Honestly, I have seen so many chicken coops that look more glamorous than our house. I’ve even see immaculate vegetable gardens that are larger than our entire property. And articles about massive farming equipment that is absolutely necessary.
But homesteading isn’t just about the size of your homestead.
And it doesn’t matter how big or how small your homestead is — it’s going to cost you money. A lot of which is always dwindling.
And we know we don’t just start a homestead with a homestead business already established to make us money.
So how do we afford to homestead on a budget, as beginning homesteaders?
We bought our homestead on the low end of our budget.
Our dream homestead where we live would cost well over a million dollars where we live. We live in the most expensive corn country there is.
Right now, moving locations wasn’t really an option for us. We’ve built a business here. We know our clientele. And we have resources.
The Beard’s family is also here to help us any time we need, which is super great cuz we’re always needing help!
So instead of moving, and instead of spending every last dime we make to go towards our mortgage — we found a little 1 acre property on the outskirts of town. It’s right on a bluff and had been on the market for over a year.
We think a combination of the mice, the steep hill, and the blue musky carpet set people off. Not to mention — there aren’t too many people here who would love a less than 600 sq ft home. We on the other hand, are all for all that.
Mice — get some cats. Smells — it’s time to rip out the carpet, paint, and get to cleaning. Knee deep in mice droppings. Yeah! And the hill — we deal with it.
But we all know that homesteading costs money. It isn’t free to start a garden, to get seeds, or have animals. These things cost real money. And not just some plastic credit card. You are still responsible for actually making that money in the future.
We opted to purchase way less than we could actually afford. Leaving us NOT house poor and with plenty of money to actually start up the homestead part of our property.
There wasn’t a single outbuilding or fenced in area on the property. Everything was fill dirt since we’re on the bluff so that meant shitty soil. Cue the raised garden boxes because not to many vegetables like to grow between rocks.
But we realized that actually starting the homestead was going to cost more money than just the initial purchase of the home and land itself. So we had to lower the budget for the house.
Sure, it’s not our dream property right now but it’s definitely a place where we can learn just about anything we need to to start a large scale homestead.
And we aren’t stressing over every dime spent because we need to make a mortgage payment.
We live frugally.
Just about everything we own is second hand. For environmental and economical reasons of course. And I also love the charm and thrill of a good thrifted find.
From clothing to bedding (that some old lady probably died on), it’s all secondhand. Even our kitchen utensils and dishware.
Like that time I just found a dress for a friend’s wedding for $2 that probably originally cost $50. Yeah I like those deals.
Not only is everything thrifted, but when buying new — we always think about the purchases we are making. And honestly, we spend our money mostly on things that either reinvest in the homestead or reinvest in our business. We aren’t flashy people and we don’t spend too much money on ourselves.
Being frugal allows us to put more money into the start up cost of a homestead. Chickens need a proper coop. Rabbits need separate cages. Fencing is always needed. And the feed bill is always getting higher (no matter how much grass we give them — it’s only an acre).
The start up costs aren’t the only things to worry about either. There are always unforeseen circumstances, feed bills, new cages, repairs to outbuildings, more Mason jars (because you can never have too many), gas to purchase, grain to buy, and seeds for the next season (because we haven’t made it to the seed harvesting stage of our homestead yet).
No matter how self-sufficient our homestead is, we are always going to have outside costs. And we need to make sure we have money to cover that.
A beautiful new rug isn’t going to make your furnace start working again. And Pier 1 doesn’t make a beautiful enough couch that is worth the cost of a new outbuilding. We put the homestead first as a priority. Frivolous spending just kind of falls away when you find yourself being more in love with a new variety of beets, than some plastic jewelry.
We have been known to find dressers, chicken wire, posts, and free wood on the side of the road. And you best believe we weren’t one bit ashamed about it!
We make do with what we have.
Seriously, I think The Beard should be an inventor. He has made a table out of a Tupperware lid and two water jugs. He used a strainer in a big pot as a steamer. And he comes up with all these creative solutions to never ending problems on the homestead.
We don’t like going out to the store just to buy something we think we immediately need. Like for the past 5 years, I haven’t owned a rolling pin. I use an old $3 wine bottle and it works just fine.
Today, I even found some sticks and some string and made a trellis for our tomato plants to climb up. I’m just hoping it’s sturdy enough. But I’d rather try a free option first, than run out and think I seriously need something when in reality I only use it maybe 3 times in my life.
We’ve even survived without a clothes dryer. I personally like hanging all of our clothes, especially in the summer. They dry super fast and smell great, not to mention the energy consumption it saves us.
I’m not saying you can’t buy anything. I’m just saying try to use what you already have. Sometimes, we think we need an item only or it to collect dust in the back of the cabinet or in the basement because we have too much shit and it won’t fit in our cupboards.
We started small(-ish).
So with purchasing this one acre lot, we knew it wasn’t our dream home. But it could afford us a great start. The Beard and I are complete first time homesteaders. Neither one of us grew up in any garden. We didn’t cook more than toast and mac n cheese. I’ve never preserved food. We never used power tools until The Beard’s uncle helped me build our wedding table about 4 years ago.
We didn’t really know anything. And as any long term homesteader knows, there are going to be lots of mistakes made. We, however, were trying to avoid that. Though we all know — it’s completely impossible.
