Living off grid does not mean you don’t need income. The world is still what it is, and you need to be able to trade in the common currency for a lot of supplies you simply can’t make on your own. How much you still need to buy in and ongoing living expenses come down to your level of self sustainability.
Sorry to pop the bubble, but that just ain’t so. While living costs can be GREATLY reduced, there will always be a need for income. Think about just a few examples like toilet paper, lye to make soap, salt, rice, clothing and shoes, protective clothing (eye protectors for chopping wood, gloves for pulling stinging nettle, etc), farming equipment, maintenance and repairs (tools, nails, oil, fuel, etc), coffee or tea, and so on and so forth. Here are the main budgets you’ll need to think about:
Health & Emergency Care Budget
While we hope to stay in perfect health, accidents can and do happen, and bacteria and viruses do come around. A bit of money for emergency care is essential to have tucked away. If you keep any animals, they too should have an emergency care fund as well as a maintenance fund (dogs need annual rabies boosters and tick, flea and worm treatments, livestock need food supplementation in winter and also require pest treatments like dogs and cats).
In our first year off grid, I had to have an unexpected operation to remove two wisdom teeth, one with a root in my sinus canal and another on the nerve to my lip. I also got tick bite fever and needed treatment. Our kitty Xia got into a terrible fight and had to go to the vet. Shilah, one of our doggos, got a severe ear infection that wouldn’t clear up (Springer Spaniels are prone to them), he also needed an unplanned vet trip. These things happen, and it’s best to be prepared.
Maintenance & Repair Budget
The home is always in need of upkeep – South Africa is a harsh environment and buildings require ongoing waterproofing, sun damage repair and the like. Rust and rot need to get fixed as soon as they are spotted. Living out in nature also means a lot more pest management, harder to do organically! Wood borers, ants, mice, flies, mosquitoes and so on are a fact of country living and must be controlled to protect the home, food garden and animals. All of this requires a maintenance fund that needs ongoing filling up.
While we grow a lot of our food, we can’t grow it all. We don’t have the time and resources, so we choose what to grow and what to buy. Supplies like flour, rice, cous cous, mielie meal, salt, pasta, breakfast oats, yeast, cacao, coffee, tea, and so on, need to be bought monthly. Sometimes crops don’t do well or fail completely and we have to buy to supplement our fresh vegetables. Fruit and nut trees take years to come into full production, and even when they do, you can still lose a whole season’s crop with a bad infestation or infection (or a flock of cheeky mousebirds, or a wandering troop of baboons). So you can’t rely on all your food needs being met by your land. It’s best to plan for a monthly food fund to supplement what you can produce yourself.
Rainy Day Fund
The last fund I recommend is a general “rainy day fund” that is there to cover you for unforeseen and sudden expenses. Try to save enough to cover yourselves for 1-3 months of general expenses, so that if something were to happen and you weren’t able to produce income suddenly, you’d have enough to cover monthly costs as normal while you hopefully rectify whatever the problem may be. If the car is in an accident, or a tree falls on the house, or other such unforeseen major issues, the rainy day fund is there as well.
Multiple Income Streams – Financial Redundancy
When looking at making money while living off grid, it’s a really smart idea to think along the lines of multiple streams of income, rather than one source on its own. The practice of redundancy (that is, having multiple backups for every essential function) should extend to income too. Rather than relying on one thing, try to have several smaller streams.
The Mystic Cat shop has grown from strength to strength and we are SO full of deep gratitude that we’re able to run the shop, such a deep passion for both of us, right from our off grid, sustainable home! Running the shop is my full time job, as well as the food garden, and I design websites for friends and acquaintances (if you need a simple, fast website let me know! shazdoeswebsites.co.za) whenever that pops up.
Russ has been very blessed to have fairly constant remote video editing work since we’ve moved here, and (when Covid allows) he’s occasionally booked on shoots as a camera operator, working on wildlife documentaries and shows for TV. The shop doesn’t make enough to support both of us financially (yet), but Russ takes all the product photographs and spends time every week helping with orders.
Our current and future income streams include:
- The online shop
- Russ is a freelance video editor and camera operator
- Russ also teaches yoga classes in town, and I design websites for friends and acquaintances
- I’m working on perfecting recipes for our planned eco product range (eco friendly body products and home care, made with ingredients grown right here on the farmstead) which we hope to launch soon
- Our long term goals include dried fruit and nuts once our trees are in full production, a herbs and salts range with the spices grown on the farmstead, and an organic tea range with botanicals on the farmstead
First Yourself, Then Others
When considering monetizing anything you do on your land, remember that first you must cover your and your family’s own needs. If you plan to sell eggs, make sure you will first have enough for your consumption before you start selling away. Go a year on the land learning what your consumption looks like, and what your chooks production looks like throughout the year (they’ll produce a lot less in winter and under heat stress, so production naturally varies). If you plan to keep a rooster or two (good luck), consider how many chicks you’ll want and how many you’d sell or slaughter. The same applies to selling produce you grow – first cover your family and animals, and think about preserving overflow for the pantry (out of season months or bad crop months) before you look outwards.
Roots and Refuge farm have a brilliant YouTube video with some really great advice on making money from the land you live on, and what to avoid. Recommended watching!