Author Topic: READER CASE STUDY: Move large farming family to city, to save on commuting?  (Read 6020 times)

AgentCooper

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Reader Case Study:  Move large farming family to city, to save on commuting?

Specific Questions:
1.   Should we move?  I’m commuting 15 miles (about 25 mins) each way, 5 days a week (sometimes only 4 – I try to work a short week so I can take off one day a week, about twice a month; can’t get permission to do it any more than that, or to work from home).  Wife has converted from being a trophy wife 10 years ago to being a Total Badass Homesteader.  She is totally Little House on the Prairie now.  She stays busy (and happy) working on our homestead and farm.  She grows tomatoes, 15 kinds of vegetables, raises honeybees, raises dozens of chickens for eggs, raises batches of dozens of fat little chickens, rabbits and quail.  All of that would end if we moved to the small city where I work.  They don’t allow animal rearing due to zoning issues.  You may say, Well you’re growing so much of your own food, that must be a tremendous savings.  Well, it’s not.  I really don’t think it is.  Feeding all those animals – animals which we had to buy in the first place – is costing quite a bit more than just going to Wal-Mart.  But it’s fun for her and the kids, and the food is of IMMEASURABLY better quality, since it is non-GMO, organic, all-natural, no antibiotics, yada yada.  Edit: If we move, I would want it to be from our paid off 5 bed/2ba 2500 sq ft home on 1 acre to a 1/4 acre 1400 to 1800 sq ft 3 bed/2 ba, for less money.  A foreclosure / fixer upper within easy biking/walking distance of my job, church, grocery, and several potential future employers for when my wife returns to work in 2017.  We'd sell 1 of our 2 cars and I would bike to work. Eliminates estimated car ownership, fuel, maintenance costs of $3600/year.  Additional motivation: public schools there are supposedly much better.
2.    What else can we cut? We've made major expense reductions this year and still don’t feel the accumulation of retirement money.
3.   Talk me out of forgoing health insurance?  Strongly thinking of dropping Blue Cross’s garbage plan next year ($5,000 deductible costing us $190 per paycheck - only been to doctor once this year) and opting for Christian Healthcare Ministries or Samaritans (healthcare sharing ministries, which would exempt us from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty). Edit: Anyone with experience with this? The $190 vs. sharing ministry is about me & wife only. Kids still qualify for free health & dental.
4.    Edit with new question: How to save on grocery expense?  We search coupons but most are for processed convenience foods - or food like edible substances -- which we don't eat.  We read two America's Cheapest Family books and found some of their tips didn't work for us, e.g. our grocery stores don't double coupons. But my wife did switch to shopping every 2 weeks instead of every week, and is freezing rather than composting most leftovers now. We cook 95% of what we eat from scratch. Unlimited fruit, veg.  Eating meat 3 times a day currently. Have tried vegetarianism twice and gave it up after 6 to 9 months.

IRS Life Situation: IRS filing status married filing jointly, 4 dependents age 2 to 9, Louisiana, USA
Gross Salary: $71,500 per year, paid twice a month
Edited to gave more precise info:
$2982.93 Bi-weekly gross pay.
Taxes:  $264.69 Total. That's $0 Fed tax, $63.40 State tax, $38.15 Medicare, $163.14 Social Security.
Deductions:  $536.16 Total.  That's $178.98 401k (that’s 6%; company pitches in an additional 3% which is their cap on their part), $22.00 Dental, $190.00 HDHP Medical Insurance, $139.58 deposited to my Health Savings Account (employer contributes nothing), $5.60 Voluntary Life (provides coverage of $100,000 for me, $25,000 for my wife, $10,000 per kid).
Direct Deposit of $2182.08 is split into 2 checking accounts and 10 savings accounts. 

HSA funds are (earmarked for a $10,000 set of dental implants next year). 
Med Insurance is a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) through Blue:  $190 per check.  Deductible is $5,000 so we basically try to avoid ever using non-preventive care.
Other Ordinary Income:  Perhaps $300 per year from sales of farm products
Taxes:  Federal – usually get a refund of $2,000 to $3,000.  State:  refund usually $150 to $250.  Local property tax still only $800 per year but many similar houses paying $2000 per year.

