by Letty Smith

For me to thoroughly explain the drastic lifestyle and financial changes we made in order to build and live tiny I will start by introducing you to my family. My name is Letty and I was born and raised in Alaska. Matt is a Georgia boy but was transplanted into Alaska with the US Army. We met in 2005 and were married forty-five days later. We have two precious boys we adopted after being placed in our home as foster children. Michael is now 7 and Javis is 5. They have been bringing joy to our lives for over three years now. We also have a dog named Hank and Boris the cat.

In August of 2012 we made a nearly 2,800 mile journey with our tiny house from our home in Alaska to our current city of Medford, Oregon. We left the day after Matt graduated from the Medex physician assistant program. He received a job offer that just couldn’t be turned down and I was very ready for a change in climate!

A few years ago we had a conversation about buying a little house on a trailer but we did not have the finances and were in the middle of our adoption. I’m not sure what sparked Matt’s interest in it this time, but in November 2011 he brought it up again and I ran with the idea! We have been living in our tiny house since June and absolutely adore this lifestyle.

Prior to our tiny house adventure we were living in an averaged sized home. Our monthly bills were $3,395. This amount was just a few dollars below our income. We were getting by but had absolutely nothing in savings to begin building. I won a $5,000 scholarship through our local newspaper so we decided to use this as a down payment on our tiny house. My brother is a builder and also owned the perfect trailer for us.

The first phase was going to cost us $8,500. To make up the rest from the scholarship I was going to sell everything! Like seriously, everything. For some reason Matt went along with this! I started with furniture, then went through clothes, kitchen items, appliances, jewelry, toys, garden and craft supplies. We kept 5 complete pairs of clothing, a set of dinnerware and a towel each. We kept a few books and the boys each filled a small box with toys they wished to keep. Things that were special to us we gave to friends and family as gifts. Items that were left over we donated. Luckily, we had just enough money to finish this phase.
We were then out of money. The largest bill we had is our home mortgage. So we rented out our house. We were blessed with the opportunity to house sit for friends for over three months. When they returned we stayed in my mom’s RV. We were in a friends yard until we found a campground host position. About a month before we moved we parked in another friends yard and we finished the rest of the house, except for plumbing.

Without having the bills associated with living in hour regular home we had the ability to have about $2000 extra each month to work on our tiny house. We were able to save more money by doing a lot of work ourselves, with the help of friends. People donated time and even supplies to make our crazy dream become a reality. The interior cedar siding was from our fence that fell over at our house. My friend had extra flooring he was willing to give us at no charge. I traded Matt’s handgun for exterior siding, cabinets, a ladder and the counter top. Another dear friend helped me build the lower kitchen cabinets, toilet and a pocket door. The plumbing and electric were hired out to family friends as well.

Here is a breakdown of our costs for building our tiny house:

  • Trailer $3500
  • Floor, Framing and Roof $5000
  • Windows $800
  • Roofing $1600
  • Electric/Lighting $700
  • Plumbing $600
  • Door $300
  • Appliances $1000
  • Paint $200
  • Storage/Cushions $400
  • Beds $200
  • Fabric $100

TOTAL COST $14,400 (including labor and supplies)

Our the main level is 7×16,our loft 7×9 and the kid loft is 7×6 for a grand total 217 sq ft. We used a ton of used/reclaimed items however I still feel that a tiny house can be built for a relatively low cost, like we did. Keep in mind we built in Alaska where things are way more expensive than the lower 48. We did not use as many high end or green materials as some people do but I still think our home is wonderful! I wanted to share our story to show that if a family of four on a tight budget can make it happen for a reasonable price, so can you! Even if you do not plan on building, a change in lifestyle will certainly help you save.

You can learn more about the Smith’s family tiny house story, you can visit their website here.

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