This is a guest post by Maggie & Seth Campbell.
The American Dream: the idea that a better life can be obtained with more money.
We seek out higher paying jobs so we can afford bigger living spaces and more possessions to fill them.
The temptation to live beyond our means grows stronger with every “low-interest” credit card offer in the mail. It’s no wonder that one in three American’s are being chased by a debt collector – we live in a buy-now-pay-later society. And boy, do we pay.
By now, you’ve probably heard that living in a cost-efficient tiny house is increasing in public favor.
Could you be a part of this growing trend?
What if you could live debt-free on your current monthly income (or less)?
Is it possible to stop working over 40 hours a week and living paycheck-to-paycheck to support a home you spend so little time in?
We think so.
In just 8 months, we've already raised over 25% of our goal - and we're just warming up.
SET YOUR INTENTIONS
For many people, building a tiny house is just a pipe dream. When the idea of building our house first came to us, we spoke about it in terms like “If we ever hit the lottery . . .” or “If we could find higher paying jobs. . . .”
As per usual, we had just enough money in the bank to pay our bills for that month. It wasn’t until we took a hard look at the cost of living in a house too large for our needs (1000 square feet) that we realized we didn’t need to earn more; we just needed to have less.
We found we could save thousands of dollars a month simply by moving to a smaller space. At the time, we had just committed to another year on our lease. Instead of allowing ourselves to feel stuck, we decided to make the most of our time in the “big house” to prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead.
Once we had our vision, that nest egg we could never seem to start building suddenly materialized. We began by setting up a free account on Mint.com, where we could examine our income and spending habits in detail.
We were surprised to see how much we could easily cut back on. For example, we found that giving up takeout for one month could save us nearly $100. If you have significant debt, it may be a good idea to visit a financial planner that can help you kick off the process.
Have you ever heard that paying for everything in cash helps you save money?
The idea is that we are more motivated by seeing our assets decrease physically than looking at a bank register or credit card statement. We put this theory to the test several months ago and it quickly became our new routine.
Since one of us is paid in cash and the other via direct deposit, we found this system works perfectly. One person is responsible for the checking account, which is used only for bills. The other person is responsible for cash, ensuring there are two easily accessible funds for our other expenses. The first fund is for our incidentals, which is placed in an envelope out of sight. The second is our grocery fund, which is placed in a glass jar on the night stand, to be used as needed.
The rest remains in the envelope and continues to fluctuate throughout the month. All purchases made from the incidentals fund are agreed upon before the money is taken out. Once the envelope gets too large, the excess is deposited into our savings and the process starts over again.
The objective is that when it comes time to start our tiny house build, we will be able to pay for everything in cash! The reason this works so well for us is because we are constantly communicating with one another whenever we want to make purchases outside of the bare necessities. By holding each other accountable, we remain focused on our goal.
In the last few years, tiny houses have skyrocketed to popularity. Every build offers inspiration, from design and functionality to money-saving DIY ideas - even across houses built from the same plans.
Soak up as much of that information as you can. Read blogs and newsletters, look at photos, and watch walk-throughs from other tiny house owners. At first, it will be overwhelming as you try to decipher which is the “best” way to design a home.
Just remember to slow down and maintain an open mind. There have been more than a few times where we had to hit pause and walk away from brainstorming sessions due to exhausting pro/con lists.
After a few days of research, we were able to reconvene with ideas that met our needs, our tastes, and our budget. If we went with our first choices, we’d be looking at almost $5000 more to build our home. Imagine how motivating it is to see that bottom line drop lower and lower.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but downsizing is the foundation to any tiny house project. Don’t think of it as the final step before you move into your new home; let the process guide you through the decisions you will make in the planning phases.
It may take two or three rounds of trimming the fat to realize you don’t truly need something. Plus, the earlier you start, the more time you can have to try and turn your discarded items into cash.
Much of our tiny house fund came from selling gently-used clothing, DVDs, CDs, electronics, furniture and knick-knacks that weren’t essential to our lives or didn’t fit into our home design.
We found someone on Craigslist to buy our media, we set up a table at the flea market for our home goods, and we sold our clothes and tchotchkes via PayPal over Instagram.
SEEK OUT A COMMUNITY
I can’t stress enough how beneficial it is to get your community involved with your tiny house dream.
And no, I’m not talking about a Kickstarter campaign. While crowdfunding may seem like a quick way to reach your goal, keep in mind that it’s not the most engaging way to work with your community.
A better idea would be to organize a yard sale, for example, that’s advertised as a fundraiser to build your home.
If you can offer a way for your community to help in a way that’s mutually beneficial, you can amass so much more than just their dollars.
Finding discounted or free building materials, appliances, labor, etc. is possible when you build a network of people that are emotionally invested in your cause. It’s really as simple as putting yourself out there and talking about your plans.
We’ve already received so much support – not only from friends and family, but also from our co-workers, clients, and acquaintances. Whether it’s in person or online, you can grow your community just by getting the conversation going.
As Edith Wharton wrote, “There are moments when a man's imagination, so easily subdued to what it lives in, suddenly rises above its daily level and surveys the long windings of destiny.”
Your own journey is waiting, and it doesn’t start until you take that first step.
Seth and Maggie Campbell are currently living with their giant cat and two tiny dogs. They plan on starting their tiny house build somewhere on the east coast in Spring. In the mean time, they are documenting their ideas, inspirations, and DIY projects at www.instagram.com/bespin_tinyhouse.