I’m in the Pursuit of Happiness

I’m in the Pursuit of Happiness

Have you ever put off things when you’ve really wanted to do them? How many times have you said, “Oh, maybe next year”? How often have you wished for the financial freedom to live out your dreams?

I can tell you that my answers to those questions are probably not surprising. They may even coincide with yours. If I had a dollar for everything I wish I could’ve done in life, I probably would have had enough money to have done them. I’m not even talking big trips or vacations, but small excursions that someone else may take for granted. One example: Each year I see a list of concerts coming to Pittsburgh, PA and I list out all the ones that I’d love to go to. I check ticket prices, I check sales dates, and I mark my calendar. And do you know how many I go to? I’d say, on average, 1-2 per year. (And that is only because last year and this year I’ve gone to more than usual.)

Here’s another for you. I often get too lazy to see my friends. I rationalize to myself that it will cost too much in gas, plus then we meet somewhere to eat, plus a drink or two, and before you know if I’m crashed on my couch pants-less eating Cheetos and Twizzlers for dinner having canceled on my friends yet again.

Does that ever happen to you?

I hope so, because if I’m the only one that does this, that’s pretty embarrassing. Well, me and Ron White

In any case, I’m going to operate under the assumption that I’m not alone since I know plenty of procrastinators and putter-offers. You don’t have to admit it here, or even to others, but for the sake of your own mental health you must at least admit it to yourself.

We all have different ways of doing this. Some people fill their schedules to the point of bursting until they have a mental breakdown. Others feign being busy so as to rest, watch TV, or Netflix and chill (alone). Still others just ignore problems until they no longer can, which in my opinion is the worst approach to take.

I’ve been guilty of each of these at different times, but at least I know it now. I know that when I put off doing my dishes for the third straight day to watch reruns of “Law & Order” that I’m not being productive. I know that when I wake up earlier than usual and waste that time on Facebook rather than getting ready or taking out the trash that I’m not making good use of my time.

So why do we do this? Why do we procrastinate? I’m guilty of it, obviously, and in many more ways than I mentioned above. But why do we do it?

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One theory I have is that we always assume that we’ll improve our circumstances by next week, next month, or next year. Much like our oft-forgotten and ill-begotten New Year’s Resolutions, we assume we can change our lives without making much effort. I see all the infomercials and ads for “quicker-faster-better” results. Burn fat now! Get rich quick! 22-Day Fix! But does any of this really last?

No, is the short answer.

We have to want to change our lives and ourselves before we actually embark on this journey.

First, we have to WANT to change. Now I don’t mean:

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Or:

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I mean you actually have to define what you want in real terms. It’s too easy to ignore a goal when you have no accountability for it. But if you take the time to lay out a plan, it will seem like you’ve wasted time by giving it up. Rather than joining a gym alone, get yourself a work-out buddy. Instead of promising to read more on weekends, join (or form) a book club. Instead of wishing you were outside, go outside.

The great thing is that we all have our own goals. We all have the right to pursue our dreams the way we want. But in this TV-watching, movie-streaming, Facebook-stalking “modern” world, we have to hold ourselves and each other accountable.

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So now let’s focus on the JOURNEY.

We need to accept that the best things in life are worth working and fighting for. Is it more rewarding to work hard to buy your mother a birthday present or to steal it? Would you rather earn your diploma or cheat your way through school? Is it better to read the entire book or just the CliffsNotes? (On second thought, don’t answer that last question. I’m afraid of your choice…)

When I started college, I assumed I’d graduate in four years like any “normal” student. After all, I was always smart and I did well in school. That didn’t happen for me. After giving up for five years, I went back and reached my dreams. I finished that journey.

And I started a new one. After four years of being in a so-so relationship, I made the very difficult decision to break up and learn what it meant to me an adult in the world. It’s been tough and it’s been wonderful. It’s necessarily had its ups and downs. It’s been a learning experience and I hope it never ceases to be. I have found pieces of me that I never knew existed. I’m still trying to regain pieces of me that I thought were lost forever.