Current Expenses – Total $2157.85 (edited to add $50).  All items are “per check” (24 times per year).  I’m actually a little unsure how to list these, since several are deposits to savings accounts, but are intended for future expenses so I’m not really considering that to be “savings” either.  **SOME OF THE BELOW HAS ALREADY BEEN IMPROVED SINCE I FIRST POSTED THIS.**
  • $0 Mortgage payments.
  • $0 Car payments. So far have been able to buy our cars with cash. 
  • $25 Smartphone service. Covers talk & text, but no internet.  Or you can pay $35 and that includes a decent amount of internet.  I am trying to stick to the $25 plan but sometimes get the $35.  (Total Wireless from Wal-Mart, provided via Tracphone, I believe – the phone itself was about $80).
  • $0 Internet:  Ok sometimes $10 on the months in which I choose to have internet on our smartphone.  No internet connected to our PC or TV, after reading MMM.
  • $0 Netflix.  Cancelled after reading MMM’s challenge to cut the cable TV cord.
  • $675 towards a personal loan (increased from $200, after reading MMM).  Balance $16,000.  We’ll kick the tax refund towards that, plus money from side-gigs, and plan to pay that off by Nov. 2016.  Interest rate of 4% will start on that starting in Dec. 2016.  Till then, it’s 0%.
  • $840 Household Account. This is my wife’s share of each paycheck. From this she feeds our household of 6, including packing a bag lunch every day for me and for the 3 kids who are of school age.  She also buys all the animal feed, occasional supplies (watering dishes, cages, etc.). This also covers our clothes and school uniforms.  She also maintains a barn cat with a small bag of food – mostly he is to hunt mice. Edit: Only about $34 per check going to farm expenses, rest goes to Sam's Club & Wal-mart and clothing. This year we had unusual startup expenses for new projects in amount of $3300 for bees, bee boxes, small barn, fencing, etc. Nevertheless $840 seems high, and after reading my post and the first 8 replies, she has requested to drop to $750.
  • $40 my pocket money, usually spent on lunch out with my wife.  For example, we each get a Chinese lunch special ($5.75 per person) and take it to the park.
  • $208 saved for future college expenses, which is $52 per check per kid.  Won’t be nearly enough but we’re depending on scholarships and in-state public universities.
  • $33 saved towards paying the annual property tax bill.
  • $32 saved towards paying semi-annual car insurance bill (Progressive, state requires liability only, have no collision or uninsured motorist).
  • $12.50 for trash service.
  • $8.35 for pest control (I could do it cheaper myself, but am horrified of messing with bug chemicals).
  • $0 for grass cutting service (this was costing us $800 per year until we started reading MMM).
  • $100 for gas.
  • $100 for electricity.  No gas bill.  No water bill.  Water is from an underground source via an electric pump.  We live in the Deep South, way down in Louisiana, where at 80 degrees any one of you mustachians would be drenched in sweat, I gahr-ron-tee it.  No but seriously, it is really really really uncomfortable and sticky-sweaty-hot about 10 months out of the year here.  After reading MMM we’ve gone to setting our thermostat on 75 or 76 rather than 72.  And as many days as we can stand it, we open the windows and run our whole-house fan, which works pretty well keeping us cool, but makes the inside of the house get way too humid (like, standing moisture on the floors).  Ok, that’s enough excuses for our electric bill.  Oh yeah one more – we are pumping water to all those animals we intend to eat.
  • $12 per check saved towards future birthday expenses.
  • $12 per check saved towards future Christmas expenses.
  • $10 per check toward retirement.  Yeah.  Yikes.  Soon as we pay off our personal debt, we plan to put that $675 per check towards retirement savings.  I was saving about $80 per check towards that, but we increased the amount we are paying towards debt and currently I save only $10 per check for retirement.
I’m working from the library’s free internet, and I’m positive I forgot one or two savings accounts or expenses, so if my numbers don’t add up, put that towards a Misc. Expense.
Update/edit:  Back home now and can fill in more numbers...
  • $20 home repair savings.
  • $20 savings for next car replacement.
  • $10 savings for hosting 2 future weddings.[/i]
Assets: $126,847(updated from $85,500) in funds, plus a home on 1 acre valued at about $180,000 (or $210,000, before the market collapse).

(All the below are Vanguard accounts are about 90% VFIAX or the other one that tracks the whole market, I think VTSAX, with a little in a healthcare index fund and a little in a REIT fund.)
  • $12,000 in a taxable Vanguard account.  This is earmarked for a future expense .  An elderly family member gave me $10,000 to hold for his burial expenses and then for me to keep any interest or gains earned on it.  Since then, I’ve turned it into $12,000, and recently moved it from a bank CD to Vanguard.
  • $57,000 in Traditional IRAs at Vanguard.
  • $3,000 Roth 401(k) at old employer.
  • $12,500 Traditional 401(k) at current employer.
  • $1,000 in a 529 plan for future college expenses, all in Vanguard funds.
updated:  also
  • $3100 in various savings accounts for upcoming expenses like home repair, property tax, next car, birthdays, Christmas, weddings, camping trips
  • $2685 in bank CDs at 2.25% held for next car replacement
  • $9512 total in bank CDs for 4 kids college
  • $16500 in wife's vanguard t-IRA
  • $8200 in HSA but all earmarked for major restorative dental
  • $1350 in bank CDs for weddings
Liabilities: None other than the above-referenced $16,000 personal loan. 
$0 Checking balance at all times.  Sort of.  I pay bills 21 times per year (dividing my annual expenses by 21, and sending in payments in advance), so that a fat $1050 of every 5th paycheck is a bonus freebie which I can put towards the personal debt or other unanticipated major expenses.  Once the personal debt is paid off, those 5th checks (well, $1050 of each 5th check) will go towards retirement.

