How to thrive on half your income. (Homestead finances).
There is no easy or simple way to get used to living on half the income you are now accustomed to having. Many, many families live on less than $50,000 a year. However, when you make the change to that amount, it is going to seem as if you are "broke" all the time. There is just no way you can do it without deeply feeling the differences. You are not going to be able to be comfortable in the same ways you are now. Be ready for that new state of affairs and you will be miles ahead. You are going to be able to buy half of what you can buy now, and "that is that." Your social position is going to change. That brings a nice freedom to you but also a mental adjustment. Be as prepared as you can be so that it doesn't shock you too much.
Prioritizing: Begin to carefully evaluate what is needed and what is wanted. As struggling homesteaders, you will need shelter, clothing, food, reliable transportation, money for property taxes, and cash for animal expenses. The degree of convenience involved becomes "want."
Transportation: You could probably sell the auto you are now driving and buy a $7,000 replacement. With the money left over, you could start a savings fund.
Savings: You are trying to get "positioned" for the change by accumulating lots of supplies and equipment now. That's okay, but it's not going to much of a difference once you have made the change-over. No matter what you purchase now, there will be even more that you discover you want as time passes. You should probably stop accumulating things at this point and start a savings account to use after you move onto your property.
Homesteading is a continuing struggle. The challenges and rewards some of what attract you to homesteading, aren't they? Well, as you engage in the struggles, you will realize that financial deprivation is one of the major ones. Only a very wealthy person could set up a self-sufficient homestead with all the buildings, supplies and equipment needed; buy animals; fence in the animals; care for the animals and make repairs on everything that breaks down. All the rest of us have to make choices every day about what project needs the money the most. It is a fluid situation, changing day to day and hour to hour. Often, it will boil down to, "Which problem is causing me the most inconvenience right now?"
You cannot know the answers to those questions now, so it is wise to have money in the bank to cover the expenses of the answers as they arise. might accumulate things now to cover almost all contingencies except the one that bothers you the most after you settle into your property.
Animals: Since you want to have livestock on your homestead, you should prioritize the expenses of their care. Don't even think of getting the animals before you have in place adequate housing and fencing for them. Without that, the time and effort you will spend on protecting and retrieving the animals will become a major problem. Good advice would be to wait for a year before getting the animals. In that year, observe the drainage on your property. Observe wind patterns. Observe traffic on the road. (Many animals do not like to be near road noises and some motorists are abusive to animals.) Observe sunlight patterns. Observe wildlife trails. All this information will help you make better decisions on where to house your livestock and what kind of shelters to build. Keep in mind that livestock feed has distinct storage requirements. You must keep mice and other varmints out to the best of your ability. Cutting corners there will cost you time and money later. Budget adequate money for that expense.
Clothing: Don't buy any more clothing for one year. Not any. Put anything from the clothing budget into the savings account. At this point any more clothing is a "want" not a need. Differentiating wants and needs becomes more and more important as income is reduced. Make a challenge out of doing that.
Debt: If you have debt, pay it off before you move. The stress of carrying debt in a reduced budget is crushing to the mind and spirit. Don't charge or finance anything else before you move. Debt is a trap that will ruin your homesteading life.
Anyone facing serious reduction of income is wise to do an attitude check and become intensely conscious of the needs vs. wants issues. It is also wise to stop accumulating things and start saving. Though we can't know what lies ahead of us in the future, we can be certain that there will be expenses involved and that having savings on hand will be much appreciated when they come.
Thinking we can see the future is a mindset that implies we are in control ... and we are not. Homesteading teaches us that. We go into it wanting to be self-sufficient and "do-it-myself-ish." As we experience the trials, hardships, adventures and rewards, we learn that we cannot do it ourselves and we cannot be self-sufficient. We all need help from time to time. We need interaction with others who share the dream. We need input to keep the dream alive. Best wishes to you as you begin your adventure.
Last advice: Be as prepared as you can be, but be ready to relish and enjoy the surprises that you were hardly prepared for at all!
CHURCH MEADOW FARM
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|Publication:||Countryside & Small Stock Journal|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2003|
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