Off-Grid and Mortgage-Free in Sunny Arizona

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on May 30, 2017 in Money Saving Strategies, Personal Finances

Tom Kerr writing on living off the grid…

Bob Adams and Karen Kulik didn’t much like the idea of having jobs and mortgages. So they gave them up for freedom and independence.

“I decided that instead of waiting until I was older to retire, I’d go ahead and start taking my retirement in installments,” says Bob. “I’d work a job to save up enough and then I’d quit and go do something fun. I believe in traveling light, too.”

So does his partner of more than 20 years, Karen.

Today, they live mortgage-free in a home they built in Arizona, with monthly expenses of $600 or $700, and a garden where they grow vegetables.

“In the mornings, I do my stretching and yoga and we take a two-mile walk together,” says Karen. “Then I’ll tinker in the garden while I’m cooking with a solar oven. You don’t have to stand over it and watch it. You just point it toward the sun and check on it every once in a while.

“We get done by about three in the afternoon and people might come over and sit out on the porch and have a beer and just watch the day go by. We have a wonderful neighbor. He’s a kick in the pants…legally blind but he drives a four-wheeler. A lot of our friends are artists and they will come out here and paint because it’s so beautiful and super quiet…no traffic at all. The skies at night are just splendid, too.”

Bob and Karen’s home is powered by solar and propane…so not only do they not have a mortgage, they don’t pay any utility bills, either. They have a private well, and Bob says that the water is the best he’s ever tasted. They stay cozy by heating with a woodstove in winter, and in the summertime—because they have so much privacy—they leave the windows open to the fresh air all night and sleep soundly.

They live in Cochise County, the only county in Arizona that allows you to opt-out of building codes. You can use whatever construction materials you want and there are no mandatory building inspections.

“We found a 60-acre piece of raw land that was inexpensive,” Karen explains, “but it was way more acreage than we wanted. So, we cut it in half and sold off half of it for more than we paid for the whole piece. That enabled us to finish the house, get our solar panels installed, and get all set up.

“We totally built our own home 100% ourselves, using a combination of cob and straw bale construction—which is kind of like adobe—and finished it in about 18 months. This will be our eighth summer living here.”

Bob took some classes to learn to be a handyman as an extra source of income, but he acknowledges that, “for us, it’s pretty easy to live within our means because our expenses average about $600 or $700 a month. And that’s mostly on food. But we will grow more of that for ourselves in the future.

“Lots of people are so controlled by their material things that they have to rent storage units to keep all the stuff that weighs them down. And I’ve never liked that feeling of owing people money. Our whole economy is based on that, and they make it easy to go into debt.

“First, they get you with debt and economic slavery, and then they get you with medical slavery because they are making money off people’s illnesses. But you go to your doctor and he’s less healthy than you are and you start to put it together…that it is a whole medical-industrial complex.”

Bob and Karen are living a healthy life now, growing enough in their garden so that they can enjoy some home produce every day. They love to recycle and scout around for special finds, and the only items they ever bought brand new are their high-efficiency refrigerator and some ceiling fans.

“When you don’t spend a lot of money, you don’t need a lot,” explains Bob. “The key for us is that we have never been in debt for anything. We have never purchased anything on credit.

“And we have never had a fight over money. Ever.”

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