Saving money to live your own life

This guest post by Sarkin and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

I always wanted to be a “homesteader”. Yes I hate labeling myself or anyone else but I woke up the other morning and thought that must be what I have become. It is hard to live that kind of lifestyle when your drowning in debt. A huge factor in not only getting to the point of being debt free but also to having actual say in your own life and time is saving and spending wisely. I knew at an early age that even though my dad had been my idol since day one I didn’t want to work 60 hours a week like he usually did. I also didn’t want to raise 9 loud kids either 😉 I knew if I could master my budget it would have a trickle effect onto my whole life.

My life:

I live in a 24ft prowler travel trailer, no I don’t have a mortgage 😉 Little bit of solar, rain water, small wood stove, propane and a well. No utilities. I grow everything that I can grow myself up here in the pacific northwest. My parents got me hooked on canning when I was young. I am $0 dollars in debt and work about 10-14 hours a week as a cook in town(about 12 miles away). I went to college for a few years but realized I didn’t want the life of a career.

I feel bad how miserable peoples lives are, working them away for a mountain of china’s finest exports. Some people today think they really need one of everything of every category Most all my time is my own and I have REAL freedom to do what I want when I want. I love taking care of my animals, working outside, growing food, canning and spending time visiting my family and friends. I also found out that I could love my job when I didn’t have to work 6 days a week just to be totally broke.

No my life is not for everyone but it is all mine and it is “real”. I think our whole country might be in for a dose or “real” life very soon. I told a family member the other day I pray her first world problems don’t become third world problems because she probably couldn’t handle it. It was kind of mean but she didn’t get it anyways.

So what I set out to do with this article originally was just to send in a big list of ideas that might be helpful. Some of these might seem like common sense but here goes:

When I buy milk I buy whole milk, then divide it into 2 jugs then fill them both with water…milk is the same cost if it is whole or nonfat. So it makes your milk 50% off and 50% healthier 😉

I make my own liquid laundry soap. I got a deal on pink Zote soap years ago for 30cents a bar and I bought 40 bars. Needless to say I have a lifetime supply. Also I bottle my finished soap up into old milk jugs and sell it to family and friends for 2 bucks a gallon. It is not a get rich quick scheme by any means but I make a few bucks and all my soap is free.

Make a huge effort to eat less meat. Don’t get me wrong its not a matter of loving animals. I love animals, I raise them humanely and I know the huge expense they are and the price they pay to feed us. People eat too much meat, it is just not sustainable. Besides the horrible methods used to raise them commercially, meat it expensive. 9 times out of 10 it is most expensive part of the meal. So its simple eat less meat save money.

I like to stretch taco filling with lots of home canned pinto beans or even some oats or wheat germ.

Use canning to make cooking easier and cheaper. Canning your own beans for example saves a fortune and it is so handy. Also I use almost all Tattler canning lids. Yes they are a little pricey. Or I should say were a little pricey, mine have been made free twice over from reuse.

Composting toilet. When I had a regular a home I always made it a point to go number “1” outside. Sorry if anyone is sensitive but every time a toilet flushes it is wasted “clean” drinking water. Not that I consider tap water to be drinkable. But it adds up fast on the ole water bill. But honestly a composting toilet is so easy and cheap. A bag of peat moss goes a long ways. There are lots of ideas for building them or just attaching a toilet seat to a 5 gal bucket.

I get buckets of mistakes and plate leftovers from the restaurant I work at to feed my chickens. A lot of times there are big 8oz+ chunks of prime rib or steaks in there I feed to my dog Chewbacca. This cuts my chicken and dog food bill down sharply. Every now and then I will grab big chunks of the dried out wheat toast and give the rabbits a little. Also I feed my rabbits tons of weeds, dandelions, plantain, and clover I scrounge up. They get hay from off my moms pasture and big chunks of apple tree prunings to chew on too. I raise mangel beets in the garden for the chickens and rabbits. I love when the rabbits are all chomping on there own chunks of field beets, they look like a bunch of blood crazed zombies. 😉

One day I might build a cabin or get a yurt, I haven’t decided. One big lesson I have learned though. My little wood stove heats this small trailer so easily. It is wild how warm I stay on such a small volume of wood. It is sort of like the saying “White man build big fire, sit way back…Indian build little fire, sit up close.” But it would be more like “Has huge house.. burn down whole forest in wood stove and wife still cold.”

