Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Monthly archive for August 2017

5 Things Most People Get Wrong About Being A Homesteader

You envision this perfect homestead, chock full of adorable animals, lush gardens and delicious meals at the end of a long day on the farmstead.  It’s human to think the grass is greener on the other side, to think that the simple way of life is the ticket to a happy life, but experience has shown that people get many things wrong about homesteading.  Here is my list of 5 things most people get wrong:

Growing all your own food

garden beds

You hear this time and time again, “I’m going to grow all my own food!”  The tough pill to swallow for many first time homesteaders is that you simply can’t do it all.  Talk to any seasoned homesteader and they’ll tell you they can meet many of their needs, but not all of them.  Common things are items that can’t be grown in your climate, or that require special equipment to process or things that aren’t cost effective.

cost to grow wheat flourSome examples:  For me in my climate, North Carolina, its very difficult to grow good citrus without a lot of headache. Another example, is flour. Flour is possible for you to grow and process with about 2,000 square feet per person for a year’s worth of flour. But, I can buy the same amount of flour for much less.  I took a look at my local big box, and a name brand organic flour costs $1.22 a pound!

The truth is you will never be able to learn the intricacies of every plant, animal and farm. Good, and even great, farmers have bad crop years.  You can grow a sense of community by growing and trading a crop that you’re good at.

Homesteading isn’t an inexpensive way of living

While some cost savings can be had, I attribute most of the cost savings to a mental shift in how you use money.  A lot of homesteaders keep deep pantries to take advantage of sales when they buy. Most homesteaders are DIYers when it comes to fixing things, they buy used, and other cost-saving behaviors.  The truth is, you can adopt these habits now, in the city, and save big.  When it comes to homesteading, the cost savings is negligible because you need land, equipment, materials and feed.

An example:  University of Wyoming did a study on raising your own beef vs buying retail. The difference?  You save $235 dollars on that meat per cow.  But if you factor in time and say you, on average, spent 5 minutes tending that cow per day (very low if we are realistic), average time to butchering is around 2 years, that’s 60.8 hours of time ($3.86 per hour). The average hourly wage in the US is around $24 per hour, that means I could work a side gig for a week and eclipse that: 10 hours vs 2 years of work and not able to take a vacation.

It’s a lot harder than you think

You may have dabbled with things here and there, but until you take the leap you don’t understand what its truly like.  I remember the first year I went from two 4×8 beds to 1/3 acre; from 64 square feet to 14,500 square feet.  With the growth I added a few labor saving items: timer drip irrigation, a standup broad fork and push precision seeder.

That summer was one of the hardest gardening years of my life.  Everything was brought to another level of labor and when something went wrong, it went wrong in a big way.  Even the good things were tough.  I remember one day harvesting 350 lbs of produce in July. It was 95 degrees and so humid the air felt thick.  I got it all harvested, washed, processed and stored, then collapsed on my couch and didn’t wake up until the next morning.

You’ll probably still need a job off the homestead

There are a lot of costs that you can offset by running a homestead. You can barter, trade, and earn money from your wares, but its very difficult to go cold turkey from a steady paycheck.  This isn’t to say it’s not possible, but its very, very difficult.  Take it from me, someone who made the leap from full time traditional to self employment, it’s hard. It took me about 5 years to fully make the leap.

One of the biggest advantages to homesteading with a job is health insurance and a retirement plan.  I’m going to avoid the politics on this, but right now for just me at the cheapest health plan available ($7,500 deductible), I pay $5,400 a year as a young healthy guy with no medications.   My self-employed friends with families are paying around $23,000 a year for the same plan that I have.

So, if you have two adults in your household, there are advantages to having at least one of them working a traditional job.

You think independence will be great – you’re wrong, it’s awesome!

I have had conversations with friends who live what most would call a “typical” life, and they try to understand what it’s like to live outside the norm.  You try to explain it and you try to share what it’s really like and how clear it has become to you. The movie The Matrix tries to explain it with the blue pill or red pill metaphor, but until you actually take that blue pill and your eyes are opened, you cannot possibly grasp the gravity of your old life.  It’s absolutely true.

desing your life

I don’t even know how to put it into words, how profoundly different my life is now that I’ve taken that leap. I’ve become self-employed, live in a tiny house and living a life on my terms!

 

Your Turn!

  • What surprises have you found in your own journey?
  • What appeals to you about homesteading?

