My husband and I are probably going to be changing careers and moving into the country in about 6 months. The job will pay much less than the one we have now but we feel that the move is the right thing for our family. I'm starting to get really excited about becoming a homesteading wife and mama but I also need to be saving money and doing cost-effective things.
So, what are your top money saving things? Things like line-drying.
Also, what animal gives you the most output for input? Does having animals actually save you any money or do they just end up costing?
Teach me your ways!
Well, as far as animals, we have meat rabbits, which cost us in the summer because of a/c, but we usually sell enough of them in the winter to pay for their feed thru the year (we sell for county 4H shows). We have chickens, mostly for eggs, but we have a batch of meat chickens about ready for butchering right now. Didn't do the cost analysis because I was starting them out w/other fancy chicks for my mom. Will do the analysis next batch. We have Nubian dairy goats for milk. As of now, they definitely cost us, but they pay in teaching lots of responsibility, so it's really hard to measure, yk? They are the kids' goats, and they bought them, care for them, milk them, etc. We have guineas for bug control, watch animals, and 'cause they are neat. They also taste good if the numbers get too high. We have Muscovy ducks, and they are very good at foraging, bug control, and they are very tasty to boot. They don't cost much and are so cute! The thing that probably makes us the most money is beekeeping. After the first 2 years, everything now is profit. We try to keep a couple of pigs to grow out and eat scraps, but they are not going into the traps so far this year.
I don't know if this helps you at all. We don't keep track like we should. We just know that it feels so right to live like this. If we ever feel we cannot afford any animals, the rabbits will be the first to go because they require a/c here in the summer. I would miss them terribly on my plate, too!
I can't speak to animals as we are still city dwellers and only have "pets" (dog/cat). Ultimately I want to get angora bunnies and chickens, but will probably wait until after this pregnancy, and a move into our next place for that.
For money saving tips, there are SOOO many great things you can do. It all depends on how much elbow grease you want to exchange for $.
You can make your own laundry detergent, dish soap, shampoo, house cleaners, etc. That can wind up saving a lot of money in the long run.
Line drying does help some with energy expenses. You can also start going to bed closer to when it gets dark, and waking up closer to when the sun rises, to optimize daylight (and not have lights on as much). Use fans instead of AC as much as possible during the summer. Use a fireplace and bundle up instead of spending a lot of $ on heating.
You can re-use some of the water in your house for things like watering plants. You can also set up a rain barrel system to collect water outside and use in the garden.
If you don't already know how to do these things, learn how to: mend clothing, preserve food, garden, compost, etc. The more skills you have the better.
The best piece of advice I can give is to start making some of these changes now. Then when you move it won't be all at once, and bonus - you'll save some extra $ right now.
This may be a slightly different resource than you anticipated, but it is very helpful none the less. This blog post on living rurally to save money is very informative and makes a lot of sense! :) Overall a great read.
With your animals it really would help for you to define your goals. Are you trying to raise meat cheaper than the grocery? Or free range organic? Cause there is a big difference. How many acres will you have and are you trying to get your lawn to turn into meat (which is my goal). How much is your electricity? Do you have fences already? What about other infrastructure?
Here is my theory...
We hate store bought meat. I know a couple places to get good stuff- but we would rather grow our own- which we like much better than anything we could buy. I raise my own chickens for meat- but generally buy my eggs. I have a lot going on and I can buy them for $2/dozen for amazing free range organic- seems like a good deal to me :) We have our own cows for milk and they also raise calves- their own and others that we buy for them to adopt. Our cows mow our yard too- so that is awesome- I just have a cheap little self propelled that I use around the house and garden and where the kids play- the cows get the rest- this saves tons on hay and gas and a big lawnmower. If we figured how much our milk cost though- it would be way too high. Of course we can't buy raw in Iowa- and that is what we want- so I guess there is no price to high.... We do pretty well on the calves though. We did feed out some hogs this year- I was disappointed in how little money they made. I am spoiled with the cows I guess. Rabbits sound interesting- but only if our 4 easter bunnies have babies will that happen :) We love ducks- and I have figured out how to make them less expensive- I buy them half grown for $5 each instead of babies for what $3.50? Much better deal.
We don't butcher. Neither of us has the time or desire- I pay $1.50/chicken, $5/ other fowl, and whatever the locker thinks I will pay for hogs and steers.
I am not saying you all are wrong on the line drying- but I will pay the extra $10 or less it costs to run my dryer whenever I want it. We have very inexpensive electricity here (think house, shop w/air compressor on 24-7, welders, barn, and 3-4 livestock welders for $100/mo). I do use the line when the weather is right or the item is bulky though.... My neighbors probably think I don't have a dryer- but I really just have that much laundry.
My biggest money saver is just to stay home. If I keep that Tahoe parked for the day it is a much better deal! That said I do use our old pickup for chores :) But getting by without for a few days helps so much to make the trip to town worth it- especially since 'town' is 45 miles away. So things like stocking up on butter and having a large pantry are definitely saving money. Ohhhh- I do order from UNFI- not super cheap- but I get the flours I like in 50 lb bags and keep in the freezer and that works really well for me.
Also garden and I did put out fruit trees this year. I can a lot. I tried the homemade detergent and whatnot- and now I just order what I like that works well.
I'm not in the country yet but am a frugal homemaking mom.
Meal planning cuts food costs a lot, and being flexible enough to use what you have left instead of running out to the store (quick shopping isn't even possible in very rural areas). Eat in season and eat what is common there, grow anything that's pricey or obscure yourself if you want it. If it won't spoil quickly or you can preserve it, buy things you use in bulk if you find a good price. Eat more beans and less meat (chop meat up and use a little mixed into each dinner).
It's good to get used to a few degrees cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer, developing habits to get comfy anyway. If you have a woodstove, chop your own wood and do it asap so it can season longer.
Clothing is expensive there I hear. Learn to mend and possibly make some of your clothes. I shop at thrift stores a lot, though this week I finally gave in and bought 4 new dresses as I've had no luck this year finding things I can wear used. I spent 5x the price and really really hope they'll last years. Line drying and maybe even hand washing can extend the life of your clothes, though electricity is cheap enough there so unless you'd have to buy the dryer you won't save much using a line or rack to dry.
Moving so far a lot of things will be new to you, ask the locals how they do it. Asking help and advice (and really listening) is a good way to make friends anyway. That and offer your help to them and they'll teach you some skills in the process.
You can produce much of the feed for small animals yourself if you have some land. Grains and seeds and bugs for chickens, greens, veg, and fruits for rabbits, pasture for goats. Last time I priced caring for a small flock of laying hens I calculated I'd break even eating their high quality eggs, but homegrown food and secure but cheaply made housing could work for savings.