Archive for the Money Category

How to Find Products You Only Need to Buy Once in a Lifetime

Choosing products you buy once in a lifetime
Living a (close to) zero-waste lifestyle means only buying what’s really necessary, and when you do need to purchase, finding products you only need to buy once. There are times when I’ve found items I needed to buy or replace only to be disappointed when the new product breaks down. So, how do you find products you only need to buy once?

You see, everything’s built to last a finite amount of time. A rule of manufacturing is to never invent the perfect lightbulb. Back when lightbulbs were first made, they were practically indestructible. Lightbulb makers quickly realized their business wouldn’t last long if they made lightbulbs you only need to buy once. Thus, lightbulbs were made with filaments to burn out after a few years. Occasionally you’ll see one of these very old lightbulbs that keeps shining, but as we know, lightbulbs, like many other products, aren’t built to last a lifetime.

There are, however, certain items you only need to buy once. Either they’re guaranteed to last or they’re built with such high-quality workmanship, they keep working for years. Here are the rules you should use to find practical products you only need to buy once in a lifetime.

How to Find Quality Products You Only Need to Buy Once

find quality products
For the last year, I’ve tried to maintain a zero (or close to zero) waste lifestyle. The biggest step I’ve taken toward doing this is that I’ve largely stopped buying anything other than consumables (like food, toilet paper, and toiletries). Not only does this cut back on the amount of waste and trash I produce, but it’s also great for saving money.

When I do need to buy or replace an item due to wear and tear, this is how I go about finding quality products I only need to buy once (or at least won’t need to buy again for a very long time).

Research the Life of the Product

research product life

I’m a big proponent of researching before I ever spend money on an item. This was especially true as I built and outfitted my tiny house. Of course, there are certain cases when I haven’t had time for extensive research, but usually I follow a rule to check reviews and thoroughly compare options before I buy.

At the very least, I always read the reviews on any product I plan to purchase. I look for independent reviews and unbiased sources whenever possible (and I post my own product reviews for others). Of course, most manufacturers put glowing reviews of their own products on their website, so it’s usually not the best source for honest product comparisons or learning the pros and cons. Look for independent sources. For example, when looking into solar ovens, I tested several brands against each other and posted my solar oven reviews online as a helpful resource.

Solar Oven Review and Guide

I look for review forums that I trust. If I’m looking for tiny house supplies, like a power generator or solar panel gear, I go to other tiny house forums and websites. Someone with a large cabin or a residential home will offer a very different perspective on these types of items because chances are their needs are different from mine. As a blogger, I also think it’s very important to share my own experience to help others navigate issues like how to find the best tiny house plans.

When I’m buying a larger item like an appliance or electronic, I’ll also check Consumer Reports (when possible). Most of their product reviews are only accessible with a paid membership, but many public libraries carry issues of the printed reports. It may also be worth the cost to access a report before a major purchase.

consumer reports for product reviews

Reviews on Amazon and Google are also helpful for products, but because they aren’t as carefully regulated, be wary of bias and false reviews. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people give items a poor review for strange reasons like, “It didn’t fit on my counter” or “the color didn’t match my house.” Read with discretion, paying close attention to mentions about the life of the product, common problems, and customer support offered by the manufacturer.

One tip is to read the 3-star reviews. People selling the product are only going to give themselves 4- or 5-star reviews. Competitors might try to fake bad reviews with 1- or 2-star reviews. Three-star reviews are the sweet spot; no one is going to pay for a fake 3-star review, so you can usually get a good view on what the product is really like.

There are also sites like Buy Me Once and Buy This Once that offer full listings of products built to last. Many of these items either feature a lifetime guarantee or are so highly durable, they’re proven to last years, so you only need to buy once. Reddit’s sub r/buyitforlife is a great source to learn what will last and get advice.

Budget to Spend Extra

budget to spend extra on quality goods

Personally, I tend to live on the frugal side. However, I’m willing to spend extra if it’s an investment in quality. I’m a firm believer of avoiding a “pennywise and pound foolish” mentality. This is especially true if you’re seeking items you only need to buy once. As a general rule, if I use something every day, I give myself the permission to spend big if I find the perfect item.

