How I Was Broke Despite Making $48,000/year

Back in the spring of 2013 I had some big events in my life. Ultimately, I was offered the opportunity to relocate to Boulder, Colorado for work so I took the opportunity. Little did I know that my new living and financial situation would lead me down a path of working to basically break even, if that.

I did a lot of contemplating before I decided to relocate to Colorado. The reason I chose to make the move were as follows:

  • More job opportunities in Colorado: If something were to not work out with my current job, there were more job opportunities around Denver and Boulder than there were in Southern Oregon
  • Change of pace: I was ready to try something different in my life and I thought Colorado would be a fresh start
  • Outdoor activities galore: I thought I would spend a lot of time snowboarding, rock climbing, hiking, and endlessly enjoying the outdoors
  • Better place to live while young: I don’t know, I guess I thought I would love the younger crowd of the cities than I would the older crowd of Southern Oregon
  • Higher pay but higher expenses: I knew that there were likely better paying jobs in Denver and Boulder but also knew that living expenses were higher. I thought that the increased pay and higher expenses would balance themselves out and that at least there would always be more opportunities for work
What a beautiful place to live! I was so stoked to explore every weekend, rock climb, snowboard, live in a nice apartment, and drive around in my new car.
What a beautiful place to live! I was so stoked to explore every weekend, rock climb, snowboard, live in a nice apartment, and drive around in my new car.

The Lifestyle I Thought I Would Have in Colorado

As I was getting things in order, I did the math and thought I had my cozy lifestyle all lined out. I set myself up with:

  • A nice 600 sq ft apartment: It was cozy but big enough for me, I loved the granite counter tops, it was modern looking rather than the older apartments I looked at, and just 15 miles from work
  • A new car: I sold my 2001 Saturn L200 and bought a 2013 Subaru Legacy that would be great for snow driving, and I thought that since I would be making pretty good money that I would be able to afford the payment no problem
  • Some furniture: I didn’t want to feel like I was a college student with mismatched furniture of Craigslist, so I busted out my weak interior design skills to strategically buy things that made my apartment cute
  • A rock gym membership for $60/month: I love rock climbing, it’s a great way to make new friends and meet people to do enjoy the outdoors with, and if I can climb then I don’t feel the need to do much else that costs money
  • A season snowboarding pass: I didn’t go through with this, but I thought that since so many awesome mountains were so close that getting a season pass would be a no-brainer. Even if it was say $400 for a season pass, surely I’d get my money’s worth out of it.

I had this idea that I would be rollin’ in the dough while living a somewhat “lavish” lifestyle in Colorado. I also thought that the above ideas were reasonable for someone making $48,000/yr.

Here are a few pictures of me “living the dream” in Colorado.

Doing what city-folk do... sipping n' painting! Mo' money mo' money! It was a lot of fun, though.
Doing what city-folk do… sipping n’ painting! Mo’ money mo’ money! Not gonna lie though, it was a ton of fun!
Living "the dream". Being close to the mountains to snowboard whenever I wanted.
Living “the dream”. Being close to the mountains to snowboard whenever I wanted.
Living "the dream". Living in Boulder, CO and rock climbing every weekend.
Rock climbing every weekend. This was in addition to my $60/month rock gym membership where I climbed after work a couple nights a week.
colorado-apartment
My cozy living room. While I did love it, let’s be honest, I really just liked the orange wall!
colorado-apartment2
I loved this kitchen. Okay, I really liked the tile back splash and granite counter tops!

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I took on a new car before making my move but hey, I loved the looks, the heated seats, the Bluetooth features, and how I felt when driving it.
I took on a new car before making my move but hey, I loved the looks, the heated seats, the Bluetooth features, and how I felt when driving it.

What I Found Out: I Was Basically Breaking Even

After my first couple of months in Colorado and the newness of the move wore off, I was becoming more and more unhappy with my job. It wasn’t just the work I was doing, but I hated working on someone else’s schedule, my work wasn’t engaging to my brain, I felt disrespected on a frequent basis, there was a lot of corporate BS, and I grew more and more unhappy on a day-to-day basis.

In this same time frame, I decided to take a good, hard look at my budget post-moving, just to take an inventory of my life… I’m sure you know how that goes :-)

Here is roughly what my monthly budget looked like in July of 2013, when I was making $48,000/year.

Payment CategoryAvg. Monthly Cost
MONTHLY PROFIT$5.39
Rent$1,040.00
Pet Rent$50.00
Apartment Utilities$70.00
Power$60.00
Auto Loan$285.10
Auto Insurance$83.52
Internet$44.99
Fuel$160.00
Groceries$500.00
Meals Out$85.00
Coffee$40.00
Other ("Necessities")$50.00
Other (Fun... what?)$200.00
TOTAL EXPENSES$2,568.61
GROSS INCOME$48,000/year
NET INCOME$2,674.00/month

$5.00 at the end of every month if I kept up this lifestyle?! ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!??!

I suddenly felt panicked. I thought that my lifestyle was more than reasonable. I thought that once I graduated from college and had a good job that there was no reason I shouldn’t have my own comfortable apartment, have a nice car, eat organic food, and have some modest fun.

Obviously, I miscalculated the costs of this lifestyle in Colorado. So what could I do about it?

Why I Needed a Larger Financial Cushion

Basically, no payments I was making were investments of any sort. All that money would never be seen again. Unlike paying down a mortgage, I would never own my apartment. I would never own my power system. In short, I was never going to get anywhere.

When I looked at the real numbers, I was hoping that I would be saving a decent amount of money a the end of every month so that I could make progress in life and maybe buy another house one day so that I wouldn’t be a perma-renter. I wanted to have a cushion for unplanned life events. I didn’t want to slave away at a job I slowly grew to despise strictly to pay for my overhead.

What Could I Do About It?

In this scenario, many people default to thinking that they need more money. I knew that I was probably close to a maxed out earning potential as a graphic designer with my skill and interest set. I knew that it was unlikely to make any more money in a career path I was unfamiliar with. I didn’t want to go back to school to find a higher-paying job because I realized that I despised corporate work, subject aside, and that my college degree was supposed to set me apart financially from those that didn’t have a degree… right? That’s the dream we’ve been sold since kindergarten?

