The Genius of Tiny Homes (with Inspiring TEDx Talk)

I’ve talked about the benefits of tiny home living a number of times in the past, and for good reason: the median US home size (new builds) is at an all-time high of 2,426 square feet and it’s killing us – financially and environmentally.

My home is comparatively tiny at just under 1,000 square feet, but it’s still not the 100-400 square feet typically associated with the term “tiny home”. However, I’d like to think I can recognize a good thing when I see it, and given the right opportunity, I will be living in a tiny home before long.

Big homes are a disease – leaving us broke, disconnected, and unhappy. I’ve been there, done that, and here’s what I learned and shared with readers previously:

Rent or buy the smallest space you (not your stuff – that can always be sold) can comfortably live in at the present time.

That may be the most impactful piece of personal finance advice I can offer anyone.

The thing is, you never know what you’ll encounter in life. Relationships end, your desire or ability to raise children might disappear, you may move multiple times, especially early on in your career. Life happens. And if you absolutely NEED more space later on, it can always be had. Or you can rent storage for much cheaper.

And please don’t start getting delusional and rationalize that your home is an investment. A home is not an investment.

The amount of synergy between what a tiny home can offer and personal financial gain is striking:

  1. Tiny homes consume much less material, which lowers their environmental impact and financial costs versus a typical sized home.
  2. Tiny homes require significantly less energy to heat and cool. And there is little to no waste (i.e. energy to heat/cool 5 empty rooms).
  3. Tiny homes require much less financial investment – so much less that you can completely build/buy a very high quality one for less than the typical 20% down payment on an average sized home.
  4. Tiny homes require significantly less ongoing maintenance, tax, renovation, cleaning, and insurance costs than typical homes.
  5. You end up buying less stuff because you don’t feel a need to fill rooms (and you have very little space to store stuff).
  6. You have much more time as you are freed up from time-exhaustive maintenance and cleaning.
  7. Without constrictive mortgage debt or housing costs (the average American household spent 33.1%, or $19,884 on housing in 2013) you have more resources to shape your life the way that you’d like, including your career.

On that last point, the median household income is just over $60,000 (before tax). When you factor in maintenance, insurance, tax, and other costs, more than 1 of every 3 days is spent earning income to pay for housing. Without that cost burden: part-time work, anyone? Or maybe full-time with early retirement?

The impact reduction and wealth maximization of a tiny home is perfectly aligned with the values that I write about. So I was really excited to see a great TEDx talk from someone who built and lives in a tiny home, Andrew Morrison. Here it is, in full:

Andrew, along with his wife and dog very comfortably live in a 317 square foot tiny home (207 square feet lower level with 110 square foot upper lofts) with a bathroom and full kitchen that they built. The cost of materials to build their home in southern Oregon was $22,744.06 not including cabinetry, composting toilet, fixtures, appliances and furniture. The cost including everything was $33,089.72.

This compares to a $62,280 (20%) down payment on the average $311,400 home price. In other words, their ENTIRE HOME and its contents cost just over half of what the 20% DOWN PAYMENT is on an average (and empty) home. Mmm… you can virtually taste the financial freedom, can’t you?

Tiny homes are often associated with sacrifice, but does this look like sacrifice? (photos from the Morrison’s tiny home, from their website

tiny home

tiny house kitchen

 tiny house build

You have a choice. Go big at your own expense.

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