For example, I ordinarily wouldn’t spend $20 on a pair of socks, but these Darn Tough Wool Socks feature multiple excellent reviews, promising they’re durable. Better yet, the company offers a lifetime unconditional warranty. So, if you stick to a uniform wardrobe like I do, then a few pairs of tough, long-lasting socks may be the last sock purchase you ever need to make. In that case, the price seems worth it.

darn tough socks

Of course, there are other times when the price isn’t justified. For example, buying certain brand name cast iron cookware is more expensive than a second-hand, generic, or cheaper brand cast iron skillet. Yet, the life of cast iron is proven across the board. So, in this case, paying extra for a fancy brand at a culinary supply store isn’t worth your investment.

For the most part, quality items require more workmanship, design, and high-quality materials. The reality is quality is often more expensive. If you research the product thoroughly before purchasing, you’ll get a good idea if the price tag is justified.

lodge cast iron skillet

The other area to look at is the planned use of the product. If you’d like to find a product you only need to buy once but plan to use every day, a high price is easier to defend. A pair of dress shoes that cost $100 that you wear once or twice a year means you’ll pay $10-25 per wear over the next few years. On the other hand, a quality pair of sneakers that cost $100 but you plan to wear every day may cost much less than $1 per wear over their lifetime.

Test the Return Policy

test return policy on products you buy

Does the product come with a lifetime guarantee? Does the store offer a “no hassle” return policy?

Don’t feel afraid to test the limits of warranties, guarantees, and return policies. Typically, when a guarantee is offered it’s because the manufacturer believes the product is built to last. The other reason is company owners know returns are a hassle, so they bet on the fact most people won’t take them up on the promise. They may also require complicated documentation in the hope customers will give up.

It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, keep receipts, (typically a scan or photograph is acceptable, but read the fine print) and send back warranty cards, especially on major purchases. If you’re already minimizing the number of items you buy, then chances are you won’t have many receipts and warranties to keep track of anyway. Certain credit card companies also offer purchase protection and extended warranties on major purchases.credit card

Many retail stores—like grocery stores—guarantee the quality of their products as well. This means when you find produce that goes bad too fast, or mold on a block of recently purchased cheese before the expiration date, return the item to the store for an exchange or refund. While consumables aren’t meant to last a lifetime, it’s still worth it to ensure you get what you pay for. Stores with great return policies include Nordstrom, Costco, and Eddie Bauer. Both Aldi and Trader Joe’s offer satisfaction guaranteed, easy returns.

Ask Around Before You Buy

ask around before buying

Another way to find products you only need to buy once is to ask around! Talk to your friends and see what they’ve found reliable and trustworthy. Check with product experts and repair people to find out what products will really stand the test of time. See if someone will let you test, borrow, or check out the product so you can see it in use.

worn red wing bootsIt’s amazing how experience changes your impression of a product. Many of us feel gung ho about a purchase at first, but then once we’ve tried it for a while, we may change our perspective. I like to check with friends who’ve used a product for a long time before I go out and purchase it for myself. Everyone loves a new set of pots and pans, a great kitchen knife, or new power tools. The real question is, how do they feel about those same products 3, 5, even 10 years down the road?

Again, this type of information sharing is so important, especially in the tiny house world. When you have a minimal amount of space and are living a minimalist lifestyle, each purchase should be deliberate and long-lasting. This is, again, one of the main reasons why I like to share reviews as much as possible with my readers. I also like to do follow up reviews, like my three year review on the Luggable Loo composting toilet.

When you ask someone you trust for their opinion, you know you’re getting the full, unbiased picture of how the product will work. I’ve found maintenance and repair guys often offer a lot of insight on products like power tools, small machines, and appliances because they’re the ones who get called in when something goes wrong. So, listen to the advice of friends and those with experience!

Seek Quality Materials and Simple Designs

quality-materials

Call it the Occam’s razor theory of finding items you only need to buy once: the simplest choice is often the best. Typically, products that last will feature simple, straightforward design and are made from the highest quality materials. Truth be told, a simple design is loaded with nuances and details you have to get perfect.

When it comes to design, the reason simple products are the best is well…simple. When there are a lot of bells and whistles, there’s more pieces to break. There are more areas where something will go wrong. Unnecessary complexity leads to bigger complications and concerns. Think of all the different “cutting-edge” technology and gadgets that flopped after consumers got their hands on them. When something breaks on a complicated machine, it’s often the “extras” that cause a problem.

surefire flashlight

While it’s tempting to seek the latest and greatest product with the most modern conveniences and digitization, at the end of the day, simplicity and function win out. Think about what you really want the product to do, then seek a trusted brand with quality materials and manufacturing.

