Homesteading Ain’t Cheap: Talking About Money on the Croft

So….Money. That’s Awkward.

I’ve mentioned in other posts that I am undertaking Keeper’s Croft on a pretty tight budget and it seemed like it was time to do a whole post about homestead personal finances. To represent this WHOLE experience, money has to be a topic.

There is a belief out there that homesteading will save you money. That it is a more economical, simple and less consumerist way of life. It’s not that this isn’t true but I think it is a little more complicated. It depends on the homesteader! I subscribe to the notion that homesteading is a wide umbrella that covers many ways of living but which are all united under striving for a more sustainable existence. And that’s a worthwhile goal regardless of the money that is or isn’t involved!

In particular, it’s important to consider money when thinking about starting to homestead. For many people it will NOT be cheap. I think the money saving aspects is a (I hope) long term prospect but there is a lot of initial investment to get there. There are certainly more economical ways to do it but that can also be influenced by many different things, from your personality to the real estate market.

Believe it or not, I’m not bringing this up to be discouraging! I feel incredibly grateful and privileged to be living the life I am. However, I think it’s good to go in knowing all the possible considerations. Money has 100% been the most stressful thing for me on this journey. My story and experience has of course shaped my views but I hope the thoughts below are helpful. I will first present some considerations that might play a role in your homestead’s financial picture and the talk about some ways I’ve been addressing them.

Some Considerations

  1. Your Income: This is maybe a DUH but it has to be said. In my case, my income is great! If only I didn’t also have an embarrassing amount of consumer debt. *cue lecture of past me* If you were born frugal with a bit of whiz kid money manager in your genes, you don’t have to have a huge income. However, you do need to think about whether your income can not only cover your monthly expenses, which may be more on a homestead, but also cover the cost of all those dream projects. Moving a block into the country (I am literally a block from town limits) has almost doubled my utility expenses. If you are planning on going off grid, that’s great, but will likely require an initial investment in infrastructure. If your income is only barely able to cover living expenses, are you patient and disciplined enough to wait and take things slowly? And what about the unexpected things which seem more prevalent on a larger property. How will you deal if…say…both of your mowers aren’t working and you have an acre of grass to mow? If you’re a veteran budgeter, you are likely scoffing but if you are not, you’ll need to become one fast. I felt like I was so thoughtful and conservative making my plan for this year and I laid out all the expenses, trying to only get what I needed. The seemingly modest projects still wiped me out, so I am entering a period of extreme frugality to climb back out and prepare for the net big onslaught of needs.
  2. Your Existing Situation: I was living in a house in town on a small lot that I bought for under $100 grand. It was enough of an investment to be able to upgrade to a bigger piece of land but the expenses there were much less. I didn’t need much equipment, so therefore came to Keeper’s croft with a push mower and a few shovels and that’s it. The yard there had no trees except two that were in the parking strip and therefore were mostly the responsibility of the city. Currently, there are roughly 15 dead trees at the croft, half of which are threatening the house/outbuildings. You get the idea. I was taking on a much bigger responsibility and doing so from scratch when I moved to Keeper’s Croft. What’s your situation?
  3. Your Skills: Are you a mistress of DIY? Unafraid to tackle any building or repair project? THIS is going to be a huge asset and can compensate, partially, for a smaller budget! Better yet are you skilled enough at certain things that you can barter with others to accomplish the things you are not skilled at? I unfortunately have none of this but I do enjoy learning, which is at least something!
  4. Equipment: There’s a lot of equipment that comes in handy on a larger property from a shovel to a tractor. What are you starting out with? I started out with practically nothing but you can see a list here of the tools that came in handy the first year: http://keepercroft.com/beginner-homesteading-my-first-tools-on-a-limited-budget/. In the first year and half, I’ve purchased a chainsaw (plus additional chains and a chain sharpener), a weed and brush cutter, a new push mower, a new battery, belt and blades for the riding mower (that came with the place), another shovel, a wheel barrow, an electrical current tester, a post driver and a post digger. That’s at least what I can remember! And that’s before adding any livestock. So be prepared for some expenses here unless you are already pretty set with tools.
  5. Infrastructure: What does the property already have? What will you need? I am THRILLED that the croft already has a chicken run and coop built onto/into the shed. If that wasn’t here, I’d probably be years from getting chickens and instead am hoping to add them next year. Other infrastructure to think about: fencing, barns, greenhouse, water collection system to name a few.
  6. Your personality: Are you crazy independent or do you have no problem asking for help? Does the idea of bartering rather than paying for something make you embarrassed and shy? Are you high or low energy? How creative are you especially with problem solving? The point is that you can learn a lot – our brains are A-mazing – but some things are going to come harder than others based on your personality and who you are. That’s okay but it’s good to be honest with yourself and know where your natural inclinations may make certain things harder.

