Debt Reduction & Downsizing

The time has come....

TinyHouse43 is 4Sale. $55,000.00, serious inquires only, please e-mail is at tinyhouse43@gmail.com for showings.

We built our tiny house to become financially independent, and we still will be… as soon as we sell it. As much as we utterly ADORE our home, we’ve reached a point where owning it is actually holding us back instead of paving the way forward. So, here she is… ready for her new owners to derive as much pleasure from her as we have!

Everything you need to know about our house is on this blog, and make sure you check the WordPress Building Blog link as well for further details. We’re happy to answer basic questions if you can’t find the answer on the blogs, but please remember this is a VERY emotional decision for us… we’d appreciate avoiding the Spanish Inquisition if possible (after all… no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!). We are still doing some finish touch work on the inside (you can see some of that documented on instagram), but the house is completely liveable and has been since 2015. It’s strictly cosmetics at this point.

We no longer have our dually to tow this to you, so you would be responsible for moving it yourself once the deal is complete and money has changed hands/cleared the bank. The house weighs approximately 12,000lbs with belongings included, so please plan accordingly. It requires a Class V hitch, and we recommend at 3500/350 type full size truck.

Recap: $55,000.00 – you’re saving over $20k from the actual build cost, including the $16,000.00 Tumbleweed Barn Raiser she started as! Many thanks for following us all these years, and we look forward to hearing from you!! PLEASE SHARE THIS POST WITH ANYONE WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED!!

💜🏡💙 – Meg, Brand, and R.A.D

#tinyhouse #tumbleweed #tumbleweedtinyhouse #tumbleweedbarnraiser #barnraiser #tinyhouseonwheels #thow #tinyhome #microhome #tinyhouserv #tinyhousetogo #diytinyhouse #tinyhousebuild #tinyhousefamily #tinyhousekids #tinyhouseforsale #tinyhouse4sale #tinyhouses4sale #tinyhousesforsale

Say AHHHHH.... It's Time For A Check-Up!

Happy Earth Day 2017, everyone!

I figured today was as good a day as any to drop you all a line and update you on what the TH43 crew has been up to over the previous months. In a word: nothing. lol

As I mentioned back in December, we've been trying to get land (or a home with land) purchased in Washington state for many months now, and it seems like one roadblock after another after another has been tossed in our path. A couple problems we faced included improper listing of traditional financing options by the listing agent/Realtors, and my personal favorite, not actually talking to the homeowners before spouting off owner financing options to our Realtor, causing him to waste his time and ours (again and again) with contracts that the owners don't end up agreeing to. Incidentally, it was the same guy for two different properties in this case, and I was already wary seeing his name on the 2nd property anyway. All I can say is I'm glad he's not my agent! We also lost a great place in a bidding war (foreclosures are tricky like that), and another finally fell through on our end when we tried a "lot" loan and, for once, our credit scores fell just short of their higher-than-typical standards.

Buying across state lines has proven to be a massive undertaking, one complicated by my desire to buy while we're still here in Texas and I have two steady sources of income vs. rushing out there with just any old job to eliminate the "second home" status we're being forced to use since I'm not a current WA resident or employee/employee transfer. Call me crazy, but it seems more logical, at least in my mind, to lend to someone with a 4/6yr job history vs. a brand new job regardless of what state they're buying in/from. But hey... who said life or real estate transactions were ever logical?! While I still look at properties regularly, I've concluded I'm not willing to spend close to $300k on a mobile home with acreage simply because we can get traditional or even FHA financing on it, and I adamantly refuse to spend $2k+ per month just to rent in our target areas and have nothing but the "resident" box checked on our loan application to show for it. Besides... we're going to have some crazy scheduling needs once both the kiddo and the husband are in school 5 days a week in opposite directions. For us, it makes significantly more sense to purchase now so we have a place to go after I find the BEST job(s) possible to meet both our financial and scheduling/logistical needs. Apparently that's asking entirely too much. Silly me.

We've also discovered we can either have a decent sized 20-30% down payment OR we can pay off some more bills to bolster our scores, but we can't do both. I cannot work more than 7 days in a week (I know, I've tried! Ha!), and having the husband work over the summer actually set us back $5k for the year AND caused us to owe taxes for the first time in three years (i.e. having him start working again, which adds a whole host of other unnecessary complications to our lives, isn't worth it). Clearly we cannot milk any more blood from this turnip, and so we find ourselves at another crossroads in our journey to Washington state. Blessedly we still have one more year before, as far as I'm concerned anyway, we MUST be there to get the kiddo in school (in Waldorf, teachers stay with their classes from first grade through the end of their primary education, and 2018 is that first year for R.A.D), but that means we have to decide what to do for the coming 12-ish months.