For example, Stanley Thermos has been around for hundreds of years. The simple, insulated design works time and time again, even as new versions of water bottles, coffee mugs, and thermos-type containers come out on the market every day. It seems the more complex the designs, the more likely imitation brands are to leak, spill, or lose heat. Many reviewers report they’re still using Stanley thermoses for 25, even 40 years (that said, there are reports the quality declined in recent years). Stanley also offers a lifetime warranty.

mason jars

Another example is DeWALT tools. The simple designs and quality materials have been used for decades and they’ve become a household name and standard. They also offer a lifetime warranty and have stood strongly behind their products.

I’m a big fan of using mason jars for storage as well. They work much better than plastic products, seal tighter, and are usable again and again. When you’re looking for a solution to a household problem, the tried and true answer is often the best. Look at what your parents or grandparents did. While modern conveniences and technological advances have improved many areas of life, there are also places where it’s unnecessarily complicated life too.

Ryan’s Top Ten Lifetime Products (for Everyone)

top ten lifetime products

I’m not a proponent of going out to buy items you don’t need simply because they’re recommended. Use what you have on hand first and wait until you’re ready to replace it. Once you are ready to buy a new item, here are my top ten items you only need to buy once (or will at least last for years).

1. Cast Iron Skillet

lodge cast iron skillet

2. Mason Jars (for storage, cooking, drinking)

mason jar

3. Vitamix 5200 Blender

vitamix blender

4. Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle thermos

stanley thermos

5. Chef Knife

chef knife

6. KitchenAid Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

kitchenaid-mixer

7. Pendleton Wool Blanket

pendleton blanket

8. Yeti Cooler

yeti cooler

9. SureFire LED Flashlights

surefire flashlight

10. Le Creuset Dutch Oven

lecreuset-dutch-oven

Hopefully this gives you a few ideas of how to buy smart, so you only need to buy once or twice in the future. Choose high quality items, read reviews, and do your research before you spend your hard-earned money on products that won’t last.

Your turn!

  • What quality products have you found that are built to last?
  • What stores and retailers offer superior warranties and customer care?

My No Spend Challenge: How I Bought Nothing for Six Months

My No Spend Challenge: How I Bought Nothing for Six Months

This year I decided to take on a personal no spend challenge. I wanted to see if I could buy nothing for an entire year. Six months in, I’ve been successful (and learned a few lessons too).

As I’ve shared my story with friends and blog readers, many of you have asked how to take on a no spend challenge. In our world of buy, buy, buy, where almost anything is available instantly at the click of a button, a year without spending sounds daunting at first.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure I could handle the challenge either. Even though I live in a tiny house and follow a mostly minimalist lifestyle, the thought of buying absolutely nothing for a year seemed tough. Now that I’ve been going on the challenge for six months, I must admit, it becomes easier when you start. It was a simple matter of setting up rules and then shifting my mindset. Here’s what I’ve learned about buying nothing in my first 6 months.

Why Try to Buy Nothing?

One of the first questions I get about the no spend challenge is “why?” To be honest, answering the question of “why” was a big part of the process to taking on a year without spending.

What it comes down to is, the no spend challenge isn’t meant to stop people from spending money because it’s somehow bad or wrong to buy what you want. There’s nothing wrong with shopping in itself.

When buying becomes a problem is when we spend money we don’t have on items we don’t need. It’s an issue when we buy items and tell ourselves little stories that aren’t true to justify our purchases. We expect our purchases to bring us happiness, friends, freedom, or other rewards they can’t possibly deliver. Ultimately, we end up less happy because those stories we told ourselves don’t come true and spending now detracts from our long-term goals in the future.

Personally, I have a lot of goals I’m working toward. One of the biggest obstacles to achieving those goals was money.

Spending money on extraneous items was causing me to delay accomplishing my biggest goals. It was creating a barrier to the big dreams I wanted to achieve. Once I realized my “why,” keeping myself focused on my no spend challenge has been much easier. No way am I going to pass up my big dreams for a temporary fix. Spending money now in lieu of a bigger, better future, isn’t worth it.

My No Spend Challenge Rules

I’m not a huge fan of rules, to be honest. In fact, one of the only rules I follow is that it’s a good idea to question everything (including the rules). I apply this “guideline” to my minimalist approach to work, as well as organizing my house.

