Choosing to Live Off Grid and Debt Free vs The Suburban Lifestyle

Over a year ago my family and I pulled out of buying a Nebraska farmhouse. It was a very difficult time for my family and I, and it drug us through a lot of emotions and scary uncertainties.

Looking back I realize how much of a learning experience it was for me. I thought for 5+ years that I wanted to own a few acres. Raise some goats and chickens. Roast marshmallows under the moonlight.

However, as we waited three weeks for our house to have any offers, it soon started to dawn on me what a risky proposition we were walking into. The new house would have increased our total debt from about $60,000 to $220,000. On top of that my yearly real estate taxes would have been more than $7,000 (based on my predictions of the increased assessed value). Finally, it would have increased my wife’s school commute from 24 miles per day (two round trips) to 68 miles per day.

As our house continued to not sell I started spreadsheeting it out more and more, and soon realized that the numbers weren’t adding up. It was going to really cost me and my family to pursue my dream. Insert gut check! Doh!

This past week I watch a video on YouTube about a guy, John Wells, living off grid on 80 acres of desolate land in southwest Texas. He paid $8,000 for the original 60 acres and just $500 for 20 acres. He pays $300 in property taxes per year for his 80 acres, 130 sq ft off grid house, and four shipping container houses. I didn’t miss type that!! $300 per year in real estate taxes! Wow! He said, what it costs him to live in Texas for one year would only pay for 8 days of taxes in upstate New York (his previous residence).

Here is the video I watched, which I thought you might enjoy as well!

As suburbanianite of the Omaha metro area, I have a hard time imaging living like John does. So far away from other people. With little to no living expenses and no debt to speak of. It is a sharp contrast to the $11,000 average credit card debt balance and $250,000 mortgage that the typical American has today!

In analyzing his situation I decided to take a look at what I think would be the pro’s and con’s about living off grid vs the suburban lifestyle for my current life situation (working, with three kids & wife).

Off Grid (like John):

Pros:

  • Low taxes
  • Low expenses
  • Debt freedom
  • Very few regulations
  • Peace and Quiet
  • Simplicity
  • No distractions in keeping up with the Jones’
  • Producing your own food/self-sustainability

Cons:

  • Dependent on solar for all power
  • Longer commute to work
  • A long distance away from emergency help (almost 45 minutes)
  • Limited social interaction with friends and neighbors
  • Increased number of predators
  • Limited access to modern amenities

Suburban Lifestyle (in Omaha metro):

Pros:

  • Closer to stores and gas stations
  • Community and community activities
  • Close proximity to School systems
  • Close to hospital and fire departments
  • Restaurants
  • Close to friends

Cons:

  • Higher taxes
  • More congestion and traffic
  • Comparing yourself to your neighbors
  • More crime

Overall, I know there are a lot of pros and cons to either living off grid or the typical suburban lifestyle. With the stage I’m at in life right now it is completely hard to imagine. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on living off grid or suburban. Please leave a comment below!

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4 comments

  1. I have family that live off-grid and it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s easier to do if it’s just you; if you add kids into the situation it gets more difficult. I personally am all right with off-grid living, but I do prefer modern conveniences. It’s more expensive to live in the city because we “need” so many things to get around efficiently and to appear normal. But yeah, if you wanted to throw up your hands and say “Screw it!”, then off-gridding is right for you. ;)

    • Roger Throm says:

      If expenses/costs are your main criterion then go for it. But better be darn sure your wife/partnter loves such a life style too. And would never impose this lifestyle on my own kids.

      • Charlie says:

        Roger – you make a good point! Most people aren’t on the same page about living off grid or off grid. Thankfully my wife and I are on the same page about living the suburban life.

    • Charlie says:

      Mrs. Picky – you hit the nail on the head. I think that living off grid would definitely be a lot easier by yourself, then living with kids off grid. I even think living with your spouse off grid would be easy too as long as she is on board. I’d much rather live in an RV, then live off grid. I think that’d be easier.

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