What The Grid Is And What It Means To Live Off Grid
The “grid” is an expression that refers to the network of power lines that connect you to the electric company.
To live off grid means that you choose to generate your own electricity and no longer pay someone else for your power needs.
Some include the gas and water utility companies as a part of the “grid.”
When people choose to go “completely” off grid, it means they provide all three for themselves.
You could live off grid within the city if you choose to generate your own power, though some cities make it difficult.
To go entirely off grid within the city would be illegal. Most cities demand you at least have access to the city’s sewer system for waste management.
So the only way for you to go completely off grid would be to find a place where such restrictions don’t exist.
Living so far away from society not only disconnects you from the utility company, but you will also lose other amenities that society provides, like grocery stores, hospitals, and the Internet.
So you can see how going “off grid” has evolved to mean more than providing your own electricity.
Because you’re so disconnected it also includes having to build a homestead, living off the land by growing and raising what you eat to be self-sufficient.
Why Live Off Grid
When most people refer to living off grid, they tend to mean homesteading.
They may not want to leave the city at first and go off into the woods to live off the land.
But they realize that it’s the only way to be in complete control of how they live.
Traditionally, people living off grid didn’t do so by choice.
They lived so far away that the utility companies couldn’t reach them, or it wasn’t worth the expense, so they had to learn how to take care of themselves.
This way of life since became attractive to those looking to leave the city for a more natural life experience.
Everyone has their own reason why.
Some do it for ecological purposes. They want to “go green” and leave less of a carbon footprint as their way to contribute.
Others do it to “drop out.” Some feel city life is a burden, and escaping from the grid or “the system” will remove these burdens.
Then some do it to find a purpose or the meaning they lack from their everyday lives by learning how to be self-sufficient.
“Some people court suffering in the hopes that their struggle will bring them closer to a fundamental aspect of reality,” says Diana Saverin in her vivid article for The Atlantic.
Most people live in the same place, doing the same thing for a very long time. If nothing else, living off the grid changes their perspective.
Leaving the grid to live off the land is a jarring change that wrenches people from their ruts.
If you have a family, raising them off grid gives them life experience and education you won’t find in any textbook.
Regardless of why you do it, you will find overcoming new challenges while living off grid brings newfound meaning and fulfillment to life.
Making a move off grid is not only a great way to experience nature but can improve your health and longevity by reducing exposure to toxins and pollution that come from being in the city,
You will also benefit from lowering your stress and anxiety with increased physical activity while living deliberately.
Don’t get us wrong. There will be stress.
But solving the problems that cause this stress and putting the systems in place that prevent it in the future becomes a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
What You Should Consider Before Deciding To Live Off Grid
Going off grid isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
It takes mental fortitude, just like making any other commitment, or overcoming any different challenge.
You’re going to fail at things. No matter how much you plan, things will go wrong.
You are going to be alone most of the time.
While you may be ready to disconnect from the grid, you may not want to disconnect from your friends and family.
Or maybe you are, but your partner isn’t. They will depend on you to keep them motivated.
You will have to give up many comforts that come with living in the city that you may take for granted.
Downsizing is natural when you realize you can’t carry everything with you.
But learning to embrace a life of minimalism will be a challenge you can start before making the leap.
How far off grid you go, will determine how much you can afford.
If you have the financial resources to recreate the infrastructure you need for all the amenities you would have on the grid, then making the transition will be less shocking.
It is costly, but no more so than buying a large home in a metropolitan area.
But if you are not so well-off, and you think going off the grid is a way to reduce your financial problems by living off the land and building a log cabin with your bare hands, then you may need to investigate a little further to understand what you’re willing to live without.
Generating your own electricity is a way to decrease some financial responsibilities.
The idea of having one less thing to pay for the rest of your life is a lure with a sense of financial freedom that leads a lot of people down the road of living off grid.
But there is a significant investment in a system that produces the same amount of energy that you use day to day.
So it’s not really a way to decrease your financial burden in the short term unless you reduce your overall energy usage.
But you don’t need to be off the grid to start. You can work on reducing your consumption on grid, to help make the transition that much easier and cheaper.
For example, what you may save in not paying for electricity, you may have to spend more to generate heat with diesel, propane, or wood if you don’t live near a wooded area.
The average home uses 911 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month for $117.65 per month in 2018.
A solar panel system that produces enough power to run an average home costs $25,000 to $30,000 after tax incentives.
To have the same monthly payment, you would need to finance it for roughly twenty years.
You may be misled to think living off the grid will cut costs.
Where you eliminate one expense being in the city, another pops up when you try to go off grid.
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just drive out into the woods and stick a flag in the ground and call it yours.
The government already did that, and they’re not too keen on giving up their land. So you’re going to have to pay for it.
Then the government’s going to tax you for it.
So theirs the cost of the land and property tax.
There are only two things guaranteed in life…
You will also need to buy equipment and learn how to service it or pay someone to do it for you.
So it’s essential to keep in mind that you will never escape the need to make money.
Shipping things to your new remote location will also have extraordinary costs.
Shipping services will have to go far out of their regular routes to deliver if they can deliver at all.
Once you have enough power, water, and food, the Internet is still something we can’t replace in nature.
There are some solutions that we will get into later that will help you find a balance.
But for those of you used to having everything at your fingertips, making a move to off grid living will be a significant lifestyle change.
There are only so many hours in the day, and maintaining your shelter will occupy most of them.
The good news is that once you can manage the first two out of five levels of Maslow’s hierarchy, the remaining three will start to fall into place.
