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.
July 2016 Summary
July started our with a bang for us by me going to Southern California to visit my family. While I was busy visiting in So Cal, Jesse was hard at work on the property trying to tie up loose ends. Little did we know that it would be a complete whirlwind of a month.
Taking Advantage of Local Summer Fruit
As soon as I returned, Jesse let me know that he found huckleberries on a hike and that we had to go pick them immediately! Little did we know that we would find so many that we would return 3-4 more times to pick as many as we could. In the end, we got probably 5 gallons of huckleberries that we knew we had to preserve!
This led us down a rabbit trail of starting to can and preserve food! I went balls out with canning everything huckleberry I could imagine. Jesse took a different route and got into huckleberry ice cream making and mead making.
Once we discovered that we could indeed can, we realized that fruit was everywhere! We ended up finding thimbleberies in the wild and making thimbleberry jam, and we also realized that we could try our hand at urban foraging. We found numerous cherry trees in town, apricot trees, and even had a neighbor offer up their red currants and black currants. Needless to say, we had our hands full (or buckets full?) and I intended on not missing out on a cup of fruit!
Holy cannoli…. just look at the photos below! This doesn’t even scratch the surface at how many canned goods I produced. This girl can can, guys!
Escaping the Summer Heat
In the midst of our canning frenzy, it became sweltering hot. Our property reached 100 degrees and in full sun with no air conditioning, we couldn’t catch a break. Many days this month were spent going on drives, getting to know back roads, going on small hikes and doing anything to stay cool.
Homemade Root Beer Making
If you didn’t know this about me… I’m not good at construction or even most things that come with the off grid lifestyle… yet. I AM good at food… very good at food. Since we were spending so much time prepping and preserving food, I deemed it appropriate to learn how to make root beer. We were drinking so much hard root beer that I thought I could offset our root beer bill with a little effort, so onto homemade root beer I went! Check out what we made… fun stuff!
Getting a Head Start on Firewood
Somewhere in the midst of our canning, we changed gears and started thinking about getting ready for winter and collecting firewood. I think it started by “going for a drive” to see what kind of wood may be available, and that catapulted us into firewood collecting! WE started this at the end of July and finished a couple of weeks later in the beginning of August. This was a hectic time as well – there is always something to be done when you try to be self sufficient and live off of the land!
Okay, okay… onto the financials! As I write this, I have anxiety over what the grand total is for the month. On the other hand, I know that we’re spending our money in the right places and every dollar we spend gets us closer and closer to self sufficiency.
- Groceries: $856.18
This was a much higher month than normal for a few reasons. First, we went canning CRAZY. We spent so much time foraging for wild fruit, canning apricots, canning cherries and more, so we bought a lot of sugar, pectin, peppers, ice cream making ingredients and mead making ingredients. We also spent a fair amount of time away from home so we ate some healthier convenience food, bought a lot of ice, and enjoyed many of hard root beers!
- Dining Out: $94.53
Even though we spent very little time at home in the month of July, we spent very little on dining out! Somehow, we only ate at Qdoba a few times and grabbed official dinner twice when we were on the road. Not bad, not bad.
- Cats: $40.00
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.
- Chiropractor: $40.00
Jesse has been fed up with trying to figure out why his back has been having issues, so he took a trip to the chiropractor.
- Household Necessities: $87.82
We bought A LOT under this category this month including a used water bath canner, latex gloves to have on hand, minor cookwear we didn’t have on hand such as a strainer, toilet paper, took a trip to Goodwill and the like. Nothing exciting but the costs add up.
- Coffee: $40.00
This was a lower month for coffee for us, mainly because if we weren’t at home it was probably because we were picking fruit! Maybe I missed a few receipts.
- Storage unit: $60.00
- TOTAL: $1,218.53
- Generator fuel: $38.08
Somewhere in mid-June, we took the leap and got started with solar power on our property and July was our first full month with the setup! I’d say that having this 120w portable solar panel kit from Go Power! saved us about $60 in generator fuel costs this month.We weren’t home that often to be fair, nor were we working hard on the property running powertools off of our generator, but we were home in the evenings which is when we use the majority of our power to charge our laptops, cell phones and even to run a small fan in attempts to keep cool. The general strategy was to charge the battery all day, use the battery all night, and by 6 or 7am before we were even up, the battery was charging again at 7 amps per hour!One thing to note is that since we arrived on our property, the cost of premium fuel has risen from $3.00/gallon to $3.80/gallon, so we’re actually saving more than $60/month because the cost of fuel is going up.
Although we are still wanting to upgrade our system, this portable solar panel has really been a huge help to our generator fuel bill and we’re sad we didn’t get one sooner. This system should pay for itself in a matter of months.
- Propane: $22.41
We didn’t do too much cooking in July to be honest (it was too hot to even be on the property really, hence the amount of time we spent away and the high food bill), but we did do a lot of canning! I braved the heat to can. One day, I sent Jesse to do errands in the air-conditioned car while I canned in 100 degree humid heat. Fun times.
