If you have a dream of going off grid, don’t let finances be an obstacle to starting off. What most people get hung up on is the cost, theyʻre always reaching to save enough. It doesnʻt have to be that way. There are creative ways to make it happen.
Hereʻs how to go off-grid with no money:
- Develop Some Skills
- Get Onto Some Free Land (4 Ways To Do It Described Below)
- Build A Free House
- Harvest & Purify Water
- Get Creative With Power Generation
- Grow & Forage Your Own Food
- Dispose Of Your Waste For Free
While most of these ideas require little to no money, they do require skill and hard work. But with just a little hard work, you can set yourself up with a lifestyle that most can only dream of. Consider yourself lucky that you found this blueprint to make going off grid with no money a reality for you.
Related: Going off grid is a big topic. One that can potentially take years to know all the little ins and outs. Why not have all of that knowledge in one place? Well, Iʻve finally found the book that delivers, The Homestead Handbook. It goes over everything, from how to choose where to live to how to process your harvest. Youʻll want to add this one to your library.
Gain Skills To Go Off Grid
First of all, consider if you are ready to go off-grid independently or if you need to gain some experience or knowledge before starting your own homestead.
Do you want to build your own home? Then, you should have some construction experience.
Already know how to grow your own food and care for livestock? If not, don’t be dissuaded; there are (awesome!) ways to gain these skills. I am talking about volunteering or exchanging work for rent with off-grid communities, eco-farms or off-grid homesteads that are already in operation.
Here are some tried-and-true suggestions for gaining relevant off-grid experience as well as ways to get onto some land for free.
Get Onto Some Land For Free
Work Trade, WWOOF, or Become A Property Manager
Find intentional communities that are living-off grid and learn first hand how it is done. This online magazine offers a directory of communities accepting long-term or short-term members.
The site also has a classified section for shared homes and ways you can volunteer or work for housing with various communities. Many of these communities are off-grid, but not all of them are, so make sure you inquire about their approach while you’re conducting your search.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is a great way to start your off-grid journey while volunteering with organic farms.
Interested in travel? WWOOF has opportunities in more than 130 countries.
You could learn how to grow and harvest a native Hawai’ian fern in Maui, Hawai’i; practice sustainable bee-keeping in Togo, volunteer with an organic rice-plantation in Thailand, or help with a chicken-farm initiative in Trinidad and Tobago, just to name a few.
There are so many interesting off-grid opportunities to volunteer with through WWOOF that will help you discover how to build your own homestead, without a financial investment on your part.
Work Away is not just another volunteer abroad website, but is a site for hosts and international travelers or volunteers to connect. I include Work Away on my resource list because they have valuable opportunities for those looking to live-off grid without money.
The experience might be temporary, but you will gain important experience which will help you start off your own homestead.
Here are some suggestions for those seeking off-grid work experience:
What if you already have the skills, but you just don’t have the means? There are some great opportunities out there for people who want to trade their skills for either a place to live or as a way to build an income, or both!
BECOME A PROPERTY MANAGER
Becoming a property manager is a great way for those with skills to get themselves into either a solid housing situation, income or both. These positions usually come with a lot of freedom and flexibility: your role is to maintain the property.
Typically you are responsible for maintaining the landscape, buildings and animals if they have them. Sometimes you are asked to implement new installations.
Many tropical locations offer year-round positions, while opportunities in places like Utah or California might be seasonal.
Occasionally you can find people posting in facebook groups looking for property managers. You can also try to search on Google for “Camp Manager” or “Seasonal Property Manager” or “Farm Manager”.
Now, it is becoming less and less popular to advertise property management positions, so you might have to put yourself out there: try posting an ad in a local paper for a rural area you think might have a few properties that need to be supervised instead.
Similar to a property manager is the role of on-site landscaper. This is a great way to gain important experience and fine-tune your landscaping skills, while living rent-free!
This is something I did personally for a number of years. Typically these positions come available in more affluent areas where people pay to have there landscapes managed daily.
One of the perks is that you often get to live in some amazing places.
The best way to land one of these positions is to know somebody. Get a job with a landscape company that does work in affluent areas. Spark a conversation with the owner and plant a seed about having someone live on site for long term care once the landscape install is complete. You never know what might happen.
This is a great way to develop your own skills for water harvesting, land contouring, irrigation and fruit forests while you start your off-grid journey
Get Your Own Piece Free Off Grid Land
Yes, you read that correctly: FREE LAND! Before you celebrate and start moving, let me tell you the fineprint: you have to build a home or renovate an existing building on the property.