  • Apartment: The biggest expense I had was my apartment, but I was stuck in a lease and didn’t think it was feasible to change my living situation until the lease was up for renewal. So I looked to see what other areas I could cut.
  • Food: I realized that food was much more expensive in Colorado than it was in Oregon. I was paying $9.99/lb for organic chicken. I decided to stop eating organic to lower my food bill by maybe $100/month. This didn’t excite me at all as I believe that eating as organic and “real” as possible that my health would thank me for it later on down the road. On the other hand, I wanted more money at the end of the month. Jesse kept saying “Save money on your apartment, not the chicken!” but I tried to save money on the chicken anyways.
  • Fun: I put a halt on anything “fun” for the most part. I stopped rock climbing all together, I didn’t hang out with friends when it required spending money, I put a stop to spending money on clothes, and I didn’t travel far to enjoy the outdoors.
  • Work: Since I knew I couldn’t tolerate my job for a prolonged period of time, I decided to engage in a new hobby of making residual income online. I worked on this puzzle for probably 30 hours/week with very little return. I somehow made $100 that December but my hourly rate was terrible! I knew deep down that this was my ticket out so I kept going.

These efforts helped me to save maybe $200/month if I was lucky but if you do the math, it would take me a while to save up any significant amount of money that I could actually make wise investments with, and it would probably end up being put towards the “life happens” category after enough months or years went by.

There had to be another way.

I thought about my situation long and hard over the months to come, trying to think of a way to break free from this cycle of working to pay for my overhead.

Fast Forward Many Months: I Finally Made Big Changes to Put More Money Into My Pocket

I was secretly hoping for a few months that I would be laid off from my job because I knew that I wouldn’t quit on my own. They were also cutting people left and right, so it seemed realistic. My prayers were answered, and I was given notice that our relationship would end in about 10 weeks.

This was the sign I was looking for to make a big change. I sprung into action immediately.

Here is what I did to put A LOT more money into my pocket upon notice of losing my job.

  • Moved back to Oregon: I moved back to Oregon for two reasons. One, Jesse and I were ready to take our relationship more seriously and didn’t want to do this back and forth stuff. His business was in Oregon and it was MUCH more affordable to live there.
  • Transitioned to self-employment & remote work: Thanks to a lot of coaching from Jesse, I jumped into self-employment with both feet. I contacted a handful of people in my professional circle to see if I could be of assistance with overflow work as a self-contractor. I immediately landed a remote gig that turned into a consistent $1,000/month. I also attended every networking group I could think of and with a lot of hard work was able to pull in another $1,000/month maybe.
  • Found an affordable apartment: And by affordable, I mean we tried to balance cost with living standards. We went with the lowest living standards we could tolerate so we were not really in great areas of town. Our rent was $500/month, so my portion was $250/month.
  • Lowered fuel bill: Because I wasn’t commuting to work, I was able to drive less which lowered my fuel bill.
  • Shared cost of utilities: Because Jesse and I were now living together we were able to share the costs of household utilities, where before we were each paying our own. You don’t need a significant other to do this… any mature roommate should do!
Our apartment for 6 months downtown... I think there were 4 apartments in this house. Aside from someone stealing our BBQ and having a few "old home" problems, it was surprisingly comfortable.
Our apartment for 6 months downtown… I think there were 4 apartments in this house. Aside from someone stealing our BBQ and having a few “old home” problems, it was surprisingly comfortable. Overall my happiness increased greatly from living in Colorado.
Living room... big enough for our needs.
Living room… big enough for our needs.
Downgraded kitchen... Not much counter space but it kept us fed healthily.
Downgraded kitchen… Not much counter space but it kept us fed healthily.
Partially due to our "downgrades", we were able to join my family for seven full days on their yearly Mammoth vacation, following a 10 day trip to Idaho. We basically spent a month traveling.
Partially due to our “downgrades”, we were able to join my family for seven full days on their yearly Mammoth vacation, following a 10 day trip to Idaho. We basically spent a month traveling.
By focusing 100% of our energies on achieving financial freedom and making sacrifices along the way, we have a lot more freedom. We can afford to take a couple months off from working here and there to do what is important to us.
By focusing 100% of our energies on achieving financial freedom and making sacrifices along the way, we have a lot more control over our time. We can afford to take a couple months off from working here and there to do what is important to us.
We invest our resources wisely (both time and money) on things that produce long-term happiness, sustainability and freedom.
We invest our resources wisely (both time and money) on things that produce long-term happiness, sustainability and freedom. This is our plot in a community garden the summer I moved back to Oregon.

Our Long Term Financial Goals

Long term, we decided that we really didn’t want to need money at all. We never wanted to be slaves to our jobs or to constantly feel financial stress. Some of the things we decided we wanted and are now getting closer towards include:

  • Owning vs. Renting: We are working on purchasing our own land and then paying it off as quick as possible. We will then not have a payment for our dwelling. We will build our home cash with our own hands which means in the end, we will have spent pennies on our home compared to someone that bought a pre-built house with a 30 year mortgage.
  • Owning our power & water systems: Why pay for utilities monthly? Our goal is to be off-grid. We would like to own a solar power system large enough for our modest needs. We also plan to have a well with access to free water.
  • Have a garden & farm animals: To cut down on our food bill, we plan on having a healthy-sized garden large enough for an entire family, with some to spare. We would also like chickens and maybe a goat or milk cow. We will likely need to supplement our garden with local meat (unless Jesse wants to hunt!) and specialty items such as seasoning and coffee, but that is okay. The bulk of our food bill should be reduced.
  • Have zero debt: Many people are held back by debt. Our goal is to have zero debt.
Here is the blank slate... there is a lot of work to be done to reach those goals.
Here is the blank slate… there is a lot of work to be done to reach those goals.

What YOU Can Do to Put More Money In Your Pocket!

