The cost of living in North America is climbing every day. Inflation remained at a 40-year high in March 2022, alarming many people. With gas, groceries, and everyday bills pushing personal budgets higher and higher, many families feel like they’re moving into the danger zone when it comes to their finances. Some people find the answer to this is off-grid living.
Some reports estimate that about 250,000 or more people in the US now enjoy this alternative lifestyle. It offers increased self-sufficiency, independence, and freedom.
What is off-grid living and where are the best places to live off the grid in the US? Here’s our analysis to help you make the best choice for your future.
Off-grid living, also referred to as “homesteading”, is a lifestyle in which you are disconnected from the local electrical power grid. Sometimes, this type of living also means you don’t access the municipal water system or sewage making you to do the cooking without electricity. People who are seeking an independent, self-sufficient lifestyle gravitate towards off-grid living as a means to live separately from established institutions and save money.
In the US, it wasn’t until around the 1920s that electricity became more widespread across the nation. The establishment of electricity in homes was a slow process, however. While Thomas Edison began supplying electricity to parts of Manhattan in 1882, by 1925 still only half of all American households had electric power. It wasn’t until around 1960 that almost all homes in the US were powered by local electricity.
In this way, you could say living on the grid is a relatively new development in human history. For some areas of the country, it’s been less than 70 years that people have come to rely on the public electrical grid.
Living off-grid in the US isn’t always easy and can result in extra chores and work to be done on your property. You may have to source your own water, take care of solar panels, conduct repairs on your personal electrical system, and grow your own food. This being said, there are numerous benefits to living off-grid. These can include:
By installing your own solar or wind system on your property, you can save money on electricity bills. In addition, you can rest at ease knowing you are contributing in a positive way to reducing carbon emissions world wide. With your own off-grid property, you can rely on solar or wind power, and contribute towards a more sustainable global environment.
The best states for off grid living vary depending on who you talk to. The team at LawnStarter.com ranked all 50 states according to their infrastructure, costs, climate, safety, and feasibility for off-grid living. They found Texas, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Missouri to be the best states to live off-grid in the US.
In contrast, Daniel Mark Schwartz of Offgridpermaculture.com has a different list when it comes to the best place to live off the grid. To determine each state’s ranking he considered numerous factors including cost, freedom, water, agriculture, energy, and survival community in attractive off-grid living states.
Schwartz considers the following states to be the top 10 for off-grid living:
The two states both Shwartz and LawnStarter can agree on are Texas and Missouri for the best off-grid potential. Both of these states have lower property taxes, cheaper land, and a lower cost of living. Each has many counties that don’t have building codes, which means you can construct your home as you wish. Not all places allow tiny homes, container homes, and off grid cabins but in Texas and Missouri, more counties do. Finally, water rights are also easier to obtain in these states and the growing season allows for more productive agriculture.
Alabama got the best overall score, and many southern states weren’t far behind. The warm climate and affordable price of land makes these areas particularly attractive for off-grid living. It’s good to know, however, that some sources point out some areas of Alabama have outdated zoning and building laws. For example, if you plan on running a home business on your homestead, such as selling canned goods and fresh eggs, the rules can become complicated. This can be true in many parts of the US, however, and finding the state and county with the right balance to suit your needs is the overall goal.
Technically speaking, you can live off the grid anywhere in the US. The trouble comes when some of the equipment and systems commonly used to live off the grid are banned in certain areas. Some regions and municipalities have laws and codes that restrict the use of things like composting toilets, rainwater collection systems, and solar panels, and they also may restrict the raising of livestock. This is more common in urban and suburban areas. Generally speaking, rural areas are more open to off-grid living.
It’s true that setting up an off-grid homestead can take a solid investment to get started. You need to pay for your land, the materials to build your home, and pay for ways to generate energy like buying solar panels. Once you’re set up, however, off-grid living can be more cost effective. It depends on your approach. You can definitely save money on electricity bills, and save by producing your own food. Living in a more frugal and less extravagant way can also lead to fewer expenses.
This being said, there are hidden costs some people don’t think of. These can include:
When done right, living off the grid can be cheaper but this depends on your current on-grid lifestyle.
There are different opinions when it comes to the cheapest place to live off-grid in the US. Daniel Mark Schwartz from Off Grid Permaculture considers Alabama as the cheapest state for off-grid living in the US. This is due to cheaper land, lower property tax rates, and counties with few building codes.
