The Frugal Farmer Family’s 2014 Goals

2014 goalsHello, friends! As we’ve officially made it through our first year of working to pay off debt and get our financial crap together, I thought it’d be a great day to put our 2014 goals out there.  Last year, we were focused mostly on just making it through each payday.  When you’ve got a 65% DTI and are short each month just to pay the bills, survival is the only goal.  Well, we survived, praise God, and are now in a bit more comfy of a place financially.  That means we can work on setting actual real goals this year – woohoo!!

I originally had a plan to kind of stay on course with what we did for 2013, but the other night, that plan changed.  In December, we decided (mostly due to the LONG winters here) to get Netflix.  As we were perusing the fun stuff in the Netflix Library, we came across a series called Alaska: The Last Frontier.  For those not familiar with this program, it follows a second and third generation family living a seriously homesteading life in the Alaska wilderness.  I’m talking WAY more homesteading-ish than what we do, as in: hunting most all of their meat, providing all of their veggies, etc., for the year, and totally heating their homes with wood.  Serious stuff.

Whereas another show we’ve found, TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates, makes one eager to spend money, lest they fall into the habit of dumpster diving for dinner, The Last Frontier made us realize how very much waste there is in our family.  Ya’ll know I’m not big into sharing specific numbers regarding our debt levels, but when I added up our total expenditures for 2013, the numbers were WAY higher than what is necessary for a family to live on And 33% of those expenditures went specifically toward paying off debt.  This is NOT acceptable to me.  We were lucky in that, with Rick’s overtime and a gift from his aunt, we paid cash for all of those expenditures, but it still bugs the crap out of me that we blew so much money.  Ok, we didn’t blow it, we managed it quite well.  But I can think of better things to do with that kind of cash than pay other people with it.

Financial Goals

So, whereas I felt pretty great about how we managed our money this year, after watching The Last Frontier series, I realized that we can kick it up a notch.  We’ll do that, primarily, by doing two things:

1.  We’ll work even harder to reduce our debt and reduce the amount of interest we’re paying to big companies who don’t give a rat’s a___ about us.

2.  We’ll scrutinize our expenses and look for ways to reduce them, primarily by growing and preserving more food, working harder at searching out deals on things we have to buy, and analyzing our energy expenses.

Here are our more specific goals:

1.  Reduce food expenses. We’ll work to reduce our grocery budget by 17%, getting it down to $4800 this year, or an average of $400 a month.  We’ll work to accomplish this by growing and preserving more of our own food, and by working harder to spend less by buying in bulk and on sale.  Waste wise we did pretty good as far as food is concerned, I’d say we wasted no more than 5% of our total food.

2.  Reduce entertainment expenses.  We did pretty good in this area, but I’d like to do better.    We spent an average of $74 a month on entertainment for our family of six, and we also took a “staycation” this summer, which cost us an extra $704.16.  I’m okay with the vacation numbers, but we’re going to work to keep our entertainment budget at no more than an average of $60 a month.

3.  Reduce gas and energy expenses.  I spent $2206 in gas monies for my car, and we spent $3973 on propane and other energy costs to power our property.  I’d like to get gas costs for my vehicle down to $150 a month average, a reduction of 18%.  I’d also like to cut our energy costs by 10%.  We’ll do this by hopefully getting our wood stove installed, and by continuing to search for ways to use less energy.

4.  Add extra to debt.  We didn’t do so well in this area, as we only paid $262 over and above our minimum payments to our consumer debt this year.  Remember, we’ve got a high DTI, so any extra toward debt is a blessing, but we’d like to add at the very least $600 this year, or, $50 a month, over and above our minimum payments.  We should be able to do this provided we meet our other goals in cutting expenses.

Homesteading Goals

For our first year of homesteading, we didn’t do so bad.  We started to learn the basics about growing and preserving your own food, living off the land, and harvesting wood to heat our home.  Nonetheless, there are improvements to be made here.  In 2014, we’d like to:

1.  Grow and preserve MUCH more food.  Preferably a year’s worth.  We’ll do this by expanding our garden, tending to it better, and freezing/preserving a lot more of the bounty that comes with it.  We’ll need to educate ourselves a bit more on canning and preserving, but we can do it.  We are also looking to add some chickens into our homestead, and maybe do some hunting as well.  I am a huge animal lover, as is the rest of the family, so this may or may not happen, as I’m a bit wimpy about stuff like that.  Rick would like to bag a deer for the freezer next fall, though.  We’ve also given some thought to going meat-free for the year too.

