After living in the city for all our lives we decided to leave it all behind and move off the grid. Smart? Crazy? A little insane? Maybe a touch of all three. If you’re considering this lifestyle, I’m sure you have a lot of questions. We want to share our experience with you, the good and the bad, so you can learn more about living off the grid.
What does it mean to live off the grid?
What does it mean to live off the grid? You can ask this to a room full of twenty people and I promise you you’ll get twenty different answers. For argument’s sake, when I refer to the term ‘living off the grid’ the definition will mean to not be connected to public utilities. While some insist that in order to truly live completely off the grid you have to go live in the woods somewhere and never be heard from again. I have to admit, disappearing completely is very enticing; however, it’s not practical for my family of five.
In light of recent events and the current economy, many people are researching living off the grid in order tp get away from it all. As a matter of fact, Forbes just posted an article that we were included in about this very subject.
Before moving off the grid, our family of five lived by the ocean in a tourist town in South Carolina. We had a beautiful beach home with four bedrooms, a hot tub, pool, workout room, sun room, workshop, mud room, a kitchen with all the fancy gadgets, and seven TV’s. Neither myself nor my husband were raised on a farm, in the woods, or were privy to how to live without modern conveniences, to some extent.
My husband and I owned a handyman service, I grew up hunting and fishing in a little town, grew a garden, and our family went camping every year. The kind of camping where you had access to electricity and ran a drop cord into your tent for a fan.
We lived over half our lives in the hustle and bustle of commercialism. After a long debate and many prayers, we wanted to live the second half of our lives with more intent. We wanted to be free from HOA regulations, monthly utility bills, and the rat race. In addition to the reasons I just mentioned, here are 5 Reasons Why to Move Off Grid.
Off grid lifestyle has had many unexpected surprises, including filming the build of our off grid home for tv. You can read more about that journey at Fellow Homesteaders Land On National TV By Building Off The Grid.
Our Off Grid Life
Fast forward a couple of years, we closed our business, sold our house, the older two kids quit their jobs, we bought a piece of land (almost 46 acres), and built our off grid homestead. We have solar power for electricity, our water source is mainly rainwater, we have a compost septic system, and use wood heat for cooking, heating our home, and for hot water. We raise most of our own meat from pigs to chickens and goats, and we also dabble in beekeeping, and gardening.
Is It possible to Go Off The grid?
The short answer to this question is yes. The long, more complicated, answer is ‘it depends.’ It depends on many variables such as
- What state do you live in? County?
- Do you have children?
- What will you be using for running water?
- How much money do you have?
- What do you consider living off grid?
- What will you do for income?
- How far are you willing to drive for: food, gas, school, work, and doctors?
- What will you use for energy? (you can read more about off grid energy options here)
- Will you be relying on natural gas?
- Will you be growing your own food? If so, what is the soil like? Growing season? Planting zone?
- Does the land have water? Or will you require city water?
- Will you be installing a septic tank? If so, you will need to get your land tested for approval.
- Is everyone in your family on board?
- What skills do you have?
- What kind of house will you live in?
- Are tiny houses allowed in the area you want to live?
All of the above questions are just some of the things to consider before you choose to live off grid. Depending on where you want to live and what laws are in place will determine your ability to live off grid. One tip I recommend is to look for a land that doesn’t have building or zoning laws.
How much money do you need to go off the grid?
Oy vey, this is the tough one. I venture to say it is the main reason many don’t succeed. I touched a little more on the subject in my article 10 Reasons Why New Homesteaders Fail and Tips to Help You Succeed.
Some people are attracted to the off grid life because they think it will be a life without bills. While there is some truth to that, it is a far cry away from a lifestyle without expenses.
Our off grid build was funded by the sale of our home in South Carolina. We lived a very frugal, debt-free lifestyle (still do) and every dime we made from the sale was re-invested into our new off grid life. To be honest, I thought our money would have lasted us a LOT longer than it did. Knowing how little we lived on back in South Carolina I thought for certain our savings would last us a good five years. Unfortunately, we ran out of funds after one year and before our build was finished.
We are still chipping away at it and each day we get one step closer to our dream, it just didn’t happen all at once like we had hoped.
Consequently, knowing nothing about living off the grid, solar systems, livestock feed cost, and more, was mistake number one in my budget-planning. Admittedly, in my defense, there was no one in my life that I could ask for advice. Those I knew who did live off grid weren’t forthcoming with financial information or advice. For this reason, we had very unrealistic expectations.