Living off-grid always comes with costs, and you can’t do it for free. You will need a certain amount of cash flow to survive, if only to pay your property tax. This being said, there are many places offering free land in remote areas in exchange for building a home and living in this space for a set period of time. You can find free land in the US in thirteen states as outlined on Morningchores.com.
The cost of off-grid living can vary widely. If you have a larger homestead, it will come with greater costs. Experts estimate off-grid living can cost you anywhere from about $12,000 to $450,000. Your average monthly expenses, including housing, gardening, water, and heat can average between $35 and over $2000 per month. Much depends on your available equipment, skills, and infrastructure.
In general, you can anticipate paying between $50,000 and $100,000 for your land and the same to create your home, including your electricity generating system, (solar or wind power).
Making the leap to off-grid living can be a big step! When looking at property to purchase, you’ll want to keep the following things in mind:
Land It goes without saying the land you purchase needs to be affordable and within your budget. Cheap land may have its drawbacks such as being prone to annual flooding and unsuitable for farming, however, so be diligent when conducting your research. Flood maps are available online through FEMA. You can also access information about areas with forest fire potential through the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
Climate If you are hoping to farm your land for self-sufficiency, the annual rainfall will be important. Consider the climate in which the land is located.
Property tax laws Ideally, you want to seek out an area with low property taxes. Typically, agricultural land is less expensive than that zoned as residential. These parcels of land tend to be larger, however, requiring more cash upfront to purchase. Agriculturally zoned land that is used for residential purposes will often be taxed at a higher rate.
Water You may be lucky and have fresh ground water on your property. Digging a well can give you access to it. If ground water can’t be located, you may have to truck your water in. Water access is a big consideration when it comes to purchasing your property. If you need to work hard to get enough water, even if the land is cheap, you may consider looking elsewhere.
It’s important to know that each state has its own approach to water rights. States on the East Coast have more liberal policies. They tend to have riparian water rights which means if you have access to water, you can use it.
West of the Mississippi, many states have what is called “prior appropriation” water rights. The person with the oldest permit gets preference when using the water, and you will need to apply for a permit to use yours. You may have a river or stream on your property but no access to it. Some states have a mixture of laws.
In some states, you can collect rainwater legally, which can be helpful.
Zoning laws As stated above, if your property is zoned for agricultural use, your taxes will likely be lower. You can often get a property to be rezoned as agricultural if you can prove there is adequate reason to do so. This requires raising livestock, or growing crops in certain amounts.
Finding the right property when looking for the best place to live off the grid can take time and effort. It can be worth it, however!
Living off the grid can come with many adventures. The experience of each person who tries it is different but learning a few tricks of the trade before making your transition can help. You may want to learn about solar power, battery operated generators, trapping, fishing, hunting, growing your own food, canning, pickling, dehydrating food, chopping wood, mechanics, and construction. Off-grid living can encompass complete self-sufficiency. It can also consist of a hybrid lifestyle approach wherein you generate your own electricity, but still go to work in a regular job, and purchase food and other essentials from the grocery store. The level of self-sufficiency you seek is up to you.
Due to the state of the economy, some people feel we’re heading towards a period of hyperinflation. Hyperinflation is defined as excessive and rapid price increases across the economy that become out-of-control. Hyperinflation is inflation that measures above 50% per month. For example, if you spend $200 on groceries one month, the next month the same amount of food would cost you $300, and the following month, $450.
To prepare for times of hyperinflation, having an emergency food supply on hand can be essential. Freeze dried food, bulk freeze dried meat, and a family survival kit can all be extremely helpful and are available at Valley Food Storage.
Freeze dried food can be a valuable asset. Valley Food Storage freeze dried food gives you access to nutrient-pack fruits, vegetables, meat, and more without the need to refrigerate it. Our food has an amazing 25-year shelf life. All our products taste the same as their fresh counterparts, and all you need to do is add water!
Our freeze dried beef, turkey, and chicken are sourced from high quality meat packed with calories and protein. With clean contents and non-GMO ingredients, each product is sealed in mylar bags away from humidity and stored in a water-resistant plastic bucket.
Freeze dried food is ideal for homes that are conserving as much energy as possible, and households where electricity is intermittent. These products are also essential survival rules that any family concerned with protecting their future should have on their shelves.
Prepare in the best way possible by stocking your home with high quality, long lasting food for your family. At Valley Food Storage, we adhere to the highest standards in freeze dried foods to supply you with nutrient-packed meals everyone will appreciate. Click here to learn about our food storage subscription and save!