2.  Consume less energy.  For 2014, we’ll continue to find ways to use less energy and use the God-given energy sources, like sun and wind, instead.  Not sure what this is going to entail, exactly, but it will start with getting our wood stove up and running so that we can heat primarily with wood next winter.  We’ll also continue to do things like line dry our clothes, and wash them in cold water only.

3.  Work toward more off-the-grid living.  We’ll continue to make our own detergent, use natural cleaning supplies like vinegar, instead of commercial cleaning supplies, and learn more about natural healing, uses of herbal medicine, etc.  I also got a great book on natural power supplies that is really packed with info.  I’d like to finish reading that by the end of the first quarter too, and see if it has any good info in it for us.  Basically, we’re working toward minimalizing our need for help from others for survival.  We’re doing this not because we hate people 🙂 , but because we feel it’s just a good practice in general, if we’re to be prepared for natural or other disasters.   I’ll be updating periodically on our homesteading life and be letting ya’ll know how it’s going, what changes we’ve implemented, etc.

Also, look for our upcoming post on What to Do if You Wake Up and Find Yourself Deep in Debt.  January is that time of year when those Christmas credit card bills arrive, and I know it’s a time of year that can get people really freaked out about their money, so we’re going to talk about how to handle that “a-ha” moment.

I want to thank all of you, so much, for your support, encouragement and comments this year.  Your support really has been instrumental in helping us to reach our goals, and we’re eagerly looking forward to a successful 2014.

What are your 2014 goals?

60 comments

  1. Liz says:

    Wow I am impressed with your entertainment budget per month for a family of 6! You will have to tell us about what kinds of fun activities you plan each month.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, lots of staying at home and/or play dates with friends. And free stuff: ice skating and sledding in the winter, beaching it and parks or hiking in the summer. And you know, the kids don’t mind so much as long as we throw in a trip to DQ every once in a while. 🙂

  2. Brit says:

    Let me start by saying that I so love that show. There’s also one called Below Zero or something like that too. One thing they do is work the entire summer to get enough food for the winter.
    Anyway back to my comment. LOL I am pretty sure you will be able to reach this goals this year. I would love to start a small garden this year and start canning. We shall see. You said you were expanding your garden. How big and how much do you think will be enough to be able to sustain you for a year?

    • Laurie says:

      Well, in our 2014 garden goals post we had a rough estimate of how many plants we’ll need of each, but we’ll see. We planted Roma tomatoes last year and they absolutely kicked tail. The bounty was overwhelming, even though we seriously neglected our garden. So this year we’ll do Romas again, but make tomato sauce, etc., which I didn’t do last year. I expect we’ll need to preserve, at the least, 30 pounds of green beans, 30 pounds of peas, 30 pounds of broccoli, 10 pounds each of green peppers and onions, and enough too to can more salsa, which was our favorite fun thing to can this year. I haven’t heard of Below Zero – I’ll have to check that out!

  3. That show is awesome! It is amazing how resourceful, skilled and capable the folks on it are. I think eventually I want to move out on a large piece of land and do some homesteading myself – that lifestyle has always appealed to me. Good luck with your 2014 goals, Laurie. I know you and your family will knock ’em out of the park! 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      I am always impressed by those people, Kali. They work their tails off! It really is a wonderful lifestyle out here. Lots of hard work, but SO gratifying and peaceful. Thanks so much for your encouragement too – it’s a huge help to us! 🙂

  4. Laurie, your family’s homesteading goals humble mine. I love the goals to use available energy, and wish that your harvests are bountiful. Here’s to a successful 2014!

  5. I’m so impressed you’re ramping it up even more. BTW I think Netflix is a really great idea. Very cheap entertainment. I watched one episode of that show but bawled like a big baby when they shot the family cow. I mean it was humane but I have a hard time watching stuff like that. An no I’m not vegetarian. lol! I need to take a cue from you though and start making my own cleaning products. I’m nowhere near handy as you with gardening, cooking, and preserving, but I can at least do that! Good luck this year!

