I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of getting by with less. Noticing the increased popularity in “tiny home” living through trendy television shows such as HGTV’s Tiny House, Big Living and Tiny House Builders, indicates a growing demand for a more minimalistic approach to living. Recent films, such as the trending Netflix documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, discuss the financial and personal gains one can expect to receive once adopting an excess-free lifestyle.
After the devastating housing crisis and financial crash of 2008, many Americans began accepting the realization that living beyond one’s means is not a viable pursuit. Keeping up with hefty mortgage payments each month while maintaining the upkeep costs of a larger home puts constraints on one’s pocketbook. Dealing with excessive monthly expenses just to cover the bare minimum of home ownership cannot be sustained in such a turbulent and uncertain economy and job market. The days of spending an entire career with a single firm or company are over. Even more concerning, wages have not increased to keep up with the cost of living. A recent study conducted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that only 0.1% of US minimum wage workers can afford a 1-bedroom apartment.
As much as I would like to remain positive and hopeful, seeing the reality through rose-colored glasses cannot blind from the truth. Numbers matter:
Okay, the average income in the US is slightly less than $52,000. The average house price is near $260,000. Generally, I’ve heard that one’s house mortgage should be 2 to 2.5 times the amount of one’s yearly income. In this case, the average American income should afford a mortgage of $130,000. This is half of the amount of the average house price. The numbers don’t add up.
Minimizing= More Money?
While one may choose to build a luxury tiny home complete with top-of-the-line appliances and amenities, the average price for a tiny home is around $23,000 (91% less than the average American house price). This Spruce article showcases five tiny homes that were all built for a minimal price: between $500 and $12,000!
Besides the financial appeal of tiny home pricing, living in smaller accommodations encourages (or enforces because of space constraints) one to adopt a minimalist approach to life. Living in a 300 sq. ft. or less house means owning less stuff. You will have to downsize your wardrobe as an overly packed closet will not psychically fit in the confines of the home. You will adapt to less space by ridding yourself of knickknacks, collections of forgotten DVD’s and CD’s, and other space-taking, unimportant possessions (i.e. the dreaded “C” word, CLUTTER). You will learn to do more with less. You will begin to easily decipher between the things you need to survive and the things which temporarily filled a want.
Small square footage also cuts back on utility costs. This detailed list outlined by the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company (how cute is that company name?!) highlights the main ways tiny house living can save you hundreds of dollars each month! Furthermore, by saving less on housing costs you will have more money to save or invest in preparation for retirement. This is an appealing aspect of minimalistic living as the majority of Americans aren’t even saving for retirement.
Downsizing creates options
One of the main allures of tiny homes is that they can be attached to a wheel chassis meaning you are free to travel everywhere with your home! Just as a tortoise travels with his home on his back, you are free to move about and pick your ideal housing location. If you have the luxury to work remotely, you have the options of where you would like to place your tiny home.
You may choose to live in the places you’ve only dreamt about; an expansive mountain range region, a sunny beach locale, a sweeping prairie are all available options once you’ve transitioned into a tiny house lifestyle.
The stereotypical tiny house dweller brings to mind a long-haired, scraggly-bearded recluse. However, as this lifestyle has gained in popularity over the years, the community has grown tremendously. There are many charming, well-maintained tiny house communities all throughout the U.S. Likeminded minimalists and tiny home dwellers also share their thoughts, ideas, and experiences through online forums on Facebook and Reddit.
As this lifestyle is still viewed as “on the fringe”, getting these minimalist ideas to the mainstream may take more time and convincing. The American mindset is still clouded by notions of grandeur and comparison. The motif of “keeping up with the Joneses” is still very much embedded deeply into the American psyche. Despite dire financial struggles many families are facing these days, the pressure to purchase the latest and greatest items and showcase an appearance of wealth and privilege are still coveted American ideals. Banks continue to lend out large sums of money, encouraging those on fixed incomes to buy, buy, buy and pay off later. The pattern of inflation and frivolous money loaning which created the last economic downturn almost a decade ago has reemerged. A pattern of bubbles looms over the U.S. Student loan debts. Housing mortgage debts. Credit card debit (which is the highest it’s ever been in history, $1,000,000,000,000.00). What happens when the bubbles burst this time?
On a positive note, I am encouraged by the steady growth in the tiny house market. Perhaps another federal/global financial disaster will encourage more people to assess their earnings to spending ratio and adopt a simpler, more cost effective way of living.