Living Off The Grid In Stages

By Staff

Ever wish you could just unplug from your current hectic life?  Maybe quit your stressful job, move to a farm with several acres, build your own solar panels, and spend your remaining time living off the grid.  Yeah, me too.

The problem is that this type of lifestyle seems so simple, but is terribly difficult to pull off these days.  Why?  Because we have become slaves to our stuff – myself included.  We have our houses, our cars, our expensive hobbies, our electronic gadgets, our new furniture, our designer clothes, etc.

We spend the majority of our lives working to pay for the stuff that keeps us from living a life with more freedom.  Along the way we usually manage to accumulate debt buying more stuff than we can afford.  So then we spend even more time working to repay the money we borrowed to buy the stuff that we work to pay for in the first place.  Whew!  It’s a vicious cycle.

Photo courtesy of iLoveButter

How To Break The Chains of Stuff?

So how do we break the cycle?  How do we join others who are living off the grid?  It isn’t easy.  I believe the very first step is to stop accumulating stuff.  Draw a line in the sand (or on your front porch), and vow not to allow anything else to enter your home unless it is a necessity or improves your quality of life in some way.  If something qualifies under those two conditions, you must save for it and pay cash.  No more borrowing!

The second step is to take a look around your house, and your budget.  Are you paying for things that you could really live without?  The $40 gym membership, or the $15 Netflix membership, may not seem like much by themselves, but how much of a nest egg would be required just to cover those expenses?  I mentioned the multiply by 25 concept in a previous post.  The idea is that you can estimate how much of your nest egg would be required to maintain your current expenses.  I used Netflix as an example:

At roughly $9 a month, our Netflix membership sets us back $108 per year.  To continue paying for Netflix out of passive income earning 4% per year, I would need a $2,700 ($108×25) savings balance.

So I would need to save $2,700 just to cover my monthly $9 Netflix membership.  Imagine how much a $500 per month car payment would require?  Frightening isn’t it?  When you think about things from this perspective it makes it a little easier to separate needs from wants.

Photo courtesy of flattop341

Discover Your Passion

The next step in living off the grid is to discover your passion.  Ask yourself:  If you didn’t have to wake up tomorrow morning and work for money, how would you spend your time? Gardening? Fishing? Volunteering? Teaching?  Some people enjoy what they do (believe it or not), and wouldn’t want to give up their jobs.  The rest of us go to work to pay the bills, and look outside of paid employment for self actualization.

The point is to figure out what it is you want to do with your life, and figure out how to do that more often.  By eliminating bills, downsizing your home, avoiding the accumulation of stuff, etc, you might be able to afford to spend more time working on your passion, instead of your job.

Think In Terms of Sustainability

The freedom to unplug from the hustle and bustle of our current lives and “live off the grid” doesn’t come without sacrifice.  Many choose to give up creature comforts like cable television, an automobile (or two), or even electricity (paid-for energy, that is).  Some are able to harness the power of the sun through solar power, or wind, to generate power for their homes.  Imagine how nice it would be to lose that utility payment! Wells can supply water, and gardens or small farms may provide a percentage of a family’s food source.

I feel the need to pause here and add a disclaimer to this post.  My tone may have seemed preachy in the lines above.  I live in a neighborhood, have a mortgage and a car payment (almost gone), and education debt, and a job, and I’m an energy hog when it comes to air conditioning, and I failed to produce enough crops last year to build more than a couple salads.  I am about as “on the grid” as one can be.

But I’m also a daydreamer, and at times when I’m lost in my thoughts I think about how nice it would be to get rid of all this “stuff” and start over.  I think about raising my kids to be less materialistic.  I think about how much I would enjoy devoting more time to gardening, and raising my children, and coaching youth sports, and building projects around my house.  And then I ask myself, why can’t I do these things?  I know the answer, and I know what needs to happen, mechanically, to get there.  It’s getting there that is the hard part.

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