On Monday we talked about what lead us to this lifestyle. Yesterday, we showed you how we made tiny house living work for our family of three. Today, we’re going to talk about what so many people really want to know, finances.
In one of our posts, I was asked if we financed our home and land. It’s a legitimate question and one that I love to answer! We paid cash and bartered for what we have. As of right now, we are on land that we “lease” but don’t actually pay for. This summer the focus was on finishing labor for the trade agreement we made for our cabin and the materials for the addition. Kirk works around the property where we lease our land, trading rent for labor yet again. The land owner comes most weekends, but there is a lot to do that he just can’t get done in that amount of time. Next year the focus will be on labor for land we will own. But as you can see, we don’t pay anything and we haven’t financed anything, and we don’t intend to either!
When we got to Alaska, we already had our Toyota pickup, and we also had a new vehicle. The new vehicle was sold for what we owed on it and that was the last of our debt. It felt great to not have all the monthly bills anymore. The only “bills” we have are insurance and our phones, and though I know people lived without phones for centuries, I just can’t bring myself to let it go. I still have family in other states and it’s nice to be able to talk to them and hear their voices.
We still have expenses, we run a generator a few hours each day to charge our phones, laptop, and internet device. Along with the fuel for the generator, we have fuel for the ATV’s and the Snow machines. Since we are using an RV stove/oven, we have propane costs, and then we have insurance for the vehicle. So how do we pay for it all if we “don’t work”?
I work from home. I build websites and training presentations for start-up companies and large corporations. I also do transcription work and other virtual jobs. This website makes passive income and we sell things here in the shop as well. We have partnered with several different companies to receive commissions on their products whenever a purchase is made through one of our links. All these things keep us in the positive and we always have what we need. There are times where there is almost too much work for me and there are times when there isn’t enough work. It balances itself out and we haven’t in a year needed anything that we weren’t able to get.
Kirk works for our neighbors. It would seem that everyone is always needing something, or has something that needs to be fixed. He’s a great mechanic, from small engine repair and rebuilds to earth moving equipment, he can fix it all. He helps people build things they need, from complete cabins to minor repairs. Sometimes he gets cash, but most of the time he gets a trade. We have been able to acquire 3 ATV’s, 3 snow machines, and much more through his trade abilities. In fact, we even got our cabin and all the necessary materials to build an addition to it through barter!
As time progresses, we plan on being able to sell things that our homestead produces. For example, honey from bees, eggs from our hens, and eventually we would like to be able to sell some meat when we start raising livestock.
There are also jams and jellies, and other food products that would sell well here in the local Farmer’s Market.
Currently, I sell sprouts and some of the items from our garden that are overly abundant to a local restaurant. I’ve also been able to sell them veggie burgers and then teach them how to make them and got paid for that as well.
The overall monthly breakdown goes a little like this:
Phones – $124.00
Insurance – $18.00
Fuel – $40.00
Groceries – $125.00
Total monthly expenses – $307.00
Now, I know right now you’re probably shaking your head and saying there’s no way we only spend $125 on groceries each month. Some months it’s more and some months it’s less, so in at the end of our yearly budget, it all comes out even.
I’ll tell you there’s no trick to it, it’s because we have been blessed to have a fantastic garden this year and I have put up a LOT of food through canning. We eat very little, and often NO dairy products simply because of the expense. We have talked of bartering for a goat to remedy this because we really love our cheese, but for now, we only purchase that on occasion.
We can hunt and fish for our meat, though I do buy it on sale. I have been able on many occasions to find deeply discounted ground beef, chicken, and pork because of the sale by date or simply good timing of a planned sale. I never pay more than $2.00/lb. for meat in the stores and often find it for under $1.50.
I make many of our own snacks, like granola, chips, cookies and other sweets, and I make from scratch our own bread products, and pasta as well. When you learn to cook from scratch, there is an initial upfront investment of supplies and staples, but when you average how long it lasts it works out to be less expensive overall than buying canned, boxed, or pre-made foods.
When buying staples, I never purchase under 25lbs. of any one item. Whole grains, beans, split peas, lentils, quinoa, whole nuts, salt, sugar, and seeds on occasion, flax or chia, and rice are all purchased in bulk quantities. All these items aren’t purchased at once, we stagger each purchase, but we always have what we need to cook up a tasty meal.
So, there it is, our life under $500 a month. That’s what we budget when we make the yearly budget even though some months are more and some are less. Anything extra just gets carried over to the next month.
Because I work from home, I can work as much or as little as I want. If we need more, have a one-time purchase to make, or want something out of the ordinary, I take an extra project or two.
Kirk has a great relationship with the local hardware store. They like to sell whole timbers but don’t often get them. He’s been able to fall a tree and prepare it for them in trade for credit on our account. We use this when we need items from their store to fix things around the homestead.
The point is that we live a small life. We’re minimalists, even though we didn’t know what that was until recently. We don’t acquire things without making sure they serve many purposes. We don’t use credit, everything is strictly cash, trade, or barter. So, if you’re thinking of making the move, make sure you’re ready to get rid of a lot of your things because chances are they won’t fit or work in this life.
Have you ever experienced tiny living? What’s the one thing you just couldn’t live without? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments!
In our next post, we’re going to discuss the best methods of going off-grid and establishing your own modern-day homestead with minimal financial burden.