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Retiring In A Tiny House: Is The Tiny Life For You?

Retiring In A Tiny House: Is The Tiny Life For You?

Retiring in a Tiny House

NAVIGATION

Why You Might Want To Consider Retiring In A Tiny Home

The decision to spend retired life in a tiny house has become increasingly popular lately. I can’t picture my own retired life anywhere but a tiny home. They provide locational independence, financial freedom, and simple living, which I know I’ll value even more as I age.

But retiring in a tiny house isn’t for everyone. There are many elements worth considering when trying to make the best retirement decisions for you or your parents.

Why You Might Want To Retire in A Tiny Home

Why You Might Want To Consider Retiring In A Tiny Home

ecovillages retirement communityThe decision to retire in a tiny home aligns with many of the lifestyle goals people have as they enter into the later stages of their life. Oftentimes, as people get older, they want to work less, own less, and simply enjoy more. They begin to gravitate towards quality over quantity in their possessions, relationships, and daily experience.

For me, living in a tiny house has taught me a lot about what I value most in this life. I’ve been able to declutter my tangible belongings and focus more on intangible things that make me happy, like my hobbies and my relationships. There are lots of reasons why retiring in a tiny house can give you the post-work life you desire.

patrick hiebert
“Getting older means we tend to declutter our lives. We simplify because we realize what is important in life and only hang on to the material things that matter. Tiny homes tend to be an extension of this — there is less to maintain, repair, and clean.” – Patrick Hiebert from EcoVillages.Life

Tiny Housers Have A Significant Reduction In Living Expenses

Tiny Housers Have A Significant Reduction In Living Expenses

Financial freedom and the reduction of debt is something most strive to achieve by the time they reach retirement. Living in a tiny house is highly cost effective, especially if you choose to build an off-grid tiny house or rely on greywater. I decided to go off grid a while back, and doing so cut my power bill entirely and boosted my savings immensely.

Even tiny houses that do connect to the grid are financially economical. The size of the homes means there is less of everything — less space to power, less house to heat, less surface area to clean, and fewer items to maintain and fix when they break.

how much does a tiny house cost

Tiny Homes Don’t Require As Much Maintenance

Tiny Homes Do Not Require As Much Maintenance

Like I said, there is just less stuff in a tiny house. As you age, it might be nice to invest in a home that will demand far less physical labor from you or your partner. And less work is a true luxury.

I don’t have to do a ton of maintenance work on my own tiny home — not like I would if I lived in a traditional house. When things do need worked on, they’re more manageable if I decide to address them myself and more affordable if I decide to hire the work out.

Smaller Spaces Are Easier To Clean

Smaller Spaces Are Easier To Clean

smaller spaces are easier to keep cleanAnother element of house upkeep is keeping it clean. In a tiny house, there is less surface area to mop and vacuum, less counter space to wipe down, and less storage room to shove excess clutter into. Cleaning my tiny house truly takes no time at all. I can do a deep clean, change all my linens and sheets, do the dishes, scrub the floors and more all in under 30 minutes, which would be impossible to achieve in a traditional-sized house.

You Can Travel In Your Tiny House On Wheels

You Can Travel In Your Tiny House On Wheels

traveling in a tiny house on wheelsAnother aspect of getting older is thinking intentionally about how you want to use and spend your time. Lots of older people make the decision to travel with loved ones. They want to see some of those bucket list dream places in their later years.

Retiring in a tiny house on wheels gives you a locationally independent life. Your house is mobile, and you don’t have work to keep you stationed in one spot. This gives you the luxury of being able to travel as much as you want with loved ones. I’ve been able to visit 26 different countries so far in my lifetime, and a lot of that freedom has come from life in my tiny house on wheels.

Live Near Your Kids But Have Your Own Space

Live Near Your Kids But Have Your Own Space

Older folks also tend to want to live near their children and family as they age. With tiny homes, this is extremely easy to execute. You can effortlessly build a tiny home that functions as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in your backyard or on your children’s land.

Another popular solution is to have multiple tiny homes on the same property — one for you, one for your children, one for guests, etc. You can also invest in connected tiny houses to make your living experience even more shared.

Connect With Other Seniors In Retirement Villages

Connect With Other Seniors In Retirement Villages

tiny home retirement villagesRetirement villages or communities have also caught the tiny house bug. There are various tiny living communities throughout the United States and in other countries that were built to specifically accommodate retired seniors.

One major benefit of living in a retirement village is the social community it provides. It’s a truism that we often connect best with those in our own generation, who likely share in similar life experiences. Tiny retirement villages can give you a chance to be surrounded by those who are in the same stage of life as you and form bonds.

Things To Consider When Retiring In A Tiny House

Things To Consider When Retiring In A Tiny House

While there are many reasons why retiring in a tiny house can be ideal, there are also downsides that you should consider before making such a huge commitment.

Tiny Homes Have Less Room For A Couple

Tiny Homes Have Less Room For A Couple

An obvious con of living in a tiny house is that there might be less room for you to live comfortably with a family or spouse. For a retiree looking to live alone, the amount of space is perfect. However, for a couple, you’ll need to be willing to live in close quarters.

Yet maximizing space in a tiny house can be accomplished in many different ways, like opting for two bedrooms, three bedrooms, or even four bedrooms in your tiny home. You can also include features that will make your home more comfortable, like a loft, stairs, or extra storage space.

patrick hiebert
“The biggest obstacle we see is a short-term mental adjustment. The first reaction is, ‘This isn’t going to be enough space!’ But after a bit of time, people love the amount of space, its efficiency and all the benefits that come with it.” – Patrick Hiebert from EcoVillages.Life

Decluttering To Move To A Tiny House

Decluttering To Move To A Tiny House

When you move into a tiny house, decluttering and minimizing your belongings is a necessity. I was lucky when I moved into my first tiny house 12 years ago because I was moving from a small college apartment instead of a huge house. This made the decluttering process less complex.