Usually, this will require that you have some finances to complete the construction (read on for some inexpensive structures you can build for an off-grid home). However, the actual land is yours at technically no cost.
Rural areas of Kansas, Minnesota and Nebraska are just a few of the places where free land is available in the United States. These places are trying to encourage more residents, and they are enticing newcomers with free land.
If you aren’t afraid of the cold and snow, then Canada is also offering free land in remote areas of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. But in places like Hawaii, forget about it. Not many free land options here unless you are native hawaiian.
Now, the process isn’t automatic: you have to apply for the land, be approved and then obtain building permits before you can actually move in.
Each location and state has their own regulations governing the ‘free land’; such as a special one-time tax, a minimum requirement of residency after you move in, or time constraints for how soon you must start construction after gaining possession of the land.
U.S. Towns Offering Free Land
- Beatrice, Nebraska
- Buffalo, New York
- Curtis, Nebraska
- Elwood, Nebraska
- Lincoln, Kansas
- Loup City, Nebraska
- Mankato, Kansas
- Manilla, Iowa
- Marne, Iowa
- Marquette, Kansas
- New Richland, Minnesota
- Osborne, Kansas
- Plainnville, Kansas
American citizens who work with, or want to start farming with the US Department of Agriculture have access to a lot of financial assistance through Rural Development Loans and Farm Grants.
In many cases, you must apply and be turned down for a loan from a regular bank before you are eligible for a USDA low-interest loan, but this is a situation when you’ll be happy to be denied a loan from the bank!
These FSA loans are pretty flexible: you can use them to purchase land, equipment, animals and other farm-related supplies. Also: these loans can be used to construct homes or barns. On top of that, you can also apply for a USDA NRCS EQUIP Grant to finish off your farm: fence your property, build greenhouses or get your starter seeds, etc.
On top of this, the USD offers housing assistance; either for home ownership or rent assistance. Further, they have housing programs and loans to help you make necessary renovations to a home in order for it to be “safe and sanitary”, which sounds like a great option for someone converting a run-down building into a liveable off-grid home!
If you want to learn more about these opportunities, I wrote a post covering exactly what the USDA grant is and how to apply for it.
Owner Financing Opportunities For Going Off Grid
I’m actually not a huge fan of owner financing for purchasing land. However, it is an option that might work for you, which is why I’m including it.
At the most basic level, owner financing means that you take a loan through the original owner of the property instead of the bank, as a means of purchasing land without money.
Disadvantages to owner financing is that you typically pay higher interest than you would to a bank, the owner may keep the title deed until you pay off the loan in full, and if the property or home is sold ‘as is’ you should be thorough about investigating any issues before signing a promissory note.
Some sites where you can find owner financed land include:
Move To Alaska
Ever considered starting a homestead in Alaska? The beautiful, rugged wilderness provides some amazing experiences for those willing to move to a remote location and brave harsh winters.
BENEFITS TO ALASKA RESIDENTS
Once you settle down in Alaska and meet the requirements for residency, you can also receive the yearly Permanent Fund Dividend available to all Alaskan Residents. The dividends are sent once a year, and based on per-person in your home, including children. Dividends have been over $1500 per person in recent years.
Alaska has some amazing options for hunting and fishing; licenses allow subsistence hunting, net fishing and more. You can definitely reduce your cost of food and live on less by catching salmon and hunting wildlife.
Low Cost Housing Options For Your Off Grid Homestead
Once you get your land (free or purchased) you need something to live in, right? Here are some ways to build a home that certainly require hard work and planning, but don’t necessarily have to cost a cent.
This is an ancient building technique that has been used throughout the world for millennia. Most cob homes are round, and the shape provides the essential structural support needed. If you have an architectural or building background, you could develop a creative design.
The walls of cob homes are made from a mix of clay, straw and sand. When the wall is fully dry, it provides natural insulation (for both moderately cool and warm temperatures), and protection from the elements.
Build with CordWood
Cord Wood (aka blocks of cut wood), set in sawdust and mortar create the strong, self-insulating walls of these homes. If you have access to a lot of trees, then you can probably build your own home for free! Or at least the price of a chainsaw.
Just as the name implies; you build these homes out of earth and sandbags. The process is pretty simple, fill clay soil into long sandbags, tamp them down and stack in a course like bricks.
Plaster over them with concrete or cob and you have yourself a beautiful long lasting home that costs you very little.
Build a Yurt
These traditional Mongolian homes are actually moveable! If you decide to shift your home to a different location on your property (or move somewhere else all together!) it is absolutely possible.
