I’m about to share a secret recipe for peace, tranquility, and income on the homestead. First, a little background. My wife and I have been “homesteading” for 7 years now. We have run the gamut of homesteading ideas for becoming self-sufficient and earning money “off the land.” Milking goats, meat chickens, meat rabbits, eggs, produce, laying hens, jams and jellies, renting my tractor, mowing fields, firewood… we’ve done them all and explored more.
Like most homesteaders, however, we have no experience in those things. Our experience is corporate skills, marketing, programming, website development. I was vice president for a marketing company, my wife was a department manager and programmer before we dropped everything and moved to the end of a dusty yellow dirt road in East Texas. I was 42 when we got out of the city.
The irony is that even though we have consistently failed at making any real money from homesteading products we have always made all the money we needed and more. It’s important to note that the day we moved out here, we were BROKE. We had sold everything we could and spent every penny we had to get onto our 10 acres. Just because I was a vice president didn’t mean we had any money saved. We didn’t because we were buried in debt.
We got a fantastic deal on our 10 acres with an old mobile home and a couple of outbuildings. $50,000 owner financed, with $5,000 down and about $850 per month for 5 years. Those deals and others are still available – by the way. You just have to beat the bushes. We spent an entire summer driving everywhere, searching everything, walking land, talking to real estate agents, and more until we found the right land and the right deal for us. A good place to start is OzarkLand.com.
Secret Recipe Ingredient #1: Embrace Poverty as a Lifestyle
A homestead isn’t a TV ranch or a movie set. Rich people have those. The longer you try to maintain a big city, big income lifestyle on a homestead the longer you will be frustrated. New car payments, unnecessary insurance, a bunch of online subscriptions, expensive hobbies, new clothes, and eating out are all obstacles to homesteading, not luxuries. If you want to do those things then stay in the city and keep the big city job.
Small housing, cheap housing, used mobile home, RV, fixer-upper… these are concepts of poverty. Even if you got a homestead with a 2,400-square foot brick mansion you would have to heat it, cool it and maintain it… plus pay taxes on it. The taxable VALUE of my mobile home is $3,500. It is a comfortable, old mobile home. My brother got a 14×33’ rent-to-own storage building for $325 per month for 36 months and finished it himself. Now he and his wife have no mortgage. My 21-year-old daughter lives in an RV that she bought for $1,800. The RV park costs $325 per month including utilities. She likes living near a city and working at Starbucks.
I pay $300 per year in property tax for my land and property. That’s it. If I had to pay $3,000 per year in property taxes then I would need to earn an extra $2,700 per year. My electricity bill is rarely more than $100 per month (even in Texas in the Summer) because I disconnected the central AC Unit and replaced it with window AC units and wall mounted propane heaters. My 2,500 square foot city house regularly had electricity bills (Winter and Summer) of $250 – $350 per month. That’s a difference of over $2,500 per year that I don’t have to earn.
A cheap new car payment is $350 plus an additional $100 per month in full coverage insurance. That’s over $5,000 per year at least, generally over $6,000 per year for a car. A new truck payment is even more. Cell phone insurance is $150+ per year x 2 people, $300 per year. DirecTV with movie channels is $1,500 per year. Chili’s restaurant for 2 people plus tip is $40. Do that or something similar just once per week and it adds up to $2,000 per year.
Added together these small expenses are over $15,000 per year. That’s $1,250 per month in unnecessary income. That’s “rich people” income not “homestead” income.
I drive a used 2006 Toyota Prius I bought for $3,000. My wife drives a used 2007 Toyota Prius she bought for $3,200. I literally bought an extra Prius engine on eBay for $600 so when one of the engines goes out we can swap it. The local backyard mechanic will do it for $400. We’ve already swapped one engine. Each car will also require a $1,000 hybrid battery swap. I can easily get 4 years of service out of one of these cars (with an engine and battery swap). I only pay minimum liability insurance for $50 per month. Total cost per car per year including purchase price and repairs is $1,900 including insurance, and they get 45 mpg.
Since I drive 180 miles each way to the city on a regular basis to get my money (See Secret #2), I put a lot of miles on my car. Since it gets 45 mpg instead of 28 mpg (like most cars) I actually SAVE almost $1,000 per year in gasoline costs, bringing my cost per year for a car down to around $900.
The secret isn’t to own a used Prius. The secret ingredient #1 is the break all your conceptions of what is required to live. You don’t need a new “reliable” car. You need a car and a plan on how to keep it reliable CHEAPLY. Central AC is more expensive than window units. Every square foot of living space costs money to maintain. All my wife’s clothes could fit in a closet the size of a refrigerator. We don’t spend money unnecessarily.
My monthly budget the month before I moved onto the homestead was $7,200 per month. My monthly budget now is $1,450 – and it could actually be cheaper because I DO have cable TV. In an emergency, my budget could be as low as $860 per month. I paid off the land 2 years ago so I have no mortgage.
Secret Recipe Ingredient #2 – There’s Riches in Them-There Cities
You can’t make a living selling eggs to your neighbors. To be honest you can’t make a living selling eggs. What you can make a living selling doing is services to big city spenders. I’ll tell you how.
