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Tiny House Book Review: The Best Books To Help You Live The Tiny Life

Tiny House Book Review: The Best Books To Help You Live The Tiny Life

tiny house books

I’m a bit of a bookworm and I know I’m not alone in that when it comes to other tiny house folks. Despite living in a tiny house without a lot of storage space, I make sure to find space for my books. Most of the books on this tiny house book list are available as audio or ebooks, so there’s no need to install a bookshelf for a collection of tiny house books!

tiny house libraryI’ve started my tiny house book list with books to inspire you, teach you about tiny houses, and help you design your dream home. I’ve included the best tiny house building book list to help you through the construction process. But then you’ll see I’ve also included some books to help you get into the right mentality for the tiny life.

Living the tiny life isn’t just about the physical house. It’s about the lifestyle that you’re building. People see others living in a tiny house and think, “wow—it’s a charmed life! Instagram-worthy! Stress-free!” And they associate that with the tiny house itself, which trips people up because it leads some to think they can buy happiness. It’s very natural, but it misses the point.

This tiny house book list will help you get into the right frame of mind and philosophy to live a life that’s not just about “dwelling in a tiny home” but about embracing less as more and learning to find simple satisfaction in all areas of your life. Not every book on this list is for everyone—choose a few tiny house books to help you get started, maybe one from each section, and then build your library from there. Happy reading!

Tiny House Inspiration Books

tiny house inspiration books

This tiny homes book list includes all the books to help you brainstorm on your journey to living the tiny life. Whether you’re looking for beautiful photos to give you ideas about your future house design possibilities or looking for an excellent introduction and overview of the tiny life, these are the tiny house books for beginners.

tiny house living book

Tiny House Living

by Ryan Mitchell

Yes, this is my book. Not to sound too boastful, but I really do feel like it’s one of the best books to help you get started with the tiny house lifestyle. In this book, I explain the basics of tiny houses and why moving to a smaller home and downsizing your life has outsized benefits.

the not so big house

The Not So Big House

by Sarah Susanka

This book preceded the tiny house movement. The Not So Big House was the first tiny house book to propose the idea of “let’s not have giant homes. Instead, let’s have homes that are well-built, well-designed, and facilitate a different way of life.” Some folks point to author Sarah Susanka as an influential figure who added to the collective consciousness to bring about the tiny house ethos.

cabin porn inside

Cabin Porn

by Freda Moon & Zack Klein

When you have limited space in a tiny home, you probably don’t have a lot of room for coffee table books. So if you’re looking for the best tiny house book to display, my choice would be Cabin Porn. This book has beautiful photos of cabins and is pure tiny house inspiration fodder.

compact cabins

Compact Cabins

by Gerald Rowan

Compact Cabins is a top choice if you’re looking for a great guide to building a tiny house or cabin. It’s hard to find floor plans under 1000 square feet, but this book has an array of ideas for small cabins. Now some don’t quite qualify as tiny homes (typically under 400 square feet), but it’s still a great book on small living.

tiny houses built with recycled materials

Tiny Houses Built with Recycled Material

by Ryan Mitchell

My second book is a practical guide to building a tiny house using reclaimed materials. It’s the best tiny house building book for DIY-ing on a budget. You’ll find plenty of inspiration on using different materials to build an eco-friendly home on a shoestring.



by Derek Diedrickson

The author of Microshelters builds these quirky, small shelters and shares them in a very unique tiny homes book. This tiny house book is a popular option for getting design ideas and inspiration and includes some practical insight.