This journey that I’ve embarked on this year has taken many twists and turns and it’s only been a few months. I’ve changed my mind, made decisions over and over again, and changed my mind some more. I’ve angered people, pitied people, been angry, and been pitied. I’ve taken some hits and I’m sure I’ve dished some out. I’ve made some good deals and I’m sure I’ve made some bad ones.

I just know that I am no longer willing to exchange the life I want and the life I lead for the life I could maybe-possibly-someday have. I’m no longer willing to suffer today in hopes that tomorrow is better. This life is a journey, and I’m going to enjoy it until the end.

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Financial freedom?

Financial freedom?

So as you all know, a large part of my Tiny House journey has been about finding my way financially in life. My ultimate goal is to live on the income from one job without sacrificing things that are important to me. I don’t want to have to give up all of my worldly possessions to live in a huge empty house, right?

So I have been keeping track of the things I’ve bought so far for Tilly. I’m going to give you a run-down of what I’ve gotten so far as well as costs associated and pictures, if I have them.

KitchenSo here is what I’ve spent on my kitchen so far. I’m not completely done, but there are some amazing things to note here!

I got some items for FREE! I got my cabinets and countertop from a friend who was tearing out his kitchen.

Nearly everything else I’ve bought so far has come from Craigslist or eBay. I negotiated WAY more than I could at a big box store or even some specialty shops. I still have a couple of big appliances to get, but this is a great start!

I had to make a really painful decision regarding my appliances. I bought a beautiful stove and microwave set from my friend but ultimately they were just too big. I had to sell them and settle on smaller appliances. I’ve decided my best bet now is to go with a cooktop and large toaster oven rather than a traditional range.

Living Room

 

Next up is the living room… Originally I wanted to purchase a brand new couch from Ikea immediately. It has a chaise lounge and pulls out into a full queen mattress for company. But after crunching some numbers I decided to wait. I’m going to keep my almost-new sofa a while longer and use an old brown leather ottoman as a table/footrest.

I’ve been searching Craigslist for a couple of months now and I bargain for everything I want. For example, I got two antique sconces for just $15 after they were originally listed for $65. When I got there to pick them up I realized what bad shape they were in and he just wanted rid of them. SCORE! I also picked up free white shelves/cubbies from my old job and a brand new ceiling fan (with a remote) for $40.

I purchased some plywood to build a desk/table and I’ll jazz it up with some stain and metal details. I also bought a brand new fireplace from Wayfair when it was 20% off.

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So many of my plans changed from my original bathroom layout. In fact, most ALL of my layout has changed. More on that later. But for the purpose of this financial post, I must address the bathroom. I nixed the idea of a smaller-than-normal shower and opted for a smaller-than-average bathtub. How much smaller you ask? It’s 46″ long. Here it is:

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Bathroom

I picked this pretty puppy up on Craigslist brand new for $125. As it turns out there is a local warehouse that gets lots of run-off from Home Depot. While I was there I also picked up an American Standard toilet, the most beautiful vanity light (below), a kitchen faucet (also below), and a sink. Now I’m returning the sink in order to get my dream antique sink (below), but it was still a great find!

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Now for the big category. This last category includes everything from exterior stain to my water heater to my contractor who’s doing the electrical and plumbing installations.

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The items in red are items that I’ve budgeted for but haven’t bought yet. Since the plumbing and electrical are set to be done by the end of this weekend and the insulation is next, there’s no sense in buying the walls, ceiling, and flooring until I’m ready.

The big ticket item on this list is my radiant heat floors from Thermosoft. I couldn’t be more pleased with the experience thus far! I wasn’t sure exactly what I needed to I called their Customer Service. They had me send them a layout of my floorplan so they could work up a quote for me. The representative called 4 or 5 times to get it all right and still got me a quote the same day! The price above got me my heated floors, underlayment, thermostat, and extra floor sensor. As if that wasn’t enough shipping was free!

So there you have it. I’m trying to be as frugal as possible so as not to break the bank. I took a pay cut to work for a local non-profit and I love my new job. I am also only working on job right now, so money is tight. I will pick up a second job again soon, but for now I’m just enjoying my summer with Tilly.