- Water: $4.50
Even though we have a 650 gallon cistern at the top of our hill now, our water needs are still pretty low. We need to fill up this tank maybe twice a month (we never let it get below 50% so that we always have a reserve supply) which is way better than our water solution when we first arrived on our property!
- Laundry: $20
Not sure exactly what laundry was but $20 sounds like a good number. We didn’t do too much outside work so our clothes weren’t that filthy overall!
- 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 of the installation and then we are freeee from that expense!
- TOTAL: $199.99
- 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: $238.66
Fuel was quite a bit higher this month than previous months. Not only were we driving around a lot to collect wild and urban fruit, but Jesse drove 3 hours into Montana and back, TWICE, to drop me off and pick me up from the airport. I took a trip home in early July and Jesse stayed behind to watch the property.
- TOTAL: $503.66
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.
- TOTAL: $357.20
- Milestone: $111.30
If you’ve never heard of napweed, it’s a noxious weed in Idaho. It has completely taken over our property and it’s a huge problem in the area. We did some research but didn’t see any great ways to get rid of it, so we resorted to spraying Milestone around the property… but nowhere near the garden. It was important to spray these weeds before they went to seed and made the problem worse next year. This is one con to doing serious property development and land movement… churning up the soil and encouraging the growth of new weeds that weren’t there previously.
- Pool stuff: $69
We have started experimenting with ways to keep our diy cedar hot tub clean, so we picked up a new type of sanitizer and test strips from a pool supply store. We will see how this works out, but hopefully this will be an infrequent expense.
- TOTAL: $180.30
- Canning jars: $74.36
Because we had zero canning jars going into this adventure, we had to stock up! We didn’t get any on sale that we know of but if anyone ever sees a massive jar sale, let us know! We bought many cases of jars, and we also had many cases of jars given to us once friends and neighbors knew we liked to can! We traded maybe three jars of jam for five cases of jars… seems fair to us! We know that every penny we spend on jars is a wise investment.
- Wine and mead making equipment: $118.54
When we found ourselves with gallons of huckleberries on hand, we decided to try our hand at huckleberry mead. We figured that if we could turn fruit into delicious alcohol, then that would be something of high value we could have on hand to share with neighbors or to even trade. We also enjoy some alcohol so if we could figure out how to make our own with free fruit, this could lower our somewhat small alcohol bill.
- Bear bells: $13.00
A small expense, but since we were spending so much time in the forest foraging for food, we thought it would be wise to let wildlife know we were there!
- Paracord bracelet makings: $13
- Random stuff from Home Depot: $175.17
Bought large bins for organization (our cabin is a terrible mess but getting better), rebar, a small fan, wire brushes, a fire extinguisher for firewood cutting, and a few more things.
- Hardware: $15.22
Not sure which project this was for but we always have to buy random hardware to fix problems and find solutions.
- Bug eye safety goggles: $22.50
You think cheap safety glasses will do the trick? Nope! Particles still find their way into your eyes AND your breath can fog up the glasses. Luckily, smart people take advantage of this flaw and design products for us to buy.
- Chainsaw safety helmet: $74.99
- Safety chaps: $124.99
- Timber frame battery box parts: $82.23
- Water filters: $53.27
Since Jesse went for a hike that turned into be a long hike and he ran out of water, we bought a couple of water filters to keep in our backpacks. Small insurance plan.
- Wall-mount shop vac and extra hose: $57.96
- Camp Chef 3-burner stove: $169.59
We were on the fence about whether to buy this but we’re SO HAPPY WE DID! Since it’s been so hot, we’ve been doing 100% of cooking outside on this thing and love it, not to mention it is great for it’s original purpose of canning.
- Other canning supplies: 21.48
- Snow tires for Subaru: $300
- Huckleberry picker: $21.18
This thing was kind a waste of money. It was worth a shot though.
- TOTAL: $1,338.43
* 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.
July was a month for the books, and August is no different! The amount of free fruit available really caught us off guard but we welcomed the diversion. In our minds, we plan to take advantage of the summer fruit offering every year, so that hopefully we won’t have to buy fruit really ever. Once we learn to hunt and once we have a thriving garden, we will be unstoppable.
We tried hard this month to get out and enjoy nature as well, because winter will be here before we know it.
As far as money goes, this year has been a catchup and optimization year for us, so we know the amount we are spending on small (or large) things will subside, and soon our large expenses will be related to the really, really large projects on our property. Eventually, our temporary home will be comfortable and we’ll have all the tools we need to begin construction.
Believe it or not, even though we are spending money out the nose, we are fortunate that this is an option for us and in our heads, just about everything we spend money on is to become self-sufficient, or practicing our self-sufficiency skills such as with learning how to preserve our own food.
Time for August… onwards and upwards!
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