Simple Living: How Much Do You Save?

February/March 2013

By Vicki Mattern 

How Much Do You Save? 

The figures presented in this article and the accompanying chart involve much estimation and some complex calculations. Our hope is that these numbers will provide helpful specifics as well as inspiration, but do remember that every family’s situation is different. We’d love to have more examples of how simple living saves money. If you’ve been keeping track of your living expenses and would like to share how much you save by homesteading/homemaking, email us at with the subject line “Homestead Savings,” and we’ll post your report online.

  Noel Family     Hess and Hamilton  Mather Family  U.S. Average*  Average Savings 

Food purchased (mostly organic)

$2,333 $1,507 $1,400


(for at home and away)

Housing (including maintenance and utilities) $2,000 $577 $550 $5,521 $4,479
Transportation $583 $1,768 $750 $3,317 $2,283
Entertainment $100 $138 $500 $1,029 $783
Expense totals $5,016 $3,990 $3,200 $10,202 $6,133
In addition to lowering their living expenses, our homesteaders calculated the value of the fresh, organic and free-range foods they produce for their families. 
Value of home-produced food (mostly organic)


(beef, chicken, eggs, vegetables)


(chicken, eggs, fruit, vegetables)


(eggs, fruit, vegetables)

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011

**Number adjusted with data from the Agricultural and Resource Economics program at West Virginia University to reflect cost adjustment for a mostly organic diet 

Amount spent to produce food


(garden, animals)


(garden, animals)


(garden, hens)

Net value $814 $1,767 $1,100

Read more: Uncover the changes these three families make that allows them to live with less cash income but greater security and life satisfaction in Simple Living: How to Save Money and Smile More

Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on .

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