Tiny homes are typically less than 600 square feet — much smaller than a traditional home, which is 2,500 square feet on average. So when you make the decision to retire in a tiny home, you will likely have to give up a huge chunk of what you own.

For many seniors looking to retire, this is something they already want to do. But if you are someone who grows attached to their possessions, this may be a more difficult process to undergo. Keep that in mind as you weigh your options.

declutter challenge

Tiny Homes Have Less Room For Family

Tiny Homes Have Less Room For Family

While you might be able to build in features that maximize your space for you and your partner to live comfortably, it still might be a difficult feat to have family come visit and stay in your house.

If you have children and grandchildren, consider the limits living in a tiny house can place on their visits. It could be a lot harder to have the whole family over for a huge holiday meal or birthday celebration in a smaller space.

Is A Tiny House Good For End-Of-Life Care?

Is A Tiny House Good For End-Of-Life Care

Another aspect of aging is the limits it places on us physically. Choosing to grow old in a tiny house can present complications with end-of-life care. If you decide to spend retired life in a tiny house of your own, you’ll need to consider if it will be a comfortable space for that kind of care.

Will your tiny home have room for hospice workers to come in and out? Will your tiny home need to be accommodating of a wheelchair? These things might be difficult in a tiny house and are worth analyzing.

Will You Have Trouble Climbing Up To A Loft?

Will You Have Trouble Climbing Up To A Loft

tiny home loftIt may also be difficult to climb up and down stairs or a ladder as you age. The easiest way to create multiple bedrooms in a tiny house is to build a loft or two, but you have to get up there somehow. As your body ages, it could be harder to get up and down to your bed.

The good news, though, is that there are other ways to incorporate multiple bedrooms into a tiny house on the ground floor. For example, you can incorporate a murphy or trundle bed to keep both bedrooms on the main floor.

patrick hiebert
“As we get older, we get tired of climbing stairs! So the homes we recommend for retirees tend to be single story with larger main floor outdoor decks. We also make everything just a little more comfortable.” – Patrick Hiebert from EcoVillages.Life

Tiny House Floorplans For Seniors

Tiny House Floorplans For Seniors

I’ve rounded up some tiny home floor plans for seniors that encapsulate specific elements of life as we age. They are single story, have more room for moving around, and tend to have more space in the kitchen and living areas for an ideal experience.

Floor Plan 1

senior tiny house floorplan

This layout has a spacious, interconnected living room and kitchen for sharing meals and camaraderie. The bedroom has room for a queen bed — ideal for a couple to share. The bathroom has a standing tub to accommodate bathing needs for seniors. This simplistic design includes most of the basic features to satisfy growing older in a tiny home.

Floor Plan 2

tiny house floorplan for retiree

The position of the laundry room in this floorplan really stands out. Its placement directly next to the bedroom would make it very easy for an older person to bring their clothes back to their room after washing. The open kitchen and living room are another major plus to this floorplan. With room for a queen bed, this layout is also ideal for couples.

Floor Plan 3

tiny house floorplan for senior or retiree

This floorplan is helpful for an older couple that plans to have children or grandchildren come stay in their tiny home, as the living room couch folds out into a full-size bed. Additionally, there is a queen bed in the main bedroom. One down side to this plan is the smaller bathroom, which might be harder for an older person to maneuver.

Floor Plan 4

tiny house floorplans for retirees and seniors

With room for a washer/dryer, standing tub, and fold-out couch, this floorplan makes room for all of the essentials that a senior retiring in a tiny house might need. The queen bed and integrated kitchen and dining area are especially ideal. I also like the walls between the kitchen and living room, which you can argue make the house feel fuller.

Parking A Tiny House For Seniors

Parking A Tiny House

The versatility that living in a tiny home on wheels provides is idyllic for the experience as a retiree. But part of building your own tiny house on wheels is knowing where you can park your vehicle.

Parking A Senior Living Tiny Home Near Family And Resources

Parking A Senior Living Tiny Home Near Family And Resources

The ability to park your home in your family’s backyard while also being able to travel in your tiny house is pretty sweet for old couples seeking the best of both worlds.

tiny house parkingMany state parks welcome tiny homes on wheels the same way they welcome recreational vehicles, which is optimal for travel. Additionally, many states allow tiny homes to be registered as ADUs, which gives you the freedom and legal permission to live in your own tiny house on your family’s land. That way, if you should need medical attention, you have loved ones nearby.

When you retire in a tiny home, you also have the freedom to move your tiny home closer to a hospital or doctor if need be. You don’t necessarily have to live near the medical resources you need to move closer to them quickly. Check out our state guide for further details on where you can legally park your tiny home.

Budgeting For Retirement In A Tiny House

Budgeting For Retirement In A Tiny House

A major consideration when preparing to retire is protecting your finances. Is retiring in a tiny house the most affordable option for seniors when compared to traditional housing or moving into a home? Let’s compare the cost of retiring in a tiny house to other options.

Cost Of Retiring In A Tiny Home Versus A Normal Home

Cost Of Retiring In A Tiny Home Versus A Normal Home

The cost of moving into a tiny house is dependent on whether or not you build the house yourself or hire a builder to complete the process for you. The average tiny house costs between $10,000 and $30,000 to build yourself, and double those numbers if you hire a builder to do it for you. However, that price can vary drastically depending on how you want your tiny house to look and which features you hope to include.

When comparing this to staying in a traditional house, consider whether or not your home is paid off. How much will you gain by selling your house in the current market? Once you figure this, compare that number to the general estimated cost of your tiny home.

how much does a tiny house cost

Cost Of Retiring In A Tiny House Versus Assisted Living

Cost Of Retiring In A Tiny House Versus Assisted Living

The average cost of an assisted living community is anywhere between $1,500 and $6,000 per month, depending on the quality of the community and the type of care provided through membership. Multiply that by 12 and you’re looking at $18,000 to $72,000 each year living in an assisted living community.

Even though some high-end tiny homes can get up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s a one-time fee that lasts for many years, with the exception of maintenance and upkeep costs. Consider this when comparing the price of retiring in a tiny home to the price of assisted living.

