We are frequently asked the question “How much does it cost to start a homestead?“ so we thought we’d start a homestead expense report series. Every month we will document how much money we’ve spent on our homestead-related activities and also on running our household. This is to track both our own progress and also to give you some insight as what it costs to start a homestead from scratch.
April 2016 Summary
Holy cow… April has been such a whirlwind on our homestead. So much for slowing down this year… we went full steam ahead for 30 days straight, and counting! No signs of letting up!
We started the month by trying to finish up our deck. We were able to mill up the posts of our railings with our Granberg mini mill, but the project quickly got brushed to the side as more important things came up.
We spent many days this month racing around gathering materials as they became available such as solar batteries, a 25′ extension ladder, a concrete mixer, a sliding compound miter chop saw, a wheel barrow and more. This was not fun at all as we wish we were instead working on our deck or hot tub, but everything we picked up this month is critical to our long-term success.
We also made a lot of headway on our diy cedar hot tub project from selling our 8′ metal water trough, to planning the tub, to almost completing the build. No need to go into detail on all of that in our post, but we will be sharing the project one video at a time, so stay tuned!
In addition to that, Jesse went to Oregon for a week at the end of March / beginning of April, Jesse’s sister was here for five days or so helping us with the property, we got a huge head start on installing a cistern setup for our longer-term off grid water solution, we started our garden, and then some. We are already exhausted and it’s only April.
With that said, let’s go over our expenses for the month! It ain’t going to be pretty… or will it be? We can either see it as “gosh, we spent a lot of money this month” or “WOW! Look what great progress we’ve made on our property!” We pick the latter.
- Groceries: $397.29
This was on the lower side of groceries for the month. We’ve come to the conclusion that the busier we are, the less we spend on groceries which either means that we’re eating out more, or we’re not eating as much! Or, we just don’t have time to buy anything other than the bare basics to keep us fueled.
- Dining Out: $78.84
We did eat out a few times this month – how could we not? We seemed to only be home about half of the time!
- Cats: $20
Not sure exactly how much we spent on the kitties but we feed them a raw diet which means buying meat about once a month… check out the homemade cat food recipe we use here.
- Household Necessities: $85.98
We made a small trip to Goodwill and also stocked up on some basic necessities.
- Coffee: $31.69
- Storage unit: $60
- TOTAL: $673.80
- Generator fuel: $67.04
Our generator was extremely low this month! We weren’t home much and when we were home, we went straight to bed most nights, so we ran it minimally just to keep the trailer battery charged, our laptops, and also to run some of our tools.
- Propane: $22.66
April was a warm month so we didn’t run the heater much in the travel trailer, nor did we cook every night, so propane usage was on the low end (1/3 of what it was over winter)!
- Showers: $0
No truck stop showers this month – all showering was done in the trailer.
- Water: $1.50
We continue to satisfy our water needs from the local watering hole where we can get more water than we can carry for a quarter. We fill up 6-gallon jugs whenever we are in town.
- Laundry: $20
I’m not actually sure what we spent on laundry this month, but it’s usually in the $15-20 range depending on how many clothes we go through.
- Internet: $115
Our internet is really only $65/month but we chose to pay the $300 installation fee over six months rather than up front. We have one more month to go!
- TOTAL: $226.20
- Car payment: $187
We bought a used Subaru Forester a while back which was a great investment. It hasn’t lost much of its value in two years and we plan to pay off the loan in the next year. For our lifestyle, this was a much better investment than the brand new car that we sold just days prior to moving to our land.
- Insurance: $78
- Fuel: $139.98
LOTS of driving this month… so much that it’s not even funny. We were able to pick up a lot of quality tools for a low cost or by bartering, but it doesn’t come without a cost. We also had to make way too many trips to the hardware stores and to Home Depot.
- Oil: $62.88
I think we stocked up on oil this month… Jesse will have to correct this if it’s wrong or if I’m not understanding our receipts properly.
- Other: $21
We had to fix a taillight in our trailer (the one we tow, now the one we live in) as well as buy a new connection kit. All sorts of fun little things to fix in the middle of running all around what seemed to be half of the state gathering tools.
