We Came To Our Senses And Now Live Within Our Means

We Came To Our Senses And Now Live Within Our Means

By Kimberly Hansen, Wisconsin

You don’t have to live in the middle of nowhere in order to live the “backwoods life” that most of us dream about, but few of us attain or sustain. I’ve been reading magazines on self-reliance for more than 20 years now, and while I have done some of the things written about, including homeschooling my children, I kept getting sucked back into the everyday existence that most of us come to regret. Consumerism has been alive and well in this girl’s life and before too long, I found myself trying not to fall off a mountain of debt.

Silly me, I thought going to school would help me to make a better life for my family, but instead, I am now being suffocated by student loans that will follow me to the grave, and as life would have it, I never even got to finish my degree. That’s one part they leave out when enticing you to get an education.

And don’t get me started on the lure of the new car smell. It’s one of my weaknesses. I am embarrassed to say I have been involved with the purchase of four new and three almost new vehicles in the past 13 years. Even after my husband and I both lost our jobs in 2009, when we got back on our feet, one of the first things we did was buy new vehicles. I’d say it was temporary insanity, but it’s been going on most of my adult life.

It took me almost having a heart attack and my husband, Bob, getting hurt on the job to finally come to our senses. Our main goal now is to get out of debt, and turn our little 696 square foot townhome that sits on 2/3 acre into the homestead we always dreamed of. Since we have now hit our 50s, we are more reluctant to be out in the middle of nowhere and believe that by planting the right trees and putting up some fences, it will be private enough yet close to what we need.

To start on the road to financial independence, we got rid of one of our vehicles, which not only eliminated a car payment, but left us with only one car to insure, license, repair and gas up. We traded one cell phone company that charged us $140 per month for two phones, to one that charged $65 for two phones with very similar services. Of course, cable and Internet had to go, too. I must say, I don’t mind not having to pay for the additional commercials that cable companies subject you to. A 65-mile multi-directional HD antenna gets us close to 60 stations and since I am one to watch PBS mostly, I don’t feel like I’m missing a thing and with the new digital signals, the picture is just as good, if not better than cable. Gone are the days of horizontal hold.

Our next goal is to pay off the truck and the other small bills we have, limiting the money needed to survive and freeing up extra money to pay down the mortgage. My ultimate objective is to be able to work from home and be as self-reliant as possible. That will only be possible with hard work and self-discipline. But I believe we are on our way, putting our efforts into our homestead instead of things that rob you of your freedom. A Friday night for us is a couple Redbox movies and Bob’s awesome homemade pizza from scratch.

Though we love having such a small house, we were limited in storage, so my hubby built a beautiful pine pantry for stocking up on food, and for a lot less than what you would pay for a cheaply made Walmart special. Luckily, that man of mine can do just about anything, so all the wants and needs of our dream cabin have been accomplished on a shoestring. We needed a new kitchen table because the old one was in sorry shape, so he built a nice farmer’s table for less than $100. We also needed a door on one of the rooms we have. Where it is situated and the size of the room does not lend itself to a conventional door, so he built a barn door, which is now a focal point of the “great” room for less than $75. To give ourselves the Northwoods feel we love so much, we made our bathroom into an outhouse. We feel like we went up north to the cabin and never left.

Greenhouse
A few of the ways we gave it a more woodsy feel. Photos courtesy Kimberly Hansen.

Last spring, Bob scrounged some materials and built a nice little greenhouse, to help with the gardening. He has two black barrels to catch water in and two he cut in half to do some container gardening. We experimented with beans, carrots and pumpkins. Next spring, we are going to build a raised bed and also have the containers as well as some berry plants along the fence. We agreed to really put in some effort and either can or freeze what we yield. I’m hoping to start off with some basics like spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce and veggies. Since neither of us have done this before, it will be interesting to see the results.

Outhouse
We turned our bathroom into an outhouse.

Right now we are just trying to make it through the Wisconsin winter, while planning what will be in our vegetable garden this coming season, how we will turn our old shed into a chicken coop, and what trees we will plant for privacy. I want a forest but the reality of cost will make us start out with smaller trees. I used to want to move up north and have 40 acres of pines and build a little cabin, but I’ve been in this town for 20 years, I’ve raised my kids in this area, and I am near my daughter and new granddaughter, so I have more reasons to stay than to go. We will just have to build our self-reliant, homesteading life right here.

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