Tiny House Design Books

Tiny House Design Books

Next on my tiny house book list are the tiny house design books. These texts will help you throughout the tiny house-building process. If you’re hoping to design and build your dream tiny house from scratch, these are the resources you need.

designing your tiny house

Designing Your Tiny House

by Ryan Mitchell

In my guide to designing a tiny house, I offer practical tips and explanations on approaching your tiny house design process. I went in with the philosophy that I wanted to write the book that I needed when I built my own home. When you’re living in 100 square feet, design is critical—every square inch matters. I’ve packed this book with practical tips to ensure your house meets all your needs.

tiny homes on the move

Tiny Homes on the Move

by Lloyd Kahn

Author Lloyd Kahn has been living the tiny life for over 50 years in one form or another. His books are truly unique and authentic. He includes real-life examples—not just filtered “Instagram” tiny living, but practical tips and insights.

tiny homes simple shelter

Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter

by Lloyd Kahn

Another Lloyd Kahn book, Simple Shelter, is an excellent guide to building a tiny house. Lloyd is a true “old hippie” who makes these books, prints out the photos, does the layout and copies himself, and then sends them to the publisher. Although his process may be wild, what you get is a really excellent tiny house building book.

make your house do the housework

Make Your House Do The Housework

by Gerald Rowan

This tiny house book gets more into the tiny lifestyle. If you’re looking for a tiny homes book that talks about how to take care of your small space, then this is the book for you. I listed this here on my tiny house book list because it really goes into the material choices and the design process. It explains how to design a tiny house, so it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance or cleaning.

The Building a Tiny House Book List

The Building a Tiny House Book List

Now, if you’ve gone through the tiny house book list for inspiration and design tips, you’re ready to move into the building phase. There are several tiny house building books and guides that I recommend. While you don’t need every book on this list, it doesn’t hurt to do additional research before building. You can never be too informed going into the process.

how to build a tiny house

How to Build a Tiny House

by Ryan Mitchell

When I wrote How to Build A Tiny House, I tried to write the best tiny house building book possible. I wanted a step-by-step guide to building a tiny house that was accessible and beginner-friendly. Whether you’re building with your own plans or pre-purchased plans, this book is easy to follow (even if you’ve never built before). I wrote this guide to building a tiny home for people who haven’t picked up a power tool in their life—and if you ARE familiar with the building process, there are still many tips that will ensure success.

shockingling simple electrical for tiny houses

Shockingly Simple Electrical for Tiny Houses

by Ryan Mitchell

One area that tends to elude tiny house builders is electrical. Truth be told, it also eludes “traditional” homeowners, but electrical is often a fully DIY process for tiny home builders. In this tiny house book, I delve into everything you need to know to get off-grid. More importantly, I explain how to calculate your power needs, the basics of electrical, and the formulas you need to know. I’ll explain to beginners how to wire outlets, switches, panels, and all the details you need to get your tiny house electrical up and running.

cracking the code tiny house building codes

Cracking the Code: Tiny House Building COdes

by Ryan Mitchell

The other major struggle that many new tiny house builders face is navigating building codes. In my tiny house book Cracking the Code, I explain how to think about compliance (or non-compliance). If you decide to do everything above board, this is the best tiny house building book to guide you through what you need to know. If you have a higher risk tolerance and decide to roll the dice, I’ll offer some ideas on how you can work around some of the coding restrictions.

working alone

Working Alone

by John Carroll

Compact Cabins is a top choice if you’re looking for a great guide to building a tiny house or cabin. It’s hard to find floor plans under 1000 square feet, but this book has an array of ideas for small cabins. Now some don’t quite qualify as tiny homes (typically under 400 square feet), but it’s still a great book on small living.

learn to timberframe

Learn To Timberframe

by Will Beemer & Jack A. Sobon

I included Learn to Timber Frame as a wild card on my building a tiny house book list. If you want to build a timber frame or use heavier joinery as you’re building a tiny house, this book will help you figure out what you need to know about handling heavy framing.

