(Originally published 10/15/15)
“How do I move off grid now?!”. People want to know. Well, let’s be honest and get the negative part out of the way, the part that no one wants to talk about. There is no easy way to make the move to living off the grid.
Let’s say that again just to make it perfectly clear. There is no easy way to make the move to living off the grid; not without making major changes in your life and your family’s lifestyle.
How to move off grid
Moving off grid is usually a slow and deliberate transition that happens over a period of years. It is a transition from a modern city and suburban lifestyle to life in the country. Let’s face it, simple country living is the main thing I think appeals most to folks who want to live off grid.
Many people I know have a lifelong dream of owning a cozy country cabin or log home in the mountains. It’s kind of what the American Dream used to be. Now that dream is becoming shadowed and ever-distant in the minds of the people. Some people give up and get sucked into a monotonous 9-5 work routine and give up on their dream because it seems so out of reach and so far away.
Rejoice! Because that dream is alive and well in the hearts and minds of millions of people all over the world who realize it is still possible, and even more so, within reach. It’s right there for those with the willpower and motivation to make it work.
Moving off grid takes planning, patience, perseverance, persistence, tenacity, audacity, and an adventurous spirit.
So…how do you move off grid now?
Sell everything you own and use that money to buy land and move off grid.
Seriously. If you truly want to go off grid right now that’s exactly what you need.
Money is the single most limiting (or contributing) factor to how and when people can go off grid.
If you’re serious about living off grid this will seem like a no-brainer to you. If you’re not so serious and are just looking to have a place in the country one day, then living off the grid may not be for you.
So, if you’re ready to make that move, you’re probably thinking, “How do I sell my stuff?”, “How much money do I need?”, and “What do I really need to move off grid?”.
Let’s answer those questions now.
How do I sell my stuff?
Selling your stuff is the easy part. Craigslist and Ebay are still good options. Facebook marketplace is one of the easiest and fastest ways to sell everything from clothes to cars.
Facebook groups for your neighborhood, town, or special interest are another good option. There are also a variety of apps available now that let you sell to people in your local area.
Yard sales and garage sales are another way to raise money fairly quickly.
If you can’t raise enough money by selling your unneeded possessions, you could try borrowing money from friends or family members. Going into debt to raise your initial chunk of cash should be your last resort, though. More about selling your stuff later.
How much money do I need to move off grid?
NOTE: For this article, $10,000.00 will be the goal. It’s a large enough dollar amount to buy a small parcel of land, a temporary shelter, a small solar power system, and pay for any incidental expenses.we’ve seen many people who have moved off grid with $10k (or less). it can be difficult to do with this amount, but by no means impossible.
The expenses for moving and living off grid will almost always be higher than you think. Usually, the best way to make sure you have enough money is to do an assessment of all the equipment, materials, tools, and supplies you will need for at least the first year, preferably 2-3 years. Then triple that number.
Yes! I said triple it. If you think you’ll need $10,000 to move off grid, then you’ll most likely really need $20,000 to $30,000 in cash on hand to buy your essentials over a period of 2-3 years.
This article will concentrate on the initial lowest start-up costs to move off grid as quickly as possible.
What do I really need to move off grid?
There are many things you need to make the move to living off the grid. In addition to land, you’re going to need shelter, water, and food. Then you’ll need a way to make a solid income while living off grid to pay your bills.
Things You Need To Go Off Grid:
- Land – You’ll need a place to move to, of course, and land will likely be the single largest purchase you make besides your temporary shelter.
- Shelter – This could be a small temporary camper trailer to live in while you build your cabin or home.
- Water – Make sure you have water in the form of a well, natural spring, river, stream, creek, pond, or small lake. You’ll need water for drinking and for sanitation/waste/septic.
- Food – Stock up on food that stores easily and seeds for planting a garden.
- Job – Make sure you can still work from where you move off grid, or start a small business you can run from your homestead.
These are simply the basics for anyone to survive and continue paying bills.
Now we’ll get a little more in-depth about money, buying your land, and buying your shelter.
Start Saving Money By Getting Rid of All Your UNNECESSARY Monthly Bills
The first step to saving money is to stop wasting it. Get rid of all unnecessary bills from your monthly spending. You’d be amazed at how much money is wasted each month on things you really do not need, or that you rarely use.