What We Spent Our Money On Building Our Off Grid Dream
You don’t know what you don’t know. For example, I don’t know how much land costs where you’re looking to move to, nor do I know how much taxes or building permits are in your county. What I do know is what it cost us.
It should be noted, I do not recommend taking on debt to build your off grid dream, especially if you are changing jobs or income streams. There are many unexpected costs in off grid living/homesteading/farming and debt would add to the stress. This life is hard enough without the financial pressure that debt brings.
This is not a complete list but it will give you some idea of what our build cost us. Keep in mind, we never hired labor for any of the construction. If you need to hire a contractor, your prices will be significantly higher.
Fortunately, we already had a road cut in to our build site for the most part and drain tiles were in place. Had we had to pay for it ourselves, it would have cost an additional $30,000.00
- Land (roughly $2,000.00 an acre)
- Survey $1,500
- Property Tax $1,500.00 year
- Title Search and Insurance, $600.00
- Building permit and perk test $1,200.00
- Well pump (we have a well at the front of our land) $1,400.00
- Solar system $12,000.00 (we have a 48 volt system with acid batteries) Some states offer tax credits for renewable energy.
- Fencing $2,000.00
- Building materials $20,000.00 (wiring, screws, wood, doors, windows, etc)
- Insulation $2,000.00
- Insurance $1,200.00 year
- Propane $20.00 a month
- Gas (gas here is a fortune compared to where we used to live. Everything is so far away) $200.00 + a month
- Stove, fireplace, fridge $1,500.00
- Fixtures (tub, sinks, lights, faucets) $2,000.00
- Gravel $3,000.00
Obviously, there are many variables to this equation and I would be happy to answer anyone’s questions about our personal experience regarding costs. If there’s something I missed, just shoot me a message.
Getting Prepared for Living Off The Grid
Do you want financial freedom? Are you tired of being told what you can and can not do on your own property? Then you are probably one of the thousands that are looking into Off Grid Living.
Before you give your two weeks notice and put your house on the market, there are 12 Things You Must Do Before Moving Off The Grid. If you follow some of our tips, it will help better prepare you for life off grid.
Life off-the-grid should mean freedom, right? No rules and no one telling you what you can and cannot do, right? Unfortunately, wrong. While it’s true, living off the grid IS freeing and there is a peace about this life that you won’t find in any other place, it isn’t without its rules. We still have to pay taxes and we still have to abide by the local laws, which means building codes, permits, inspections, and fees.
Do people do what they want anyway? Why, yes, yes they do. Should you? Not really. Let me explain why in my article Building Off The Grid- Getting Started.
What You Need To Know About Living Off Grid
I’m not gonna lie, this life is tough. The work is hard and the days are long. Sure, if you grew up this way, off grid life would be second nature. But if you were a city-dweller like we were, every day is a challenge.
You have to be willing to leave your old ways behind. When living off grid, you are encompassing a new lifestyle. Which means the old ways you used to do things don’t work in the off grid life. Gone are the days of standing under a hot shower and letting the water run forever. Living off grid you cherish every drop and make every drop count.
No need to remind everyone to turn off the lights when they’re not in a room. When it’s too cloudy for your solar panels to charge or not enough wind power for your wind turbine to work, you remember to turn off every light and unplug every unused appliance.
You Are On Their Land
When moving off grid and into nature, remember you are a stranger on nature’s land. The insects and wildlife were there long before you. Understandably, itching at 2 am because chiggers have made a home in your creases does not a good night sleep make. However, expect the unexpected and respect the fact you’re on their land. Don’t leave tempting things out for the curious minds, protect your pets and livestock from predators. Wild bears and coyotes don’t read no trespassing signs.
I will confess, the wildlife, mainly the insects, is something I never prepared for. Before moving to this new land, I wish I would have studied the indigenous creatures of the area. Not only have we itched uncontrollably, we have lost a huge investment in livestock due to natural predators.
How do I get off the grid for a few days?
As you will read in the article I earlier mentioned, 12 Things You Must Do Before Moving Off Grid, I strongly recommend you go camping rustic style for an extended period of time, or vacation at an off grid location.
For more information on off grid vacations we have 10 Free Vacation ideas in out article.
As a matter of fact, one of our goals is to build tiny off grid rental cabins. Our vision is to have people come and stay to enjoy an off grid experience and learn how we do things the old-timey way. Who knows? Maybe you will be one of our guests in the future?!
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