The Hidden Costs of Tiny House Living

The Hidden Costs of Tiny House Living - picture of tiny red house

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There is a micro-dwelling movement sweeping across the country, affecting people faster than the zombie virus in World War Z. Have you seen Tiny House Nation on the FYI Network? The hosts John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin travel the country helping families to build and move into their new dream homes, places no larger than 500 square feet.

Thanks largely in part to shows like Tiny House Nation, and best-selling books like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, people are starting to truly embrace how a tiny home could transform their lives.

Families who have decided to downsize their homes and lifestyles are able to reallocate their money to the things in life that are most important to them, like traveling or moving closer to family.

If you have been bitten by the micro-dwelling bug and would like to change your housing situation to save some money, make sure to take all aspects of tiny house living into consideration. Although there’s no denying the overall cost saving benefits of living in in micro-dwelling, there are also hidden costs that can pop up. These hidden costs of living in tiny house may seem fairly inconsequential on their own, but added all together over the course of a year, these costs will take a fair bite out of your projected saved income.

Going to the Laundromat

At anywhere from 120-500 square feet, tiny houses typically don’t have their own washing machine. If you need to wash three loads per week at $1.50 per load to wash and $1.50 per load to dry, you will be spending $9.00 per week on laundry alone. That’s $36.00 per month (or about $470 per year) on washing and drying your clothes. This doesn’t even include the cost comparison of time and travel.

If you want to avoid the costs of weekly trips to a laundromat but still want to maintain your tiny house living situation, consider investing in a portable washing machine for your tiny house. Designed originally for boat houses and RV living, these tiny washing machines actually do a pretty great job at keeping your clothes clean…and you’ll have recouped the cost in about 6 months.

You will still need to use the laundromat for the occasional wash of bulky items, like blankets or beach towels, but portable washing machines are a great compromise between tiny house living and the affordability and convenience of having your own washing machine.

Cost Implications of Less Storage

Since there isn’t space for anything else, tiny house living requires that you live with only what you need to survive day to day. Unfortunately, there are some hidden costs here. For instance, smaller packaging for household goods usually costs more money than items bought in bulk because the price per unit shoots way up for smaller packages. You won’t have space to store a 60-roll jumbo pack of toilet paper in your tiny house, so you will end up spending more on toilet paper over the course of the year. While the price disparity won’t be too noticeable each time you go to the store, over the course of the year those costs can really add up.

Less Opportunity for Food Savings

Tiny house dwellers don’t have the space to store more than a few days’ worth of food in their tiny fridge and one food cabinet, so they need to travel to the grocery store more often. Unless you’re lucky enough to live within walking or biking distance to a farmer’s market or grocery store, these increased food trips will bump up your gas consumption. You also won’t be able to save money by stocking up on food when it goes on sale, so you’ll have to rely on what happens to be on sale that day or just pay full-price for the foods you prefer.

You Can’t Host Parties

One of the greatest advantages of living in a large home is having the ability to host large groups of people. You don’t have to rent out spaces for birthday parties, and you can comfortably sleep the entire family when they visit for the holidays. When you live in a tiny house, at most, you will only be able to host one or two extra people.

Also, unless you have a large piece of property that your tiny house sits on, you won’t be able to host parties or celebrations. You will have to spend the money to reserve space somewhere else. Another consideration is catering costs for these events, since you won’t be able to cook for large numbers of people in your tiny house kitchen.

You Need to Rent a Lot

Unless you already have title in hand for property, you will have to lease land or find a place to park your tiny house. Make sure to research the cost of living in the area you wish to settle your tiny house so that you will be able to accurately project your cost of living.

Pros vs. Cons

You may not have thought about any of these hidden costs before considering a living in a tiny house, but take heart, tiny house living still wins the overall budget battle.  Even with all of these expenses combined, you will still be cutting down on energy expenses and your cost per square foot of living. Also, even though you won’t have space to store things in bulk or on sale food items, you will be consuming everything you buy, so your food waste will most likely go way down once you make your move to a tiny house.

If you see yourself in a tiny house, weigh the pros and cons, and go into your micro-dwelling lifestyle armed with a budget that will accurately reflect your new living situation.

