How to go off-grid with little money…

How to get off-grid with not a lot of money… that is the holy grail, right? I see many people posting messages here and on other websites, all saying very much the same thing, they want to be independent, to have a piece of land, to have a small place to live, to be off-grid, but they don’t have the money to do it, they often want to join other people in hopes of pooling resources, or just jumping on someone else’s bandwagon.

I am here to tell you it is possible to do this without resorting to illegal means and without having to join with other people or a group to get off-grid.

I’m sure my way isn’t the only way, but it’s how we did it and it works for us. You may have to take a different path, but a path you must take if you truly want to do this.

First, it’s going to take some money, it can’t be done for free, and you will have to earn it, there is really no way around that, unless you have a relative who is going to leave you a bundle of money or a property, if you have that going for you, then you can skip the financial part, lucky you :)

If you don’t have money already, then you are going to have to save, scrimp, put back every penny you don’t absolutely have to spend of living. It is amazing how much money people waste every paycheck, every day… You might have to work more than one job, you will have to live as cheaply as you can, that means not paying for anything that isn’t absolutely necessary to live, don’t go out to eat, eat at home, buy inexpensive food, don’t splurge, buy used cars, shop at thrift stores for as much as you can, every penny you don’t spend on living is money that will be going toward your future. If the company you work for offers a savings plan, a stock plan, a 401K plan, then sock every penny you can into it, especially if they will match it. Put that money aside and do NOT touch it. The more money you can put back, the quicker you will be able to start living your dream.

Next you are going to need a property, one that is owned by you, free and clear, now that goes back to the money thing, look for cheap property, but be smart about it. Be absolutely sure the property you are looking at will be able to accommodate you and your needs. Check and double check to make sure you will be able to live as you wish on your property, and check out any neighbors you will have, it’s no fun to have crappy neighbors or nosy neighbors. Check for restrictions, the more you CAN’T do on your property, the more restricted you will be on being independent.

Look for properties with “issues”, the property I bought was cheaper because the access to it was difficult, there is a seasonal creek running across the front of the property, the far bank goes up about 15 feet and there isn’t an easy way to drive a vehicle across, my neighbor has a bridge, we don’t… that alone made the property less desirable, to most people, but not to us.

Now, while you are doing all of this, you need to assess your skills. How handy are you? Can you build? Can you fix things? The more things you are able to do yourself, the cheaper everything will be for you, period. If you aren’t handy, then you need to get that way, do whatever it takes to learn a little bit about as many handy man type things as you can, yes guys, I am talking to you. Ladies, you aren’t exempt from this either, if you want to do this, you need to have or learn some skills too, such as cooking from scratch, canning, and as many things you can physically do. The more you can do on your own, without having to pay someone else to do it, the better off you will be. These are also skills that can get you by financially when the time comes, being able to do some handyman things can earn you some money, or you can trade your skills for the things you need, in other words, barter.

Will this take some time? Of course it will, but the sooner you start, the sooner you will be living your dream. Just think, if you had started this journey 5 or 10 years ago… where would you be now? It’s never too late to start, but start you must if you really want to do this.

Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you, I don’t recommend joining a group, quite frankly there are too many issues with groups, and if it breaks up or has legal problems later on, where does that leave you? The best thing, IMHO, is to own your own land, free and clear, that means buying up something cheap where you will have the freedom to build your own place, or plant a cheap mobile home on it until you can build something more permanent… heck, living in a mobile isn’t so bad, it will certainly make your taxes a LOT cheaper, and that is what we all strive for, cheap living so that you aren’t a slave to a 9-5 job for the rest of your life…

I would say that if you don’t have children yet, don’t have them until after you are settled in your own place on your own land, there is nothing wrong with having kids, but they cost money, a lot of money and time, if you really want to live independently off-grid, then you need to focus on THAT first, then start a family once you are settled in. If you already have children, and they still live at home, you are going to have a harder time of it, it will probably take you longer to achieve your dreams, but don’t give up your dreams. If you are like PB and I, empty nesters, then you will probably have an easier time of it, the life experience alone makes that happen. :)

I never said it would be easy, most of the time nothing worthwhile comes easy, but if you really REALLY want to do it, stop waiting for someone else, and take charge of your life, set your goals and don’t give up.

