Posts Tagged Debt Free

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?

8 things you should never do to save money

I’ve tried a lot of weird things to save money. A journalist and finance vlogger by day, I’ve gone dumpster diving, emptied fast food ketchup packets into a bottle, tried DIY beauty treatments involving food items (and more hours of clean up than I’ll ever admit on the internet), and even shared library cards with friends in different states to expand our e-book selection.

Some of those activities could be considered a little strange, a couple might be frowned upon in some circles, and only a few worked at all.

But despite my willingness to try “extreme” money-saving tips, there are some things that I would never do… primarily things that aren’t ethical, hygienic or legal. These would absolutely save you money, but at a very different cost, one that I think crosses a line between being penny-wise and being a tightwad.

1. Stealing

Stealing takes more forms than hiding an item under your shirt and walking out of a store or lifting someone’s wallet.

Filling a bag with more than your share of complimentary items at a restaurant, smuggling home office supplies or toilet paper or even getting a water cup and filling it with soda are all stealing. No crime is victim-less and these are not viable ways to save money.

2. Using services meant for the needy

There is nothing wrong with taking help when you need it. Services like food stamps, soup kitchens, food libraries and the like are meant to be used. But taking those services when you don’t need them in an effort to save a little money robs someone else of that resource.

Consider volunteering instead, charity event organizers nearly always plan to feed volunteers as a thank you for their time. I helped out at a church-run food pantry a couple of times a month where the church provided dinner for volunteers.

It was a free meal for me, provided by people who wanted to help who couldn’t spare the time. It both helped my food budget a little and I was able to help people in the community who were truly in need. It was a win-win.

3. Lying

I’ve heard countless times about people “pulling one over” on big corporations by taking unfair advantage of “Love it or your money back” guarantees. If you honestly didn’t like the product or service, absolutely take the business up on their offer, but using 90% of something and returning it just because you can is dishonest and shameful.

The same goes for people who argue legitimate charges on their accounts or claim their food is bad at the end of the meal after they’ve eaten most of it.

I don’t care how big the business or corporation is, lying like that is stealing.

4. Not washing my clothes or body

I’ve read tips more than once saying to step into the shower in your day’s clothing and wash them with you. I’ve read about people only spraying their clothing with air freshener or never washing their clothing at all. I’ll wear clothing items that don’t get dirty (office work wear and the like) multiple times but clothing that gets sweaty, smelly or dirty always goes straight into the wash.

Cleanliness is one of the markers of a polite society. No one wants to work with or spend time with people who are stinky by choice. This will eventually affect how people treat you and your future opportunities.

Wash your clothes, wash your body. Take some pride in your appearance. It costs very little, but has a huge return on your investment.

5. Getting rid of pets

A pet is a big responsibility and should be treated as such. Dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters and moose (not judging), etc. all cost money for food, medicine, and care throughout their lives.

I’m always saddened and a little shocked to see tip lists that recommend getting rid of the family animal to offset costs. Unless you own a very expensive animal, and are jeopardizing your own ability to survive by providing for it, I would never say to kick your pets to the curb.

Instead consider shopping for the most affordable pet food and medications (generic heart worm and flea pills can be found at websites like www.petshed.com for much less money than at the vet’s office), learn to groom your own animals, and write a line into your budget to pay for monthly and annual pet costs to always have the money there to feed Fido.

6. Stopping tipping

If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to go out.

As a former waitress myself, I know all too well how many people choose not to tip and the percentage is completely unacceptable. Whether or not you agree with the custom, we all know that wait staff are often paid well below minimum wage and their tips are expected to raise their salary to a reasonable level (aka more than $2 per hour which will nearly all go to taxes anyway.) When you don’t tip, the service worker isn’t getting paid for their services. It’s an unfair system, but until it’s changed, don’t punish the person serving you.

If you don’t want to tip, feel free to take your food to go, park your own car, do your own beauty services and make your own drink.

7. Mooching

“Forget your wallet” at a group lunch often enough, and you won’t get invited to them anymore.

Friends and family should be joyous parts of your life, not vehicles to save a buck.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with letting your relatives buy dinner when you’re visiting for the weekend, but consider returning the favor the next time they visit you. Relationships shouldn’t be about who owes who and is soured when people take advantage of people.

If you’re often invited to expensive dinners or events by more affluent friends, consider suggesting more frugal outings where everyone can have fun and not jeopardize their individual money goals. Also don’t forget that everyone loves a welcoming invitation over for a home-cooked meal. Friendship doesn’t have to be expensive.

8. Miss out on life

The easiest and most effective way to save money is to not spend it. Saving money is important to me. It’s a key strategy in my long-term money goals. But I won’t decline every invite to do something fun with friends in order to save every possible cent.

Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. There are tons of free and frugal things to do and it’s also okay to spend a little more on occasion to have life-enriching experiences.

Your Turn!

  • What “frugal actions” are too far for you?
  • What will you do to save money?

Save

Money Habits of People Who are Debt Free

Whether your goal is to become debt free, run a marathon, or simply declutter your home and live a more minimalist lifestyle, we often turn to those who have had success and do what they do. It’s called studying best practice.

If you want to learn how to run a marathon, you would talk to other runners and follow a training plan. If you want to enjoy a more minimalist lifestyle, you would read up on minimalism and talk to other minimalists. If you want to become debt free, you adopt the money habits of people who are debt free.

Organize and Pay Attention to Your Bills

Rather than just piling up the bills and walking away from them, people who are debt free open their bills as soon as they come in. They check to make sure that the statement is accurate and organize them in a way to ensure that the bill is paid on time.