Simple Living Mindset Books To Transition To The Tiny Life

Simple Living Mindset Books To Transition To The Tiny Life

As I said before, if you’re ready to explore the tiny life, it’s not as easy as finding the best tiny house building book and starting to set up a home. There’s a shift in lifestyle and mentality as you move into a smaller place and embrace a simpler life. I think this part often gets overlooked when we see Pinterest-perfect tiny house ideas. This tiny house book list will help you get into the right frame of mind.

the minimalist mindset

The Minimalist Mindset

by Danny Dover

The Minimalist Mindset is one of my favorite practical minimalist books. My friend Danny Dover wrote this, not just as a tiny house book but as a guide for anyone who wants to shift to a minimalist life. Many books make a case for simplifying and decluttering, but they talk in broad strokes. This book gets into some practical tips and ideas about becoming minimalist, especially making the mindset shift.

walden and civil disobedience

Walden and Civil Disobedience

by Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau is known as being one of the original fathers of the natural, simplistic life mindset. He built a cabin on Walden pond from the ground up, and in his writing, he muses on nature and human’s connection to the earth. The companion, Civil Disobedience, is a nice tie-in, especially when navigating the rules and regulations of building a tiny house. It explores our liberties and our relationship with government, as well as our philosophy on freedom.

the littel book of hygge

The Little Book of Hygge

by Meik Wiking

I’ve been a big fan of the concept of Hygge for years. When I visited Stockholm, I got to see the philosophy of cozy, comfortable living in practice. As you set up a tiny house, this idea of bringing coziness and warmth to even a small space is essential. I like this book because it’s a nice beginner’s guide that gives a good overview of the concept and how you can live it.

minimalism live a meaningful life

minimalism live a meaningful life

by Joshua Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Minimalism goes hand-in-hand with the tiny life—to be comfortable in a small space, you need to learn to live with less. If you’re looking for a guide to minimalism, this book is it. This was written by THE original minimalists, two bloggers, who started the movement. They make a strong case for the minimalist lifestyle and offer this book as a helpful primer and introduction to the idea.

the big tiny

The Big Tiny

by Dee Williams

Although this isn’t a traditional tiny house book, by any means, I included it in my list because I think it’s great reading for anyone who really wants to get into the philosophical mindset of reprioritizing and living with less. The Big Tiny is a memoir that delves into the life of Dee Williams. One day she discovered she had a heart condition, and the doctor told her, “You could go at any time—tomorrow or years from now. One day you’ll just drop dead, and there’s nothing you can do.” It changed her perspective on the world; she moved into a tiny house and changed her priorities to focus on what really mattered to her.

logam the swedish art of balanced living

Lagom The Swedish Art of Balanced Living

by Linnea Dunne

Lagom (a great word!) is a Swedish philosophy on not having too little and not having too much. It’s about choosing a home and lifestyle that offers you what you need, without anything extraneous to weigh you down. Not only is this an eye-catching book, but it’s a lovely book to help you transition to a balanced life. It explores minimalist concepts like capsule wardrobes from this Swedish mindset.

Downsizing And Decluttering Book List to Help You Live in a Smaller Space

Downsizing And Decluttering Book List to Help You Live in a Smaller Space

The tiny life is so much more than just living in a small home. From a practical perspective, you MUST downsize and declutter if you want to move into a smaller space. I have to have a place for everything in my house, and even a small amount of clutter can feel overwhelming and disruptive. The selections on this tiny house book list on decluttering can help anyone get organized (not just tiny house owners).

the life changing magic of tidying up

The LIfe Changing Magic of Tidying Up

by Marie Kondo

Marie Kondō created a movement in 2014 when this book on decluttering came out. People joked about discarding items that didn’t “spark joy,” and her name became synonymous with radical decluttering (as in, “I’m going to Marie Kondō my life”). The philosophy of only keeping items that spark joy is beneficial to everyone, especially tiny homeowners. While this book is a little less analytical than some others on this list, it helps shift your mindset.

the joy of less

The Joy of Less

by Francine Jay

Like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the Joy of Less is focused on finding happiness by clearing out the clutter. However, this book offers a more practical, hands-on approach to decluttering and organizing your house. I would recommend choosing one or two books on decluttering in a style that appeals to you—remember, not every book will speak to you. Some folks might like a practical approach like the Joy of Less, while others might want to delve into the philosophy of organizing as a concept.