If you need more help, try reading my series about prepping on a budget, that will help you save more money, and the preps you put up will help you in the long run to living off-grid.



This book is a bargain filled with lots of information written by a couple who have lived the life, walking the walk not just talking the talk, this is the real deal.
This book is full of great information on how to trailerstead, how to find cheap, sometimes free trailers to plant on your property, I wrote an extensive review here https://off-grid.net/2013/04/28/trailersteading-book-review/ be sure to read it, it’s an inexpensive book to begin with and it will help.

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20 Responses

  1. There is one way around paying taxes. If you put a homestead on your property in some states, you no longer pay property taxes. It’s all yours. But, in most states where you can do this.. then you are not legally able to sell. Food for thought.

  2. Loved the article, but I am pretty sure it was unnecessary to be sexist. ” Ladies, you aren’t exempt from this either, if you want to do this, you need to have or learn some skills too, such as cooking from scratch, canning, and as many things you can physically do.” What the crap is that all about?

    1. Hi Nik, glad you enjoyed reading my article, but I don’t see what is so sexist here, honestly in a 2 person heterosexual pairing, usually the male is the stronger (physically) of the two, it’s that way in my household, he does the heavy lifting like building our home, digging holes, moving boulders and such. I am quite happy to help where I can but I, as the female component of this pairing just can’t do as much physically as he can, so I’ll gladly do the things I can and the things I’m better at, like cooking from scratch, canning and the other things I can physically do.

      I’m all for the sexual revolution, taking the chains and restrictions off women, heck in my household I’m the breadwinner which makes us a bit unusual, he stays home and builds, it’s one of the things he does best, if he were to go out and “earn a living” then he wouldn’t have the time or energy to build for us and we would end up paying someone else to build.

      Men are physically stronger, that’s a fact, no amount of wishing or frustration about it will change that, in an ideal situation (IMHO) the man does the heavy lifting and the woman does what she does best, one isn’t better than the other, both roles are equally as important. I would much rather cook, clean, can and earn a living than have to do the physical things my hubby does (some of which I would be unable to do physically).


      1. HI there: I’d agree your comment was sexist. why? because you took a generalisation – that people with male bodies are stronger and made it into a ‘rule’. You also split skills into ‘man type’ skills and presumably ‘ladies skills’ like cooking. Instead of saying ‘ladies’ why not just say – if you aren’t that strong or physically fit this is a good time to GET fit, or combine your skills in other areas with someone who can do the heavy lifting. If you cna’t cook from scratch or you don’t knwo how to repai a garment – use your evenings to learn these useful skills instead of watching the TV. And you know what? your generalisation is just not true; men tend to develop more muscle mass, but I, as an 8 1/2 stone 5’6″ female, am stronger than several of my male friends. Why am I making a big deal about this? because comments like this are hurtful and perpetuate myths about what women and men can do. Because as a young woman/girl reading this I’d feel like I was doomed to never be able to live my dream of living off-grid unless i had a big strong man to protect me and even then I’d have to do the cooking and cleaning whilst he did all the lifting.

        1. There are many things you may be able to do but you certainly lack the (traditional) typing skills of a woman and you also seem to lack basic punctuation skills! Also I doubt very much that you are physically stronger than ALL men. The points raised by Wretha were all valid and there was no sexism in them at all. People like you just like to find problems where none actually exist.

          Still A Man! (Who has no issues with women doing male or female things according to their abilities.)

  3. Where exactly can you live off of the grid? I’ve done some reading and it seams to me as though not too many states support this. I wonder are people making money selling magazines or blogs? I live in PA. and can’t get a straight answer as to wether this is something my local government would support or would I get hassled all along the way?

  4. What “Arch” said. I’m currently learning to sail while restoring a nice old sailboat with sleeping quarters. We are also armoring the hull and roof of the cabin with steel, just in case.

