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Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Young Couple Documents Costs to Start Their Homestead from Scratch

By Alyssa Craft

Tags: off grid living, mobile living, Alyssa Craft, Idaho, home building,

A year ago to date, Jesse and I decided that we wanted to buy some property in a remote area of the country and to start a homestead from scratch, including the building of our own home (read part 1 and part 2 about that decision). Our end goal was to be debt-free, have freedom and work on being as self-sufficient as possible.

cost to start a homestead from scratch 

While we understood how starting our own homestead and building our own home from scratch could help us to achieve our financial goals in a timely manner, we knew that we would need a substantial amount of money to get the ball rolling. Last we checked, land was not free, building materials weren’t free, tools weren’t free, and getting a loan for the entire deal would be working against our goals.

We knew that if we tried to take the frugal approach to this journey that we could soften the financial blow, but we still didn’t know what to expect. We ran some rough numbers in our head as to what land would cost, what the down payment would be, what an RV would cost and what various aspects of land development would cost. That said, all we could do was estimate the total cost to get started, save up some money and roll with the punches.

We started our journey just five months ago, have spent over $30,000 on various aspects of the journey, and thought it would be helpful to others to document what we spent money on so far as some expenses were more predictable than others. The thing to keep in mind is that while our initial investment in our homesteading journey is high, the expenses will taper down over time as will our monthly expenses. It will fast-track us to financial freedom.

 off grid homestead

Rough breakdown of expenses for the first five months.

We thought it would be helpful to break down our expenses for not only our own benefit, but to provide insight to anyone else who is interested in embarking on a similar journey. We will be providing detailed expense reports on our blog monthly, so bookmark that page if you’d like to stay up to date, but here is what our expenses have looked like by category.

Land ($4,500 + $357/month): We paid $45,000 for five acres of land, paid $4,500 as a down payment, and have a $357/month payment which we hope to pay off within the next 1-2 years.
• RV ($2,500):
We are choosing to live in a 19’ travel trailer while we develop our property which we got at a great price. This was a one-time payment and allows us to own the roof over our head rather than waste money on an apartment. We can resell this when we are done for at least 2x the price, if not more.
• Pickup truck ($1,750):
Neither one of our vehicles was equipped for towing or construction work, so we sold our brand new car and bought this pickup truck instead, cash.
• Generator ($2,300):
We bought a portable 3,000w generator and were okay splurging for one that was quality, quiet and lightweight. Our property is off the grid (and will remain that way) so this purchase wasn’t optional.
• Land development ($7,000):
So far this includes getting a septic permit ($860), having our septic installed ($3,500), renting an excavator twice, paving our driveway with gravel. Installing a septic system ASAP we realized was critical for us, but it may not be critical for all folks.
• Assets/tools ($9,050):
While we had a vehicle of tools upon our arrival, the first, second and third month of our journey were spent investing in tools and materials. Some things we bought include a 4x4 four wheeler ($1,000), a utility trailer, an 80cc chainsaw for milling lumber, and many other tools both large and small. We also were able to acquire $20,000 in building materials for few thousand dollars by being creative.

The thing to keep in mind with these expenses is that these assets help us to build our home for a fraction of the cost of buying a home and having a mortgage, and we can resell them if we need to or when we are done. Instead of having money sitting in our bank accounts, they money is wrapped up in physical assets

Breakdown of monthly, ongoing expenses.

The goal is to eventually eliminate, or significantly reduce these expenses, as we get closer and closer to being self-sufficient while living off the grid. However, this is what our monthly expenses look like five months into the journey as it pertains to this type of lifestyle (excluding personal expenses that we’d have on or off grid at this point such as groceries or car insurance).

Propane ($30/month): This is for heating the inside of our RV and cooking.
• Generator fuel ($150/month):
If we are outside then we are likely working with power tools and if we are inside, it probably means the weather is too harsh to work and we are working online in which case we need to fire up the generator frequently to charge the RV batteries and our laptops.
• Water ($1.25/month):
We don’t yet have water on our property so we fill up in town.
• Laundry ($25/month):
No water on our property, so we do laundry in town.
• Internet ($65/month):
Internet is a little higher as we are off grid.
Land ($357/month): We hope to pay this off in 1-2 years but can take all 15 if we need to.

Becoming debt-free and self-sufficient doesn’t happen overnight, but one step at a time.

While we are still in the money-spending phase of our journey, we are slowly acquiring what we need to be self-sufficient and build our own home. If you would like to see detailed, itemized expenses by month, be sure to check out the expense reports page on our blog. We will be publishing expense reports monthly as a way of sharing our (hopefully duplicateable) progress with others. We invite you to follow along!

Alyssa Craft moved to Idaho after purchasing 5 acres of land where she will build an off grid homestead from scratch with as little money as possible. Follow her many DIY projects, including building a timber frame barn, an off-grid hot tub and starting an organic garden. Find Alyssa on her blog Pure Living for Life, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. View her other MOTHER EARTH NEWS articles here.

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