Edit to answer more questions: Don't yet have the discipline to consolidate accounts.  I'm a recovering spendaholic. If I put my roof repair $ with my next car $ with my wedding $, well, there's a decent chance I'd buy a new bed next week!

Tax refund reduction: I like the idea, but how to fix? My W4 is already maxed out and my refund is waaaay more than I pay in.  I asked HR what they show for me and the number of dependents is right.  Maybe I should be changing that to "exempt"?  I just reviewed my stub and have paid $0 fed income tax so far this year.  Not sure how to fix the tax refund issue by revising the W-4.  I get credits for having so many kids, and other credits that change my $0 to you guys owing me money.  Sorry.  No I'm not.

Wedding savings accounts and CDs both exist. Savings held paycheck deposits till big enough for CDs. Post-MMM, I don't do bank CDs anymore, and am gradually converting all to Vanguard.

Do I like the homesteader lifestyle?  I think "yes" is the right answer to that.  I'm not 100% on it, but my wife likes it in a Big Way and my kids seem to enjoy it a lot.  I personally like being able to walk to the grocery rather than living 10 miles from one.  Before kids, we lived in a very different large city and had no car.  We walked everywhere, used public transpo, got our groceries on foot with backpacks, could run to the corner store at 11pm and be back in 5 minutes, were very fit as a result of so much walking, and we both liked being in a city.  Things are different now.  Not sure how I'd like being in a city now, with 4 small kids.
 


11/9/15 Updates:   
Update #1:  Farm Vs. City.  Hmm, I reckon I agree, this IS about lifestyle more than commuting costs.  I appreciate the advice.  I was looking at it as a more black-and-white issue, To Drive or Not to Drive.  I would LOVE to sell my car and have my bike be my only means of transpo.  But can use these insights to further target and refine my house search:  I have located a neighborhood that I really like in town, which is apparently zoned agricultural, because in that neighborhood there is a small ranch with several horses, and a 1-acre goat farm.  If I could find a spot in that area, I’d be 1 mile from work, 1 mile from church, 1 mile from Wal-mart.  Pretty sweet.  So this was very helpful; I can say with confidence that I should NOT move to town to a place where we can’t farm, like one of the many subdivisions where neighbors are only 15 feet away.  But if there is a spot where we could keep some chickens and have a large garden, yet I could still be a bike-only commuter, we might be combining the best of both possibilities.

Update #2:  Since I posted this and pondered your replies and discussed them with my wife, our savings rate has just increased by almost 11%:  We’ve stopped putting aside money out of every check towards kid’s college ($4992 per yr savings).  We’ve stopped putting aside money for future weddings ($240 per yr savings).  We’ve reduced bi-weekly wife’s portion of my paycheck from $840 to $750 – AT HER SUGGESTION, right after she read this thread ($2160 per yr savings). We’ve stopped putting aside $12 per check for future birthdays; wife advises she’ll cover that from her portion ($288 per year savings).  Total $7680 per year in increased savings towards debt then retirement.  That could grow to almost $113,500 in 10 years (if 7% returns ever materialize), which is about 19 months’ worth of my life and freedom!!

Update #3:  Also reconsidered some long-term money goals and erased some of them.  Posted that here:  http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/reducing-and-eliminating-some-spendy-long-term-goals/.



Please note that since I don’t have internet at home and access is very restricted at work, it may take me a few days to reply to any questions or emails.  THANK YOU FOR ANY ADVICE! 
« Last Edit: November 09, 2015, 02:44:47 PM by AgentCooper »

Chrissy

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Re: Reader Case Study: Move large family to city, to save on commuting?
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2015, 11:47:06 PM »
Would you squeeze into a smaller home, thereby saving on energy costs, and maybe making a profit on the sale of your homestead?  Can you buy a place for the $180k your current place is worth?  Wife could still grow vegetables in a house with a regular yard, but neighbors probably could do without bees and livestock.  She'd probably need to invest some time into developing a couponing/grocery book system, too.

If so, then yes, I think you should move.  Your wife's cut is really only paying to feed & clothe people and animals.  I know there are folks on this forum with families as big as yours who don't spend $1,680/mo to feed & clothe.  Hopefully, they will chime in with what they actually spend.  I'm thinking maybe $1,000/mo.  $680/mo savings ($380/cheque)  However, you could just get rid of the animals without moving, so think about that as an option.

If you move, fuel costs for the car will probably drop by half, if not more:  $100/mo savings ($50/cheque)

I wouldn't bother saving for the kids' college.  There's four of them, and their mom doesn't work.  They'll understand that it's just not possible, but make sure you tell them early.  (I had a friend who got into private uni, and asked how much was in her college fund, only to find out she didn't have one!)  $416/mo savings ($208/cheque)

Once your debt is paid off, you'll be saving 22% for retirement.  If you can save an additional $680/mo ($340/cheque) by giving up the homesteading costs, that would kick it up to 34%.  Add what you're saving for college, and you'd be up to 41%.  Plus the gas savings, 43%.

