Living Offgrid Affordably Paying For It All

Reader Contribution by Jeff Chaney
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Whew! We now take the opportunity to step back and take stock of the entire situation after the monumental task accomplished in the last installment Breaking Ground-kind of. Our current debt is in the form of a ten year mortgage at a finance company, and at a very high interest rate. Banks do not aggressively loan money to buy “raw” land. The typical approach is to obtain a construction loan, then convert to a mortgage after the house is completed. We were not ready to build yet, wishing to give the lumber time to air dry. This was also the perfect time to consider some alternative method of financing other than a standard mortgage. We received in the mail an offer from the credit card company in the form of very low fixed interest rate checks for the duration of the balance. No mortgage, no foreclosure. Sounds good. Serious trouble would require bankruptcy, which would mean total disaster in any event. The only possible problem we could envision was the interest rate being arbitrarily increased, which is exactly what transpired. Our response to this action was simply to close the account to all activity but payment only. The result effectively froze the account under the previous terms. Problem solved. Plus, at less than half the current mortgage rate and no mortgage fraud, a very nice solution!

At this stage in life, I found myself without a large retirement account to fall back on. The only successful approach seemed to be to arrange a low cost lifestyle, that did not involve rent or mortgage payments, electricity, water, sewer, or television bills. These expenses add up to a considerable amount every month. Elimination of recurring costs would allow a measure of freedom with the budget that was most welcome, and most importantly, sustainable.

To accomplish this end, I made several decisions at this time. I would use solar electricity generation, battery storage, a composting toilet, a rainwater harvesting and filtration system, and a T.V. antenna for free over-the-air broadcasts. All recurring expenses were accounted for, with the exception of wireless service. Cellular seemed the only way to go. All I had to do now was design these systems, and pay for the land.

I then decided that since I was waiting on lumber and making payments, this time could be used to search for and capitalize on bargains in the building materials realm. Doors, windows, sinks, and all manner of other supplies would be needed. I had a friend in the remodeling business who had a warehouse full of used equipment that I was in search of. He donated some items, and charged a nominal fee for others. What a stroke of luck! I also found eight old, but sound windows for $5.00 each. A fine move to save money initially, but I would have to revisit this decision in the future. Buy the highest quality doors and windows that will fit your budget. They will save money perpetually, and increase the comfort level immeasurably. I do not think anyone has regretted spending too much money on doors and windows. This was the first action I came to question.

I now have a basement full to the brim with lumber and all manner of building supplies. As a result of the seclusion of the property, to prevent theft, I needed a storage building to keep materials out of the weather. It also dawned on me that a “base of operations” would make life a whole lot easier. I would have a place in which I could avoid rain, cold, snow, and storms in general. I already had in mind a general design and location for the house I wanted to build. I decided to build a storage building in a different location, of identical design, but half the size. When I had the first half of the house built, I could disassemble the storage building, and use the materials to finish the house. This would also be a perfect “test bed” for the progressive systems, on a smaller scale, to be used in the house. I like it when a plan comes together. Building with the consideration of future disassembly is a bit unique, but not that difficult.

In the next article, at long last, we will actually break ground and move some dirt. Construction of something is about to begin. The overall philosophy of this project should be coming very clear. As always, please remember to recycle any and everything, when possible.

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