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Debt will sink your homestead (or your regular home)

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My wife and I have been on something of a kick on reality shows involving either Montana, or homesteading lately.  We watched the entire series of “Last American Cowboy”, started watching the “Beekman Boys” and for good measure we threw in the “No Reservations” set in Montana, just to round out the evening.  I was mainly watching them all for the background shots of the Rockies in Montana, as well as the cute shots of baby cows and goats.  Yet I noticed a common theme mentioned in all of the episodes, and I think its a lesson that often gets ignored by people who want to convert from suburban living to rural living in some form, as well as by most of society in general.

Debt BurdenWhen was the last time debt was really a blessing to you?  I don’t mean, allowed you to get the theatre system you knew you shouldn’t buy anyway, and allow it to infest your living room while you blew a years food budget on it.  I mean really blessed you with growth and prosperity.  I would love to hear comments from anyone who thinks it has, I will gladly poke a hole in it, because it hasn’t.

There is no such thing as good debt out there, nope, not even that kind.  It will squash your dreams left and right if you insist on carrying it around with you.  My wife and I learned this lesson the hard way, and we are immensely proud of how far we have come in digging out way out.  The dream we are embarking on wouldn’t be possible with the debt load we had 5 years ago when we moved to Tucson.  For that matter the lifestyle we have now wouldn’t be possible with that debt load.

bills

The exact numbers are probably lost to time now, but our total was $85,000 in debt no counting our mortgage.  We had everything, two car loans, some credit cards, a little student loan, a big 30 mortgage designed to increase the cost of our house 2.5X over again in just 30 short years.  Minimum payments on all of that were somewhere around $1500 before mortgage and $2200 with.  That’s basically a $30,000 a year job, JUST TO REACH ZERO.

In the last 5 years we have paid off more than 85% of that, and the rest should get knocked out shortly after the move, plus by moving we knock of the mortgage.  I am using these numbers, not because I want to toot my own horn, but because if you are reading this, statistics say you are in much the same trap.  Almost all Americans carry around significant debt loads, and a big mortgage to boot.  Its why we feel like we have to work till we are 65 in order to go live like a broke redneck.  If your Save Up to Homestead plan is anything more than 5 years, I am guessing you have a debt problem.

How much more freeing is it to have the option to have the spouse stay at home?  How much further out can you look for homestead land, when you don’t have to factor in proximity to an $80,000 a year job?  How much more time can you take to get that home-business off the ground when you don’t have Citi breathing down your neck?  Wanna buy a straw-bale home on a mortgage?  Good Luck.  Wanna pay cash for a straw bale home?  When can you move in?

It has become so easy to lie to ourselves and say we can’t live without debt.  It’s the most heavily marketed product in the entire world.  If you haven’t already, sit down and make a list of your goals.  Is debt blocking those goals, or slowing them down?  If it is, attack it.  Attack it harder than you ever have, then go live your dream.  Learn from our mistakes, so you don’t have our wasted years.

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Home Made Headboard

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As  I mentioned earlier today, one of my skills to improve this year is wood working.  However, earlier this year we had a dilemma, and I think the solution turned out great, so I wanted to share it with you.  I have a great low cost way to get some extra furniture into your house.

My wife’s family comes out every year to visit us form Pittsburgh (our original home).  Well every year up until this point, they have had to sleep on an air mattress.  Well this year, thanks to my wife working at a mattress store for a few months, we actually have a bed for them.

Quick side not, beds are high margin items, and employees get great discounts.  If you need extra cash, and a new bed, consider a part time job at one.  Get your cash, get some discounted mattresses, and move on.  Just a budget stretching side note.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a headboard to go along with that bed.  Now we could have just left it, no one would have cared or said anything of course, but I was feeling like I really wanted to make something.  I discovered earlier in the summer that I liked working with wood when I built my chicken coop.  So I decided to build one.

Now money was tight, and I don’t have a table saw.  So ripping a big piece of plywood was completely out of the question.  So whats big, mostly flat, and looks great once its got a coat of pain on it?  Why pallets of course.  I made a headboard out of two pallets, and you can too.

Two pallets, 4 2X4 and a 4X4.

Two pallets, 4 2X4 and a 4X4.

The design is blindingly simple once you think it through.  First, you scavenge two pallets and paint them.  They are much easier to paint when they are still on their own.  Then you attach the pallets to each other so they form one long solid piece.  Thats the majority of your headboard already, and if your bed isn’t on a frame, you could use as is.  We just wanted to go a little nicer.  So  I Framed in the pallets with two by fours.  I started with the top, since I wanted to cut it long enough for an overhang on each side.  Then you cut the legs on each side, just cut them long enough to run from your top beam to the floor, and make it however tall you want.  Lastly, you run a last piece on the bottom, mainly for symmetry.  Then I went ahead and cut two little chunks of 4X4 just to offer some extra bracing on the bottom.  Total cost, about $20 and an hour of wood working.  Paint was cheap, but took a couple hours to dry.  Here is our finished product.

finished headboard

You literally can’t mess this project up, so go make something today.