P.S.  You have money and accounts everywhere!  Consolidate and roll over accounts.


Le Poisson

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Re: Reader Case Study: Move large family to city, to save on commuting?
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2015, 02:07:19 AM »
We moved from a 1.25 acre country lot into a 50'X100' city lot about 3 years ago. I didn't want to move, but our commute didn't make sense.

For us the change was a good one, both financially and in terms of quality of life. We now bike a lot more, the kids can make it to after-school activities without missing a bus, and things like the library or swimming lessons are far easier to get to. I can come home for lunch, even on a bike, which was a dream before.

I would be very surprised if you are actually making money on hobby animals. We did chickens agressively, and couldn't make it work. Free range you lose a lot of eggs (and birds) and penned up you pay out the wazoo for feed. The time commitment for the birds is also surprisingly heavy, and it restricts a lot of vacation/travel plans. I don't miss them.

For our family the only challenge with moving in to town was that our dog didn't adapt well. She still wants to be a country dog, even now.

The downside for us was that property value is way higher in town. So we went from a $275,000 property up to a $420,000 property. The flipside of that is that properties in town also accrue value much faster, so we've seen a huge increase in property value here over the country property which has pretty much stayed stagnant. The mortgage is hefty, but the equity is nice to have.

mxt0133

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Re: Reader Case Study: Move large family to city, to save on commuting?
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2015, 02:27:58 AM »
If you get 2-3k back in taxes I would up your 401k contribution and increase your W-4 exemptions, the only thing worse than giving the government an interest free loan is to loose out on the opportunity cost of having invested and earning 6-8%.

As for college savings the saying 'you can get a loan for college but you can't get a loan for retirement' applies here.  I would personally focus on retirement savings before saving for college.  I'm not saying that you can't help your kids out with their education but it might even be beneficial for you.  The expected family contribution (EFC) for financial aid counts assets that are in the parents and child's names which includes any funds in a 529, but excluds retirement accounts.  The fact that you have 4 kids and the more that are in college at the same time significantly lowers the expected family contribution for tuition your two youngest should be attending at a significant discount. 

As a father of 3 myself, if I can FIRE before they get to college then I can control my income in away that would almost guarantee them a free ride if they so choose to go to college.  But if I saved up for their college, with after tax dollars, then my options of lowering the EFC would be limited as I would need to work to support our living expenses.

Overall I think you're doing pretty good.

DeltaBond

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Re: Reader Case Study: Move large family to city, to save on commuting?
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2015, 06:28:37 AM »
I commuted 50 miles each way 5 days a week for 6 years.  I now commute 15 miles and its wonderful.  Moving over a 15 mile commute to me, personally, does not seem like good reason to move unless you have other reasons to move, as well.  If you would simply enjoy living in the areas closer to your job, then that would be the reason to do it, and a shorter commute would just be the cherry on top.

thedayisbrave

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Re: Reader Case Study: Move large family to city, to save on commuting?
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2015, 06:37:44 AM »
I commuted 50 miles each way 5 days a week for 6 years.  I now commute 15 miles and its wonderful.  Moving over a 15 mile commute to me, personally, does not seem like good reason to move unless you have other reasons to move, as well.  If you would simply enjoy living in the areas closer to your job, then that would be the reason to do it, and a shorter commute would just be the cherry on top.

+1

justajane

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Re: Reader Case Study: Move large family to city, to save on commuting?
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2015, 06:43:42 AM »
I wouldn't be contributing that much to college right now when you have debt. Pour all that college money into your debt.

Once you have paid off the debt, I would start maxxing out two Roths (one for you and one for your wife) each year and treating that as your primary college savings vehicle. You can also put money in the 529, but then if you don't have to use it for education (or decide not to), you have it for your retirement.

I also agree that you have money in too many places. Consolidate it into just a few accounts. Why do you need a designated wedding account? Just come up with a number (preferably smaller, since you have four) that you will give to each child if and when they marry. And pull it from your regular investments.

You seem to be thinking far, far ahead on things, and I'm not sure that's entirely necessary if you are adapting a frugal mindset and are saving as much as possible anyway.

As far as the Christian "insurance," I would strongly recommend that you don't get that with such a large family. I have read that it can be logistically impossible to get all your bills paid before collections. It can ruin your credit, and there are all these morality clauses that might make them not pay for things. Yeah, yeah. That won't happen to you, since you probably don't drink and drive or cheat on your spouse. But what if on your commute, say, you get hit by a drunk driver? Based on the morality clause in that type of "insurance", they could refuse to pay your medical bills. Basically they are not bound legally to pay anything when push comes to shove and you have no legal recourse. You are essentially relying on the kindness of religious strangers, and in many cases that may not be enough. And the pool of money you are talking about is possibly not enough to pay for the bills of your whole family if they are in a car accident. Or if one of your kids gets a rare illness or cancer. In essence, you could bankrupt the "insurance" and they would fold or refuse to pay your bills.

Malum Prohibitum

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Re: Reader Case Study: Move large family to city, to save on commuting?
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2015, 07:22:20 AM »
Taxes:  Federal – usually get a refund of $2,000 to $3,000.  State:  refund usually $150 to $250.
  Adjust your withholding per paycheck so that this works out to be about even each year.  THEN increase your 401(k) contribution by the same amount!  No change in your check.  No refund.  No big tax bill.  Increased retirement savings.


If I am reading correctly, your house and land are paid off?  If so, then I am not selling the farm and moving to the city over a 15 mile commute for only one person, unless you have a burning desire to live in town.  Find other ways to reduce the cost of the commute, like driving a little Honda fit or a Nissan Leaf (which can be found 2 years old for $8000 off lease now).

Cut back on the farm expenses for things that are costing you a lot with no real return.  Hobbies are great and all, but save that for when you are FI.  For now they are just sucking money out of you.  I am not saying to slaughter all the animals and leave your wife with nothing.  But sit her down and talk about which ones are the most expensive and how you can cut back while she still enjoys life.

But no, I am not moving my kids to the city if they live on a little farm, especially a paid off one.

Oh, wait, one acre?  What?  Definitely cut back on the animal expenses.

In the future, you need to make totals and subtotals so we do not have to calculate everything ourselves.

Chrissy

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Re: Reader Case Study: Move large family to city, to save on commuting?
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2015, 08:57:05 AM »
Definitely keep the regular insurance.

Wait, you have $3,100 in a CD for travel, gifts, repairs, weddings...  and you have ANOTHER $1,350 in a CD for weddings???  Explain.

I hope you haven't saved in bank CDs for the kids' weddings, because the first of those events is ~15 years away, so you'd want that money to be in long-term investments anyway.

AgentCooper

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Re: Reader Case Study: Move large family to city, to save on commuting?
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2015, 05:05:06 PM »
Awesome helpful answers.  Adding edits and answers to questions in italics.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Reader Case Study: Move large farming family to city, to save on commuting?
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2015, 07:21:45 AM »
Do you like the lifestyle? Yes or no. I'm of the opinion that homesteading is lifestyle first, cost savings / value secondary. Infrastructure and crop/stock decisions have to make some financial sense but comparing home grown to supermarket is never going to make you feel warm and fuzzy.

If the answer is yes, realize that homesteading has a massive learning curve. With every single year your land will get better, you'll find the varieties and breeds that work. Most importantly, you'll find trusted neighbors that you can outsource to. Most homesteaders get trapped in this self-sufficient/doggedly independent mindset where they must grow ALL the things.

I'm an urban homesteader with a very small space but even when we get our acreage, there's gonna be things I'll trade with neighbors for. The correct model is interdependence (e.g trading over the fence or doing small cash crops to fund other projects) not independence.

My climate is very different so I probably can't offer much direct advice but you can definitely economize as the years move forward. With further details (perhaps appropriate to a PM or a journal thread than a case study).

I also don't see enough savings IF you genuinely like the lifestyle.

Like others, I would strongly reconsider college savings since your own retirement is compromised. It's the whole "put your oxygen mask on first". Your kids will be far more harmed if they need to financially support aging parents than if they take out loans or pursue careers that don't need post-secondary education.

If, on the other hand, finances not considered y'all are hating the homestead, come up with a path to liquidate that preserves the best value.

AgentCooper

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Re: Reader Case Study: Move large farming family to city, to save on commuting?
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2015, 11:25:54 AM »
Do you like the lifestyle? Yes or no. I'm of the opinion that homesteading is lifestyle first, cost savings / value secondary. Infrastructure and crop/stock decisions have to make some financial sense but comparing home grown to supermarket is never going to make you feel warm and fuzzy.

Added answer (which is yes / sort of) near bottom of original post.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Reader Case Study: Move large farming family to city, to save on commuting?
« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2015, 11:42:17 AM »
Do you like the lifestyle? Yes or no. I'm of the opinion that homesteading is lifestyle first, cost savings / value secondary. Infrastructure and crop/stock decisions have to make some financial sense but comparing home grown to supermarket is never going to make you feel warm and fuzzy.

Added answer (which is yes / sort of) near bottom of original post.

Given your answer and my previous comment on the significant yet not huge potential savings of the move back into the city, I'd personally stay in place.

Ishmael

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Happy wife, happy life. Seriously, if she's enjoying that lifestyle as much as you describe, I think it's a no-brainer to stay where you are. I live much, much farther away from my work than that, with a similar-sounding wife, and it's a tradeoff I'm content with. Not perfect, but it works.

