What does it mean to Live off the grid?

Merriam-Webster defines Off grid as \ ˈȯf-ˈgrid  \: not connected to or served by publicly or privately managed utilities (such as electricity, gas, or water), but this isn’t the whole answer. What it means to live off grid can have many different meanings.


  • What are some reasons to live off the grid?
  • Is living off-grid worth it?
  • What are the advantages of living off the grid?
  • What are some disadvantages of living off grid?
  • Is it legal to live off the grid?

The dictionary definition of off-grid seems to be the basic minimum of what it means to live off-grid. If a person doesn’t buy electricity or gas from a power company or water from a water company, then they live off-grid.

Some off-gridders would also include the banking system as part of the grid and others might say you’re not off the grid if you have a cell phone or an internet connection.

Some might even say if you buy food at the grocery store you’re not off-grid.

A person’s definition of “off-grid” will have a lot to do with the person’s reason for living off-grid. Most people who live off-grid do so because of some view they have about the world they live in.

Reasons for living off the grid

There are many reasons to live off the grid ranging from religious to criminal, but I will discuss what I believe to be the main three reasons people choose to live off-grid.

Living off-grid can be a political statement

government corruption protester

You may want to live off-grid to excuse yourself from a system of government you feel is oppressive, corrupt, and materialistic.

This could include trying to live without a regular tax-paying job or trying to keep your personal information as private as possible by not using the internet or banks. It might mean living as primitively as possible to minimize the influence of the outside society.

Living off-grid can be a preparation

Maybe you have a world view that foreshadows an impending doomsday scenario and you want to be prepared for a coming apocalyptic dystopia brought on by war, natural disaster, economic collapse, electric grid failure, or a complete meltdown of the political system.

Living off-grid can be a philosophy

one world save the earth sign

It might be that you feel it is better for humanity as a whole if we all live more simplistic and sustainable lives, using minimal resources and not abusing earths natural resources. Trying to produce more than we consume might look like a viable solution to many world problems.

For me, it’s easiest to use the dictionary definition for off-grid and everything else is a spot on the off-grid spectrum.

All that to say, what it means to live off grid is subjective.

Start with the dictionary definition and expand on it from there if you want.

If you’re thinking about living off-grid here are some other questions you might be having.

Is living off-grid worth it?

I think living off the grid is worth it for 3 main reasons.

  • Living off-grid if done frugally allows for more disposable income.
  • The off-grid lifestyle will simplify your life.
  • You can’t help but become more self-reliant when living off the grid.

Gain more disposable income by living off the grid

Pile of money

When you live off the grid you will have fewer bills. This has a benefit other than the obvious of just not having to pay out so much every month in bills. It means the money you would have normally spent on bills is now available to upgrade your off-grid homestead with tools, equipment, materials, etc.. You also could use that money to buy courses to learn new skills. Maybe you would like to use the extra disposable money to invest. Whatever your reason for wanting to go off-grid a little extra cash every month will help.

A simple life from living off the grid

Living off grid will inevitably lead to a more simplistic life. Your path to living off the grid will lead you to self-sufficiency and self-reliance. These qualities are difficult to achieve without cutting loose excessive baggage in your life. The more you cull out these inessentials the simpler life will become, and I don’t recall anyone ever saying. “Man, my life is so much simpler now. I really wish it was more complicated.”

Self-reliance is a byproduct of off grid living.

Moving off the grid will require a person to learn new skills; gardening, animal husbandry, food preservation, land management, energy conservation, energy production, construction basics, and many more.

I can’t really think of a situation where knowing how to be self-reliant is a bad thing. Click the link below to check out my list of recommended books for learning all kinds of off-grid skills.

Where do you place your value to determine whether something is worth it or not?

I think it should be said here that you need to know yourself and where you place value in your life. For most off-gridders, it seems they prefer to trade in the 9 to 5 grind where you rent your time to someone else for money that can then be used to purchase conveniences, for a more demanding life where the fruits of their hard work build a life with more freedom and simplicity. In this way of life, more value is placed on liberty, self-reliance, and simplicity than on convenience, consumption and cool stuff.

