I’ve spent the last decade coaching and mentoring folks who are ready to leave the modern American lifestyle for a more independent agrarian life. One of the most asked questions I receive revolves around the idea of making a living. The interesting thing to me is, that when people ask this question they almost always mean how do they make money and not how do they make a “living” (but that is a topic for another day).
Obviously, you need to make money by selling products, services, labor, or information to generate cash income. The problem is that no matter what grand idea you come up with, the amount of money you can generate from typical homestead enterprises, will be much less than you are used to. It is not reasonable to expect to live at the same “standard of living” that you did when you were a corporate wage/salary slave living in town. Having health insurance, drinking lattes, driving nice cars, and owning new clothes are not reasonable expectations. Hell, paying for a hair cut is out of the question. If this alarms you, then you probably aren’t ready for true freedom and should pack your bags and head back to Egypt. Some folks enjoy the security of bondage more than animating contest of liberty. For the rest of you…
Let me tell you a secret. The key to living on a very small income is not spending money. That’s right, not spending money. Our family business makes such a pitifully small amount of income that when I tell people how much it is, they call me a liar. Our multi-generational family of 11 lives well below the “poverty line”. I bet the average “middle class” suburbanite spends more on entertainment in a year than we make. The truth is, we are able to do this because my wife and mother would both “skin a flea for it’s hide and tallow” and we all have a love and commitment to this way of life. Maybe the real secret is that 4 letter word. Love.
At the end of the day, nothing short of love will help you “make a living” on a farmstead or homestead. If you don’t love the work and the life, you’ll never make it. You’ll see not spending money as a sacrifice and not a better way to live. If every member of the family doesn’t love it, and I mean with all their heart and soul, it will never work. You have to love the dirt, the sweat, the flies, the smoke, the frozen fingers… all of it. Every single part of it. And did I mention, you can’t spend money on stupid stuff.
A penny not spent is a penny earned. You only need to make that which you spend. Spend less and you can make less. This basic truth escapes many.
If you came to this article expecting to hear about some great money making scheme, you are probably disappointed. Like the rich young ruler you might leave saddened, and possibly offended. But if one person leaves this page understanding that LOVE and THRIFT are keys to success, then I’ll consider the time spent writing this worthwhile.