Retiring Early In A Tiny House: Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE)

Retiring Early In A Tiny House: Financial Independence Retire Early

Retirement isn’t only for the elderly. Imagine the freedom that retiring early in a tiny home could provide. Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) is a movement of people committed to saving and investing at an early age in order to retire as early as 30 years old!

The catalyst for this specific movement and demographic of investors was the book, “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. The book presents a life-changing, nine-step philosophy for living deliberately with your finances from an early age.

FIRE encourages its followers to think about every expense in terms of the number of working hours it took to pay for it. The movement that was born from this book strives to emphasize frugality without reducing quality of life..

Nine Steps Towards Early Retirement And An Intentional Life

Nine Steps Towards Early Retirement And An Intentional Life

As I mentioned, “Your Money or Your Life” lays out nine simple steps to work toward retiring early and getting back to your life outside of work.

The Steps Are As Follows:

  1. Make peace with your past
  2. Calculate your real hourly wage
  3. Track expenses, convert to hours
  4. Ask yourself: is my life fulfilling?
  5. Chart your money
  6. Spend less
  7. Redefine work
  8. Start investing
Your Money Or Your Life

The Freedom Of Early Retirement In A Tiny House

The Freedom Of Early Retirement In A Tiny House

Retiring as early as your 30s or 40s in a tiny home can provide you with unimaginable freedom. One of my favorite things about living in a tiny house and working remotely is that my daily experience doesn’t depend on where I am.

If I was retired, that would reduce my brain capacity devoted to work entirely and the freedom would be unfathomable. The experience of living in a tiny house on wheels allows you to live mobile and park your life anywhere you can legally park your vehicle.

tiny house building checklist

Tiny Home Communities Around The World

Tiny Home Communities Around The World

The process of retirement looks different across country lines. Each nation has an individual approach to exiting the working world and entering retirement. When I have thought about my own retirement, I have certainly considered the possibility of retiring in another country, living as an expatriate while free from work. Let’s examine the reasons you might consider retiring to a tiny community in different countries.

Will A Tiny Community Meet Your Needs?

Will A Tiny Community Meet Your Needs

There are immense benefits to taking part in the social life a tiny retirement village can provide, but the truth is the lifestyle just might not be what’s best for you. If you’re looking to live a more free, independent post-retirement life, a tiny retirement village wouldn’t be the best option.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to forge relationships in a like-minded community of people with everything you need close by, there are plenty of retirement communities to be found across the globe.

US Tiny House Retirement

US Tiny House Retirement

For citizens, the obvious upside for spending your retirement in the United States is being close to home and loved ones as you age. Additionally, nearly half of the U.S. population retires at 65 or younger, meaning that a huge chunk of their life is lived in retirement.

This is why retirement communities in the United States tend to incorporate lots of elements of an enjoyable life, like group sports and games, shows, crafts, and other activities.

A downside to spending retirement in the United States is a higher cost of living. Due to the all-inclusive retirement home culture in America, it’s going to cost more to live in a retirement community or home.

According to a recent Bankrate’s study which ranked states on affordability and culture, Georgia is currently the best state to retire to in America. The Peach State is followed by Florida, Tennessee, Missouri, and Massachusetts. There are several tiny house retirement communities in the United States that accommodate the needs of ageing seniors.

united staes tiny house guide

South American Tiny House Retirement

South American Tiny House Retirement

Retiring in South America certainly has its advantages. For one, the cost of living is drastically lower than it is in other countries, so you’ll likely be able to afford a much nicer estate if you choose to move there.

According to a study from Expat Financial, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Ecuador are the most desirable for retirees based on several factors like the cost of living, culture and social life, and immigration laws and lifestyle.

Filled with picturesque beaches, forests, and lakes throughout the continent, there are many ways to enjoy life as a retiree in South America. Another major appeal is the adventurous lifestyle many of the native citizens live. It also has a fairly stable economy and mild climate that senior citizens tend to enjoy.

Downsides to retiring in South America might include being far away from loved ones and being faced with language barriers. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a retirement community in South America. There are many communities that can accommodate your needs and help you feel at home.

south america tiny house guide

Central American Tiny House Retirement

Central American Tiny House Retirement

Central America is another continent where life as a retiree can be ideal. Upsides to retirement in Central America include year-round sun and gorgeous tropical environments. The region is also renowned for an extremely low cost of living.

Over the course of the last ten years, Central America has become one of the most highly sought out countries for retirement.

Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama top the list of most desirable countries for retirement according to a study conducted by Expat Financial. The study examined quality of life, cost of living, and the social experience of retirement in each of these five countries to get a holistic sense of what retirement would look like.

One downside to retiring in Central America is the distance from home and the language barrier that may arise for U.S. citizens, depending on the country you choose to reside in.

However, the beautiful beaches and rich social culture can easily outweigh these downsides. EcoVillages.Life boasts a number of tiny house retirement communities in Central America where you can bond with other seniors and establish a comfortable, connected life.

central america tiny house guide

Canada Tiny House Retirement

Canada tiny house retirement

Choosing to live out your retirement in Canada sounds like a winter dream. From sublime mountain ranges to rich forests to snowy tundras, there is a vast array of natural beauty in the country to look forward to experiencing. What does retirement in the Canada look like practically?

There are many cities within each Canadian province where retirement would be ideal. US news lists these ten cities as most ideal for retirement:

  • Victoria
  • Squamish
  • South Okangan
  • Canmore
  • Niagara
  • Wasaga Beach
  • Belleville
  • Quebec City
  • Fredericton
  • Mahone Bay

One huge thing to note is disparities amongst the healthcare system. Canada has a publicly funded universal health care system, which is different from the United States. This means you will not have to pay for most healthcare services as a citizen of Canada or a permanent resident, but you will need proof of residency. You will need a government health insurance card from your province, which is an entire process of its own.

There are 10 Canadian provinces, the majority of the Canadian population is concentrated near the US border. This would make travel back home more accessible than retirement in other countries around the world.