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The Millennial generation: Entitled or just different?

The Millennial generation: Entitled or just different?

You can hardly peruse Facebook or news sites these days without finding some commentary on Millennials. Some articles insinuate that Gen-Y is entitled and lazy, while others delve a little deeper to look into the challenges many in this generation face.

I recently read an article about how Millennials spend their money titled “Pets, debts and e-cigarettes: how millennials spend their paychecks”. Now I wouldn’t consider myself part of this so-called Me Me Me Generation but according to Wikipedia’s age range I am smack in the middle of it. (Okay, so maybe being born in 1986 puts me about 1/4 of the way in, but I look younger than I am… Right? Right?!?) In case you don’t have time to read the article, here is an overview:

  • A non-scientific case study of six Millennials ranging in age from 23 to 29 was completed to see how they spend their money and how much they earn.
  • Salaries ranged from $0 (one young lady was unemployed) to $130,000 annually, with a median income range of $30,000-$33,000 a year.
  • Each person spent their money in different ways, but both income and spending were self-reported. Their expenses were then broken down into the top five categories.
  • The highest reported expenses were typically rent, food, and student loans, closely followed by things like medications, daycare, and car payments.
  • Of their top expense categories only one person listed hair appointments, one listed cigarettes, two listed gym memberships, and one listed travel.

The question I’m left with after reading this article is:

If we’re spending money on the same things as other generations, why are we being labeled as entitled?

Now let me jump to my own life; if I were to be included in that article, what would my “Top 5” look like?

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Now let’s see how my income stacks up:

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Assuming everyone in the article works an average of 40 hours per week, the average hourly rate would be $21.31. In comparison mine is $20.24. With my second job and working about 65 hours per week, my income per hour drops to $19.55.

It looks like I am right in line with others in my generation. I know there are a few in the higher echelon and many more making less than I am, but for ease let’s just go with the numbers we have here. With the average monthly rent payment of $790 and a mean net income of $2,770.83 per month (if we are all in the 25% tax bracket), this means that Millennials, on average, are spending about 28.5% of their income on rent. Completing the same calculation for student loans, Millennials spend an additional  24% on college debt each month.

When other generations describe Millennials as being lazy or extravagant spenders I get a little riled up. In fact, one of the issues my own parents have when it comes to my spending is that they “don’t know where all my money goes”. Even when I break everything down, showing them my budget, they don’t believe me. It seems like a lot of people from Generation X are wearing the same blinders. After all, they paid rent (or a mortgage) and made much less money than we’re making now. So why can’t we save like they did?

There are a myriad of possible answers to this question, not the least of which is inflation, but I’m not going to get into that right now. What I’d like to focus on is student debt. This 2013 article featured in The Huffington Post goes over some of the numbers haunting Millennials. The most relevant point to me is that the average student loan debt of Millennials graduating with a 4-year degree is around $26,600. The article points out:

This can be contrasted to 1993, when less than half of students graduated with debt, and those who did had an average of $9,350 in loans. Maybe we are just bad with our money?

This writer echoes what I’ve heard so many Baby Boomers say: “You’re just bad with your money.” I think all Millennials everywhere throw our hands up and retort right back with me: “Fuck off.” Because it’s not just the fact that we have student loans. It’s the inflation of the cost of a college education that’s really killing us.

I started college in 2004; the tuition there at that time was about $34,000. The tuition at that same school today, 12 years after I started, is just under $55,000. The same education now costs 62% than it did when I started college.

You read that correctly – 62% percent.

In comparison, let’s look at U.S. inflation over the same period of time:

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Calculated by http://www.usinflationcalculator.com

 

I’ll just come right out and say it. $42,700 is nowhere near $55,000, and 25.5% is nowhere near 61%.

So the added burden of student loan payments, is it any wonder why Millennials can’t save for a mortgage, pay for a new car with hard-earned cash, or deposit more into their 401k each month?

I think this is part of the reason people my age (or younger) get excited when they hear me talk about buying a Tiny House. They struggle with the same financial burdens that I do. Even if they can’t see themselves living in a Tiny House, it inspires them to think outside the box in terms of living situations and expenses. The people that balk at this idea are primarily members of older generations who do not understand the weight that is student loan debt.