Save on Home Repairs

Any time you have a house, tiny or otherwise, you’re going to have some expenses. If you’re planning a home project but need some extra cash, why pay interest?

The Chase Slate® Card is one of the best credit cards for home repairs and renovations. You’ll enjoy a 0% APR for the first 15 months after you sign up, so it is perfect to help you get started on your next home project. Plus, it’s the only card I know of that has no balance transfer fees for the first 60 days – which is great if you are trying to pay off high-interest credit card debt. So, if you’re planning a new renovation or need to eliminate high-interest balances, the Chase Slate® Card may be for you.

Kristi Muse is a family finance writer who loves talking about strategies to save money, get out of debt, and live a frugal life. She shares her experiences about debt, parenthood, and life as a law-enforcement family on her blog Moderate Muse. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Every time I clean our house, I tell my husband that I’m going to sell everything, and we’ll move into a Tiny House, but I think our small house works just fine. Even though Tiny houses have some ingenious built in storage, I prefer having the option to keep things like tools, sports equipment and bikes around (oh and laundry- such a great point!)

    1. I agree! I want a tiny house, but I don’t necessarily need it to move. My husband and I agree that a house between 800-1000 square feet would be perfect for our family of four + two large dogs. We like taking advantage of outdoor activities, so we have quite a bit in our sheds and on our patio.

      1. A tiny house is usually under 300 sq ft, you are more or less talking about a 2bed 2 bath home… NOT a tiny house.

        1. In the post I am talking about a tiny house. In my response, I am aware that 800 sq. ft. is not a tiny house. I simply suggest that that is the smallest size home my family could comfortably live in at this point.

        2. Sara Browning says:

          I think 4 people and 2 large dogs in an 800 sq ft house IS a tiny house.

        3. I don’t know that less than 300 sq feet is the criteria for qualifying for a “tiny home”. In my mind, and I do believe that definition is subjective, anything smaller than 800 sq ft would qualify.

        4. Jason Shepard says:

          The technical definitions of “tiny” and “small” houses are as follows (in accordance with the American Tiny House Association):

          Tiny: 1-400 square feet
          Small: 401-1000 square feet

          While the “feeling” of the house might be subjective, the legal definition is not.

          1. And this association gets to define the “legal” standard? Please. The article itself puts the upper limit at 500sf, so THAT source is as subjective as any other.

            When I was in the service, the DoD decided that minimum space per service member was 100sf, anything less was substandard. So a family of 4 (and allowing 1/2 the space for the 2 large dogs) would come in at 450sf, by that standard. I think that would be a reasonable goal for the OP to shoot for.

            (I also don’t aspire to that “tiny” level, my daughter & I could do well with 400-450sf……WITH a W/D stack unit, and my own take on personal bath space.)

          2. Jason Shepard says:

            Actually, Mark, they do. You see, they represent the Tiny House Community at Large within the legal and political spheres. The reason for the 400 square foot upper limit on tiny houses is that it fits within the already-extant definitions of a Park Model RV, making adapting legislation to the Tiny House Movement far simpler and making local council objections to tiny houses fall flat on their face. Maybe if you did some research (including ATHA’s own website), you’d have already known this and would have come across so ignorant.

          3. I would be willing to bet that the ATHA is nothing more than a few guys working out of a shipping container somewhere. 160 sf

          4. Jason Shepard says:

            Well, then, you’d be wrong. Before shooting a reply off at the hip, you might want to do some actual research first.

            By the way, the 400 square foot figure for Tiny Homes was specifically chosen because that’s the same square footage that is the maximum qualifier for a Park Model RV. Therefore, it makes regulatory adjustments far simpler and can actually allow for THOW’s to be “grandfathered in” under existing regulatory framework for Park Model RV’s – reducing costs and simplifying the changes to public policy.

          5. I just moved into a 12 by 40 foot trailer to me that is Tiny even for one person

    2. My idea of having a tiny home includes a small shed to house over stock and my laundry facility. There are things I just can’t purge like family photo albums (pictures that go back 70 years) so I know I will have additional storage for the absolute must haves. My garden tools, equipment, laundry and a few small keepsakes that cannot be replaced. *problem solved.