The third level has to do with safety. Being away from society leaves you exposed and far from help.
There is no fire department. Because of that, you may find it impossible to insure your home or have to pay an exorbitant premium.
Mother nature can be a real pain in the ass sometimes.
You’ll get used to the wolves and bears, if any, but one thing you never get used to is the mosquitoes.
You will find where you once wasted hours a day on social media, you now waste on hunting these little demons that sneak into your home.
If you live far from civilization, you’re probably going to be without roads and will also need a 4×4 vehicle to get to and from your property.
Finally, you will have waste, including human refuse.
Depending on how remote you go, you will have to find ways to dispose of it, recycle it, or compost it yourself.
The good news is this has all been done before. There are no secrets, and you can do it too.
Just know what you’re signing up for.
How To Live Off Grid Your Way
Learn About Living Off Grid
The first thing you need to do is educate yourself.
Deciding to live off the grid should not be an impulsive act of desperation.
The more you can learn and plan ahead of time, the more likely you will make the transition as smooth as possible.
Let’s begin by determining how far off grid you want to go.
For most of us, we all want independence and reduce our living expenses and our impact on the climate.
But we also want to be comfortable, safe, able to visit and receive friends and family and take part in everything else the world has to offer…when we want.
Maybe you want to stay tied to the grid, but generate your own electricity to reduce your costs and have a backup if the grid goes down.
You may want to stay in the city, but learn how to grow your own food so that you can live off of local goods and services to reduce costs and carbon from extreme shipping.
Or maybe you’ve had enough of the city, and you want to get away from it all.
But, while you’re ready to cut the cord, you still want to watch your TV and microwave your popcorn.
You want a modern home, but on your own land with your own space and your own way of life.
You want to grow your own food, generate your own electricity, and pump your own water.
But at the end of the day, you still want to come home and take a nice hot shower in a climate-controlled house.
Or maybe you don’t need any of that—just a tent under the stars with a campfire.
Or maybe somewhere in between.
To whatever extreme you want to go, write it all down and make a map for yourself to visualize the big picture.
There are going to be many parts of the puzzle you don’t know yet.
And that’s okay.
There’s no reason or need to dive into the deep end before you know how to swim.
You can begin by joining some off grid communities, or visiting some off grid homes to see what the life is like.
We won’t link to it here because they may not apply to you if they’r too far.
Better to google for yourself, and try and find some off grid homesteads near you and reach out to see if you can lend a hand or just chat.
Ask about their experience, and see if it is something you want to do.
We’ll start by going over the broad strokes of what you will need to start by building a budget, but before we do that, we should address the elephant in the room.
Pay Off Your Debt Before Going Off Grid
Before you begin to learn how to field dress a deer, you should first make sure all your finances are in order.
Remember, we’re not abandoning ship and running away. We need to tie up all loose ends to make the transition to living life on our own terms.
That means getting out from under any debts you have.
Then stop spending on more things you don’t need. You need that money to get what you want.
We know that’s easier said than done, but it is the first step you should take for this whole process to work.
We will have money management articles on this in the future.
But, in the meantime, the best thing you can do is take inventory of every expense you have.
Get out the past three months of credit card bills.
Look for any phantom subscriptions you’re paying for that you forgot about.
Write them all down on a piece of paper.
Then compare it to your after-tax income.
If your expenses, including debt payments, are higher than your income, start to cut costs until you break even.
Disconnecting from the grid costs money.
You not only need to pay off everything you owe, but you will need to save up the money you need to make the move.
Once you get used to living at break-even, cut more expenses until you have a 10% surplus every month.
Take that money and use it to pay down your debt faster.
Then after a little more time, try and cut more expenses until you have a 20% surplus at the end of each month.
Then apply that to your debt.
You may find that you can’t cut any more expenses.
In that case, you may need to seek help from a financial advisor to see what is possible.
If that’s not practical, sit down and ask yourself what stops you from getting your expenses down.
Take those questions and put them into Google.
There’s always a solution.
You may find the problem is you need to make more money.
There’s a way to do that too.
But you won’t be able to get anywhere until you identify your situation and create a plan.
Going off grid will not make these problems go away.
Once you are free from debt and ready to make a move, start saving that extra 20% at the end of each month.
Then research how much your move is going to cost.
Budget To Know How Much Moving Off Grid Will Cost
You may not know everything that goes into moving off grid, and that’s okay.
We’re going to go over what you should keep in mind by building out a budget.
It will be impossible to plan for every expense for your specific situation.
It will also depend on how big your family is that you will be moving off grid.
The bigger the family, the bigger the demand.
But budgeting for the top-level priorities and adding a little more as a contingency will give you the confidence to get started.
As you go through the process and learn more about what goes into each category, you can add to the budget to have a more custom and complete picture.
Open a spreadsheet or get a pencil and some paper and start making a list of everything that needs to happen to get to where you want to be.
If doing this sort of thing gives you heart palpitations, that’s okay.
We’ve prepared a spreadsheet for you where you can plug in the information.
Off Grid Property & Shelter
Where do you want to live? Look at a property in those areas and see how much it costs.
Then take an average cost of the properties you like and write it down.
You’re not making any decisions right now. You’re only trying to get an idea of how much it would cost.
The average cost for an acre of land in the US is around $12,000.
Do you want to live in a house? A yurt? A log cabin? You may not be sure yet.
Pick a house to start and research how much it costs to build.