My best piece of advice don’t buy cheap or poorly made anything. Make smart money choices and think of the quality and longevity of purchases…sometimes to save money you have to spend money!

This contest will end on February 16 2013  – prizes include:

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rulesthat are listed below first… Yes

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Fabulous!
    I use the “Indian, little fire” story all the time when my kids are burning up my firewood outside. I never knew the part about the “house burn down, wifestill cold” part. LMAO!
    I envy you! If I was single I would probably live the same way. My family is too large. Well…..lets see. I take that back. We do live the same way, just for 7 people. So seven times more stuff, more food, and more space.
    Independence and freedom is golden. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Petticoat Prepper says:


    Nice post! I asked our county planner if we could move our RV to my land and live there. Thinking it would be a great way to get to zero debt and a new construction mortgage free home. We have to have something with a HUD sticker; which of course ours doesn’t have. But TEOTWAWKI will likely see us there.

    You are correct about first world/third world problems. Once Americans have third world problems TDL will have successfully ‘re distributed’ the wealth.

  3. Your story has the appeal of a simpler life than most of us live now. We are looking for a place. Had an offer to join a group that has a really nice rural location with a large main building and lots of the other stuff we were looking for. MY problem is that even with the relatively mild winters we have been having, it’s only accessible from mid-May through October. If we stay, we stay! Asked the DW about that, she said she could deal with it. I believe her. The group is looking at a snow cat, first try is a no go. We’ll see.

  4. Texanadian says:

    PP: Move the trailer out there as a construction trailer to use as you build your own permanent home. Not your fault if it takes 20 years to clear the foundation by hand before you can frame it.

    Sometimes easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

    • Petticoat Prepper says:

      Yes, I asked about time lines and ‘they’ have a certain limit…. But yes, I will hopefully be in the RV while we’re building. I’ve a S#!* guy nearby who’d make it his business to keep tabs. It’s no longer my dream spot but it’ll be good for a few years and then I’ll move to a better location. Unless the handbasket gets to H3!! first….

    • Sometimes easier to ask forgiveness than permission has become my prime directive.
      When I need to ask forgiveness I just act sincerely stupid.

  5. Thanks for the article. It was a great read. I laughed at the white man big fire …. I also “try” and use the outside bushes when possible to pee or if I can try and time a pee for the shower, since I’m already using water mine as well make a double use. Shhh don’t tell the wife

  6. Sirvivr2010 says:


    You are living the life I pray for everyday. I’m just waiting for God to say “Move child’. I grew up on a farm where you raised everything you eat. I so miss it. I so envy you!
    May God continue to bless you.

  7. Livin the life!!! That is my plan as soon as I can sell my BIG house that takes to much to heat or cool. I am sure glad I live in a state and county that does not have all those damn restrictions on what you can do with your property. No building codes unless you live in a very major city. I am going over and redoing plans to build a small cabin 16×30 when I get my property unless it has a house I can redo to be more off grid. I do agree on the meat thing I try to do that as much as I can, making soup with one thawed chicken breast that will be lunch for a week for me. Live more simple and Live more Free!!!

  8. Texanadian says:

    George said, “That is my plan as soon as I can sell my BIG house that takes to much to heat or cool.”

    When I went Galt a few years back I met a fellow in Northern Washington who lived in a very nice RV bus. He had it wired for everything he needed as far as wireless, printers and such for his consulting business. Kind of intriqued me so I asked how came to be living in such a place. He said one day he was looking around at his 6000 sq ft house, double garage and guest house and thought to himself, “I am spending way to much money to store stuff and to heat and cool it. I have too much stuff.” He then said he called his kids and told them if they wanted any of this stuff to come and get it. They had 30 days then it was going to good will or the dump. Sold the house, got rid of stuff and spends six months up north and six months in the south and doesn’t spend money on stuff. A great philosophy. How much stuff have people accumulated that just sits there? I have rejoined the world but TW and I work hard at not accumulating stuff.

  9. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Good article. Sounds like you have an ideal life,
    My husband and dog go outside to pee, too. I tried it once and filled my shoes.
    Good luck with your simple ways.

  10. Alittle2late says:

    Soon very soon! I can’t wait.

  11. TGM…. My what a visual LOL

    Sarkin…. That is where I am trying to get my life to. Working on paying down my debt and getting my double wide paid off. Then I too plan on removing myself from the working class… and should be able to live off just part time work which will be so much nicer than working 40+ a week in a job I hate.

