Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid, As many of you know, my husband and I have been working and planning towards our homesteader life for many years now.
Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid
While many people don’t start on their rural living journey until after retirement, or spending several decades building a nest egg, we opted for a different route.
Living off of the grid
We did not want to wait.
We wanted to raise our children in the lifestyle.
So we made a plan to get to the land.
The plan has taken twists and turns over the years.
Has had to adapt, change and flex based on how life happened.
We started six years ago, and our plan until recently has been we would begin building this year.
Slowly constructing over a period of about three years so we can pay for this thing out of pocket.
Affordably Building and Living Off of the Grid
We’re going to build an earthbag home in the underground/bermed style of Mike Oehler.
We’re using a mishmash of various styles, but are heavily inspired by Mike Oehler’s $50 Underground House book as well as the Earth-Sheltered Houses: How to Build an Affordable.
Our own home.
It’s an amazing thought.
Let me re-introduce us for a moment.
My husband and I are in our early thirties, and we have three girls from age 6 to 1.
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We love alternative construction, learning all kinds of homesteading and natural living skills, and both my husband and I have had lifelong dreams of living a simple life on a homestead in the mountains.
We believe pretty strongly in having less, doing less, and therefore having more time to enjoy those sunsets and being hands-on with life instead of slogging away in the corporate world for a lifetime.
But – just a few weeks ago, through a series of unexpected events, we decided that it is time to build.
We feel very strongly that our hand is being guided and we are getting the message loud and clear – BUILD NOW.
Except we don’t have much money.
We do already have the land, with water at the home site, as well as a small trailer to live in.
Wanna know how much we will probably be able to spend? $10k. $15k, tops.
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Challenges Building and Living Off of the Grid Homesteader Life
“If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”
– Dave Ramsey
We are taking that phrase to heart.
We intend to live like no one else, so that we in turn can achieve our dream of living like no one else.
Living in a way that many people dream about.
Living in a 28 foot 1-bedroom camper with 3 kids while we build will be interesting.
And since this cabin we’ll build will be integrated into our final home plans, we’ll have to make some adaptations to the home plans to incorporate this (stickbuilt) cabin.
One thing we had not specifically planned on, however, was living off of the grid.
We thought initially that we would like to have the option of going off-grid, but we also liked the simplicity of being on grid.
So, now our biggest challenge in this is the power.
Given the fact that hooking up to the grid will cost about $5000 on its own, we are not going to go that route.
I’ll be using a kitchenette compiled from propane appliances taken from our trailer, and will be hang drying laundry or using the laundromat.
We will very likely construct a portable battery bank, to be trickle charged by a small solar setup that we already have, but one we could conceivably transport in order to get it charged.
I’m actually pretty curious to see what we will end up doing.
I myself am a little more interested in permanently living off of the grid but neither my husband or I are all that well versed with all the systems and setups required.
When it comes down to it, however, I have a feeling it might make more sense to spend $5000 on a good solar/wind/etc. setup (and any necessary training!) as opposed to spending it to hook up to the grid (and let’s not forget the monthly payment also!).
I’d love thoughts on this!
Right now, we are making a list of what are the bare minimums we need in order to have a habitable home in time for winter this year.
I am very thankful that the “BUILD NOW” message came now, in early spring.
Our house will not have siding to start with, and it’s likely we might not even have drywall on the inside.
We’ll be using bucket/sawdust toilets.
I won’t be able to use my dryer much, and it is going to be a huge sacrifice for me to not use a dishwasher.
But you know what?
It will be ours, free and clear.
And that, my friends, is independence.
I would take that over any McMansion on a golf course you could throw at me.
And as we have the money in our pockets, we can continue to improve, finish and upgrade it (as well as adding on the remainder of our planned home).
P.S. any helpful tips or resources you might like to share about building or living off of the grid would be wonderful and very appreciated :)
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31 thoughts on “Building and Living Off of the Grid Homesteader Life Affordably”
Hey Bethany, I love what you’re doing. I just finished a cabin myself and I’d love to tell you about the process and what the actual finished cost was. I think you’d be surprised! I have the process posted at prepcabin.com/the-cabin-project/.
You can email me off of there directly if you’d like to chat! I’d love to share my construction experience with you.
Hey Bethany, it’s great to see you putting in the work and money to build a home and set up off-the-grid power. It’s so easy to sign those mortgage documents, but it literally takes a lifetime to make it up and many people have trouble getting their heads above water once they’ve gone that route. Congratulations to you and your family for setting yourselves up for a bright future.
Congratulations Bethany! Life is all about the journey! Enjoy every step of it! Keep us posted on your progress.
Look into building your own solar panels. Pretty easy to do and you save a lot of money. I just built one panel and the total cost was less the $200 dollars. Great learning experience and you may just be able to help others to get off the grid.
Love your updates! :)
I like UL Solar out of California, they have great sales occasionally and through them I learned that you can purchase more cost effective 24 v panels and through the controller change it to the 12 volt you require for a bit of savings.
Hi Bethany – about the dryer – I am posting the exact comment I made on another blog about saving money.
My husband will not wear clothing dried on the line – but I do have a way to make that pay off! (This will ONLY be of benefit to those living in frigid winter areas)
We use a dryer exhaust conversion kit, which we bought at Ace Hardware for $12, to vent the warm, moist air to the inside from late October through the end of April. Not only do we receive virtually free heat, because the dryer runs everyday anyway – but there is the bonus of blessed moisture, which is so needed during the dry winter months. Also – the regular dryer vent is completely sealed off – preventing frigid winter winds from blowing into the house through the dryer when not in use.