Canadian culture is also very mellow which can be a positive for experiencing life as a retiree. The country values quality time and engaging in hobbies you like cooking and sports. Overall, Canada is a laid back, peaceful country to retire in.

canada tiny house guide

Caribbean Tiny House Retirement

Caribbean Tiny House Retirement

Retiring in the Caribbean sounds beyond idyllic when you consider the serene beaches and tropical social culture around every corner. But what does retirement in the Caribbean actually look like?

Expat Financial ranked the Bahamas as the top Caribbean Island for retirement in a recent study. This was followed by the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aruba, Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos. The Caribbean Islands function like a magnet for retirees who are attracted to the peaceful lifestyle, affordable healthcare, and tax incentives.

There are 26 countries in the Caribbean, and each one has unique visa restrictions, which is a potential barrier to consider when thinking about retirement. You should also analyze language barriers — English, Spanish, French, Creole and other languages are spoken throughout the islands. Many countries also have their own currencies.

But Overall, the Caribbean is a lovely, tranquil choice for retired life. Who wouldn’t want to spend their final days sipping piña coladas on the beach?

caribbean tiny house guide

European Tiny House Retirement

European Tiny House Retirement

Spending retirement in an Italian villa or the French countryside sounds dreamy, but there are many details to consider when making the choice to retire in Europe.

One huge benefit to retiring in a European country is the overwhelming support systems that exist to care for the elderly throughout the continent. A study conducted by BBC news identified the UK as having the best end-of-life care in the world. The study specifically praises the quality and availability of services.

Another pro to European retirement is the rich culture that exists for the older population. Aging Europe points out the active culture throughout the continent from events to travel — the elderly in Europe are not slowing down.

A study conducted by Expat Financial cite the best European countries to retire in as Portugal, France, Slovenia, Italy, and Montenegro.

However, one downside to retiring in Europe for U.S. citizens is being so far from home. You’ll also have to pay higher taxes as a permanent resident. But these downsides may not look so bad when you’re spending your final days sipping cappuccinos in France.

europe tiny house guide

Australian Tiny House Retirement

Australian Tiny House Retirement

Thinking about retirement Down Under? There are many reasons why retirement in Australia might be the move for you and your loved ones.

In Australia, the health and social care facilities offered to retirees are extremely high quality.

Additionally, Australia has a low crime rate, making it a relatively safe country when compared to other countries around the globe, though you’ll still want to take care to follow basic safety guidelines.

One downside to choosing to retire in Australia is that retirees will not be granted government or medical benefits during their retirement period. They will need to secure their own insurance policy from an Australian company on their own accord to maintain security into retirement. Another downside for U.S. citizens is again being far away from home.

However, if those downsides don’t bother you, Australia is a gorgeous and relaxing continent with a rich, vibrant culture to retire in.

australia tiny house guide

Your Turn!

  • What aspects of retiring in a tiny house would be ideal for you?
  • Where in the world would you love to experience retirement?

My No Spend Challenge: How I Bought Nothing for Six Months

My No Spend Challenge: How I Bought Nothing for Six Months

This year I decided to take on a personal no spend challenge. I wanted to see if I could buy nothing for an entire year. Six months in, I’ve been successful (and learned a few lessons too).

As I’ve shared my story with friends and blog readers, many of you have asked how to take on a no spend challenge. In our world of buy, buy, buy, where almost anything is available instantly at the click of a button, a year without spending sounds daunting at first.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure I could handle the challenge either. Even though I live in a tiny house and follow a mostly minimalist lifestyle, the thought of buying absolutely nothing for a year seemed tough. Now that I’ve been going on the challenge for six months, I must admit, it becomes easier when you start. It was a simple matter of setting up rules and then shifting my mindset. Here’s what I’ve learned about buying nothing in my first 6 months.

Why Try to Buy Nothing?

One of the first questions I get about the no spend challenge is “why?” To be honest, answering the question of “why” was a big part of the process to taking on a year without spending.

What it comes down to is, the no spend challenge isn’t meant to stop people from spending money because it’s somehow bad or wrong to buy what you want. There’s nothing wrong with shopping in itself.

When buying becomes a problem is when we spend money we don’t have on items we don’t need. It’s an issue when we buy items and tell ourselves little stories that aren’t true to justify our purchases. We expect our purchases to bring us happiness, friends, freedom, or other rewards they can’t possibly deliver. Ultimately, we end up less happy because those stories we told ourselves don’t come true and spending now detracts from our long-term goals in the future.

Personally, I have a lot of goals I’m working toward. One of the biggest obstacles to achieving those goals was money.

Spending money on extraneous items was causing me to delay accomplishing my biggest goals. It was creating a barrier to the big dreams I wanted to achieve. Once I realized my “why,” keeping myself focused on my no spend challenge has been much easier. No way am I going to pass up my big dreams for a temporary fix. Spending money now in lieu of a bigger, better future, isn’t worth it.

My No Spend Challenge Rules

I’m not a huge fan of rules, to be honest. In fact, one of the only rules I follow is that it’s a good idea to question everything (including the rules). I apply this “guideline” to my minimalist approach to work, as well as organizing my house.

Still, when it came to the challenge, I wanted to set up guidelines and parameters. Plus, I’m a stickler for semantics so I wanted to clearly define the rules, so I couldn’t exploit any loopholes. So, these are the no spend challenge rules I decided to follow:

1. Food Is Fair Game

Everyone needs to eat and I’m nowhere close to growing my own food at the moment, so realistically food was a necessary expense. As part of the no spend challenge I cut out all fast food and only allow myself to eat out at “sit down restaurants,” on special occasions. This means I’ve cooked a lot more.

2. Everyday Consumables Are Allowed

Consumable products were another necessity–like toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, soap and other similar items that get used up over time. To make sure I didn’t find a way to exploit this no spend rule, I created an “inventory” before I started. I only allowed myself to keep those items and not add to the inventory list. These household items are super basic and have been reduced to only products I use every day.