There are two big cities each a couple hours from our homestead. Our very first month we set up a website and some online advertising for country dog boarding with free pick up and delivery. Pretty pictures and a package deal of $250 per week. No daily deals, just weekly and monthly rates. $750 per month. “Who on Earth will board their dog for a month?” We moved onto our homestead in October and were stuffed with dogs by Thanksgiving.
We had at least 6 dogs through the New Year. You do the math. 6 dogs x 4 weeks x $250 per week for 2 months. It’s $12,000. After the New Year business fell off a cliff and didn’t pick back up until March and through the Summer. That first Winter we used converted goat sheds and used our mobile home to keep dogs. But so what!
Now we have added training and charge $500 per week. We’ve gone back to eating out and we have DirecTV with all the movie channels. We limit the number of dogs we train per month to only 3-4. I’ll save you the math, it’s about $4,000 before advertising and travel expenses. Do you want to know what people say when I drive up in a faded 10-year-old Prius and ask them for a $1,000 check to take their dog for 2 weeks out to god-knows-where? They say, “Thank you!” Why? Because the same thing in the big city costs $1,800 and their dog doesn’t get to “play on a farm.”
$1,000 isn’t anything to them. They don’t ask for references, credentials, a copy of my driver’s license. They saw my website, they called, I came, they paid and I took their dog. In a couple weeks, I’ll bring the dog back. Yes, we know how to train dogs. It’s not that hard to learn how to teach a dog to sit, stay and heel.
Weebly.com is where you can make a website that will let city people find you. Get a good book on how to use Google Adwords and do what it says. That way when people search for your special service they will find you. The famous bank robber Willie Sutton said he robbed banks because “That’s where the money is.” The money is in the cities. I don’t care if it’s gutter cleaning, firewood delivery, dog boarding, or anything else. It’s possible to work just a couple days per week driving to the city and make all the money you need for your homestead.
Why don’t we train more dogs? Because we don’t want to (See Secret #3).
We work 4 hours per week. It takes 2 hours for us to drive to the city to get a dog and 2 hours to drive back to our homestead. That’s worth $1,000 to our clients. I know a guy who owns a big city dog kennel. He has employees, buildings, loans and all that. He works 10 hours a day to maintain it all, 7 days per week. He lives in a big house in the city and drives a giant new SUV. I work 4 hours per week and lay around most of the time smoking cigars.
The secret isn’t to become a dog trainer. The secret is to come up with a fairly high-value service and offer it as an “In-Home” service to people in the city. “I can teach anyone how to paint art in your own home for just $500. SUPPLIES INCLUDED!” Book 2 appointments for each Saturday. Spent 3 hours at one appointment, then 3 hours at the next, then drive back to your homestead. That’s $1,000 for a day’s work. Then you provide unlimited online and telephone consultation for the next 2 months. You will spend some time laying in bed or sitting on the sofa emailing people and talking on the phone.
Who would pay $500 for in-home painting instruction? I don’t know, but I guarantee that some people in the big city are searching for such a thing right now. Would you give such a gift to your shut-in mother if you could afford it and thought she would like it? If you have a city within 3 hours of you with over a million people you would be surprised by what crazy things people will pay for.
“Wait, don’t you need some sort of credentials or certifications or something to do things like that?” If you’re good at something then you’re good at it. If people with too much money want to give it to you then drive to the city and trade your skill for their money. The reality is that there is a small number of people with a lot of money who like to spend it on their hobby of the week. Help them find you.
All you need is a really cool looking website that gets them excited, some Adwords advertising so they can find you, and a willingness to go do it! (Buy a book about Adwords and follow it.)
Imagine something fun, interesting or necessary that you can just show up and do. Create a fun, exciting website with lots of pictures (you can buy pictures from Shutterstock.com) that make it exciting. The website can be just one page, not more than three. On the first page make your offer with a price and a phone number for them to call. Think about every late night TV ad, and follow that formula – Big Promise, Great offer (with discount) and Call Now with a phone number.
Secret Recipe Ingredient #3: Learn to relax.
The hardest part of the 4-hour homestead workweek is learning how to just relax. When people think about homesteading they think about sweating and digging in the dirt to scrape together the food that they need. But in reality, the Earth can only provide vegetables and maybe a little graze for some meat. You can’t grow cell phone service, eyeglasses, internet service, or a new laptop out of the ground. For that and most other things in modern society – including modern homestead society – you need money.
If you set your life up as cheaply as possible and you find a way to tap into the fat flowing vein of money from the big city then all that’s left to do is relax. Garden for fun. Raise animals for enjoyment. Make soap and candles if you want. But don’t turn them into a 10-hour-a-day grind for money.
Also, just because you can make more money by working harder doesn’t mean you should. Homesteading is about having a life beyond money, not because of it. We could make a lot more money with more advertising, hiring assistants and building facilities. But then we would be living in a dog business, not in the country on a homestead. Money isn’t that important. Life is.
I woke up this Thursday morning with a client dog on my bed and nothing else to do but whatever comes to mind. What came to mind was writing an article for Homestead.org. Since you’re reading this it means I got paid $100 to write it. But that $100 isn’t what supports me. I would have to write 15 articles per month at least, and I don’t think I could sell that many (even if I had that many ideas.)
Now that the article is done, it’s time for lunch. See ya!