Still, when it came to the challenge, I wanted to set up guidelines and parameters. Plus, I’m a stickler for semantics so I wanted to clearly define the rules, so I couldn’t exploit any loopholes. So, these are the no spend challenge rules I decided to follow:

1. Food Is Fair Game

Everyone needs to eat and I’m nowhere close to growing my own food at the moment, so realistically food was a necessary expense. As part of the no spend challenge I cut out all fast food and only allow myself to eat out at “sit down restaurants,” on special occasions. This means I’ve cooked a lot more.

2. Everyday Consumables Are Allowed

Consumable products were another necessity–like toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, soap and other similar items that get used up over time. To make sure I didn’t find a way to exploit this no spend rule, I created an “inventory” before I started. I only allowed myself to keep those items and not add to the inventory list. These household items are super basic and have been reduced to only products I use every day.

3. Medical Items Are Allowed

If I need a prescription or an item recommended by my doctor, I can get it. I limited this to only the directions of my doctor. As a rule, this situation hasn’t yet come up, because I’ve stayed healthy. Still, health is too important to not add this caveat.

4. Only Buy What You Need, When You Need It

When an above-mentioned consumable or food is gone, I buy a replacement. This no spend rule stopped me buying items I don’t use. For consumables I use frequently or go through quickly, I set a number I’m allowed to store in my “inventory.” The rule is I can maintain my inventory numbers, but never go beyond them.

5. Fix First, Replace Second

All I really have in my house are the basics, which means if something breaks, I really need it. So, I said I had to first try to fix it, then if I couldn’t I could replace it. So far, I’ve only had to replace one thing that couldn’t be fixed.

6. Only Digital Version Of Books

I love reading and do a lot of it. One of my main goals is reading two books a month, minimum. So to do this I chose Audible audiobooks downloaded to my phone. In cases where I want a physical book, I’ve started using the library

7. Gifts For Other People

In some situations, it’s necessary to get gifts for other people. In many cases, I prioritize giving experiences over things. When a birthday or special occasion comes around, I may choose to take someone out to dinner, go to an event, take a trip, or another gift that doesn’t involve buying more “things.”

Six months into my no spend challenge, the only item I’ve purchased (besides food and shampoo) was a new bathmat. Unfortunately, the one I had mildewed and became grungy. After washing the grimy mat (following rule the fifth rule), I decided it needed replacing. When I did replace it, I bought a quality mat and threw out the old one. In six months, only spending $20 on a bathmat is a purchase I can definitely live with, so I still consider the no spend challenge a success so far.

6 Lessons You Need to Succeed at the No Spend Challenge

There are six practical lessons I’ve learned from taking on the no spend challenge. As I work toward a year without spending, these lessons have helped me more successful.

Better yet, these lessons will still apply even after the challenge is up. I would say, even if you don’t plan on taking the no spend challenge for a full year or if you set different parameters for yourself or your family, you will still benefit from applying these minimalist lessons every time you purchase.

If you want to buy less, take on a year without spending, or save money and make wiser purchases, use these 6 lessons to guide you.

1. Start with “Why” Before You Buy

As I mentioned before, when I discovered my “why,” taking on the no spend challenge became much easier. It’s the whole “keep your eye on the prize” mentality. If there are bigger goals you want to achieve, focus on the deeper purpose.

Purpose will keep you on track and give you direction. Again, the no spend challenge isn’t about getting people to stop buying for a year because buying is bad. It’s about implementing plans and purchases to ultimately make your life better. If an item doesn’t make your life better or move you toward your larger purpose, then it’s probably not worth the money.

Ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to take on a no spend challenge?
  • What are my larger goals?
  • Why will this challenge move me toward the goals I want to achieve?

Once you’ve discovered those answers, the rest is easier!

2. Do You Have the Money?

Perhaps the most obvious and easiest question to ask is one we often overlook. Especially with credit and “buy now, pay later,” promotions, it’s easy to live beyond our means. When it comes down to making a purchase—any purchase from a steak dinner vs. ramen noodles—as yourself if you can really afford it.

If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. Plain and simple. If you’re facing a need you can’t afford, look at the other areas where you spend beyond your means. Are you renting a space that costs more than you can afford? It may be time to move. Does your car payment eat up your budget each month? It may be time to trade in for a cheaper vehicle.

A world of credit has skewed our view on what we can and can’t afford. At the end of the day, if you don’t have the money, don’t buy. It’s that simple.

3. Delay Your Gratification

When you’ve convinced yourself there’s a need to purchase something, add it to your list and wait until the next trip to the store. If you’re shopping and you see an item you want to buy (not on the list), wait until your next trip. The majority of the time the urge to buy will pass before you go back to the store.

