Imagine living in a space that measures a mere 168 square feet, more than 14 times smaller than the average American home. That’s the reality for one family of four who, for the past year, has been living in their “Tiny House” tucked away in the rural mountains of Virginia. It’s here, they say, that they’ve truly learned how less can be so much more. In fact, in just one year the family has managed to save about $3,000 a month by downsizing in more ways than one.
The move began when Hari, her husband Karl and their two young children Archer and Ella were forced to give up their 1,500 square foot home last year due to financial struggles. Hari and Karl decided to take matters into their own hands, literally, by building their new tiny house with just $13,000 in materials found on Craigslist. Karl’s a bit of a handyman, to say the least. His parents helped build homes for a living and he learned the ropes at a young age.
The Tiny House is temporary. The end goal, they say, is to save enough to one day build a bigger home, one that’s 100% mortgage-free. And with the amount they’ve saved so far, they’re right on schedule to do so.
“We’re about to enter the first phase of building our new home, which is a 16x24 completion with wings so we can add onto it the more we save,” says Karl. “In the end, it’s going to measure 1,000 square feet and we’re going to build it on the same land.”
I first met Hari and Karl on The Anderson Show earlier this year. Fascinated by their story, I ventured to their home in Virginia with my Financially Fit team to see it for ourselves and learn ways we can all downsize.
Living in much smaller quarters, Hari says, has encouraged the family to be more conscious about how they spend in various ways. “Our lifestyle, how we eat, our entertainment…all that has changed as a result of living here,” she says.
For starters, the family has recently begun growing their own fruits and vegetables which lets them to eat healthier, cut down their carbon footprint and slash their grocery bill. “I’m not the best gardener, but I’m trying…learning and making mistakes all the way. That’s how you get good at it,” she says.
Hari has also been “upcycling,” as she calls it. It’s the act of taking something old and breathing new life into it. “I made one of our rugs out of some old sheets. They actually fit the house much nicer than if I had gotten something from the store, ” she says.
Both Hari and Karl recently changed jobs, but not for more money. In fact, they’ll be earning less than in their previous positions. Karl is enjoying better working conditions at a new restaurant, and Hari left teaching to pursue a career in non-profit. Being able to afford a career you love and pursuing a passion rather than a paycheck, they’ve learned, is just an added benefit to having savings and no debt. Both have more flexible hours in their new jobs, which provides more time for Karl for to work on the next house and Hari to devote to her burgeoning blog, TinyHouseFamily.com.
Their children also seem keen to the transition. Mom and dad are happy to report fewer requests for video games and toys, now that the kids are busy playing outdoors on their three-acre property.
Still another lesson that’s stemmed from the family's overall tiny experience, is that when you choose to live modestly, it helps to have a support system along the way. “If you’re trying to downsize but are surrounded by friends who are outfitting themselves with the latest gadgets and fashions, it makes it difficult," says Hari. "We’re lucky to have like-minded neighbors and have found that when your friends and family are on the same page as you, making a big-time adjustment like this is much easier,” she says.
What do you think of Hari and Karl’s Tiny House? What are some ways you’re downsizing your life? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit