The ultimate guide to living off the grid with no money

With the rising cost of living, more and more people are considering living off the grid. However, off-grid living is understandably a huge undertaking. 

And if being self-sufficient is the ultimate goal, to spend as little money as possible, it’s going to take a good bit of planning (and some initial costs) to start it.

There are, after all, many factors to consider and going into it unprepared seems daunting. 

Sure, it’s one of those things where you learn more as you go along but there are merits to knowing as much as you can before you make decisions.

So let’s talk about it, but we’ll go about it this way: Each tip will be grouped under one factor (i.e. Shelter, Water, Food, Energy, Mindset, Misc.) so you can jump categories if you need to. 

Ready? Let’s go.

Shelter

1) Decide your living situation. 

Where will you live? Will you be building a tiny house? A cabin? Buying a van? Renting or buying an RV? Living somewhere with a farm?

Do you have land you can build a home on? Do you need to buy it first?

This is a crucial decision, so don’t rush it if you can. Of course, if your living situation is already decided by circumstance rather than choice, then you just need to work with what you have.

However, those who have yet to decide where they want to settle down should take into account the pros and cons and initial investments necessary for each.

Building or buying a house

These two points are interconnected. Deciding the kind of housing you want (e.g. a tiny home, an Earthship, etc.) is as important as deciding where you plan to put said house.

Also, take note of the necessary permits to accomplish when building your home. 

a. Decide on the kind of house you want to live in

  • Space is your biggest consideration. How many people will be living in it? 
  • What is your budget for the build?
  • What is your timeframe for the build? For the move?
  • How much maintenance are you willing to do?
  • What are your future plans? (This is a crucial question because you need to consider future expansions depending on the changes in your family unit’s needs.)

b. Decide where you will be building said house aka buying land

Again, if circumstance has already chosen your land for you, you just need to work with what you have. 

However, it’s still prudent to ask yourself these questions when you build or buy your house if you have yet to. 

  • What’s the climate? Is the house you have in mind suitable for this climate?
  • Is there a reliable water source? If not, what are the options you can implement?
  • Can you forage or farm here? 
  • Will your chosen energy generator work here?
  • What’s the nearest town? How far? If emergencies arise, will it be easy to get help?

Living in your car/Van life

Living off the grid in your vehicle presents its own pros and cons.

a. Live in an RV

The initial investment is high, as RVs can go upwards into the hundreds of thousands. And if you want all the bells and whistles, it’s going to be even more expensive.

You also have to factor in the maintenance of this behemoth, which could also be costly, especially if you will be living in it long-term. Not to mention the other considerations, too, like registration, taxes, repairs, and fuel.

And while living in an RV can afford you to be mobile, staying at campgrounds can also cost you. 

While there are public campgrounds available, amenities are scarce, you might not find the necessary electricity, water, and sewer hookups that you need. 

b. Camper van

Camper vans are more compact than RVs, and they might be a better choice for those living solo. However, the initial cost could also run you a pretty penny especially if you want all the comforts available.

The same considerations apply here, too: Registration, taxes, maintenance, repairs, fuel, etc. 

c. No build 

One search on YouTube will yield thousands of videos on converting your vehicle for off-grid living. There are entire channels dedicated to #VanLife, like this one, this one, or this one

Depending on what you already have and how resourceful you are, this is the most cost-effective option out of the 3. The biggest con of this though is the space constraint. 

Mindset

pic1345 The ultimate guide to living off the grid with no money

2) Get into the mindset of going off-grid. 

I need to throw this one right here before we dive any further. The mindset to go off-grid is vital.

Why? It’s because there is a steep learning curve to living off-grid, there are benefits and struggles that are unique to this way of living.

And it’s not for everyone.

In a way, this is a lifestyle and a journey. And we’re not all equipped to go on certain journeys. When the going gets tough (and IT WILL get tough), it could get physically, emotionally, mentally, AND spiritually demanding. 

Especially if you have preconceived notions going into this, such as “You’re going to get everything right from the get-go.” 

“Sustainability” and “Self-sufficiency” will remain as buzzwords if you don’t fully accept what you’re getting into. “Slow Living” might bore you if you don’t understand WHY you’re doing it or you’re only doing it because it’s trendy. 

There is a lot we need to learn and understand but there are also things that we need to shed and unlearn. Society and the trends that run it constantly burden us without us noticing.

The result is that you end up just doing what everyone else is doing even at the cost of your peace of mind. For example, is off-grid living truly what you want to do and not because it’s trendy?

Are you prepared to make sacrifices or will you abandon it halfway? There’s nothing wrong with changing our minds, but off-grid living is a whopper to endeavor. 

Decisions should come from you, it might be silly to say but think about the truth in that. Is it YOUR truth? Is it at the core of you?

With that said, let me share this eye-opening video by world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandé. Here he explains how so many of us get trapped in our own beliefs and ego, how our relationships with ourselves steer us wrong sometimes. 

A spiritual detour, if you will. 

As he mentions in the video, spirituality should be about empowering yourself. Not suppressing emotions, not judging others, but forming a pure connection with who you are at your core. 

If this is what you’d like to achieve, click here to watch the free video.

Water

3) Develop an off-grid water system.

You should already factor this in when you’re deciding where to live as water is essential, if not the most essential resource. 

You should:

  • Find a water source.
  • Filter water for consumption. 
  • Store water for future use.
  • Decide on how to power your system.
  • Wastewater disposal.

