April 2016 Expense Report

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!

building our own wood fired hot tub
Spring is here, things are green, and the weather is warm, which means serious progress was made.

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!

diy cedar hot tub
Check out this beauty! Way better than our metal water trough, right?

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.

We had a couple of large burns this month while it was wet outside... not only did we make a lot of progress, but we did a lot of cleanup as well.
We had a couple of large burns this month while it was wet outside… not only did we make a lot of progress, but we did a lot of cleanup as well.

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.

Household Expenses*

  • 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
* These are the expenses that it really just takes to run our household. Your household will likely be different based on the number of family members, how often you eat out, the type of food that you eat (organic vs. not, meat vs. carbs, etc.), pets, coffee, gym memberships and other household needs.

Utilities*

  • 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
* This includes typical household utilities including power, heat, air, water, internet, etc.

Vehicles*

  • 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
* This includes anything related to vehicles that we drive.

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
* This includes payments on our land, property taxes, and any improvements we make to the property such as excavator rentals, rock delivery, septic, etc.

Consumables*

  • 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
* These are expenses for things that aren’t permanent… they are consumed, or used up, so we can’t really consider them investments or assets.

Assets*

  • 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.

hot tub stave joinery
We had NO IDEA about the rabbit trail this cedar tub would lead us down… you just can’t know these things even when trying hard to make the best decisions possible.

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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I am an aspiring homesteader on a journey to become self-sustainable and free. In my past, I've worked corporate jobs to make ends meet and get ahead a little; it didn't make me happy or confident in my future. Since taking the leap to self-employment and living a more simple life, my happiness levels have increased greatly and I've never felt more alive. I finally understand what I want in life and how to get there, and that is what this blog is all about.

Comments

  1. vapingrams777 says

    I am very proud of you guys, everything is looking so good. Just take your time and do it the right way the first time. It will pay off in the future. You two look like a very happy and lovely couple. I have always wanted to do the same thing you all are doing but my husband is not that adventurous. lol so stay sweet and Good luck and I will be praying for the both of you. It is coming together from what I see awesome.

    • says

      Thanks for the kind words! You’re absolutely correct… doing things right the first time is very important. On a recent project, we proceeded even though things weren’t done 100% right (parts of the hot tub!) and paid for it later… we’re glad to have learned the lesson on a small scale. We’re okay if things take longer than we had planned, because we want to do them right!

  2. Dwayne Dixon says

    So are you guys going to live in the small trailer again this winter? I actually thought the barn would be after a small house.

    • says

      Most likely, yes. That wasn’t the original plan, but we underestimated how long it would take to get settled. The barn will be a small house… the second story will be an 800+ sq ft apartment :-)

      • Dwayne Dixon says

        That is an enormous job for 2 people. You might want to consider researching some panelized packages that you might be able to use for the apartment. I imagine the barn will basically have a flat top that you’ll set the apartment on so you could get panels made, delivered, then rent crane and hire 2 day crew to get it under roof with shingles. After that, you guys could deal with the interior. There are a lot of options in the panelized department and you’ll save in the long run just by getting it under roof quickly. Some panel system I bet even come with exterior siding already fastened – might be available to you since your apartment isn’t very big.

        Construction with just 2 people is so slow. We are hardcore thrifty people so hiring help for things we can do is tough plus I often don’t think others will do as good a job or often while they are doing the job I hired them to do they damage something else and don’t want to pay for it so many reasons we don’t like to hire, but good idea for the rough work at the begin of a project.

        Good luck. We admire what you are doing, but we would have done it in the tropics. LOL! :)

  3. Fred says

    Alyssa:

    I’ve following along since the beginning and its amazing to me the progress you’ve made in a short time!

    Reading your blog and watching your videos I’m learning anew that in a happy life, the journey is more important than the destination.

    Thanks for sharing and inspiring so many!

    • says

      Hey Fred! Glad you’ve been enjoying following our journey! Yes, we’ve gotten a large amount of stuff done in a short time even though at times, it doesn’t seem that we are moving quick enough. The journey IS more important than the destination which is something we have to frequently remind ourselves… if we push too hard, we will be miserable the entire time, have no friends or relationships, and it could ruin our relationship as well from the sheer amount of stress. You’re welcome for sharing our journey – we hope that lots can benefit from it in different ways and that it will put us in touch with like-minded folks!

  4. Andrew Krause says

    Stupid me, I only just came over from YouTube to check out the site. This feature is fantastic! A lot of homesteaders seem to fail because they assume that all their expenses go away completely once they dump the mortgage and unplug from the grid. This will be an invaluable resource for anyone who follows you on this journey. I for one will be very interested to see how the expenses drop over time as you get everything in place.

    • says

      We include those in our business expenses which has nothing to do with off grid living. If it weren’t for our businesses, we probably wouldn’t have cell phone plans or would have something extremely cheap.

  5. Chaz says

    Hello, you asked what would make this site easier? My very small input I’ve noticed when I read your expense reports: when I get to the total cost part I’ve forgotten what section I’m just read about. Total cost: $1900. Crap was that utilities??? *scrolls up* yes it was. I found myself having to do that for each section. Maybe just repeat the section when you give the totals. I easily forget so it could just be me.

    Anyways thank you for everything. Your posts are helping to sway my wife into the possibility of homesteading.

  6. elaine roede says

    Congratulations! I, too, used to live Idaho (on an old 60-acre farm that we brought back to life), and totally loved it! The work there was wonderful, too! In looking at your expense report, a couple of things came to mind, however, that you might want to ponder: It seems to me that your food expenses could be lowered quite a bit, as well as your clothes washing expenses, coffee expense, and cat food expense, for ex. Try not to think of how you have done things in the past/ in the city/ or just what you’re used to out of habit. I’m sure that you will be able to do things differently, and save a lot of money in the process! Just try to think outside of your usual box, and simplify, simplify, simplify! Even when eating out, there are a lot of very good, and very easy options! Good luck! :-)

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