The average tiny house ranges anywhere from $12,000 to $35,000 if you build it yourself.
Or if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, they can even go up to $150,000 for some built-for-you luxury models.
Considering you can have a luxury home on 2 acres of land for less than $200k when the US’s average home is $227k is quite a bargain.
Though finding someone willing to build your home off grid will be difficult, you may have to do it yourself.
There are many reasons why, but what it comes down to is contractors may tell you it’s not worth it to them.
Most contractors work on “cost-plus” systems, and when your goal is to minimize costs, well, you’re taking money out of their pockets.
Nothing wrong with that. It is what is.
But prepare for that when you’re deciding on what type of house you’re going to get if you do, in fact, have to build it yourself.
For the sake of this analysis, let’s say you do find a contractor.
Better to pick the more expensive option and realize you don’t need it than to plan for less and not have enough.
Now a house has more than four walls and a roof. That would just be a tent.
Our goal is to live off grid. Not be homeless.
Once you have the land and the type of structure you want to put on it, you will need to plan for property taxes each year.
Or build to avoid property taxes.
If you build any permanent structure on the land or change the landscape that enhances the property’s value, you will be subject to property tax.
If you’re thinking about putting a mobile home on your land and just not moving it, you will still be subject to DMV registration.
If it has axles, it’s a vehicle, and subject to tax. So be aware of that.
The only way to avoid property tax altogether is to build a non-permanent structure on skids mounted on blocks.
A non-permanent structure that is not a mobile home is a structure that is small enough to fit on a flatbed, approximately 8ft by 53ft.
If that’s too small for your needs, and you want an average home and don’t mind the taxes, then the sky’s the limit.
Off Grid Power & Appliances
There are three primary sources of power off grid.
You may consider a wind turbine or a hydro-electric system. But they are more location and weather dependent.
Everyone can use a solar system, so we’ll focus on that for our overview, but the process is the same when it comes to determining how much it will all cost.
You may find a combination of power supplies would be best for you when you’re looking at your locations.
The first factor you will need to determine how much solar power you need is to calculate how much energy you will use.
You can use our spreadsheet or take an average of the total kilowatt-hours you used over the last three months.
You can find this information on your electric bills.
Or you can make a list of all the appliances and tools you expect you’re going to use and then add up all their wattages.
If a device doesn’t give you the wattage, it should give you the voltage and the amperage.
You can find this information on the tag on the power cord or where it meets the device.
To determine the wattage, multiply the volts times the amps.
Now that you know how much power you use, you can determine how many batteries you will need, and how many solar panels it will take to charge them.
There are other things you will need to build a solar system, like wiring, a solar charge controller, voltage meter, an inverter, etc. to connect your home to electrical power.
But it all starts with knowing how much power you need to generate.
You will also want to account for how much the appliances cost.
For example, here are the average costs of the most typical appliances:
Stove = $2,000
Refrigerator = $1500
Washing Machine = $1000
Central Air Conditioner = $5,000
Total = $9,500
Now, of course, you don’t need all or any of these appliances.
But we’re estimating to live off grid while maintaining a normal lifestyle as if you were on grid.
Then you will need a backup power source in the event the batteries run dry, and there’s not enough sun to charge them.
Having a generator for emergencies will give you the redundancy you need to stay safe.
You need something to make sure your refrigerator, freezers, and any other essential appliances stay on when the lights go out.
There are large whole house generators that will keep your entire house running as if the power never went out as long as you have enough propane for it.
And there are portable generators you can use to keep everything from the whole house to a few devices powered depending on your needs.
Off Grid Water
Water. The source of life. We take it for granted when in the city. You turn on the tap, and it’s there.
You flush the toilet, and there goes a gallon or more down the toilet after one use.
You use way more water than you realize.
When you’re responsible for finding your own water, you will begin to realize how precious a resource it is.
There are various ways to provide water.
We recommend that when you’re looking for your land to see if there’s a natural water source on the property like a spring or a well.
But if not, which may be the case for most, you will need to consider drilling your own well.
A well is a permanent structure that changes the land’s value, so you will be taxed for it.
But it’s a worthy expense in exchange for a consistent and reliable source of clean water.
To determine how much a well will cost, start by calling some well drillers and get estimates on an average job in the area.
You’re not going to know the actual cost until the job is done.
The final cost depends on how far down they have to drill and how much piping they have to use to get to the waterline.
But again, we’re trying to get an idea.
You will also need to factor in the cost of the pump, pressure tank, and adapters.
Again, we don’t expect you to be an expert in any of this.
The exercise is to research and find some average costs to help you build a budget.
You will also need a well permit. See how much that will cost by calling up the city or looking online.
You will want to estimate for testing the water before purchasing your property, if possible, as well.
The depth of the well will determine what type of pump you will need. Better to overestimate here.
You can get the cost per foot from your well diggers when they’re giving you quotes.
You may also want to find some well dowsers or learn how to do it yourself.
Because at the end of the day, you can call the diggers, but you have to pay whether they find the water.
You’re going to want to do everything you can to reduce the gamble before deciding where to dig.
You’ll also need a filtration system. Once you test the water, you’ll know what type of water filter you’ll need.
Start learning how filters work and what the costs are to build different filtration systems.
Once you dig the well and install the pump, you’ll want to build a well house to insulate and protect the pump and plumbing from the weather.
Before you do, learn if you can install a pitless adapter. This adapter runs the water from the well below the frost line to protect it from freezing.
