Tiny House

Guest Post: 5 Ways To Find Money To Help Your Build

This month we are featuring a guest post by Andrew Odom, founder of Tiny r(E)volution. The tiny house movement is filled with wonderful souls and Andrew is one of them. We connected on social media a few months ago and it feels like we've already met. That's the power of the web, my friends.

I asked Andrew to help us begin our tiny house project. I told him that we were struggling to get started as financials are always tight. Since he has a wealth of knowledge from formerly living in his own self-built tiny house, I thought he'd be the perfect expert to give readers a realistic outlook at how a couple like us can get "rolling."

Have you ever looked up quotes about money and saving money? Most of them read like poor advice from someone who falls into one of two categories. The first category is ‘People Who Save Money To Sit On It.' The second category is ‘People Who Save Money Because They Fear Losing Their Job One Day.’ Nowhere is there a witty quote by someone who saves money because they grew up understanding that need is not the same as want and two pennies earned can easily be a penny saved. Why all this talk about money though? Isn’t this a blog about building a tiny house? Aren’t tiny houses cheap to build?

Tiny House Myth #1

Building a tiny house is cheap. According to The Tiny Life report (2013), the average cost to build a tiny house is $23,000 if built by the owner. This figure does not include the cost of the trailer though.

So with this figure in mind how does one continue to meet monthly financial obligations (rent, utilities, groceries, etc.) during the build while building the tiny house? It is a daunting thought. It is actually akin to running two households for an extended amount of time. There has to be a way though. Good news. There are. In fact, below are:

5 Ways To Find Money To Help Your Build

  1. Define your budget a minimum of six months prior to building.
    Perhaps one of the first mistakes made by someone building a tiny house is lack of preparation. Unless you are independently wealthy or have secured some sort of creative financing, the build is being financed by you. So give yourself time to accumulate build funds. The trailer is the first purchase and perhaps the largest. That should also be the first line item on your budget. Decide what utility trailer you want to purchase, work out a contract with the manufacturer (this will contractually secure a price) and save the money. Now I can’t tell you how to save the money because that is dependent on your personal expenses. But don’t start your tiny house out by credit card or trailer financing. Start out like you can hold out. Go cash-on-the-barrel from the get go. Then continue on focusing on sections. Your second line item should be the drying in stage of your tiny house. Continue through your build making small financial goals that are clearly defined. Then work towards them.

  2. Salvage always.
    It is never too early to start gathering materials. I am not talking about purchasing materials but rather salvaging them or reclaiming them. While you are in that pre-build phase stop at every wood pile you see, every construction zone you pass, and every FREE MATERIALS posting you fine. Look at it like this. Every 8’ long 2’x4’ you are able to reclaim is a minimum of $2.11 back in your pocket come build time!

  3. Develop partnerships.
    It is no secret that our tiny house build was made possible through several partnerships. Please note. This is NOT free money. A partnership is a mutually beneficial relationship between two entities. I spent a lot of time approaching sponsors and talking to them about how they could help me and how I could help them. Some signed on and others passed. But for every item donated my wife and I were able to save a little money on materials and in return help a company out that we believed in and believed in their product.

  4. Consign/Sell/Trade It.
    Part of transitioning to the tiny house life is downsizing. Before going tiny many of us occupy much larger houses and have the stuff to prove it. So why not kill two birds with one stone. Gather up the items you are ready to part with and sell them, consign them, or trade them. If you sell them in some way earmark that money for your tiny house build ONLY. If you have things like tools, technology, or cookware, consider bartering or trading them for tools you may really need for the build or building materials, etc. You would be surprised how many folks have been wanting to give away that old pocket door in their attic and have also always wanted a stereophonic album of Led Zeppelin Live At The Fillmore!

  5. Just Ask.
    While it seems a lot of people talk about their friends and family not supporting their desire to go tiny a lot of folks have a large support group. Humble yourself and ask them for help. Perhaps your uncle has some old wood he might consider donating. ASK! Maybe you have siblings who each year give you an Olive Garden gift card at Christmas. Ask them to switch up to Home Depot or Menards this year. Heck, don’t be afraid to start a “registry” at a home improvement or big box hardware store and tactfully share it with your parents, aunts and uncles, and even friends. You’d be surprised how many people get a kick out of seeing others achieve their dreams.

Photo Credit: Susy Morris (chiotsrun.com)

Funding a tiny house build is not easy. Like everything in this world it costs money and that isn’t always readily available. But don’t become discouraged. Be creative! Never pass up a penny in a parking lot and never be afraid to ask the contractor down the street if he minds you picking through his dumpster!

Author & photographer: Andrew Odom

Founder of Tiny r(E)volution and author of the popular book ‘Your Message Here: GAINING CORPORATE SPONSORS for your tiny house project’, Andrew Odom is a social media strategist and content crusader amongst other things. He is also an accomplished photojournalist with work seen in Details, Relevant, South, Kitchen Drawer and Tiny House Magazine(s). His proudest accomplishment however is his long-time adoption of and current advocacy of the tiny house/small house/unconventional house community as a designer, builder, dweller and speaker. Having recently sold their 240 sq. ft. tiny house Andrew and his wife (as well as his 3-year old daughter) live and travel in a 27’ Aruba travel trailer.