As a Canadian, I can't offer health care coverage advice. The amount of effort/analysis Americans have to put into this is just mind-blowing to me.

But also as Canadian, the house account amount seems really high at $18k/year. We have 2 horses, chickens, ducks, rabbits, a dog, 2 cats, 2 kids, and our similar expenses combine to $13k/yr.  And everything in Canada costs WAY more than in the US, because companies like to charge us more for being Canadian. Hopefully much of this is set-up expenses and should drop as you get more efficient at homesteading. It sounds like your wife is working at keeping the costs down with the lunches, etc.

Also, keep in mind you're saving $16000/yr by paying down that debt. It counts towards your savings rate, as far as I'm concerned. You're increasing your net worth with it. One year of that, and you'll start putting it into retirement savings, and that's really good.

honeybbq

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This definitely seems like a lifestyle question, not a commuting question.

From the data you've shared I'd stay put.

AgentCooper

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Yes I’m seeing it that way now too.  See bottom of original post above for 3 updates.  Thanks.

Malum Prohibitum

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Happy wife, happy life. Seriously, if she's enjoying that lifestyle as much as you describe, I think it's a no-brainer to stay where you are. . . .
But . . . the house account amount seems really high at $18k/year. We have 2 horses, chickens, ducks, rabbits, a dog, 2 cats, 2 kids, and our similar expenses combine to $13k/yr.  And everything in Canada costs WAY more than in the US . . .
  Yeah, stay put, but definitely start working with your wife to reduce those expenses related to animals.

skeeder

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I'd like to point out the obvious. Your married with 4 kids with no mortgage or car payments or school debt.  Those are the biggest anchors to finance (the debt--not the wife and kids...) so congrats.

15 mile commute could probably be looked into IMHO.
What type of car do you have?  What is it current MPG you're getting?  Does someone else near you drive into town (Country folks think miles are nothing--statements like "only 15 miles away" get tossed around a lot out there)?  Have you considered an electric bike, moped, or equivalent motorcycle to save on gas (i.e. a 250cc Honda gets about 78mpg...smaller mopeds get over 100mpg).

Another aspect is: how much of the homesteading will continue when your wife goes back to work?  All, some or none?  Where will she work?  Same town as you? 

I personally believe alot of country folks remain so poor because 30 miles is a normal car trip!




AgentCooper

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I'd like to point out the obvious. Your married with 4 kids with no mortgage or car payments or school debt.  Those are the biggest anchors to finance (the debt--not the wife and kids...) so congrats.
Thanks!  Now I just want to retire at 49 rather than never.  :-)

What type of car do you have?  What is it current MPG you're getting?  Does someone else near you drive into town (Country folks think miles are nothing--statements like "only 15 miles away" get tossed around a lot out there)? 
We have two cars. 
My car - 2008 minivan purchased in 2010 before I read any MMM, 20 mpg, 150k miles.  This is my commuting car and is the only one that will tote all 6 of us for weekend (10 miles to nearest church) or after-school stuff.  Also used for camping trips about twice a year. 
Her car - 2008 SUV purchased in 2010, 23 mpg, 125k miles.  Holds 5.  We are a family of 6.
Ah, let the face-punching begin!

My solution:  Sell her SUV immediately.  She needs to drive the van.  I buy a 70 mpg electric vehicle.
Her response:  She 100% rejects the notion.  She only learned to drive a few years ago, and says she will never willingly learn to drive a van.  A van will make her feel like an old soccer mom. 

Have you considered an electric bike, moped, or equivalent motorcycle to save on gas (i.e. a 250cc Honda gets about 78mpg...smaller mopeds get over 100mpg).  Another aspect is: how much of the homesteading will continue when your wife goes back to work?  All, some or none?  Where will she work?  Same town as you?   
I personally believe alot of country folks remain so poor because 30 miles is a normal car trip!

Yes, around here it is "normal" (not that normality is my goal) to live 30 minutes from the closest grocery store, gas station, or red light.  I've considered mopeds and electric bikes in the past but rejected it out of fear of death.  Hope this isn't just a list of excuses, but here goes:  People drive very crazily on our country roads.  My road is 35 mph and people do 70 on it.  There is no shoulder, it's a rural area, there are lots of winding curves, and the double-solid "do not pass" line in the middle of the road is taken as a light suggestion.  I ride my bicycle 6 to 10 miles for health and fun frequently, and my most recent near-death experience was on Tuesday.  For a 15-mile/30 minute commute, I'd need something light and fuel efficient that could go at least 55 mph.  Most of the 15 miles are 45 or 55 mph speed zones.  Have never seen a single moped on any road in between my home and work.  I think mopeds don't go 55 mph but I don't know.  I rode a motorcycle exactly one time in my life, and I crashed it a few seconds after I got on it. 