The most likely water sources for off-grid living are:

  • Groundwater, accessed via a well. 
    • Needs to be filtered and purified for potable use. 
    • Laws regarding drilling a well differ from place to place. 
  • Surface Water, like lakes, rivers, and natural springs.
    • Needs to be filtered and purified for potable use. 
    • Location-dependent. Transporting water from the source to your home might not be an option for everyone. 
  • Rainwater Collection
    • Location-dependent. Depending on where you are, your rainwater might not be enough for your usage.
    • Not everyone advocates for potable use of rainwater, but it can be done with different filtration systems and treatments.

Common water storage solutions:

  • Rain barrels.
  • Cisterns, which are essentially larger rain barrels. 

Be sure to only use food-grade receptacles to store your water, especially for longer-term usage.

Using water in your home:

Okay, so now you have water, how will you use it in your home

  • Hand pump or manual pump.
    • Comparatively more cost-effective than other options.
    • Durable. 
    • Usable even with electricity restraints. 
  • Gravity-fed water system.
    • Location-dependent as you need to place it higher than your dwelling.
  • Electric pump.
    • Electricity-dependent, which might not be an option for everyone.
    • Good for those that require higher water pressure.
  • Solar-powered water pump.
    • More cost-effective than an electric pump.

Wastewater disposal:

  • For greywater.
    • Greywater is all wastewater outside of toilets (like from laundry and sinks).
    • Can generally be reused for other purposes around your homestead, like flushing your toilets, and selectively for plant and tree irrigation. (Note: Avoid using greywater to water your food crops.)
    • If you use chemicals in your water usage, like detergent or bleach for laundry, take precautions on where you will reuse the greywater. 
  • For blackwater.
    • Blackwater is wastewater from toilets, i.e. sewage.
    • Needs proper storage and treatment, i.e. a septic tank system.
    • Alternatives to handling human waste are composting toilets or outhouses. 

Food

pic1346 The ultimate guide to living off the grid with no money

Planting, harvesting, processing, and preserving your food is something that you can already learn even before you go off-grid. 

You can try planting herbs or vegetables, vertical gardening, processing your meats, canning, dehydrating, or even just learning this first in theory!

Knowledge and experience will be your friend.

4) You need to learn how to grow your own food.

Growing your own food is integral if you’re aiming for self-sufficiency. Whether you choose to start a small garden or a full-fledged farm, your homestead will be unique to you and the land you choose. 

Luckily, the internet is a treasure trove of information for starting and troubleshooting down the line.. 

5) Raising livestock.

Raising livestock for meat, milk, and eggs won’t apply to everyone depending on your dietary restrictions. However, livestock can also be raised to help with labor around your homestead, like with donkeys and horses.

You can also raise sheep for wool and bees for honey and beeswax (although not technically classified as livestock, let’s put this here anyway). 

To note, figure out the necessary permits and laws regarding raising animals in your area. You are also limited by the space you will have, so take that into account as well. 

The initial costs will differ so proper planning is necessary.

6) You need to learn how to process and preserve your food. 

  • If you’re planning to raise livestock for meat, you need to learn how to butcher and process it.
  • You need to learn how to store or preserve meat, like dehydrating or smoking it, as freezers aren’t as accessible to everyone.
  • Canning is also a very helpful skill to learn. You can preserve fruits, vegetables, sauces, and even meats! 
  • Learn how to make jams and sauces that you can store.
  • Learn how to pickle.

7) Where applicable, you have to learn to forage your food.

Wild fruits, wild vegetables, and even mushrooms can be foraged. However, and this is VERY important, do not eat what you cannot identify.

Especially with mushrooms. Things can go south very quickly—even deadly. I’ve seen seasoned mushroom foragers leaving mushrooms behind because they were unsure of what it was. 

Better sure than sick—or worse!

8) Where applicable, you have to learn how to hunt or fish. 

This won’t apply to everybody but wild game is also a food source for some off-gridders. Hunting or setting traps is a valuable skill to have if it’s allowed where you will be living or if this is a direction you will choose to take.

Fishing, along with harvesting other marine products, is location-dependent. 

Energy

9) Decide how you will generate and store energy.

While there are people who choose to live with no electricity off-grid, it’s not the most common circumstance. Chances are, you will need (or want) it in your day-to-day life.

Here are some options:

  • Solar.
    • The most accessible and most cost-effective of the options.
    • Requires set-up.
    • Uses a battery to store energy.
    • Usable even for those living in smaller spaces.
  • Wind. 
    • Location-dependent.
    • Costly to set up.
    • Uses a battery to store energy.
  • Microhydropower
    • Location-dependent.
    • Requires set-up. 
    • Uses a battery to store energy.

Miscellaneous

10) Entertainment and recreation

Don’t forget to make space for fun! Stress and boredom should not be underestimated when you’re living off-grid

Some examples of entertainment and recreation:

  • Books
  • Playing board games
  • Outdoor activities like basketball or having a swing 
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Journaling
  • Arts and crafts

11) Medical 

  • Learning first aid
  • Having a well-stocked first-aid kit
  • Where applicable, knowing alternative first-aid treatment
  • Knowing the nearest medical facilities in your area
  • Knowing if your area is accessible to emergency services

12) Income 

And lastly, income. Especially if you’re not fully self-sustaining yet. 

Some examples:

  • Digital nomads who remain online even while off-the-grid.
  • Selling surplus produce from your farm or garden.
  • Offering services to the nearest community, like carpentry or plumbing.
  • Handicrafts.
  • Canned products. 

To end

Remember that there are so many resources out there for you at every step of the way. And even if you’re not jumping into off-grid living anytime soon, information like food preservation or alternative ways to generate energy is still useful to know. 

Living sustainably can be daunting if you tackle everything at once, but tiny and constant steps can take you farther than you know.

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Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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