mortgage free

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Lydia’s Tiny House - She’s Mortgage Free at 22

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The build, start to finish, took her eight months; but she admits to taking some long breaks because the process was absolutely exhausting. In the fall when the house was finished, Lydia then 22 years of age owned her own self built house, outright!” – Tiny House Listings

Read and see more of La Casita: Lydia’s Tiny House.

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Debt-Free Living in Your Dream Home

Achieve debt-free living by following these readers’ advice on acquiring or building a home without a mortgage. Your dream home is within your reach if you pair patience with resourcefulness.

By Amanda Sorell

Photo by Roy Trembath
Our Goals and Plans (The Grand Dream, part 2)

This post is republished from the original blog. View the original post on

We have a dream, and we are working to make it a reality. The goal is to save enough money to buy a small piece of land, build a house, and eventually live a simple life taking care of our family, the land and our community… mortgage free and with very little outside income. Here is how we plan to make it happen!

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Some day…a nice piece of land for sale near Hayden, ID.

First, a disclaimer

I know that in the US there is a prevalent taboo about discussing any issues pertaining to money, especially in regards to talking about salaries and wages. While I understand that there may be many good reasons for this custom (such as the intention to avoid causing resentment and/or embarrassment), I also believe that it can also cause unintended harm. When people feel unable to discuss money, they are unable to learn from each other. We would never try to teach someone how to cook without telling them the amounts of each of the ingredients that you use, yet we often expect people to learn how to save, or invest, or to make important financial decisions without giving them specifics about how other people have made these decisions in the past.

For the story we are trying to tell, I believe that it is necessary for us to talk frankly about our finances. Otherwise talking about how we are are saving to buy a homestead and to live mortgage free would be vague and less than instructive.

So consider yourself warned…discussions of salaries and savings ahead!


Our timeline and benchmarks

Now that Nathan and I have a dream that we are working towards we have also laid out a timeline to reach that goal. It includes both financial benchmarks and concrete steps that we need to take to stay on track. Below are our mini-goals to help us get there!



Kristy’s Salary: Reed College Science Outreach Coordinator, $30,000
Nathan’s Salary: Part-time Natural Resources Technician at Tualatin Hills Parks & Rec, $12,000

I am including our salary information, so that you can get an idea of how much of our income we are saving. (Up to 60% at times. We aren’t exactly investment bankers… the education and resource management fields aren’t for those looking to get rich… so we have to save a pretty high percentage to make any progress on our goals. If you had a higher income, you might not need to put such a large percentage away). Our method might be a little more extreme than most people are willing to take on…but we have quite a few trick these days that allow us to save without feeling like we have to sacrifice too much. In future posts I will discuss just how we are able to save so much of our income.


  • Paid off student loans!

Next Steps:

  • Started Emergency Fund, (Goal $15,000)

Even though we hadn’t formally started to work towards the homestead in 2011, I am grateful that we made some sound financial decisions that made it much easier for us to start. I had my student loans paid off almost within a year of graduating (due in large part because I only had $10K in debt and I was able to pay about $5K with an education award I earned after my AmeriCorps service). I am also glad that we started contributing to an emergency fund early!

(Note: both Nathan and I were also regularly contributing about 10% of our income to an IRA at this point, and I soon had a 401K through my employer as well; however, I don’t plan to spend much time discussing these investments…but I am sure that I will be glad of them when I am older. I imagine even homesteaders want to slow down eventually!)



Kristy’s Salary: Reed College Science Outreach Coordinator, $30,300
Nathan’s Salary: Restoration Crew Member at Ashcreek Forest Management, $28,000

  • Opened up an online high-yield savings account for the emergency fund..

Completed Steps:

  • We started to make list of possible new home communities and visited Sequim, WA

This was mostly a year of gardening and learning. We kept putting away money in our emergency fund, and I put together a more detailed budget for us, but we didn’t have a specific financial plan beyond that. I read Mortgage Free!

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in the fall of 2012…which is when we started to crunch the numbers and to lay out a plan.



Kristy’s Salary: Reed College Science Outreach Coordinator, $30,300
Nathan’s Salary: Field Representative Trainee at Ashcreek Forest Management (until Sept), $20,000 then a Botanic Technician at Portland Parks & Recreation (from mid-Sept), $13,500

  • $15,000 Emergency Fund Completed

Next Steps: Started a Land Fund, (Goal $45,000)
Completed Steps: 

  • Set-up a budget, timeline & goals to realize our dreams! Started cutting expenses.
  • Narrowed the list of potential home communities and visited Bonners Ferry, ID.
  • Started this blog to document the journey!

This year we started getting serious about the homestead. We have started to break down what we need to do into tiny steps (including breaking down how much we need to save into smaller, & slightly less intimidating funds) and started to follow through on those steps!



Financial Goal:

  • Complete Land Fund ($45,000) by December for Nathan’s 30th birthday.
  • Start the House & Homestead Infrastructure Fund, (Goal $65,000)

Next Steps:

  • Decide which new community to call home.
  • Begin investigating possible home business ventures.
  • Begin land search for Nathan’s 30th birthday.
  • My parents retire…convince them that the homestead would be a nice place to retire! (We are also working to convince Nathan’s parents by the time they retire).

I based the idea of splitting up our funds from the book Mortgage Free!

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Before reading this book, I just planned to continue saving money until we felt we had enough to buy some land, build a house and move. However, as the author pointed out, your money is not nearly as vulnerable to inflation and low interest rates if you put it into land or other assets. So now the plan is to buy/build things in tiny steps as we save the money.