There are, however, things like car and health insurance that are necessary expensess. If you have a mortgage, that also complicates matters because you will likely have to sell your current home before you can move off grid.
Here are some money-saving tips that will allow you to put an extra $500 to $1000 or more in your pocket in 30 days.
Note: Keep in mind this list does not fit everyone and is not representative of all people. Some folks are on a fixed income of less than $1500 per month. I personally know people and family members who are on disability and only have an income of $700 to $900 per month. It’s a ridiculously low amount of money to try to survive on, I know, but it’s a fact of life. Perhaps this list might help give some ideas on how to save money for everyone.
- Stop eating fast food – Not only is fast food not good for you, it’s expensive. If you’re spending just $10 per day on fast food, then before you know it you can spend $300 in a month. This includes coffee at Starbucks, and all the snacks and other things you buy at convenience stores and fast food restaurants.
SAVINGS = $300/month
- Stop eating out at restaurants – Again this can be very expensive. If you eat out at restaurants you can spend $50 to $100 per meal to feed a family 4 people depending on where you eat. If you only do this once per week (as many families do) You’re looking at up to $100 per meal to feed a family of four, and that equates to $400 per month in restaurant expenses. Cut that out and your savings increase. Put that money in the bank!
SAVINGS = $400/month
- Stop drinking Starbucks or coffee at the local donut shop – This adds up. Even if you only spend $3 per cup at Starbucks or $1 per cup at the local coffee shop, it’s still $30 to $90 per month if you do it every day. Buy the cheap coffee for $10 per can and a cheap coffee maker. In fact, you probably already have a coffee maker. If you already use it, good for you!
SAVINGS = $90/month
- Stop extra unnecessary driving – Driving around for nonessential reasons costs money in gas and could add $20 per week or more to your monthly fuel bill.
SAVINGS = $80/month
- Stop Drinking Alcohol – Alcohol is bad for your health and it’s expensive. A case of beer or a bottle of good wine per week is about $20. Multiply that by 4 weeks per month and you’re looking at another $80 in expenses. If you don’t drink, good for you! But realize that many people do. (DISCLAIMER: don’t try to quit drinking without help if you can’t or are addicted; this could cause serious problems; your health is very important, so please seek professional help if you need help quitting drinking).
SAVINGS = $80/month minimum.
- Stop unnecessary shopping – This might be hard for some folks, but spending money on things you don’t really need, or things that you use once and they sit in a closet or cabinet or on a shelf somewhere is a waste of money. This is hard to quantify with a real number because everyone’s spending habits are different. You might think you need a new pair of shoes work boots, or maybe you need that new coffee machine, or a box of crackers, cookies, sweets, a new shirt, or some useless knick-knack that will do nothing for you but sit on the shelf. Don’t buy it. Put that money in the bank and leave it there. You’d be amazed at how much money is wasted on small, useless, or hardly used items. Even small purchases add up each month. To simplify we’ll use a good general number.
SAVINGS = $250/month
- Lower your insurance coverage – (if possible; temporarily) – Do you really need a low deductible? If you lower your coverage (which can be ok if you’re still covered) you can save $100 or more per month. Put that saved money in the bank!
SAVINGS = $100/month
- Downgrade your cell phone plan – You can save $20 to $100 per month by downgrading your cell phone plan temporarily.
SAVINGS = $50/month
- Turn off your cable – Cable TV is old, outdated, and expensive. Turn in your cable box and DVR. I know. It sucks, but you don’t really need it, and can do without it temporarily while you save money to move off grid. Keep in mind, you’re doing this to raise money to make the move off grid. Every dollar helps you do that faster.
SAVINGS = $100/month
- Lower your electricity usage – Turn off the lights in rooms. Unplug appliances. Yes! Appliances still use electricity even when not turned on. Unplug and turn everything off. Don’t use your microwave if possible. Large appliances consume the most electricity. Turn off your AC unit or heater when possible. These account for the largest consumption of electricity.
SAVINGS = $75
TOTAL POTENTIAL SAVINGS = $1525
This number will vary of course, based on your family’s spending habits and disposable income.
There are many ways to save money in a 30 day period. Enough to generate hundreds and even thousands of dollars in savings that you can use for moving off grid.