3. Medical Items Are Allowed

If I need a prescription or an item recommended by my doctor, I can get it. I limited this to only the directions of my doctor. As a rule, this situation hasn’t yet come up, because I’ve stayed healthy. Still, health is too important to not add this caveat.

4. Only Buy What You Need, When You Need It

When an above-mentioned consumable or food is gone, I buy a replacement. This no spend rule stopped me buying items I don’t use. For consumables I use frequently or go through quickly, I set a number I’m allowed to store in my “inventory.” The rule is I can maintain my inventory numbers, but never go beyond them.

5. Fix First, Replace Second

All I really have in my house are the basics, which means if something breaks, I really need it. So, I said I had to first try to fix it, then if I couldn’t I could replace it. So far, I’ve only had to replace one thing that couldn’t be fixed.

6. Only Digital Version Of Books

I love reading and do a lot of it. One of my main goals is reading two books a month, minimum. So to do this I chose Audible audiobooks downloaded to my phone. In cases where I want a physical book, I’ve started using the library

7. Gifts For Other People

In some situations, it’s necessary to get gifts for other people. In many cases, I prioritize giving experiences over things. When a birthday or special occasion comes around, I may choose to take someone out to dinner, go to an event, take a trip, or another gift that doesn’t involve buying more “things.”

Six months into my no spend challenge, the only item I’ve purchased (besides food and shampoo) was a new bathmat. Unfortunately, the one I had mildewed and became grungy. After washing the grimy mat (following rule the fifth rule), I decided it needed replacing. When I did replace it, I bought a quality mat and threw out the old one. In six months, only spending $20 on a bathmat is a purchase I can definitely live with, so I still consider the no spend challenge a success so far.

6 Lessons You Need to Succeed at the No Spend Challenge

There are six practical lessons I’ve learned from taking on the no spend challenge. As I work toward a year without spending, these lessons have helped me more successful.

Better yet, these lessons will still apply even after the challenge is up. I would say, even if you don’t plan on taking the no spend challenge for a full year or if you set different parameters for yourself or your family, you will still benefit from applying these minimalist lessons every time you purchase.

If you want to buy less, take on a year without spending, or save money and make wiser purchases, use these 6 lessons to guide you.

1. Start with “Why” Before You Buy

As I mentioned before, when I discovered my “why,” taking on the no spend challenge became much easier. It’s the whole “keep your eye on the prize” mentality. If there are bigger goals you want to achieve, focus on the deeper purpose.

Purpose will keep you on track and give you direction. Again, the no spend challenge isn’t about getting people to stop buying for a year because buying is bad. It’s about implementing plans and purchases to ultimately make your life better. If an item doesn’t make your life better or move you toward your larger purpose, then it’s probably not worth the money.

Ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to take on a no spend challenge?
  • What are my larger goals?
  • Why will this challenge move me toward the goals I want to achieve?

Once you’ve discovered those answers, the rest is easier!

2. Do You Have the Money?

Perhaps the most obvious and easiest question to ask is one we often overlook. Especially with credit and “buy now, pay later,” promotions, it’s easy to live beyond our means. When it comes down to making a purchase—any purchase from a steak dinner vs. ramen noodles—as yourself if you can really afford it.

If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. Plain and simple. If you’re facing a need you can’t afford, look at the other areas where you spend beyond your means. Are you renting a space that costs more than you can afford? It may be time to move. Does your car payment eat up your budget each month? It may be time to trade in for a cheaper vehicle.

A world of credit has skewed our view on what we can and can’t afford. At the end of the day, if you don’t have the money, don’t buy. It’s that simple.

3. Delay Your Gratification

When you’ve convinced yourself there’s a need to purchase something, add it to your list and wait until the next trip to the store. If you’re shopping and you see an item you want to buy (not on the list), wait until your next trip. The majority of the time the urge to buy will pass before you go back to the store.

This approach works really well with online shopping too. Whenever you want an item, add it to your cart and leave it there. Then the next time you shop, if you still want the item it’s there and ready. Chances are, you’ll find a solution to your problem without spending or you’ll discover you didn’t need the item as much as you thought you did. Waiting helps those who struggle with impulse purchases.  After doing this constantly for 6 months it’s amazing to me how often I find I don’t want something, it’s very eye-opening for a person who didn’t buy a lot to begin with.

4. Ask Yourself What You’re Actually Buying

We buy food because we need to eat. We have a biological imperative to get food. For the majority of our other purchases—clothes, decorations, exercise equipment, appliances—we buy because we’re purchasing an ideal or concept.

When you buy a piece of exercise equipment, it’s not simply because you LOVE to exercise, it’s because you want to get the end result: a healthy, fit body, more energy, lower blood pressure, and so on. You’re buying the equipment because you believe the purchase will give you the outcome you desire.

When you decide to purchase, ask yourself: What am I really buying? What do I hope to gain from this purchase? Will my actions result in the desired outcome or am I just telling myself it will?

We should always look at the stories we’re telling ourselves and the narrative we’re inserting into the purchase. I’ve seen this with people who buy RVs, only to find they wish they’d tested it out first. It turns out they aren’t really “RV people” and now they’ve made a huge purchase that’s hard to undo.

On a smaller scale, I ran into this myself last year when I bought a blender (before I took on the no spend challenge). I looked at the $500+ Vitamix blenders because I like to purchase the highest quality when possible. Looking at the price tag, I decided to opt for a $16 blender at Wal-Mart, telling myself if I used it consistently for three months, I’d splurge on the Vitamix.

Well, after a few weeks of smoothies, I discovered I don’t actually like smoothies all that much. They’re okay, but not $500-blender-level okay. By delaying my gratification and not buying the narrative that the new blender was going to convert me into a “smoothie person,” I saved myself $484.

5. Ask How Else Can You Achieve the Purpose

If there’s an item you want or need, such as clothing, books or tools, ask yourself if there’s another way to achieve the same outcome. Figure out how not to spend money, but still get what you need. Could you borrow the item from a friend? Could you somehow find a workaround to achieve the same results?