To end this blog post, I would love to share some ways that you can put more money back into your pocket. We are all in different situations and come from different backgrounds, so what works for one person may not work for another. You may not have the option to relocate, or you may already be stuck with a hefty mortgage payment.

I’ve put together a list of 10 ways to put more money into your pocket. To access, please use one of the buttons below!

Join the Conversation!

Before making the leap into homesteading, I wondered why I had no money left at the end of every paycheck. Finally, I crunched the numbers and figured out why. Plus gain access to my tips on how to put money back into your pocket!What is your experience with breaking even at the end of every month? Have you found any clever ways to save or lower your need for money all together? Have you made any large sacrifices to better your financial situation?

Let me know, I’d love to stir up some great conversation about how you feel on this issue and any solutions you may have found!

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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. Tylene says

    Good suggestions. Think I’ll send your blog to Tyler. Think he’s doing what you were doing in CO. Paycheck to paycheck.

    • says

      Sadly, that’s what most Americans are doing is living paycheck to paycheck! It’s also hard to know what to cut as we are constantly sold the “American Dream” and don’t want to give up any luxuries. Paycheck to paycheck or not, I wish I realized some of these things LONG ago and paid closer attention to my budget!

  2. Mary M. says

    Your story is parallel to our story! My husband and I lived in Las Vegas, and moved to Cocolalla, ID (just outside of Sandpoint) almost 2 years ago. I was making the same amount you were, we had the townhouse, cars, cable, memberships, etc. It started when we decided to give up our cable, then downsized our phone packages….
    That led to getting property on a mountain, living in a trailer while we built our tiny house, and learning how to live off the land! I can’t believe how similar our stories are. I make less money now, but we seem to have more..we have less things, and we are happier…
    Congratulations to you both finding the “secret” as well. Maybe we will run into each other sometime in the forest.

    mm

    • says

      Hey Mary, I’m glad you found our blog! Cocolalla is a beautiful place although we haven’t spent any time there yet. This entire part of Idaho is just breathtaking, I can’t get over it! Do you have a blog by any chance? How are you liking living in your tiny house? I’m not sure that we could do a tiny house long-term but we are definitely going to keep small living and minimalism in mind. What else have you been able to do with your land after two years? After one week, we are pretty happy in our trailer and don’t feel any different than we did when we had the nice cars and the large income. We are simply happier. We are going to slowly find ways to transition to needing any money at all as it seems up here, many people have talents, supplies, tools, etc. and many people would be willing to trade for something they are in need of. Any experiences with this up here?

      • says

        WOW I was curious exactly where in Idaho you live but had no idea it was so far north until you said “This entire part of Idaho is just breathtaking.” I used to live in Ohio ( retired in the Philippines now) and never minded the cold weather but I HATED to shovel snow. I do not think I could handle the kind of cold you get that far north though plus the short warm season I am sure you have. Driving on the ice was a challenge as well since I was going 47 miles one way to work, 7 days a week.
        I am in the process of building a beach front home here. If you ever decide you want/need a tropical vacation please feel free to contact me. I hope to have my house finished in a year or so and you would be welcome.

        Don

  3. says

    I work in Louisville and have to commute an hour from up north because of the ridiculous housing costs in this area. I am trying to figure out a way to do what you two are doing. I am a divorced dad with monthly child support obligations so going off grid is going to be a challenge.

    • says

      I can relate Todd! I was commuting 40 minutes one way once because it was the only job I could get with my graphic design skills. I am sure if you put your head to it that you can pave some sort of path to start a similar journey… definitely does’t have to be all or nothing! I think this lifestyle is really just practice and we all have to start somewhere :-)

  4. Susan says

    $500 a month for food? That’s more than I spend per month with a 6 person family! What on earth were you eating?? Seriously, all of your financial decisions in Colorado were very bad, and it doesn’t look like you learned too much now. As someone who lives “off-grid” I have to laugh at your goals. Most important thing: even with your own well there’s no such thing as “free water”. You need to check local laws regarding water and mineral rights of any property you buy. Just because you own property doesn’t mean you own the water on or under it! Plus buying and maintaining a well can be expensive, especially with the drought in the west. If you pump too much water you will never be able to replace it (groundwater takes longer to “refill” than surface water) and your well will be dry. Also, not all groundwater is good quality, make sure to get it tested, possibly every 6 months. You will need a water softener and all that entails as well. And good luck building your own home. You are seriously going to need it. You’re too green to know what you’re doing.

    • Jesse says

      We are so happy that you came to our blog and took time to get involved! Negative, rude and thoughtless comments like this are what hold so many back from pursuing anything in life, let alone a challenging journey like leaving behind a comfy life and starting an off grid homestead.

      In fact to prepare and empower any who are contemplating a journey of their own we wrote an entire article to help folks cut through all the noisy, critical, fear mongering, opinionated folks who will do everything in their power to puke their own insecurities on others for who knows what reason. Here’s the post for any who are struggling with folks putting them down, bashing them, criticizing their every idea, thought or action. http://purelivingforlife.com/well-meaning-critics/

      If comments like this didn’t exist and weren’t so prolific, our work on this blog to build people up and show them it can be done would be meaningless. The only way to fail at anything is to not try. We all learn through experience. Otherwise we’d be born knowing how to run and not need to waste time learning to crawl, then walk. The rest is programming fed into weak minds and spread like disease to any who will listen or follow.

      Thanks for making our voice stronger Susan!

      • Lara says

        She does make a good point and it is something you should check out. When you buy land you usually only buy the surface and like a couple of feet depth in to the soil. That many times the water and mineral rights are owned by the state or possibly some other private entity.

        There is of course the electricity needed to pump it out of the ground, but that is neither here nor there in this conversation…

        For alternative electrical, have you looked into gasifiers? They intrigue me to no end… and with what it sounds like your surroundings out there in ID, (I live in the bitter cold of WI) you should have enough lumber to run it. If you replant appropriately, to replenish the fuel source and the time to cut and chop wood. :)

        This is an interesting blog… keep it up…

      • Mike says

        Hi Alyssa & Jesse;

        Thank you for the wonderful contribution you two are making by sharing your journey!