The Gentle Art Of Swedish Death Cleaning

The Gentle Art Of Swedish Death Cleaning

by Margereta Magnusson

Swedish death cleaning came into vogue recently after several news articles discussed the concept. In Sweden, as people age, they don’t want to leave a mess for their loved ones to clean up. There’s a culturally initiated practice of “death cleaning.” When you get to retirement age, you streamline and downsize possessions, your home, and life. I’ve seen this amongst my own friends; when someone dies, there’s emotional guilt and trauma in parting with their stuff. The “death cleaning” frame of mind assures that you aren’t leaving that burden for loved ones to bear

Decluttering At The Speed of Life

Decluttering At The Speed of Life

by Dana White

Admittedly, I’m not the target audience for this decluttering book, but I believe it’s a helpful guide for those who run a family household. There’s a lot of emotional stress keeping a home tidy for your family. Much of this book focuses on women and mothers who are bearing the weight of housekeeping. While a smaller home cuts back on some housekeeping tasks, it’s still important to organize the process, so it doesn’t fall on one family member

Breaking Free Of Consumerism Books To Shift Your Mindset

Breaking Free Of Consumerism Books To Shift Your Mindset

Ultimately, at the root of the tiny house movement and philosophy is the idea that we need to break free from the consumerism that dominates our lives. The selections on this tiny house book list are about letting go of the “buy more” mentality and helping pull back the curtain on how marketing manipulates us to purchase things we don’t need.

Predictably Irrational

Predictably Irrational

by Dr. Dan Ariely

Predictably Irrational is another wild card choice on my tiny house book list. This book talks about how we make decisions and how those are influenced. These days, we even call marketers online “influencers”—external parties that sway our choices. Consumerism is so deep-rooted that it’s hard for us even to realize it at times. I live in 100 square feet, and I can account for almost everything I own, yet I still fall trap to these ideas sometimes.

Invisible Influence

Invisible Influence

by Jonah Berger

Similar to Predictably Irrational, Invisible Influence explores our culture of consumerism and how marketing permeates our day-to-day choices. Again, while every book on this list won’t appeal to every reader, I wanted to offer a selection of different perspectives on similar tiny life topics.

Trust Me Im Lying

Trust Me Im Lying

by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday was a marketer schooled in the art of deception and manipulation. He gives the example of paying for billboards for a client, then taking red paint and defacing them on purpose. Not only did this result in free press for the client, but it increased their business and the sympathy of consumers. This book is a fascinating read on the capitalist mindset and how marketing can be exploitive.



by John de Graff

Another similar book on the malaise and dissatisfaction that comes from the “buy more” mindset. I took on a year of buying nothing to help me move away from this mentality and prove to myself that I didn’t need to purchase anything. The year opened my eyes to how deep the programming of consumerism is. During the year, I made a list of everything I wanted to buy, and in the end, there was only ONE item that I still wanted. All of those other items would have been wasted consumption.

Debt-Free Living Books & Financial Book List For The Tiny Life

Debt-Free Living Books and Financial Book List For The Tiny Life

Like me, many people go into the tiny life because they want to save money. When I downsized to my tiny house, it was with an eye to financial freedom. I wanted to decrease my spending and enjoy a simpler but more fulfilling life. It worked! If you’re exploring the tiny life as an answer to financial health, here are some excellent books to help.

The Total Money Makeover Workbook

The Total Money Makeover Workbook

by Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is one of the most popular financial writers out there. I’m not terribly keen on some of his financial advisings, but his advice for people getting out of debt is really great. The “snowball method” of paying down credit card debt, loans, medical bills, and other debts works and is simple, accessible, and practical. Dave Ramsey is an excellent place to start if you’re looking to shift your mindset about money.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich

I Will Teach You To Be Rich

by Ramit Sethi

This book is a different side of the same coin as Dave Ramsey. When it comes to money, you first need to get out of debt and trim your expenses. Then you reach a point where you can only cut back you’re spending so much. Even if you give up frivolous expenses, there are still needs that will arise—gas, food, medical bills. That’s when you need to figure out the income side. At some point, it’s not just a spending issue but an income issue. This book offers practical tips on negotiating a raise, finding a new job, saving on bills, and bargaining for lower prices.