- TOTAL: $488.86
Land / Development*
- Land: $357.20
Our land cost $45,000 and we put $5,000 down. The loan is amortized over 15 years with a 5% interest rate. No early pay off penalty. We don’t plan to take the full 15 years to pay off the land, but optimistically hope to pay it off in 1-2 years. Learn about our property here and to find out how we found and purchased this land, read this post.
- Land taxes: $258.04
Ewww… land taxes! We have to pay these twice a year.
- Plumbing: $100
I think we spent around $100 on plumbing this month between trying to set up our rain barrels (chose to not go that route at this time), setting up our hot tub and also laying the foundation for our cisterns.
- TOTAL: $715.24
- Wood glue: $19.77
- Seeds: $8
We started our garden this month, yay! Seeds don’t have to be a consumable but let’s be honest – I’ll probably have to buy them again next year.
- Lighters: $5
- TOTAL: $32.77
- Solar batteries: $700.00
We picked up eight L16 solar batteries from a man on Craigslist. His story checked out, as did the batteries, and it seems that they’ve been properly maintained. We think we can get a few years of life out of them but this is a great way to be introduced to solar without having a huge out-of-pocket expense. This purchase may bite us in the butt, but we’re hoping it doesn’t and feel feel optimistic about it. Stay tuned!
- Wireless power inverter: $211.00
Call us lazy, or smart, but one pain point we had was getting up before bed to turn off the inverter that our internet ran off of. We decided to upgrade to one that can be controlled via our smart phones, so that when we’re falling asleep to Netflix we can turn off the internet without fully waking up! How awesome is that? Check out the unboxing of the power inverter here… fun stuff, and it’s a great long-term investment.
- Keyless dead bolt: $90
We decided to make a small upgrade to our cabin addition and install a deadbolt. This is really peace of mind and helps keep an honest man honest. Check out the installation of the dead bolt here (and watch Jesse earn free pizza)!
- DEWALT Double Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw: $399
We’ve been looking for a DEWALT 12-Inch Double Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw since basically the first week on our property, but we just couldn’t seem to find one used for a reasonable price within reasonable driving distance. Because we really wanted one for use in immediate projects, we decided to bite the bullet and buy new when we saw them on sale (an older model) at Home Depot. Watch us unbox the saw here… it was love at first sight and first use! No regrets. Sometimes you just gotta buy new.
- Cedar for hot tub: $307
As you’ll see in the first video of our diy cedar hot tub series, we were able to find a really great deal on clear cedar lumber. A commercial cedar hot tub runs anywhere from $4-6k, so $300 for cedar is a great deal in our opinion.
- Tension cables: $91.93
This was for the three cables that support the cedar tub once it swells with water – keeps things nice and tight!
- Hot tub stave joinery: $200
We worked with a local man to get the joinery done, but all said and done, we realize that it would have been a better idea to do this ourselves. It’s a great lesson learned in choosing to buy your own tools most of the time… more on that in our video series.
- TOTAL: $1,998.93
* These are expenses that should only happen one time, or at least very infrequently. These generally are quality tools and building materials that are reusable.
Summing April Up
What. A. Month. Our expenses were so high that I did the math three times to make sure I was adding it up correctly – it appears to be correct!
Some people are really curious as to why we haven’t yet started construction on the barn. The truth is, building a property from scratch it a lot of work and even a lot of money. The seemingly smallest project seems to take a long time in this type of lifestyle because there are lots of options on what to do and we always try to balance the needs of today with the desires of our future, which means that “what to do” isn’t always obvious. There is a lot of trial and error.
The #1 thing we continue to preach on this journey is that if someone is looking to go on a similar path, start collecting tools and materials as early as you can so that when you arrive on your property, you can get to work and not get distracted with Craigslist finds or having to make tough decisions to buy things new because you need the tool now!
Looking into May, we already have purchased two cisterns (not covered in this expense report), a pump, more supplies for the hot tub, and have a lot of work ahead of us. We are continuing to keep great attitudes and are having fun with our new life. Stay tuned and wish us luck!
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