Hey, everyone! When talking about homesteading what comes to mind? If you’re like I was about 6 months ago, you are envisioning a sweaty old farmer wearing overalls and workin’ the land. I see a graying woman in her kitchen with flour on her old apron that’s been washed a thousand times and two children that are exact copies of their parents. I see hard times and aching backs and conservative values.
Guess who isn’t at all interested in that type of life? Yeah, that’s me. If you’re like me and you simply want to grow your own food and have some chickens cuz damn I love eggs, then this is exactly where you want to be.
About 6 months ago my husband Landon says,
Hey babe, don’t you want some land when we buy a new house?
Wah? I look out at our flower beds that I can’t keep the weeds out of and don’t understand.
Land? Who wants land? That’s just more work.
Then he gets me to start watching this homesteading family on YouTube. They are so wholesome and sweet and knowledgeable, all I could think was I am nothing like them at all. I love the city, I love convenience and wholesome isn’t the first word people think of when trying to describe me. But I do love saving money.
Despite not knowing the first thing about growing my own food I started to get into it. I really got on board when I thought about the money saving aspect. I started to like the idea that we wouldn’t have to buy everything at the grocery store. We could have our own animals that would not only provide eggs and milk for us, but have a good life on our little farm. I love goat cheese and I’d love to not pay $9 an ounce for the good stuff.
Fast forward those six months and now we have a plan in place to buy our own small homestead and grow most our own food.
But one big question looms in the distance…
How are we going to get there?
After long discussions and serious questions about how we want to shape our future, we have come up with the following six steps to get us from our suburban life to running our own homestead. With these six steps we hope to become more financially independent, more self-sustainable, and dammit, we think it’s going to be fun. So if you are looking to transform your life from a comfortable suburban lifestyle that has you running to the grocery store every weekend, check out these steps to move you from consumer to producer.
Step 1: Work What You Got
When I say we live in the suburbs, I mean we live in the middle of our town that has a population of 160,000 with an additional 100,000 in the outlying areas. There’s a 24-hour gas station within walking distance in every direction. We have a house set back on a 0.23 acre lot and our backyard takes about 20 minutes to mow with a pushmower. Are you pickin’ up what I’m putting out here? Like most people, we aren’t really set up to have our own homestead.
But how can we possibly know if homesteading is for us, or frankly if we are any good at it, before we actually take the leap and purchase the land? That’s where we came up with the first step. You gotta work with what you got.
Sure you may not be able to plant rows of crops or get your chicken coop set up, but you can surely create an herb garden in your window box or build a raised-bed garden. You can begin watching every homesteader on YouTube out there to learn what they do. You can read every blog post talking about how this family and that family started out homesteading. Take small steps to prepare for that big leap coming in Step 5.
Step 2: Get Out of Debt
For us, being financially independent is just as important as getting our own homestead. Like many people our age we have some leftover student debt (ahem, thanks to my second degree), and we are ready to be debt free. Not having any debt would make saving up for a homestead much easier.
Using the Dave Ramsey method of the debt snowball where we have taken our smallest student loan debt and have started to pay off extra we have made great strides towards getting out of debt. Since June we have paid off approximately $6,000 and have reduced our student debt by 15%.
You too can expedite getting out of debt by taking your smallest debt owed, be it credit card, car payment or any type of loan and calculate how much extra you can afford to pay. We chose to stop saving as much and live within a budget so we can dedicate an extra $1,200 per month towards our student debt. Once you get your first loan payed off, rollover the extra you are paying towards your smallest loan ($1,200), plus the amount you were paying every month towards that loan originally (ours was $102) and apply that to your next smallest loan. The speed with which we have payed off our first loan has really given us the motivation to keep going.
After calculating it all up we have found that we can be completely out of student debt by March 2019. That’s $38,000 paid off in approximately 20 months.
Step 3: Remodel the House
While we are paying off debt and learning how to homestead with what little acreage we have, we have some upgrades to make to our house. We have a 1973 ranch-style home and have been improving it since day 1.
A starter home can be great practice for a forever home as most of the options with land might be older and in desperate need of repair. Also, improving your home will have its advantages when you get to Step 6 below.
Step 4: Pay Off the Mortgage
You guessed it, financial independence means completely debt free. Once we are out of student debt we are going to keep going and rollover our extra student loan payments into paying off our mortgage. This will greatly reduce the amount of time to pay off our house.
Paying extra on your principle will shorten the length of your mortgage exponentially. Sure, at this point you could take the extra you were paying towards your debts and start really saving up for the homestead of your dreams, but you’ve come this far, why stop? Become completely independent, don’t owe anyone and you can save up a lot faster then.
After adding it all up, we can have our house paid off in August 2022. That means we will have our house paid off after only eight years. Think paying extra on the mortgage is a good idea now?
Step 5: Save Up and Buy a Homestead
Finally, at Step 5 you can go ahead and save, save, save. At this point you have no debts, no payments towards anything but bills like utilities and internet. You can take all the money you were paying towards your house and put that away in a high interest savings account. This will make saving up a hefty down payment for your homestead so much faster than if you were saving all along. Don’t get me wrong, have that emergency savings stashed away, but before this time the majority of your extra income will be going towards paying off that debt. Now you can watch your savings increase by thousands every month.
Once you have about 20% saved up you can go ahead and purchase that homestead you have been working towards all this time. Then Step 6 will lead you to paying off that house even faster.
Step 6: Rent Out Suburban House
Once you have gotten your dream homestead you could sell your remodeled suburban house to have more money to pay off your new home or…
Rent that baby out and make money while you sleep. Yes, rentals can be a hassle if you aren’t diligent with screening renters and if you have a home that needs a lot of work, but since you were already doing all that remodeling in Step 3 all you need is lots of research and a strong contract with your renters to protect yourself.
So yeah, maybe to homestead we don’t need to be barely making ends meet and I don’t have to spend most of my days in the kitchen while my husband works his fingers to the bone. Maybe homesteading is whatever you want it to be, whether that means vacations to Europe in the winter or me milking the goats while Landon bakes us some bread. You don’t have to fit the typical model of who a homesteader is, you have to make it your own.
This is our plan for getting our homestead started and gaining our financial independence. What steps have you come up with you get your homestead going? Or if you already have your homestead, how did you transition from having a low maintenance home to running a homestead?