One option is to go back to Colorado, specifically back to Riverview RV Park where they now have a dedicated tiny house section, but have me take a job closer to Loveland. The travel costs to/from my current employer's locations there are the primary factor that caused us to leave Colorado in the first place. The only way to make CO work again would be to hire on closer to Loveland, which is totally possible. We both admit we loved Northern Colorado a great deal, and the kiddo misses that awesome park to play in. It's certainly high on the list of possibilities. The tiny house just needs a few modifications based on our cold-weather experience in 2015-2016 to be ready for another bout of NoCo winter, but it wouldn't take long to be shipshape and ready to roll.

Alternatively, and something we'd really planned to do for 2016 or 2017 anyway, is for me to hire on with a travel nurse agency and take 12wk positions across the country so we can actually travel with our tiny house on wheels. Our "rent" would be covered by the stipends offered when you don't use the included housing provided for in contract nursing, but the added complexity of finding places for the tiny house near places I can actually work is a bit of a deterrent, I admit. We'd even contemplated selling the tiny in favor of an Airstream just to lessen the travel complications for such a scenario, but we just can't bring ourselves to part with our house we've poured so much blood, sweat, tears, and love into simply for a 1yr-ish jaunt around the country. Besides... we're still planning to live in it once we finally do get to Washington. Duh! lol

Other ideas include sucking it up and staying put in Dallas (whether or not we'd still be in my dad's house remains to be seen), pulling a 180 and buying a condo just off the San Antonio Riverwalk in a booming area of town (another place I can transfer with my current employers, both of whom have multiple locations there, and a way to satisfy the urge to live in a walkable city at least once in my life AND keep us closer to family for the time being), or angling to have a full-time "travel nurse" position created for me with one of my two employers to help them open their new facilities across the country. That last one has appeal because, after 6 years of me hoping and wishing, they are FINALLY going to be opening locations in Washington state in a couple more years. It's not the target area we want, but hey... I love that company and have always said I'd follow them state-to-state if its somewhere we wanted to be. Once we figure our plans for the year, we can kick back a bit while we figure out our next move for Washington. Yeah right... like it's gonna be all relaxing and easy breezy... ha! :-P

We've got lots to think about and decisions galore to make, but like every other batch of plans we make and then break along the way, the end game hasn't changed. Washington state is still the goal, and unless something drastic happens, which with us is ALWAYS a possibility, we'll make that dream a reality come Hades or high water. <3

 

What We've Been Up To: Fall-Winter 2016

Season's Greetings all!

Today marks exactly three years to the day that we started our tiny house blogging adventure, and boy has so much happened along the way!

First, I apologize for the long absence. Many, many things have been going on in the background for us these past months, and I have been working 6-7 nights per week for the past couple months in anticipation of some rather exciting news I had hoped to share with everyone by now on several different fronts. Alas, none of those plans have come to fruition as of now for various and rather complex reasons, but the background work continues despite the repeated setbacks.

I am on shift 23 of a 31-night stretch that was supposed to produce the remaining funds necessary for a 10% down payment on a 20 acre parcel of land in Washington state that we had been under contract on since mid November. I found it in late October and started watching it closely, drooling over the fact that it already has septic, power, a 1br/1ba cabin, greenhouse, shop with power, 2-car and 1-car carports, gazebo, 2 sheds, and a mountain spring creek traversing the heavily treed parcel. We'd have a place to live in the tiny house immediately and plenty of room to eventually build a slightly larger permanent home, plus we could start homesteading immediately with all the existing infrastructure already in place. When the price dropped to a range I knew we could afford, I jumped on it immediately and was set to buy our forever property via an FHA loan since that was listed as an option for purchase. While there were many communications between us and the Realtors, lender, inspector, and appraisers from the time we submitted the contract on 11/21/16 (technically it was the 2nd contract) until we ultimately had to cancel it on 12/15/16, the final nail in the deal's coffin was that it was determined the property only qualified for a "cash out" purchase or some kind of land loan, which so far has been impossible to find in that area.

In a matter of just one month, we went through all of this (take notes... it may be useful to you if you're looking for land yourself):

  • Approved for FHA financing with $8500 (3.5%) down and 3.875% APR on our dream property (the first contract 11/16/16) that we'd likely never leave since it had everything we were planning to add on to raw land already in place!
  • Re-approved for a conventional mortgage and $12,600 (5%) down at 4.75% APR when the house didn't qualify for FHA (house too small compared to lot size; uses spring water vs. well or PUD, which is considered a "non-permanent" water source)
  • Terms for the conventional mortgage changed to  $24,600 down (10%, the 2nd contract on 11/21/16, and the reason I'm working so much right now) because we don't already live in the state/have jobs there and would be buying it as a "second home" despite not owning a first
  • Paid $425 for an inspection on the cabin (that we would eventually salvage out anyway), which revealed it needs a new roof that the owners must fix before an appraiser would pass it
  • Informed by our lender that seven different appraisers refused to even visit the property stating per their research the "Highest and Best Use" of the property is timberland and the little cabin was valued too low (about $40K) to make the property qualify as residential; we'd have to find a land loan
  • Given 3 different land loan lenders to contact: 1 never responded, the 2nd only deals with completely raw land, and the 3rd initially accepted at 20% down ($47,800) and 7% interest until discovering they don't do business in the county of the property
  • Again researched agricultural lenders and farm loans (also listed as an option for financing) despite having had no luck during my initial searches, and again found that only 50+ acres or those sold at $300K or more would qualify for ag loans (plus some require you to have a business plan in place for near-immediate profitability, of which we would not be able to meet for many years if at all)
  • Asked for owner financing and a lower price since the property is only valued as "land" now, but they must have their own mortgage paid in full to move forward with the house they were under contract on as well. They offered to cover a partial amount of the total price $239,000 if we could get the other $200K covered on a land loan (the was still under the assumption the 3rd land lender would approve it as we hadn't yet been told they would not), and they would move the closing date back to 2/15/17 from 1/20/17 to give us more time to gather funds. 
  • 12/15/16 we canceled the contract due to inability to find land loan financing in the time frame they required, and 12/16/16 they dropped the price to $225,000 in hopes someone else will buy it quickly. 

