Guest post from Katherine:
When we were first married, my husband and I dreamed of living a self-sufficient life in a yurt on a couple acres. However, property values in our area were too high for us to buy at the time.
We spent a year begrudgingly paying rent. Then we found a converted school bus on Craigslist. We adjusted our dream to fit the opportunity and bought the bus with plans to live in it full-time — and no long term place to park!
Fortunately, friends offered to host us within a month. We’ve lived happily in our bus full-time for 3 1/2 of the last 5 years.
1. Tiny living has helped our financial situation.
We paid cash for our bus. Once we moved in, we put our rent money towards starting a successful business, building an emergency fund, and saving for a down payment.
We even went to Ireland for six weeks… and this summer we will be building a small, but not tiny, home.
2. Some traditional money saving activities are harder, but not impossible.
Buying in bulk? Preserving food? Gardening? They’re tricky, but we manage.
Our kitchen takes up a third of our square footage and when we stock up, we pack our cabinets full.
Dehydrating food is a space-efficient way to preserve. As for gardening and freezing, they depend on where you park your house.
3. We have an amazing host family.
Unless you have your own land or intend to move from RV park to RV park, you will need a host. Our hosts are happy for us to grow a vegetable garden and raise chickens on their property. We also have storage in their garage and attic.
In exchange for the space, we help them out in various ways like plowing the road in the winter and digging and fertilizing garden beds.
4. Mess builds up fast in a small space.
No matter how tidy I get the bus, everything explodes again within 24 hours. I am not a naturally organized person, so it’s hard to maintain order. However, I have learned to stay sane by blocking out part of every day for organizing and cleaning.
5. Contentment is the key to tiny living.
Tiny living is a great way to curb impulse spending as fun, new purchases quickly turn into annoying clutter in a small space!
I have to admit that our space does feel smaller now that we have a baby. As I seek to be content in our converted bus, I remember these words from Saint John Chrysostom, “If you see someone greedy for many things, you should consider him the poorest of all, even if he has acquired everyone’s money. If, on the other hand, you see someone with few needs, you should count him the richest of all, even if he has acquired nothing.”
Through living in our bus, we’ve created wonderful memories, developed better spending habits, and prepared for a financially sound future.
We have also skirted a number of pitfalls.
1. Stereotypes and Public Opinion
Some people assume that if you don’t live in a modern single family home you must be a drug addict, a hippie who’s forgotten what decade it is, or a loafer who can’t hold down a job. It’s not true, especially with the rise of the tiny home movement, but the idea lingers in many people’s minds. Be ready to prove them wrong.
2. Insurance Issues
It is possible to insure tiny homes and converted buses, but insurance may not be available in all states. RVs are obviously easier to insure. Although we did insure our bus (as an unfinished RV) for the 3 hour drive home, we don’t have insurance on it now because we don’t drive it.
The bus itself, a 1978 International with a bad transmission, doesn’t have much monetary value, so we have an emergency fund rather than insurance.
3. Legal Issues
From what I understand, living full-time in a tiny home, converted bus, or RV is often a legal grey area. If you are considering tiny living, you should look into zoning regulations, building codes, and covenants.
Most importantly, make sure your potential neighbors are fine with your plans.
In spite of these issues, I believe that tiny living can be a viable option for the right people at the right time.
Would living in a bus be a dream or a nightmare for you?
Katherine has worked as a whitewater rafting guide, ski instructor, and wilderness trip leader, but she embarked on her biggest adventure yet when she gave birth to her daughter last August. She is passionate about tiny living, outdoor adventure with kids, and micro-homesteading.
Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!