This approach works really well with online shopping too. Whenever you want an item, add it to your cart and leave it there. Then the next time you shop, if you still want the item it’s there and ready. Chances are, you’ll find a solution to your problem without spending or you’ll discover you didn’t need the item as much as you thought you did. Waiting helps those who struggle with impulse purchases.  After doing this constantly for 6 months it’s amazing to me how often I find I don’t want something, it’s very eye-opening for a person who didn’t buy a lot to begin with.

4. Ask Yourself What You’re Actually Buying

We buy food because we need to eat. We have a biological imperative to get food. For the majority of our other purchases—clothes, decorations, exercise equipment, appliances—we buy because we’re purchasing an ideal or concept.

When you buy a piece of exercise equipment, it’s not simply because you LOVE to exercise, it’s because you want to get the end result: a healthy, fit body, more energy, lower blood pressure, and so on. You’re buying the equipment because you believe the purchase will give you the outcome you desire.

When you decide to purchase, ask yourself: What am I really buying? What do I hope to gain from this purchase? Will my actions result in the desired outcome or am I just telling myself it will?

We should always look at the stories we’re telling ourselves and the narrative we’re inserting into the purchase. I’ve seen this with people who buy RVs, only to find they wish they’d tested it out first. It turns out they aren’t really “RV people” and now they’ve made a huge purchase that’s hard to undo.

On a smaller scale, I ran into this myself last year when I bought a blender (before I took on the no spend challenge). I looked at the $500+ Vitamix blenders because I like to purchase the highest quality when possible. Looking at the price tag, I decided to opt for a $16 blender at Wal-Mart, telling myself if I used it consistently for three months, I’d splurge on the Vitamix.

Well, after a few weeks of smoothies, I discovered I don’t actually like smoothies all that much. They’re okay, but not $500-blender-level okay. By delaying my gratification and not buying the narrative that the new blender was going to convert me into a “smoothie person,” I saved myself $484.

5. Ask How Else Can You Achieve the Purpose

If there’s an item you want or need, such as clothing, books or tools, ask yourself if there’s another way to achieve the same outcome. Figure out how not to spend money, but still get what you need. Could you borrow the item from a friend? Could you somehow find a workaround to achieve the same results?

Oftentimes we purchase before we really explore alternatives. If there’s a book you want, chances are, you could find it at the library. The same goes for movies you want to see and music you want to listen to. For most tools, you can find rental options through home improvement stores.

Other items, such as clothing, appliances, and dishes are found for less at second-hand stores. You may even check Craigslist or neighborhood exchange pages to find the item for free. Barter and trade with others to get what you need without spending. Learn to create: cook, grow a garden, teach yourself to sew and do small repairs.

When we focus on the desired outcome, we may find many means to an end. A treadmill may seem to solve our desire to get in shape, but could you start going for regular walks instead? Is there an indoor track somewhere you could use for free? In the longer term, would a gym membership cost less and end up taking up less space than a treadmill? Simply buying an item won’t give you the end result you want, so you have to put in the effort. Could you get in shape without spending?

6. Ask: What Will This Purchase Replace?

In minimalism, many of us embrace the “one-in, one-out” rule. This, of course, is vital if you live in a small space. But, even if you have extra room, applying this rule will help you minimize clutter and keep excess stuff from taking over your space. Whenever you buy an item, ask yourself what you’re going to toss out to create room.

If you buy a new shirt, let go of your oldest one. New sneakers? Toss out your old smelly ones. New bathmat? Replace the mildewed one (which was the whole need for buying a new bathmat in the first place).

Don’t let yourself hold onto items that end up cluttering up your life and taking up your valuable space. Taking on a year of buying nothing will help you reprioritize and realize what really matters. What items do you buy “just to buy” and what items do you really need?

As you pare down and prioritize, you’ll discover there’s simplicity and beauty in maintaining the number of items you own. If you decide to purchase something new, toss out something old. Be sure the items you hold onto are what you actually need and enjoy—the items that make your life better and move you toward your bigger goals.

A year of buying nothing is a tough challenge, but not as tough as it may seem at first. Once you go through the process of trying a no spend challenge, you’ll be amazed at how your priorities shift. You may suddenly gain several hours a week you used to go shopping, you can now spend cooking a good meal, taking the time with your family, or going for a walk. You’ll move closer to your financial goals and build momentum to keep going.

I look forward to sharing more about how my year of buying nothing is going. I’d like to hear how you’re doing with your no spend challenge, too.