This may not be legal in your state, or necessary if you don’t live in a freezing climate. So look into that first before deciding.
Now again, how much a well and pump system costs will vary from project to project.
There are many factors from the cost of digging the well, the pump you need to get the water out of the well, which varies on the well’s depth, to the piping you need to get the water to your house.
But so you have an idea, a 150 ft well with an electric pump for that depth could cost you around $11,000.
You can save a little money by using high-grade PVC piping versus stainless steel.
PVC is less expensive than steel. It doesn’t corrode or rust. If the water is acidic or has a lot of iron in it, it won’t affect the PVC.
So you may prefer PVC in any case.
If the cost still seems too high, you should think of it as an investment instead of an expense.
Let’s compare it to a rain catchment system used to collect rainwater.
There are some drawbacks to collecting water from rain or springs.
Sometimes it’s not as clean depending on where the water is running off.
The water can be murky, and you can’t control if anyone else contaminates your water.
You’re also subject to the risk of drought.
Whereas well water is not subject to drought.
Unless you don’t have a very large well or tap into it correctly, it could potentially dry up.
But assuming the well is dug correctly and there is a sizable aquifer, having a well will make your life much more comfortable.
You can use both systems.
Many use rainwater and greywater from the house to irrigate their land while saving the well water for drinking.
Relying on water catchment is also dependent on the weather.
If you don’t live in a particularly rainy area, then you may be left dry and have to dig a well anyway.
But if you do get enough rain every year, then having large cistern tanks and water filters will be a more affordable option than digging a well.
You can also have rainwater for fire suppression if you’re not accessible by local fire departments or just too far away.
The cost will vary from project, location, to how much water you will want to have on hand.
To give you an idea of how much a full rainwater system would cost with enough cisterns to hold 11,000 gallons of water, and the filters, adapters, and plumbing to get into your house, you would be looking at an investment of around $5,000.
You may still balk at the price, but it’s a significant savings compared to digging a well.
And considering the average American household pays $1,000 a year in water, it will more than pay for itself after a few years.
Though relying only on rainwater may save you some money, you will be at a higher risk of running out of water and having to buy water later.
It’s up to you how secure you want to be, and how well you believe you can manage and conserve your water supply.
Whatever you decide, it’s going to cost money. But without water, you can’t do anything.
If you plan on raising livestock and growing a garden, you may want to consider building a pond or a seep spring to supplement your water supply.
The best thing you could invest in for the security of your future is your land and water.
You can’t survive without either. So plan now.
If you find a property with the well on it, make sure the property’s price is worth it compared to drilling your own well.
Then look into how much it would cost to add a water catchment system to supplement your well with rainwater and spring water.
Then think about how to conserve and recycle to maximize the water you have.
Finally, don’t forget a water heater. This item should go into your appliances category on your budget.
You may find it refreshing to bathe in ice-cold groundwater in the summer.
But come wintertime, when the water is a little frosty, you’re going to want to have a good old fashioned water heater to keep warm.
Off Grid Food
Let’s face it. The food in most supermarkets today is awful.
Even the “fresh” produce, meat, poultry, and fish are so devoid of nutrients and contaminated with pesticides and antibiotics that we would be better off just not eating.
Our food is killing us.
We’ve come a long way in the last ten years, but still, most people buy food that’s slowly poisoning them into a fatal illness and charging them a premium.
One aspect of living in a remote place off the grid is that you have the time and the space to grow your own clean food.
Yes, you can go the hunting and gathering route, but at some point, you’re going to need a more consistent and reliable source of food.
Having a garden or a small farm will not only do that for you but also give you a way to support yourself financially while living off grid.
More importantly, you control everything that goes into creating what you put in your body, from the soil to the water, to the fertilizer, and the type of seed you use.
If you’ve never eaten a vegetable fresh from the garden, then you may not comprehend that despite all of the nutritional value, the taste and the pleasure you get from something right off the vine is indescribable.
The same goes for fresh meat and dairy.
You may not even recognize the flavor of some foods you’re used to eating from the supermarket when you eat it fresh from your own farm.
You will gain a new appreciation for your food when you put it on your plate and realize that it was a living thing just moments ago.
You will contribute to the reduction of carbon in the atmosphere by consuming products that are not mass-produced and shipped from around the world.
You will also appreciate the lower cost.
Living in a metropolitan city, we pay as much as our mortgage payment each month to feed a family of five.
Yes, there will be some upfront investments to recoup when you build your own garden or even a farm.
But just like your water and power investments, it will come back to you in the end once you get your systems in place.
Now you don’t have to farm if you don’t want to. Or you may just want to grow a few crops.
That’s a great strategy too.
You may work remotely and not need the extra money.
But farming is a great way to diversify your income.
We’ll get more into income in a minute.
Let’s look at how much a small homestead would cost.
Using the proper techniques and permaculture, you can farm about an acre and a half of land with a startup cost of less than $50k.
If you know anything about farming, that may sound like a joke, considering a 60hp tractor will set you back at least $30k.
But, using the tactics and strategies for small scale farming, you can produce high yield organic crops at a fraction of the cost.
Growing smaller crops takes less work, and it takes nothing more than a push tractor ($8,500) and hand tools.
What you don’t grow, you can always trade for, which is also another way to reduce your living expenses.
With an acre of land, you can produce enough food for yourself and still have more than enough to sell.
With what’s leftover, you can take to market and recoup your investment within the first one to two years.
After that, it’s all gravy.