Oftentimes we purchase before we really explore alternatives. If there’s a book you want, chances are, you could find it at the library. The same goes for movies you want to see and music you want to listen to. For most tools, you can find rental options through home improvement stores.

Other items, such as clothing, appliances, and dishes are found for less at second-hand stores. You may even check Craigslist or neighborhood exchange pages to find the item for free. Barter and trade with others to get what you need without spending. Learn to create: cook, grow a garden, teach yourself to sew and do small repairs.

When we focus on the desired outcome, we may find many means to an end. A treadmill may seem to solve our desire to get in shape, but could you start going for regular walks instead? Is there an indoor track somewhere you could use for free? In the longer term, would a gym membership cost less and end up taking up less space than a treadmill? Simply buying an item won’t give you the end result you want, so you have to put in the effort. Could you get in shape without spending?

6. Ask: What Will This Purchase Replace?

In minimalism, many of us embrace the “one-in, one-out” rule. This, of course, is vital if you live in a small space. But, even if you have extra room, applying this rule will help you minimize clutter and keep excess stuff from taking over your space. Whenever you buy an item, ask yourself what you’re going to toss out to create room.

If you buy a new shirt, let go of your oldest one. New sneakers? Toss out your old smelly ones. New bathmat? Replace the mildewed one (which was the whole need for buying a new bathmat in the first place).

Don’t let yourself hold onto items that end up cluttering up your life and taking up your valuable space. Taking on a year of buying nothing will help you reprioritize and realize what really matters. What items do you buy “just to buy” and what items do you really need?

As you pare down and prioritize, you’ll discover there’s simplicity and beauty in maintaining the number of items you own. If you decide to purchase something new, toss out something old. Be sure the items you hold onto are what you actually need and enjoy—the items that make your life better and move you toward your bigger goals.

A year of buying nothing is a tough challenge, but not as tough as it may seem at first. Once you go through the process of trying a no spend challenge, you’ll be amazed at how your priorities shift. You may suddenly gain several hours a week you used to go shopping, you can now spend cooking a good meal, taking the time with your family, or going for a walk. You’ll move closer to your financial goals and build momentum to keep going.

I look forward to sharing more about how my year of buying nothing is going. I’d like to hear how you’re doing with your no spend challenge, too.

Your turn!

  • Have you taken on the no spend challenge?
  • What’s the longest you’ve gone without making a purchase?
  • What stories have you told yourself when you bought something you didn’t need?

 

How To Start Homesteading On A Budget

Ever since I was a very young kid, I knew that I wanted to have a little place of my own, to own land were I could enjoy being outside.  That never feeling never left through the years.  So starting a homestead, finding a place for your tiny house or just a little piece to call your own can seem really challenging at times.

how to start a homestead on a budget

 

For some they just want to start homesteading right where they are, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to do it. For others is just finding the time to make it happen.

So what are we supposed to do when we’re on a budget and all we want to do is start building a life for ourselves?

Get Clear On Your Goals

writing in notebookThe biggest mistake I see people make is they haven’t really defined what they want to do in 1 year, 5 years and so on.  When you get very clear on what you want, you can quickly determine what you actually need in your future stead and where you are going.  Too often people don’t set goals which means they are getting pulled in a million directions.

If you actually write out your goals you gain clarity and you will have a standard to evaluate how you spend your time and resources.  When you have clear goals you can ask yourself “does this get me closer to my goals?”   If the answer is yes, then you should pursue it.  If the answer is no or maybe, then you should say no to whatever it is.

Having goals means you don’t waste money on things that you don’t need and focus the money you do have on hand to the things that will actually let you do what you want to do.  Too often people spend money on things they think they want, but haven’t taken the time to determine if that’s right for them.

Simplify Your Life

Closely tied with my last point, work to actively encourage things in your life that are aligned with your goals, then reject everything else.  This can be difficult, but with some practice and keeping your eye on the prize you can cut out all the stuff that doesn’t matter.

simplify your life quote

From there look at ways to make every day easier and less complicated.  Declutter your home, regain control over your calendar, cut out unnecessary expenses and focus on what matters to you.  This is a long process, but as you bring the important things into focus and remove the things that eat up your time that don’t matter, you’ll find you have more time, less stress, and life seems to flow better.

Take The Long Road

It can be tempting to make the leap now, but if we accept that this is a journey and we need to sort things in our life before we get to our destination.  We realize that we’re putting in the hard work to make our dream possible so that when we do arrive, we are able to really enjoy it fully.  If we rush through it we’ll start homesteading stressed, in debt, and being pulled in a million directions.

take the road less traveledSome of the biggest goals I’ve achieved were only enjoyed because I worked on everything as I made my way there.  When I moved into my tiny house I wanted to have a simpler life, less clutter from possessions, on my way to being debt free and in a really good place in my life and career. If I hadn’t worked to make those things a reality, the experience of going tiny would have been very stressful.

The other thing to know is that a lot of what you want to do requires a lot of new knowledge and experience, which you can start gathering now!  Choose the areas you want to focus on first (goal setting) and find a way to learn more about those areas.  It could be checking a book out of the library, it could be making friends with a local farmer or homesteader and asking if you can help out for free.

A lot of what I learned was from a farmer who I helped weed beds.  As we moved along his raised beds, I would ask lots of questions and we’d talk about various things on his farm that I wanted to know more about.  It was a big help to him, I learned a lot and it filled the time while we were weeding.

Starting Your Homestead Where You Are

For many people when they get really clear on their goals and realize that the whole thing is a journey, they realize that the land they are on is actually a really good place to start for them for where they are in their journey.  Most of us just starting out don’t have many of the skills needed to run a full fledged homestead, so starting small is perfect because we can build our skills so we can later apply them to a larger piece of land.

gardening in your back yard

Start with baby steps as you build out your homestead and if you don’t own the land, consider how you can develop the land in ways that you can take them with you when you upgrade or move.  Portable infrastructure is key when you don’t own your land or the land you’re on is a stepping stone to your final destination.  Things like water systems, shelters for animals, fencing, and even garden beds all can be made to move if need be.