        I stumbled onto your YouTube site while researching Honda generators. Thanks Jess!
        This past September 2016 I purchased a sailboat, a Tanzer 28. I plan to live aboard the boat next year so the topics that you choose and research, and more importantly “do”, are very pertinent to my research.

        Alyssa, the way you handle the rude, toxic comments on your sites, is very much in line with my core beliefs, my chosen character set. Your positive, kind manner is the sort of behaviour I look for, when I venture into the unpredictable world of social media.

        Kudos to the two of you for the safe, well produced site you are creating here.

        This is a site worth supporting.

        Mucho gracias,

        Mike

      • Kiki says

        Oh Susan .. dreadful Susan. Everything you said may have been 100% correct but you could have INFORMED them with encouragement rather than informed them to discourage them. Jesse and Alyssa :) keep it up !!!

      • harley michelle says

        Susan please keep your negativity to yourself.

        Alyssa,
        i know what you mean about the food bill, ours is $500 too. There is no shame in the amount of food you need to buy, since starting the garden has it brought the cost of the bill down? we are currently looking for land and actually rent right now and were thinking about turning a shed into a green house instead of using one of our bedrooms again.

        thanks :)
        Harley

    • Darrel says

      Susan comments are very narrow in thought! I grew up on an Illinois hog farm, we raised 8000 fat hogs out in the field. We pumped water day and night from one deep well. We also had 120 head of cows that had caves every year. We had a serious need for water and not once did we drain the well.

      I’m inpress with your goals and dreams. If you haven’t been to the Mother Earth Fair is happening August 5 & 6 2017. Joel Salatin will be one of the speakers, Joel has master growing a sustainable lifestyle. I suggest you go and listen to some of the speakers. You kids are going to do very well, you already have done what many Susan type people will never do, you’ve set out on a course less traveled.

      Good job!

  5. James Bischoff says

    Id like to know how you are providing for your income each month, I love what your doing, I grew up in the country on a 80 acre( sp) small farm we didnt know how good we had it( organic and all)back then, I love the out doors and I love what you are doing so MUCH!!!!!! NOW IF I COULD FIND A HONEY TO DO THAT WITH IT WOULD BE EVEN BETTER much success your so awesome, James Bischoff

    • Kelli Cole says

      James,
      You’d be surprised. It’s harder for the ladies to find a man that’s willing to leave the city comforts for the freedom of the homestead.
      I think I am going solo on this mission.
      Kelli

  6. says

    I LOVE your blog and I’m so happy that I found you guys! My husband and I are wanting to do something similar. Maybe not completely off grid….but we are wanting to simplify our lives A LOT. Keep up the hard work….it’s very inspiring!

    • says

      That’s a great goal Jessica… I don’t think any of us ever regret simplifying our lives! It may be hard at first, but after it’s done, we don’t miss the baggage :-) Hope you enjoy our blog and the community!

  7. says

    Hola Alyssa, somehow I found your videos while on youtube today, I’ve already watched about 5 and subscribed!

    I am also a (junior) graphic designer and have been interested in having a homestead. I lived in Chicago while going to school, moved back and forth after graduating and I have come to the conclusion that Michigan is not for me. Though I grew up in Michigan, it is too flat. I was born in Mexico City and there are mountains all around the city so I miss those views. We have thought about moving to Colorado or Portland, Oregon; but we have never been. Though I had some questions I have gone blank at them moment. But I will let you know when I remember!

    Good luck on your journey! Stay safe and stay warm this winter!!

    • Jesse says

      Hey Hector, glad you’re enjoying our videos and blog! It sounds like taking a road trip could be great thing to do in the near future? For us, visiting places really helped to see if it felt right. Looking at photos is one thing but being in the presence of the area is another. Let us know if you have any questions, and good luck on your research!

  8. says

    We dream about owning our own property and building a house someday :) I’m not sure if we will full on homestead or be off grid, but it’s something we talk about! There will definitely be some farm animals and gardens though :) I just found your blog and it’s all so fascinating, and very informative! We live in Idaho (where I’m from) but we lived in Grants Pass, and will probably move back in the next few years :) where in Southern Oregon were you from?

    • Jesse says

      I think homesteading is about just doing what you can to be more self-sustainable :-) We spent the last four years of our lives in the Medford area. I commuted to Grants Pass (Merlin technically) for a year to work. Jesse is from Idaho as well so he is happy to return to his roots to say the least!

    • says

      I wouldn’t recommend moving back to Grants Pass if simple is what you’re after…housing has gone way up there, and crime is out of control. We just moved for those reasons I was so sick of my kids not being able to walk out front on their own because of the tweekers walking around, people are flocking there to grow pot now, and everyone is tense and on edge. We constantly had people braking into our back yard at night living in the ‘nice’ area of Washington Blvd. It is so beautiful there, but it’s kinda falling apart in a big way. Now that pot is legal to grow and everyone and their brother is moving there to grow it, you’re looking at spending 200,000+ for 2 acres in Cave Junction with a mobile on it. Not trying to dissuade you, I just want you to go into it with eyes wide open so you can consider your options. It’s not the same place it used to be.

  9. Fred says

    Alyssa & Jesse you are doing a great public service through your willingness to share so openly and honestly. I sense for you its the journey more than the outcome and perhaps that’s why your blog posts and video bring the sense of being free. The road to simplicity means changing values and expectations. You appear to be able to strike a balance but staying hooked into society in ways that make the most sense It will be quite inspiring to walk along over the next few years! And of course the strength of your relationship and partnership is equally impressive.

  10. Kirsten says

    I’m slowly doing what you are doing!! 4 months ago I bought a used 26ft 5th wheel trailer and moved to a 300+ acre manufactured home/RV park in the country…I call my nice-sized space my “homestead-start.” :) I got tired of paying almost $1000/month for rent. Now I own my own wee home, pay $450/mth for my space and plan on starting my first veggie and fruit garden this spring. I’m still in the setting up phase, but hope that by summer I’ll really start being able to pay off my car and student loans, and save money towards some land where I can build and go off-grid. It’s just me, so it’s a bit scary contemplating doing all that on my own…but as someone said once, “Feel the fear and do it anyways!” Anyway, so happy to have found your blog! And glad you put that negative nelly in her place…as I was reading her post I kept thinking, if you’re so smart why don’t you give suggestions and helpful tips instead of being so negative!

