“Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.”
~Leonardo Da Vinci
There’s no doubt that for millions of us, housing costs hold the largest percentage of our monthly budgets (To those of you who have paid off your mortgages…I bow in honor of you!). And as the current housing market crisis continues here in the United States, many of us are coming face-to-face with the reality of the devaluation of our homes and possibility of foreclosure. Fear and uncertainty are common place in the hearts of countless families across the nation.
While both of these examples are extremes, the aim of Day 3 in our 23 Day Frugal Living Challenge is to:
- Consider the possibility of downsizing your home in order to seriously cut living expenses
- Provide encouragement to those of us who are, by circumstances out of your control, facing the possibility of loosing our homes.
Downsizing Our Home
We were once your average family – married, three kids, living in an old house in a cute neighborhood. Yet it’s surprising how much a down-turn in the economy affects average families like ours.
Fast-forward 12 months. Now we are soon to be a family of six, living off-grid in a camper, buried in senseless foreclosure paperwork. In the same time we have met many other families in similar situations through our blog, and we know the economy is affecting enough people that everyone should be making a backup plan to prepare for job loss.
Yet in my research on trends in small home living, I’ve discovered there are generally two groups of people that are finding themselves in a small home – those who are forced into it by lack of resources, and those who choose to because they appreciate the concept of a simple living space and of saving resources.
So that I don’t paint you a bleak picture of our personal situation, you should know that we are really among both groups; while we had no choice but to foreclose on our house, we have also had dreams of building a small, off-grid home in the woods. When my husband lost his job (which was no surprise as his industry is not doing well) we simply had to put our plans into action sooner than we had anticipated.
I tell you this background because I want to make sure that when I tell you how we are saving money by living in a camper, you don’t think we just sold our house, bought some land, and now we’re home-free (no pun intended). No, we are struggling just like most low and middle-wage Americans, but we do have God and family to thank for supporting us during this challenging time.
We have been seeing the economy and my husband’s job security declining rapidly over the past few years, and we decided we needed to do something to cover our butts. First we started a food storage and began purchasing tools and supplies that would help to support us should the unthinkable happen. Then we began to consider many forms of alternative housing, including the depression house we prepared in 2010. After the pink slip, with our last income tax return, we purchased our 31’ bunkhouse camper, did a little makeup job to it, and parked it on family land. After five months of living off our meager savings and unemployment, we voluntarily left our house and moved in to our camper.
Our bills are relatively low now; somewhere around $1,000 per month during winter months, which includes the cost of propane, kerosene, and gas that we use to run the fridge, oven, heater, and generator. Those costs vary with the events (and temperature) of the day, and in the summer months the expenses drop to less than $500. We do hope that once we are set up to run our wood stove in our covered-porch-in-progress we can reduce heating costs significantly.
We are now praising God for my husband’s new job – after 11 months of unemployment he was hired by a company who can use his expertise. The income is less than his once was, but it’s more than the unemployment insurance was paying, and after getting our current vehicle situation under wraps it should enable us to save up enough to build our forever home – a small, off-grid house of course!
Things to Consider When Moving Into a Smaller Home
Living in a camper has enabled us to save money, but if you are thinking of moving into a smaller home for sake of resources, you will still need to consider some obvious questions.
For example, you will need to compare rent or ownership expenses, energy and heating costs, and how you will manage water, sewage, and storage of your belongings, especially if you are moving off-grid for the first time.
The fact that my husband was unemployed before, during, and after our move gave him time to figure these things out, but any move that requires down-sizing or changing your lifestyle requires a lot of planning.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges to downsizing and moving off-grid has been the emotional aspect of it. We have adapted well to our small living space, but there are days when I have difficulty being thankful for my circumstances. Living in a camper has been freeing, but it does present its own set of challenges, and our family has had to learn to see this as an adventure; a time of life that we will look back on and say, “those were the good ole’ days”.
After eight months of living here, I’ve realized we have made so many wonderful memories. Despite the job loss, I have no regrets about down-sizing, and I look forward to rocking on my porch swing years from now, relishing the memories of the good old days.
Now It’s Your Turn
Daily Goal: Given your own unique situation and based off of what you have read today…determine your own goal. How would downsizing your home assist you in living frugally?
Connect With The Community: Take a few minutes and head over to the forum. Share your “Frugal Living Daily Goal“, encourage, and support one another.