We can’t buy huge houses then pay them off in 10 years (like you did) because we’re paying the amount of your mortgage in student loan debt every month.

I can’t keep banging my head against the wall to conform to what one group of people thinks of as “normal”. My circumstances are different than yours were at my age. My priorities, therefore, must be different.

It’s time for our parents and grandparents to look at us in a new light. It’s time for Generation X to give Generation Y a little break. It’s time for us to look at our futures differently. Because we are different. And like you taught us Mom and Dad,  different just ain’t so bad.

Let us become the swans you always said we could be.

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People don’t suck?

People don’t suck?

So yesterday I posted about the terrible happenings of this past weekend. (If you missed it, read the last post here.) I also posted a link to my GoFundMe page asking for donations to help me get back some of the money lost in the burglary and to replace the window. I didn’t expect much… maybe $100 or so to help me pay back some of the ensuing credit card charge. But you guys have been very generous and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for it. So far you’ve raised $350 in less than 24 hours.

You are amazing.

I negotiated my bill with the auto glass company down to $300 including tax, so this has already been covered. I thank you so much! The money left to raise will go toward the cash that was stolen. I’m almost tempted to take the GoFundMe page down, but then I remember how much my feet hurt after working from 8:00 Friday morning until 1:00AM Friday night and I resolved myself to leave it up. Plus, the kindness and support and messages I’ve received are wonderful. You are wonderful. Thank you.

Now I turn to the real reason for this post, which is to take a moment and reflect on this situation in its entirety. To start, one person sucked, and sucked big time; he took my money and wrecked my car window. Then, people hugged me, bought me drinks, and sat with me while I was in a bit of shock. Yesterday, people started donating to help me recoup some of this money; people who couldn’t donate sent notes of encouragement.

So how can I look at this situation and conclude that people suck?

That night, after my money was stolen and I’d had a drink (or three), I started talking to one of my friends about the situation. (Mind you this was before I’d considered the cost of the window repair. I was only thinking about the stolen cash at this point.) In my slightly tipsy and ever-pensive state, I started talking about the nature of human beings and my relationship with them in the world.

There have been many times in my life when people have tried to break me. I assume everyone reading this has been in at least one similar circumstance. Just a few examples: My purse was once stolen out of the trunk of my car at a football game. I was once stalked and forced to quit my job because a co-worker was upset and decided revenge was the ticket. (She even wrote, “I’m going to rape and kill Rachel” on the door of the building I worked in. Fun, right?) There have been countless occasions of bad friends letting me down amidst the depths of my depression. And after each bad interaction I think to myself, “I should just stop trusting people. People hurt people. I’m sick of being the nice guy while everyone else shits on my life.”

But after this situation, in that moment, with the people around me being so kind as to make me cry, I didn’t think that. Instead I said to my friend:

I’m not going to let this break me. I am not going to allow some lowlife junkie to determine how I’m going to feel. So my tips were stolen… No one was hurt. I’m not going to allow this one awful person to make me a worse person. I’m going to continue to try and do good. I’m going to be the person I am. I’m not going to let this jade me.

And in that moment I felt what I was saying with my whole heart. While it should be noted that the next day I had other (angry) thoughts, nonetheless I’m back to feeling this way now. And the reason I feel this way again is because of the people who have reached out. It’s because of those who are determined to prove that not everyone sucks; not everyone is out for only themselves. There are still people out there who have sympathy, empathy, or compassion.

I’m lucky in this life to have even a few of those people around me, and I can’t thank you enough.

And now you:

What have you overcome in your quest for goodness? What is the worst thing someone has done to you that has made you question your intentions?

It was all going well until…

It was all going well until…

..there were some major setbacks this weekend.

Most importantly, my builder had some unexpected things come up and he was not able to deliver my THOW shell on Sunday. We are rescheduled for this coming weekend, on Easter Sunday to be exact. And that turned out to be all well and good considering what happened Saturday night…

As most of you know I have been working two jobs since November to try to save for my Tiny House. As some of you know, I have been working 70-80 hours/week to save as much as possible before the THOW arrives. As a few of you know, 80 hours/week is my cut-off for losing my mind. I need at least one day off a week to rest and recoup.

