A little while ago, I talked about how your spare bedroom (and all your extra space in general) is just a really expensive insurance policy. Naturally, you guys all sighed and fanned yourself, because I have that reaction on people. It’s okay, little one. Give in to your temptations. It’s only natural.
Shortly after that post was vomited out of my brain, (via my fingers) I was going through some of the old shows I have recorded on my Telus PVR. I stumbled upon a documentary I recorded a few months ago, all about some guy who was building a tiny house. I’m not exactly sure what was going through my mind when I recorded it in the first place, but let’s assume I was drunk.
We’re not talking about some 600 square foot house that buddy was building. He bought a small flat deck trailer and built the house on top of it, since technically the small house wouldn’t be a house, because it would be on wheels. He wanted to put it on a small plot of land he bought in the middle of nowhere Colorado, because I guess if you’re going to live in the middle of nowhere Colorado might be a nice place.
So he borrows a friend’s backyard and promptly gets to work. Since he had a job, he was forced to work on the house during his days off. He was confident he’d finish it in three months, even though everyone who did something similar said it took at least six months, and he had about as much construction experience as Paris Hilton.
You can probably guess what happened. His three month project started to stretch to four months, then five, then six. He ran out of money at one point because his hours got cut back at work. Winter set in, slowing construction down considerably. His lack of experience started to show, especially after he started working on the electrical system. Finally, after 10 months, his house was ready to go.
And what a house! I can’t find the actual house, but here’s a similar one.
His house was approximately 130 square feet, which is about the size of your master bedroom. Hell, I’ve probably taken bigger dumps. There’s a bedroom built into the loft, which both maximizes space and allows you to relive your days being on the top bunk at camp, minus the power to pee on the person below you. FINALLY, PEE AND POO JOKES IN ONE PARAGRAPH.
Why would anyone choose to live like this? Sure, there’s an environmental argument to be made, since these tiny houses use far fewer materials than a regular sized house. Except, when it comes to crappy environmental choices, our houses are actually pretty low on the list. A typical house lasts at least 75 years, and even longer if it was built right and maintained properly. Wouldn’t the better environmental choice to be to buy an older house and live there? Or, if you insist on a house with wheels, maybe converting an old school bus or heavy duty truck?
Or maybe it’s a giant F you to consumerism and the amount of space we think we require. Okay, there’s maybe a case to be made there, but there are far easier ways to tell the world you don’t like stuff than BUILDING A GIANT-ASS TREEHOUSE. “I don’t like stuff,” says the guy while he’s building something. Just become a minimalist, but remember it doesn’t count unless you tell everyone you’re a minimalist. It’s like when you get rid of your TV.
Then again, the real reason why you’d build and choose to live in a tiny house is because it’s cheap. Our protagonist spent about $26,000 building his house, not including his time. Let’s assume that he spent 50 hours per month, or 500 hours total, building the thing. If we value his time at $10 per hour, that’s an additional $5,000 in time, upping our total cost to $31,000.
Gee, if there was only a similar kind of structure that he could have purchased, something that would cost him less than $30,000, and came with all the conveniences of home. A structure that he could drag wherever he wanted, and would allow him easily to hook up to power and water sources. A structure that could be easily acquired – even financed – at many different locations, allowing the buyer to shop around for the best deal. If only such a magical thing existed.
Congratulations, guy on TV. You chose to live in a trailer. Except this trailer is twice as big as your “house.”
Many people choose to live in a trailer willingly, especially on the weekends during summer. I’ve never understood the appeal of leaving your nicer, bigger, house so you can spend a bunch of money to haul your smaller house somewhere. I crunched the numbers, and it turns out that it’s cheaper to just get a hotel room, unless you’re using your trailer a whole bunch. But more importantly, why would you choose to live like that all the time?
Most people who live like that aren’t interested in maximizing their net worth. They want to live as cheaply as possible, maybe so they can afford to eat while chasing a dream, or maybe so they can funnel every spare dollar towards something like travel. Which is okay, but those are hardly things that encourage what we’re looking for here, and that’s increasing your net worth.
One of the easiest ways to create big savings when you’re young is to minimize the cost of shelter, which is usually the biggest expense in a budget. I fully encourage you to take steps to minimize that expense. But there’s a huge difference between living like a 1920s railroad hobo and getting a small apartment like a normal person. We all know that most people who build a tiny house will be out of it in a few years anyway. Aim higher, since that will only motivate you to succeed. Once you decide all you need is a trailer, that’s all you’ll ever get.