Set Up an OFF GRID FUND Savings Account At Your Bank
AND DON’T TOUCH IT!
All money you save or would normally spend on all the above items and bills should be put into your OFF GRID FUND account.
Don’t touch it! Leave it alone. Forget about it.
Concentrate on generating more income and more money to put into your account. The more money that’s in your OFF GRID FUND the more you’ll be motivated to put even more in there. It will make you feel good. Trust me. Once you start seeing the balance grow from a few hundred dollars to $1000 or more, you’ll start figuring out even more ways to grow your balance.
The next step is to sell all your useless junk and things you do not need or use anymore.
Sell Your Stuff: RAISING THE MONEY
If you’ve got your spending under control, it’s time to increase your funds by selling things you no longer need. You’d be amazed at how much stuff you have that you can do without. Stuff that you’ve collected over many years just sits there collecting dust, never being used, and basically is worth money. All that junk is thousands of 1 dollar bills sitting there, doing nothing for you. You might as well make it useful.
Note: Some people may not want to sell their belongings. You might be attached to something; it might have sentimental value to you. That’s fine. Move on to something else. I’m certainly not saying sell your precious memories and keepsakes (unless YOU want to). Just that stuff is stuff and in my opinion the the lifestyle is more important to me than holding onto the past. I still have some keepsakes that I will never sell though. Things that mean a lot to me, but they are few. Everything else is just material possessions and can be replaced or forgotten about.
Every single item is probably worth at least 1 dollar. Knick-knacks, curios, old furniture, unused kitchen appliances sitting in cabinets, old shoes and clothes in boxes in the attic, kids toys, electronics that are obsolete and useless, an old boat or canoe sitting in the yard, maybe even an old car that your wife hates sitting there and has been telling you to get rid of for years…the list goes on and on.
Things You Can Sell To Raise Money:
- Big screen TV – Yes! Having a big screen TV is nice. But do you really need it? At least right now… Ask yourself; “Do I really need it?” Nope! You don’t. Get rid of it. That’s hundreds if not thousands of dollars in your pocket to put toward your OFF GRID FUND. You can also sell your TV stand and end tables.
- Washer & dryer – If you truly want to move off grid, then sell your washer and dryer and move to a pedal-powered or crank-powered washing machine. Line dry your clothes in the air on a clothesline. Besides the money you can generate, you’ll be saving money by not using electricity. This will also come in handy when you move off grid because you’ll be saving energy too. Obviously, this is not convenient if you have a large family, but if you can do without, take the money from selling your washer and dryer and put it in the bank!
- Refrigerator – Sell your BIG fridge! You don’t need it. Get a smaller, cheaper fridge to keep your food cool after you sell your big one. Take the cash difference and bank it!
- Microwave – Microwaves are cheap and they make food taste like crap anyway. There’s no reason to own one. (in my opinion).
- Old kitchen appliances – We all have unused small kitchen appliances sitting in our cabinets just collecting dust. Sell them. You most likely will never use them. Ask yourself; “What’s more important? The blender or living off the grid!?”
- Furniture – Sell all your unneeded furniture except for your bed, nightstand, dresser, and dinner table. The money generated will be huge, perhaps in the thousands of dollars, depending on the furniture you own. Also, since you’ll be downsizing to a temporary smaller shelter you really won’t have room for your huge sectional, couches, love seats, and other large furniture pieces. Even your beds could be sold IF you already have an RV, camper trailer, or tiny house ready to go.
- DVD player – DVD players are outdated, so sell yours (if you can find any takers). You can download your movies from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Google. There’s no need for a DVD player anymore.
- Lamps – You’re likely not going to use lamps in your new tiny home, so get rid of them. Bank the cash.
- Books & magazines – Everyone has a pile of books and magazines laying around. That’s cash just sitting there.
All these items can be sold for cold, hard, cash money. Money that can go directly into your OFF GRID FUND!
OK… So Where Do I Sell My Stuff?
As mentioned above, one of the fastest and easiest ways to sell stuff these days is through Facebook. Marketplace and groups made specifically for selling in your community are a very convenient way to connect with buyers.