Your turn!

  • Have you taken on the no spend challenge?
  • What’s the longest you’ve gone without making a purchase?
  • What stories have you told yourself when you bought something you didn’t need?

 

How To Start Homesteading On A Budget

Ever since I was a very young kid, I knew that I wanted to have a little place of my own, to own land were I could enjoy being outside.  That never feeling never left through the years.  So starting a homestead, finding a place for your tiny house or just a little piece to call your own can seem really challenging at times.

how to start a homestead on a budget

 

For some they just want to start homesteading right where they are, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to do it. For others is just finding the time to make it happen.

So what are we supposed to do when we’re on a budget and all we want to do is start building a life for ourselves?

Get Clear On Your Goals

writing in notebookThe biggest mistake I see people make is they haven’t really defined what they want to do in 1 year, 5 years and so on.  When you get very clear on what you want, you can quickly determine what you actually need in your future stead and where you are going.  Too often people don’t set goals which means they are getting pulled in a million directions.

If you actually write out your goals you gain clarity and you will have a standard to evaluate how you spend your time and resources.  When you have clear goals you can ask yourself “does this get me closer to my goals?”   If the answer is yes, then you should pursue it.  If the answer is no or maybe, then you should say no to whatever it is.

Having goals means you don’t waste money on things that you don’t need and focus the money you do have on hand to the things that will actually let you do what you want to do.  Too often people spend money on things they think they want, but haven’t taken the time to determine if that’s right for them.

Simplify Your Life

Closely tied with my last point, work to actively encourage things in your life that are aligned with your goals, then reject everything else.  This can be difficult, but with some practice and keeping your eye on the prize you can cut out all the stuff that doesn’t matter.

simplify your life quote

From there look at ways to make every day easier and less complicated.  Declutter your home, regain control over your calendar, cut out unnecessary expenses and focus on what matters to you.  This is a long process, but as you bring the important things into focus and remove the things that eat up your time that don’t matter, you’ll find you have more time, less stress, and life seems to flow better.

Take The Long Road

It can be tempting to make the leap now, but if we accept that this is a journey and we need to sort things in our life before we get to our destination.  We realize that we’re putting in the hard work to make our dream possible so that when we do arrive, we are able to really enjoy it fully.  If we rush through it we’ll start homesteading stressed, in debt, and being pulled in a million directions.

take the road less traveledSome of the biggest goals I’ve achieved were only enjoyed because I worked on everything as I made my way there.  When I moved into my tiny house I wanted to have a simpler life, less clutter from possessions, on my way to being debt free and in a really good place in my life and career. If I hadn’t worked to make those things a reality, the experience of going tiny would have been very stressful.

The other thing to know is that a lot of what you want to do requires a lot of new knowledge and experience, which you can start gathering now!  Choose the areas you want to focus on first (goal setting) and find a way to learn more about those areas.  It could be checking a book out of the library, it could be making friends with a local farmer or homesteader and asking if you can help out for free.

A lot of what I learned was from a farmer who I helped weed beds.  As we moved along his raised beds, I would ask lots of questions and we’d talk about various things on his farm that I wanted to know more about.  It was a big help to him, I learned a lot and it filled the time while we were weeding.

Starting Your Homestead Where You Are

For many people when they get really clear on their goals and realize that the whole thing is a journey, they realize that the land they are on is actually a really good place to start for them for where they are in their journey.  Most of us just starting out don’t have many of the skills needed to run a full fledged homestead, so starting small is perfect because we can build our skills so we can later apply them to a larger piece of land.

gardening in your back yard

Start with baby steps as you build out your homestead and if you don’t own the land, consider how you can develop the land in ways that you can take them with you when you upgrade or move.  Portable infrastructure is key when you don’t own your land or the land you’re on is a stepping stone to your final destination.  Things like water systems, shelters for animals, fencing, and even garden beds all can be made to move if need be.

So look around where you are right now, could you start a raised bed?  What about container gardening?  Is there a way you could buy two chickens and learn the ins an outs of raising them?  Be open to possibilities and bring creativity to your situation.

Buying Land With Little Or No Money

For many of us it’s all about finding some land we can call our own.  Land can be very expensive and while we want to grow things, money isn’t one thing we can grow in our gardens.  So how can we buy land without much money?

Rent To Own

rent to own signMost of us are paying something right now for wherever we are living.  It could be rent or a mortgage, but whatever the case is, we actually do have money, it’s just not allocated in the right direction.   What if we were to find some land where we could start renting now and the rent goes towards ownership?