  12. Hey, you are crazy like me. I love my 3 part time jobs because they don’t consume my time. 3/4 of what you wrote is ditto in my life.
    I am rather embarrased to say this, but I do #1 outside in warmer seasons, but shhh! don’t tell anyone this wild woman pees in nature to fertilize her flowers.

    I lived in a 14 ft Tipi for many weeks over years in freezing weather and it do get cold even with an ozan, a fire and a large dog who didn’t like getting under the hide with me but would rather sit on top and chew it.

    I have stayed in my grandparents log cabin heated with a wood stove and a fireplace, and I would rather have more insulation and sturdiness between me and the outdoors–like bears who have chased me inside behind 8 inch logs, an a solid door only to leave pawprints on the window… Your travel trailer sounds great! It is my emergency plan I had for years if it comes down to really bad times. You are living the life!

    • 🙂 I have never heard of anyone on their death bed saying they wish they could have worked a little more so they could have bought one size larger flat screen TV. Its always maybe I should have bought less, so I could have worked less and used my time better.

      • That is my current mindset. I’m hating myself for the debt that I have gotten into. I fell into the consumerism trap and I fell deep. Now I want to get out and get into a position to where I can afford to work part time so I can enjoy life.

        • We’ve all been bud…life is real tough sometimes. Don’t get down on yourself for debt.. well for anything actually. Keep your head up high and be proud of yourself for wanting something more. Its not easy to break away from the mainstream ideals.

          It takes a lot of discouraging days to get to the really good days sometimes 😉

          • Tactical G-Ma says:

            Sarkin is right…stuff happens. When each thing in life occurs we make the best decision possible. DH and I have raised and educated 3 children, 1 BS, 1MA, 1JD. There were three weddings, one divorce, eight grandsons, their new homes, our downsizing and relocating, our medical problems, their problems, dozens of pets and vet bills, and DHs mother and sisters who barely scrape by whom we help monthly for almost 40 years. There have been times we have been debt free and times we should have declared bankruptcy. I don’t begrudge a dime we have spent for our lives and family. We are so wealthy in so many ways, even if not in gold and silver. If we die tomorrow it will be without regret. Some things are worth going into debt.

        • SW, I was in hock for $17,000 on my credit card from a failed business, 5 years ago and I hated it. I took a big risk by putting the debt as a line of credit against my home for 7 years of payments to keep the interest down. Well, I paid it off in 3 1/2 years by cutting expenses. It was a challenge I gave myself to do what Sarkin has done, but it was fun to see the debt going away. I was committed to change my life.

          I got simple and tried an experiment using wood stove for everything; I cut my wood, cut the propane heat and electric use, shut down my water heater, grew and foraged for wild foods, cut my car insurance to liability on my old truck, used dialup internet, found throw away computers when the county upgraded, went to goodwill for clothes, foraged for wild foods and grew a small garden, became a Ramen noodle receipe queen, fished for meat, and only pay cash for what I needed. I got another PT job of 2 days a week to help pay this debt off…………

          Paying off that debt was a huge burden off my shoulders.. I didn’t have to continue the experiment after that day, but I can’t stop living that way–it became a lifestyle I enjoy. Now I have saved money, pay cash for everything with my PT jobs which are a 3 1/2 day work week average and lots of time to enjoy what I like to do, and it added more survival skills to the experience.

          I have been in your shoes, you can do it.

          • Hunker-Down says:


            That’s a great skill set to have.

          • Thanks for the post. Right now 17k would look real good. I dug in about 35k in credit card debt. I do have a debt reduction plan in play and I should be able to get it all paid off in right around 3 years.

            Like you I am taking measures to reduce my expenses. I am gettiing back into gardening and at night instead of using the lights I burn candles unless I need bright lights for a specific task (like reading). I hang my clothes up to dry on a line inside the house so I dont have to use the electric dryer. I also wash dishes by hand and use the dishwasher as a drainboard…thus reducing my electric bill even further.

            • We use head mounted flashlights. The batteries last a couple of months and are the double A kind, which we buy in bulk at COSTCO. Candles are too risky with little ones around.

  13. Swabbie Robbie says:

    Thanks for your good article.