There are, of course, some maintenance costs each year, but if done correctly, you will be able to maintain a 45% profit margin that can go into an investment account to secure your financial future…or you can just stick it under your mattress.
Having the ability to grow your own food will not only be an investment of your financial resources in the short term but in your health, longevity, and financial security in the long run.
Finding a place that allows you to produce your own food may be a challenge.
Many communities have laws that do not allow you to grow your own food or livestock to protect property values.
Check the city’s restrictions before you decide where to place your homestead. But the land you choose should be for both agricultural and residential purposes.
Off Grid Waste Management
Okay, so let’s get to the exciting part. How do you manage your own waste?
Waste includes everything from used water, inedible food, trash, and of course, human refuse.
First, you begin by reducing your consumption. The less waste you produce, the less you need to manage.
Then you recycle.
This includes “greywater.”
Greywater comes from sinks, showers, washing machines, etc.
We can talk about how to build a greywater system that will feedback into your vegetable garden later.
You also up-cycle or trade anything you don’t want new things you need.
Finally, anything you can’t recycle, you must haul away or compost.
Hauling and dumping your trash or paying someone to do it will have an extra cost.
But with some practice, you’ll learn how to minimize this.
Then there’s your personal waste, or “black water.”
There are various ways to deal with this.
You can dig a hole and bury it, but good luck convincing your guests to take part.
Think about something at least a little more practical for the long term.
Mismanaged human waste can lead to pathogens that will cause hepatitis, cholera, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal illnesses.
You don’t want it to end up in your water supply.
One removal option would be a septic system. They are the closest thing to a typical waste management system you will find in traditional homes.
But they do come with high costs for installation and maintenance.
For example, a standard septic tank system with installation will cost around $8k to $11k.
Plus maintenance fees that could run up to $1k per year.
It will also affect where you can buy property. You can’t install a septic tank anywhere you want.
The septic pump service will also need access to your system to remove the waste, which means it needs to be accessible.
Whereas if you use a composting toilet, you could live virtually anywhere, with near-zero cost, and actually have an asset to use in your farming.
Human waste compost makes for excellent manure.
It will save you money from not having to install a septic tank system but will also reduce your compositing costs and increase your farming yield.
We know that it will not interest some of you to hand your own waste, but it is our number one recommendation.
If you decide to go with a septic tank system, one way to save some money on maintenance is to use soak worms to clear the waste from your system.
There are also biogas systems you can use that will recycle your waste to create energy.
But you will still need to do something with the byproduct, which goes back to our composting suggestion.
Off Grid Internet
Yes, the Internet is a utility. You may not want to connect to the Internet, and that’s fine.
But before you decide to go without it, we’d like to propose some ideas for you to chew on.
We’ve come to think of the Internet as less of a utility and more of a resource.
It’s something you can’t reproduce on your own like energy or water.
Or if you would have diesel or propane reserves for your generator backup system.
Having the Internet as a resource will help you when you need information, entertainment, or a connection to the outside world.
A lot of unrestricted property where you can homestead is so far out that you may not have phone lines.
Getting the Internet connection can allow you to make calls over wifi.
It’s a much cheaper solution than a satellite phone and could be a lifesaver in an emergency.
Being a good prepper, you will also value getting the news and any emergency updates.
You’re going to be busy maintaining your property as it is.
Thinking you will go to the nearest cafe with free wifi to Google to fix your generator is not practical.
Especially if you decide to use the Internet as another source of income.
You will also find that many local stores will not have a lot of the tools and materials you need to get started homesteading.
Yes, you will want to support your local businesses, but they don’t have it if they don’t have it.
Driving hours looking for materials and supplies is not an option and a waste of fuel and time.
Having the Internet will make sure you’re able to get what you need when you need it.
There’s also only so many times you can chase the chickens around the barn before you get bored.
Having the Internet will also give you the option to entertain yourself and learn.
Which leads to our next point of continuing education.
If you have kids, having the Internet will be important for them to complete their schooling.
There are also going to be a lot of questions you will have when building your homestead.
Having access to a community of other homesteaders living off grid with years of experience will be an indispensable resource.
Security is another issue when living on a large property far away from help.
Using a wifi monitoring system will help keep you and your family safe and enable you to call for help if you need it.
Getting the Internet to your property may be difficult. If it doesn’t already come with the property, there are various ways to get it.
But we find the easiest way is by getting a cell phone plan with unlimited data.
You then use your phones as hotspots to connect your computers.
You can check to see if your cell provider covers the area you find on their website.
But you should always test the reception you get on your cell phone before you decide on a property.
If there is no cell phone reception, and you still love the property, then getting a fixed-line antenna is another option.
We would avoid getting satellite Internet, for now anyway. It would be easier to find a property a little closer to civilization.
Okay, so we’ve made an estimate on how much this is all going to cost.
Now, if you know anything about project management, you know that whatever you plan will take twice as long and cost twice as much.
It’s a bit of an exaggeration. But not really.
As we said before, everything we’ve gone over so far is the top level.
There will be lots of details and costs that you don’t account for now that will pop in the future, minutiae like a new pair of workboots.
So why not put a little more money aside for those expected surprises?
Take the total amount you have accounted for thus far, and then add 20% to 30% for safety.
We call this a contingency or insurance to make sure we have enough to get it all done.
If you don’t use it, then great! You have savings.
Buy some beer for your friends and family that helped you out along the way and invite them over for a barbecue.
Make Money Off Grid
Living off grid doesn’t mean you don’t need to make money anymore.