    • Laurie says:

      Umm, yeah, I plugged my ears and closed my eyes during that part. 🙂 This is why I’m pretty convinced we could never have cows on the land. I did taste deer meat the other day though, and it was very similar to a nice, lean, tender steak. That I think I could handle, as long as I don’t have to be around when Rick’s cleaning it. 🙂

  6. Mackenzie says:

    Wow, Laurie these are GREAT goals! I am inspired 🙂 My husband wants to learn to grow our own fruits/veggies and I want to make our own cleaning products so your post definitely is timely! Can’t wait to hear how this goes 🙂

  7. Pauline says:

    Good luck with your goals! With baking soda, vinegar and lemon you can keep most of the home clean. I have read about using zero detergent or just washing nuts instead with great results. We need detergent as the maid washes with cold water, it is either one or the other.

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Pauline, and you’re so right about the soda, vinegar and lemon. Yeah, we use cold water too, so we do use detergent, but the homemade stuff we use is super cheap.

  8. Dear Debt says:

    You are amazing, Laurie. $74 on entertainment for a family of 6! That is magic. I also have a very high DTI, and it’s hard because I want to pay so much more. I’m glad you got netflix, I think it will help. Also, I totally appreciate that you are making your own items, growing your food, etc. You’d do well in Portland!

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, magic, or lots of staying home. 🙂 I know what you’re saying about the high DTI. It really makes things difficult, but seeing how much it went down this year gives me hope. Funny about Portland – we are a strange mix of super conservative with a heavy does of green in us, so both sides think we’re a bit weird. 🙂

  9. Brian says:

    Best of luck Laurie to you and your family on all of your 2014 goals! A good way to supplement your entertainment budget is to use your local library, ours offers free children classes, DVD, CDs, internet, and of course book!

  10. Nice work Laurie! I’m impressed as well with the entertainment costs. I know how tough that can be with kids, so great work! I agree with Tonya, I think you’ll get quite a bit about of Netflix and it’s a relatively cheap way to get some entertainment. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, at first I was worried about spending the eight bucks (can you say “overkill?), but now I think it will be worth it. We may cancel it in the summertime though. Can’t totally abandon those frugal roots. 🙂

  11. Your goal to reduce the interest you pay on your debt may be one of your biggest savers of the year. I always try and move money around and it helps to save.

    Part of my HELOC debt is a 2.99% and part is at 4% and, even though those are both great rates, you can still see how much monthly interest I am paying on one the higher interest portion as compared to to the lower interest portion.

    I have an appointment at the bank in 2 weeks to move more of the money in to the 2.99% area.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s a great idea, Jane. The interest we’re paying is one of the things that really gets me, so that too is an important part of the spending reductions for us.

    • Laurie says:

      Wow, Michelle, interesting that you grew up on a farm. I think, for us, the balance is doing the work, but not doing so much work that it becomes painful, which is what we did last year. We’ll see how this year goes. 🙂

  12. Call me weird but I quite like the idea of living in Alaska, hunting my own food, chopping my own wood for the fire etc. and I’ve always wanted to live by a lake and I’m guessing they have lots of those in Alaska? I love having a close family unit so as long as I had my wife and boys I wreckon we’d be pretty happy!

    • Laurie says:

      Oh, yes they do, Adam! We’ve found the same thing with living in the boonies here – we are all happy working and living together as a family – and the “wilderness” life has drawn us even closer. 🙂

  13. Looks like you’re doing really well and on the right track, Laurie. Only 5% food waste? That’s nuts! I can’t say we’re there yet. But I would like to get back to growing a lot our own vegetables through the summer. Had been doing that for years, but after the kids came, I had a lot less time and buried my poor garden 🙁 But would like to get the garden back up this summer, as it really is a great lesson for the kids. Anyhow, I wish you and your family achieve all that you set out to a wonderful 2014!

