The Homesteading Budget: Learning To Live On Less

As Kirk and I delved into our spending for the urban homesteading ‘proof of concept’ project, and working on exactly how much and where we were spending, we realized a painful truth.

Our goal has been for a few years to learn the skills in an urban setting on a steady income, and then replicate it in a more rural setting. But to do this, we need to live on a rural homesteading budget now, not when we magically find the perfect piece of land. Trying to get on any budget has a painful learning curve, and the more time you have to adapt, the better.

This is where drinking Dave Ramsey flavored Kool-Aid becomes a good idea. I decided to put it in my mind that instead of us “suffering” from a budget, that instead I could see it as an adventure. Because if everyone is not in on the budget, it won’t work.

The issues we found:

  • No food budget
  • No meal planning
  • Eating out too often
  • No defined budget for clothing and other personal items
  • Spending too much on Amazon
  • Not knowing exactly how much our monthly bills were (lack of tracking)

My biggest flaw is in our food. When one isn’t on a budget it is to easy to not plan out meals weekly, and to shop for groceries without a plan. That leads to a lot of odd ball items bought, and then no plans on how to use it. That can lead to food waste only too easily.

Meal planning, or the lack of, led me to go shopping often 4 to 6 times a week. I’d go in for a few items, and walk out with 3 bags of food.

Eating out. If you live in an urban setting, it’s much too easy to pull up Uber Eats and order dinner once or so a week. These were on nights when due to no meal planning, I was exhausted and took the easy way out. I would justify it with “well, it’s half the price of eating out!” because we could eat family style and no large tips. Yet, we could easily spend $40 to 60 depending on where we ordered from. None of the food is good for us. It is high in salt and cheap ingredients.

With no clothing budget, I’d see a “deal” on clothing for the boys and load up. Not that is a bad idea, however, it would be better to allocate a certain amount monthly and if I don’t use, bump it to the next month, so if a deal came up, I can indulge.

Amazon. Most of that is on Kirk. He loves watching prices on items and when they hit a historical low, or he sees a deal on a site, he often buys. It isn’t that the deals are bad, but not everything is a necessity. Some of it has been amazing deals on tools for our farming and homesteading, but if we get to the rural lifestyle we want, we will be downsizing our home size – and now is the time to buy less things.

Monthly bills. It’s not the issue of paying them, but rather not paying attention in detail to monthly bills and knowing what the yearly averages are. This is where we got into trouble with our water usage, and electricity use in the greenhouse. It wasn’t until I saw the bills, and saw how bad they were, I knew we had to change. Yes, we could in theory afford it, but why keep repeating that mistake? Learn from it, find ways around it, and quit burning money.

If I want to get to where we live a rural life, there will be plenty of challenges and a lot less to spend. For now, the goal is to keep it going, live on a lot less, and keep my eyes on the prize. And if we don’t change to rural? Well, we will have gained better skills as a bonus.