How To Move Off The Grid When You Don’t Have Money Or Resources – A Discussion

“How do you move off grid if you have no money for land/resources/etc?”

I’ve seen this question posed in several Facebook groups many times and I thought I would make a post to discuss this. ¬†And just a heads up, I’m LONG WINDED.

While everyone’s situation is different, granted, I think from my perspective is first you need to analyze what exactly you mean by off grid. Do you mean literally off grid or are you talking about complete self sufficiency? It doesn’t have to be off grid. It can be whatever kind of lifestyle you want.

The thing to remember here, is that it isn’t black or white. There is an entire spectrum of self sufficiency, homesteader-iness and off-gridness, etc. You don’t have to go directly from urban city dweller to off grid wilderness mountain man/woman.

Step 1: Make Your Plan

You start small. Make it a 10-15 year plan if you have very little resources. Don’t make much money? You can get a nursing or some kind of medical degree from most community colleges in two years and be making about $45k to start with. Cut your costs of living, downsize what you can, and pay off debt. In the meantime, read a lot of books and learn, learn learn. One of the best things I ever did for myself was to learn as many skills as possible beforehand, which made it immensely easier for me to adjust to living out here when I finally made the move. I had little gardens on balconies and backyards of my urban homes, I experimented with composting using worms and piles when I could, and I read nearly everything I could get my hands on. (as a side note, I highly highly recommend Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living as an essential starter book, and an especially helpful way to get an overview of what skills you might want to develop further).

Understand what the goal is here.

The goal is not to live the way you want right NOW. The goal is, in the words of Dave Ramsey, to live like no one else so that (ultimately) you can live like no one else. And sometimes that means taking detours and planning your route around your obstacles. While we would all love to just buy land and go immediately out there and live, the fact is that it DOES cost money to build houses, especially if you go the out-of-pocket route

Remember – TIME is going to pass whether you are following your plan or not. So make your plan and follow it, because if you don’t, your 10 years is going to pass either way – and where are you going to be at the end of that 10 years?

Step 2: Deal With or Plan Around Obstacles

So let’s talk about obstacles. Some of you have major, big obstacles. Some of these obstacles aren’t really politically correct to consider obstacles, but let’s be real. You might have obligations to an ill parent. You might be a single parent of young children and working three jobs to make ends meet. You might live in an area where it is simply not conducive to living off grid, climate wise or otherwise.

Here’s my process on dealing with the obstacles. Assuming obstacle A is caused by problem B, what do I need to deal with problem B? So then if I can’t deal with B because of C, then what do I need to do in order to deal with C? And so forth. And the biggest thing to understand also is that this takes TIME. And that’s okay.

Here’s a completely made up example:

Joe and Ellen want to move off grid and raise their three kids in the country. Unfortunately, they just don’t make enough money (Obstacle A). Their kids are young and daycare is extremely costly, almost more than it’s worth for both of them to work, and they have no family nearby that can help them with childcare.

Here are their possible solutions:

  1. Raise their income
  2. Acquire free or cheap daycare

Obstacles to solutions:

  1. Joe works too many hours in a week to go to school (B)
  2. They can’t afford to sacrifice Ellen’s income for her to stop and go to school in the evenings when she usually works (C)
  3. They have some monthly payments on medical expenses that are a real issue in their budget (D).

So ultimately, here’s what they did:
1. They scraped together (Dave Ramsey Style) what they could to pay off those debts (D), a dollar at a time, to lower their monthly outgo.
2. A year & half later, with reduced debt and Ellen providing daycare for two other neighborhood children, they had space in their budget for her to quit her evening job and go back to school (C).
3. Two & half years later, Ellen finished her nursing degree and was immediately hired on by a local hospital making $55k/year. This allowed Joe to quit his job, stay home with their children, and establish an online business selling hand carved kitchenware.

I could go on here, but do you see how that works? Joe and Ellen can take their time, eliminate obstacles one at a time, working together to make it happen. Take it step by step. At a focused, steady pace, they could be on land and in a small starter cabin within a few years of her starting work.