There was no resting or recouping this Sunday. Only anger, a sense of betrayal, and the ensuing depression.

My car was broken into at some point Saturday night. All of my tips from Friday were stolen. The money was hidden in my car as I was going to deposit it that night after work. I checked it between 4:00-5:00PM when there was a slight lull in my shift.

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When I came out after midnight (after having been there since 9:30AM), I went in my car to change my shirt and have one post-shift drink. That’s when I noticed the glass in the back of my car. Nothing else was stolen even though my purse was in my car. All of my debit cards, credit cards, and keys were still there. The only thing missing was my cash.

We called the police and they say they’re going to pull the camera footage from neighboring businesses. They say they’re going to look for this guy. They say with any luck they’ll find something in the footage. They say, they say, they say. I’ve had my car broken into before. I know how this works. I’m out the money the thief stole as well as the money to fix the broken window. The person won’t get caught and, since I think it someone I work with at the restaurant, I have to either quit or feel uncomfortable for the rest of my time there.

Now I usually work Monday thru Friday (8:00-4:30) at my day job. I then work Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights and all day Saturday. I have one bank account where my main job’s paycheck is deposited and another just for my tips and other income. This helps me to keep things straight and not spend what I’m making at either job.

As of Thursday when I updated my budget, I only needed about $65 to hit my income goal for the restaurant this month. Then I made $315 on Friday night, which is a very large amount of money for 7 hours or so of work. One of my regulars gave me a very generous tip for which I was beyond grateful, and all because he sees me working hard and wants to help me achieve my goals. He tells me this every time he sees me. It is encouraging.

Not only has this thief robbed me, but he has robbed others of their good intentions toward me and my life. He has robbed me of my sense of security and made me more than a little vexed with my car. He’s robbed me of the $315 in hard-earned tips and the $300+ it will cost to fix the window he broke.

For the record, if you ever have to break into your SUV, the vent window is the most expensive window to break. This isn’t a picture of my car but another one similar to it, and I’ve circled the vent window in red:

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Even though it is the smallest window, it is permanent and considered part of the door, so it must be sealed differently. For my SUV with the privacy tint, I got quotes ranging from $305-$499 for this window alone. Never break this window if you can avoid it.

Now I’ve said before that I don’t want to ask anyone for money for my Tiny House project because I am fully capable of doing this alone. I can work hard for this and wear my body out every week until I have everything paid for. I can do whatever it takes. But this was such a blow, both mentally and financially.

For this reason, I’ve decided for the first time to ask for a little bit of help. I have to write two very big checks in the next week (one for the down payment on my land the other for the remaining balance for my THOW shell) and this $600+ swing is coming at exactly the wrong time. If you can, please considering sending just a few dollars to help me recoup this loss. It would be more appreciated than you know.

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Go to: http://www.gofundme.com/rachelsbrokenjeep to help me recoup my THOW money. Anything is appreciated!

Here is my GoFundMe link. Click here: Bum Thief Broke My Jeep Window fund or go to: https://www.gofundme.com/rachelsbrokenjeep. PLEASE share it as well. I am not asking for more than I lost in this fiasco. Thank you all for your continued love and support.

 

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An extra special thank you to those who have already helped me deal with all of this over the past weekend. Thank you to those who drank with me afterward to numb myself, let me crash with you, taped my window up like surgeons, and continued to text me to make sure I was okay. You are wonderful friends and you know who you are. I won’t embarrass you by calling you out by name, but I owe you more than you know. Thank you.

Do not go gentle into that good night…

Do not go gentle into that good night…

Good afternoon Tiny House enthusiasts! I know I promised I’d post about my research regarding insulation and other super fun things (like drywall), but first I need to put some things down that have been bothering me…

I was asked this weekend who I am writing this blog for. While I am hopeful that my audience will find this to be both amusing and (eventually) informative, I am primarily writing this for myself. I want to be able to remember the decisions I’m making now and why I made them. I want to be able to look back and show things I accomplished and things that deflated me. For this reason, some of my posts will be less about decisions I’m making and more about how I’m feeling or why I’m confused.