So look around where you are right now, could you start a raised bed?  What about container gardening?  Is there a way you could buy two chickens and learn the ins an outs of raising them?  Be open to possibilities and bring creativity to your situation.

Buying Land With Little Or No Money

For many of us it’s all about finding some land we can call our own.  Land can be very expensive and while we want to grow things, money isn’t one thing we can grow in our gardens.  So how can we buy land without much money?

Rent To Own

rent to own signMost of us are paying something right now for wherever we are living.  It could be rent or a mortgage, but whatever the case is, we actually do have money, it’s just not allocated in the right direction.   What if we were to find some land where we could start renting now and the rent goes towards ownership?

There are many landlords that will consider this, especially when they’ve been trying to sell it for a long time or it’s bare land.  This is sometimes referred to as “owners financing”.  The beauty of this is we often can get in on a property that has potential, but requires some elbow grease for very little down.  Sometimes you can start with nothing down.

If you play your cards right, you can find a piece of land that’s right for you at the same cost of your old mortgage or monthly rent.  If you were spending $500 a month, work the deal to pay the owner $500 a month.  The downsides to this approach are that the owner will often use a higher interest rate than normal and if you default on the payments, you lose it all.  So make sure you have money saved for a rainy day.

Get A Land Loan

Land loans are harder to come by these days, but there are a few credit unions and smaller banks that will still do them.  You’re typically looking at about 2% more interest than going mortgage rates.  This was an option I explored and was able to find financing options through the Farmers Credit Union which had USDA backing.

I don’t typically advocate taking on debt, but there are sometimes that it is the only realistic option.  Houses, land and for some cars are the only way they could achieve this.  If you go this route, make sure you have a good handle on your finances, you’ve paid down all your debt and you have 3-6 months of expenses saved in case of job loss.  This isn’t something you want to mess around with.

Stretch The Money You Do Have

One thing to consider is that land is often expensive, but if we are willing to make a move we can consider areas that land is cheaper.  If you have $15,000 in California, you’re not going to find any options, but if you were open to Montana, you might find some really good deals.  Combined this with a rent to own arrangement and you can get some really nice land for what you have on hand.

The two caveats with this is to make sure that you can still find employment in those areas, if you can remote work you can be pulling in big city pay checks while having small town bills.  The other thing is to try it before you buy it, just because it’s the right price may not mean it’s a place you like to live.

So consider renting for a year and use the time to get to know the area, the people and the lifestyle.  You can use this time to get a lay of the land, understand where you might want to live better and build connections that could help you on your journey.

Rent Land

In more rural locations, especially those where farming is common, renting land by the year is very common.  Many people will use this as a way to expand their farm without buying expensive property.  In some places $50 per acre per year is quite common, you just need to make sure that you are able to move everything if the situation changes.

So those are some of the options you can consider when trying to find land.  It isn’t easy, but with some creativity, hard work and perseverance you can make owning land a reality.

Your Turn!

  • How have you figured out a way to find your own land?
  • Where are you at with your journey?

When to spend: Quality versus cheap clothing

A key tenant of spending wisely is to know value. A $1 item that will last a month is less valuable than a $5 item that will last a year. Smart shoppers know that spending more and buying better quality is often a better deal than the cheapest item on the shelf.

But unless you’re very, very wealthy, you simply cannot afford to buy the absolute best of everything. Being frugal where you can and investing in things that will last you a long time and save you money, time, or your health in the long run is the wisest way to spend, but it can be hard to tell when you should invest and when you should cheap out.

Here’s my personal guide to wardrobe-related saving and spending, assembled after wasting a lot of money in the wrong places.

Save on Glasses

There are online glasses retailers where you can buy glasses for $10-$20. These are the same quality as brick and mortar optical stores’ wares but cost a tenth of the price. At this point, paying $100-$300 for prescription glasses or sunglasses is just nuts.

There is also no need to buy name brand glasses. No one will be able to read the tiny brand name or tell if your glasses cost $5 or $500.

Also, in recent years, the online try-on functions at these sites have become very advanced and there are tons of reviews of individual websites online that will help guide you to the cheapest, best specs.

Spend on work clothing

As someone who works in a professional office environment, I long ago learned to spend a little more per item in stores that sold higher quality items versus buying a large wardrobe of “throwaway” pieces that will only be able to be worn a few times before looking tattered.

Despite the single-digit price tag, stores like Forever21 and Zara are not your friends.

To keep costs down overall, I recommend a capsule-style wardrobe filled with better quality clothing that will look good, feel good and last, saving you money in the long run.

My best trick for high-quality on a small budget is to shop exclusively on sale and clearance during clear-out times for stores like black Friday and at the end of Summer. When shopping online, search for and stack coupons on top of sale events and watch for hidden shipping costs when calculating your total price.

Save on workout wear

Undershirts, layering shirts, workout clothing and other items that will get sweaty, nasty or not be seen can be bought more inexpensively because the aren’t going to last you as long. While office clothing might be able to be worn for years, workout clothing is often only good for a season. Consider cost per use in this matter and save your money.

Spend on footwear

Life is just too short to walk around with your feet hurting.

Shoes are pretty much the only category I’ll favor proven brands over generics. Some people have no problem wearing cheap shoes, but for mine I need arch support, padding, leather that will mold to my feet, get more comfortable with each wear and stand up to the elements. Too long did I limp around, blistered, in cheap, flimsy Payless flats as a young reporter only to have them fall apart every few months.

Now I buy quality shoes and only have a handful of pairs.

Partially as an experiment and partially because they were expensive, I wore one pair of brown Clarks boots 5-6 days a week for 8 months straight.

Not only did no one in my office notice that I only wore one pair of shoes, when I told them, they were impressed that they lasted that long.

The boots originally cost around $130 on the Clarks website, but the ones I bought were the previous season’s design (the current season’s design was the same shoe with a couple buckles.) To save money, I scoured Ebay for boots from previous years (I swear I don’t miss the buckles), and ended up getting a brand new pair for $70.