    • Laurie says:

      Anthony, you should do it if you can – you know how awesome it is to pick dinner out of the back yard. 🙂 Thank you SO much for your kind words. Sometimes it seems as if things are moving so slow, and then words like yours remind me that we are at least moving in the right direction. Best of everything to you in 2014 as well, my friend!

  14. Wow, a 5% waste of food sounds pretty awesome actually as we’re not even close to that number even though we started to care about that recently. Line drying is something extremely common here in Romania and generally in Europe, so it’s certainly something I am sure you can do.

    Good luck with your goals and debt repayment!

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, we have line dried most everything since we moved in here (have an indoor drying rack for the winter) and it’s worked really well. Now if we can just get that wood stove in! 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks so much, Amanda! We are so lucky that our kinds are so on board with this. In fact I asked my 14 year old if she wanted to pack a lunch as we were going to be on the road yesterday, or spend $20 of our entertainment cash on fast food, and she said “Definitely pack a lunch”. Woohoo!

  15. I think Netflix was a great idea. It’s low cost and will definitely help fill those cold winter nights! I heard they canceled/are canceling school because it’s so cold? Crazy! You had a great year last year and now that you have a year of homesteading under your belt, I have no doubt that you’ll be able to do even more with less! Have a great weekend and stay warm!

    • Laurie says:

      Yes!!!!!!! The state is cancelling school on Monday – 50 below zero wind chills!!! I’m a bit worried about the barn animals. 🙁 Shannon, have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

  16. Shaggy says:

    I’m on a constant battle with my food budget. I have 2 boys, 19 and 15, who think that ONLY if the cupboards/fridge is stocked constantly, that that is a good thing! I’m working on switching things up around here and have set a $100 per week FOOD budget and will have to work on the “misc” part of it (personal items, etc). LOVE the ideas in this post!!

    • Laurie says:

      Oh, yes, boys are pros at wolfing down the food, aren’t they? Even ours, at age 7, amazes me. The Prudent Homemaker is another blog you might want to check out. She’s got some awesome ideas for cutting food costs.

  17. Isabella says:

    It is so great to have a plan. That is half the battle, it seems. I was intrigued about the Alaska show. (We don’t have cable or Netflix.) Thirty three years ago, my two brothers moved to “the last frontier” of Alaska. One brother lived in a tee pee for a while. The other lived in a small cabin with his wife and infant without running water and a woodstove for cooking and heating. They ate lots of salmon and deer they caught and hunted and grew vegetables. It was important that they found women who wanted that lifestyle. Not everyone does. I am a city mouse, for sure! Fast forward, they still live in the same town in Alaska and raised their families there but now are more “citified” with their own businesses and lovely homes with central heating. They also spend winters in warmer places now like Mexico and Hawaii. Still, it was rugged in the beginning, and there are still a lot of people off the grid in Alaska.

    • Laurie says:

      They sound exactly like the Alaska frontier families!! Yes, the wives definitely have to be on board – I’m pretty tough, but I’m not sure I could be – nor do I want to find out – that tough. 🙂 I’m so impressed with the people up there. Don’t know how they do it. I can’t even handle winters here!

  18. jim says:

    Laurie,
    I am very impressed with all that your family has accomplished these past 12 months. I’ll bet you can’t see all the progress you’ve actually made because you’re in the midst of it, but I can tell you as an outsider looking in – you guys have done a fantastic job! Congrats and best of luck in 2014. You really put my food budget to shame so I’m going to have to continue to work on that.

    • Laurie says:

      Jim, thank you SO much. Your kind words mean so much to us. You’re right in that it’s hard to see, looking from the inside out, so it’s good to hear how it looks from the outside. 🙂 Best of luck on your 2014 food budget, Jim!

  19. Laurie, this post makes me excited for one goal that I actually forgot about: to start gardening! I plan on building a couple of raised beds in our backyard so we can start growing our own veggies. We’ll just have to make sure the rabbits don’t get it because there’s a ton of them in our neighborhood!

    • Laurie says:

      Yea!!! Put a chicken wire fence around your beds and you should be just fine. There are also some natural deterrents you can find in my gardening post about pests on our homesteading page.