My head is still spinning from rehashing all that let alone experiencing it, and I'm frankly too tired from working so many days in a row to properly process it all. The biggest frustration of the whole matter is the fact that had the listing not said FHA as an option for purchase, I would have simply saved the listing to my favorites and watched it. The ONLY reason I jumped on it was because I knew we'd qualify for FHA (and conventional if need be) financing, and I thought it couldn't be more perfect to already have all the infrastructure in place. It was like one of those "plug-and-play" games that bypass the need for a console or computer; just plug in the A/V cables to your TV and you're ready to play Pac-Mac in no time! We'd have the required permanent septic or sewer connection the county required to make our tiny house legal to live in, and we'd add a well to meet the permanent water source requirement as soon as we got there. In the meantime, though, we'd have this little old 700sqft cabin as our legal residence while we modified the tiny house to meet any other requirements the county might ask for. Then once the THOW was approved, we'd deconstruct/salvage the cabin or maybe sell it off to a house flipper and be all set for 100% legal tiny house living. We'd be homesteading (fiber goats, honey bees, organic garden, chickens for eggs) in no time with a few modifications to the existing outbuildings, and then we'd have all the time in the world to save up enough to eventually build the larger permanent home deep in the forest below the creek.

It would be very, very easy to be completely woe-R-us over this whole ordeal, and I do feel I'm entitled to at least one small mental/emotional breakdown every time my hopes are dashed about a project of this scope, particularly when the failure had nothing to do with us not meeting XYZ requirements. At the end of the day, however, the experience did provide many lessons on real estate transactions across state lines and a sharper focus on what my job priorities will be once we do finally relocate. For example, we had also been under contract on a 2.2 acre parcel in Washington back in October that we ultimately canceled (and in many ways I wish I hadn't) once our kind, hard working (and still unpaid because the contracts keep falling through - bless you, Karl!) Realtor visited the parcel and sent us video of how not flat it actually was. The only areas we could put our tiny house happened to be easement "driveways" to the parcels on either side of it, which meant even the cash price of $10,000 was too much in our eyes. Add to that the fact it was really, truly raw land - no power, no water, no septic, no nothing other than dirt, trees, and rocks - and even that low price wasn't affordable when considering the added expense of making it suitable to park on let alone actually live on. Still, that would have been an easy-peasy purchase, and at the very least we'd have a place to camp until we found a permanent home.

The beauty of the 20 acre parcel, despite the fact it would lock us into another mortgage vs. being paid-in-full had we bought the little 2 acres,  was that very little extra work would have to be done. That alone made it worth the purchase price and the "death pact" it would come with, but as the deal devolved it became gradually more complex and less affordable. Even with the five years of private mortgage insurance (PMI) that comes from FHA or Fanny/Freddie Mac backed loans (about $240/mo according to both our financing offers), the mortgage for the 20 acre property and all the included infrastructure was almost $500/mo less than we paid for our 3200sqft house on a 7500sqft lot in Texas ($2199 @ 6.5% in 2009, $1850 @ 4.25% when we refinanced in 2011). When it switched to a land loan, however, that interest rate of 7% would bring the payments dangerously close to $2000/mo despite not having PMI attached. When we owned our big house, we had two full-time incomes from two different people, and we felt house poor the whole time. I don't want to HAVE to work 2 full-time jobs to afford our dream property  (since Brand is still in school for a couple more years and a full-time SAHD) and not be home to enjoy it. That's stupid! That's a huge part of why we built our tiny house in the first place - to reduce our overhead so we could pay off our existing debt completely - and the amount of work I'd have to do to come up with the $47,800 20% down payment in a short time is... well... not going to happen. lol I value my sanity, thank you very much!