It was a lot to spend on one pair of shoes for me, but I’ve now had them for 2+ years, I still wear them several times a week and they look nearly new.

Quality shoes will last a long time. My cost-per-use for these boots is less than pennies per wear at this point. Invest in your feet.

For sneakers, I search Amazon for my preferred brand and size, and grab shoes in unpopular colors for a fraction of the price of the same shoes with different hues.

Save on costume jewelry and seasonal accessories

If you’re a jewelry minimalist and only wear a single necklace and/or earrings everyday, absolutely invest a little in good, long lasting metals and stones.

BUT, if you like to accessorize different outfits with colorful costume jewelry and scarves, absolutely don’t spend your whole paycheck on those items.

Baubles like these can so often be picked up at garage sales in nearly new condition or on highly discounted clearance as the seasons change at department and regular stores.

Statement jewelry goes in and out of fashion quickly and is more easily tired of than its simple, minimal counterpart.

It’s cost-per-wear will also be higher as that type of jewelry won’t be able to be worn with as much of your wardrobe.

Your Turn!

  • What do you spend more money on in your wardrobe and what do you save on?
  • What other subjects would you like us to do a “When to Spend” article on?

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8 things you should never do to save money

I’ve tried a lot of weird things to save money. A journalist and finance vlogger by day, I’ve gone dumpster diving, emptied fast food ketchup packets into a bottle, tried DIY beauty treatments involving food items (and more hours of clean up than I’ll ever admit on the internet), and even shared library cards with friends in different states to expand our e-book selection.

Some of those activities could be considered a little strange, a couple might be frowned upon in some circles, and only a few worked at all.

But despite my willingness to try “extreme” money-saving tips, there are some things that I would never do… primarily things that aren’t ethical, hygienic or legal. These would absolutely save you money, but at a very different cost, one that I think crosses a line between being penny-wise and being a tightwad.

1. Stealing

Stealing takes more forms than hiding an item under your shirt and walking out of a store or lifting someone’s wallet.

Filling a bag with more than your share of complimentary items at a restaurant, smuggling home office supplies or toilet paper or even getting a water cup and filling it with soda are all stealing. No crime is victim-less and these are not viable ways to save money.

2. Using services meant for the needy

There is nothing wrong with taking help when you need it. Services like food stamps, soup kitchens, food libraries and the like are meant to be used. But taking those services when you don’t need them in an effort to save a little money robs someone else of that resource.

Consider volunteering instead, charity event organizers nearly always plan to feed volunteers as a thank you for their time. I helped out at a church-run food pantry a couple of times a month where the church provided dinner for volunteers.

It was a free meal for me, provided by people who wanted to help who couldn’t spare the time. It both helped my food budget a little and I was able to help people in the community who were truly in need. It was a win-win.

3. Lying

I’ve heard countless times about people “pulling one over” on big corporations by taking unfair advantage of “Love it or your money back” guarantees. If you honestly didn’t like the product or service, absolutely take the business up on their offer, but using 90% of something and returning it just because you can is dishonest and shameful.

The same goes for people who argue legitimate charges on their accounts or claim their food is bad at the end of the meal after they’ve eaten most of it.

I don’t care how big the business or corporation is, lying like that is stealing.

4. Not washing my clothes or body

I’ve read tips more than once saying to step into the shower in your day’s clothing and wash them with you. I’ve read about people only spraying their clothing with air freshener or never washing their clothing at all. I’ll wear clothing items that don’t get dirty (office work wear and the like) multiple times but clothing that gets sweaty, smelly or dirty always goes straight into the wash.

Cleanliness is one of the markers of a polite society. No one wants to work with or spend time with people who are stinky by choice. This will eventually affect how people treat you and your future opportunities.

Wash your clothes, wash your body. Take some pride in your appearance. It costs very little, but has a huge return on your investment.

5. Getting rid of pets

A pet is a big responsibility and should be treated as such. Dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters and moose (not judging), etc. all cost money for food, medicine, and care throughout their lives.

I’m always saddened and a little shocked to see tip lists that recommend getting rid of the family animal to offset costs. Unless you own a very expensive animal, and are jeopardizing your own ability to survive by providing for it, I would never say to kick your pets to the curb.

Instead consider shopping for the most affordable pet food and medications (generic heart worm and flea pills can be found at websites like www.petshed.com for much less money than at the vet’s office), learn to groom your own animals, and write a line into your budget to pay for monthly and annual pet costs to always have the money there to feed Fido.

6. Stopping tipping

If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to go out.

As a former waitress myself, I know all too well how many people choose not to tip and the percentage is completely unacceptable. Whether or not you agree with the custom, we all know that wait staff are often paid well below minimum wage and their tips are expected to raise their salary to a reasonable level (aka more than $2 per hour which will nearly all go to taxes anyway.) When you don’t tip, the service worker isn’t getting paid for their services. It’s an unfair system, but until it’s changed, don’t punish the person serving you.

If you don’t want to tip, feel free to take your food to go, park your own car, do your own beauty services and make your own drink.

7. Mooching

“Forget your wallet” at a group lunch often enough, and you won’t get invited to them anymore.

Friends and family should be joyous parts of your life, not vehicles to save a buck.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with letting your relatives buy dinner when you’re visiting for the weekend, but consider returning the favor the next time they visit you. Relationships shouldn’t be about who owes who and is soured when people take advantage of people.

If you’re often invited to expensive dinners or events by more affluent friends, consider suggesting more frugal outings where everyone can have fun and not jeopardize their individual money goals. Also don’t forget that everyone loves a welcoming invitation over for a home-cooked meal. Friendship doesn’t have to be expensive.

8. Miss out on life

The easiest and most effective way to save money is to not spend it. Saving money is important to me. It’s a key strategy in my long-term money goals. But I won’t decline every invite to do something fun with friends in order to save every possible cent.

Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. There are tons of free and frugal things to do and it’s also okay to spend a little more on occasion to have life-enriching experiences.

Your Turn!

  • What “frugal actions” are too far for you?
  • What will you do to save money?

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