Your Money Or Your Life

Your Money Or Your Life

by Vicki Robin

This book is about what we call “F.I.R.E” or “Financial Independence to Retire Early.” Many tiny homeowners are very interested in the idea of living with less, so they can retire at a young age. The idea is to figure out how much you will need to live out your current lifestyle for the rest of your years and then save that money and put it to work for you.

The Simple Path To Wealth

The Simple Path To Wealth

by J L Collins

A similar F.I.R.E. book, this guide to financial independence offers tips along the same lines. If you want to retire early, it’s definitely possible. My cost of living has drastically lowered from $1,500 in rent per month to $15 per month. I enjoy my work on the blog, but otherwise, I have a goal to retire under 40 and to be able to continue doing what I enjoy.

All in all, the tiny life is really about finding a life you love. For many people, it requires simplifying, downsizing, and learning how to shift our mentality to a life (and home) that meets our needs without the “extras.” The books on this tiny house book list should help you make the change and guide you through everything you need to know to live a small, meaningful life.

Your Turn!

  • What are your favorite tiny house books?
  • What books have helped you change your mindset?

Rent To Own A Tiny House On Wheels: How Much Does It Cost?

Rent To Own A Tiny House On Wheels: How Much Does It Cost?

As tiny houses get more popular people are looking for more affordable housing options and a rent-to-own tiny house is one option to move into a tiny house today!  Rent-to-own is an agreement, in which you rent a tiny home for a certain amount of time, then have the option to buy it before the lease expires.

rent to own a tiny house on wheels

So today we are going to break down all the key parts of a rent to own agreement and what you need to know when it comes to paying for a tiny house on wheels with this method.

How Does Rent To Own Work?

how does rent to own work

When it comes to renting a tiny house to own there are two main types: Lease Purchase and Lease Purchase.  The main difference is that with a Lease Purchase at the end of the time period you have the option to buy the tiny house.  While the Lease Purchase at the end of lease, you’re legally obligated to buy it.

In some cases when your lease window comes to an end there may be an agreed upon amount you’ll have to pay to finalize the purchase and in other cases you can make it so when the lease payments are completed, you’re the owner with no more additional money.

What Is The Cost To Rent To Own?

how much does it cost to rent to own a tiny house on wheels

Like many things in life, it depends.  Generally speaking a completed tiny house will cost the builder between $20,000 and $60,000 to build, with that in mind you’re going to typically see a monthly payment between $120 per month up to $460 per month depending on terms and cost of the house.

When you rent to own you’ll also be required to pay a down payment, which is between 2%-5% of the loan, so plan to put down at least $500 up to $3,000 as your down payment.  This number is often negotiable and can be worked out, but the more you can put down the better.

Tiny House Mortgage Calculator:

tiny house mortgage calculator

To get an estimate of your future tiny house that you’re going to mortgage or rent-to-own, you can use this mortgage calculator to get a rough idea of what you’re going to be paying for monthly.

For interest rates, figure 1 to 2 points higher than the going mortgage rate because tiny house loans often come with terms above market.  Also consider a shorter term for the loan: 5 year, 10 year and 15 year are most common, while most places won’t do more than 20 years and that’s rare.

Rent To Own Tiny House Shells

rent to own tiny house shells

A tiny house shell is another really great way to save even more money.  A shell is simply all the exterior elements (roof, siding, windows, and doors) built on a trailer.

I recommend tiny house shells to people who don’t have much building experience because it lets all the really important parts be built by a professional tiny house on wheels builder, but not going through the expense of all the interior work which really should be customized to your needs.

About a third of the labor that goes into building a tiny house on wheels is in the shell, while the bulk of the time spent on building goes into the last steps of finishing the inside.