  20. E.M. says:

    You and your family are doing so well! It’s so inspiring to read of your homesteading tales. While the lifestyle does sound appealing, I’m not sure if I could adapt to growing, harvesting and canning my own food (especially not hunting it). My family has only grown things like tomatoes and basil on a small scale. Since we rent an apartment it will be a while before we can make attempts at gardening. I hope 2014 is a great year for you!

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks so much, E.M.! Yeah, it’s definitely taken some getting used to. We talk more and more about hunting, and I think we probably should do some of it just to make sure we know how, but that is SO not my thing either. Fishing, I love. Hunting…..not so much. I’m just too big of a wimp.

  21. Excellent goals. I have no doubt you will achieve them. One thing we need to do is work on reducing food waste. We don’t waste a lot, but certainly more than I’d like. I’m also looking to increase our own food production with our garden. Self sufficiency is a noble goal!

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Kay! I know what you mean about food waste, it’s frustrating, isn’t it? Great to hear that you guys plan to increase your food production as well – it’s fun stuff!

  22. I’m looking forward to seeing your goals progress next year. I am certainly no homesteader, but I love the idea of providing for yourself. I think you’d love chickens. I have a good friend who has a slew of them. She has more eggs than they can use, so she sells them and has several regular customers. I admit that I have an irrational fear of large groups of any type bird. I’ve tried to cure it by standing in her chicken coop. I can make it about 2 minutes before panic sets in and I have to get out!

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, funny, Kim!! It’s the slaughtering of the chickens that scares me, b/c that’s generally what you do when the egg-production stops. Aside from that, I know I’d love them. 🙂

  23. I’m totally enthralled with Alaska: Last Frontier. It reminds me a lot of Maine (which sometimes makes me a little homesick). I find the characters really easy to relate to and I love their self-sufficiency. Someday, I’m going to move to the middle of nowhere, just have to convince Eric (city boy) to come with me 😉 I’m excited to see what 2014 has in store for both of us.

    • Laurie says:

      Isn’t it cool?? Yeah, the characters are pretty down-to-earth, aren’t they? FYI, Rick asked me 15 years ago to move to the country, and I laughed hysterically. A decade later, I was the one begging him to move. Funny how times can change. 🙂

  24. I think you need to be congratulated on how well you have tackled your debt to date, but also to remember that while you can always do better in paying off your debt, you also need to have some fun in life and enjoy some of the money you earn. The people on that Extreme cheapskates show are a testament to how living frugally can go haywire and turn into becoming tight.

    Best of luck in 2014 Laurie, I am sure that you will continue to smash your debt and grow your site.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Glen!! We watched one show where a lady, a millionaire, went dumpster diving behind the grocery store and grabbed a cake to serve her guests for dinner!! There is definitely a balance to be found, isn’t there?

  25. Pingback: Sunday's Sweet Savage Love: The Tycoon's Delicious Distraction Edition | Cents, Sense & SensibilityCents, Sense & Sensibility
  26. Matt Becker says:

    Sorry I’m just finding this now! I think you and your family have TONS to be proud of. My guess is that if you took yourself just a year ago and showed her where you are today, she probably wouldn’t believe you. You guys have made some really dramatic life changes and have not only done them but created a happier life. I’ve learned a ton from your tactics and I’m looking forward to hearing all about your new experiences this year as well. Good luck!

    • Laurie says:

      Thank you so much, Matt. On one hand, we feel as if we’ve conquered the world, but on the other hand, we feel as if we’ve done nothing. It’s strange, isn’t it? We’re excited to be able to cut our expenses even more this year. So far it’s going well!

  27. I have a bit of an obsession with self-sufficient housing. One day I’d love to build a house in rural PA where I can install solar panels, self-composting toilets, crazy insulation, rain water collection, deep well, and reuse of “grey water” (shower/sink water). I love being around people, but like you I think self sufficiency is an important trait to have. A silly joke I tell myself is I’d like to have the survivor skills and a home that could help me survive a zombie apocalypse. 😉

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, yeah, that’s a lot like how we’re thinking these days, Tara. Our goal for this year is to use less energy/power, and to somehow harness the wind and sun more.. We’ll see how that goes…….

  28. Pingback: Best Personal Finance Articles for the Week Ending 1/11/14 | The Frugal Farmer

Comments are closed.