There are many landlords that will consider this, especially when they’ve been trying to sell it for a long time or it’s bare land.  This is sometimes referred to as “owners financing”.  The beauty of this is we often can get in on a property that has potential, but requires some elbow grease for very little down.  Sometimes you can start with nothing down.

If you play your cards right, you can find a piece of land that’s right for you at the same cost of your old mortgage or monthly rent.  If you were spending $500 a month, work the deal to pay the owner $500 a month.  The downsides to this approach are that the owner will often use a higher interest rate than normal and if you default on the payments, you lose it all.  So make sure you have money saved for a rainy day.

Get A Land Loan

Land loans are harder to come by these days, but there are a few credit unions and smaller banks that will still do them.  You’re typically looking at about 2% more interest than going mortgage rates.  This was an option I explored and was able to find financing options through the Farmers Credit Union which had USDA backing.

I don’t typically advocate taking on debt, but there are sometimes that it is the only realistic option.  Houses, land and for some cars are the only way they could achieve this.  If you go this route, make sure you have a good handle on your finances, you’ve paid down all your debt and you have 3-6 months of expenses saved in case of job loss.  This isn’t something you want to mess around with.

Stretch The Money You Do Have

One thing to consider is that land is often expensive, but if we are willing to make a move we can consider areas that land is cheaper.  If you have $15,000 in California, you’re not going to find any options, but if you were open to Montana, you might find some really good deals.  Combined this with a rent to own arrangement and you can get some really nice land for what you have on hand.

The two caveats with this is to make sure that you can still find employment in those areas, if you can remote work you can be pulling in big city pay checks while having small town bills.  The other thing is to try it before you buy it, just because it’s the right price may not mean it’s a place you like to live.

So consider renting for a year and use the time to get to know the area, the people and the lifestyle.  You can use this time to get a lay of the land, understand where you might want to live better and build connections that could help you on your journey.

Rent Land

In more rural locations, especially those where farming is common, renting land by the year is very common.  Many people will use this as a way to expand their farm without buying expensive property.  In some places $50 per acre per year is quite common, you just need to make sure that you are able to move everything if the situation changes.

So those are some of the options you can consider when trying to find land.  It isn’t easy, but with some creativity, hard work and perseverance you can make owning land a reality.

Your Turn!

  • How have you figured out a way to find your own land?
  • Where are you at with your journey?

5 ways to reduce financial stress

Financial stress can be crippling. It can affect your work, your relationships and even your health. Whether you’re worried about making your rent this month, actively dodging collector calls or worried about how you’ll retire, money issues can influence your entire world.

When I graduated from college, I had about $26,000 worth of student loan debt. I wasn’t making much money writing obituaries for a local newspaper (since I didn’t track my income, I’m still not sure exactly how much I was making, but it was less than $24,000/ year.)

Going from five figures in debt in my early 20s, to now being debt free and in control of my money and financial future in my late 20s took a lot of work and persistence. It also would not have been possible without taking the following steps…

1: Know your situation

Knowing the full scope of your money situation is the first and foremost way to become less stressed about it. I wish there was a way to plug your ears, close your eyes and hum and for it to just go away, but that isn’t reality. Fortunately for those currently in the dark, the unknown is always worse than the known.

When the six-month grace period on my student loans ended, I started getting a dozen-plus bills in the mail, due immediately. Each one had its own required minimum payment and I was living hand to mouth – so I ignored them.

A couple months passed and the letters got a little scarier. They had big, red “overdue” stamps on the envelopes and I started getting phone calls about all the money I owed from less-than-pleasant people.

I didn’t know how many loans I had, how much I owed, or any idea if I was close to defaulting or getting into serious, long-term financial trouble.

Needless to say, I was pretty stressed.

I decided I had to know how much I owed and who I owed it to. There was no way to start to attack my debt while still in the dark.

Once I tracked down all of my loans and student loan carriers, and added up the total amount now owed, interest had compounded the debt up to just under $33,000.

Knowing that number was scary.

Knowing that number was horrifying. I screamed. I cried. I had several cocktails I could not afford.  But then I was able to begin to make a plan.

2: Make a plan

In it’s most simple form, a budget is a plan for your money.

Without knowing how much money you are bringing in and how much is going out, you run the risk of spending more than you have available.

America’s three biggest banks earned more than $6.4 billion in 2016 from ATM and overdraft fees, according to CNN Money. That is a high cost for miss-remembering how much money you have in Checking.