Most people purchase yurts already constructed, but if you have the time and skill, you can construct a yurt of your own for very little money. It may not be the cheapest option, but it is the most mobile, making it possible to skirt building codes in certain locations.
Want to learn about various natural building styles? They really are the way to live. Check out this post where you can learn all about the different natural building styles.
Get Free (Or Almost Free) Water & Power For Your Off Grid Home
OFF GRID WATER SUPPLY
One of the most basic ways to have off-grid water is by rainwater collection. You don’t need an advanced, expensive system of tanks or pumps to start off with, just collect with what you have available: an above-ground swimming pool, buckets, or trash cans can all play their part.
You can also collect water from natural sources (creeks, rivers), and purify it yourself. You don’t necessarily have to draw water from a river with buckets, you could connect pipes and hoses from the river to bring it to your property.
FREE POWER FOR YOUR HOMESTEAD
For free power, I could, of course, suggest a generator. But, if you don’t already have one, then it incurs a cost. Instead, I’m going to go very basic here: charge all battery-operated tools or appliances at a neighbor’s place or in town.
If you’re building your own place, charge your cordless drill with ‘borrowed’ electricity and finish up the work with battery power, not electricity.
Or, you could request a neighbor help you out with sharing their electricity (and some long extension cords) just until your own solar system is up and running.
These are temporary options for getting started. If you’re going to build your own off grid homestead, you should have a reliable, long-term solution in mind.
Hereʻs a secret ninja tip. Your car is a generator, a really expensive one. With the purchase of a very cheap inverter, you can turn your car into a generator that will power almost anything in your house. Learn all about how to do it in this post here.
Free Food For Life
You can start a garden from the items you already buy at the grocery store. It’s best if they are organic and have not been treated with any strange chemicals that could hinder re-growth.
Lettuce, celery, leeks, onions, green onions and bok choy regrow if placed in water, even if it’s just a glass on your kitchen counter. Give them a couple weeks and don’t cut off the bottoms. After you have some land prepared for a garden, move them into garden beds for optimal growth.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes that sprout eyes can be regrown, too! Just cut them up in pieces with the sprouting ‘eyes’ fully intact and plant under soil.
Save the seeds from melons, squashes, sweet peppers or hot peppers, and pumpkins to plant your own patch outdoors! It will take a little while literally enjoy the fruits of your labor, but it will be worth it – and it will be free!
If you are on Governement Assistance and receive EBT, you can buy fruit trees and seeds, which would be a great way to make those EBT dollars go further.
Even without a hunting license, you may be able to hunt for free in some US states. Check out your state’s specific “right to hunt” regulations, but some of the locations that allow subsistence hunting include:
Texas, Tennessee, Montana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Virginia, Wisconsin, South Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoa, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Idaho and Wyoming.
If your state does not have a provision for subsistence hunting, you may be able to apply for a discounted hunting license if you are a veteran, under the age of 18 (your kids), or are a senior citizen.
If you have lakes or a coastline near your home, fishing can be a great way to get free food. Options include nets or fishing poles; use whatever you have on hand to keep it free.
It’s not pretty to talk about, but it is important. If you are going off grid, you must come up with a working waste disposal system. While a hole in the ground might be free, it will only work for a couple of weeks; you need a more sustainable approach.
Find appropriate ways to reuse as much greywater (water with soap in it, from washing dishes, laundry or bathing).
If you are collecting rainwater as your free source of water, you probably want to recycle as much as possible, anyway.
Check out my post about uses of greywater and how to reduce your water wastage.
This is a fancy name for recycled human waste. But, once you get past the initial ‘gross’ factor, it’s actually a brilliant way to recycle everything to your own advantage! If you can be patient, your homestead will thank you.
Humanure is the most low-cost option for dealing with your sewage; simply keep human waste aside in a container, covered with a natural material (wood chips or dirt) to absorb the smell.
When your container fills up, dump it into a compost pile, cover it with more dirt and let it sit for a year. After the year is up, your ‘humanure’ is safe and ready for use in your garden!
For more ideas involving humanure compost, check out my post about setting up a humanure compost system of your own.
Biogas is a great option for off-grid homes, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot to set up. This also doubles as a form of energy for cooking and warming your home, too. You can buy a biogas pump and tank, or create your own from materials that you have already on-hand.
Can you really go off-grid with no money? Yes! If you’re willing to put in the hard work and creativity to find free land, build your own home, and set up sustainable free solutions, you really can live off-grid without money.
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