Craigslist.org is another good option. It’s free, easy, and fast! Be careful though and have friends or family home with you when you meet with buyers. Don’t have strangers come into your house when you’re alone. Safety first! Just meet them somewhere public or have a friend or family member home with you when selling from your home.
A garage or yard sale will also work to raise funds but typically will cost you money to advertise in the local paper. Utilize social media to advertise online, and watch for opportunities such as community yard sales that will draw more buyers.
Flea markets and swap meets can also be a good way to sell items. On weekends and sometimes during the week, you can rent a table at your local swap meet pretty cheaply, usually for around $10-$20 per day depending on how big your city or town is.
Ebay is the last choice for me personally because it will incur more fees and expenses. You really don’t want extra expenses that will cut into your savings. However, eBay can be a great place to reach a bigger pool of buyers, especially if you have rare collectibles or unique items to sell.
Keep in mind, every single penny gets you closer to your goal of moving off grid. If you’re spending too much money to sell your stuff, then that’s wasted money unless you have enough stuff to compensate for the cost and still put enough away to move off grid.
So you’ve raised a few thousand dollars. Hopefully, you had a lot of stuff to sell and saved all your money for 30 days. Maybe you even have $10k or more. Now what?
Buy Your Land
The next step is kind of an either/or between buying your land or your shelter and will be based on your personal preference and comfort level. Personally, I’m buying the land first.
Note: Read my article on how to find land for living off grid for information on what to look for and how to pick your off grid land.
Don’t go big! Not yet… Think small. Think sustainably. Think realistically.
What To Look For When You Buy Land
- Water – You’ll need a source of natural water in the form of a creek, stream, pond, lake, or spring, and/or a water well already drilled. This will also save you money because you don’t have to pay someone to drill a well.
- Trees – Trees provide privacy, shelter from wind, fuel, and building materials.
- Rock – Natural rock can be used for building materials.
- Access – This seems like a no-brainer, but some inexpensive rural country land has no legal access and this could pose a problem in the future when trying to get permitting and or actually getting to your property. Make sure there is access or a legal easement.
- Secluded or remote – Not just for privacy, but when you buy a remote property it will be more secure and safe because it’s harder to get to. It will also be cheaper than most other land in the area.
You only need a few acres to start.
A 5-acre property might be perfect for you. In most places in the USA, the price for 5 acres is going to be around $3020 USD per acre, on average in the United States (data from Google, 2015). Price Per Acre Of Land
That’s about $15,100 for 5 acres (average). Some places in the USA and UK are much much more expensive, but this is a USA national average. In some places in the USA, you can purchase land for $500/acre or less.
So, do your research, figure out where you want to move, where you can move that will allow you to still make a living and produce and income, and look for land there.
A 20% down payment is only $5k (on a $15k property) plus closing costs (if you decide to go through a bank). Purchase your property direct from the landowner if possible. Keep in mind, a landowner will usually want 50% of the purchase price as the down payment on a Contract For Deed. So if the price for the land is $15k, then you’ll need about $7500 in cash to purchase, plus the taxes and fees, title search, and all the other expenses, which might be another $500-$1000.
You can negotiate with the landowner for as little as 20% or less if you have decent credit, and expect to pay all closing costs. Total out of pocket expenses will probably be about $6000 IF you purchase your 5 acres at the national average price and negotiate a 20% down payment.
Note: You may even be able to negotiate a no-money-down deal with the land owner if you promise (and can afford) to pay more per month. This will not only give the landowner a larger monthly income, but will help you pay off the property much faster.
Buy A Camper Trailer, Tiny House, or Small Cabin Kit
Once you have the land, you have a place to park your camper trailer or tiny home.
For this article, a camper trailer will be what we’ll focus on. You could also purchase a small 15×20 cabin kit, but it’s not mobile and you’ll have to disassemble it or sell it if you ever decide to sell your first off grid property. A camper trailer or tiny house is portable.
The reason, of course, to get a temporary shelter is so you’ll have a place to stay while you build your cabin or log home. Then once you’re done building in a few years (or months if you’re fast), your temporary shelter can serve as a guest house where you can house friends and family members when they visit you on your homestead.
Camper trailers are a cheap, easy, fast, and portable solution. If you don’t mind living in one temporarily while you build your off grid cabin, then they are the perfect shelter solution.