  5. I stumbled upon this webpage on accident at midnight on a Sunday… but maybe it wasn’t truly an accident. My husband and I have 4 children and 3 large breed dogs. He is 39 yrs old and I am 35 yrs old. Our children are 13 (he is developmentally disabled), 12, 11, 8. We live in a large old farmhouse, circa 1865. We have no mortgage on the place. Our property taxes are manageable at $1,200/year. I was laid off this past fall. My husband was laid off shortly thereafter. It would have been utterly devastating if we hadn’t be partially prepared to weather the financial storm. We had been (half-jokingly) talking about “going off the grid” for years passed, but it feels like we have never been closer than we are now. And it all just sort of happened… We were the typical family living paycheck-to-paycheck, week to week, scraping by just barely. Our children have always gone without luxuries: ie, expensive electronics, iphones, computers, etc. It wasn’t for any political or religious reason – we simply couldn’t afford those frills. Recently, we acquired a secondhand computer and thought there’d be little harm in signing up for internet access. I now regret it. Our children use computers at school, but now want to be on a computer every minute of every day at home too. I don’t like it – not at all. I am strongly considering cancelling our internet… Being such a large family, we cannot afford to food shop every week, or buy healthy options. Crap-not-good-for-you food is the only affordable option. So we garden. Last summer (with the help of our children) we had a very profitable crop. Carrots, corn, zucchini, squash, pickles, eggplant, green beans, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, leeks, potatoes, garlic, basil, peppers, peas, and cucumbers. All organic and chemical free. What we didn’t consume, freeze, can, or pickle, our children sold in our front yard. They constructed a farmstand, made up t-shirts that said “Lil’ Farmers,” and advertised with hand painted signs. In 2 weeks they had earned our family $200 in veggie sales. My father inlaw won the moose lottery and got himself a beauty of a moose. What meat he didn’t need, he passed off to us. That meat fed our large family for nearly a year. A deer hunted fed us for a full winter. I’m from Boston, and an Irish immigrant family. I was a crisis counselor by education and trade, and I honestly never saw myself living like this. Previously, I would have thought it a nightmare, but I have certainly come to prefer it. Now, I have a CDL license and drive part-time for the money we require for things we cannot come by on our own. My husband is/was an ironworker by trade, but has always been one of those well-rounded talented Mr. Know-it-all Mr. Fix-it. It feels more profitable to our family if he stays “at-home” and works around our homestead, instead. He expanded our home to include 2 more rooms for our growing boys by using scrap material he found on local job sites. Most construction companies need to pay to have their unused materials properly disposed of, and it might shock you to know how much is wasted. My husband simply asked if he could dispose of the materials for them… for free. The owners are typically thrilled with the offer. And my husband is thrilled with what he manages to bring home. Last summer, just one job site gave us enough “leftover” insulation to properly insulate our entire 2 level home, and an extra room my husband added in our equally large barn. Old cooper piping is more valuable in trade or liquidated, so my husband or I bring it to the local recycling plant and exchange the copper for cash money. Maine winters can be brutal. We heat our home by a large old Better ‘N Bens woodstove we attained for free. Labor is all it costs us to be warm. And with 4 strong children, it is more than manageable. We try to stay at least 2 cords of wood ahead every season in case injury or sickness forces us to take some wood-time off. We own our land, and 2 acres of woodland down the street, so there is no shortage of wood to be cut. Chickens provide eggs. Though we don’t have the space for cows, it is a dream of mine to be able to produce our own milk at some point. I heard rumored the price of milk is about to double. It is unaffordable to us now… it will be only a luxury then. We have a kerosene hot water heater, which we are currently trying to find a way around… Although it only costs us about $50/month in diesel, it is still an expense we loathe. There have been some days when we have run out of hot water, and I have had to heat water in a huge tub on the woodstove so our children could bathe. It was time-consuming, but not unpleasant. Our children seemed to enjoy the experience. Our 8 yr old talked about how he felt he was back in time, in the “old days.” My husband is hoping a solar panel is left