In this simple system, the dryer vents into a plastic receptacle containing a couple inches of water, with a lid that has slanted openings. About 90% of the lint is captured by the water. Some lint does escape – but it is nothing of concern here. I just wipe or vacuum same as usual. In my newlywed daughter’s tiny house on laundry day – their dryer gives off enough heat, that the central heating turns completely off for those hours – even in January.
All the wood and especially my precious piano gladly soak up the humidity provided by the dryer – when the wind is roaring and the outside temps are in the single digits. As soon as the nights stay above 40 degrees, hubby redirects the vent to exhaust outside.
If you have not read Surviving Off Off-Grid by Michael Bunker it may be worth a look. (And yes, there are really two ‘offs’ there!)
Blessings in your endeavors!
That sounds like you are really taking a big step to do what you want to do.
I wish I could do that same, but I haven’t brought myself to do it yet.
I am leaning more toward the farming side of things, but it isn’t easy to uproot from the city and move to the country without having certain things in place.
Also, thanks for point out that hobbit house. That is amazing.
I am also curious about how it will turn out with the camper.
After seven years of planning, we are also just about ready to build. The problem we have run into, however, is that our local utility company will not hook electricity up to a house that hasn’t been fully permitted by the county and is completely up to code! However, since we have been given a quote of about $14,000 to hook up, we have decided it would be more cost-effective to go solar. With the tax rebate of 30%, we can afford a pretty good system that would run the entire household and never have another electric bill! I can’t wait to read your future posts to see how things progress. I have a feeling that you and yours will love your new life!
Thank you! I’m taking lots of notes as we go so hopefully I’ll have lots of good info to share.
Awesome – thanks for the link! If we do stay off-grid I think solar will be the main part of our energy system.
What a cute cabin! Do you know yet how it insulates being just made from landscaping timbers? I’m not sure if that would work in the immediate future but I love your little cabin – I think I might do something like that for my milking shed when I get my milk cows/goats.
Thank you Ross! Admittedly we do have a mortgage already on the property itself but I think the house is always such a huge obstacle for people. It will be interesting to see what we’re able to cobble together this summer, that’s for sure.
Thank you :)
Thanks for the tip! I’ll check them out.
That is an absolutely phenomenal idea. I didn’t know it would be that cheap to convert it! I actually had wondered if there was a way to do that last winter as I was watching all this hot exhaust air be pumped right out into the cold – meanwhile, our house was so hard to heat and always kind of cold! I am putting this one down in my notes. Thank you!
No I haven’t, though I’ve run across it. I’ll have to go check it out – thanks!
Thank you! And yes you are right – it is certainly not easy to uproot and just move to the country on a dime. We’ve been working towards this for many years – our plan even included my husband going back to school so he could earn a higher wage which then in turn would allow me to stay home with the family and get our home business started… it’s been a long road. Just take baby steps and you’ll get there :)
Oh my – for $14k I would absolutely go solar as well. I should check into those tax rebates, that might make it even more worthwhile when the time comes.
Thanks for the link! I’ll check them out, I’ve heard his name around before also.
Taking time to make the transition is the way to go for sure.
That is amazing that your husband went back to school to allow you go stay at home with the family.
That would be fantastic to be able to do make enough money to allow my partner to stay at home.
You just need to make sure you never vent a gas dryer that way – only electric. It will also work to help heat a non-heated attached greenhouse.
Good luck with your building project. Though my husband and I went a more traditional route when building our home, we have solar thermal panels for hot water and went with a “green” cellulose and recycled denim insulation, very high R factor. So our home is relatively inexpensive to heat. Next we are putting up a roof of solar panels for electricity. The really big expense with those are if we want to store the energy, the batteries are super expensive!
I look forward to seeing your progress :)
So inspiring. It’s true, if you sacrifice now, you won’t have to sacrifice later. Thank you for sharing with us Tuned-in Tuesday. Hope to see you tomorrow.
It’s much more insulative than one would think. The untreated timbers are extremely dense because it’s the hear of the tree and once sealed well I think it insulates better than a fiberglass insulated stick frame cabin. I’ll be conducting some testing soon but I’m a big fan of anything solid wood. I also use 4×6 timbers for a chunkier wood look.
Your story is inspiring! We also wanted to homestead while our six children are still younger. Less than two yrs ago we were able to purchase 20 acres in the boonies for a song (it was bank owned and they were desperate to sell). The Lord provided so we could purchase it without a mortgage, but we had very little money left over. We too are committed to pay-as-we-go. We ended up living in a 34′ camper for six weeks and them purchased a converted semi trailer for our tiny house.
We faced at least $10k for electrical hook-up so also opted to go completely off the grid. Our system is a simple 12 volt solar powered system which will allow us to use our solar panels long term even if something happens that we can no longer use an inverter or charge controllers. If you want to know more about it you can read more on our blog (www.livereadynow.com), as well as feel free to email and we will gladly share with you all about our set-up.
We absolutely LOVE our life here. We moved here about 1 1/2 yrs ago and are still working hard to get things set up so we can grow all of our own food, but it is so satisfying and has been wonderful for our family.
God bless you as you continue to follow His leading in this venture!
Hey Bethany! Sorry I haven’t gotten around to responding to this post already. I’ve gotten behind on following blogs. Anyway, you can set up a power system for less than $5,000. Funny thing is, I’ve had a working blog post going about how to set up solar and wind power without breaking the piggy bank. I guess I better get working on it for you :) Anyway, all the power to you!
I really like the idea of living in a camper, but I guess I have been watching way to many horror movies to dare to do this. /bow before you :)
– But I must say I like the idea.
About the tips. This guy Bear Grylls has his own show on Discovery Channel. You should video tape the whole process and put it up here, so we can see how you progress :) ?
Loving this. We too live totally off grid for the same reason and praise the Lotd , are adapting well. Can’t wait to read more!
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