You may need to make less money to survive. But there’s no way to completely escape the need for money, even if you go full Davy Crocket.
Let’s take a moment to tally up all the costs we’ve outlined thus far.
Land – 2 acres for shelter and farming = $24,000
House – Built For You = $150,000
Power – Solar System = $30,000
Appliances – Basics = $9,500
Water – Deep Well with Electronic Well Pump = $11,000
Food/Income – vegetable farm on one acre = $40,000
Waste Management – Compost Toilet with greywater system = <$500
Internet – Cell Phone HotSpot Family of 4 = $200/month Cell Phone Unlimited Data Plan x 12months = $2,400
Health Insurance = $7,188/year for single coverage and $20,576/year for family coverage.
Property Taxes – 0.77% = $1,540
Homeowners’ Insurance = $1,000
Total Investment = ~$280,000
Contingency 10% to 20% – Furniture, Tools, and other Misc Things that will come up = $30,000
The total budget to get started living off grid would be around $310,000 in the first year.
Now, if you recall, the average home on 2 acres of land in the United States is around $250,000, not including taxes, utilities, appliances, furniture, Internet, health insurance, utilities, or other living expenses.
Not counting the money you would generate from selling your produce at the market, which could offset your cost by $50,000 per year.
Or the independence you get paying for your utilities upfront for the next 15 to 20 years by building your own system.
If you’re young in age, you may have another 20 to 40 years where you don’t have to pay anything for utilities aside from your system’s maintenance costs.
You may look at that number and get discouraged. You may think it’s still a significant risk and commitment.
And you are right.
There is no getting around the commitment it will take to live off grid.
You could reduce the cost by minimizing your off grid needs, and building your own house, etc.
And you also don’t need to fork it out all at once.
But what a lot of us forget is every decision we make in life is a risk.
Buying a home on-grid and working for other people is as risky if not more than working for yourself off grid.
In fact, buying a home on-grid to live in yourself is not an investment at all. You actually lose about 6% a year on your home’s value if you live in it.
But what if you buy your home at the top of the market and it crashes and leaves you upside down? That’s a risk.
It’s already happened in our lifetime and is gearing up to happen again.
What if the lights go out and don’t come back? Your dependence on the grid is a risk.
What about social security?
Many Americans bet that they would have money from the state to take care of them in their twilight years.
Working a 9-to-5 is not as secure as you think.
Corporate “lifers” are left without a pot to piss in after twenty years of dedication because their company sold.
Even if you don’t call yourself an “entrepreneur,” you should find some way to diversify your income, especially in today’s economy.
In fact, at the time of this writing, we’re witnessing the effects of the Covid-19 virus on the economy.
If you haven’t found a way to diversify your income, you may already be in dire straits.
But if you can keep your job throughout the transition to an off grid lifestyle, then great.
For most, it means saying goodbye to a regular paycheck.
No matter how far you go or how much money you saved up, you will always need a way to make money in the future.
You will always have to pay property taxes, health insurance, and property insurance (if you can get it).
Unfortunately, you can’t trade a bushel of apples to pay for these expenses.
The good news is the “gig-economy” is here, and it looks like it will be here to stay.
Don’t fight it.
Maybe you sell your crafts or extra crops at a local market.
Small scale farming on 1 acre of land with a $40k investment like we outlined above can yield a $100k or more a year in vegetables alone with a 45% margin.
Maybe you start a Youtube channel to document your journey and earn money from the advertising revenue.
Young kids with little to no experience make $100k a year in ad revenue with near 95% margin.
Or maybe you already have an online business or freelance and can work from anywhere.
You will need to make some extra effort to stay connected to the Internet to do this and live off grid, but it’s possible.
So, you eliminated your bad debt. You lowered your expenses. And now you are self-sustainable.
You may have to work less at your job to have enough money to survive.
But if you haven’t realized it yet, this is a lot of work.
Even if you have to work fewer hours to make money, the extra time you have will now go to maintaining your new off grid property.
The good news is you’re investing that sweat energy into something that you can rely on to take care of you into your old age.
That is the essence of making the transition off grid.
If you’re over 40 and have survived this long, you have skills that you can share with the world and monetize.
If you’re young and don’t have skills that you feel you can monetize, you can learn new skills to help solve other people’s problems using platforms like skillshare.
The critical thing to do is start thinking of ways to diversify your income today.
You have to be an entrepreneur if you want to survive on your own.
This is a fancy term people are throwing around now to sound cool.
But what it means is that you are a self-learner, you’re self-motivated, and you’re an opportunist.
There’s a lot of stress that comes with being on your own and being your own boss.
But the stress is going to be there whether you like it or not.
We’d prefer to be in charge of the outcome instead of leaving our fate in the hands of greedy employers or bureaucratic governments.
How To Live Off Grid And Manage Your Time
You’re going to work more living off grid than you would if you were working a 9 to 5 job.
We’ve spent a fair amount of time now talking about hard costs.
But you should also be aware of the amount of time you will invest.
You do not want to build a self-imposed prison.
Going off grid is the chance to build systems to free you from continuing to work after your prime.
It will take more work upfront and allow you more time with yourself, nature, your family, and friends in the future.
A schedule will be your liberator.
If you have kids, you will need to make time for homeschooling and family time.
Parents will often be so consumed by maintaining the homestead that it’s worse than working a 9 to 5 job.
Set your work hours, set your school hours, and set your family time or time for your significant other.
If you don’t, we guarantee that the hours will escape.