Frugal Living Tips that Save Money

When we were looking at our budget and ways to cut costs to get our debt paid off, we realized that we had to go back to “Grandma’s way of doing things” and live more frugally. I quickly adopted these 10 frugal living tips and continue to use them to this day as we save for our future.

saving money

Use Coupons Wisely

Instead of clipping coupons for everything, I now only clip coupons for items that I use and redeem them when the item is on sale to maximize my savings. I’ve also started using many rebate apps that are available online or on your smartphone. My favorite include Checkout 51 and Ibotta.

Plan Your Meals Before you Shop

Every week I’ll sit with the store ads and look at what’s on sale. I’ll then plan a week’s worth of dinners based on what’s on sale and what I already have on hand in my pantry, fridge, and freezer.

If you can, be sure to plan meals where you can use one main ingredient two or three different ways. One of my favorite frugal meals is picking up a whole chicken and making roasted chicken one night, using the leftover meat to make Chicken Fried Rice the next night, and then using the carcass to create my own chicken broth which I then turn into homemade Chicken Noodle Soup.

Try a “Meatless Monday”

Speaking of planning your weekly meals, try going meatless at least once a week. One of the most expensive ingredients we buy on a weekly basis is meat. By trying different meatless meals, we have been able to slash at least $25 a month from our grocery budget.

Prepare Lunch the Night Before

pack your lunchIf you’re like me, you probably will hit snooze one or two times in the morning, making getting up and getting ready to go to work a little more stressful and busy. Many mornings I didn’t have time to put together a lunch, so I’d often find myself heading out to pick up a sandwich or some soup.

I quickly changed my ways after looking at our spending, and I’ll now pack my lunch the night before. Packing your own lunch could save you up to $1800 a year if you are used to grabbing something on the go every day.

Buy Clothes on Consignment or at the Thrift Store

When buying clothing gently used or second hand, you want to be on the lookout for quality pieces that are in great shape and will last. Look for quality name brand clothing that is well made or clothes that look as if they haven’t been worn or still have the original tag attached. Thrift stores will also have monthly or weekly specials, so be sure to get familiar with the sales schedule and visit during their discount days so you’re getting the best deals that you can.

Plan Nights In with Friends

No need to go out and spend a ton of money in order to enjoy an evening with friends. Plan a games night and invite everyone over. One of our favorite things to do is to host a dinner club with a group of close friends. Every month we select a theme and each family will bring over a dish making for a cheap and easy night in with friends.

Cook From Scratch

Some of our favorite things to make from scratch include bread, pancakes, pasta sauce, hot chocolate mix, and chocolate chip cookies that replaced the prepackaged lunch snacks that we used to buy. Not only has my food bill gone down, but so has the household waste that our family produces since we’re not throwing out all of that extra food packaging that comes with the prepackaged foods.

Group Errands Together

Saturday is errand day, and I’ll map out my route making sure that I can get all of my stops made in one trip. This has helped to save us a lot of money on gas each week.

DIY Car Maintenance

There are a lot of quick fixes and maintenance items that you can do yourself, even if you don’t consider yourself to be that handy. Checking the oil, changing the air filters and windshield wipers, and checking the air pressure in your tires are simple things that can be done with minimal effort, but can save you money in the long run.

Dump the Gym Membership

This was one of the first things that we did when it was time to tighten up the budget. Instead of paying for our monthly gym membership, we’ll go for a walk or a jog. There is also a huge variety of exercise videos that you can stream on YouTube for free.

Your Turn

  • What’s your favorite money savings tip?
  • How do you save money?

Simplified Dishes for Simple Cooking And Living

Part of my minimalist kitchen is having a simplified set of dishes.  The dishes I have been refined down to just what I need and use.  A super minimalist might reduce things down to just a single cup, one bowl and a fork, knife, and spoon.  I don’t quite go that far, in fact, I splurge here and have a few extras that might not be super necessary.

Your Turn!

  • Could you minimize what’s in your kitchen?

simplified dishes in my kitchen

5 Signs You Might Be A Minimalist

Minimalism is a very personalized lifestyle – it’s about finding a system that works for you. Though it varies person to person, there are some essential aspects to it. These are five signs that you might be an unintentional minimalist.

minimalism signs

1. You’re Not Attached To Stuff

It’s important to get things that you like, but it can be common in our western culture to get very attached to things. When you refuse to let your sister borrow your shirt because it’s your favorite shirt (though you know she will treat it well), you may be a bit too attached to that shirt. Minimalism is about only owning things that you need, but getting attached to material possessions is never a helpful mentality.