But we knew if we couldn’t avoid mistakes — we needed to learn from a small scale. Everything was knew to us. Chickens. Rabbits. Quail. Gardening. Canning. It’s all like one big thing that you feel like you’ll never learn it all.
And truth be told, we didn’t want our first rabbit. Funny thing is, our homesteading started with rabbits. I’m laughing at us know because we couldn’t think of going back to not having rabbits. They are a small source of income, selling them as pet rabbits. And they provide us with really good compost for the garden. If you ask me, rabbits are a requirement of homesteading, especially if you are a small scale homestead.
Well, rabbits turned into chickens, then quail and I’m sure when we move to a bigger piece of land that will mean bigger livestock.
We’ve lost chickens and rabbits to predators. Our coop wasn’t predator proof — resulting in purchasing a kit. And replacing all those things cost money.
Hell our garden was a disaster that first season. We put a money into fencing the area in. Nothing was level and the wiring wasn’t tight, but it worked. Then, we bought seeds and transplants. And nothing ever happened. We spent hours carrying buckets out to the garden only for the sun the scorch the living hell out of our plants. We were always playing catch up and nothing seemed to work.
So this year, we did it right. We purchased garden boxes, good composting soil, quality seeds, and we spend enormous amounts of time watering our gardens because we don’t have a hose yet to make it easier. But we are bound and determined to make our gardens productive. If not, all be damned and we’ll be another couple of citizens relying on last year’s Mexico tomatoes to provide for us.
But again, all of these mistakes have cost us time and money. If we would have bought a bigger acreage and been paying a high mortgage, we couldn’t have afforded to fix bigger mistakes. It takes a lot of seeds to fill an acre’s worth of a garden. We couldn’t have afforded to replace those seeds or bought transplants. Garden boxes would have been out of the picture because we probably would only be able to afford the house payment.
And forget the animals, a feed bill would be the last thing on our minds if we had to count every penny going in and out.
Starting small allowed us to make mistakes but lessen the blow. We could afford to fix and replace our mistakes without going into debt and without fearing a missed house payment.
Homesteading also comes with the biggest learning curve of your life. Unless you just welcomed a little one into the world, it’s probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do. There will be ups and downs. Good days and rough days. Triumphs and dead plants. But at least a small scale can help manage the stress that also comes with learning new skills.
This isn’t to deter you however. By all means try and fail. And try again, because eventually — you’ll get it. You’ll learn which plants need to be planted together. How to fix runny stool in rabbits. And how to make your hens most productive. Maybe you’ll become a master butcher or chef.
If we would have quit the first 10 times we failed, we would be back living in an apartment 10 months ago.
We pay in cash.
This is really important to us. We believe a homestead is to help you succeed further in life. It’s a way to rely only on yourselves if need be. If we start going into debt for the homestead, it becomes a burden. It sucks the joy out of it. It causes stress and martial issues. The fear of losing a job becomes all you think about. There isn’t time or money to make up for mistakes along the way.
Homesteading is not a reason to go into debt. This lifestyle is actually the easiest to add when you can. It isn’t all or nothing. The biggest obstacle we have is our dreams are bigger than our wallets.
No matter how much heart we put into it, there will still be stumbles along the way. And if we don’t dig ourselves a hole, we can get through those stumbles. Think of your massive homestead as a journey. Each year, you can add something. You don’t have to go from an apartment city dweller to a 60 acre lot with beef cattle, dairy goats, laying hens, meat chickens, 5 acres of gardens, 10 acres of orchards, and 5 new outbuildings. Not to mention all the structures you’ll need for the animals.
Homesteading doesn’t happen overnight. And honestly, I think gardening is the biggest challenge. So, I would definitely recommend you start with that. It can be started relatively small and cheap. You can get free clippings from family members. And you can purchase seeds for next to nothing if you start out small.
Then maybe next year, add laying hens or meat rabbits. And the years after that you pick one thing to learn and add to the homestead. If we built our dream before our wallet, we would be in so much debt — we’d lose the acreage before the first year was over. Not to mention all the animal lives we’d lose due to poor housing and lack of knowledge.
Make sure you can pay in cash and learn the skills before you add more. I know it’s way easier said than done. We’ve even done it. Enter quail, where we didn’t have adequate housing and we lost half the flock before we sold the rest, knowing we weren’t ready for them.
I wrote this post because we are just beginning our homestead journey. And sometimes, it’s a little hard and a little overwhelming listening to avid homesteaders of 30 years that are fifth generation homesteaders, tell you how to start a homestead.
As beginners, we lack knowledge and resources and land. But if this post can help you realize you don’t need to have it all at once and it’s not some far off attainable goal, that would make me happy. Our dreams make us like little kids in a candy store. We want it all and we want it NOW! Or maybe that’s just me.
But do what you can, where you can, and learn everything you can about one aspect of homesteading before moving on to the next. Otherwise, we’ll be in over our heads — ready to throw the towel in.
And don’t get me wrong. There will also be days where you think you know everything and you’ll still lose chickens or fall face first into animal poop. Or you’ll walk out to your beautiful garden only to realize your garden has been destroyed by deer and wild rabbits. It’s never ending the work and the learning on the homestead. So take it in stride and try to go slow. I know it’s an exciting time but we’ll all get there with time, knowledge, and resources we find along the way. And a good pair of Wellies!
I wish you my best you fellow beginning homesteaders!