So, now we are back to square one except with less debt (we spent the $10K we didn't use on the 2 acres on bills instead) and quite a bit more money saved in the bank. We have found another potential source of financing options, but we are looking at less costly land options that, while not being as perfect as the 20 acre property would have been for the long term, will suit our needs for the immediate at the very least. The plan is to keep paying off bills, save as much as we can in my high interest account, and keep looking for properties that have at least some infrastructure in place that we can either buy outright or work out owner financing. We had hoped to make our move to Washington a "one and done" deal where we buy what will be our permanent home site, but considering all that we have learned from the last month's attempts at doing just that, we are now open to interim possibilities as well. We are still trying very hard to avoid buying an existing house there as an alternative, but the idea of paying rent that is as much or more than a mortgage is equally displeasing. I have a few places in mind that would actually make excellent holiday rentals in the future (I've always wanted to own a B&B after all), so we're keeping an open mind.

In the meantime, we wish you all a joyous and fruitful new year. To steal and alter a line from the Brits circa WW2, Keep Calm and Tiny On!

Tiny: It Isn't For Everyone Or Even Necessarily Forever

I feel like I've done a rather thorough job of being very forthcoming about why we built our tiny house, what we intend to use it for, why we aren't currently living in it full-time, and when we do plan to be living tiny in it yet again. I also know I've mentioned many times that our tiny house on wheels has never been planned as our last home forever and ever til death do us part. 😜 One of the reasons I had no trouble convincing Brand to join me on the crazy adventure of building our own house with our own hands (beyond the fact that he'd always wanted to do just that) was the fact I promised him it didn't have to be forever. He knew I have always wanted to roadtrip across the country, so it wasn't a difficult sell to combine both dreams into one little tiny house on wheels.

 

Even though we did build our house and are looking forward to being back in it full-time sooner rather than later, we have always said we want a permanent house on some acreage in Washington state. That dream has never changed, and we still have every intention of moving there by the summer of 2018 before the kiddo starts first grade. We knew as soon as our son was born that we no longer wanted to own a massive 3200sqft house, especially since we were really only using about half the space. When we moved into my dad's place we condensed further into just 2 large bedrooms with shared kitchen and living room use. Only once did our tiny house ever feel too small during our 6 months in Colorado, and it was because we had just arrived, were still setting up, and simply got overwhelmed at all we had done and still needed to do to settle into our new tiny life in a new state with a new job. Just lots of new stuff in a very short time to be sure! That feeling passed quickly, and then everything people have said about how freeing having less stuff and less space to care for kicked into high gear for us, making the whole experience in the house itself pretty darn close to magical. Well, except for the frequently overflowing pee jug, but that's a story from another blog post all together. 😫

 

Anyway, my rambling point is that I know some folks out there likely think we're just another "casualty" of the tiny house "fad" because we aren't living in the house at this exact moment. While WE know that isn't the case at all and have plans progressing nicely that will put us back into our house much sooner than we had actually hoped for, we do know there are still Negative Nellys out there that likely shake their heads at us and anyone else who might have moved into and out of their tiny house in a hurry no matter what the reasoning may be. We can even admit to being surprised by they number of folks, particularly the ones on TV, that have moved on from their tiny houses, too, but we know first hand that sometimes life just doesn't go as planned and adjustments have to be made on the fly. We experienced some of that with the Colorado sticker shock we felt after thinking we could afford to live tiny AND pay off all our debt there, but the cost of living compared to Texas and the distance I had to travel to work (55mi each way) simply to have a legal place to park our tiny house made that as impractical as living in a mostly empty 3200sqft house with a $2000/mo mortgage. It didn't make financial sense to stay there just to stay in the tiny house, so we made the decision to come back to Texas to get the rest of our finances in order instead. The last thing we want to have happen is us getting out to where we really plan to settle down and struggle financially to stay put. We haven't always made the best financial decisions in our lifetime together or even before that, but we'll be damned if we set a poor example for our son by not shaping up and doing right by him. After all, we chose our target area of Washington specifically to put us near an amazing Waldorf farm school for him, and we want to provide for him something neither of us had growing up: a single house to call home all the way through high school.

 

Any way, the ever-amazing Macy Miller wrote her own blog post about the question on many people's minds when they hear of folks moving into and on from their tiny house life in a seeming hurry. As always her post is poignant and introspective, and it touches on the many sides to the stories of why some folks don't live tiny for long. She is in many ways an exception to what seems to be the "rule" about length of time living in a tiny house, but she's got a great answer to that suggestion as well. Enjoy!

 

http://minimotives.com/2016/09/12/whats-hard-living-tiny-whyd-move/

Bon Voyage

Just an FYI that we have opted not to attend the Tiny House Jamboree this year. Between busy, busy schedules and the need for a genuine break from all that, we decided to take our approved time off and go someplace(s) new instead. Now we're looking forward to a low cost, low stress adventure with the munchkin for a week.

⛱🐠🌴👙🌊🕶🍹⛵️🏖

 

You'll also notice a dialing-down of our online presence for a while as we continue to focus on our debt elimination and self-care vs. making headway on the remaining tiny house projects. Summertime in Texas doesn't lend itself to the desire to work outdoors in the daytime, so instead we are focusing inward on more personal goals. While we do love sharing our tiny house story with you all, it doesn't provide the life essentials (namely income) we need to meet our other long and short term goals. We aren't saying goodbye - just see you later! ☺️

 

Enjoy your day, and have fun at the Jam!!

