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Many people dream of building a cozy country cabin out in the wilderness.
Or a log home in the mountains. Often, this dream encompasses an off-the-grid shelter.
Too many people give up on this dream because it seems so out of reach. Then, they get sucked into a monotonous 9-5 routine that turns them into a slave to the corporate machine.
If this is your lot in life, take heart! Because many now know that not only is this dream possible, but it can be done cheaply too.
The good news is, an off-the-grid house you build yourself means no more utility bills. And no more mortgage payments! This gives you an exhilarating sense of freedom that’s not possible when you you’re stressed out about too much external debt.
You can succeed at this experiment in sustainable living if you have a burning passion for making your dreams come true. But moving off the grid is going to take lots of perseverance. To make it work, you’ve got to be a highly adventurous spirit who’s not afraid of difficult challenges.
Are you ready for this epic adventure? If the answer is “yes,” continue reading this article!
It’s not as easy as slapping a few solar panels on a roof. You’re not merely cutting the cord to the old grid. You’re building new infrastructure from scratch.
You’re going to have to find property in a location where your back-to-the-land experiment will actually work. Then, build a house that embodies all the principles of sustainable living.
There are SO many reasons to embrace this lifestyle. And, you don’t have to go into massive debt to do so. But, if you’ve grown up with modern conveniences such as running water, you’ll have to make some adjustments.
Doing Your Part to Save the Planet
An off-the-grid-lifestyle isn’t only a way to live frugally. It’s also socially responsible because it reduces your carbon footprint to virtually zero.
We can look at the deplorable state of our planet and succumb to despair. We’re spewing carbon waste into the atmosphere at a prodigious rate, killing ourselves and other species. And, a toxic form of capitalism that destroys the environment while benefiting the 1% is causing us irrevocable harm.
Not to mention that we’re spending way too much time looking at the hypnotic blue flicker of our devices, which it’s destroying our relationships. All of this madness threatens to strip us of our humanity and transform us into mindless automatons.
But, there’s cause for hope. That’s because people are reacting to the toxicity of our insane society by doing things that’ll make them whole again.
People all over the planet are hungry for more sustainable ways to live. This will involve people making changes to their lifestyles that are psychologically and spiritually healthier. So, we can succumb to existential despair and cry ourselves to sleep each night. Or, we can do something about it.
Living off-the-grid is one way of doing something about it.
What You’re Going to Need to Live Off-Grid
There are some things you’re going to need to transition to your off-the-grid dream.
Land will be your single most significant purchase. And you’ll need shelter. You could have a little camper to start. This will hold you over until you construct your dream cabin or home.
Make sure you can still work from your off-the-grid sanctuary. Or, you can even start a home-based business.
You not only have to survive. You have to pay the bills too. Start saving by getting rid of the nonessentials. You’d be astounded at how much money you waste on things you really don’t need.
Or, that you rarely use, if you use them at all.
However, there are bills you just can’t get rid of. Like health insurance premiums. To save even more, buy a car replacement bicycle. It’s ingrained in us that everybody living in a modern society always needs a car. Lots of people can get away with not having an automobile.
However, this may be impractical if you live too far out in the boonies.
If you have a mortgage, that complicates matters because you’ll have to sell that home before you can start to experience the joys of off-the-grid living.
Money Saving Tips
Here are some money-saving tips to get you living the dream ASAP:
- SAY NO TO THE WHOPPER: Eating out at restaurants can be expensive. It’s a dream killer because you’re trading long-term satisfaction for immediate gratification. If you eat at a restaurant, you can blow $50 to $100 per meal for a family of four. Cut that crap out and put that money in your piggy bank! You’ll be healthier as well.
- NO MORE SHOP UNTIL YOU DROP: This might be difficult for some people. But blowing money on things you don’t really need is wasteful. As is spending money on things you use only once, and then they sit on your bookshelf gathering dust until the end of time. Both practices are a colossal waste of precious financial resources. You might think you need the newest iteration of the iPhone because FOMO has you in its hypnotic spell. Give not into temptation.
- NO MORE EXPENSIVE LATTES: Buying a white mocha Frappuccino every day from Starbucks will put in the poor house real fast. Even if you only spend $4.00 per day on your coffee indulgence, that’s still $120 a month. If you want a quality experience for less, buy gourmet beans and brew your coffee at home.
- JOY RIDE NO MORE: This wastes gas and adds up over time. Besides, it’s super bad for the environment.
- CUT DOWN ON THE BOOZE: Alcohol is not only bad for your health, but it’s also expensive. A case of beer or a good bottle of wine per week can be $20 or more.
