Andy Fleming writing on tiny homes…
Choosing to a simple, more affordable life leads to less stress and more rewards.
And moving into a tiny home—or at least a smaller space—is a surefire step in the right direction. After all, do you really need the space you’re in? With lower rent or mortgage payments, you’ll have more money in your pocket.
This sort of lifestyle change challenges you to take stock of what you truly need and helps to cut out excess. It encourages you to diversify your skills, becoming a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to thriving independently.
But how do you prepare for such a change? Can you really be comfortable in a smaller space if you’re used to the size of a two-bedroom suburban home?
Whether you’re preparing to make the move or just mulling the idea around in your head, here are a few preliminary steps you can start taking now.
Debt and Budget
If the bulk of your income is going toward paying rent or property tax, you’re going to save a lot of money by going tiny. However, getting out of debt beforehand is a good idea.
Tiny Homes cost anywhere from $15,000-$50,000 to build, depending on whether or not you do the building yourself and how big the finished product is. If you plan to stop working during or after the build, you’ll want some savings in place to cushion you and your family during the transition.
Make a plan for getting out of debt. Consider talking to banks and loan officers to negotiate better interest rates. Take any steps you can do to service your debt quickly. If you have multiple cars, think about selling one (or both) for a chunk of quick change and to reduce insurance payments.
In the age of the internet, there’s all kinds of weird little tricks you can use to make a little extra cash. Things like taking internet surveys, applying for new credit cards with instant cash rewards, and serving in online juries can add up to earn you hundreds per month. The Penny Hoarder is a site dedicated to compiling lists of tricks like these. The sooner you start chipping away, the sooner you’ll be done and ready for your move.
Since you’ll need to get rid of a lot of “stuff” to make the move anyway, start selling it now. Put up items on eBay or plan a few garage sales, cancel your cable service and sell your TV. Learn to cook more meals and stop eating out. All these things might seem like small savings, but it adds up over time. You might only save a hundred dollars per month, but over a year that adds up to $1,200, and that’s $1,200 closer to paying off your debt.
Start Paring Down
Can you really live comfortably without all your “things”?
The answer, of course, is yes. We’re constantly being assaulted by advertisements encouraging us to “buy, buy, buy” by convincing us material possessions are what make us happy. This is complete nonsense, if it were true there’d you’d never meet an unhappy rich person. In fact, once you start the process of getting rid of things you don’t need, you’ll immediately feel better and less burdened. In the words of novelist Chuck Palajniuk, “the things you own end up owning you”.
Project 333 is a website dedicated to helping people “be more with less”. It’s full of simple tricks to help you identify what you actually “need” like putting all the items in a room into a big box and only taking them out when you use them. At the end of a month you’re left with a box of things you never used and which can probably be sold or thrown away.
Visualize Your Space
Take a look at some tiny house plans and pick a few that look appealing to you. Find a place where you can measure out the space you’d be living in. A good way to do this is by drawing out the dimensions with chalk on pavement. This way you can mark out the areas taken up by appliances or furniture. Walk around in the space and get a feel for how much room you’d have. You might find it’s more spacious than you thought.
You can really get the feel for a tiny home by renting one for a vacation. Check out Tiny House Vacations to book one for yourself. It’s a good idea to take a look at tiny-house plans beforehand so you can rent something of a similar size to what you want to build.
Learn Some Homesteading Skills
The more skills you practice, the more prepared you’ll be. Carpentry, gardening, composting, rainwater harvesting…there’s hundreds of skills that will be incredibly helpful to you in a tiny-home setting. Once you’re actually in the house, acquiring new skills and experimenting to solve problems will become second nature to you…but it will be easier if you get some practice in beforehand.
Work your way down this list of 133 Homesteading skills. Most of these are possible even in an urban environment, and the more you practice the more tricks you’ll learn to get the most out of your hard work.
The most important thing is just to keep working towards your goal. Pare down, sell some things, plan out your tiny-home build…then repeat. Once you start, the process will have a snowballing effect and every step you take will motivate you towards your end goal. If you’re forced to “do without” in order to save money, let the hard times push you forward instead of dragging you down. Visualize the day when you can sit back and marvel at the home you own and the life you’ve taken charge of. You’ll never arrive if you don’t take that first step.
Image: ©iStock.com/Tobias Johansson
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