These are just some of the considerations that immediately come to mind that have influenced my endeavors. They’ve been important factors on what I can get done within a small budget. Do you have others that you could add to this list?

Don’t be Discouraged!

I can’t say how many times I’ve said and will continue to say to myself “what was I thinking?” It usually comes during a period when I am particularly stressed about money. So that encouraging wink from Cal above and the hopefully encouraging words below are as much for myself as they are for you, if you also find money to be a stressor. I also try to sprinkle in some tools and techniques that I’ve been finding helpful.

Patience

As much as I hate it, this has to be the number one thing on this list. I am not a patient person, so this is my mantra. What’s that saying about enjoying the journey as much as the destination? That’s an idea to embrace with every fiber of your being. I hate it but it’s a lesson I need to learn.

NOTE: Social media can really damage patience so beware. The times when I am most discontent is when comparing myself to other homesteads which started about the same time I did but have 7 different kinds of farm animals and an enormous raised bed garden and, and…. When I start to get anxious about this, I remind myself that all our journeys are different and that’s beautiful.

Creativity

I want to be super thoughtful about every penny I spend on the croft. I could easily spend $10,000 on equipment and projects tomorrow. And $20,000 the day after that. There’s a lot to do but once I’ve broken through the worry and anxiety, it is teaching me to be more self-sufficient and think creatively.

What does the thoughtfulness and creative thinking look like?

The biggest example of the self-sufficiency is the french drain I installed last year. Hiring it out would have cost $2,500. I did it myself for roughly $170. Is it done as well as the pros? Meh. But I learned things and it is currently working so it’s a win. When something breaks these days, instead of immediately calling in a professional, I do some research and try to figure out if and how I can do it myself. It’s surprisingly rewarding!

Shopping my own house is a major strategy for me to exercise creativity. Whenever it pops up that I need something, I look around the house and see if there might be something that would work. It’s crazy how often I am able to make something else work. Akin to this is also sitting on that “need for something” for a bit because often, with time, I figure out another, cheaper way to get something done.

The most important thing here, is that I’ve come to enjoy this exercise of problem solving. It would be easier to throw money at it but in the last 2 years, I’ve learned that it’s not nearly as satisfying!

Say Yes

To generous offers. To opportunities to learn. Sometimes I feel awkward or tired or overwhelmed and I just shy away from offers of help, of hand me down equipment or produce or anything. I’m working hard to say yes as much as I can because it’s saying yes to community and not just to an object or knowledge.

Side Hustle

I’ve been researching this a lot lately and have ideas. Selling rabbit poop. Selling “super” compost by having my vermicomposter compost my rabbit’s poop, lol. Selling unique vegetable starts and native plants. Selling microgreens. Selling pollinator friendly garden plans. ??? This is where personality comes in though. I am NOT a seller or entrepeneur, nor a risk taker. Every idea I have would require up front investment and what if there’s no marke? Or I sell a product that just isn’t good. UGH!

I have doubts but DO think developing a small side income to specifically support projects on the homestead is a terrific idea. So, for those of you with bolder spirits – go for it!

Budget Help

This is a (unsponsored) tool recommendation. I started using YNAB (You Need a Budget) at the beginning of 2021. It is very detailed and demands attentiveness. It demands that you think about every dime spent. This is exactly what I need. It has a pretty steep learning curve and it’s not free but I think it is my forever budget program:).

You can do it however you wish but if living under a budget is not something you’ve done before, I highly recommend finding something that works for you. A spreadsheet or program that not only allows you to plan how you will spend your money but then tracks exactly how you spend it. It then becomes a learning tool as well as helping you stay organized.

It’s a Journey….

I have a lot of work to do in this arena of money and I feel quite behind. However, pushing myself forward in my life also forces me to learn and develop new muscles. In the end, it’s not about amassing a huge fortune and having all the nicest things. It’s about lowering stress and anxiety, taking care of my animals, living more sustainably and frugally, and being able to give generously.


If you want to know more about me and Keeper’s Croft, check out the ABOUT page.

One Comment on “Homesteading Ain’t Cheap: Talking About Money on the Croft

  1. great perspective and tips, Steph! Your homestead is coming along wonderfully and it’s really fun to see the updates and progress. The having patience part really speaks to me (try as I might, I cannot seem to “will” our trees seedlings into growing faster than their genetic limitations), but look how far your place has come along already! In a couple more years, so much will be established that the balance will shift to increasingly more “relax and enjoy” than “work on another project”…though, of course, the nature of homesteading is always some work (animal chores, weeding, food processing…but those are the day to day things we enjoy, right?).

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