Keep in mind there’s no judgment here about putting convenience and cool stuff high on your list, but if you do then living off-grid is probably going feel like a waste of time to you.

What are the advantages of living off the grid?

The advantages of living off the grid are many and will be different for every individual, but some of the most common advantages can be put into these categories; economic, health, and spiritual.

Economic advantages of living off the grid.

First, I will say that living off-grid can be just as expensive as living any other way, but if your decisions are made with economics in mind then it’s pretty easy to do it in such a way that it is much cheaper than living on the grid. For starters, there are no utility bills.

You can calculate how much cheaper that will be for you by adding up your current monthly utilities.

Now consider how much you will save monthly if you grow all your own vegetables. There is a cost involved with getting started growing your own food, but if done wisely it is a one time cost. And, if you get really good at gardening you can grow an excess that can be sold at a farmers market.

If you’re not a vegetarian you can now consider livestock for meat production. There are ancillary benefits of raising livestock also like fertilizer for your garden, a source of income for your off-grid homestead by selling animals.

Health advantages of living off the grid.

Listing the health benefits of growing your own vegetables and raising your own meats would be a small book in and of its self, but just knowing where your food comes from and knowing everything that went into it is a very gratifying feeling.

The off-grid lifestyle is inherently less stressful and we all know how unhealthy stress is.

Living off-grid often involves living in rural or even remote areas far away from the pollution of the cities.

Spiritual advantages of living off the grid.

girl enjoying a spiritual view

You may define your spirituality as religious, non-religious, theistic, atheistic, humanist, cosmic or whatever. It really doesn’t matter because living off-grid and being more removed from all the hubbub of society will allow you more peace and time to contemplate this aspect of your life and add more clarity to your spirituality. Of course, a spiritual existence can be pursued in the connected city life of society but it is easier in the tranquil and often stress-free setting of an off-grid life.

Disadvantages of living off-grid

The list of disadvantages of living off-grid is much shorter in my opinion.

I think most off-gridders would agree that the biggest disadvantage of living off-grid is the inconvenience of living in rural or remote areas and not having a limitless supply of electricity.

Living miles away from town makes it difficult to just run to town for this or that. Trips to town for supplies need to be well planned so errands are efficient. You can’t just run out to the local ice cream parlor just because you have a hankering for something sweet.

home wind generator

Producing your own electricity means you have a limit to the energy that is available to be used. For most off-gridders, this is the largest inconvenience in the beginning of their journey. The production of electricity can get very expensive and so it’s usually done in a progressive process. You install a system that you can afford and add to it as you can, so in the beginning, you aren’t producing enough electricity to run certain household appliances most people take for granted. Central air conditioning uses the most electricity and so it’s usually one of the last modern conveniences added to an off-grid homestead. Other things some off-gridders do without in the beginning are clothes dryers, washing machines, dishwashers, microwaves, and even refrigerators. Most off-gridders don’t have televisions either.

Is it legal to live off the grid?

The short answer is yes.

I’m not aware of any municipality or county in the US that specifically prohibits off-grid living. That being said, there are areas where certain aspects of the off-grid life are illegal. These prohibitions are usually local ordinances.

In some areas, it’s illegal to harvest rainwater which is a large part of many off-grid homestead plans.

Some areas don’t allow alternative energy systems that aren’t connected to the grid(also known as grid-tied systems). Some areas will have stringent building codes making it almost impossible to build structures with alternative building practices.

I’m sure there are many more types of restrictions on the off-grid lifestyle.

For this reason, it’s very important that you do diligent research in the area you plan to go off-grid in.


Living off-grid has different meanings for different people based on how they see the world. The reasons for living off-grid will have more to do with your own world view than how someone else defines living off-grid. Knowing yourself and how you place values on life will help you to decide if living off-grid is a worthy endeavor for you.


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