Buying a tiny house that is already built can be tricky because if it isn’t designed for you, then it won’t meet your needs and you’ll be looking to move out.  So make sure you know the layout that you need to enjoy life and meet all your day to day needs.

Tiny House Builders That Offer Finance

tiny house builders that offer financing

At the time of writing this post there are several tiny house builders who do financing.  It should be noted I make no claims on their craftsmanship, business practices and this shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement.

Whatever you do, it’s important to get a contract with a tiny house builder.  This is very much buyer beware as I’ve seen many less than honest builders.

How To Find A Used Tiny House For Sale

how to find a used tiny house

Another option is to find a house that is second hand.  You can save a lot of money this way and since tiny houses are often difficult to sell, you could find a seller that will consider a lease to own arrangement.

This is really a win win for people because you can get a house that’s very affordable, below market value often, and get it on a rent to own lease.  For the seller they may have struggled to sell the house and they’re able to sell the house if it’s been sitting on the market for a long time.

Make sure you do your homework on the house before you buy it.  Get a home inspection, check to make sure they have a full title and their ID matches the name on that title, and finally request all the documentation they have for you to review. Even if you aren’t going to be doing any construction yourself, it’s really good to know how to build a tiny house, because if you understand the process, you can spot where people built the used house incorrectly.

Buying a used tiny house isn’t for the faint of heart, but you can find such amazing deals that it’s a really attractive option in my book.

Rent To Own Storage Buildings

rent to own storage building

A storage building or shed can be another option you should consider.  For many of the same reasons as the tiny house shell, a storage shed is pretty similar.  The added benefit is most storage building companies very commonly do monthly payment.  Typically they have terms of 36 months (3 years) and require between $300-$1,000 down payment.

This is another great option because you can quickly get finishing the inside and start living in a shed.  These storage buildings are commonly available, a quick search shows I have over 30 companies that build and sell these in my city alone!

The one downside is that they aren’t as mobile, but they still can be moved on a flat bed or many tow trucks with beds.  Realistically this is a great option for people.

Renting Land For Your THOW

renting land for a tiny house

Getting a tiny house is just one part of the puzzle, you also need a place to put it!

Some things to consider when it comes to finding a place to park your tiny house is what access do you have to the property, you need a big enough space to get it on the property.  What utilities are available or included with the rental?  Where will you park your daily driving car once you live there? How will you get mail, host guest and dispose of trash?

There is a lot that goes into setting up land for a tiny house, so do your homework.

To find places to park your tiny house on wheels you should check out my article about how to find land for a tiny house post.

Tiny Home Rent To Own FAQs

rent to own FAQ

Is It Good To Rent To Own?

Rent to own is one option out of many when it comes to buying a tiny house, it really depends on your financial history and budget.  For many people there is simply no other way that they could rent.

For some it’s because they have bad credit, others can only afford so much, for some they want a smaller monthly payment.  The one downside to rent to own is you’ll typically end up paying more for the same house over the long term because it’s seen as a riskier loan to make.

Is Rent To Own Cheaper Than Renting?

At this point I’d say yes, mainly because it’s hard to find a tiny house that is done as a rental with the exception of those run as a hotel which carry a high cost per night.

What If I Miss Payments On My Lease?

Depending on your lease agreement, you could be at risk to loose it all, including your down payment.  Different lease terms stipulate different things, so know what you’re signing and make sure you understand what you’re getting into.  Always make sure you keep 3-6 months expenses saved in case of job loss so you’ll never be in that position.

Can You Rent To Own With Bad Credit?

In many cases yes, but not always.  A rent to own agreement is treated like a loan and credit scores are used to asses your financial fitness to repay that loan.  Those with bad credit should expect to have to put down more money and pay a higher interest rate on the lease.

Who Pays Maintenance During The Lease?

In most cases the person who is renting to own (the one living in it) pays for all repairs and upgrades.  Different agreements will stipulate different things, but typically it’s on you.  Any upgrades and repairs typically aren’t factored into payments and if you end up walking away, you loose all that money you put in.