  2. I never thought about the laundry aspect- that would be a huge drawback right there! Even though they are cute, I’m not sure we could ever live in a tiny house- partly because my hubby is a pack rat, but partly because I think I’d go crazy in such a small space! Kudos to those who can do it though!

    1. If it was just me and my husband I think we could do live in a tiny house, but I would most definitely go crazy with two young kids and two large dogs! Sigh. Some day!

    2. That’s why I would prefer container homes, u can make it as big or small as u want and u can add on later 🙂

      1. I agree Ramona. Container homes make way better living spaces. Two 40 ft. containers give you nearly 640 sf. and you can always add more. And lets face it who has a truck large enough to pull a tiny house around the country anyway. The truck would cost you another 40K or more.

  3. Tiny and Giant houses have pros and cons, in my mind my ideal house is a tiny but well furnished home where I can invite some friends for a dinner and have space for my laundry machine….

    1. That sounds like my dream home right now =] I love hosting people for dinner, so we would need space for at least four other people to sit at our table.

  4. Those items not withstanding, I still think my family would live better in a tiny house. We couldn’t do a 150sf, but something in the 500-600sf range would work just fine. I’ve spent a ton of time on boats smaller than that 🙂

    Hope you have a great weekend

    1. I think 600 square feet would work really well for a small family! I would move onto a house-boat that size in a heart beat!.

      1. bem franklin says:

        i love that most of these “hidden costs” are based on costco-living, which is pretty much the opposite of tiny house living. this article largely just begs the question instead of offeeing any real insight. also not being able to host a party is not a “hidden cost”. i do agree about the rental thing, though it seeems most peiple are buying plots for their homes. please stop with the click-bait.

        1. This post isn’t meant to be click bait, just sparking discussion about a current trend. Since you and others have decided to jump into a discussion, I’d call the post a success.

          1. LOL…I agree Kristy! Your point about laundry is a good one, although I do think you have estimated very low costs. I am a travel nurse, and live in my 417 sq ft 5th wheel. It contains my husband, myself, and our dog, and yes, on occasion a couple of dinner guests! We can accommodate that with ease! We also are able to cook well, both of us in the kitchen. It does require some pre planning and ingenuity. In terms of stocking up on foods, we carry with us a 7 cu ft freezer, we have a 23 cu ft side by side fridge, and our bins underneath hold huge packages of toilet paper and paper towels! The point is, it can be done. You have to be organized and committed. It would be even easier if we were “planted” somewhere. But to me, the whole point is eliminating “stuff” in your life. Living small means placing value selectively, and carefully. Good post! Thank you!

  5. As long as you have the right set up, it seems that tiny houses can make sure of their outdoor surroundings as extra living space and space for hosting get-togethers. You’re absolutely right to point out that there are hidden costs in everything.

    1. Great point! The outdoors of any space always acts as an extension for get-togethers.

  6. On one of the tiny house shows, I saw a couple have to buy a new truck to pull their house around. I think you can save money going tiny but it’s probably no cheaper than buying a small fixer upper in the right market.

    1. I agree! Some people spend $50,000 or more on building a custom tiny home. You can purchase small homes at auction for less than that.

      1. DUDE are you paid to comment on EVERY post or what!? OH and BTW this post is bullshit. Who in their right mind buys 60-fing rolls of toilet paper at once!!! It take me a week and a half to use four rolls. also I can fit SIX MONTHS worth of food in a tiny house with no problem at all even room to spare. The person who wrote this article has no idea what they are talking about. AND you can park in the wal-mart parking lot overnight for free and they acctually encourage it !

        1. I’m assuming you don’t have a family of four or more? A tiny house wouldn’t be economical (or at least enjoyable) for families with more than two people in a shared space.

        2. You use 4 rolls of T-paper in a week and a half?? That is a lot!!! I thought it was just your mouth that was running over.

        3. Nice — judging everyone who might read this article by your own standard of living. Step aside and sit down, grown folks are talking here.

      2. There is no way you could ever get a house for that price around here. A house in running condition in my small town is at least 250 000$. Your statement is so reagional.

    2. Greg Sanderson says:

      Or rent a truck/ u-haul to move it.
      As long as the width is under 8.5 feet. Check with your state dmv.