    Looking forward to seeing and learning from all you do!
    Cheers!
    Kirsten

  11. Gina says

    Congrats! How I want this…we have 4 boys and living pay check to pay check. If only we could find a way to make a couple thousand dollars a month working from home. I would give all this up to live simple. Hate feeling trapped!!!

  12. says

    Hey Kids,

    Am reading your blog history with interest…

    I finally received a divorce from my wife of 20 years last October. We have a 15 yr old and shared parenting… This is why I waited so long after identifying huge problems when he was about 10 months old…

    Your being broke on $48 K is unfortunately a bit funny (not funny haha) to me having been there.

    I found my wife had $100+ K credit card debt in the 90’s and we worked together to get it all gone in 3 years… Little did I know she was secretly still “shopaholicing” and had developed a gambling problem (pretending to work extra and off to casinos)…. but, she was sneaky enough to have the bills sent to her sisters house and store all of her shopping excesses (125 prs of shoes for example) at her sis’ too.

    The rough math, as a well paid medical technologist, she was making about $75K / year and spending about $125K / yr. so, she could not help operate the household, raise the kid, etc. Every few years she would get a bit of equity in her 401K and take a loan against it to pay off the cards and then start all over again.

    In fact, she is still doing the same even though she now makes over $100K / yr (and spending 150K+). When she occasionally wins at the casinos, she thinks she is flush with money. But she never repays the card advances – he just spends more (some call this “hillbilly rich”).

    It took me many years to finally get myself extracted from this destructive behavior and my son somewhat sheltered from it’s effects. I made the unfortunate choice of not getting a pre-nuptial agreement and I was finding much of the debt she created was joint debt and much of the assets, like the 4,500 sq ft house (of mine) became community property because I had re-financed.

    My point to this is: there is nothing like self-determination to get you where you want to go. That requires cooperation with a like-minded spouse and focus on the important things and big-time honesty. Regardless of how much money one makes, society and sick minds can easily come up with ways to empty every last nickel (representing all your hard work) that you have and sentence one to essentially become a wage s;ave / debt slave.

    If only I could get a redo !!!

    Good luck and stay on focus and never, never, never be employed again (except self-employed -where you work for your customers / clients). And, do not be afraid to say no to some things or you will have too much break even stuff to do…

    • says

      Hey Al, wow, I’m sure a lot of people have been in the same situation that you have been or that your wife is in. I think it’s a common pattern for many to slip into and I’m sure it’s difficult to get out of. We make most every decision regarding money jointly and I think we’re both lucky that we try to make all decisions with logic. We don’t plan on ever being employees again and hope to always be in control of our income which is why we frequently burn the midnight oil creating various streams of residual income that pay us whether or not we work. We like the idea that not all of our eggs are in one basket. You’re right… there is nothing like self-determination, honesty (with others and with oneself) and working with someone that is like-minded. We’ve made mistakes regarding money in our past and have learned lots of life lessons at early ages and hope to turn all of those experiences into something positive. Society only talks about how to spend money and how to buy “flashy” things, but society doesn’t teach anyone how to actually achieve long-term success, happiness and stability. It’s no accident… keeps people slaves to the system and results in people not ever owning anything of value or having stable families. Thanks for sharing your advice and experiences… we appreciate both and glad to hear that you are recovering from your experience. We wish you the best of luck as well :-)

  13. Denise says

    Hi Alyssa,

    Firstly, great blog! It’s one of the best homesteading blogs I’ve come across.

    I’ve tried to unlock the rest of your content on this post and another by clicking the fb button, and no luck. It just takes me back to the top of the same blog post. Any ideas how to remedy this? Thanks Denise :)

    • says

      Hey Denise, glad you like our blog! That’s odd that the locker doesn’t work for you…. sending you an email with what’s inside! Stay tuned!

  14. Carol says

    I have watched many of your videos with great fascination and I admire your determination, teamwork and flexibility when confronting challenges and the inevitable delays and complications when tackling such a huge undertaking from scratch. I am at a point in my life where I am facing the terror and excitement of completely redesigning my life from scratch, at age 54. Downsizing, simplification, freedom to travel and explore new interests and learn new things are my priorities, along with figuring out a way to make a living not tethered to a corporate job, a long commute and miserable days just working to pay never ending bills. I tried to unlock your hidden content about putting more money in your pocket, but the Facebook button didn’t work. Is there another trick to getting to it? Also, I have a few questions. Your property seems pretty remote and you said you spend a lot of time working on your internet blog and businesses. How do you get internet service, is it high-speed access, how do you power it for all those hours, and how much does it cost a month? Also, how do you afford the now required healthcare insurance? I am sure you carry it given how physically risky all the labor and construction projects you are doing can be. Or am I assuming too much? Thanks for sharing your journey with everyone. I love that you are learning as you go, researching and studying, but also not being too attached to doing everything yourself or the hard way. I think that is very intelligent. I look forward to exploring more of your blog and videos, and following you as you achieve your dreams and goals. Bravo to you both!

    • says

      Hey Carol! Wow, good for you for making large changes at age 54! I don’t think anything bad could come from downsizing, simplifying and creating freedom for yourself. Our content locker should be working now… but I emailed you the hidden content just in case. We have wireless internet… similar to ClearWire. It’s not DSL, cable or satellite… and I believe many rural areas have similar wireless internet options. We hope to do a video on the subject eventually, but for us, it isn’t something heavily advertised in the area, it’s more about something we found out about word-of-mouth. Our advice to people interested in specific rural areas would be to talk to the locals to see what folks are doing. It costs us $65/month for 1Mb which is plenty for us most of the times and it’s higher than in the city, but the trade off is worth it to us. We run our internet off an inverter that runs off our trailer battery, so we can run it for maybe 8 hours before we need to charge the battery back up with our generator. For the most part, I’d say that we never turn the generator on just for the internet, so it’s really not a hassle or out of our way to have the setup that we do. As for health insurance, in our opinion that has nothing to do whether you live on or off grid, and the cost would be the same regardless of your lifestyle choice, so it’s not something we feel is important to share on our blog. It’s a very personal decision for each family and individual to decide which route to go on that and which route gives them the most peace of mind. We hope you continue to find inspiration on our blog, and feel free to get involved on our Facebook page if you don’t follow us there already! Lots of great conversation from all sorts of folks on there, many that are doing similar things :-) Take care Carol!

