Let’s be honest here, homesteading isn’t free. If you’re uneducated when it comes to history, our ancestors had land they had to buy and pay for. Equipment they had to pay for. Working animals they had to pay for, feed, and take care of. There’s a reason the bank came knocking on their door sometimes to collect money or debts. Of even worse, take their property and rights away.
Even on this small half acre that we own, homesteading hasn’t been cheap. We have to find ways to cut the grocery bill. We have to find ways to live frugally. We have to sell eggs to help offset feed costs. The list goes on….
But we aren’t poor. I never want you to think we are “poor” or need help. In fact, we are fairly well off compared to the rest of the world. But we’ve worked to get to where we are, and we both have supplemental incomes.
Homesteading is hard work. Homesteading requires you to wake up at times you don’t want to. Homesteading teaches you to be tough, because if you aren’t, it will eat you alive. Homesteading means you go outside in the pouring rain or the iciest of snows to tend to animals, to get up wood, to run generators just so things can function. But more than all that, this journey is one to be loved, cherished, and respected. As long as you understand the reality of financial income.
Never EVER put your family in a stressful financial situation just to homestead. You can do this journey the right way, I promise! Homesteading doesn’t happen overnight. It is gradual!
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, there are some things you need to know about how I run my small homestead. My homestead might be small, but it’s a working homestead.
I run this show. In case you hadn’t noticed. And I’m proud of it. I’m a pretty tough girl. I’m doing this because I want to do this, come hell or high water. These animals will be taken care of properly, and so will my family. Why? Because I decided this was my responsibility. And I own what I take on.
But even still, I can be quiet, gentle, and a loving wife when I need to be. There’s beauty in balance.
Yes, my husband helps with big things. He helps me make major decisions, and sometimes he flat out says “no”. He is the master mind behind every single building (except the original ones when we bought our house), hutch and structure on this small property. I could do this without him, but it would be a heck of a lot harder and more expensive. And honestly, I don’t want to do it without him. He is my rock, my logic, my sounding board. You can read more about his involvement in our homestead here.
I feed the chickens. I haul feed bags. I muck hutches and coops. I process our meat. I garden and harvest and can. I tend to every single animal on this property and I haven’t complained once. Why? Because I truly love what I do.
Enough rambling though…
The cost of a homesteader is not often spoken of. So, many people think that homesteading, the ultimate homestead, brings in enough resources that you’ll never have to pay for anything. We also like to throw around the term “true homesteader” now days apparently. And I promise you that money does not dictate whether you are a “true” homesteader or not. Homesteading it a journey, and one that should be enjoyed. Don’t ever let anyone say you’re not a “true homesteader” based on where you are in your journey.
But the reality is, whether you work for yourself, work from your homestead (workshops, classes, products), or something different, you’ll always need some kind of income.
** DISCLAIMER: Please keep in mind that my journey looks a little different than yours. We got chickens and rabbits with the understanding of breeding them to sell. You can certainly get away with a lesser quality animal if you’re just using them for your own consumption.
So, before you consider quitting your job and homesteading, here are some things to consider:
1. Homesteading isn’t free — $600+ a year
You’re going to have to buy land at some point. Sure, you can rent it or barter for rent, but eventually, you’re going to want your own piece of land to work on. Equipment costs money. Building good solid structures costs money. Power tools cost money (if you use them). And also, you have taxes to pay. Ugh, I hate taxes. Guess what, Uncle Sam could care less about your homestead and how well you’re doing without money. He still wants his money! Happy happy joy joy.
2. Food isn’t free — at least $100 a month
It is wonderful to be able to grow your own food, but if you’re like me, I can’t grow everything I need. I can’t grow wheat for flour. I’m lucky if I can grow enough tomatoes to eat. I would literally kill myself trying to grow it all. Therefore, I have to buy flour, sugar, corn starch, baking soda, salt—things that just aren’t physically possible for me to grow frugally here.
Food is a really big issue for me. If you are a homesteader, and you’re growing food, utilize it. If you are buying in bulk, you are still spending a large amount of money on buying in bulk. Good quality bulk items (organic and non-gmo) are not inexpensive. But they are worth it. While it’s not inexpensive, discounts matter!
There are a lot of great videos online about stretching your food and your food budget!
3. Utility Bills— $100+ a month
If you are not “off-grid” then you have utility bills. Even the best “off-griders” will tell you they have yearly and monthly expenses. Electricity, heat (if you don’t heat by wood), A/C, phone, cell phone, internet, tv, movies….the list goes on.