2. You Don’t Buy Much

Because minimalism focuses on the essential, becoming a minimalist usually means that you won’t be shopping very often. I rarely visit malls anymore, and I only go food shopping once every week (for produce) or every other week (for bulk items). I use my clothes until they are unusable, whether that means holes, rips, or tears. I don’t buy multiples of things I don’t need. I have one pair of pajama pants, and I don’t need a second, so I won’t buy another pair of pajamas until the pair I have is no longer usable.

minimalism signs

3. You’ve Defined Your Essentials

You know what you want and you know what you need to thrive. For me, essentials include a simple capsule wardrobe, basic hygiene products, a good backpack, my laptop, camera, and a good book and/or notebook. In terms of belongings, this is all I really need. If I was settled down in a permanent living situation, I would simply add dishes and some basic furniture to this list. Viola!

4. You Don’t Have Unnecessary Stuff

Not only do you not buy much, but you get rid of belongings when you realize that you don’t use them or don’t need them any longer. By continuously culling your belongings, you’re creating a clutter free, clean, and minimalist surrounding. I’m constantly getting rid of things that I don’t use regularly anymore. I recently purchased a keep cup, and as soon as I brought it home, I got rid of my old reusable coffee cup (I donated it to a friend who didn’t have one).

5. You’re Debt Free (or paying off debt very quickly)

A minimalist lifestyle helped me save money faster than any other savings plan I’ve ever tried. I was shocked to look at my bank account after payday, and realize that I still had money left over from my last paycheck. I danced a little jig when I saw this happening weeks in a row, and saw the number in my checking account consistently growing. Saving money and paying off debt is one of the many benefits that makes a minimalist lifestyle one of freedom and happiness.

These are just five of many reasons you may be a minimalist. There are so many benefits to minimalism, I definitely recommend trying out a minimalist lifestyle. It’s helped me go from broke while working a 9-5, to traveling the world and happier than I’ve ever been.

Your Turn!

  • What aspect of minimalism is most appealing to you?

 

Time for a Financial Check-Up

In order to make sure that we’re in good health, many of us will be sure to check in with our doctor for a yearly once-over. The same is true for your finances. If you want to make sure that all is well on the money front, it’s equally important to complete a yearly financial check-up.

I always do my financial check-up at the beginning of a new year, but any time of year will work. It doesn’t take long, and is relatively painless, but checking in with your financial big-picture once a year will give you a great reference point as to where you are now and how far you’ve come when you check in this time next year.

Step 1: Check your Credit Report

It’s important to check in with your credit report once a year just to make sure that everything that is listed there are debts that you yourself have signed up for. This will help to make sure that there hasn’t been any fraudulent activity under your name.

It will also give you a sense of where your debts lie. Listed you’ll see any loans that you’ve taken out and have paid off or in the process of paying off. You’ll also see the last reported balances on any rotating debts like credit cards or lines of credit.

Checking your credit report is fast, easy, and more importantly free. Equifax and TransUnion are two of the most popular websites that you can use. Just simply enter in your name, address, and social security number, and within seconds you’ll have access to your credit report.

Step 2: Calculate your Net Worth

When calculating your net worth, I always start with listing down what we own. I start off with the liquid assets which includes our checking account, savings accounts, and our emergency fund. I also list the current balances on any investments such as our retirement funds and education funds, as well as the current worth of my pension. The last thing I list are the major assets that we own including the resale value of our home and two vehicles.

Once you’ve figured out what you own, the next step is to add up what you owe. Included in this list should be any outstanding debts such as credit cards, student loans, lines of credit, or medical debt. The other debts to include here would be the outstanding balance that is left on the mortgage and car loans.

To calculate your current net worth you simply take the amount you own and subtract the amount you owe. Whatever is remaining is your net worth. I like to compare our net worth year over to year to see the progress that we’re making.

One thing I did notice this year was the substantial increase we saw in our net worth once we finished paying off all of our consumer debt. It’s amazing to see just how much your net worth grows when you can keep your money for yourself, rather than giving it to the bank in the form of payments.

Your Turn!

  • How often do you check in with your finances?
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