Everyone has obstacles. Some are greater than others. It can be immensely difficult and stressful at times (can you imagine watching 5 kids during the day, attempting to maintain some sort of order in your house, and going to school full time in the evenings?) But no obstacle is insurmountable. Sometimes even TIME itself is the solution. But just because you might have to wait for something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach for it.

What is YOUR goal?

This is the time where you identify your ultimate goal. This is so different for everyone.

How do YOU want to live? And make your plan. Identify your obstacles, and then identify solutions.

Even if you have to work backwards a zillion steps. And sometimes we have to make compromises, and know that we can continue working towards our goal. And that’s okay. It takes time. I’d like to be totally self sufficient but as a single mom with kids and an internet business and part time job, that isn’t going to happen yet. But every year I get a little closer. Hopefully by next year the part time job won’t be an issue, and then I’ll have more time to focus on self employment, which pays better, which means more money AND time, stuff getting done around the house, etc. (And maybe I’d have mental energy to blog more than twice a year! LOL)

My Favorite Resources

A few things that I’ve found immensely helpful in my journey, I’ll just list them here. (PS, these are affiliate links, since it’s taken me a couple hours to put this all together ūüôā )

I mentioned it earlier, but Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living¬†is in my opinion a must-have for any homesteader. Whether you actually are homesteading or living in an apartment, you can still read it and apply it and learn skills and especially identify which skills/things you’d like to develop. These skills will not only be useful once you are on your land, but in the meantime can really help save money. Or even create money, for instance if you decide to take a skill and develop it into a side business, which I am a HUGE fan of.¬†It really helps because sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. Maybe you have a hidden¬†aptitude for blacksmithing and the thought of it had never even occurred to you? Maybe there’s a demand for rabbit meat in your city and you could easily supply part of that demand for meat but didn’t even know that livestock meat rabbits were a thing? They are – and lots of fancy restaurants will pay big bucks for them.

Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. I’m dead serious – I think every adult in the world needs to read this book. Especially if you are in debt. Debt is drowning and it is difficult to come out of. But Dave’s book was a lifechanger. And although I didn’t completely follow his method (I didn’t get 100% debt free before making my move, simply because it made no sense to me to continue paying monthly rent instead of building and living in a house that was paid for, even if I still had some other debt) his methods are invaluable if you need to just make some space in your monthly budget so you can make PROGRESS financially instead of just living paycheck to paycheck with no end in sight.

The Permies forum. Permies is probably my favorite homesteading-type forum online – nothing like a bunch of permaculturistically-inclined people getting together to think outside the box. What I particularly like about this community is that there is SO MUCH to learn from these people and it is mostly people who don’t just think in the traditional mindsets, but are able to apply modern technology to a holistic way of living. It is a friendly and thoughtful community, and I definitely recommend hanging out there if you get a chance.

Document, Document, Document.

One last thing – I recommend documenting your journey. I know sometimes I get frustrated with the parts of my house that aren’t finished (I desperately miss refrigeration) but if I look back and see where I was a year prior, it helps a lot. If I am frustrated with my garden, I look back and the first two years here in this house when I didn’t even have one. I mean –¬†when I started this blog 8 years ago, I lived in the city, had a brand new baby, a husband in school, and I was on maternity leave from my bank job longing desperately¬†for a homesteader’s life.

A lot has changed since then and it really helps me to go back and read my older posts – because then I remember, on a visceral level, how I felt and it really helps. If I get frustrated with my current lack of refrigeration, I just have to remember how much it sucked to not have running water for a year. Or hot water for three years. Looking at exposed insulation for two years. Or a functional kitchen with cabinets for three years. It helps, a lot.

So, document it. Start a blog, or an Instagram. Or even just a journal. And tell me in the comments – what’s YOUR obstacle, what’s your plan? Maybe we can brainstorm and give each other ideas.

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