Many homesteaders want to live more intentionally and save money. Often, though, homesteaders misjudge how much it costs to start homesteading or get so excited by various projects that they wind up spending more than they intend.
Whether through spending more carefully on your garden supplies or saving resources in your chicken coop, it is easy to cut back on spending in your homestead with a few conscious choices. Here are our money saving tips for homesteaders:
Make your own cleaners
Speaking of spring cleaning, you can save money on expensive (and potentially toxic) cleaning supplies by making your own out of materials you find around your kitchen.
White vinegar, which is a great natural disinfectant, and baking soda, which is very effective to cut grease, can be purchased in bulk to cut costs even further when you are cleaning around the house.
Learn to mend
Whether it’s buttons or gutters, learning how to do DIY repairs is one of the best ways to reduce costs on your homestead.
“I repair everything before buying new: clothes, cars, toys, etc.,” said Lauren Dibble, homesteader and blogger at Hillsborough Homesteading.
Make a budget
One of the best ways to start saving money on your homestead is to make a budget and stick to it.
“I think it’s important to learn to live off what you’re earning,” Nancy Wolff, homesteader and blogger at Nancy on the Home Front.
You can create a budget by hand, or use a budgeting service to help you out. Wolff said she and her family have used a number of budgeting services over the years of having her homestead and blog.
There are a wide range of options out there, but she recommended You Need a Budget. Wolff said it can be tricky to start using one of these services, but is comprehensive and there are a number of YouTube videos to help you along the way.
Buy in bulk
This does not just apply to saving money on groceries. You can save money on all sorts of supplies, especially hardware and building materials, if you buy them in bulk and partition them over time.
“Buy bigger sheets of materials and cut them down,” said Raederle Clay, manager of Wind’s Four Corners Farms and a homesteader based in Pocatello, Idaho. “This especially applies to lumber but applies to other materials as well, like fabric and row covers. If you need four lengths of 25 foot row cover, buy the 100-foot roll and cut it yourself, it usually costs less.”
Use reusable products
Replacing disposable materials with reusable products will not only help reduce waste on your homestead, but it will also help you save money in the long run. You can even create DIY reusable products for different tasks around your homestead.
“Our family uses only cloth products for paper towels and napkins,” said Merissa Alink, homesteader and blogger at Little House Living. “You can just cut up old clothes or sheets to use. If you go through one roll of paper towels a week and you pay $1 per roll, that’s $52 a year. What could you do for an extra $52 a year?”
Eat your leftovers
It seems simple and obvious, but you can save a lot of money and waste from carefully strategizing around eating your leftovers (and not just on holidays).
According to a study from the Natural Resources Defense Council, American families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy, which costs the average family of four between $1,365 to $2,275 annually.
“That’s a lot of wasted money that we are literally throwing in the garbage,” Alink said.
Alink suggested making an event of your leftovers night. “Once or twice each week, we get out all the leftovers and set them up buffet style,” she explained. “That way things get eaten up instead of hanging out in the back of the fridge until it gets moldy.”
Conserve resources in your chicken coop
Clueless chickens do not know how much they are wasting. You can organize your chicken coop and feeding habits in order to help cut back on some of your bills.
Dibble has a list of creative ways to save money in your chicken coop on her blog, Hillsborough Homesteading. Basically, it boils down to carefully measuring your feed, allowing chickens to graze and growing certain things in your garden that chickens like to eat so you do not have to buy them at the store. You can even consider raising mealworms for your chickens to give them low-cost, nutritional grub.
Choose your projects wisely
Believe it or not, you are not always going to be able to do everything you want to on your homestead.
“We used to keep bees and that was a wonderful adventure, but it became harder and harder to keep them alive through the winter,” Wolff said. “ One winter, we lost all our hives, and with the cost to start back up, we said, ‘Never mind.’”
Consider how much your current projects cost versus how much you gain from them. Before starting new projects, it is also helpful to break down all the potential costs — not just upfront, but over time, especially for livestock and other critters that require maintenance.
Get innovative with energy
Whether you live off the grid or not, you can use renewable energy and other methods to reduce your electricity bills. It may be a high upfront cost, but it will save you in the long run.
Wolff not only heated her Vermont homestead with a wood stove and solar energy, but she also built the house with passive solar heating in mind. A large, south-facing window helped heat the house to nearly 80 degrees when the sun was intense, even during the winter.
Wolff said that it took about five years for her renewable energy system to pay itself off, but once it did, her yearly electric bill was about $300.
Make saving a habit
Perhaps the best way to save money is to consciously decide that certain funds are off limits because they are reserved for savings.
“Make saving a habit,” Wolff said. “When you get your paycheck, a certain amount goes into your savings, so you’re not carrying a lot of debt.”
Saving consistently will help pay for important, expensive milestones in the future.
“I’ll also put a [percentage] of my paycheck away into separate accounts before it ever hits my bank account,” Dibble said. “This means retirement, savings and the kids’ college funds are automatically taken care of so I don’t have to worry about it.”
What are your tips for saving money on the homestead? Add them to the comments below.