I think there’s a lot of misinformation and myths that are around regarding homesteading, namely that it’s an expensive process, or it’s too hard to afford a homestead or you have to have a lot of land to start.
While a homestead, like anything, can be an expensive process, it doesn’t have to be, and I certainly know a ton of urban homesteaders making it work in tiny apartments and 1/4 acre plots.
I’d like to share with you how we afford to homestead. And we’re regular people, like you.
1. Make the most of what you have
You can homestead anywhere – there’s purists out there that insist if you’re not doing it off the grid and on 50+ acres, you’re not a homesteader (I get those criticisms too).
But the truth is you can homestead in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn and you can homestead on a 100 acre plot of land.
It’s about knowing the homestead skills to produce more than you consume.
Work on learning how to make bone broth to use every bit of a chicken in your urban homestead.
Join a CSA (community supported agriculture) to assist in reaping a bountiful harvest (some CSAs will let you volunteer your time or work off some of the cost of your membership if it’s hard for you to afford).
2. Look for opportunities to buy land – inexpensively
We live in the middle of nowhere. And coming from DC, that was quite a change.
But one reason for the dramatic move was the price of land – I bought A TON more land at 1/3rd of the price than our condo in DC cost us.
And it meant we could afford to put down a bundle – over half the cost of the property.
Now, before you think you can’t do the same, I have something to tell you. I’ve seen land for sale in certain states for less than $5,000 – and the owners would trade that land for a truck.
Does that mean it’s glamorous? No. Affordable? Yes. And I would have snapped it up if it wasn’t 3 hours away.
The deals are out there, if you look.
3. Add what you can, when you can
If you have a bit of land, add fruiting bushes and trees, and harvest what you can. Plant as much as you can afford (hint: we only buy 2 trees at a time. You don’t need to spend a ton at once to start an orchard.)
Grow as much as you can. If you’re able to keep rabbits or chickens, do so for the meat and eggs, and make fodder on your homestead to reduce the feed costs.
If you live in an area that doesn’t permit chickens, perhaps city statues don’t mention rabbits. Perhaps they don’t mention quail.
We have 10 acres. There was nothing when we got here except the house and two run down machine sheds.
We’ve started transforming the barns (mostly for free) and added dairy goats, chickens for eggs, and a small orchard.
Realize it’s a process.
Take tiny steps, no matter your living situation, to become more self-sufficient, and you’re well on your way to having a homestead.
4. Earn money through homesteading activities
Let’s say you own your home (even with a mortgage). Take a look at your expenses and your income. Are there activities you can do that will help pay for expenses so you can build a homestead?
This year I’m looking into hay and straw investment. It’s a little risky because I’ll have to store it, but since we have our own animals, we always have a need for it.
I know I can buy hay between $2 – $2.50 a square bale, and I can sell it over the winter for $5 or so a bale. The straw I can produce myself from a local source, and sell for around $2 a bale.
I know plenty of women who have a homestead and make soaps, beauty products, and other goods to afford their dream.
I’m working on my soap making ability, and might sell goat milk soap in the future if it seems like something for me.
5. Cut expenses where you can
Look at your budget – are there expenses you can cut?
One way we cut costs on our homestead was by selling a financed truck.
We could afford the payments – but we wanted to downsize our expenses.
We switched it for older trucks that we can resell. We then purchase another truck, and sell that one. Rinse and repeat.
This brings in a healthy amount of money every month.
You know how big corporations increase their quarterly earnings by decreasing their costs? Well, it works for us too.
That’s how our homestead began producing income – by cutting the expense of groceries.
To afford a homestead, I suggest this is where you begin, because it’s easy and accessible.
We’re able to partially feed our pigs from produce a local grocery store would otherwise toss.
It’s a win-win situation – they can get rid of their unsaleable produce without having to toss it, and I can feed my pigs fresher food than just hog grain.
And now we can afford sustainable pork.
6. Become a DIY expert
Ok, maybe expert is a little too lofty of a goal. But you get my point.
Both my husband and I have had really bad experiences hiring out work, so we do everything ourselves, and it’s helped us afford a homestead.
Yes, sometimes that means hard work and things move at a snails pace.
But instead of spending thousands, we’ve spent much less to transform our homestead to afford what we have.
7. Look at certain expenses as investments
At this point on our homestead, there’s not one animal or machine that doesn’t produce.
The one time I’ve allowed a monthly payment this year is on a new tractor (well, new to us).
Why did I break my rule about monthly payments?
Because it allowed us to add a new piece of equipment that would make us money – and the payment is extremely low, with no percentage on it. We can completely afford it.
Remember that straw I talked about?
Without the tractor, we wouldn’t have a prayer of producing straw.
The benefit we will get, and the money we will save and be able to bring in, made me reconsider my otherwise very hard and fast rule.
The more we run our farm like a business, the more we can afford, because no expense is a waste.
8. Look for deals – and wait until the right one comes along
I spent 2 years dying for a goat for our homestead so we could produce cheese and yogurt from a sustainable source (remember, you can produce cheese from store bought milk too!).
Every opportunity was just a little too much money or not exactly what I wanted – the wrong breed, not in milk, you get the point.
Then along came Dahlia, who was perfect – a great breed, a good age, in milk and very affordable. And healthy!
Next, we’re looking for a cow.
The advantage to waiting (and to having a tight budget) is that it gives you time to consider whether what you want is actually what you need. In other words, I was dead set on getting a dairy cow.
Now that we have Dahlia, and we have lots of milk, I’m wondering if a meat cow might work better for our homestead. (We’ve already decided against a bull – this is one situation where I’ll use artificial means to produce calves).
9. We barter
My famous phrase around our house is, “can you trade something for part of the cost?” and I make my husband crazy at times with it.
But you know what? Sometimes it just works, and we’ve been able to knock the price off items because of it.
As a concrete example, earlier this year, we purchased a certain car part at an auction.
We got a really good deal (which is why we took the chance), but when we got home, we realized it wasn’t going to work for anything we needed it for – until one day we needed an engine.
We were able to trade our “useless” part to reduce the price of what we needed.
My husband is color blind, so welding is difficult for him. When we need something welded, we have a friend we can call for help, and we usually trade services.
Yes, cash is usually king, but sometimes a trade works just as well.
Do you still think you can’t afford a homestead? I sure hope not! As you can see, it’s a goal that’s easily within your fingertips!
I’d like to hear from you!
Which of these tips will you try to implement today? Email me at [email protected] or comment below!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.