Next Steps:

  • Continue saving…
  • Buy land (if we find the right place!)



Next Steps:

  • Make frequent trips to observe the land in each season.
  • Design a homestead plan (including plans for a tiny starter house project)
  • Begin small homestead projects (building up soil fertility, adding/repairing fences etc.)

We are intrigued by the principles of permaculture. We especially like the idea of taking the time to plan and design the homestead and all of it’s elements based on the land’s characteristics.



Financial Goals:

  • Complete House & Infrastructure Fund ($65,000)
  • Start First Year Cushion Fund ($15,000)… a fund to live on until income streams become more reliable

Next Steps:

  • Build a tiny practice starter house
  • Start small infrastructure projects.

The idea of building a small starter house is another one from Mortgage Free! It will basically be a scaled down version of the house that we hope to build someday… largely so that we can learn from our mistakes before we scale up. Also, by starting with a small house we can hopefully build the structure in a shorter amount of time before we are able to live full time on the land. Once we move to the homestead, we will live in the small house for a year (or two) while be build up the homestead and build the permanent house. Once we move out of the starter house, we hope that it can be rented out as an additional income source (perhaps as a vacation cottage).



Financial Goals:

  • Complete First Year Cushion Fund ($15,000)

Next Steps:

  • Quit our jobs and move to the homestead!*


2018 and beyond

Next steps:

  • Build up homestead (the adventure begins!)
  • Begin building permanent house
  • Build additional home businesses and income streams


But wait you say, the only reason any of this is even maybe possible is because you don’t have kids. Yes, it is true that it will help that we don’t have children. I know that we could not save as quickly if we started a family before we moved to the homestead, but assuming we have any say in the timing of these things, we hope to begin to grow our family in the Spring of 2018…shortly before moving to the homestead…as if one big life change wasn’t enough in a year right? Not only will we be trying to live off of a drastically reduced salary, but we might be trying to do so with a new member in the family…we are quite possibly insane, but at least we won’t have to pay for child care!


The Tiny House Family | Hari and Karl Berzins

The Berzins family have been featured on the NBC Today Show & and Yahoo Finance for living beautifully and mindfully in 168 sq. ft.   

Since October of 2012 Hari and Karl, along with their two children have been completing a 1,400 sq. ft. “big” house… and from the the looks of recent photos it appears to be almost complete.

They are also enrolling now for their e-course in which offers planning, coaching and a private support network to clients ready to start a mortgage-free path.


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Extremely Downsize & Over Grow The System

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A growing number of people are choosing to shun the conventional option of a foundation, mortgage and spare room in favour of a house the size of the average suburban garage. So what exactly is a tiny house, why is it so appealing, and what is it like to actually live in one?” - Over Grow The System

Continue reading about Sizing up the tiny house movement

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People Young & Old Are Building Mortgage-free Lives in Tiny Homes

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When Sicily Kolbeck first told people she was planning to build her own house, they often assumed she meant a doll house. “I got a lot of, ‘That’s cute,’” Sicily recalls. In reality, Sicily, 13, aimed to become part of a burgeoning movement. Sicily didn’t have any construction expertise when she read about these scaled-down houses online and was inspired to build her own.” - BBC News

Read the complete story of Americans construct tiny houses – and new lives.

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Large Debt-Free Log Home Built by Hand

Not only has Roy Trembath built a debt-free home that’s larger than most — he also teaches others how they can do the same. Here is some of his advice.

By Roy Trembath 

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This is What Debt-Free Living Looks Like

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Since making the switch to a Tiny House, I have no debt. I have hardly any bills. I have very little house to clean and maintain. I don’t own any furniture, and own very little housewares. I have to write one check a month, to rent the land that I park my Tiny House on, and if I really wanted to I could get creative and find a land sitting situation to live on some land for nearly free. If I don’t like where I’m out, I can hitch up and move on along.” – Greg Parham from Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses

Read more about Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses at Tiny House Blog.

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This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Andrew and his wife, Gabriella, are the creators of hOMe, the 207 SF (+110 SF in lofts) modern tiny house on wheels.

They live and work in hOMe full time, off grid, and debt free. With the extra time and money that they have they travel and enjoy time together as a family.

Andrew Morrison has been a professional builder for 20 years and has been teaching people how to build their own homes in his hands on workshops since 2004. In that time he has personally taught over 1,400 participants how to hand craft their own homes and has seen again and again that anyone with passion and perseverance can build theirs too. Andrew and his family’s personal experience with tiny housing came while living in the “American Dream” home. Frustrated by feeling like slaves to it, they got rid of 90% of their worldly belongings, bought a pop up tent trailer and spent nearly five months reassessing what “home” meant to them while living in Mexico. 

more related posts to hOMe / plans and other resources

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Chris & Malissa, Committed to Home, But Not to a Mortgage

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They began their tiny house in early 2012, carefully photo and video documenting their build process to contribute to what was (at the time) a small group of blogs and websites on the subject. ” – Billy for PAD Tiny Houses

Read the interview with Chris & Malissa and their Unlikely Lives. Visit Chris & Malissa’s blog and see more of the Tiny Tack House.

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Cordwood Chapel at Kinstone Permaculture Academy

By Richard Flatau

In 2012 we were asked to help build a Cordwood Chapel at the Kinstone Permaculture Academy near Fountain City, Wisconsin (SW Wisconsin). We were grateful for the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of people who were in the process of establishing an infrastructure that would help fulfill the goal of spreading the news about permaculture, natural building and all manner of things. [Keep reading….]