Whew, I just got back from spending the weekend at a retreat with a bunch of Mustachians. These great folks are rebelling against the established American consumerism lifestyle by spending less and generating alternative incomes so they can retire earlier. Some local folks put the event together and Mr. Money Mustache himself was able to come out and enjoy the weekend with us. J.D. Roth was also there and it was great to spend more time with him as well. The best thing about the weekend was being able to talk to many people in various stages of Financial Independence. Everyone was good at something and I learned a lot from the Mustachians.
One of the main tenets of early financial independence is living below your means. This can be difficult if you live in an expensive city like New York or San Francisco. Unfortunately, Seattle and Portland are also getting quite expensive. Home prices are skyrocketing and rents are increasing every year.
One gal I met, Sam*, has quite a dilemma. She is trying to figure out a way to reduce her housing cost so she can achieve financial independence earlier. Currently, she lives in an apartment just a few blocks from her office. The location is great because she can walk to work, but the rent keeps increasing every year. She is paying $1,200/month for rent and that’s a huge portion of her monthly expenses. (I think she said her monthly expense is about $1,500, but I’m not sure.)
*The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Sam has some specific constraints and here they are.
- Absolutely no roommates – she needs her personal space and she doesn’t want a roommate.
- Minimal commute – she doesn’t have a car and doesn’t want a long commute. Biking or walking would be ideal.
- Moving to a smaller condo isn’t going to save much money. Even a small studio can cost nearly $1,000 so it’s not really worth it to move.
Get an RV
So here is Sam’s first idea – get an RV and live on the street. She’d have to get a zone parking permit and move the RV every 72 hours. However, she can park near work so the commute wouldn’t be a problem. She’ll hop into the gym for a workout and a shower whenever she needs. It doesn’t sound bad on the surface, but it’s not a very good plan either.
- Safety – I’m not sure how safe the neighborhood is, but living on the street would be a bit scary for me. I wouldn’t feel secure sleeping in a vehicle in downtown Portland, even if it were an RV. We have high property crime rate here and I wouldn’t want to be sleeping in a vehicle if someone breaks into it.
- Hassle – We have a pretty high homeless population in Portland and I’m sure the cops would hassle you if they suspect someone is sleeping in a vehicle. I’m pretty sure it’s the same way in Seattle.
- Hookups – I don’t know anything about an RV, but don’t you need to get clean water and recharge the battery? I suppose if you don’t use the bathroom, then you won’t need to the empty the sewer line. What about heat in the winter?
- Address – You’re essentially homeless. I guess you can get a PO box. Mrs. RB40 knows a few people who use PO boxes instead of their home address as their mailing address for security reasons.
Anyway, I didn’t like this idea at all. Sam discussed it with many people that night and eventually got a great idea from some Portlanders. What about getting a tiny house and renting a driveway? Apparently, this is a trend in Portland, but I’ve never heard of renting a driveway out. There is even a Tiny House Hotel here if Sam wants to try it out for a few days.
What’s a tiny house? It’s just a little house on trailer wheels. They range from 100-200 square feet. They have a small bathroom with flush toilet and hot shower, electric heater, and a kitchen. You can buy a new one for about $40,000 from Shelter Wise, a builder in Portland. I’m sure there must be some companies up in Seattle as well.
The price is a little high at $40,000, but it seems you can recoup most of that back when you sell later on. Also, the saving from not having to pay rent would make it worth it in less than 3 years. You can probably find something a bit cheaper if you don’t mind a lightly used tiny house.
Next, she’d need to find someone who’s willing to rent some space out. It’d probably cost $100-200/month for a small space in the backyard or a driveway. Hopefully she can find someone near her work with an open mind. She’d still need to get hooked up to the sewer somehow.
I like the tiny house idea much better! I think it would be a lot nicer place to live than an RV. Personally, I think the tiny houses are designed with long term dwelling in mind as oppose to traveling around, but maybe that’s just an image I have in my mind. I guess I like living in a house better even if it’s a tiny one.
Actually, I just found out that Seattle prohibits vehicles over 80 inches from parking on most city streets between midnight and 6 a.m. She’d need to drive the RV out to the Walmart parking lot every night and that wouldn’t be much fun.
So, what do you think about the tiny house idea? It would reduce Sam’s monthly bills by a big margin and help her achieve financial independence quicker. Do you have a better alternative?
- Aquatic squatting – get an old sailboat and anchor it nearby. In Portland, we have quite a few boats anchored in the Willamette River downtown. You have to move every 14 days, but it seems like a cheap way to live if you can handle it. Rules are changing to prevent this, though.
- Manufactured home – More affordable than a conventional home. Not sure if there are any near downtown Seattle, though.
*Update* – Unfortunately, the tiny houses are technically considered RVs for legal purposes. In King County you are not allowed to live in a RV for more than 180 days. So the tiny house option is out for now.
Photo credit: flickr Tomas.Quinones