Hi everyone! In Making an Off Grid Plan, we are breaking our planning process into three steps. Step 1.5 is our answers to Step 1: Questions to ask yourself when planning a life off grid. While we feel posting about our marriage is very personal, we want to put an emphasis on the relationships when it comes to planning. The journey to independent bliss can be treacherous and families need to be able to depend on each other. In this post, we are also sharing our finances. We hope this gives perspective to those who are intending to go off the grid. If you wish to know more about our budget and funds, check out Penny-Wise. We realize we’re not professionals and everyone’s path is different. Below is what we are considering for our off grid future.
How will we pay for our new life?
- Mr. Pathfinder’s Army salary and allowances add up to about $50,000. When we decided to change our life, we had about $20,000 in savings. Our 18 month goal is to have $80,000 saved by the time Mr. Pathfinder gets out of the Army. We’ve carried out some crazy savings methods which we are sharing in Cash for Cabin. We had a goal to pay cash for as much as possible and not use credit. Since purchasing our property, we’ve swiped about $1,500 and will have it paid off in a month. The only loan we were open to was a VA loan. One reason we put this in our plan is for resale purposes. If a house doesn’t meet loan standards, it’s usually on the market forever because most people don’t have $150,000 laying around. We knew that if we ever needed to sell, we wouldn’t have a problem if the property met VA loan standards. We were also open to purchasing through an owner contracts as long as the price of the property under $80,000.
What are our expenses?
- Our budget is very strict, as we are trying to lower our annual expenses to under $15,000 a year. Once we move to our cabin, we will have eliminated a mortgage and all utility bills. We started with nothing but a crappy power drill, circular saw, and jigsaw that we had purchased on Black Friday years ago. We are working on building up our off grid/homestead tools and supplies through secondhand means to lower the expense.
- We’ve had our finances under control for a while and do not have any major debt other than our mortgage. The plan is to sell our house before moving. I would like to hold on to it for a rental but we wouldn’t be able to afford the mortgage if we didn’t have a tenant.
- We want to invest less than $80,000 to start our future. This includes land and shelter, water and waste, power, storage, and equipment. Our questionable future income will determine how much more money we put in. We are planning on doing most of the labor ourselves and outsourcing large jobs, like pouring the foundation to our dream home. With a goal of $15,000 for annual living expenses, we will be sacrificing almost all amenities. Department store shopping, restaurants, and movies theaters are no longer luxuries we will have. Because of this, we do not need to be close to a large town. We will also have to wait for deals on recycled building materials and use as many resources from our land as we can.
How do we earn an income?
- We will no longer have Mr. Pathfinder’s salary when he finishes his contract. We are currently building an online business and have a goal of it providing $5,000 of
our annual income before moving to our cabin. We will pick up side jobs, like snowplowing, firewood, and cleaning. Since purchasing our property, we have networked with neighbors and have few jobs lined up. We also plan on selling handmade goods and homemade food. We are aware that these are not big moneymaking career aspirations but our overall goal is to happily live with less money. Finally, Mr. Pathfinder will be receiving disability for his body’s wear and tear during his service.
What’s up with Mr. and Mrs. Pathfinder?
- Our adventure wouldn’t be possible if Mr. Pathfinder and I weren’t a team and didn’t have good communication. Our beginning was the typical military relationship: Meet →Immediately date daily→Get married months after knowing each other→And, like the majority of the young military couples, we even contemplated divorce. While learning who we are as individuals and defining our own values, after already becoming a family, we realized we really lucked out because we swear we are made for each other. Our advice to you is to really take the time to think about if your relationship can withstand the hardships that will come with your journey. If there are issues between you and yours, fix them before adding more stressors to your relationship. If fixing them doesn’t have an overnight solution, have a plan in place for when issues arise. Besides our dream of simple living and spending time together as a family, Mr. Pathfinder and I have individual goals in our new life. Clearly, one of mine is documenting our journey. His is to learn about forestry and build skills in carpentry and other woodwork. He also has some writings in the works as what he is learning is vital to our plan and our future. I’ve been a stay at home mom, SAHM, for nearly 10 years but I make money picking up side jobs. When moving to our rural neighborhood, finding work will become difficult, as will building a local support group. No, not commune type stuff. More like making friends and having neighbors we can depend on. Mr. Pathfinder’s social needs are nominal and he doesn’t have concerns with outside relationships. On the other hand, my mental wellbeing would be unstable if I didn’t have some sort of social outlet. Being out in the boondocks, I am willing to put out the extra effort to meet my social needs.
How will our kids survive?
- We have two children, June who’s 8 and Pants who’s 4. They stick together like white on rice. We teach them to value each other’s company and learn to work out their differences because they’re all each other has. They rarely argue and as of late, have gone out of their way to be kind to the other. They aren’t perfect but we’re very proud. If we only had one child, I don’t think we would go as rural. We started homeschooling our daughter, June, in 2015. By Washington State standards, I qualify to teach her. Because of Mr. Pathfinder’s time in the Army, we are still working out our co-parenting techniques as we have had a little time together with the kids. Socializing the kids isn’t a major concern for us. One of many reasons we are moving further from society is we don’t care for what has become the social norm. We actually prefer our kids to not fit in. We have found a nice homesteading family close to our new property and plan to have playdates with their homeschooled children. We will also be enrolling them in 4H.
Will we take care of our extended family?