Your Turn!

  • What are your plans to live in a tiny house?
  • How are you planning on funding your tiny house?


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?

5 ways to reduce financial stress

Financial stress can be crippling. It can affect your work, your relationships and even your health. Whether you’re worried about making your rent this month, actively dodging collector calls or worried about how you’ll retire, money issues can influence your entire world.

When I graduated from college, I had about $26,000 worth of student loan debt. I wasn’t making much money writing obituaries for a local newspaper (since I didn’t track my income, I’m still not sure exactly how much I was making, but it was less than $24,000/ year.)

Going from five figures in debt in my early 20s, to now being debt free and in control of my money and financial future in my late 20s took a lot of work and persistence. It also would not have been possible without taking the following steps…

1: Know your situation

Knowing the full scope of your money situation is the first and foremost way to become less stressed about it. I wish there was a way to plug your ears, close your eyes and hum and for it to just go away, but that isn’t reality. Fortunately for those currently in the dark, the unknown is always worse than the known.

When the six-month grace period on my student loans ended, I started getting a dozen-plus bills in the mail, due immediately. Each one had its own required minimum payment and I was living hand to mouth – so I ignored them.

A couple months passed and the letters got a little scarier. They had big, red “overdue” stamps on the envelopes and I started getting phone calls about all the money I owed from less-than-pleasant people.

I didn’t know how many loans I had, how much I owed, or any idea if I was close to defaulting or getting into serious, long-term financial trouble.

Needless to say, I was pretty stressed.

I decided I had to know how much I owed and who I owed it to. There was no way to start to attack my debt while still in the dark.

Once I tracked down all of my loans and student loan carriers, and added up the total amount now owed, interest had compounded the debt up to just under $33,000.

Knowing that number was scary.

Knowing that number was horrifying. I screamed. I cried. I had several cocktails I could not afford.  But then I was able to begin to make a plan.

2: Make a plan

In it’s most simple form, a budget is a plan for your money.

Without knowing how much money you are bringing in and how much is going out, you run the risk of spending more than you have available.

America’s three biggest banks earned more than $6.4 billion in 2016 from ATM and overdraft fees, according to CNN Money. That is a high cost for miss-remembering how much money you have in Checking.

By knowing and tracking your money with a budget, you get to give every dollar a job to do in your life. Without a budget, my money tends to just disappear. I have no idea where, when or what I spent it on, and it certainly isn’t helping my financial future. With a budget, I get to plan for expenses, savings and even having fun – all guilt free because I know everything is covered in my plan.

3: Have an emergency budget

In the middle of a crisis, no one is the best at managing their money. We spend emotionally. We panic .. We don’t have the stability and guidelines that our budget normally provides us.

Enter the Emergency Budget, your new favorite tool for peace of mind in a crisis.

Building one is simple and lets you know exactly how much money you need to live off in an emergency situation. This will give you some peace of mind as it’s likely much less than your current income. Second, it allows you to make hard decisions with a clear head, versus later during crisis mode.

By creating an emergency budget NOW, you’ll know the amount of money you really need to survive the month with a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your belly.

4: Work toward building an emergency fund

Even just $500-$1,000 saved in an account to be used only for emergencies can have a hugely relaxing effect on your mental stress.

That is enough money to pay for an unexpected medication or a blown tire.

It’s enough to turn something disastrous into something annoying.

While it won’t cover every situation, it will certainly help. Once you have an emergency fund, you’ll never want to be without it.

5: Set track-able money goals

Once you have a firm grasp of your money situation and spending habits, you can start to alter your daily choices to better your financial future.

Making room in your budget to prioritize saving for your emergency fund, paying down your debt or saving money for future expenses will all allow you to work toward things you want and will benefit you in the long term. Setting and following a plan to accomplish those goals will bring you a sense of achievement and joy as you complete them.

You will be in control of your money and much less financially stressed.

Your Turn!

  • What is the most stressful money-related thing in your life?
  • What was a money-related stress that you’ve defeated? How?