Comparing my commute to that of most people I know:  Most people have a 1 hour to 90 minute commute to the nearest major metro area.  That is also considered "normal" here.  I've turned down a handful of job offers over the years - even ones that pay double - because I was not willing to spend 2 to 3 hours a day in my car to get to those jobs.  It's a quality of life issue and one I'd adopted in my pre-MMM days; I'm basically unwilling to go to that major city for employment, and would rather be underemployed and underpaid, working in much smaller towns (edited this sentence for clarity).

Wife thinks homesteading will continue full-force when she returns to work, but I highly doubt it.  She is spending several hours per day outside, toting food and refilling watering pans, gathering eggs, etc.  No way she can work full time and do that too.  I believe she'll probably work in the same town as me, quite possibly within one-half to one mile of my job, and within 1 to 2 miles of the neighborhoods I've been looking at for possible relocation. 
« Last Edit: November 13, 2015, 11:39:01 AM by AgentCooper »

Le Poisson

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Homesteading with a commute isn't fun. BTDT - and coming home from work to split wood, clean coops, cut lawn, etc. means you never rest. Its going to be a tough few years until you sort out your retirement.

Momma and I carpooled for a while when we were both working in town. I got a bike rack for the back of our minivan, and we'd drive in together, then we pulled into a plaza at teh spot where our commutes diverged, and I rode the rest of the way on the bike. At the end of the day, she'd call ahead to let me know when she was heading home, and I would hop on the bike to meet her.

I agree about electric bikes/mopeds on country roads - really not the place for them. Having said that, I have yet to see an e-bike fatality on one.

While many here tout the uber-awesomeness of electric vehicles, don't overlook traditional fuel sippers as an alternative. A Nissan versa/micra may well work for a second car. Just be sure that whatever you get can manage a roof rack. See wha tthe difference in up-front costs in your area translates to. If you can save enough up front, you may find the difference in operating costs is more than covered. At least that was my experience.

Argyle

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Are you in a business where there's any possibility of working from home?  Seems like the sole problem with your rather cushy set-up is the commute.  Eliminating the commute by working from home would be the best route.  Failing that, can you carpool to the city?  At the very least, do your utmost to get that 4-day work-week.

Fishindude

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You and your family will not like living in town after having live your awesome country lifestyle.
30 Miles per day of driving is peanuts and not worth buying a new car for.  Wear out the one you have, then replace it with something more efficient.
You need to find a way to stay put.

SomedayStache

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I don't have a lot of helpful suggestions (you are in a phenomenal position with a paid off house and decent income.  That 15 miles is not your problem - not sharing life goals with your spouse is). 

I am insanely curious over how you pay negative income tax with your level of income.  I'm one kid short of you, but with 3 kids and similar household income last year we still had a federal tax liability of $2,200.  Care to share?

AgentCooper

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I am insanely curious over how you pay negative inome tax with your level of income....Care to share?
It is a mystery to me as well. I used tax software for years and recently switched to a CPA (and paid by barter) and the result was the same.  I get deductions for kids, for filing jointly, for HSA and 401k, and we have so far used traditional IRAs rather than Roth merely because the t-IRA contributions boost the refund so much it's like getting paid to save. 

Malum Prohibitum

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the t-IRA contributions boost the refund so much it's like getting paid to save.
  Refund?  Why in the world do you want a refund?  Adjust your withholding.

If you have a negative tax rate, then that means your refund is actually larger than the total amount you paid.  Earned income tax credit?

SomedayStache

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I doubt it could be the earned income tax credit as that has an upper income threshold of $52,427(2014).  Are there other credits that actually pay money out?

Maybe the OP doesn't actually have a negative tax rate and simply gets a refund and misspoke? 

RetiredAt63

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Just one comment on something way back - just because you see animals in an area, do not assume it is zoned agricultural.  There are lots of properties that are grand-fathered.


Rezdent

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Lots of great discussion, sounds like you are leaning towards staying?

Animal costs can be really difficult to tease apart.  We have some pasture, a garden, chickens, pig, etc.
I can say "I bought a pack of seeds and got 50 lettuces", but really some of those seeds fed chickens and pigs and ducks, whose manure went back to the garden as fertilizer to grow more lettuce.  I calculate our average costs and monitor if something creeps outside of the normal.

I think your wife can do this and work, too, but family should help.
We both work full time.  When kids lived at home, we all pitched in for feeding and watering the animals, and gathering eggs, and it took about thirty minutes a day. I did the bigger chores on my days off.

The_path_less_taken

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[q

Wife thinks homesteading will continue full-force when she returns to work, but I highly doubt it.  She is spending several hours per day outside, toting food and refilling watering pans, gathering eggs, etc.  No way she can work full time and do that too.  I believe she'll probably work in the same town as me, quite possibly within one-half to one mile of my job, and within 1 to 2 miles of the neighborhoods I've been looking at for possible relocation.


I've been doing it since 2008, solo. It ain't easy. But I prefer it to living in town.

