Family firewood day
Photo by Kerry Mann
Friends and family have asked me: “What does it mean to be a homesteader?”. My quick and simple answer is “freedom”. We are using our land and property to be more self-sufficient and to have more freedom. We do that by growing our own food, by heating our entire home and water with sustainable wood from our property. We’ve started several income streams with our homestead at the core.
After almost six years on our homestead, we now have eight small income streams and more freedom than we’ve ever experienced. The purpose of this post is to share our story and what we’ve learned with others.
Money and Freedom for Homesteaders
For me, freedom and money go hand in hand. Every single purchase I make is a trade for my freedom. Buy a candy bar, there goes a little freedom — buy a brand-spanking new car, there goes the odds of one of my four girls going to college. Buy materials to build a homestead dog kennel business, and cha-ching put some more freedom in the future-bank. Build a greenhouse and increase my property value, boom even more freedom in my future (and more growing season for our homestead veggies). Money = freedom I am not willing to willy-nilly exchange all of that freedom with little consideration for overpriced items like fancy smartphones, brand new cars, and a top of the line home with a maxed out mortgage.
The greatest path to freedom is the paid off home mortgage. It is possible. We did at age 35. We didn’t inherit any money. I never went to college. I worked a soul-crushing warehouse job for 8 years out of high school. My point is anyone can do this. Check out Dave Ramsey’s YouTube channel for story after story of regular folks paying off their home mortgage early.
We worked very hard to pay for our homestead in cash by the age of 35. Besides being extremely frugal, for many years we were also able to achieve this by purchasing a major fixer-upper. No one wanted to touch this property. Our young triplets on first viewing of our would-be homestead literally cried: “Daddy why would you want to live here?”.
Our homestead was in extreme distress when we bought it. People often comment on our YouTube channel: “must be nice to have that beautiful 20 acres…” I usually respond with “nice, it's more than nice, it's unbelievably amazing and it could have been yours too!”. If people could have seen this before we made it “nice” they’d be singing a different tune.
Your Choices Can Make or Break Freedom
Our property was on the market for a couple of years, dozens of people hard-passed on it because they didn’t want to do the work to make it livable. Most of our peers were purchasing homes in pristine condition with granite countertops at the very tip-top of their price range. I just could never do that and trade all of my freedom for the next 30+ years. That is a trade I am not willing to make.
Instead, we do just the opposite. We’ve always purchased used vehicles with over 100,000 miles for cash. I’d rather get punched in the back of my head every day for 5 years than buy a new car. What a horrible waste of freedom. Over the course of my driving years I estimate I’ve saved over $162,144 by NOT buying new cars. Here is the math- 24 years driving * 12 months= 288 months of driving and potential car payments. The average vehicle payment on a new car is $563. 288*563 = $162,144! And that doesn’t include the cost of comprehensive insurance to cover that new car. $162,144 is almost $45,000 more than we paid to purchase our 20 acre homestead! So you see it is very possible. Plus many couples pay for two new cars!
So much freedom traded for that new car smell (that doesn’t last long). I’d rather enjoy my freedom working from home, kayaking with my girls everyday, golfing, going to movies and living on my own terms. That is worth a million new cars to me.
Sure we don’t have that nice-new-car-smell — but we pay on average $1,200 for a used vehicle (like 2 monthly payments on a new car!). Our old homestead van was $1,200 (it had over 150,000 miles and was kind of ugly) but it lasted 6 years and we drove it across the country several times. My current minivan is a rusty grocery-getter but the AC works great, it gets me from A to Z and I paid $1400 total a few years ago. Insurance is dirt cheap and if it ever dies, I’ll fix it myself or find another $1,200 car because so many people hit 100,000 miles and think their vehicle is suddenly trash and sell it cheap to upgrade for something new. Frankly I think 100,000 miles is just barely broken in.
We buy used and saved the difference and we never use credit cards. Those fancy iPhones that do the exact same thing as a cheap pre-paid phone, yeah no thanks. Has anyone but us considered how much freedom has to be traded to afford one of those phones? And in the meantime my prepaid Android phone has almost every one of the same features for pennies on the dollar.
