Homestead Series VI—Income Opportunities and Finances

I’ve mentioned the importance of having some cash reserves for medical needs, emergencies, car trouble, even disasters; or maybe just to buy something you’re unable to produce yourself. But maybe you’re retired or would like to be in a few years, or perhaps you’re ready to quit the day job and homestead full-time. There are many, many ways to add income to a homestead.

You’ll need to decide if you want people visiting your place—if you’re okay with that, you could welcome (and charge) hunters, campers, mushroom foragers, nut gatherers, kids on field trips, hikers, and so forth. Or, of course, you could find a market for and hunt mushrooms and gather nuts yourself, or even, if you’re experienced enough, hunt and dress and sell game.

If you don’t want people around (guilty!) you can still, as I said, do some of those things or even the crafts I mentioned the other day. Yes, I kind of made fun of that, but it was more along the lines of city people thinking a homestead was all romantic and idyllic and they could sit around doing organic stuff all the time. So.

Maybe you knit, quilt, sew, or do other needlework. Winter is a great time for these kinds of projects as there is less to do on a homestead and the weather is generally horrible.

If you have extra vegetables, you could set up a roadside stand or sell to a local restaurant. If you have extra canned goods, or like to bake, you could do the same thing, or set up a table for any of these at a farmers’ market.

You could work as a virtual assistant or web designer or anything at all on the computer—or sell products online.

You could contact a timber specialist to look into lumber sales, or cut it yourself and sell posts or make furniture or other wood-working projects. You could hire out yourself and your tractor for different types of work. We had a guy come out when we first put in our garden and didn’t yet have a plow; he brought his kids to pick up rocks and his wife to supervise them.

If you raise goats, you could sell milk and cheese; if you raise cows, milk, cheese, and butter. You could raise two or three pigs, one for the family, the extra to sell. Thin your horses’ manes and tails and make jewelry. Give horseback riding lessons.

Income aside, any of these things can also be done for trading purposes. You’re only limited by your imagination and your homestead products.

Money is always a sore subject with most couples or families or even among friends. Debt-free is always something you should shoot for, but it’s not always possible. Being financially responsible with any debt is almost always doable.

First, you need to hang on to enough money to live, such as paying rent or mortgage, utilities, food, and transportation. Second, you need to pay yourself—ten percent of your income should be discretionary, for a treat now and then, and third, take another ten percent and sock it away in savings for an emergency. Last, pay off your debt. Some financial experts may disagree with me, but they don’t generally live in the real world.

In order not to increase that debt, or to at least help keep it within bounds, buy the best you can afford, paying cash. We all know that some generic products work just as well as brand name; use those. Not, however, aluminum foil—that cheap stuff is pretty worthless. I say this from sad experience.

But let’s say you need a new truck. You probably don’t have $80K laying around to get a 2021 model, but maybe you’ve saved up $1000. Find a truck on which everything works, even if it’s not pretty or 4WD or maybe is missing a tailgate and has three different colors of paint on the body. If you have a choice of two trucks, pick the one that’s in better condition, mechanically, even if it costs you the entire $1000 instead of one that “might need work” and has a price of $700. You’ll probably make up that difference, maybe more, in repairs.

Salvaging building materials is another way to save on construction costs. But do make sure they’re in good shape. Even if they’re cheap, you’ll lose money if you have to replace them anyway.

Here’s a big one: water. Too many people I know do not have a well on their property. They depend on bottles, jugs, or large totes that they have to keep buying and refilling and hauling. Having a well installed can cost from $5-15K, depending on your area and the location of the water table and how much rock is in between the surface and that water table.

A gallon of water at Walmart, for example, costs about a dollar; a person needs one gallon a day just to survive, and the government estimates 80 gallons a day per person—that includes laundry, cooking, drinking, bathing, etc. Let’s look at a more reasonable 40 gallons per day per person:

Purchasing by the gallon, you’re looking at $40 a day, or $1200 per month. Using a tote or tank hooked up to your house, at .15 per gallon, your cost is $6 a day, or $180 per month. Having a well drilled, your cost is zero dollars after the initial $10K or so.

Keep in mind, these figures are for ONE person, not the homestead average of three, and doesn’t include water for your livestock.

Believe it or not, there are many, many finance options and even government grants and loans for water well drilling. Google it. You’ll be surprised. Why wouldn’t you want to spend half or a quarter as much for water for the short term, with eventually the cost being zero?

If we had purchased land with no infrastructure, a well is the first thing we’d put in, using a generator to run the pump as needed while we built the house and camped out. Even power takes a back seat to water.

Bottom line is that you need enough money, from a day job or savings or sales of homestead products or your own skills, to pay the bills and build up your homestead—and to have enough set aside for an emergency like a medical issue or transportation breakdown. You should know your neighbors well enough to ask for help and to help them in return, when necessary, but you shouldn’t be constantly scrambling for money—that’s not homesteading, i.e., becoming self-sufficient. That’s merely existing in a different place than the one you lived in before.

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