Animal expenses are, with the exception of feed/wormers, manufactured bs similar to 'needing' a Lexus.

The feed store sells a $50+ chicken waterer! WTF? A free bucket from the grocery store bakery (they love it when you take them as they don't have to deal with them) works fine. If you don't have fine particulates in your well (ie: if your water is good enough to not clog up drip watering systems) the little metal "nipple" water things are awesome. It's really just a tiny metal piece that they push to the side to get water. Keeps bugs and crap out of the water and is super efficient. Wish my well was good enough to use them.

If you're even semi-crafty you can fashion most of the crap that hobby farm people tell you that you 'need' from free stuff.

A sheet of plywood made into a square receptacle will keep your hay/etc off the ground and help limit worms...how much does a sheet cost by you?

Or, you could buy a painted aluminum ya  ya one for $400. Wait, I just remembered you're in LA so moisture is an issue....I personally use old metal water troughs I get free off craigslist for hay for the horses. They can kick and knock them around, they keep most of the rodents at bay (some rabbits are pernicious) and free.

As for feed: this is what's killing me. I think the only way to go is buy in bulk. Currently, since I have a horse trailer that is rodent-proof, I buy every 3 months when the 10% off coupon at Tractor Supply comes out.

But I see people in farming country getting it in bulk totes you take off the truck with a forklift for pennies on the pound. Also, so many tiny craft breweries are popping up and they are always looking to get rid of 'spent' grain.

Solution: find neighbors to buy in bulk with.

And I know it's anti-MMM but I agree 100% with crazy country road drivers. Rough dirt/rocks/no shoulder/drunk people smoking and looking at their phone....not something I'm going to deal with. Unless it's rural and your sight path is long enough to get out of the way...maybe. But curvy/iffy conditions aren't fun.

I'm sure you can get an efficient car or carpool or something....

partgypsy

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I checked this out since I commented on your other post.
The main thing, you really need to figure out what exactly is in the household "bucket." It's a big black box. Right now 54% of your spending is in "household", with another 14% for recurring bills and 17% earmarked for future savings, 8% for car gas and insurance, and rest negligible amounts.
You have no mortgage and low car expenses, it seems like you should be able to do better.
If she is spending 1500 a month on groceries, yeah that is the area to cut. But it is more likely that it is a combination of stuff for kids, school, clothing, etc.
I'm not going to tell you what to cut. One rule of thumb is 50% on needs, 30% spend, and 20% saving. I consider your saving for future spending, spending. By that metric you should be saving more. If you want to save 71K of gross, that is 14.2K and you are currently saving 4914 for retirement a shortfall of 9286. If you want to save 20% of net, that is 11346, and again you have  shortfall of 6432.

I can understand buckets for short term savings goals. CDs for your kid's college? That is crazy. You are paying taxes every year on very low interest gaining CDs. Plus when it comes to getting financial aid that will be counted as the student's assets, taking away dollar for dollar any amount of financial aid they get. Either roll it into your retirement, or roll it into TSPs for them.

Fishindude

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Many people move to a rural area not knowing what they are getting in to.  Rural living typically requires a lot more work and costs more than living in town.   I see it all the time, somebody (typically young folks) buy the dream mini farm in the country, then a few years later they are strapped financially, the place is run down, and it goes up for sale.   Some considerations:

a. The commute is further, more wear & tear on vehicles, more gas.
b. Large properties require time and equipment to maintain them; lawn mowers, snow removal equipment, weed eaters, chain saws, tractors, tillers, etc., and fuel, storage and maintenance for all of these.
c. In town you have city water and sewer.  When things go bad in the country, serious repairs or replacements of wells or septic can run $5 - 10,000 or more.
d. Livestock care and expenses can be ridiculous.  If you know what is required in terms of money and effort to care for a dog, take that times about 50 to care for a horse or cow.
e. You no longer have spare time.  All of your spare time will be spent keeping the place up, or it will soon start going downhill.  If you enjoy that kind of work, great.  If not, you will soon be overwhelmed.
f. In town you probably have a house and garage to care for.  In a rural setting you may have an additional building or two to care for, and these require cleaning, upkeep and maintenance just like your home.
g. In town your trash gets picked up.  In the country, you will need to pay a disposal service or haul trash to the landfill and recycling center.
h. Varmints ... In rural areas, it's a constant battle against mice, rats, birds, raccoons, squirrels, deer, etc. doing everything from invading your home to tipping over your trash, to eating your garden and shrubs.

I wouldn't trade rural living for anything, but know what you are getting into before just diving in.

Bearded Man

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Have you ever lived in the city? What about your wife? Are you sure you can tolerate it? I hate living in the city. Sure it's convenient, but the daily grind of city life with the traffic, noise, and general grime sucks. Your commute is nothing. You can bike that from where you live now. And even if you didn't a fuel efficient car is much better than reducing your quality of life.

That has to be by the way, one of the most detailed case studies I've seen. Too much detail.