Live Within Your Means

People who are debt free do not spend beyond what they earn. It seems obvious, I know. But in these days where credit is easy to come by, and most aren’t spending intentionally, it’s easy to spend more money than what comes in every month.

People who are debt free follow the principle that if you don’t have the cash, you can’t afford it. So part of living within your means also requires you to strengthen your savings muscle and set aside money each month for larger purchases like vacations, home improvements, or a new-to-them vehicle.

Don’t Try to Keep Up With the Joneses

People who are debt free have learned to practice the art of contentment and are grateful and happy with what they have. They don’t worry that their neighbors just purchased a shiny new vehicle or just upgraded to a 75-inch flat screen television.

They also avoid the trap of emotional spending and buying items to make them feel better. They know that these unplanned purchases only have a temporary effect on one’s feelings, and if anything may lead to feelings of stress later on in the month.

Demonstrate Self-Control

In order to live within your means, it’s important to be intentional with your money and develop a spending plan. Debt-free people create a budget before the month begins which gives each dollar coming in a job, helping to eliminate money that disappears or gets wasted.

Part of living on a budget also means avoiding impulse purchases. These impulse purchases can quickly destroy a budget. Instead try avoiding the stores that you know cause you the most temptation when it comes to buying impulsively. You know that trip to Target that you made to purchase one item and ended up walking out with $100 worth. Trust me, been there, done that!

Be Proactive

It’s no surprise that being proactive is the first habit discussed in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. People who gain control of their finances and live debt free have learned to be proactive. This means that they have looked at ways to cut their budgets and their spending to free up extra income to pay off their debt and then start saving. They will also look for ways to earn an extra income if it’s necessary to reach their financial goals.

Your Turn!

  • What’s one money habit that you would like to improve?

How We Paid Off $59,000 in 24 Months

There’s no easy, fast way to pay off your debt. It takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and focus. The good news is that it is possible, no matter how overwhelming it may seem, and the end goal is worth it.

March 17, 2014: I was sitting at my dining room table surrounded by bills, sick and tired of making a decent income, but having nothing to show for it. The stress of juggling payments and the fear that there was going to be more month than money had gotten the best of me, and in that moment I knew we had to make a change.

You may look at the title and think to yourself, “Well if you paid off $59,000 in 24 months that must mean that, on average, you were putting just over $2,400 towards your debt each month.” Putting that amount (37% of our take home pay) wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t been willing to change our behavior as well.

Getting Real With Your Spending Behavior:

I added up the debt and had no idea where that money had been spent or what it had been spent on. We didn’t have any fancy clothing, we don’t have a home filled with the latest and greatest technology, our furniture was mostly purchased second-hand, and our car was certainly not the fanciest (not unless you consider a well-loved Honda Odyssey fancy).

So in order to see where the money had  gone and where the leaks were in our spending, I decided to do a six-month spending analysis. I grabbed six months worth of credit card statements and bank transactions and got to work. I quickly realized that we were the “death by $20” types, meaning we would spend $20 here or $20 there. Although that amount doesn’t seem like much at the time, it quickly added up.

Take Responsibility:

overspendingWhen married, in debt, and stressed, it was easy to blame the other person and their spending behavior for getting us into the mess that we were in. Completing the spending analysis put both my husband and I in the position where we had to take responsibility for our part in the problem.

We could see exactly what we had spent over the last 6 months. The truth hurt but it was in front of us and the numbers didn’t lie. Once we saw the holes in our spending, and took responsibility, we were now able to come up with a plan to get out of the mess that we each had a part in creating.

Develop a Budget Where Every Dollar has a Name:

The biggest part for us in our journey of becoming debt free was to get on a monthly budget where every dollar was given a name. We started at the top with our income and worked our way down through our expenses until we got to the end. Any money left over each month was then thrown at the debt.

We preferred the debt snowball when determining which debt we wanted to attack first. In the debt snowball, you list your debts from the smallest balance to the largest balance and then start paying them off in that order. We loved the traction we felt as those smallest debts got paid off quickly.

Cut, Slash, and Free Up Your Income:

In order to be able to put an even larger amount on our debt, we looked for ways that we could cut our spending. We slashed our average monthly grocery budget by $200 a month by meal planning, shopping with a list, and making as much as we could from scratch. We cut our clothing budget by shopping at the thrift stores and the clearance racks. We only bought what we needed and skipped the things that we wanted.

Stick With The Budget

budget moneyOK…This was a hard one at first. We really needed to get into a routine and pattern that worked for us when it came time to checking in with the budget. When first getting started, I had a budgeting app that was on my phone that I checked in with at least once a day (sometimes, several times a day…I’m a bit of a numbers geek).

Writing a budget is one thing, but checking in with the budget is the important part. We had written budgets before, but as the debt rose, it became clear that a budget isn’t a set it and forget it tool. Your money will not magically behave just because you put some numbers down on paper.

Get the Biggest Shovel Possible:

Aside from getting on a budget and sticking with the budget, finding extra work and making extra money was hugely important in us becoming debt free as quickly as we did. When you want to get out of debt so bad you can taste it, sacrificing some free time to work extra hours or a get a second job in the short term is a great way to put your debt pay-off into overdrive.

Stay Focused on the End Goal:

During our debt free journey, it was tempting to take a break, and enjoy some of the extra money that we now had by working extra jobs. We knew though that if we stopped, getting back on track was going to be even harder, so we had to stay focused on the end goal.

We reminded ourselves of our “Why?” Why we wanted to get out of debt. What a debt free life would look like and feel like. We tracked our progress and made every purchase intentionally by asking ourselves, “Do we want this item more than we want to be debt free?” When you know where you’re going and why, getting there becomes much easier.

Your Turn!

  • What does financial freedom look like to you?

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?