  15. PJ says

    Hello Alyssa,

    I’m new to the site and find it interesting since I’ve been trying to achieve some of the same goals as you over the last 8 years. It’s tough and I’m always looking for new/better ideas so ultimately that’s how I stumbled upon your site, researching info on chainsaw mills. A chainsaw mill is on the list as a NEED for me this year. Anyway, I spend a lot of time on the internet as well and so knowing time is one thing nobody living this transitional lifestyle has, I’ll get to the point. Great chainsaw video by the way!

    The reason I’m emailing is because I do not have Facebook, I don’t tweet, nor do I have a Google account, but I’d like very much if you would email me the 10 ways to put money back in your pocket. Likely I’m doing it already, best I can anyway, but never know, you may have thought of something I missed.

    The last big expense on my property was to invest in a solar water pumping station. I was able to get a grant for 50% of the cost which helped so much!! I’d suggest you check with the Dept of Natural Resources, Conservation offices or Alternative/Renewable Energy in your area and see if there are any grants available when you’re ready to drill your well. If you’d like any info regarding my system, I’d be happy to share, I’m in Iowa.

    The reader who wrote a comment asking about health care insurance makes a valid point, and it’s something I’ve agonized over as well. As soon as I leave my employer, I’ll be responsible for 100% of my own insurance. It’s an expense even people on Medicare struggle with being able to afford and still make ends meet. All my efforts and hope has been to generate enough income from the farm to pay the taxes and the cost of health care as well as the cost of maintaining the property. My mortgage is paid, but maintenance continues to be one of my biggest expenses in addition to taxes and soon, health care too. I raise a few chickens and manage to sell enough eggs to pay the taxes right now, but to leave my employer I’ll have to generate much more income to cover the insurance as well as health care costs.

    Thank you for your blog, it’s nice to hear from others out there who are going through some of the same experiences and are willing to share thoughts and ideas on what worked for them and of course what didn’t work!

    Take care! Thanks again.

    • says

      Hey PJ!

      We will gladly mail you the list! We understand not everyone is on social media. We’re always looking for ways to put money back into our pocket (or at least make wise investments or invest in things that make us money) and love to share what we learn. Yes, health insurance is a HUGE COST for most people. I know many people choose to pay the penalty rather than health insurance, but I think it’s a personal decision that everyone has to make for themselves, weighing the pros and cons. And yes… taxes will get ya too! This is one reason why we’re trying to move away from the need of money… we are self employed so we have an even higher tax rate (close to 50%). It’s in our best interest to make as little money as possible but unfortunately, we still need to pour a lot of money into our property unless we can find ways to barter.

      Thanks for the info on wells! We will look around to see what our options are. We would like a solar pump as well… not sure what sort of programs are available in Idaho or if we’d even want to get involved with any of that. However, I’m sure it’s a great option for some people! Our will may be pretty expensive, but we’ll see how all of the pieces fall.

      Keep in touch!

  16. says

    Wow. I counted a lot of “i thought” in that post. We need mentors as most of us start out in that matter. I found your site via my GoSun. My husband and I live in Arizona. We own our place, have no debt, and are beginning the solar phase. We have propane grills, a couple of GoSuns, use independent solar lighting, and are learning the ways of compost water heating. We’ve started our own garden and what survives the summer is trial and error. We’d love to have standard solar appliances that aren’t specific to RV/Trailers; so far, we’ve only found them overseas. Most of the folks we look at give you the top highlights of “how I went solar.” Rarely do they tell you their “secrets,” unless you pay them, and they’re not secrets, anyway.

    • says

      Hey Nina, wow you and you husband sound like you’re doing really well with your property! Great for you guys! We are in the very beginning stages of going solar as well and couldn’t be more excited, but it’s definitely not 100% straightforward with which route to go. I did a quick search a while back on solar appliances and didn’t find much, so interesting to know you have a similar experience. I didn’t know about there being more solar appliances overseas. Let us know if you find anything awesome on the matter – and we’re happy to share any secrets (all of them!) that we learn along the way. Keep in touch, would love to hear about your progress!

  17. says

    I found your site via pinterest while researching starting a homestead :) We moved from Southern Oregon {Grants Pass} to Eastern Idaho in October with the hopes of doing the same. A little bit of a different situation, as we have 4 kids & a single {very small} income. We can’t go full out since the hubs has to work in town and we can’t afford much. Plus the kids need proximity to town for activities. We are in the process of buying 3.3 acres …but there’s a grocery store and town a block away. Not exactly ‘roughing’ it, but we are super excited to get the ball rolling! Thanks for all your helpful info!

    On another note, I agree about food prices! The cost of organic shocks me! I was so spoiled in Oregon and never even knew it 😛

  18. Randy Swingle says

    In your journey you’ve figured out the secret to not being a slave to money. Know the real cost of every single thing you buy without exception. Not the sticker price and not the payment but the real cost. Also, think through the real cost in life hours you spend working to buy that “thing” you think you need. Divide the real cost anything you want to buy by your hourly wage to get the number of hours of your life you’ll have to surrender to an employer (and the government in taxes) to make that purchase. Is the item worth it? Thankfully, you looked at the numbers and understood what the real cost of your lifestyle was while you both are still young. Thanks so much for sharing you journey.