Step 1: Design Your Tiny House

Let's start talking about the tiny house, shall we? I know that's the reason some of you continue to read this blog. Camper life has been going so well at the moment that we may have forgotten at a time or two that we wanted to get out of it!

But then we remember, oh wait! We live in 140-square-feet, and with a dog, too! We must be crazy, right? We have found ways to make our living situation work right now, but we know that it might not always be what we're looking for in the future.

So with that, it's time to start taking action on the tiny house!

It doesn't get much better than planning out the space you're going to be living in. But for some reason, I thought this would be an afterthought. Like, maybe we'd buy the trailer and the materials and just kinda make something out of it.

Yeah ... wrong!

If you're a planner, you will want to spend lots of time sketching out everything you want in your space.

Here's a few questions you might want to ask yourself before you build your tiny house:

How much space do you need?

Notice how I said "need" and not "want." Tiny house dwellers might "want" more space, but they are living small because they are intentionally using space efficiently.

To get an idea of square footage, stop by your local camper or RV store and walk on different sized trailers. Find an empty parking lot and use a measuring stick to draw the outline of your house. As you walk from room to room, think about whether or not you could live in that space.

Do you want standard living features?

I'm talking about a bedroom, kitchen, living area, etc. And in those areas, do you want the same appliances that you might find in your family's or friends' homes? Do you need a dishwasher or a washer/dryer? Are they necessary? Can you hide features or use space in multifunctional ways?

Design your house in ways to accommodate the features you need, because sometimes these features can take up more space than you thought.

How many people can you fit in your home?

If you're not too keen on guests, you might as well just have a loft or a pull-out couch as your sleeping option.

But if you like to entertain, it's important to know the maximum number of people your house can sleep and how big of a table you can fit in your "living room" ... or should I say your "multifunctional space."

Having a place to lay out an air mattress could come in handy when the other sleeping options are taken.

Can everyone use your space?

We knew we wanted to sleep in a loft, but we had to ask ourselves if our dog, Blaize, was allowed up there too. If so, she might not be coming up on a ladder.

The stairs vs. ladder conversation is a good one to have. If you go the stairs route, make sure you can design them so they aren't too narrow to navigate.

If you have elderly family members, you may want to consider where they will be sleeping when they come to visit as well. Will they be using a ladder or stairs to get to a sleeping loft or can they sleep on the main level?

Will it still be liveable in the future?

Just because you're not ready to have children yet, doesn't mean you shouldn't talk about them. If there's a chance your family is growing in size in the future, you may want to design around their inevitable expectations.

If you're only planning on living in your home for 5-10 years, then you may have to ask yourself deep questions about the purpose of the project. If it's a temporary home, is it worth the time and cost? If it's a long-term home, will a small home still feel comfortable in the future?

Have you done your research?

Unless your degree is in architecture or engineering (or perhaps you have some construction experience), you may be clueless as to how to begin to build a house.

It is better to know how to learn than to know.
— Dr. Seuss

If you know how to learn, you can pretty much learn anything you need to know! The Internet has helped level the playing field and allows everyone to explore areas they never would have before.

Thanks to social media connections, I have read plenty of articles about what NOT to do. Reading "Of mistake making and taking my ceiling apart…" by Ella Harp helped me realize the importance of venting a roof. Boy was she peeved with all the work she was going to have to do to replace it! Don't make other people's mistakes if you can help it.

Where can you find inspiration?

I found a post recently on Living Big in a Tiny House's Facebook page, "12 Beautiful & Creative Tiny House Lofts." It's nice to get an idea of what your options might be by looking at what other people have done already. These kind of images open up questions about flat or sloped roofs, skylights, window designs, etc.

If you're going to invest a lot of time designing your tiny house, make it your own! You can benefit from coming up with your own ways to make it work for you. If you have special hobbies or passions, try to incorporate them into your design elements or add space in the design of your new tiny home so you can continue to explore them.

Now what?

Start sketching! Use a paper and pencil and start to draw out what your home might look like. When you have a sketch that you are somewhat happy with, use a computer program to get an idea of exact spacing and size constraints. Feel free to pass your sketch along to your friends and family for feedback. Better yet, show a tiny house dweller your work and see if they would change anything.

The EPA says the average American spend 93% of their life indoors. I'm going to let you digest that for a second. That's a lot! Even though I'm a proponent of more time outside than inside (if you can), it's still crucial to consider sustainable design. For example, southern facing windows reduces your energy bill, while giving you a healthy living space.

Ask yourself all the tough questions before you get too far along in the process and take your time! Rome wasn't built in a day, right?

This is where we're at so far! Designing the tiny house in our tiny house! How about 'dem apples?

This is where we're at so far! Designing the tiny house in our tiny house! How about 'dem apples?