The Economics of Living In A Tiny House - Part 2
I had been living in my first little house for about 6 months when my fiancé (Al) came across a deal that couldn’t be passed up. It was a 600 sq. ft. wood frame house in great condition, for only $5000. Unbelievable, right? There’s got to be a catch. The catch was that it had to be moved off of the property that it was on because the owners had built a larger, more modern house.
Moving a house can be prohibitively expensive and can cost thousands of dollars. It is a major undertaking and is a specialized skill. But Al said that he could move it. I replied, “There is no way you can do that. You just can’t”. But he doesn’t believe in “can’t”, and indeed he did move that house, and I have the pictures to prove it. Al took a 20 x 30 wood frame house, raised it, put it on a heavy duty trailer, and pulled it to our property with a tractor.
He hooked up the utilities and plumbing and we were living in it within 2 days. It was in perfect move-in condition. It has 2 bedrooms, a fireplace, an open layout for the kitchen and living room. He also moved my own tiny yellow house on the property with us and it is now a guesthouse, art project studio and spare closet for out of season clothes. It is my little retreat, it is all mine, and I love it.
So we moved into our little white house and committed ourselves to creating a life with as few bills and expenses as possible. We shaped our future with little hope for Social Security because you have to be so old to get it and there is a good chance it won’t even exist then. We didn’t want to wait another 25 years to retire. We wanted to work less and live more now. We didn’t want to be at the mercy of our bills and living expenses.
It all boils down to two things – work harder and/or live smarter. Working harder wasn’t really an option for me. I have health issues that keep me from working as an elementary school teacher as I once did. I was always drawn to simpler lifestyle anyway and I tackled our budget and expenses with a vengeance.
The fewer bills I am obligated to pay, the less I have to work and the more free time and freedom to do as I please. If I don’t want to work for a week or so, I don’t. If I don’t want to do a job, I don’t. I am no longer at the mercy of a time clock, a boss or a job deadline.
My fiancé and I are both self-employed. I work from home as a writer for a few different sources while my fiancé keeps busy with an amazing array of skills. Depending on the season he may be alligator hunting, crawfishing, roofing, harvesting pecans, working as a handyman for friends and family or working cows on a local farm. He simply would not be happy with a typical job. He likes the outdoors, the freedom to work as he pleases, and the variety of things that he does. There isn’t much he can’t do.
Our monthly expenses (not including groceries and gas) are currently right under $500 a month. People wonder how that is possible. Our monthly expenses are electricity (approx. $125, usually less), phones/ internet ($200 for 4 cell phones and satellite internet because we are so rural) and vehicle insurance ($125 for 3 vehicles, basic coverage). We don’t have a mortgage, car notes or credit cards. Our vehicles are older but in perfectly good condition. Older vehicles also mean cheaper insurance.
Our life and our budget is a combination of good fortune, hard work, determination and common sense. The good fortune is the fact that we bought our house for $5000. The hard work is the fact that Al moved that house to our property on his own, rather than hiring a company to do it for thousands of dollars. The determination is our vow to get our living expenses to be as little as possible. The common sense was separating the necessities from the luxuries and refusing to go into debt for a house, vehicle or anything else.
Our living expenses are cheaper because we live in a rural area. Property is cheaper here than in the city. There isn’t a bank, Wal-Mart or fast food franchise within 25 miles of us. Maybe that sounds dreadful to you but it sure saves us money because we can’t drive through the drive thru whenever we get the urge and we don’t go impulse shopping just because we are bored. We have a small local grocery that stocks the necessities and also sells plate lunches and sandwiches during limited hours but there is no place here that delivers food or has a drive through.
We make a trip into the big city (40-50 miles away) once or twice a month to stock up on groceries, and we enjoy our day shopping and eat at a restaurant. We are always so happy and thankful to get back home after a day in the city, dealing with city traffic and the crowds.
We live without cable TV and it hasn’t killed us yet. We got tired of the huge bill which kept getting bigger and the overabundance of channels with endless infomercials. We don’t really miss cable and we certainly don’t miss the cable bill.
We invested in a decent antenna and went online to see what channels are available in our area. Even though the nearest TV stations are about 50 miles away, we still pick up about 15-20 channels from 2 different cities. We rent movies and DVD collections of favorite TV shows from the library. Our local library has a service where we can check out anything from any other library in the state and we make use of it.
We do have the internet in our house. It falls under the necessity category for us, because I work from home on the internet. The internet is also a great way to find the things that you would like to watch to make up for the lack of cable. You can watch movies, TV shows, documentaries and many other things on the internet. There is also the option of a membership in Netflix or a similar service. Amazon.com offers many free streaming movies when you sign up for a prime membership (which also entitles you to free shipping on items you buy on Amazon and other perks).
We did recently score a deal on our internet because we shopped around, presented that info to our current internet provider and threatened to switch companies. They not only matched the price, they gave us $100 credit and took $30 dollars off of our bill each month for the next year. (Our internet is more expensive because we are in the country and can only get internet with a satellite dish.)
Our phones are actually one of our biggest expenses but that is because we have 4 lines (mine, his and 2 of our grown kids) with unlimited talk and text. We have refused to get use the upgrade option and get new phones with our cell phone carrier because each “free” phone would lock us into a contract. Our contract with them will end in a few months and we will shop around, get prices from competitors and present those prices to our current carrier. They can either give us a better deal or we will switch carriers.
We switched from city water to a well on our property because the city water was full of chlorine, ridiculously expensive and had so many fees tacked onto it that it doubled the price. We would love to live off the grid one day so cutting ties with public water made one step closer to that goal. I’d love solar panels but they are so expensive.
We try to keep our electric bill down by using energy efficient bulbs, keeping the thermostat at a reasonable temperature, opening the windows on days when the weather permits, cutting the hot water heater off except for about an hour at night when we bath and using our fireplace in the winter. We also use a twin size electric blanket on our bed in winter. We expect to cut our energy usage even more when we insulate the house better which is part of our long term projects.
There are lots of little things that we do that add up to savings for us. I’m always looking for ideas on how to save even more money. If anyone would like to hear more or has any other ideas to share, I would love to hear them. I enjoy hearing from others who have tiny houses or those who want to live the little life.