When we took the plunge and decided to drastically reduce our lifestyle, buy our Airstream, and move into our tiny home, all while retiring by the end of this year we obviously had to take a hard look at our spending. With big HONKING CRAZY plans like these we didn’t have the luxury of the occasional Starbucks, Amazon movie, or vending machine candy bar. For any of you who followed our retirement blog in the early days we accounted for every cent we spent, down to the money we saved by bringing our own bags to the grocery store. We also budgeted every category and would reassess as needed. Many people would have considered us majorly frugal, perhaps even cheap though we always knew there was more we could do. While our savings goals were of the utmost important we still wanted to enjoy our lives so alcohol, books, and cigars were accounted for in the budget. Honestly I didn’t expect any of these categories to change much once we moved into the Airstream. BUT living tiny has actually made us MORE frugal and once we’re done selling our last home this month I can’t wait to update our budget spreadsheet to account for all the changes I’ve seen.
6 Ways Living Tiny Has Made Us More Frugal
- We don’t have a lot of room for things, so we don’t buy them.This one is obvious and we knew it going in. Obviously living in a tiny space means less room for things, and therefore many less things. What I didn’t expect is that the impulse wouldn’t even come up. Someone mentions a new fabulous thingie-mer-jigger and I don’t think “O I wish I could get that, but we don’t have room”. I just think that’s cool for them and move on. It’s like the thing is not even an option. The best I can relate it to is how I feel when there is dessert in the kitchen at work and when I go to get some it’s chocolate. I don’t like chocolate…at all (I know I’m WEIRD). What’s funny is I don’t even feel bad about not getting the dessert, I just don’t have it.
- Since we don’t have a lot of room for things, the things we display or use must be both functional but also beautiful to us. If we needed/wanted something in our old lives we usually only considered one of two rational for buying it. Do I need it to do something? Is it pretty and make me happy? Now we have to ask ourselves BOTH questions before making any purchases. When you have very little you have the chance to carefully curate your possessions to be both incredibly useful and meaningfully representative of your life, values, and personality. That’s a lot to ask from a salt shaker I know but it’s true that we now put a lot more thought into every purchase.
- We don’t have room for the “what if’s”, “just in case”s, or buying bulk. Have you ever been in the grocery store and saw something that while not on your list it would be good to have? The spices always got me. MMMM Chinese Five Spice? Why not! That would be fun to cook with. Meanwhile my spice drawer was full of expired exotic spices and I always used the same core 10 or so. Now I just don’t have the room for those impulses, or that giant bag of sugar that’s on sale. Buying in bulk can be great for the wallet as long as you actually use it all. Now we don’t even have the option.
- We spend good quality time cooking delicious meals together in our tiny kitchen or out on the grill while sitting together on the patio. While eating out is fun, the food is very seldom better than what we make at home, and the whole experience costs quite a bit. In fact while out at a fancy dinner this weekend (free to us) we discussed that while fun to get dressed up and drink cocktails we could have a very similar experience at home for A LOT CHEAPER. Though as Steve pointed out, we would still have to do the dishes.
- Goodbye monthly utilities. When we owned our sticks and bricks home we had the normal bills: Electricity, Gas, Water, Sewer, Garbage etc. (notice cable was not on this list). Now that we’re living full time in our Airstream we pay rent for our spot, electricity and the occasional propane bill when we run through the tanks. Water, Sewer, and Garbage are all free. So is cable (though we still don’t watch it). We’ll see how bad the electricity gets this summer but you have to remember that we are now cooling a 200 sq ft room instead of a 1500 sq ft house. Overall we’re going to come out way ahead.
- We’re spending less money on GAS. Now this one doesn’t directly relate to moving into our Airstream but it does relate to WHERE we decided to move it to. Steve works from home so his commute is minimal to say the least. I meanwhile have to commute into the office most days. I used to fill up the gas tank 4x a month on average for my 1 hour + in the car each workday. Now my total commute is 30 minutes and we fill up the car 2x a month. That’s a nice savings in both money and my time.
Hopefully the more time we spend in the Airstream, the less we will need and the more frugal we will become. Once we’re on the road we plan to boondock a lot and won’t even be paying those site fees or electricity. We will see how the budget progresses but so far, so good!