By knowing and tracking your money with a budget, you get to give every dollar a job to do in your life. Without a budget, my money tends to just disappear. I have no idea where, when or what I spent it on, and it certainly isn’t helping my financial future. With a budget, I get to plan for expenses, savings and even having fun – all guilt free because I know everything is covered in my plan.

3: Have an emergency budget

In the middle of a crisis, no one is the best at managing their money. We spend emotionally. We panic .. We don’t have the stability and guidelines that our budget normally provides us.

Enter the Emergency Budget, your new favorite tool for peace of mind in a crisis.

Building one is simple and lets you know exactly how much money you need to live off in an emergency situation. This will give you some peace of mind as it’s likely much less than your current income. Second, it allows you to make hard decisions with a clear head, versus later during crisis mode.

By creating an emergency budget NOW, you’ll know the amount of money you really need to survive the month with a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your belly.

4: Work toward building an emergency fund

Even just $500-$1,000 saved in an account to be used only for emergencies can have a hugely relaxing effect on your mental stress.

That is enough money to pay for an unexpected medication or a blown tire.

It’s enough to turn something disastrous into something annoying.

While it won’t cover every situation, it will certainly help. Once you have an emergency fund, you’ll never want to be without it.

5: Set track-able money goals

Once you have a firm grasp of your money situation and spending habits, you can start to alter your daily choices to better your financial future.

Making room in your budget to prioritize saving for your emergency fund, paying down your debt or saving money for future expenses will all allow you to work toward things you want and will benefit you in the long term. Setting and following a plan to accomplish those goals will bring you a sense of achievement and joy as you complete them.

You will be in control of your money and much less financially stressed.

Your Turn!

  • What is the most stressful money-related thing in your life?
  • What was a money-related stress that you’ve defeated? How?

Save

Save

How to Stop a Spending Snowball

I have a not-so-frugal confession to make… I LOVE Black Friday. I shop ’til I’m ready to drop every year with my aunt and we get ALL our family’s Christmas shopping done in that one weekend.

It’s a long-time tradition in my family for adults to distribute envelopes to each other filled with our Christmas budgets for them on Thanksgiving. As a family, we grab the newspaper and comb through the Black Friday ads, decide what we want for Christmas and use the money in our envelopes to shop for for each other and ourselves in a fun, exhausting two-day experience.

This sounds crazy, I know. But after we’re done shopping, we give the things we’ve bought for ourselves to the people who gave us the money envelopes, who then wrap the presents and stick them under the tree for Christmas.

It results in a low-stress Christmas because:
  • We get all our shopping out of the way quickly.
  • Everyone gets exactly what they want and will love.
  • We get to spend the time spent shopping together, bonding instead of running around on our own trying to come up with the perfect gift.
  • After that weekend, we just get to enjoy the holidays.

 

The only problem is, that after a weekend of handing over cash constantly, it can be hard to stop spending. And once the budget is spent, if you keep spending, it could wreck your December budget or even have you accumulating debt that will follow you into the new year.

Here are three ways to stop the spending snowball in it’s tracks:

1: Keep out of the stores and off the shopping websites

There will always be more deals. Throughout the holiday, stores online and off will keep upping the percentage off offered, keep dragging out more showstopper deals and generally try to get you to buy as much as possible.

Once the budget is spent, you have to stop. Don’t fall for the ads or even the “perfect gift” that may suddenly appear in your feed. What you have is enough. You are enough and no gift will buy someone’s love.

2: Organize and wrap what you bought

One way to rekindle the joy of your purchases without spending more money is to “play” with what you’ve already bought for other people.

Now don’t unpackage their gifts, that would be horrible and tacky. But do pull everything out and organize it. Maybe spend some time carefully wrapping things and decorating them. Add loving touches like handwritten tags or messages.

Spending a couple hours making the gifts look great and stacking them under the tree will definitely get you in the holiday spirit and maybe let you feel like shopping time is complete.

Doing your wrapping early will also reduce last minute stress by eliminating one more thing off your to do list and make your home look more festive.

3: Volunteer

Whether it’s helping a family member or friend get ready for their Christmas, or helping a local charity, church or organization help your community members, giving back is an excellent way to make yourself grateful for what you have, as well as giving back to those in need.

A lot of people struggle at Christmas time, and even a small gift of time or your resources could be an enormous blessing.

Your Turn!

  • What are your holiday family traditions?
  • What is your favorite charitable organization to give to?