  19. Michael Monforte says

    I understand completely what many of you are saying. My wife and I have worked for years to have more and give more to our daughter and now granddaughter. The only thing we really achieved is debt, but we thought we were living the American Dream. The reality is that the American Dream of yesterday which meant freedom, independence, and opportunity no longer exists. Today the American Dream is obscured by a system that wants you in debt, wants to keep you in debt, and to utilize debt to pay off debt. Sounds ridiculous that this system would exist, but it does. Think about this; according to the three credit bureaus you can “improve” your credit score by acquiring more credit cards. Or you can improve your score by increasing the number of accounts you have, or the amount of money borrowed. Its almost disgusting, but its our reality. Once my wife and I applied for a home loan and they told us that our debt to income ratio was too high, which is fine because that seems like a perfectly reasonable statement. However they then offered to go ahead with the loan, but they would increase the interest rate. So figure that one out. My debt to income is to high, but increasing my interest (which increases debt) somehow makes it better. lol Also if you have bad credit you get a bad interest rate, and the worse it is the more you pay. Think about that one. The worse your credit is, the harder they want to make it for you to repay that loan. Of course they can claim this “risk management” by the bank, but really its the system punishing you and forcing you into deeper debt. But anyways, I will get off my soap box. lol My wife and I are beginning a similar project twenty years in the making. lol

    • says

      Sounds like you’ve had some great revelations! Yes, things get very twisted when you take a peak under the hood. We analyze this stuff on a daily basis and it doesn’t stop with credit – hahaha! I think debt and credit can be used wisely as tools but most of America isn’t taught how to use them to their advantage but rather, debt and credit swallows them whole! Best of luck to you and your wife, and go after the new, awakened American Dream!

  20. says

    Hi Allysa,

    I skimmed through some of the comments and hit in the negative one by Susan. She had good points but could have said it in a more sisterly concerned way.
    I live by myself off the grid now for 13 years in N.E. Utah on 10 acres of forest. I alone have built from nothing and began with only a 17′ travel trailer. I built everything to be user friendly for me as I got older. I think you and Jesse are wise to do the same in case anything happens to him. This life is very labor intensive but the joy of living in beautiful country, debt free and the freedom to have my animals and grow my food, etc is something I will never give up for the ‘comforts’ of city living.

    Best luck to you both.
    Staci

    • Janice says

      Oh my Staci, I would love to hear more of your story. I am a single gal as well. I don’t necessarily need to be off grid just be able to have a place in the country and be as independent as possible. I can’t imaging building my own home. I know it’s possible but when I hear of a lady doing it I get all giddy and want to hear all about it. Blessings to you and yours and great job.

  21. Gordon James says

    Great to read your blog(s)

    Growing up in Eastern Canada we were always used to making due with less. Now I work as a pastor of a church, and I am amazed how often the people who come to the church asking for financial help have a much higher income than my wife and I living on one salary.

    So many can spend 20% more than their income, no matter how much they have coming in.

    It is great to see the creative ways you build your cabin and save money on building materials.

    It would be great to see creative ways you save money and do a great job.

  22. Tom says

    Hi Alyssa,

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts on retirement plan money. Do you both have one or multiple of these started or plan on starting one? Did you use money from one you had from your previous work to begin your journey? Any additional insight you could provide on this topic would be interesting to hear.

    Thanks,

    Tom

    • says

      Hey Tom! We aren’t saving loads of money for retirement at this point but are working on designing a life where our financial needs are few. Also, we’re working at building revenue streams that will pay us for years to come (we currently have residual income from various sources). To start our journey, we each contributed funds from the sale of a car, sale of a business, plus extra money we had saved up, so we had at least $30,000 to play with. Lots more to share to share on this topic but it’s a bit lengthy for this blog post. Read about our financial strategy here where we share how we lower our need for money and then work on things that pay us whether or not we work. Hope it’s helpful!

  23. George B says

    I think its great what you guys do? As someone who lives in a big city and loves the outdoors Ive been wanting to do something like this for a long time. However, its great for a couple that doesnt have children etc. Its more difficult for someone that has children. Things then get in the way, raising them, clothing them, supporting them in general, then college, their future and eventually they get married, grandchildren etc.
    If you live in the big cities, chances are you work regular hours, and make higher incomes than many who live in the country. Problem with that is the stress levels are probably higher and big-city folks have more health problems etc. and less enjoyment, less relaxation etc.
    Love your videos, the best of luck to both of you? I will keep watching, and I saved the amazon link. My wife and I order tons of stuff through Amazon and will be glad to help.

  24. Loretta says

    Hello -Alyssa & Jesse – greetings from Tasmania (island State of Australia). Enjoyed reading your blog and thinking what a shame we so often take such a long time to realise how little we need to make us happy. Congratulations.

  25. Hannah says

    I love this! My husband and I have had this goal of being more self-sustaining, difficulty is we both went and got an education and both have student loan debt, bought a house, had to move for my husbands job (from reasonably priced Nebraska to outrageously priced Vail Valley, Colorado) We now have car payments, student loans, a mortgage (because we couldn’t get our house to sell), rent (more than double our mortgage), childcare expense, and all the fun costs of feeding a family of 6 in Colorado. (How Susan feeds a family of 6 where ever she lives without a garden for $500 a month is beyond me. ) HOWEVER, the place we were blessed enough to rent, came with a chicken coop and a huge yard! I just ordered chickens that should be arriving within 2 weeks, we have been slowly buying and saving seeds for our future garden, and we have been making strides trying to pay down our debt. So by this spring/summer we will have significantly cut down on our grocery expenses and possibly make a little extra cash by selling eggs and veggies at some farmers markets. I know we are just renting this place, but it will hopefully give us some experience in “homesteading” before we jump “all in” with a place we buy. Your blog is going to be a new go-to to help keep the goal on track. Thank you and keep moving forward! I can’t wait to expose my children the way the life is meant to be lived!
    Hannah