behind on a job site sometime soon… I think that might be a long way off. :) We remain well stocked with lanterns and oil for those numerous times we lose power. Being on the coast of Maine, the winds coming off the ocean make power outages a common occurrence. We would like to attain a generator though. When the wind gets going, no amount of plastic on the windows can keep the chill from seeping through. So our children have grown accustomed to sleeping with numerous heavy blankets on their beds, dressed in thermals and hoodies. I set my alarm every 2 hours during the night to stoke the woodstove to keep the house warm. It isn’t easy – some nights are grueling, but necessary. When a bad storm hits, we house friends and family. They know we are prepared and equipped to be fairly independent. We keep cots and extra pillows/blankets for situations like that, along with totes of mens. womens, and childrens clothing of a variety of sizes. I’ve had to open those totes a few times in winters when friends have been “stuck” in our home due to weather. We have 2 vehicles. A 2001 Chevy Suburban used to haul our large family and dogs around. And a smaller foreign 4 cylinder for quick trips and fuel efficiency. Both vehicles were purchased outright with cash. Medicine is a major concern as a mother. I have 3 well-stocked first aide kits, along with a tote filled with bandages, ice/heat packs, over-the-counter pain killers, Benadryl, feminine supplies, (since we have 2 tweenie daughters) and dog tylenol and antiseptic ointments for dogs. For the past few summers, we have taken our children (dogs included) camping in the White Mountains. Although it was disguised as a family vacation, we were educating our children on surviving on the basics. Lessons on how to start a fire, what plants are edible in our parts of the country, what noises should illicit fear and what noises shouldnt, how to deter wild animals from coming into the camp, etc. Our children are currently taking archery lessons and learning how to shoot pellet guns. (I’m not ready for them to be shooting real guns at this time.) We would have never considered ourselves “survivalist” because we don’t dwell on the conspiracy theorists or the Armageddon fear-spreaders. We simply believe that in today’s society, too many people rely on the government and others to survive. Dependency is a true epidemic, and we do not want our children to ever fall under its spell. Is life harder being independent, or nearly so? Of course… there are times even I don’t want to get up and buck-up wood, or spend hours on my knees weeding out the garden. But it is worth it, and to us, it is necessary. We are living well below the federal poverty guidelines….. yet, our children eat healthy food, have a fantastic work ethics, are educated in more than Common Core standards, and respect everything they have because in some manner, they have earned every ounce of it. We don’t force work upon them. Last year they whined and complained about cutting wood. It was a harsh lesson, but we allowed them to take the lazy-way out. As a result, we “ran out” of wood mid-February. It was a bitter cold month. It took only a couple days before our children began to say things like, “I will never say I don’t wanna help with wood again, not ever again.” Of course (unknown to our children) my husband and I always stay a little ahead of the wood supply, so once we felt the children had learned “nothing is for free,” we fired up the woodstove. They have never uttered a complaint since, and this past summer, they worked harder than we have ever seen them in the woods. Matter of fact, I had to order them to take a couple weekends off and just “be kids!” We have our friends, our social network, dinners and wine gatherings. Our kids are not outcasts of any sort in their schools. Among our friends, it is a running joke that when catastrophy strikes, they will all come running to our house. Our children’s friends think our house is “cool,” and they love to come over and hang out and experience how we live. We watch their parents, and our friends, slaves to their 50 hour week jobs and bills piling up. The next-best electronics and gadgets, and we feel so relieved that those things mean very little to us. The internet is nice and convenient at times, but we are frequent visitors to the public library which is only 2 miles away. I have to say, I love our life, and we have been looking to expand it toward the north. The North Maine woods… a great vast wood to get lost in. Land up there is very cheap and full of nutrients. I believe it is in our long term plan to buy 15 acres up that a’way and remove ourselves from the commotion this life still harbors. Once our children have finished their education, I think that is what we intend to do. And I couldnt be happier thinking about it.

