Let’s face it: living is expensive. Whether you own a house and pay a monthly mortgage or rent, a place to lay your head at night can easily add up to as much as half of your income, if not more. That leaves you less discretionary income, preventing you from buying the things you want but don’t necessarily need, or from going on that long-overdue vacation.
It’s an economic reality faced by millions of Americans for nearly a decade, with the economic outlook slowly improving, but not nearly fast enough. That’s leading more Americans in tough financial spots to turn to a very unconventional — and unbelievably cheap — way of living.
In what is commonly referred to as the “tiny house movement,” a growing number of people is ditching their outrageous monthly apartment rent or home mortgage for a simpler and more economical way of life.
In fact, a number of businesses have already recognized this trend and begun to cash in on it.
Tumbleweed Homes is one of those businesses. With locations in Colorado, Washington State and California, the company offers those looking to put back some extra cash just enough space to live in. And if you’re the handy type, Tumbleweed offers its buyers the opportunity to design and build their own, in addition to the option of buying a home that’s already been built. What’s more, these homes come with wheels so you can move them whenever you want or need.
While perhaps not ideal, this unconventional but innovative living arrangement is giving more Americans a leg up. According to the Atlantic Monthly, the Federal Reserve has conducted a survey since 2013 in which it asks respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. This year, nearly half (47 percent) said they would have to either sell something or go further into debt to cover the expense.
Compare that stunning statistic with how much the U.S. Census Bureau says is the median cost of a home in the U.S. today. In July 2016, the average cost to buy a house was $355,800. That’s up from $311,300 during the same month 10 years ago. Meanwhile, the average American household brought in just $53,000 last year, according to U.S. census data.
Ethan Waldman, 31, of Morristown, Vermont is one individual who’s taking advantage of the tiny house trend.
“I saw it as a way to reduce what I spent on rent, a way to own a home for not too much money and a home that could be moved,” Waldman wrote on his blog, as highlighted by the Fiscal Times.
Jody Brady, who lives in a tiny home in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, said, “I don’t feel the financial dread I used to, thinking about how I have a 30-year mortgage and will be paying this into our 70s.”
Waldman said his home cost $43,000 in materials and labor, while Brady said she paid $40,000 for materials and built the house with her husband. While that’s not pocket change, it’s tens of thousands of dollars less than the current average cost of a home. That’s not to mention the utility bills for a smaller place, which could add up to thousands of dollars more in savings each year.
Jon Street is a contributor for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @JonStreet.