Speaking of phones and freedom, a while back I had this phone conversation with a friend, “Sorry friend, I can’t talk now I’m heading out to kayak…”
Response: “At 11am on a Tuesday? Must be Nice.” Yeah it’s amazing, I said. Sadly those same types of friends have new cars, the nicest phones, go out to eat all of the time and struggle each month to make ends meet. I feel bad for them. They are always worried that if they lose their job it will all come crumbling down. It’s sad and stressful and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Our entire goal with every financial decision we make is to maximize our freedom. I am always considering how we can spend our money to provide ourselves and our children with more freedom.
So when purchasing our homestead we were not just looking for a great property for homesteading we were also looking for a property with the potential for many income streams. After almost six years on our homestead we now have 8 income streams and more freedom than I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. The purpose of this post isn’t to humblebrag about our successes, we still make less money than the average American family, but I think we have more freedom than most families. I’d say we have more freedom than some of the richest families who still manage to spend like crazy or work like crazy to make even more and can’t stop to live in the moment.
Strategies to Achieving Homestead Freedom
The freedom that we have is a true blessing. Here are a few strategies that helped us achieve our goals and get more freedom:
1. Read up. Late in life (last year) I started listening to Dave Ramsey. Then I bought a few of his books. His baby-steps (which are free to follow) are amazing and life-changing. If you’ve never heard of Dave, check out some of his debt-free screams on his YouTube channel, they are so inspiring. Some people may not like Dave’s politics, I don't care either way. What I do know is that Dave is an expert when it comes to personal finance and there is undeniable proof that he has guided more folks to take financial action and change their lives forever than anyone else I can think of. If I was starting over I would 100% focus on Dave’s Baby Steps from Day 1.
2. Think long-term. A long time ago we really cut back spending unless it's a necessity or an investment. When I say "investment", I don’t mean the stock market, although that is one way. We usually invest in ourselves. Some examples include our homestead, our greenhouse, our airbnb rental, our dog kennel, our YouTube channels. When we spend money it is often spent with a future return planned.
3. Set goals. We started writing down goals. I wrote down a goal last year. I wanted to get to 10,000 subscribers on YouTube. I wrote down little action items to achieve that. I laser focused on that goal. My very next video went crazy (it now has well over 1 million views). A few months later I surpassed 50,000 subscribers. I credit that solely to writing down my goal and making a laser-focused action plan. Thoughts and whims in my brain are not laser-focused action plans, goals need to be written down.
4. Prepare for tough decisions. I coined this phrase and I say it all the time to my four girls. “Your life is a result of the decisions you make” It’s on you. We really focus on making good decisions. If I could win 1 million dollars OR win 1% more wisdom I would take the 1% wisdom without ever blinking an eye.
5. Focus on what you can control. Despite what the mainstream media would have us believe we are still living in one of the greatest times in history. I chose to focus on things in my life that I have control over. That includes my personal actions and decisions on a daily basis. Being positive and making wise personal decisions will change the world 1000x more than focusing my efforts on global issues or politics or trying to change others.
6. Learn everything. The most successful people in the world have one thing in common: they read all the time. With the internet and all of the resources we have available it’s hard not to read all of the time. Years ago I hated my day job. I wanted to work for myself. I had literally every resource available to help me do just that. Books in the library, magazines and oh yeah this little thing called the internet. It’s so easy these days you don’t even have to read, just watch a YouTube video and you can learn almost anything. Imagine starting a business 100 years ago. It was all on you. Now we have all of these amazing resources to guide us and most are free.
If you want to learn more about us and learn specifically what our eight income streams are on our homestead, we did a YouTube video on just that.
Kerry W. Mann, Jr. moved to a 20-acre homestead in 2015, where he and his family use modern technology, including YouTube and Instructables.com, to learn new skills and teach homestead projects. Connect with Kerry on his Homestead How YouTube page, Instructables, Pinterest, Facebook, and at My Evergreen Homestead. Read all of Kerry’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here
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