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post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

For some people, downsizing in the area of housing means selling off the vacation home.  For others, it's finding a smaller house, or one in an area with a lower cost of living.  Sometimes it means squatting.  However it works for the culture of our family, a lot of money, and therefore, work hours, goes to support our housing.  Americans live in far bigger houses than they used to.  Also, despite the housing bubble popping, many areas of the country are still experiencing a rather high cost of living.  Others, such as notorious Detroit, have become a mecca for American pioneers of the 21st century.


In some places, buying a house is cheaper than renting.  However, because of the way loans are structured, it can take years of paying mortgage payments to make any sort of dent in the actual principle of a home.  (Mortgage = death pledge)  One way to get past this is to make additional principle payments. 


I was lucky enough to live in an area with very low cost of living, and found a decent house for $25,000, with a $250 mortgage payment.  For a year, I made double payments.  I took some time off that to get out of credit card debt and adjust to halving our income.  I realized only $30 a month was going to our principle, though, so I tried to pay an additional $30 a month.  We made quite a dent in our principle after a few years.


I know people (single people mostly) that go from housesit to WWOOF to couchsurf and get by.  Others have work-rent trade agreements, while still others live in cooperative housing.  Some rent out a room or basement.  I have had friends that squat, though I think this is harder or more risky when you have children.  However, considering the VAST amount of houses without people owned by far away companies, I think it might be easier to squat now than ever before. 


There are other considerations as well, like living in a place that does not require a/c or a lot of heat--like finding a house with trees that shade it, good insulated windows, passive heating/cooling, etc.  Can you have a garden?  Raise animals?  Dry your clothes the old-fashioned solar powered way?  Walk to the grocery store, bank, etc.?  Live without a car?  Have a good community of people near you?  There are a lot of external variables that can raise or lower what you spend, depending on all those lovely externalities.


I think the main idea is to spend as little as possible while maintaining your comfort zone.  Of course, if you are adventurous, it's a lot of fun to expand your comfort zone, making it easier to live while spending as little as possible.



post #2 of 9

I used to manage apartment complexes part time for free rent plus a stipend.  Not unjobbing, but really nice!


We bought a house and now I am kicking myself because we could have gotten a cheaper one if we had waited a year, plus, I thought we needed more space then we actually do.  Our house is 880 square feet and we would be super comfy with just 500.  As it is I have two rooms empty and closed off to keep the house warmer.  We heat with wood too, which I LOVE for so many reasons.


Right now our mortgage is $800, but with taxes, mortgage insurance, and insurance we pay $1100 a month and that is the amount DH needs to earn with outside employment.  We decided to buy the house before we really understood what our priorities were, but we save in other areas because of the house (like you said above, gardening, animals, line drying et cetera,) so we aren't willing to walk away.


We have few more debts to finish off before we start throwing extra money at the principal and can cancel the mortgage insurance.

post #3 of 9

Any ideas on utilities?  We heat with wood, so no heating bill, but all my money saving tricks for water and electricity are only making a small difference.  Or I guess that's part of living in a house instead of an apartment.

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 

To get an idea of your consumption, you can call the utility and water companies, and ask for the average use in your area.  If you are already consuming below the average, that may be about all you can do. 


These might seem obvious:

plastic or otherwise insulate windows and doors

open up curtains during day, close at night in cool weather

close up curtains during day, open up house at night in hot weather (tho I can only stand to close the curtains on the hottest of days)

put foam outlet thingies in the outlets

make sure all electronics are actually OFF instead of in stand-by mode

have an old fridge?  those are energy hogs


Hmm.  The energy company (also the water company) where I used to live had a lot of brochures about energy use and how to conserve.  Maybe yours does too?



post #5 of 9

My dream is to buy a tiny piece of land, whatever I can afford in a decent area, and build a Tumbleweed Tiny house. I have the house plans picked out already even. :) They're really inexpensive and able to be built by people without any construction experience...I was inspired by a story on their site about a single mom and her child building their house. DS is so excited about this too so I really want to make it happen. I found a tiny bit of land for as little as $5k which would be fine...a spot for our tiny house and a little room to garden (and I've been researching and collecting books on small scale gardening to get as much produce as possible from a tiny space).


I dream about this every day...but right now I'm wasting almost $900 a month on a so-so apartment. :(


post #6 of 9

I LOVE the tumbleweed houses. If I had realized I wanted to be an unschooling, unjobbing, minimalist, urban homesteader before we bought the house I totally would have gone that route. 

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

I grew up in the country, and also fantasized about buying and building, but I think for me, living quite close to friends is vital for my mental health.

post #8 of 9
I feel really lucky that here, you can drive 30 minutes away from my major city and be in farm land. I could have my tiny house on a little piece of land in a quiet spot, and then jump on the highway and be in the middle of the city in no time. I can't be totally isolated or else is I'd go nuts. I'm also three hours from the beach which is about as far as I'm willing to go from the coast. I tried living in landlocked states on two occasions but no way...18 hours from a beach just isn't going to work for me. The only reason I'm not closer to the beach is because it does get too isolated between here and there, or else I'd be there for sure (cost of living would be greatly reduced too).
post #9 of 9

For water...could you use rainwater and grey-water for certain purposes?  Are there any free or cheap springs near you?  Springs can be found all over and can be used for various purposes.


I lived in the wilderness...off-the-grid...though traveling for about 6 months a few years ago.  Before I did that I was paying too much rent for a place that was just a stress-ball of maintenance and we just couldn't afford it.  It was great location-wise and I think that is what I got out of that situation...anyway, before we left we went without utilities for awhile to challenge ourselves.  We found it pretty easy to go with lights and power.  We washed clothes by hand or at a friend/family's...I'm pretty sure we still had water.  We used sunlight which helped us go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier...we were feeling so clear and energetic physically and mentally.  Even before we turned the utilities off we'd stopped using the refrigerator because it was an energy drainer and the drone really bothered xDH...


I'm with you wellforth, on living close to friends.  I really want to live in an intentional community.  I also feel I am nomadic by nature.  I'd like to be able to travel, live in a 2-3 spots a year for extended periods of time in a motorhome and live in a tent or yurt or strawbale or some other sustainable small home when not on the road.  I really like walking and biking, so the motorhome would be for long-distance travel for the most part.  I've already lived without a car for most of my adult life.  I've had two RVs and I'm looking to make my way back to the West coast, where living is more sustainable for me and my comfort level and I am excited to leave behind all the accumulated junk my mom has bought my daughters!!

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