Truth be told, I’ve been having a hard time at both of my jobs lately…

The restaurant I work at started (and kept on) messing up my schedule. I was working Monday night, Friday night, and sometimes Saturday and/or Sunday. I’m not even available to work Sundays or Mondays. It was stressing me out quite a bit and for quite a few reasons. First, with the amount of time I’m spending working I need a full day off each Sunday. Having to find someone to come in on what is actually my only day off was stressful, primarily because no one would ever want to work the shift. Second, I have been at this restaurant since the day it opened. I was one of the first three people hired and I didn’t understand why I was being singled out to work on a day I wasn’t available. So I sat down with them, had the conversation, and have been given my preferred schedule. I now work Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, as well as all day Saturday. My knees are killing me but I’ve already made an extra $1600 this month. (And it’s only halfway through the month!)

Now on to my full-time job. (I find it hard to call just one of my jobs “full-time” now since I’m basically working full-time at both jobs, but I digress.) Things are feeling increasingly stifled to me. I work for a private company, but a large one. We recently moved to a new location and the vibe around the office is becoming more and more corporate. There is a lot more micro-managing and a lot less creativity. There is also an awful lot of inter-office pettiness that stresses me out daily and negatively affects my mood. I’m annoyed or upset more often than not these days and it takes all my energy just to get up in the mornings.

I know part of this is my depression but knowing why you feel a certain way doesn’t change that you do feel that way. My new medication takes the edge off the depression like ibuprofen may dull joint pain, but it doesn’t take it away.

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I worry about what will happen when this Tiny House push is over. I know I’ve outlined all of the reasons I’m embarking on this journey, but what happens when it’s all done? I have always been good at pushing through and working toward a goal. What happens when I attain that goal?

Time for a story.

When I started college I was 17 and very smart. I earned several scholarships for writing and academics. I was excited for all that college would bring. I enrolled in interesting classes like one about Marxism and another called “Your Karma Ran Over My Dogma”. It was exhilarating to open my mind up to topics I’d never really heard of, yet alone dared to study. Coming from a close-minded Catholic education, this was really a treat for my mind.

And then it all crashed, and crashed quickly. My depression quickly spun out of control and by my sophomore year I was failing classes. I had to transfer to a larger and less prestigious school, but I did so well there (while living at home with my parents, mind you) that I was convinced I was cured. I even managed to convince my parents of that. I returned to my fancy (see: expensive) college, and promptly ended up back on academic probation. I quit college just one year shy of graduating.

Why am I telling you this sad story? To tell you this better one:

Fast forward five years. I’d never gone back to school and I’d moved around Western PA a lot. I was fed up with my job after two-and-a-half years and ready to move on. When they said they’d pay me unemployment if I quit, I quit that very day. I decided a few weeks later that I’d return to school. And I decided to return to my school. Sure, I could have gone somewhere closer or cheaper or less distinguished, but I wanted to prove to my 17-year-old self that I could do it. I filled out the paperwork, I got my loans, and I returned to class.

My first time around, I’d planned to graduate with both a Psychology and an English degree. Each Professor who knew me way back when told me to take it easy and choose one major and allow the other to become my minor. I didn’t listen. I couldn’t do that. Instead, I took 22 credits during the fall and 23 in the spring. I re-enrolled in classes I had failed or gotten a ‘D’ in, just to pull up my cumulative GPA. When I returned to school, my GPA was a measly 2.3. My goal was to graduate with a 3.0.

After just one year and enough classes to fill at least three semesters, I graduated with both degrees. I made the Dean’s List each semester and my GPA was a 3.0. (Well, it’s technically a 2.97 but we all round up, right? Math, right!?)

So again, why am I telling you this? Because I need to remind anyone who is listening that you can do whatever you put your mind to. And I need to remind myself that I can do it. Despite any craziness at my jobs or with my family or the battle against my inner self, I will not succumb. And neither should you.

