architectural salvage

How to Build a Tiny House (or trailer) on a Shoestring Budget

How to Build a Tiny House (or trailer) on a Shoestring Budget

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s finding good stuff for cheap.

I built a business on this particular skill (buying and reselling high-end vintage clothing online) and have translated what I know about buying quality vintage clothing into buying/acquiring/finding really quality building materials for cheap (or free). 

I’m also REALLY frugal, in all aspects of my life. I kind of hate spending money. It’ just part of my lifestyle - save as much as possible, don’t spend unless absolutely necessary.

I mean, the original reason I started thinking about living in a renovated, off-grid trailer wasn’t for the noble environmental stuff, but because I REALLY didn’t want to pay rent or utilities. Basically, I didn’t want to have a real people job (I don’t do well with “authority”) and all the expenses that go along with that lifestyle. 

But when I started planning and building my tiny home, the COMET Camper, 5 years ago, I noticed one way that I didn’t really fit in.

Most people that I talked to about building and living in tiny houses were older, they were living in 3,000 sq. ft., 4-bedroom houses, they had 2 SUVs and a boat. Their plans were to use the money from the sale of their old, consumerist lifestyle to fund their tiny home. Well, this was GREAT for them, and good for YOU if you’re in the same situation, but it didn’t apply to me at all. 

I was broke (like, I had a $100 of my own money) and a college student, I was living in a room in a shared house. I didn’t have “assets” and I didn’t have any “savings” at all. 

What I did have was motivation, a need, desire, persistence, and a little bit of luck. Oh, and I had a plan. You’ve got to have a plan. 

Free stuff, Craigslist, and The Side of The Road

Free stuff, Craigslist, and The Side of The Road

So I'm really thrifty, and I've been really thrifty since forever. There is something about scavenging for deals that is really satisfying. Most of my thriftiness and frugality has led me to rely on used or second-hand everything - clothes, shoes, building materials, furniture. I really truly do prefer used items to new ones - I love a soft, worn t-shirt, vintage furniture, and old things (they were built better back then than the crap at the mall today). I've gotten really good at finding just about anything for free or really cheap. I always say, ask the universe, and the universe will provide! Here's some of the free stuff I've found so far for The COMET specifically:

Gorgeous hardwood flooring still in the box, free on the side of the road

Vintage Formica countertops with aluminum trim, free day at the Re-Store in Springfield when they moved

Fabric for curtains, given to me from friends

Textured glass for windows in the exact right sizes, free day at the Re-Store

Bamboo boards and lumber for kitchen, free on the side of the road

Vintage wallpaper, free box somewhere