4. Upkeep of your homestead— $500+ a year
Your homestead is going to have to be kept up with yearly. Some of my 3 year old rabbit hutches need new wire and wood. And that stuff isn’t free. I’m going to have to march down to the co-op and get more wire and wood. You can’t use old wood for these things.
5. Medical and Vet bills—$200+ a year
We are working our way towards never needing a family doctor ever again (holistic and herbal medicine), especially since our pediatrician is getting ready to close its doors. However, at some point we might have an emergency. How will you pay your Dr. bills? Most M.D.’s with a $600,000 yearly income could care less about bartering for eggs or meat.
What about vet bills? If you have larger livestock, then at some point, you’re going to use a vet.
6. Initial start up costs/Animal investments—$1,000+
If you’re buying animals and building structures (properly), it costs money. Be prepared to pour a lot of money into this when you first get started, or if you plan on raising your animals right. I cannot stress to you that the quality of your animals is extremely important. Don’t opt for the $5 rabbits on craigslist. Don’t go for the $50 cow on that facebook group. Don’t….just don’t. If you’re going to do this, do it right. Don’t do it cheap.
If you want a chicken coop to last you more than 2 years, build it with good quality materials. If you want a good quality barn or shed, build it with good quality materials. I am an advocate for using things you already have, we’ve done it before. But also be prepared for those things to fail more quickly, which means more time spent on fixing them and keeping them up. You would have been better off just shelling out the money in the long run.
While all this makes a difference, once again, don’t STRESS and put yourself in financial struggle. It doesn’t have to happen overnight. You can work towards it! If all you have is what you have, then use what you have!
7. Feed for your animals — $15 to $500+ a month (depending on your homestead)
If you only have a few chickens, then you can get away with a bag of feed each month if they free range (not supervised free range, true pasture ranging). Around here, a non-gmo bag of feed is about $15-$17/50 lb bag. Organic feed is higher, at $23 per 50 lb bag. Buying in bulk is cheaper, but not much cheaper. And not necessarily cost efficient. Feed prices depend on how many animals you have and what your homesteading methods are. In the Summer months, our hens mostly free-range, so we can get away with a bag of feed a month. But in the Winter months, we go through a lot more. Same with our rabbits and ducks. If you’re raising meat rabbits, you will still need to supplement feed even if they are on pasture, otherwise you’re wasting your time. You’ll have more money in them than what you’re getting out of them, as pasture raised animals grow slower than feed animals.
8. Your time is equally as valuable—priceless
There is nothing more valuable than your time and skills. If I had paid someone to make my 8ft x 8ft coop, it would have cost me thousands of dollars. Because we built it ourselves (because MM has that skill) we were able to only spend about $800. Yes, you read that right. We also paid a friend (included in price) a couple hundred bucks to help MM finish it, as we were in dire need of a chicken coop (we got our chickens before the coop! Don’t do that!).
You also need to consider your own time. If you’re homesteading, and your family isn’t at your side at all times, then that takes time away from them. Time is more valuable than anything. Don’t value your homestead over your family, friends. Family is more important!
Without giving you too much information of specifics, here is a quick and rough run down of how much we’ve spent to get where we are right now (so, in the past 4 years, this is what we’ve spent).
Our Homesteading Expenses (over the past 4 years):
• Chicken Coop — $800
• Chickens — $400
• Rabbits — $500
• Ducks — $100
• Quail — $40
• Chicken feed — $2000+
• Rabbit feed — $3000
• Rabbit hutches — $800
• Straw — $150
• Expanded chicken run — $300
• Home repairs (only) — $5,000
• Yard/pasture repairs (seeding, leveling) — $300
• Wood for the stove — $2,000 +
• New wood stove (2) — $1,000
• Canning Supplies — $100
• Homeschool Supplies — $1,000
• Raised garden beds — $1,200
• Fill dirt (various projects) — $500
• Various gardening — $300
….I’m already up to almost $20,000 over the past 4 years…and that’s not even half of it. I haven’t even stated food costs, clothing, boots, gloves. I haven’t even gotten into the repairs (and other things) that are needed right now. I’m getting ready to rip my coop floor up and replace it. I’m getting ready to rip wire bottoms out of the bottom of 3 hutches and replace it. And, honestly, I’m probably low balling some of these figures. Because I’ve decided to just not keep up with it anymore. Oops!
My habit is easier if I don’t keep up with it…pffff.
There’s always something that needs mending, someone that needs feeding, and eventually someone is going to need stitches. Normally that someone is me, HA!
Homesteading is awesome. It is so much fun and brings so much satisfaction. But it’s not free, and it’s not always easy. Remember that during your best of times.
But remember that homesteading is a gradual journey. You can do this. But I just wanted to be real with you on cost of living. Take baby steps, and it will be much better!