In fact, it’s something you should start practicing before you decide to go off grid.
Do you have a schedule?
Some of you may think that a schedule limits your freedom.
But a friend once told me, and I now support this after living it, that a schedule is the key to freedom.
It gives you the structure you need to do whatever it is you want to do.
It’s a plan.
Plans outline how you will get something done.
And as we’re planning everything else here today, you should also have a plan on how you will spend your time.
One thing to keep in mind is Parkinson’s law.
In a nutshell, it states that whatever deadline you give yourself to do a project, you will use all that time.
For example, if you were to plant a garden and you gave yourself four weeks to raise your beds, you will probably take all four weeks to do it.
Perhaps you could do it in less time.
It’s going to take some experimenting, but better to be aggressive with your schedule. See how much you can do in less time.
We find that putting a time constraint on getting a job done will inspire creativity and urgency to push you to complete it before the deadline.
But don’t go crazy.
Exercise To Live Off Grid
Living off grid takes physical work.
Unless you have money to pay people to come and do it for you, you’re going to get your hands dirty.
It’s best to accept it now and get your ass in shape.
This is not about becoming some sexy farmer for Instagram.
This is about your livelihood.
If you go out and chop down your first tree and slip a disk trying to haul it back to the house, well guess what, game over.
Most of you live sedentary lifestyles, and you have your entire life.
Let that sink in for a moment.
We are a species that evolved to walk 6 miles a day, build shelters, hunt, run, jump, and fight wild animals every day for thousands of years, then we suddenly stopped and and sat down.
From the time we are babies until the time we die, we sit or lie down 90% of the time.
And it’s killing us.
The point is, don’t hurt yourself going from couch potato to Paul Bunyon.
Working your own land and building your own home is going to take physical labor.
Start warming up now to prepare for what’s to come.
You may not know where to start or struggled with your weight your whole life.
The first step is just to get up.
Start taking a walk for 10mins a day, three times a day after every meal.
From there, if you can, you may look into getting a physical trainer if you can afford it.
If not, there’s YouTube.
There is so much free information out there about exercise; it will make your head spin.
So take it slow.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Walk or bike to work.
Get a standing desk.
Just start easing into a more physically active lifestyle.
If you can get to a gym to start lifting weights, it would behoove you as there will be times where you will have to lift heavy things on your own.
Again, you’re not trying to be Schwarzenneger.
It’s just about revitalizing your body to be ready to go when it’s time to get some work done.
Once you’re up and moving around every day, supplementing proper nutrition will take you to the next level.
You don’t need Weight Watchers or any other fancy diets.
The key to six-pack abs is a straightforward formula:
Eat fewer calories than the number of calories you burn each day.
That’s it. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.
How much you burn each day is known as your metabolic rate.
You can find your metabolic rate using any digital scale or this calculator here.
Keep track of what you eat.
There are many free tools, or you can use a pad and paper.
Just like you eliminated unnecessary expenses, start eliminating unnecessary calories.
Soon, that extra weight will start to melt away.
Again, you may be happy with the way you look, and that’s fine.
This is about preparing your body for the change from a sedentary to an active lifestyle.
Practice Before You Live Off Grid
Don’t just quit your job, and go off into the woods with a tent, a .22 rifle, and a knife.
It won’t end well.
In fact, they will probably arrest you.
Ease into it. Practice.
Get some exposure to what living in a rural area off grid would feel like before you decide it’s right for you.
There are many ways to do so.
There are Workaway.com and Airbnb experiences that will let you get a little hands-on action.
If you know anyone that lives off grid, reach out to them and see if you can work weekends with them in exchange for some education.
If you don’t know anyone, you can find people in online communities.
See if there’s anyone within driving distance and reach out.
Most off gridders will always welcome an extra set of hands.
As long as you’re not a crazy person.
If you have a house with some land, try raising your own garden for a while.
Learn the basics of planting and harvesting.
Learn to compost.
Start transitioning to a more self-sufficient lifestyle before pulling the plug.
Reduce your waste and recycle your garbage and your water.
Upcycle the things that you don’t need or would like to trade.
Minimize the things you have.
You don’t have to be a “minimalist.” But keep in mind, the more things you own, the more things you have to take care of and maintain.
This will cost you time and money.
Clear out all the junk and clutter and recycle or donate the things that no longer bring you joy.
Lighten the load.
Having less stuff, eliminating debt, and reducing your expenses will put you on the path to independence much faster than you realize.
Once you get all the low hanging fruit, then you can work on developing more advanced skills.
Learn how to do some basic home repair, mechanics, and electrical work.
You can do this and learn to make hygiene and cleaning products using online tutorials.
Learn first-aid. You will most likely be far away from any hospital or immediate medical help.
You may still call for help when you’re off grid, but the more you depend on the others, the less secure you will be.
Learn From Others’ Mistakes Going Off Grid
We’ve gone over a lot here that we hope will guide you into making the transition off grid as smooth as possible.
But you will make mistakes.
One of the best things you can do to reduce the number of errors you make is to learn from others’ mistakes.
Here is a list of some of the most common blunders made by newbies going off grid.
Having Unrealistic Expectations Of What It’s Like To Live Off Grid
In the beginning it’s not easier or cheaper to live off grid.
You will need a significant upfront investment to recreate the lifestyle you have on-grid.
You can reduce these expenses, but you should prepare to give up many luxuries you’ve become accustomed to on-grid.
You don’t have to give up everything to live in a cave.
