Unplugging to Reconnect: A Journey Toward Full-Time Homesteading — Finances, Part 4

Reader Contribution by John Atwell
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Kids (Of the Two-Legged Variety)

Continuing from the last post, also worth noting is the fact that the very day that we first discussed our future life direction with our four children, we tasked them to begin formulating plans for their own money-making ventures. Rearing an egg-laying flock was a natural pursuit for one ornithologically-inclined tyke, and she has since invested personal savings into acquiring, housing, and regularly feeding a group of heritage breed (Australorp) birds. We (the family) now buy eggs from her as she ramps up production in preparation for farmer’s market and, possibly, door-to-door sales.

Another child immediately began considering selling baked goods at the farmer’s market and is now pursuing the necessary permit. A third focused on the profit potential of live, fresh cut, and dried culinary and medicinal herbs; he is now coddling several trays of starts in a makeshift nursery on our land. Our youngest recently decided to design and make simple jewelry, and she has already secured several sales at the farmer’s market, learning much in the process regarding marketing (display tactics and customer engagement), inventory issues, and pricing.

Of course, the tried-and-true standby of odd jobs can supplement these efforts to teach skills for navigating the money world. After arriving in our new neighborhood, our girls secured some ad hoc cleaning work with a neighbor’s business just a 15-minute walk from our place, for example, and our boy is paid by an another aging neighbor for various homestead chores just a few plots away from our patch of dirt.

This touches on another common theme that we frequently encountered in our readings: Get the kids involved in the business and production sides of family homestead endeavors through projects for which they have full ownership. This supports family efforts to get established and helps set up the younglings for future self-sufficiency. As a personal example, we recently became the only authorized distributor in our area for a particular brand of heirloom, non-GMO seeds, which we hawk at the farmer’s market. Our four kids each put up one-quarter of the inventory start-up money to kick things off. Once sales have returned that initial cost, they will get their money back and collectively begin receiving one-half of profits (to be split four ways) with the other half going into the family company’s coffers. (Of course, they are also involved in sales, inventory purchases, marketing, etc.)

In our family, these activities operate against a backdrop of expectations and responsibilities hashed out when we began this new lifestyle. For instance, we provide for the kids’ necessities and will sometimes chip in on small expenses for their businesses to help things get rolling. The kids use their money to provide for limited items of convenience and entertainment, but most funds that are not going back into their business must be put aside to help with college costs. Chores are done because you are part of the homestead effort, not for any “allowance,” which we do not have the income to provide right now.

As a measure of their fiscal maturity, occasionally, the younglings have surprised us with offers to treat us and each other to a meal at a restaurant, have dropped money in the church collection plate out of their own desire to do so, or offered to pick up some small expenses for which they are not obliged. (Circumstances allowing, a future blog post will detail a salary system that we used with the kids for several years to teach them money-handling skills and budgeting.)

On the topic of kids and finances, our reading and lecture attendance and discussions with myriad parents who were years ahead of us in the child-rearing process taught us quite a bit about bringing down college expenses in our new homesteading lifestyle. First and foremost was eliminating the high cost of room and board by setting up the family house near solid academic institutions and having the kids live at home through college (not a popular concept among liberation-minded adolescents, it turns out). This idea went hand-in-hand with numerous studies showing that attendance at solid public universities, while saving families tens of thousands of dollars annually, does not disadvantage kids when compared to others attending private institutions. In fact, many of the reports we read (and continue to see) showed little-to-no difference in the quality of education at the undergraduate level in most majors and similarly little difference in graduate’s job market competitiveness in most fields that only require a four-year degree. Third, we became aware of a national trend for even the most talented of students to knock out basic coursework (freshman English, for example) at community college, prior to matriculating at a university, for a fraction of the cost of similar coursework at a four-year institution. College-credit-granting Advanced Placement (AP) coursework in high school — even when homeschooling — is another way to rack up credits on the cheap, the only cost being the fee for the end-of-year AP test and the textbook during the year (and many textbooks can be rented for far less than buying one, can be bought at low cost at a used book vendor, or may even be acquired for free via online community websites).

(To be continued…)

Click here to read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3 of this series.

For a blow-by-blow account of our family’s ongoing transition from homestead voyeurs to full time homesteading, drop by our online journal.

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