    Heather
     
  15. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Do you have a Fred's in your town? Fred's doubles up to $1.00 coupons on Saturdays, making it a great place to get paper goods, shampoo, cleaning items, etc.

    Now would be a good time to check shoe prices at Wal Mart. They have summer stuff clearanced real low...tennis shoes and sandals. Tennis shoes will do for winter in a pinch. In fact, I've delivered mail in four feet of snow wearing tennis shoes (had two pair of socks with a bread bag layer between).
     
  16. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

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    I would have your husband look at LTL freight companies. He should know what I'm talking about. MUCH more money with a lot more home time. My expenses are much lower per week as I bring all of my food and only buy coffee, which will probably end soon as you can't buy good coffee on the road. An LTL company will start at the least .32 per mi. and go to .54 per mi. Right now all of the union carriers are hiring like Yellow and ABF. Try the Yellow freight website. I drive for Old Dominion and the pay and benefits are good. I'm usually out a max of 5 days a week.
     
  17. big rockpile

    big rockpile If I need a Shelter

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    Well all my life I guess I lived the Homestead Lifestyle.Main reason we raised everything,built,and Fixed everything ourself was because we didn't have the time or money to run into town every time something came up.

    Truth is with Animals I always broke even,but I loved very much having them around.Where I really saved was Gardening,Heating with Wood,Building our own Buildings,and doing our own Truck repairs.

    big rockpile
     
  18. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    Sounds to me like you are on the right road. I'm sure those student loans are really eating your lunch tho. Debt is the biggest hurdle for homesteaders. If you start off with any debt at all it makes it so much more difficult. But having a thrifty mindset will get you where you want to be. Just hang in there and keep dreaming.
     
  19. Jan Doling

    Jan Doling Well-Known Member

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    Homesteading may not be cheap....but it is fulfilling and much better for the kids. Also, you can do without better in the country than in the city because you can jury rig things and no one can see what you are holding together with duct tape! My kids don't know what fancy things folks have in the city so they don't feel sorry for themselves. The simple life is a reward unto itself.
     
  20. Jack in VA

    Jack in VA Well-Known Member

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    This thread has been surprisingly negative. Some may say realistic , but still.....
    1. Stop renting . Money that disappears every month could be earning equity and has tax advantages.
    2.Homegrown vegetables may not be much cheaper , but they are healthier , tastier , and usually only a few feet from your kitchen. Once youve got your compost bins producing and you start saving seeds , it gets cheaper. It's good exercise , saves trips to the store and is fun and rewarding. Plus you tend to eat more vegetables , since that is whats available.Fruits picked ripe are like candy compared to what you buy at the store.
    3. Chickens are easy and the meat and eggs are of better quality. Feed can be supplemented by stuff you grow and free rangeing.

    It sounds like youre home all day anyway , with helpers , so what better way to spend your time? Soap operas and video games? Get the kids involved and that may pay you back in many ways.Hell , you can even go fishing and call it "procuring dinner". Fish , homegrown veggies , fruit for dessert...dinners almost free! And tasty ,too!