Are you interested in FRUGALITY and FINANCE?  Then you might find one of these articles handy:

Small-scale Homesteading: How Much Do You Really Need? by Rebecca Long

A Country Girl's Best Friends (Vinegar & Baking Soda) by Adrianne Masters

Waste Not, Want Not by Adrianne Masters

Homesteading for Retirement by Brenda Curkendall

Go Wildcrafting! by Catherine Lugo

Home Winterization Anyone Can Tackle by Doug Smith

Retirement or Rejuvenation?

Homesteading as Social Security

by T. Zoë Kimmel

In the 1970’s, my father decided to retire at age 62, the minimum age to draw Social Security.  He quit his very small business and sold his truck.  He and my mom sold their modest home in a working-class Chicago neighborhood, bought a four-room house in Michigan, and retired to the country.  With no mortgage, a little money in the bank, and Social Security for income, they settled into a life of fishing, gardening, golf, bowling, cards and playing with their grandchildren.  More hard work than planning got them to this place, but theirs was a good retirement nonetheless. 

For me—turning 60 in the middle of economic turmoil—retirement planning feels more like studying feng shui before arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  I began homesteading somewhat late in the game and am a long way from self-sufficient.  I have gray hair, a sizeable mortgage, no money in the bank, and I’ll probably outlive Social Security.  I can’t guarantee that any amount of hard work can keep the ship afloat.   But I’ve decided that I have the heart of a homesteader, and I’m determined to enjoy the Golden Years on my five wonderful acres of country.  Since I already know that homesteading is the answer, I simply have to ask the question.  Retirement or rejuvenation? 

Hints for a happy retirement and tips for financial survival can be found almost everywhere, although they now frequently include the delaying of full retirement.  A closer look at these suggestions reads much like a “how to” list for successful homesteading: live with a purpose; simplify; nurture relationships; help others; and, remember that it’s not all about money… just to name a few.   We should have a built-in advantage.  But in these challenging times, even the most experienced homesteaders can use some reminders.  Here are five ideas to get creative juices flowing: 

1.  Identify your greater goal, and measure every decision against it.  Homesteaders tend to be creative people with a wide range of interests.  While that generally serves us well, it can also lead to dabbling and a dilution of resources.   I, for example, am a seed catalogue junkie who wants to have a little of everything in my garden.  However, one of my major goals is to lower my expenses by growing my own food.  This year that means focusing my limited dollars on those vegetables that yield the most for the pantry and freezer.  I can channel my creativity into preservation methods and healthy recipes rather than a multitude of varieties.   

Those of you who’ve been producing vegetables, herbs, or livestock for sale may have to make similar choices. The price of supplies is going up and many customers will be cutting back on purchases.  You may need to refocus on feeding yourself with your harvest and generating income from other sources.   

Animals are another area of both interest and challenge. I really want to share my retirement years with some large rescue animals. My greater goal, though, is that any animal on my homestead has relatively free range, with good feed and housing.  While finances are so tight, that means I have to limit myself to chickens for now.  I can add more, to increase production for my own food and have some extras to sell or share.  But my enjoyment of large animals will have to come from my neighbors’ horses and cows, as well as the deer who free range through my woods.  

2.  Do your math and choose accordingly.   It’s more important than ever that you have a firm handle on income versus expense.  Exactly how much are you spending on transportation, insurance, and utilities?  These are often areas where you can cut expenses and enrich your life at the same time.  In the interest of limiting my debt, I drive an old, small pickup.  My outside job offers me the flexibility of working from home sometimes.  By eliminating two trips per week to the town where I work, I save enough on gas to pay for high-speed internet service.  That, in turn, allows me the opportunity to earn more money from home and further reduce my debt. 

Raising the deductible on house and vehicle insurance is another way to limit your monthly out-of-pocket expenses.  However, it’s important to have enough of a cash reserve to pay that deductible should an emergency arise.  If you work an outside job that pays every two weeks,  and your budget is based on 24 pay periods, the “extra” check you get twice a year is perfect for starting or growing that reserve.  The cash reserve principles recommended by financial advisors can also be expanded to feed and supply reserves for homesteaders. 

That brings us to a great shopping tool known as the price book.  Online sources offer forms that you can print to get started.  I enjoyed poking around on and  What it really amounts to is serious tracking of prices on items you buy regularly.  I, for one, would much rather be working outdoors than doing any kind of shopping.  While I keep a budget and try to minimize trips to town, I’m as quick as anyone to be “taken in” by a sale sign on a store shelf.  Keeping a price book encourages you to pay closer attention to trends, and take advantage of the lowest prices to stretch your resources. 

Couponing is another tool that continues to grow in popularity.  If you’re old enough to remember when coupon clipping meant scouring the weekly papers to find products that you might actually use, you may not be a big fan.  The personal computer has changed the game completely.  Both coupon websites and many homesteading blogs give easier access to bargains on items you need regularly.  Couponing can even offer a way to donate to causes that you couldn’t otherwise support. 

3.  Perfect the art of barter.  Though trading your products for the goods and services of others is as old a practice as homesteading itself, now’s the time to think even more creatively.  Sometimes, older homesteaders who struggle with the heavier physical work can spend a bit more time online doing comparison shopping and couponing for barter.  They could also take charge of a loose bartering network among friends, by computer, phone, or word-of-mouth.  When my mother-in-law got too infirmed to do anything that required standing, she was still able to sit at the kitchen table and coach the entire neighborhood through canning.  In exchange, we picked and canned vegetables that fed her through the winter. 


Continued on page 2   >



 submit to reddit