  6. Hey Dan, good for you!! I have done something similar over the last few years. Five years ago I had to walk away from an underwater 6-unit apartment building and totally start over. I floundered around for the first couple years trying to get a plan together. Then I bought a travel trailer for 2k cash, and lived in it for 2 years, and saved up 25k. I borrowed 20k from my mother and her husband, and a year ago I found a property here in Massachusetts in a quiet little New England town, out in the country, a 1,000 sq ft house on 2 acres of land for 40k. Paid cash, right now I owe my mother 15k, and then the house is paid for. I put about 3k into the house to make it livable. So, owe Mom 15k, and the IRS 35k, then I am debt free, with a paid for house. I should be there in 2-3 years. Then, at that point when I am totally debt free with a paid for home, I will not have to make as much money to live a decent life. Like you said Dan, It is not always easy, but if you suck it up, and make some sacrifices in the short term, you can make things happen. A few years ago, I never thought I would own a property outright, but I am almost there now, Yipee!!

  7. Hi, my name is Dan, and I just wanted to say that I recently bought a property dirt cheap, fixed it up, and now my housing costs less than two hundred dollars a month in one of the most expensive housing markets in the U.S., all for less than twenty-five grand. I searched for years on realty websites until I pounced on a property that had been abandoned for a long time. I am now working on getting my solar panels up and running so that the electric company can be gotten rid of, also I am building sheds to rent out- so that my monthly bills can be taken care of by my property. Five years ago I was living in my truck, and today I am very close to financial independence. I still have my 9-5 for now, but hopefully within the next few years I can leave that too….. It’s possible, it’s doable, it’s hard as hell, but it tastes SO good when you get there. Keep fighting!

  8. I want to do this in a survivalist manner I work the 9 to 5 right now and its torture I’m doing good financial but its just not who I am my freinds and I are considering saving up and going to a everything’s remote island and starting from scratch except for sum basics to give us a fighting chance I’d like an opinion on this from someone more detached how would you do this and what would be the best course of action for me to possibly pull this off?

  9. About the 401k, you will have to pay taxes on it when you take it out. Another issue is healthcare, what will be your plans for it if you quit your job, especially if you have children.

    1. Christine, thanks for commenting :) To answer you, mine wasn’t a 401K, it was stock, I had already paid taxes on the money that had come out of my check (post tax contribution), I had to deal with taxes on the most recent contribution, it all worked out fine though. But if someone had a 401K, I think the money would be better spent on buying property that you can live on rather than sitting in some account somewhere with the risk of losing it all… even if you have to pay some extra taxes on it, there are some ways you can take money from a 401K and put it into buying a home that wouldn’t cause you an extra tax burden.

      As far as healthcare, I didn’t have it then, I don’t have it now, except for the upcoming Obamacare which is going to force me into Medicaid against my wishes… I don’t have “children”, my hubby and I are empty nesters, our respective kids are grown.

      Christine, too many people drink the Koolaid of modern society, thinking they HAVE to work 40+ hours a week in a job (or jobs) they probably hate to be able to afford to stay in their home in the city and keep their new cars and pay off student loans from getting a college education that basically means nothing but a piece of paper hanging on the wall, basically keeping up with the Jones’, then you retire, hopefully you have earned and saved enough money to maintain your lifestyle otherwise you end up having to work until you die. I am not advocating giving up work all together and being a bum, I am advocating living a different, simpler life, doing things where you will not end up homeless, living on the streets if you lose your job or have some other financial hardship… most people quite frankly are living paycheck to paycheck and are often one paycheck away from being homeless. Structuring my life the way I have, I don’t have rent or a mortgage, I need very little money to sustain my life, if I lose my job now, I don’t have to worry about having my home foreclosed on or getting kicked out of an apartment the following month.

      Not everyone can or even should live this way, having children to raise certainly complicates things, but IMHO I think it would be good for children to have to live a little simpler these days, not have everything handed to them, to be less dependent on technology and KNOW how to live on less, I’m not talking about suffering, there is enough of that when people have to live paycheck to paycheck and pinch pennies just to live. Who knows, perhaps if a couple with children could simplify their lives, maybe mom could stay home and actually raise the kids while dad goes out and earns a living, how awful would that be (deep sarcasm here!) instead of sending them to daycare and allowing the system to raise them…

      Wretha (climbing down off my soap box now, LOL)

  10. Those buying land would be wise to check and double check mineral rights–fracking is happening all over. Despite my refusal to give a lease, my place is nonetheless ruined and I am now looking again.

  11. I’ve enjoyed reading all your articles. One point I would like to add, just for consideration is the topic of where you live. I live on my family farm, it’s been owned by my family since 1876, and there is no mortgage on it. However, we live in an are where there are Property taxes. And thus, we never really “own” our land, because the moment we stop paying property taxes, the government can seize the land and sell if for back taxes. So, I recommend in this whole land purchase discussion, keep in mind this question. Do you/ will you really “own” it?

    1. That is one of the things about living in the good old US of A, you will have to pay property taxes, and you are right, if you stop, you lose your land, that is a fact. It’s one of the things you have to take into consideration and I mentioned in the article, building small enough so that you have low property taxes, mobile homes are one way of doing that. And you will have to have enough of an income to pay for said taxes.


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