Much Ado About Going Tiny

Disclaimer: This is a blog about going tiny. It doesn’t indicate that going tiny is a quick or easy process. This blog will be loosely documenting a four year journey to an end goal. The hope is that by being candid with our journey, we can both inspire others and save others from the same mistakes we’re bound to make along the way. This is a blog about going big. This in no way implies that I expect my band to actually reach the Billboard charts, or even mainstream radio. It’s kinda like when you say you’re going to the gym to get swole. You know you’re likely still going to have a muffin top in a year, but you’ve got to put forth the effort to see if you can get there. In my house, we call this philosophy “daring to dream.”

Back to our regularly scheduled program…

It’s interesting to think that it would have been easier to meet our goals if we were 18 and just starting out in this world than it is now at the age of 34. Deconstructing is leagues more complicated than constructing. But, we’re getting there with slow and strategic moves – making every play with the end goal in mind.

So what have we been doing for the past month since my last post? Researching the everloving hell out of our options, learning tough lessons and making (what we hope to be) good decisions.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

We made the tough decision to pull the plug on renewing our lease at our beautiful Travis Heights condo. The $1,540 rent was a huge hindrance to our goals. We didn’t know where we were going, but we figured that giving the landlord our official notice would force us to figure it out fast.

TRAILER PARKS

We’ve read enough about tiny homes to know that finding a place to park would be the toughest part of the process. Therefore, it was a good place to start our search. We quickly ruled out all of the property our friends owned due to zoning issues, and the huge inconvenience of not having black water (sewage) hookups. We found some great tiny home resources for local landowners who had multi-family zoning, but not black water hookups. We needed black water hookups for everyday living, so, we made a spreadsheet of every trailer park within 45 minutes of downtown, and started collecting information on rent prices, availability, outdoor cat policies, and commute times. We made the drives out to a dozen of these parks, and even fell in love with a few of them. The average commute time for the decent ones was 30 minutes, and the average site cost $600/month.

TINY HOMES

We looked at a few amazing tiny homes in the area. We got to know the people who built and lived in them throughout incredible journeys. At the end of the day, we realized that we weren’t going to find anything with the amenities we needed for under $50,000. We didn’t have this in the bank, and to take out a loan for that much right now seemed counterproductive.  We did, however, strike a deal with a couple. If they didn’t sell their tiny solar home by the end of January, they’d do a two year rent-to-own with us. We kept this in our back pocket and moved along with our search for something we could afford now.

MOBILE HOMES

With an adorable tiny home seeming out of reach for now, we decided to try our luck with mobile homes under $10,000. This would be something we could get into now, and trade in once we had saved enough for the upgrade. We looked at a lot of these, and fell especially in love with one we affectionately referred to as Wildcat. This trailer had the remodel of a tiny home on the inside, although it was your run-of-the-mill ugly AF mobile trailer on the outside with a faded and peeling image of a wildcat. We loved it, and we came back to see it for a second time check-in-hand. We brought my parents for inspection, as we can often be blinded by beauty and not really know what we’re looking at. Turned out Mom and Dad were both strongly opposed to old Wildcat for a variety of damn good reasons ranging from fire hazards to dry rot. We took our check and our pride back home with us that night, and took a hard pass.

After looking at a lot of other options for mobile homes under $10,000, we came to a super important realization.

Airstreams are the only mobile home that don’t depreciate in value. This is because they’re tight as ships and built to last. Messing with anything else would mean that after the next four years, our investment would be worth an average of $4,000-$5,000 less than what we bought it for. That’s $100/month down the drain. Take that, and add it to the $600 trailer park rent. Take that and add it to the extra money you’d be spending on gas and cabs living that far out of downtown. We’d be up to $800/month without even counting in quality-of-life depreciation.

Why were we trying to force ourselves into a mobile home that wasn’t our dream tiny home four years prior to when we actually needed to be mobile? We aren’t on the road yet. We’re right here in Austin, and we will be for a while. Our only goal right now is to save money. It’s not to go tiny immediately. We explored other options.

CHEAP APARTMENTS

We figured that if we could get an apartment for $1,000/month within a bike ride to downtown, we’d be paying only $200/month more than a shitty starter mobile home in a far away trailer park, and we’d be a lot more comfortable while still working toward our goals. We got to work making a similar spreadsheet for every apartment under $1,000 within two miles of downtown. We learned one thing quickly. A cheap apartment is just that – a cheap, shitty, cockroach haven in which to put your stuff. This seems to be true pretty much across the board in the downtown area of Austin, TX. Big management companies will come in and try their darndest to put lipstick on the old pigs, but at the end of the day they still shit and oink just like pigs.

That being said, after viewing so many of these crappy apartments our souls hurt, and even a few awful duplexes too, we hit gold. The second I was able to see past the $1,000 cap, I found a rare opening in an extraordinary old school South Austin complex for just $1,100. This is the kind of place that never turns over (vs the corporate complexes that hire full-time employees just to deal with the turnover), so I jumped on it immediately.

Long story short, we’ll be starting the new year with a new home less than two miles from where we’ve been for the past few years. The neighborhood is fantastic, and there’s a gorgeous low-key private woodsy pool. It’s only 100 SF less that what we have now, and we’re going to be saving $440 each month. That’s a savings of over $21,000 over the course of the next four years. It’s a chunk of change that will go a long way toward fixing up a classic 34 foot Airstream, which is our plan moving forward.

We’re pleased as pie with the spot we’ll be calling home for the next four years. This is where we’ll be mapping out the next moves of our journey and saving the extra money we need to spring for the Airstream, where we’ll ultimately live out our tiny, big dreams.

Thanks for reading.

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