The most costly part of homesteading is, of course, buying the land you plan to homestead on. However, if you have no or very limited money, you can start homesteading long before you buy your own land.
In this article, we’ll show you how to preserve food, mend your own clothing, barter for goods and more. You’ll learn to minimize your expenses and cut unnecessary items out of your life to get onto your homestead more quickly and keep costs down once you’re there.
What is Homesteading?
Many people think that homesteading means you have to own a farm and live completely off the land, but that isn’t the case. Even people who live in the city can start practicing some basic homesteading principles.
Homesteading is mostly associated with growing your own food, but there’s more to it than that. Preserving your own food, creating or repairing your own clothing and textiles and other crafts are all a part of homesteading too.
So there are varying degrees to which someone may be considered a homesteader. Some people may do a few homesteading activities as a hobby or just to save a bit of money. For others it’s a whole lifestyle and they try to be as self-sufficient as possible.
How Do People Afford Homesteading?
To grow the majority of your own food, you’re going to need to have a lot of land. Most estimates suggest that you need at least two acres of arable land to grow enough food for a family of four. So if you’re living in the city and working at a low-paying job, it might seem impossible to ever own a small farm of your own.
People in your exact position have managed to do it though. It just takes a bit of financial discipline and budgeting to start saving money. We’ll be honest: it might take several years, but eventually you’ll be able to afford that down payment on your dream property.
Saving up money to afford a homestead is a lot like starting to diet and exercise to lose weight. It’s uncomfortable and isn’t very fun inthe moment, but you have to persevere if you hope to reach your final goal.
All the hard work and sacrifice will be worth it when you step onto your new property for the first time. So why not get started today? The alternative is that you stay stuck in your current position dreaming about living the homestead lifestyle forever.
Throughout this article we’ll share tips and ideas to help you get started on your homesteading journey.
1. Get Out of Debt (and Stay Out!)
The average person today has all kinds of debt. You might have student loan debt, a loan on one or two cars, a mortgage on your house, several maxed-out credit cards and more.
Before you can start saving up to afford a larger and more expensive property, you’re going to have to get yourself out of debt first.
If you’re already debt-free, great! However most people will probably need to spend a couple of years paying down existing debt before they can really get started.
Many homesteaders we’ve talked to have followed the “debt snowball method” created by financial advisor and radio host Dave Ramsey. To use this method, you start by paying off your lowest debt balance first. Gradually you work up to paying off bigger and bigger debts.
For those with a lot of debt, you may want to check out Dave Ramsey’s free videos on Youtube. He has lots of other advice to offer to help save money and reduce debt.
If you’re really in a bad position, you may want to meet with a financial advisor to get more personalized advice. A debt consolidator can also help you to negotiate with creditors and perhaps get a lower interest rate.
Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest reasons people get into debt is buying things or living a lifestyle that’s outside of what they can afford. To really pay off your debt quickly, you might have to make some sacrifices.
If you’ve bought an expensive new car that’s more than you can afford, you may have to sell it and drive an older, used model for a few years. If your mortgage payments are eating up most of your paycheck each month, you might have to downgrade to a smaller home or rent for a few years to save money.
2. Sell Stuff You Don’t Need or Use Any More
A good place to start is to declutter your house. You can sell stuff you’ve got lying around that you haven’t used in years for some extra cash.
If you’ve got a bookshelf of old books that you’re never going to read again, why not try selling them? That bicycle that you haven’t rode in years is probably worth some extra money too.
You can either have a garage sale, list your stuff on your local Facebook Marketplace or sites like Kijiji or Craigslist, or even sell it on eBay.
Cleaning out your garage or closet is usually a one-time thing, but it will give you a nice extra bit of cash to start with.
3. Start Creating Smaller Income Streams
One way to have extra money at the end of the month is to spend less. The other is to earn more.
Your income isn’t limited to what you get paid at your primary job. If you’re really serious about buying a homesteading property as soon as possible, you can create a side gig for yourself to earn a bit of extra money.
A couple of hours per night that you’d normally spend watching television can be used more productively to generate some extra money.
You might pick up odd jobs like doing landscaping work for your neighbors, or you might turn to the internet for other ways of earning some extra money.
Here are some things you could do to earn some extra income:
- Create an Etsy shop and sell handmade crafts or jewelry
- Take on carpentry or handyman jobs if you’ve got the tools
- Offer a house cleaning service
- Online admin tasks like transcription work or managing social media accounts
- Write and sell ebooks on a topic that you’re knowledgeable about
- Start a blog to document your homesteading journey and earn money from ads or affiliate products
You could even start an urban farm while living in the city. Our Urban Farming Ultimate Guide and Examples will teach you everything you need to know.
4. Make Sure Everyone Is On The Same Page
Your family is likely to protest a big change in spending and quality of life if they don’t agree with the reason for it, so explain that the financial sacrifices you’re making today will lead to a better life later on. If you have children who are struggling with the change in lifestyle, try getting them on board by telling them about all the fun things they’ll get to do when you have your own homestead.
5. Create a Meal Plan
If you leave meal planning to the last minute, you’re more likely to opt for the more convenient option and just order takeout or delivery instead.
Cooking your own food is a great way to reduce your food spending. Especially during the summer and autumn months when fresh produce is less expensive.
Pick a few easy-to-make dishes that everyone in your family loves and get into the routine of making them on the same night each week. So Monday might be spaghetti and meatballs, Tuesday can be taco night and so on.
6. Reuse Things
Nowadays most things that we buy are seen as disposable and we throw them away when they’re no longer useful.
You might normally throw away a shirt if it gets ripped or a button pops off. Learning to do a bit of mending will enable you to repair your own items and make them last for years longer.
If a t-shirt or pair of sweatpants is really at the end of its life, you can repurpose it into a kitchen rag.
Before you throw out any item, see if you can think of any other creative ways to use them instead.
7. Make Coffee at Home
Little things like stopping at Starbucks every day can really add up. It’s easy to think that small purchases here and there won’t do much damage, but every dollar counts if you’re really serious about saving up for homesteading.
How Do I Start Homesteading Today?
Even if you’re living in the city and only have a small backyard, you can start homesteading with whatever you’ve got.
8. Start Growing Your Own Food
Tending a small garden is how many people get started with homesteading. If you want to live a self-sufficient lifestyle, then chances are that you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty.
Any food that you can grow for yourself will help to cut down on your grocery bills. Fresh herbs and leafy greens like lettuce and spinach grow quickly. Plus they tend to be one of the most expensive items by weight at the grocery store.
Starting a garden doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’ve already got some dirt to grow in, then all you need is a packet of seeds. Give your plants some sun and water and they’ll take care of the rest.
You can start a garden even if you live in an apartment with a balcony. See our article How to Plant a Milk Crate Garden for one type of compact container garden.
9. Start Preserving Food
Unless they’re living in the tropics where plants will grow year-round, all homesteaders need to learn how to preserve food. Otherwise you won’t be able to store produce to get proper nutrition during those cold months when nothing grows.
Even if you aren’t growing fruits and vegetables yourself, you can take advantage of sale prices to stock up on food and preserve it yourself.
For example, tomatoes are most flavorful and tend to cost the least during the summer. So when prices are cheap, buy a whole bunch and create enough pasta sauce and canned tomatoes to last you all winter long.
Canning, dehydrating, freezing, pickling and cold storage are all preservation techniques that you’ll want to try out.
10. Learn To Sew or Knit
Learning how to make your own clothes can seem like a daunting task, but you don’t have to start off with complicated things.
Just figuring out how to hem your own pants or fix small rips and tears will help to save you money. You would be surprised what you can fix with just a needle and thread. A sewing machine isn’t needed right away if you’re just going to be doing small mending jobs.
11. Start Composting
Any food scraps or vegetables that have gone bad shouldn’t go in the garbage. Set up a composter in your yard instead! Not only is it better for the environment because you’ll be reducing your waste, but composting will also produce you with high-quality soil to grow your own plants in for free.
Just throw all of your vegetable scraps and occasionally some leaves or grass clippings into your composter and nature will take care of the rest. It’s hard to get wrong or mess up. Just avoid putting in items like meat, dairy products or oils.
12. Raise Backyard Chickens
You’ll need to look at your local bylaws before trying to raise chickens in your backyard. But a surprising number of communities allow it. Chickens are also a great animal to start with if you’re interested in raising livestock.
Making a little hutch out of scrap wood for your chickens won’t cost you very much. Baby chicks will only cost you a few dollars as well. During warmer months they can mostly get by on eating grass and bugs and kitchen scraps. So for very little time and money, you won’t need to buy eggs from the store for years to come.
13. Start Looking for Cheap Land
If you live in a big city, then land is going to be prohibitively expensive around you. You’ll most likely need to start looking at moving an hour or more away from any major city to find reasonable prices on land for your homestead.
For those living in more expensive US states like Hawaii, California or New York, you might need to look at relocating even further. If you’re willing to relocate across the country to somewhere like Iowa or Nebraska, land can be a fraction of what you’d pay in other areas.
If you’re serious about homesteading, then you might need to move into the middle of nowhere to get a steep discount on a piece of land.
That might mean you won’t have access to high-speed internet or be able to get a pizza delivered. But if freedom and living off the land are what’s most important to you, that’s a sacrifice you’ll most likely be willing to make.
How Can I Live Off The Land With no Money?
If you look into how to start homesteading with no money, you’ll quickly find that living off the land with no money is next to impossible in modern times. You might be growing all of your own food and your home may be completely off-grid in terms of water and electricity. But you’re still going to need to pay for a few things like property taxes each year. So even though your spending on a homestead is drastically reduced, you’ll still need some way of earning a little bit of money.
That might be working a part-time job off of the farm for a few hours per week, or selling some of your produce at a farmer’s market.
Stuck on how to earn some income? Check out our article How To Make Money Homesteading: 48 Ways
Here are a few ways to reduce your expenses to as little as possible:
14. Buy Things Used
Whether you’re buying a pickup truck or tractor for your farm, or even small items like a shovel, everything is cheaper to buy used.