💙🏡💜

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Reality Bites

This should probably be two posts, but that's just not how I roll. Grab some coffee and a snack. This'll take a minute... 

I don't want to write this post at all. In fact, little pieces of my heart and soul are dying as I type these words, but then my brain tells me to STFU because it's not as bad as it seems on the surface. In reality and in the long run, it'll probably the very best thing that could happen to us on our tiny life journey. 

We are moving back to Texas and into my dad's house in the next few months.

Now, before you think, "Oh look, another tiny houser who couldn't hack living tiny is going back to their big house life," allow me to make one thing absolutely, positively, crystal. frigging. clear...

THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TINY HOUSE ITSELF OR EVEN THE ACT OF LIVING IN THE TINY HOUSE. 

In fact, were we NOT living in the tiny house here in Colorado and instead renting one of the very expensive apartments in the area, we'd be much worse off than we are now. We'd be paying at least double the rent for just a one bedroom, likely triple the electric, and also be paying for water in an apartment. Really, the only advantage an apartment would have over our THOW is that I could potentially be walking distance from my job instead of 54 miles one way or a two hour round trip away.

We had a very specific list of reasons for choosing Colorado for our first stop in our tiny house adventure, which in no particular order consists of:

  • Ability to live in our THOW full-time
  • Ability to transfer within the company I've worked at for almost 5 years
  • Having a stable source of income & legal parking = freedom to focus on debt elimination
  • Remaining close enough to Texas to regularly visit family
  • The Mountains! The Weather! The Everything-That's-Different-From-Texas! ;)

See the emphasis on the third line?? That's because that was THE reason we were okay with leaving Texas with debt left to pay off. We had some debt already, accrued a good deal more building the tiny house, and have no intention of traveling or moving to Washington until we have that debt totally paid off. We thought the security of having the same job and a safe, legal place to park and live in the THOW would be all we needed to really hunker down and start chipping away at the balances. We've had loads of credit card debt before and managed to pay it all off a bit at a time, albeit with two incomes instead of one, and we expected this time to be no different. Instead, though, we started a slow roll down the mountain that has surpassed snowball status and progressed to full on avalanche. We haven't been this broke since I was in nursing school and we were surviving off Brand's $7.50/hr maintenance job.

On paper, our overhead should be less than when we had our Big House. The cost of our truck payment, truck insurance, RV lot rent, electric bill, and our Texas cell bill (more on that in a moment) totals as much as our $2000/mo mortgage. Our electricity has averaged about $50-60/mo at the $1/kW rate the RV park charges, but because of the lack of reliable wifi (a must since Brand takes college classes online), our cell bill has more than doubled. We really weren't expecting a LOT of the pricing differences up here, and we blame that on being more focused on finishing the house and finding a place to park. Food costs more. Fuel costs more. There are state taxes here. We knew about the taxes, actually, but our entire grocery budget ($300/mo) is what that equates to every two paychecks. When your usual grocery budget is being usurped by the State with every check, it doesn't take long for your bank balance to start dwindling and you to start whipping out the plastic to pay for necessities. That, my friends, is a highly unsustainable way to live. 

Really, that's not the whole problem, and really there aren't even just one or two issues I could point my finger at and say, "THIS is the reason we're broke." We knew it was a risk coming here with debt to pay off because yes, we did know the cost of living would be higher. What we couldn't have planned for was the hospital being delayed an additional two months, requiring me to drive those 54 miles ten times a week for 8 weeks in order to be paid full-time hours. Normally as a nurse we work three 12-hour shifts, which would have meant 324 miles of travel from Loveland to Westminster each week. Instead, I was driving 540 miles at $2.50/gal in a truck that was now getting 14mpg instead of the 18mpg it averaged in flat, 17-mile-one-way-commute-Texas where diesel was nearly $0.20/gal cheaper. Worse, on Thursdays and Fridays we all carpool to my work and R.A.D's school, which actually totals 164 miles in ONE day. Go ahead, do the math. I'll wait. 

When we started realizing just how serious the financial situation was becoming, I began keeping a little list of cost comparisons in Texas vs. Colorado. Granted these aren't 100% apples to apples comparisons for various reasons, but I actually notated the differences for my own sake as much as for sharing it here. You'll notice that travel costs are a big part of the equation as made obvious in previous paragraphs, but what this chart doesn't show are the differences in things like food and laundry costs. Here we pay $3/load, which includes one cycle each of washing and drying. While not a big expense (we average 2 loads per week), it is still something we didn't account for. With groceries, for example, I found about an $0.80 difference between the FairLife milk I drink between our Target in TX and the one in Loveland, which, incidentally, isn't a Super Target. We have to drive another 36mi round trip to Fort Collins for food because that's still the cheapest place to go for us. Even the pizza we occasionally treat ourselves to costs more - $6.99 in Texas and $7.99 in Colorado.  It all adds up quick!