A typical camper trailer that will sleep up to 5 people will cost about $15-$25k brand new, and you can always find a good deal on Craigslist.org for $5k to $10k (usually for cash deals only). If you buy a new one then there’s no clean-up or repairs needed and you only need a few thousand dollars to put down on it (depending on your credit).
Note: As I said above, you don’t want to take on too much debt. Debt is probably one of the single largest reasons people want to live off grid, because they believe it will be cheaper and more cost efficient. That’s only partially true. The complete truth is there are “Start-Up Expenses” and lots of them. Licensing, permitting, title searches, (even surveys of the access or property boundaries are in question). You’ll have to purchase food, a water tank, or drill a well. Hopefully you will have chosen a property with natural water or a well already on it. This alone will save you thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in labor, materials and permitting. Your septic system is also very very important. Having a self contained septic system is vital to your temporary shelter because unless you have a septic system already on the land you’ll have to install one, and that will cost you thousands. The whole point to this article is moving off grid with only $10k. It’s possible, but you must shop around for the best deal for your budget. A piece of land which has all these things. The price of that land will be more expensive, of course, but it’s worth it in the long run because someone else has already done much of the work.
You might be thinking you don’t want to take on more debt. I agree. Taking on more debt when you’re moving off grid seems counter-intuitive. However, don’t forget, you’ll be saving hundreds if not $1000 or more per month by cutting back on all your regular bills and living more sustainably.
Even if your payment on the camper trailer is a very high $750 (which it won’t be) you’re still saving an additional $250/month (based on $1000/month savings) by cutting back on all your other bills. Your savings pays for the camper trailer. It’s technically not money out of your pocket.
Don’t Forget The Power & Water! Get a few solar panels or a small 500-Watt AC solar system and install it on your camper for around $2500 or less (note: a battery backup is a good idea but will cost you just as much if not more than the solar panels and inverter). You’ll also need water for cooking and sanitation. So make sure the land you buy has a well or natural water source.
Start Building Your Dream Cabin
Once you’re on your land and have your temporary shelter, whether it’s a camper trailer, RV, tiny house, or small log cabin kit, you can start planning your dream cabin on your own schedule. Remember, you’re off grid now, and you can take your time, plan, and build as you see fit.
Or you could simply live in your temporary shelter on a permanent basis. It’s up to you. You’ll be off grid and hopefully well on your way to living a sustainable life, growing your own food, and living in tune with nature.
Total Costs & Expenses
Here’s the breakdown of all the major direct costs to go off grid for $10k
- Land = $5000 down payment + closing costs if any; if you negotiate a good deal with the landowner you may need less money.
- Shelter = $2000 down payment
- Water = Hopefully you’ll buy land with a well or natural water source and a camper trailer or RV which has a septic system already installed.
- Solar Power System = $2000
TOTAL = $10,000
Quick & Dirty Off Grid Plan
This article is the quick and dirty off grid plan for those that are really just tired of waiting and want to move off the grid now. It’s not for everyone, and I would advise against doing it this way, in many cases, because it may not be suitable for you and your family.
If you have kids it makes things tougher because you have to consider schools, where they will sleep, and whether your whole family will be comfortable in a small shelter. This is a personal decision that you’ll have to sit down with your family and discuss to see if it’s a good fit for you all.
To move off grid is a major change in lifestyle. Make sure everyone is on board before you decide to take the plunge. Do your homework and you’ll be better prepared.
30 Days To Move Off Grid
It’s possible to move off grid in 30 days or less if you set your mind to it, your family is on board, and you can still make a living. This is the important part. There will still be bills. You’ll still need money. But hopefully, the money you save and budget for will be enough combined with your income to make you and your family very comfortable off the grid.
The key is living sustainably with less. Downsizing. Simplifying your life so you don’t have all the daily stresses and debts. It’s about moving forward with your life and reaching out and grabbing your dreams. It’s about not making excuses anymore or putting it off any longer.
Living off grid has its rewards and will probably be –over the long term– a much more peaceful and less stressful way of life.
It’s all about independence and being able to take care of yourself and your family.
It’s certainly more sustainable and self-sufficient.
What do you think? Are you ready to give it a shot?
Like this article? Subscribe to our newsletter to get more great content and updates sent to your inbox!