  7. Good post Kristi. I wrote a similar post for US News a few months ago – I really admire the movement (especially in terms of less waste, living frugally, etc.) but I think many overlook the cost component. They get swept up in the idea of living in a tiny house and don’t stop to realize it’s not necessarily going to be cheaper on every front. With three kids, a tiny house will never be for us.

    1. I’m with you, John. As much as I like to daydream about living in a tiny house, it just wouldn’t be possible right now.

  8. One other consideration that I’ve often thought of is that, assuming you have more than one person living there, you have a definitely lack of privacy, or at least it becomes tougher. Many people need some quiet or private time, and less space can provide for some challenges if proper attention isn’t given to this consideration.

    1. That’s a great point! Many reserved and quiet people need the space for some quiet decompression at the end of the day. Being away from others helps regroup for the next day.

    2. And if we can be frank here — everybody farts. Not for nothing, I think that might be among the top oversights in considering co-habitation in a tiny house!

      1. Lisa Baughman says:

        So true! and too funny!( of course it’s way more funny to read about than to experience in small spaces!) and don’t forget about our precious dogs doig the same! this has me in stitches!

  9. I could not imagine living without a laundry machine. I did it in college and for a few years after and don’t want to do it again! ha I’m not sure a tiny one would cut it either. Especially not if you live somewhere where the weather gets cold!

    1. I agree. Tiny machines are great for single people or people who live in multi-level walk ups or have health problems that prevent them from carrying large sacks of laundry down the street to the laundromat.

    2. They have a dual washer and dryer now (one machine). Just put laundry in at night and have clean dry laundry in the A.M.

  10. Excellent points, didn’t think about how less storage can cost you money in a tiny house. The key is definitely finding the right size house for you to optimize housing expenses.

    1. Absolutely! Everyone needs to find that sweet spot for their own finances and living situation.

  11. Interesting points. I never thought of those. Then again, both my husband and I are home all day every day. So mini-dwelling isn’t for us! Although I will say that people tiny houses could also build a shed so that they could stock up on non-perishables. Assuming that doesn’t somehow defeat the purpose of the endeavor.

    1. A shed could be a great way to find balance if you own the land your tiny house sits on. Many of the tiny house movement people like having the ability to get up and go, though.

  12. We are sort of in a tiny house – we are in our RV. I don’t see us doing this FOREVER, but for the next year or two I can do 🙂

    1. I think an RV definitely qualifies! It sounds like a great short-term adventure! I’m not sure I could do RV living indefinitely, either.

  13. No thanks!

    We already have 4 people in 1200 sq ft. That\’s tiny enough for us.

    I don\’t see the point of the McMansions many people build here in Silicon Valley, but there are always people interested in going to extremes, one direction or the other. I just focus on what matters most to us.

    1. Going to the extreme in either direction can have consequences, for sure. Focusing on what matters most to you as a family is the best strategy!

  14. I love the idea of tiny houses but, I’m not sure I’m tidy enough for a space that small. 🙂

    I admit, I hadn’t thought about the laundry aspect… That’ll definitely add to your living expenses.

    1. When I lived in a small (not tiny) house, I actually found that it was easier to keep tidy. Everything had its place or it got out of hand quickly. We also owned less. Now that we live in a bigger rental (we had to move) it’s so much harder to keep our house in order.

  15. I can imagine living in a small house only if I\’m single and work a 9 to 5 job. That way I\’m only coming home to sleep.

    1. Great point! If you’re lifestyle doesn’t require you to be home much, then the tiny house movement would probably be a better choice. Why spend thousands of dollars every month on a home you don’t spend any time in?

      1. Lisa Baughman says:

        Kristy~ i love how you are able to get your point across in a pleasant manner. i bet youre enjoyable to be around in person. its hard to express our thoughts through texting and similar concepts, without having people get offensive( and usually unnecessarily)not everyone needs to be 100% agreeable, (that would be wierd!)but there will be negative comments about any and everything. i just was noticing in this particular post that it’s easier to ignore the negative ones when there are people like you to “neutralize”. so, thanks! 🙂

  16. As someone who has lived in a property without a washing machine for the last few years I can certainly attest to how expensive this can be. What’s more, it’s pretty impractical too. Our local laundromat is *busy* so I would get there as early as possible. It always seemed sad to set the alarm on a Saturday, to head down there with all our clothes, and then sit there half asleep for an hour or two doing all the washing and drying.

