Transitioning to the Off-Grid Mindset

greensignSo you’ve picked out the perfect land for your needs. You’ve looked at the climate over the last few years; you are aware of all covenants, restrictions, and local hurdles you will encounter. You know the political temperament both of the local area, the greater area, and your immediate neighbors. You know how you will get water, how far to the nearest hospital and store. You are ready to make that next step.

You are ready to start roughing it in the wild, right?

Not quite.

The more you bring the off-grid mindset into your life before you move, the easier the move will come. You will begin to live cheaper, healthier, and happier before you build a single thing. One day at a time. One step at a time.

While some people can easily just jump right in and embrace all the changes that come with a new lifestyle, the rest of us would like some sort of transition period to wade into before learning to swim.

Welcome to the Kiddie Pool where I will teach you the basic strokes that will keep you from drowning. So what is the key to transitioning from Linked-in living to Off-grid and the great outdoors?

In a word: Downsizing. If you want to be successful in living off the sweat of your brow, you’re going to have to make a few adjustments. For example: if you no longer rely on the power grid for electricity, you are going to be limited on how many appliances, and devices you can use each day. Maybe you’ll have to cook more things by hand. Maybe you can’t have all the new video game consoles and the big screen TV. Maybe you’ll just have to buy more solar panels. You have to weigh your own situation and separate everything all your dreams into needs and wants.

Do I need cable? Do I need central air? Can I live off 5-10 gallons of water per day instead of the US average of 100+? Can I switch to cooking only foods that I grow myself and only while they are in season?

When your goal is to provide everything for yourself, the most important question is: can I provide this for myself? If not and you need it, how else can you get it?

My rules are:

Rule #1: If it is non-essential, I can ditch it.

Rule #2: Everything is non-essential.

Obviously this is an exaggeration but if you think about the things you feel you need in your life, you don’t need nearly as many, or as frequently as you’ve convinced yourself that you do.

Living off-grid is a mindset. If you can’t provide for yourself while you are living connected to the grid with the supermarket available, how can you expect to provide for yourself when you live in the middle of nowhere and …

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The Bottom Line: Save Money by Living Off-Grid

Cheap living, tightwad, saving money, cutting costs, living cheap, offthegridnews, off the grid, offthegrid, living off the grid Everyone has their motives for moving off-grid. Mine can be boiled down to freedom – and saving money.

This post is a very dirty assessment of how off-grid living has saved me money and can help you do the same.

All my estimates will be for an average 4 person home in the United States. While the results will vary based on country, and locality, the overall premise will remain the same.


Alright, so my disclaimer: I’m not a scientist. I don’t pretend to be and I would rather never be one. I am an average, albeit hyper-logical, American so for my purposes, all of my numbers are very crude. I literally Google searched averages and I used the data from the most reputable looking website that came up. That said, we aren’t working on nuclear fusion, so I think crude logic is enough for our purposes here. Take all the averages with a grain of salt.

Also, I am using my home for the final calculations and comparisons. It is a 1400 sq ft earthbag construction open floorplan home, 50% bermed into a hill, with south-facing windows, and an energy efficient design.  Your home may be bigger or smaller, so again, your numbers will vary.


I will start at the beginning. Land. For our purposes, I will assume both properties will be on the same land. While in real life, someone living off-grid has very different land needs than someone linked-in, land varies in price so much from place to place that we will leave it as a constant in this example.

So both our example houses are built on a $20,000 20-acre plot of land. Difference= $0

Construction of linked-in home: (US avg) $200 per sqft x1400sqft = $280,000

Construction of Off-Grid home: (mine) $36 per sqft x1400sqft = $50,000

Savings: Off-Grid $230,000

Mind you the construction process was much slower and I had to do almost all my work by hand, the savings from construction of a home made of dirt compared to one made of conventional wooden frame and insulation are obvious.

Next are the infrequent expenses.  Listed below are the appliances and expenses that one will have different than the other.

Linked-In Off-Grid
Toilet ea. (conventional) $200 Toilet  (homemade compost) $15
Oil Tank $700 Solar Electric System $10,000
Water Heater (elec) $600 Solar Water Heater $9,000
Space Heating $4,000 Radiant Flooring $5,000
Air Conditioner $750 Cisterns (13,000Gal) $6,400
Total $2,650 Total  $30,415



Difference: $27,765 in favor of conventional homes.  Ouch. The Linked-In setup has a much cheaper initial set-up price but if we look at the difference in cost of construction from above, I think we have this extra expense covered. Let’s see how we do when we look at our long term living expenses.

Linked-In (per year) Off-Grid (per year)
Water (non-toilet) $360 $0
Water (toilet) $109 $0
Space Heating
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The Process of Moving Off-Grid: How to Begin


  1. Is off-grid living right for me?
  2. What degree of off-grid living am I comfortable with?
  3. What are my options?
  4. How much money do I have to dedicate to moving off-grid?
  5. Can I cut down and downsize?
  6. Where do I want to live?
  7. What kind of lifestyle can I have there?
  8. What do I need to be careful of?
  9. What do I want to do on my land?
  10. What are my skillsets?
  11. What do I need to learn?
  12. How will I sustain myself over time?


The reason I am emphasizing the decision process so much is because it is the main bottleneck in the process.

People see the appeal of living off-grid and then hesitate because they don’t know how to proceed or even what kinds of things to worry about. My goal is to lay out all the questions and considerations ahead of time because, as a Marine, I firmly believe that the more prepared you are, the easier time you will have, and the more successful you will be.

Long live the prepared!

Read over the questions above. You don’t need to have answers for them just yet but those are ultimately things that you will need to consider over the course of this process. It is a journey, a marathon, not a sprint. It will take time and will be easier sometimes and harder at others. In the end it will be worth it.


The first question is: “Is Off-Grid living right for me”. As I stated previously, I believe everyone should live off-grid to a degree. I want to emphasize that. Some people have more know-how with tools than others. Some people may have responsibilities that keep them in the city or are allergic to sunshine. (It’s a real thing; look it up. I would be devastated.) Obviously these challenges may cause this process to be almost insurmountable. Think to yourself. What is holding you back? What keeps you from advancing? Is it flexible? Is there a way to adapt it to an off-grid lifestyle?


If you cannot adapt your circumstances to an Off-Grid life, then see question 2 above. What are you comfortable doing? Maybe you are in a wheelchair. If so, can you garden in your backyard? I found a video online of an inspiring guy who built raised beds the height of tables in a horseshoe design so he could wheel into his spot, put his chair in park, and spend the afternoon planting without leaving his chair. That’s super motivating for weirdos like me. I don’t know why but I very much enjoyed watching that. I am going to cater my advice towards full-blown off-grid living but I fully support you to do whatever it is that you are comfortable doing and to take things slowly.


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