    We have lived rurally for decades. We are getting older and tired of racing rats. Mainly that means we’ve worked too much to keep it all going and it is becoming more than we want to deal with. We plan to sell and downsize soon. A simpler life, a smaller place (still rural), less to take care of, less taxes, and more free time.

    I have been following the tiny house movement for several years and even have taken a workshop. While we plan on a small house for our next home, I am thinking of building a longer ( say 26 foot) tiny house on wheels shell for a workshop. I kind of like the idea that if we move again we can take our buildings with us. I also like the concept that we can go broke but we won’t be homeless because I could build a tiny house to live in.

    One question I have for you is working as few hours per week as you do, can you afford the ever increasing cost of health insurance or are you forced to go bare? Getting rid of things may be the easy part, but as we get older health issues play a bigger part. Of course if it all craters, having health insurance won’t matter. That is where alternative health/medicine prepping comes in to play. It sounds like you are working at eating healthy.

    • Yea I eat really well and get lots of exercise, only drink water from the spring ect. I have a pretty vast first aid kit with antibiotics, sutures ect. I am only 29 so I am pretty lucky so far to have good health.

      I think diet is the biggest factor of good health. There is no way I am buying into all this Obamacare malarky so it looks like I just gotta stay as healthy as possible.

      • Swabbie Robbie says:

        While hindsight is 20-20, I gotta say I have made it to 62 without any medical problem I couldn’t have paid for myself. Only expensive one was a finger amptation to the 1st joint that needed surgery to stitch. I was heldup ( or I should say my ins. co. was on the charges. My friend who is a veterinarian told me if it had been a dog the charge would have been around $200. Mine was over ten thousand 1G to take two view X-ray, 1G to have someone read it. So, be careful and build a medical emergency fund.
        I seriously doubt that when I hit 65 medicare will actually provide much. Good reason to eat healthy and get exercise, and remember we all die of something eventually. It is the quality of the living that counts, not the quantitiy.

  14. Pineslayer says:

    Your story would be a horror narrative to most Americans. Too bad right?
    Good job. You have set the bar high. How do you feel about a Deuce & 1/2 as a mobile house? Multi-fuel, 6 wheel drive, terrific fuel mileage.

    • Sounds like a plan Pineslayer! I spend most my time outside so the time I spend indoors is usually sleeping/reading/eating ect. So I think it would be plenty cozy…I am a pretty big guy and too much time inside and the place starts closing in on me. 😉 I think it would be that way for everyone though.

      Yea I like to keep my home life fairly private. I don’t like everyone knowing how simple I live. A lot of people would think I was homeless and/or nuts if they heard I lived in a trailer with no city utilities. LOL

  15. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    I enjoyed reading this article – it sounds like you are well grounded in keeping your expenses in check. Keep up the good work.

  16. GeorgiaBoy says:

    Great post, Sarkin.
    I dilute most fruit juices because they’re too sweet otherwise, but I never thought about it for milk (sound of hand slapping forehead). That one will save me some money-thanks.

  17. Sarkin,
    You’re living how I started out just after college, which was nearly 40 years ago, but it’s a good way to get started, and learn how frugally you can live if you need to.

    When I was 30 I married a country girl and we heated our home for about 4 years with wood, until we decided to go the propane route. An investment in large tanks now allows us to heat, cook, and have domestic hot water for about $100-$150 per month average; although we still have the wood stove and more than a few cords of fuel stashed for an emergency. Until the DD is done with college in about 1 ½ years I’ll still be working, but with only minor utilities and no mortgage, we look forward to the day when full time work will be tending livestock and garden. Sometimes getting to the no debt place takes a little sacrifice, like no trips to Disney World, and vacationing locally, but in the end, it has all been worth it. I now work from home, love what I do, and have somewhat flexible hours. As for the #1 outside, I’ll do it when I’m already out working, or when the inside room is busy for extended periods of time (generally when the DD is home), but the occasional flush doesn’t bother me, since the water comes from a local well, and eventually ends up filtering right back into the aquifer on the property. Those who think your living arrangements are a bit different are indeed correct; but, in the end they are the ones who have chosen slavery and living on the edge, even if they don’t know it.

    You my friend are living a life many would envy if they really understood.

  18. Basic,bare-boned…I like it. I think I’ll check out yurts.

  19. I read lots of blogs and comment threads, and this one is by far the most supportive and friendly I’ve come across.
    Many others regularly turn into slugfests and personal attacks. Not fun.
    To you all, please keep up the good work!

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