How to Start a Homestead on a Small Budget

Reader Contribution by Bobbi Peterson
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 So you’ve decided to start homesteading, excellent! It’s a great lifestyle for self-governance and sustainability, and in the long term, you’ll reap the great health and environmental benefits. But first you have to get started and, like any other new endeavor, the beginning requires a certain amount of financial sacrifice and budgeting.

While homesteading in itself returns its practitioners to a more natural way of life, there are certain materials needed to get the most out of your land. If you don’t have the money to go all out and purchase heavy machinery or top-of-the-line tools, here are a few tips to help get you started without breaking your wallet.

1. Start Small & Simple

Getting into the rhythm of the seasons will be harder than you think, mainly because you’ve either never grown your own food before, or because you’ve never worked land on a consistent basis until now. The research will help you avoid planting summer crops in the fall and winter crops in the spring, but mistakes will still be made. Don’t try to cultivate acres and acres of land all at once during your first years, rather pick out a small section and start there. Learn to anticipate the changing seasons; start to acclimate to the scheduling a farm and livestock requires. Don’t try to fill a barn full of animals, start with one group of livestock and go from there. For instance, chickens are a great starter animal for beginner homesteaders because they provide multiple resources — eggs and meat — with minimal effort.

2. Renovation & Construction

Remember, you’re off-grid now. Spending hundreds of dollars on a contractor or craftsman every time something breaks won’t be a viable option. The point: learn to repair and construct what you need. While the experts have years of training under their belts, anyone can learn basic maintenance skills, it just takes practice and patience. Try to learn where you can find local resources for cheap, either through recycling or sourcing options, and make sure you use quality materials.

Preservation and longevity will be valuable elements in everything you use from now on. No more discount department store furniture! Quality wood furniture will last for years, so protect it from imminent damage and normal wear-and-tear with wood protector and a lasting finish. The same goes for any and all textiles in your house; not just clothing, but bedding and furniture fabrics as well! You’ll want to make sure the couch in your living room, the sheets on your bed, and your clothes are not ruined by wine or coffee spills, blood stains, or paint marks of any kind.

3. Preparation & Prevention

Before you start your farm, collect your tools and manage your budget. Homesteading requires land, so make sure purchasing your starting acres won’t place you in the red. But it doesn’t end there. Being self-sustainable places you at the whim of the elements, making extreme weather events a true potential disaster for you and your family. Ensure you have resources and supplies set aside for a “rainy day,” so when catastrophe strikes you’re not ruined or in dire need. These events can end up costing you huge in repairs and the effect on the land will be even worse. Preparing for these eventualities — setting aside seeds and crops, extra tools and fuel — can and will save you huge amounts of money in the future and are just as valuable as the car or home insurance.

Whatever the reason for you going off-the-grid, whether it’s to improve the quality of your food, or to benefit the environment, or both, will require finances. But don’t let these costs discourage you and don’t waste money on frivolous expenses. Stay in control of your spending by following these tips and others available to the beginner homesteader.

Photo by Getty Images/borchee

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