It shouldn’t matter who is with you or against you, as long as you are with and for yourself. So long as you keep your own hope alive, you can do anything.

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     – Dylan Thomas

Financing My (Tiny) Dream

Financing My (Tiny) Dream

In my last post I talked a little bit about my personal budget. Since then I’ve been trying to figure out where I’m going to get the money for each step of this process. I have had to figure out:

  • The Trailer – How will I pay for the physical trailer that the Tiny House shell will be built on?
  • The Shell – Banks do not lend money for Tiny Houses, especially in the form of a traditional mortgage.
  • The Interior Build – This will all be done as I can afford it, but how long will it take to save the money to pay for everything I need/want?
  • The Land – Since my parents are not on board, where will I put my Tiny House? Once I find the land, how will I pay for it?

I’m going to try and address these one by one, with some extra emphasis on land since that’s what I’ve been focused on the last few days.

The Trailer

I decided to take a fairly unique approach to financing my trailer. Rather than lump this in with a personal loan, I qualified for a new credit card with 0% interest for 12 months. Since I am working two jobs right now (and I intend to continue working both jobs until I’m done financing my build), I feel I can pay this off well before the 12-month timeframe. I will put the entire trailer cost on one credit card.

The Shell

I will have to get a personal loan for the financing of my shell build. I had been planning to save all the money for this before beginning this process, but fate stepped in and I was able to get a great deal with my builder if we started sooner. While the loan will cost me some interest, I intend to get a secured loan by putting my car title up for collateral. This will give me a lower interest rate and save me money. In addition, the money I save by not paying rent for an extra 12-18 months while saving will actually be far less than the money I spend in interest.

The Interior Build

I’m not at this stage yet, but my plan will be to recycle, reuse, and refurbish as much as possible. For example, one piece of land I’m looking at has a modular home on it that is in rough condition. However, I would be able to save some kitchen cabinets, wood siding, decking, cinder blocks, etc. Reusing these materials would save me a lot in the long run. I also plan to use craigslist and local auctions to find interesting pieces, which will be cheaper than I can buy them at the big box stores. I will use the cash I make from my waitressing job to pay for things I find online, at auctions, or at flea markets. I am particularly excited about reusing items that might otherwise be tossed or used for kindling; this is part of the whole Tiny House movement for me. Waste not, want not!

Which brings us to…

The Land

Also known as: the bane of my existence over the last couple of weeks. I am struggling to find what will be the best fit for me. For example…

Should I buy a fresh piece of land with nothing on it? I would be free to put the utilities and my Tiny House anywhere I want on the property. I can look at the blank canvas of grass and mud and figure out what kind of neighbor I want to be, what direction my Tiny House should face, and how many cherry trees to plant. I’d only be hindered by my imagination (and, of course, my property lines).

Should I buy land with a modular or trailer home already on it? This would save me the hassle and expense of putting in new utilities. I don’t know exactly how much it would cost to dig out sewage from the street to my Tiny House, but I can tell you I don’t want to spend it! Having a modular or trailer home already on the property, especially one I could harvest materials from (then subsequently destroy), makes sense because I’d save on all those expenses. It’s also likely that there would already be a clear, level space for my Tiny House to rest, and maybe even a driveway.

Should I buy land with a larger house on it, rent it out, and put my Tiny House somewhere else on the property? This option is a stretch for me, but it does exist. This would make financial sense because I’d then have an income property, but it could also help me navigate the shark-filled waters that are “zoning issues”. As I’ve mentioned, each borough typically has their own zoning laws that govern home size, land use, and mobile homes. One piece of land I’ve fallen in love with does not allow mobile homes or any home under 700 square feet. But I could get around this if there was a house on the property already and I would just be “storing” my Tiny House there (wink, wink).

I always figured that once I found land, I’d apply for the mortgage and follow the normal procedure. One of the rudest awakenings for me in this process has been that most banks will not lend on a mortgage lower than $50,000. Since I don’t intend to spend nearly that much on a piece of land, I’m forced to figure out another option.

This is where I am today. Looking for another option. Suggestions are welcome!