  ***I'll add that those are the CHEAPEST fuel prices I found in both areas recently. It's actually higher all around town in both TX and CO.

***I'll add that those are the CHEAPEST fuel prices I found in both areas recently. It's actually higher all around town in both TX and CO.

If you're feeling like all the comparisons I'm sharing are just nickels and dimes on the grand scheme of things, let me tell you that I agree completely! As I said, there isn't any one or two or even three BIG, obvious reasons why we've been bleeding cash since we got here. Instead, the realization of just how maxed out and drained down our accounts have become hit me when I spent Friday morning 2/12 paying bills online. After paying the bare minimum payments on everything due between then and the next pay day, we have $104.00 to buy food and fuel for the next two weeks. ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR DOLLARS. For three people. And a cat. And a work period that totals 836 miles of driving in a truck that gets 14mpg. Needless to say, that was the final straw, the last nail in the Colorado coffin.

Can you see now why those nickels and dimes are more like thieves and black holes vanishing any and every cent we have or I earn?

 Good thing they abolished Debtor's Prisons!

Good thing they abolished Debtor's Prisons!

I'm sure by now you're asking yourself perfectly valid questions like...

"Why doesn't she just get a second job or he start working, too?"
"Why don't they just find a cheaper, closer place to park their tiny house?"
"Why doesn't she just use mass transit or get a car with better gas mileage?"
"Have they even bothered to try to reduce their expenses further?"

...to which I dutifully reply:

  • I actually DID secure a 2nd job here that wouldn't start until the middle of March (which means I won't get paid until April), but in order to keep living here AND being able to not just pay our bills but actually start paying them off, I would have to work six 12-hr shifts per week AT LEAST. We need cash now, and seventy-two hours a week is brutal. Granted I wouldn't have to work that much fooorrr-eeeev-errrr, but it would be a longer period of time than I'm willing to commit to. Colorado was supposed to be a working vacation of sorts for me. At this point in my career I feel I've earned a little work-life balance for the sake of my kid if nothing else, and this would definitely NOT be that.

  • As for parking, go to the Denver Craigslist site and search "tiny house" under the "Housing" tab. You'll immediately see there a dozens of posts by people with tiny houses looking for a place to park. Colorado is a popular place to live for a ton of reasons, and sadly the State - for all its progressiveness with marijuana legalization AND as the home of the most professional tiny house building companies in the country - isn't exactly tiny house friendly. I sent a form letter with the specifics of our needs to every single RV site that shows up on Google maps over the spring and summer of 2015, and if I even got a reply the answers were, "We don't take tiny houses," or, "We don't have any long term parking available." In my desperation at one point, we were even looking at buying a mining claim in Florissant just to have a place to park, though since the BLM actually owns the physical land we'd still just be "camping." Think my drive to work is rediculous now?! Florissant is 113 miles ONE WAY from Westminster. More recently I had a few nibbles in Lyons, but none of those panned out for various reasons including the land being too steep, the land not being zoned to allow occupancy in the THOW (a very common problem), or us needing to be totally off-grid right now. We can handle everything except power right now, and solar systems ain't cheap. Just ask the great and varied folks of the Denver Tiny House Enthusiast group how easy it is to find ANY kind of tiny house parking that's not out in the boonies and/or totally off-grid, and you'll see we were super fortunate to even find Riverview in Loveland at all. 

  •  There's a transit route called "Bustang" that runs from Fort Collins down to Denver proper with a stop in Loveland where I could board, but the earliest it arrives at the Denver bus transfer center at 0700. I have to be at work at 0645, and I'd still have to take an additional bus to work that would make me quite late. Plus, the bus only runs Monday through Friday, and I work all kinds of random weekends. As for a cheaper car, during the time the hospital was delayed I actually did rent a car for three weeks because it was cheaper to pay the $125/wk fee plus about $20 in gas (it got 37mpg) than pay for diesel. With the lower gas and diesel prices now, however, that wouldn't be nearly as cost effective. We contemplated buying a cheap car in Texas to bring here (Colorado car registration fees are outrageously expensive: $600-800 vs. $63/yr in Texas), but that requires a lump sum of cash and a few prayers that it doesn't break down in the winter conditions. It's not really an investment worth making in the long run, especially since we'd eventually have to get rid of it.

  • I should also point out that while we have definitely not done as good a job with general expense reduction as we should have (did I mention we ate out too much when we first got here?!), we did get rid of several services we've used for years just to cut costs where we could. What good are Netflix, Hulu, Pandora One, and HBO Now when you have no wifi and streaming would burn through your meager data plan in mere days? Yes, I like having my gym membership since the weather isn't stable enough for me to run outdoors here, but I've only gone twice since I've been here. Buh-bye. I no longer subscribe to my numerous digital magazines (fare thee well, Tiny House Magazine), I've ended our Monster Muscle shake deliveries from Amazon (this is brutal, because that's my breakfast and I don't like coffee), and I've been tracking down other subscriptions I may have forgotten about (unused website addresses, phone apps, credit score managers, etc) as fast as I can to avoid surprise charges. They don't cost much individually - $3.99 here, $8.99 there - but they do start adding up fast.  