Most brand new items lose about half their value after you use them for the first time. So while it can be tempting to get something shiny and brand new, think about how much money you can save by buying used instead.
If you’re buying high-quality equipment, it’s likely going to last nearly just as long as if you had bought it brand new.
If you’re buying an old truck, sure it might need some extra maintenance and may even break down from time to time. But the costs of repairing it will still likely cost far less than if you had bought a brand new truck.
If you get in the habit of buying things with only cash, it’s also much harder to get into debt. You’ll make sure that you’re only buying things that you can actually afford right now.
Clothes, kitchen items and many other things are just as good to buy second-hand as well.
15. Learn To Fix Things Yourself
The next time that something minor goes wrong in your house, why not try to fix it yourself?
If you’ve got a leaky faucet or a running toilet, it’s worth trying to troubleshoot it yourself before calling in a plumber. Nowadays there’s a Youtube video explaining how to troubleshoot and fix almost anything. What might be a costly job if you call a plumber can often be fixed with a few minutes of work and an inexpensive part.
Some more complicated things like wiring electricity or installing a gas furnace should be left to professionals. But there’s usually no harm in trying to do a bit of DIY repairs and maintenance around the house on your own.
Big tasks like installing a fence yourself or re-roofing your house can be a lot of labor, but can save you a lot of money if you’ve got the time and energy.
16. Barter Whenever Possible
Try to trade with neighbors and friends for goods instead of paying cash whenever possible.
Perhaps you’ve had a huge harvest of tomatoes and have way more than you preserve by yourself. Maybe you can trade with other homesteaders in your area for food that they’ve grown. Or even use goods to pay to borrow a tractor or other equipment for a day.
17. Pass On Luxuries
In order to afford a homesteading lifestyle, you might need to forego some fun, but unnecessary items.
For example, you might not be able to afford to go on vacation abroad every year if you’re trying to keep your costs low. If you live on a homestead and have livestock to take care of every day, it’s unlikely that you can just leave for days at a time anyway.
You might also only be able to have one vehicle for your family. If you spend most of your time on the homestead, realistically there probably won’t be many times that you need multiple vehicles. So you can plan around that anyway.
Eating out at restaurants is likely to be more rare when homesteading. Not only because of the cost, but because most places won’t deliver far out in the country. And you aren’t likely to drive an hour or two into town just to eat out.
Even things like Netflix or cable might be worth cutting out to keep expenses as low as possible.
How Do You Start Homesteading From Scratch?
You probably have a big dream scenario in your head of what your ideal homestead would look like. But the reality is that it will probably take you years before you can make that a reality.
You’ll need to start small and make realistic plans if you’re starting from scratch.
18. Simplify Your Life
As you get into the homesteading lifestyle, you really start to realize there is some truth to the old saying that “less is more.”
Instead of trying to add a bunch of new things to your life, a surprising amount of homesteading is actually cutting things out of your life that you don’t need.
Make an honest assessment of your life and see what things you absolutely can’t live without and what things you can get rid of. The more minimalist your life is, the easier it is to change and adapt.
Anything that you can do to save either time or money will help you on your homesteading journey.
Look for ways to replace activities in your life with more homestead-friendly alternatives. For example, if you’re out working in your garden every day, you might be getting all the exercise you need. So there’s no reason to keep your gym membership any more.
19. Add Things Slowly
If you try to do too much at once, you’re likely to become overwhelmed, frustrated and disheartened. So start off slowly.
Don’t try to turn your entire yard into a vegetable garden at once. Start with just one small raised bed for your first year and see how it goes.
If you’re wanting to plant a bunch of fruit trees or raise chickens, start with one or two. Not a whole orchard or an entire flock.
Early on you’re likely going to make mistakes and learn how to do things better. It’s easier to fail on a smaller scale and learn from it, instead of investing everything and suffering a devastating loss.
We also recommend that you check out How To Start a Homestead: Our Step by Step Beginners Guide.
20. Find A Community
One of your greatest resources when you’re just starting on your homesteading journey is to find like-minded people.
If you already live in the country, that might be your neighbors and other farmers in the area. If you’re still living in the city, look for groups of gardeners and other like-minded people.
Friends are an invaluable asset to have. They might give you free seeds and vegetables, lend you a tractor or roto-tiller for the weekend, or just offer helpful advice on how to get started with your homestead. Farmers with years of experience can tell you all about the weather and climate, local laws, where you get cheap supplies and other important information.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Homesteading can be hard to do all on your own. Especially in the beginning.
Worried that you’ll never be able to start homesteading because of money issues? Don’t write the idea off!
Even if you’re in debt, you can make changes to your lifestyle and how you handle money to start saving up for your dream property.
There are even things that you can do to start homesteading today from scratch, no matter where you are.
Homesteading includes a lot more than just growing your own food. Everything from bartering, preserving or learning how to sew will help you on your homesteading journey.
Getting to a point where you can live a truly self-sufficient lifestyle is something that might take years to fully achieve. But if you start small and continue to make small changes in the right direction, you’ll be well on your way to having your own homestead.