- Our parents are young enough to be able to take care of themselves. We do not foresee our assistance needed for quite some time. Our parents have been and will be taking care of our grandparents. We’re positive that the elders in our families don’t want to join us on our journey. We are aware that our secluded life will be put on hold when we need to be closer to them.
What does it look like and does it meet our plan?
- When we look outside, we want to see towering trees, snow during the winter, and wildflowers during Spring. Originally, we wanted a stream, creek, or river on our property. We have since purchased and the land doesn’t have a water feature. We believe we’ve found a couple springs on the property that we plan to dig out to make a pond. Having been deployed and also not fond of the sun, Mr. Pathfinder did not want to deal with the heat. We were open to snow, as we don’t mind the extra work or the cold winters. We always put level properties first on our list but we were open to steeper/mountainside properties because they were less expensive, we would able to do the work ourselves, and my dream home is a structure built into a hillside. Look them up; they are strategic, cost efficient, and interesting. There are only about 400 developed properties in a 10-mile radius of us and maybe a quarter is full-time residents. We can’t see any neighbors but at the same time, there are household close enough to where if they hear a gunshot and screaming, they’ll come a’runnin’! Our acreage goal was 10-20 acres but we were open to going as low as 5 and up to as many as we could afford. We ended up with 10 square acres.
What will we live in?
- When looking back, our “dwelling plan” was never a plan; it was more of a list of options. As for a structure, we didn’t care what it was as long as we could live in it while we took a few years to build our dream home. Our shelter could have been a rundown cabin, a modular home, or a travel trailer. As long as we’re protected from the weather and wildlife, we could work something out. We believe it’s because of our training that we’ve come to appreciate any shelter and make do with what we have. Our dream home is a 900sf stone and timber house, partially in the ground, and completely off the grid. There will be three bedrooms that are solely for beds so that more space is given to the common quarters. We don’t really believe in private living space. If the kids want a room to call their own, they can build it. Stay tuned for a future post on our building plans. Oh, and did you notice the reference to the classic film Bad Santa, starring the ever so charming Billy Bob Thornton? 😉
What else will we build?
- Since we purchased a property with a cabin, our first large project is building something for storage. Ideally, we would like to have a huge garage/workshop but we are adamant about not developing the property for at least one year. Yeah, no one seems to understand this. One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is to be patient! And we’re gonna do just that; we’re taking the time to learn about our 10 acres and understand what happens during the four seasons. Our first year will primarily be spent cleaning up the land.
When planning our adventure, we wanted to make sure we could stand on our own two feet. If we were to depend on another family and the relationship went sour, how would we fill their roles in our life? We did meet a really cool family and discussed joining forces. We weren’t sure how it would have worked out but at the very least, we were open to buying neighboring properties or subdividing a larger property with them. In the end, nothing more became of it than a meeting, exchanging ideas, and some new facebook friends. Even though we won’t have another family working directly with us, we do not have the desire to be completely self-sufficient. We will need outside resources to meet some of our needs. Our only experience with off-grid living has been our time in the military. We have never had to gather more firewood than one would need for a weekend of camping. We have never built anything larger than the loft June and Pants use as bedrooms. Our theory is that if we conduct extensive research and start with small projects, we’ll build our skills to meet the level required for any task. If a job is ever unsafe, it will be outsourced.
- In preparation for our big move, we have been cutting back our need for the grocery store and have gotten it down to twice a month. We hope to grow our own produce and our first method will be square-foot gardening. We’ll be canning and dehydrating our food and will need to build a root cellar. We have changed our diet to what I like to call “store vegan.” We do not purchase any animal product from the supermarket but when we eat out, we widen our restaurant diet. We’re contemplating rabbits, chickens, and goats or sheep… for the wool, but aren’t set on any of it. We also would like to hunt for our meat, but animal products are not a top priority. We are still deciding on some appliances. We will heat our cabin with a wood burning stove but need to figure out a “safer” heating method. We have had a difficult time finding homeowners insurance on a cabin where the main source of heat is burning wood. As for other appliances, we have ruled out all propane. We are considering a wood burning cookstove and we will not have a dishwasher or laundry machines. As for a freezer and refrigerator, we think electric would be best since we will have solar power.
- We are in the market for solar and possibly sourcing energy from the wind. From wherever we source our energy, we won’t need much for a water pump, water heater, couple lights, a small refrigerator, and a large freezer. The Internet is something we are reluctant to give up but we will try without it for the first year… or as long as we can last. The property we ended up buying is completely off the grid.
There isn’t power, city water, the internet, or phone lines for miles. We would have liked a phone line but a cellphone with a booster satellite will have to do. Our property came with a sandpoint well and, eventually, we’ll have a proper well drilled. As for waste, we are using a composting toilet system. We do not wish to have a septic system but may consider it for future resale. Trash storage is something we haven’t considered but it is important as we share our neighborhood with bears and other wildlife.We have a smaller trailer to remove our own trash and transport it to the dump
So, there’s how our plan started. Is it perfect or all laid out? No, but we view our outline more as a list of options. Our ideas have already needed changing and we’ve adjusted. If a project turns out to be too difficult, we will reevaluate and possibly outsource. If we’re struggling financially, we will get a job in town. If we need to relocate to build our savings more, we have no problem taking a different path to our off grid happiness. Don’t let anything stand in your way. There are no wrong paths!
Do you like what you’re reading? Check out the rest of our journey at The Adventure and everything money related in Penny-wise. Don’t forget to like our Facebook page, PathfindersForOffGridHappiness, where we add more updates and post alerts for new blog posts.