I feel that I have done my due diligence and have exhausted all the avenues I can think of to find a way to make this work that would improve our present situation and not be so demanding as to be unsustainable for even a short period of time. As my dear, sweet husband told me recently, I have to be the one to make the decision to stay or go because I'd be the one having to work all those extra days and continue to drive all those crazy miles. It's not cost effective for him to get a job, as some have suggested, because my pay rate would be at least double anything he could earn right now. Plus, we'd potentially have to pay for childcare if our work days overlapped, which is yet another expense we can't afford. Nope, folks, it's all on me. I WANT to stay, I really, really do, but I also don't want to go insane trying to work 72 hours a week just to make ends meet when we can go back to Texas and immediately eliminate about $2500 of our monthly expenditures just by not being in Colorado. It makes me feel like I'm giving up too easily, it really does, but in the name of sanity and bankruptcy avoidance, "I'm out, Jerry."

 Not!

Not!

Now, lest anyone think me ungrateful for the opportunities we have, the support of our family, and the fact that I'm even employed at all when so many aren't, let me be clear that I know dang well everything mentioned above is a First World Problem. I'll also give you my canned response to that observation, which is that admitting that doesn't make the situation suck any less. We are well aware that we are lucky to be able to choose to live the tiny life when many don't have the luxury of choice, so please don't mistake me providing a blow-by-blow of our personal situation as whining, lamenting, or otherwise seeking sympathy for our troubles. I share such specific, personal details because I want each and every person who thinks that just because you build a tiny house you will magically become debt free to know that is simply not the case. 

Can we and will we eventually be debt free? Yes. Will we get to that point while living in Colorado? Doubtful.

We certainly weren't expecting to suddenly be swimming in cash, but some of the posts I see online espousing the financial freedom that CAN come with living in a tiny house border on unrealistic optimism at best and are sometimes outright lies. Yes, you CAN live a lower cost lifestyle in a tiny house, but it doesn't just happen overnight. Just like gastric bypass surgery doesn't instantly make you skinny or healthy, building a tiny house doesn't instantly make you debt free or better at managing your money. You have to change your lifestyle and spending habits to create and maintain financial health the same way you have to adjust your intake of and attitude toward food in order to become physically healthier. Our situation is essentially equal parts unexpected expenses, an inadequate safety net, underestimating the real differences in the cost of living, and not reining in our old spending habits enough. We could likely weather three of those four issues without too much strife, but the combination is overwhelming our resources. Hindsight being 20/20, we'd have been better off staying in Texas to pay off the debt and then coming to Colorado, but there's no point playing the "woulda, shoulda, coulda" game now.

 That lifeline I mentioned my dad threw us the other day? It was a check to help us float through until we leave. Without it we wouldn't have had groceries for the rest of the month. It really is that bad. 😔 

That lifeline I mentioned my dad threw us the other day? It was a check to help us float through until we leave. Without it we wouldn't have had groceries for the rest of the month. It really is that bad. 😔 

I equate the situation we are presently in to being nearly identical to when we were cash strapped living in our 3200sqft house except in a house the size of our old master bathroom. Why would we want to stay here and just be making it when we could suck it up, go back to Texas, and really, truly pay off our remaining debt in a less stressful situation? Yes, this means another dreaded Texas summer (Whhhhhhhhyyyyyyyy???!?!?!), but it beats having to parking lot hop with our tiny house in tow and survive off ramen noodles because we have to cut costs so dramatically. We owe ourselves and, more importantly, our son more than that.

  This guy right here is our reason for everything we do! He deserves parents who aren't stressed out about money all the time, which was a primary reason we went tiny in the first place. Now we must make good on that plan for reals this time! &lt;3

This guy right here is our reason for everything we do! He deserves parents who aren't stressed out about money all the time, which was a primary reason we went tiny in the first place. Now we must make good on that plan for reals this time! <3

This was not a failure, friends. It was a trial run. 

If you've followed our blog for a while now - which started on tinyhouse43.wordpress.com in December 2013 - then you know we've never set a specific plan for our tiny house life beyond wanting to eventually move to Washington state hopefully by the summer of 2018 for R.A.D to start first grade at the Waldorf school we've chosen for him. That flexibility was intentional, because we most definitely know how quickly life can throw you a curveball, and we want to be better prepared for them next time. I certainly couldn't have predicted my mom's cancer diagnosis just a few short months after our son was born, and I definitely wasn't expecting to only have another 17 months with her!  Our initial thought for Colorado was only to be here six months anyway, and while returning to Texas wasn't on the radar at all, the reality is that we need to be debt-free AND have a large nest egg saved up so that we can be selective about where we live and also not have to take as many student loans out for Brand to finally finish his degree. See, even now we know we aren't really, truly done with debt.  Life changes happen, for better or worse, and we simply have to roll with it. That's why I look at this winter in Colorado in our tiny house as a learning experience that will better prepare us for our future life in it.