But you must plan ahead and understand how much it will cost to build the systems that will give you the comfort and lifestyle you want.
Yes, you will cut your utility bills, but it’s more like paying for them in advance for the next 15 to 20 years.
If you intend to live off of firewood, make sure you live near a woodland.
Buying firewood can cost around $3600 a year, which is about three times more than your average on-grid electric bill.
Propane and diesel costs will add up trying to live off of generators.
Homeowners insurance, if you’re able to get a policy, maybe five times higher than your standard policy because you may be out of reach of local fire departments.
If you built the house yourself, they might not cover you at all if you don’t have the proper certifications.
You can avoid some of these hassles by researching ahead of time BEFORE you buy a property.
This segues into our next mistake.
Buying The Wrong Property
Don’t buy the first property you see.
Shop around, see what’s available. There will never be a perfect property.
You will have to make compromises.
Consider how far away you want to be.
You may not want to venture more than 45 minutes from civilization if this is your first time.
Look for the fringe.
But make sure you know what you’re gaining and sacrificing before you make a decision.
For example, are you buying a property in a neighborhood that allows you to grow a garden and raise livestock?
There are covenants in place in many cities that don’t allow for this to maintain property values.
If you find a property you like, be sure to understand all the restrictions before you buy.
You want as few restrictions as possible, and it may be hard to find. But the property should be rated for both residential and agricultural use to avoid any legal issuses.
If you’re going to set up a solar system, don’t buy a property on a north-facing slope.
The sun in the winter is in the south.
Get a property with a slope facing south and/or east.
Or no slope at all.
Make sure all of the land you buy is usable land, and not mountainous rocks.
Are you going hydro-electric? Then make sure there is a natural source of water on the property like a spring or a stream.
Wind turbine? Check to see if the area gets a consistent flow of wind to power a turbine.
These are all things you need to keep in mind when looking for a property aside from mountain views.
Not Knowing Enough About Off Grid Systems
Our next mistake is not knowing enough about the systems you need to be self-sustainable off grid.
How will you get your power? From solar, hydro, or wind?
We already talked about making sure you get the right property for the system you intend to use.
But do you know enough about the system to it set up in the most reliable and cost-efficient way?
Will you have a battery bank big enough to be autonomous for a few days?
Do you have a charge controller and any sensors or monitors to manage the system?
Will you have a generator as a backup? Will you know what to do when it doesn’t start? Or have the Internet to research a solution?
Do you know how you will get your drinking water?
Do you know enough about managing your waste to keep you and the environment safe from contamination?
Didn’t Learn Homesteading Basics Before Going Off Grid
You’re going to be on your own for most of what you’re attempting to do.
As we mentioned before, most contractors won’t consider taking on off grid projects because it’s just not worth the time or effort.
So will you have enough knowledge to build your own home if necessary?
It will determine the complexity of the house you choose.
Maybe instead of a house, you go with a yurt or a pre-built tiny home, or a kit house that comes with the building instructions.
Do you know the basics of growing your own food?
Can you raise livestock?
Can you compost?
These are all things you can start learning about and practicing before going off grid.
Not Physically Strong Enough
You will need a certain level of physical strength to live on your own off grid.
You’re going to be active every day.
Ensure your back, core, and arms are in shape before you venture off into the field.
Start working out before doing other forms of manual labor your body isn’t used to doing.
Don’t think you will get into shape when the time comes. If it were that easy, you would already be in shape.
Start while you’re getting your debts and expenses under control.
Preventing injury is of the utmost importance.
If you don’t know anything about exercise or nutrition, there is plenty of information online for free.
If you can pay for a few sessions with a personal trainer to put you on the right track, even better.
Didn’t Have A Support Network
You should find like-minded people to help support you through the transition to an off grid lifestyle.
Your friends and family may not understand what you’re doing and may even crap on your dreams.
They may not do it intentionally. They just don’t understand.
Having a group that’s been there before and know where you’re coming from will help keep you motivated.
They will also help you overcome challenges with years of experience.
Make good relationships with your neighbors.
You may be looking to escape society, but being alone isn’t easy.
The more people you have working together, the better.
Becoming A Slave To Your Homestead
Finally, don’t become a slave to your homestead.
Going off grid is not about building a self-imposed prison.
Yes, there are going to be long days in the beginning while you’re getting set up.
But it’s about building systems to improve your way of life.
You also have to keep in mind that you won’t be able to work forever.
How are you going to sustain your lifestyle when you’re old?
What can you build now that will help you continue to live in the future?
What can you live without that will make you less dependent in the future?
Phew! Well, that’s our intro on how to live off grid.
It’s a lot to take in all at once.
Our goal is not to overwhelm you.
We want to shed light on the realities of making the transition to a self-sustainable lifestyle.
This is going to be one of the most challenging things you will do in your life.
Give yourself a fighting chance, and plan ahead.
Start slow, but start now.
Do everything you can to make yourself as self-sufficient as possible before you move off grid.
Learn as much as you can before you go off grid.
And find a way to save as much money as you can, and diversify your income streams before you go off grid.
The plan is never going to be perfect, and things will never go exactly to plan.
But if you at least have a vision of what you want to achieve, you can take steps in the right direction with confidence.
We hope this helps you understand a little more about how to live off grid.
If you have any questions or anecdotes, please share them in the comments below.
If you’re currently living off grid and have anything to add, we would appreciate your insights and the value you add to the community.
If you want to know more about any of the topics we discussed, follow the links to read more in-depth articles.
Until next time.