- CUT THE CORD: Cable television is outdated and expensive. Cut the cord because you really don’t need cable anymore. If you still have cable in this day and age, you’re a dinosaur. And we all know what happened to the dinosaurs…
How to Sell Your Stuff
If yous want to quickly get out there into the wilderness so that you can live life your off-the-grid dream, one way to do that is to sell the things you don’t need. You’re going to probably need to downsize anyway if you’re going to make this work.
Sell your old stuff on Craigslist and eBay. Garage sales are another quick way to transform your junk into cash fast so you can get out there in the wilderness and start living the dream.
Sell all your useless junk and things you don’t need or use anymore. This is the stuff you own that’s sitting there all forgotten and forlorn. Do that object a favor and donate it to someone who will give it the love and attention you’re unable to.
You might have an emotional attachment to some of your material objects. That’s fine. Keep them and get rid of other things. In my opinion, stuff is stuff, and a qualitative lifestyle change is more important than material objects.
You can always borrow money from friends or family members to finance your dream, but if you hate being financially dependent as much as I do, then don’t go this route. Plus, if you’re obsessed with frugality (and I know you are because you’re reading this blog), you’re not going to want to incur a lot of debt to get to where you want to be.
An “Off-The-Grid” Account
To make a dream happen, you have to be disciplined and take small steps towards your eventual goal. Set up an “off-the-grid” account for yourself that you use only for its intended purpose. Deposit all the money you save from trimming your expenses into this fund.
Save as much as you can by taking your frugal habits to the next level! After all, you want to be out there in your wilderness sanctuary as quickly as possible, don’t you? The more money that’s in your account, the more you’ll be motivated to put even more there. Success begets success.
This will make you feel good. Once you see your balance grow, you’ll be psyched to figure out even more ways to add to your balance.
Buying Your Land
Not everyone can afford to buy 40 acres to start living off-the-grid.
That’s why you should start small. Don’t go big! Not yet. When buying your parcel, look for the following:
- ACCESS: This seems like a no-brainer, but some cheap rural country land has no legal access. This could be a problem when you try to get any sort of building permit. Or even worse, try actually to get to your property. So, makes sure you have access rights.
- A REMOTE LOCATION: Not just for the privacy, but when you buy a remote piece of land, it will be more secure and safe because it’s harder to get to. It will also be cheaper than other property in the area.
- WATER: You need a source of water in the form of a creek, spring, pond, or small lake. Or, a water well already drilled. If there is no well on the property, but it has an underground source of water, you can put in a well.
- TREES: Trees provide bounteous shade, wood for a roaring fire and building materials, privacy from prying eyes, and protection from the howling winds.
If you really want to go small, buy 3/4 of an acre. That’s all you really need to take care of most of the needs you have and for running a small homestead. A parcel of this size is going to be pretty cheap.
If possible, buy your land directly from the owner. Keep in mind that an owner will typically want 50% of the purchase price as a down payment. If the price for the land is $15,000, then you’ll need about $7,500 in cash to make the purchase.
You’ll also need money for closing costs.
Your Temporary Shelter
Now that you have your land, it’s time to buy a camper trailer, so you have someplace to stay while you build your solar-powered dream house.
Then once you’re done with your cabin, you’ll have a guest house where friends or family members can stay when they visit you. Camper trailers are a cheap and easy solution. Having a septic system inside your camper trailer saves you the trouble of installing one on your land.
That’ll cost you thousands.
Get a few solar panels. Or, a small 500-watt AC solar system and install it on your camper for around $2,500 or less.
Building Your Dream House
Once you have your land and enjoying your temporary shelter, it’s time to start building the off-the-grid cabin of your dreams. Or, you could live permanently in your camper.
It’s all up to you. In either case, you’ll be off-the-grid and living your best life.
One solution is to start with a small cabin that’s approximately 400 square feet. You could build one that size for $2,000. This is what LaMar Alexander (not to be confused with the Tennessee senator of the same name) did.
And he did it in only two weeks! He did this after he found himself ending up homeless and broke after a divorce. He had inherited a piece of land and set up a temporary homestead here with an old camp trailer.
Working part-time while he cleared the land, he was able to save up $2,000.
He started with concrete deck piers at the corners and 2×6 and 2×8 floor joists, and 10-foot 4x4s corner posts. He then built walls using 2x4s placed 16 inches apart. Next, he constructed a loft using 14-foot 2 x 6 boards.
He then went on to build the roof, which he sheeted with particle board and tar paper. Then, he put shingles on it.
After he finished the interior, he built his front porch using rough-cut lumber. To keep costs down, he used recycled, double-paned, low-e glass windows. And steel-insulated doors he salvaged from an abandoned house that was ready for the wrecking ball.