In addition to now knowing Colorado is a gorgeous but expensive place to live, we learned of several quirks and kinks in the tiny house we need to fix before we finally travel with it. We can now come up with even better solutions to combat the mold issues we've encountered, including replacing all the loft walls with more resistant materials. We can now finalize the storage additions in the kitchen and nook areas after having spent six months using those spaces day to day. Our Kimberly wood stove is "breaking in" well, and we'll have the funds to get the cobb oven attachment for more off-grid cooking options. Really, though, the best part of all this is that back in Texas we'll actually have the time, space, and funds to really, truly FINISH the tiny house for reals. What could be better than that?!

We've also made some amazing new tiny life friends along the way, and we've witnessed the beginnings of a little tiny house community being created within the RV park we've had the pleasure of living at this winter. This really has been an unforgettable winter filled with many adventures and promising plan-making for the future. Riverview RV Park couldn't have been a better place for us to break in the tiny house, and we are so grateful they see the value in THOWs as homes. They're definitely worth considering if you need a place to park your tiny house for a spell!

  The quality of life in Colorado is definitely what we'll miss most, especially when we got to spend tiny with our new tiny life friends from Alaska!

The quality of life in Colorado is definitely what we'll miss most, especially when we got to spend tiny with our new tiny life friends from Alaska!

Remember when I said the decision to move back to Texas has nothing to do with the tiny house itself or even the act of living in the tiny house? All still true! It hasn't always been sunshine and roses (schlepping to the bath house at 0-dark-30 in 2F weather because the water line froze despite being heated, what?!), but on the whole we've had a blast in our little abode. Our son adores his room and all his built-in play areas, we've been getting better and better at cooking in the smaller space (nothing will change our disdain for doing dishes though... ugh), and we've each carved out little areas of our own to spend quiet time reading, studying, or playing games. We enjoy our family movie nights just as much as we did in the Big House, and while we still aren't as successful with our Nature's Head composting toilet as we'd like, practice makes perfect! ;)

If we could live in the tiny house on my dad's acre we'd do it in a heartbeat, and if we could find a really cheap place to park it close to my Texas workplace, we'd do that, too. Right now, though, we're okay with only being able to "recreate" in the house while we finish the last of the build projects where we know the house is safe to be temporarily parked. Brand gets the wifi he needs to take his classes with ease, and he'll handle the remodeling projects my dad would otherwise have to sideline because of his new job's travel requirement. R.A.D will have our Pugs and the big boys across the street to play with, and I know my dad and in-laws are looking forward to seeing him more often. I'm glad to have more time with my dad when he's in town and to work with the awesome folks at my Texas hospital again. Looking forward to the Texas summer, however?? Not so much. Enduring one hundred degree days is, however, a small (sweaty? scorching?) price to pay to get back on track financially so we can really, truly get back to living our tiny life.

 So, this is NOT goodbye to the tiny life, our tiny house, or any of our future plans.

It's merely a pause to regroup and refocus so we can get back to the life we've made for ourselves in our beautiful tiny house on wheels but on much, much better terms. We will still blog and share photos of the finishing process, and if we can swing it we'd like to make a couple open house stops on our way back to Dallas. The move timing is definitely still a work in progress right now - lots of pieces in play that must be dealt with first - but we expect to be back in TX by the end of March or early April at the latest. We'll give ourselves another year-ish to finish the house and get our debt paid off (except the truck payment) before we head out on our travel across the country. We may even work a summer in Alaska into our plans now, which is something we would have never even considered were it not for our time in Colorado and meeting three different tiny house dwelling families/couples from Alaska. It's opportunities like those that make the tiny house life and traveling so amazing, so now we want to take advantage of the opportunity to return to Texas to get our financial ducks in a row so we CAN enjoy the freedom having your house on wheels can bring!

We've got a ton of planning to do again, but we'll keep you posted about the move plans and any open houses we manage to work out. Thank you to ALL our readers for your continued support and encouragement. We don't have any kind of tiny house related business and have no paying sponsors of any sort, so we truly share our story because we enjoy our adventures and hope in some small way to help others thinking of going tiny to weigh all the pros and cons thoroughly. The TV shows on tiny houses show the glamorous side of the lifestyle, but owning and living in a tiny house (especially if you built it yourself) is as much or more work than a traditional house. This life is definitely not for everyone, but we know it is still for us and can't wait to get back on track so we can enjoy it to the fullest!!

💜🏡💙 With Tiny House Love 💜🏡💙 

Meg, Brand, and R.A.D

  One of our first days in Loveland, Colorado in October 2015. The wait to return to full-time THOW living will be hard, but we'll be doing it with our financial ducks in a row and a fresh perspective. Viva la tiny house life!

One of our first days in Loveland, Colorado in October 2015. The wait to return to full-time THOW living will be hard, but we'll be doing it with our financial ducks in a row and a fresh perspective. Viva la tiny house life!