  26. jim says

    What a great blog. My wife and I have been working toward financial freedom in a similar way. We were fortunate to have built a lot of equity in our home in tacoma and spent three years looking for the right property for a weekend getaway and after finding three wooded acres in grays harbor county Wa. we put a second hand trailer on it and spent the next two years enjoying relaxing getaways and dreaming of building a home for when we retire before deciding we didn’t have to wait we found a contractor and had a comfortable home built the sale of our Tacoma home has us living nearly mortgage free and with no other debt we are amazed how much we are able to save my wife is able to telecommute for her job and I have been working part time and focusing on the property. Planning a garden . putting in an orchard and just trying to plan for the future. The hardest part of it all was making the overcoming the fear of change and deciding what was important to us . Love your blog keep up the good work

  27. Courtney says

    You have no idea how close this all hits to home for myself and my family, we are a family of 4 and currently live in Colorado, we love it here but your right…. it’s SO damn expensive. We have plans and want to do all these amazing things i.e own our own land… but every month after paying all our bills we see these dreams slip further and further away. My husband and I have had our dreams of living out of the city and “off the grid” away from all the mess for the last 6 years since we took the plunge and packed up our family and left California for Colorado. Our plan was always to try and save our money until our kids (17 & 10) were older… well they’re older and to no avail that cushion has diminished along with our dream of homesteading and providing for ourselves. I have hope that we will get there and your story is just amazing, it gives us hope! I wish nothing but good and happy things for the two of you and hope to see your future dreams unfold!

    • Kaitte says

      Look well beyond Denver, what about spending your money buying a little homestead like I did, just to get away from it all. I actually bought mine and moved but a get away would be a start. I’ve known people who picked up a fix we upper while they worked and lived in Denver.

  28. JesseV says

    You are chasing your dream and all that entails.

    In life you are always learning and no one starts out an expert at anything. From watching your videos you guys are learning and growing in all aspects of life. That is something to be commended and applauded.

    Keep up the good work guys.

  29. michael says

    Hello, I found you guys on youtube. I was actually researching converting a schoolbus to live in and ran across he video explaining why you bought the truck. The videos are great. This particular bit of information is eye opening for me. We live in the Nashville area. $48,000 goes a very long way down here. As a matter of fact that is exactly what I was making before I quit my job in may. My wife actually doesn’t make great money but I had to quit my job. I was working 70 to 80 hrs a week. I never got to see my family at all. This caused a huge rift in our marriage. I quit after saving a few housing dollars to get us by for the low cost of living lifestyle. We have toyed with moving to Colorado but in a different area. We knew home prices were a little higher but I didn’t realize the cost of living difference. Knowing this puts Colorado out of the running for the future. We currently live off of my wifes $15,000 a year (net). This is huge for us! I sold my rediculous car and bought an old truck. We do own rental property that I’m working on buttoning up to sell. Our goals for the future are very similar to what you are doing. We do plan on salinger everything we own in about 8 years ( after our child is all grown up) and full timing for a few years before parking somewhere we like. At his time our child has special education needs so getting another job is not an option for me. Plus, I really enjoy being a stay at home dad. Thank you for sharing all the knowledge you’ve aquired. I will definitely keep watching.

    • Kaitte says

      Hello actually you can get land reasonable, homes if you live a ways from the city. I’m 2.5 hours from Denver. 1 hour from Pueblo, our big city. I paid 32,00 for a fixer upper.

  30. Jenny says

    I’m so happy to have stumbled on your you tube vidoes. I have dreamed of living off grid for many , many years and it’s so scary to make the leap. I’m way make motivated to make the switch. You two are great to watch and I hope others are as inspired by your kindness.

  31. Kaitte says

    Hi Alyssa
    I’m 64, and I’ve discovered in diff r ate times in my life, that less is more, in money and in everything. I’ve lived in Colorado since 1988. Yep, in the big city, Denver area you spend everything you make. Because of the consumerism that is right at your finger tips. I moved to Rocky Ford, CO in 2015. I have a 2 acre homestead in paid 32,000 for. It’s a fixer upper. I now live on my ssi which is 775 a month. Not much, but it pays the bills. I have to do odd jobs for anything else like dog sitting. My home is my job and I wouldn’t go back to the Corporate World for nothing. I have everything I need right here. NEED being the operative word.

  32. Stephen Birney says

    Guys,

    I have experienced bits and pieces of your journey so far and I have total admiration and respect for both of you. A bit jealous too to be honest.

    Myself and the missus are in Ireland, Didn’t have to option to move that remote but with an acre of land we grow and do everything ourselves as much as possible.

    Keep up the good work.

  33. says

    Just stumbled onto your story in the last week.

    My wife and I moved to the west Texas Desert to live a simple off-grid life almost 3 years ago now.

    We’ve documented our journey on our blog at http://blog.theratracelosers.com/

    Our philosophy is much like yours; we got tired of having the house and the car for the job to pay for the house and the car. So we chucked it all and headed out to our 10 acres in the desert.

    Keep up the good work. You guys are determined and also seem to possess the broad range of skills needed to make this work. Sure, you don’t know everything and you’re not experts. But you know enough to learn what you need.

    I’m still learning new things every day about being self-sufficient and running your own (solar) power company. While you have challenges with batteries freezing in the winter, I have challenges with them getting too hot in the summer. All the joys of chasing down 100 watts of consumption so that you don’t deplete your batteries so bad overnight.

    My family thought we were nuts; my brother won’t speak to me anymore because of the circumstances that lead to our move. Even considering all that, it was well worth it; my stress levels are so much lower now that I can really tell when I go to the city (El Paso) for a couple days of freelance work. I can’t wait to get home.

    I wish you guys all the best, and I hope you can’t hear me chuckling through the internet as you learn (sometimes the hard way) some of the lessons I have already learned (also the hard way, lol.)

  34. Tomasz says

    Hello Alyssa.
    I have read about your monthly cost of living in Colorado.
    You calculated it as saving $5.00 a month.

    From the numbers it seems should be ~$105.00

    TOTAL EXPENSES $2,568.61/month
    NET INCOME $2,674.00/month

    I live in Poland, so the environment and way of living is a different than in US but I am trying to live a life partially off-grid too. Last year started to build a home.

    This is totally different life, some can name it poor or boring – I call it priceless.
    Money does not build a home, only a building.

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