And in the end, he ended up with what’s known as a “tiny house” with a ceiling height on the main floor of seven feet. So, an average adult can stand comfortably without feeling cramped.
Tiny houses are all the rage now. And before they were a hot commodity on the Instagram accounts of up and coming influencers, they were a way to live for some.
A sustainable home also is laid out in such a way that it takes advantage of passive solar heating and cooling. If you live in a 4home with 60% of its windows facing south, you’ll see your heating bill slashed by 25% or more.
If you build your house the right way, you’ll end up with a structure with no monthly payments and no utility bills. This is good news if you’re as frugal as I am!
You might think you cannot possibly live in a tiny cabin. But you can build it as LaMar did, so it has additions to three sides. Then, if down the road you want to upsize your house, you’ve already built in that capability.
Your Water Supply
You have to make sure you have an adequate water supply. And for your off-the-grid life to be sustainable, you’re probably going to need to recycle your wastewater.
Wastewater is also known as “grey water.” It’s the relatively clean wastewater from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances. You can reuse it to flush toilets, wash cars, and water your garden.
To add to your water supply, collect rainwater from roofs and gutters. You can collect a mind-boggling 600 gallons of rainwater from one inch of rain if it falls off a 1,000 square feet roof.
Rain catchment systems are exceedingly efficient, as they can capture about 80% of the annual rainfall that drips off a roof.
That’s a lot of water you can use for free! It’s a great way to water your vegetable garden and flowers. You can drink it too. Be sure to check with the town you live in before harvesting rainwater. Some localities strictly regulate this activity.
Also, before drinking rainwater, make sure you know how to purify it in the right way, so you don’t get sick.
To capture rainwater, have your gutters empty into a network of barrels that then brings this water to a holding tank. This tank needs adequate structural support because water is heavy.
Tanks can be as small as 55 gallons and as massive as 10,000 gallons. The average system stores about 1,000 gallons of water. As the water rolls off your roof, a conveyance system with a downspout screen deposits it into a storage system consisting of a network of barrels.
Installing Solar Power
The sun is the nuclear fusion reactor in our own cosmic backyard.
We should be harnessing this incredible power source way more than we do. There’s no excuse not to, as over time solar equipment has become increasingly affordable.
However, don’t get overly ambitious when making the transition to solar power. Start small. Don’t immediately replace all of your modern conveniences with solar-powered versions. Start with what you can afford and work your way up.
Add a 350-watt solar system to your cabin, and you’ll have enough juice to power televisions, laptops, and computers. This will cost you under $3,000. But a 350-watt system isn’t going to power bigger appliances. To do that, install a propane tank in the back of your cabin. This will provide energy to run a propane furnace, fridge, stove, and an on-demand water heater.
The propane you use will cost you around $200 for an entire year.
Growing Your Own Food
Although growing your own food isn’t technically part of off-the-grid living, they usually go hand-in-hand. A productive garden is a long-term project. If you want your garden to be fertile, you’re going to have to work the soil year after year.
In the end, it’ll be so worth it. That’s because you’ll not only be energy independent—you’ll be food independent as well. Then, should a disaster strike and wipe out our energy grid and food distribution networks, you’ll be ready.
Plus, you’ll save tons of money on your grocery bill.
There’s a lot of methods to choose from when deciding how to grow your food. For example, there’s permaculture gardening. This is where you replicate the patterns naturally found in the environment rather than imposing your own will.
With this method, you’re working with and not against nature. Conventional gardening is a “one-size-fits-all” approach to growing food that doesn’t consider the realities of the environment in which you live.
Permaculture gardening is based on using the perfect plants for each ecosystem. And, only using what works best for the local environment.
Dry climates require a different approach than you’d use in a humid environment. Besides climate, the permaculture approach emphasizes building up soils to make them more balanced and nutrient-rich over time.
Virtually all the health benefits that come from growing your own food start with good soil. Permaculture gardens create vibrant ecosystems that revitalize the earth.
A Few Final Words
Many people dream of having a place in the country where they can escape the collective insanity that seems to catch more people in its grip every day.
This article outlined how to do while living entirely off the grid. This means no more utility bills, no mortgage payments, and, if you’re really remote, no more prying eyes of nosy neighbors.
This will be your very own personal paradise where you can live life at your own pace. And on your own terms.
But to accomplish it, you’ve got to be determined. To get anything in life, you’ve got to put in the effort.
This dream is not only possible but if you do it right, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. If this gets your pulse racing, what are you waiting for?
Use this article as inspiration and make it happen now!