    These days we now have a washing machine and it’s saving us so much money and time each week you wouldn’t believe it!

  17. Very interesting post. It’s easy to assume that everything would be cheaper with a smaller house, but some extra space can be really useful when you take the time to think about it. Currently, we’re making the most of a smaller home because our children are young. As they get bigger and we add a fourth child, we will need to move to a bigger house. However, we’ll never go for the McMansion. Everything in moderation, right?

  18. There are solutions to all of these. A lot of tiny homes have full or apartment size refrigerators. Laundry hook up is possible and you can get a good size washer/dryer combo. Both of these things fit well in tiny homes if they’re designed right. A small shed could be used for bikes, tools, and things like a lawnmower, a lot of people have these in their backyard even with bigger homes. If this is something you think you want, just do some research, I’m sure you’ll find a lot of great design ideas that can include everything important to you.

    1. I agree, Candice! If you have your heart set on living in a tiny house, there are absolutely ways to make it work.

  19. We’ve downsized to about 850sf for 2 adults and 2 kids and it’s the perfect size. Small enough that we’ve had to radically eliminate the clutter and junk but big enough that we still have a full laundry room and a bathroom with a tub! I’ve converted an old closet into my office – called a Cloffice! It’s only 2 bedrooms so our boys will have to share a room (the baby is currently in with us) but I think that trade off is worth it for us as we plan to travel three to six months of every year. I couldn’t live in a tiny house, I always wonder about the land as you’d be leasing land and that arrangement could be difficult to source.

  20. We lived in a 850 sq. foot house with 2 adults + 2 kids + 2 dogs. We had a lot of land and a garage so storage wasn’t an issue. We had enough space to store bulk paper towel and household items. We had enough space for full size washer, dryer and dishwasher. We compromised on fridge space and that was a PITA. Now we are in a larger house and have a full-size fridge. I definitely enjoy having a regular freezer. It all comes down to choices though. If we had eliminated the dishwasher, we could have fit a regular fridge in the 850sq. house.

    1. I know exactly how you feel. We had a full-size fridge in our 890 sq. ft. home and there was hardly any space left for anything else.

  21. I’ve been intrigued by the tiny house idea, and if were 23 years old again, I think I’d be all over it. But you do make some good points that I hadn’t considered. Maybe a better answer would be a a house just large enough to accommodate a washer/dryer, decent-sized fridge, and some reasonable storage. With respect to lack of space to host large parties, to me that’s a plus. 🙂 Also, I suspect the storage space in many people’s ‘full-size’ homes is like ours: filled mostly with stuff we never use, don’t need, and in many cases have forgotten even exists. Compact storage may save money in that we lose the ability to accumulate such crap! 🙂

    1. Kurt, ” a house just large enough to accommodate a washer/dryer, decent-sized fridge, and some reasonable storage” sounds like my dream home.

    2. Yes you are so right. We lived in a 33 ft 5th wheel RV it had everything we needed. We thought about THINGS before we purchased. If a had land right now I would be in a tiny house not an apt. Someone else owns .

  22. I’m glad the author acknowledges that even though these are potential costs ( because some are surely not) that tiny houses are still farore efficient when it comes to speaking about dollars.

    The laundry mat argument is lost on me as I live in an apt and there are lots and lots of people who do an already manage this task.
    Plus I’ve seen tiny houses sport actual sized dual washers and dryers so its not a for sure problem.

    The other issue I found slightly foolish to take into account t is throwing parties. You should always take into consideration all possibilities but you really shouldn’t be planning you purchase on the occasional occurance of hosting a party or people.

    Just like you shouldn’t buy a truck just because you need to haul a Christmas tree once a year , you shouldn’t plan around parties unless it’s a frequent occurance.

    The only one people really need to be serious and think about is parking there home. That is an actual serious cost that could be in the 1000/ month range.

  23. I’m not the slightest bit interested in a tiny house; however your laundry calculations fail to take into account #1 the cost of the washing machine and dryer. They cost roughly $400 each on the low end, and last about 10 years, meaning the capital cost is at least $80 per year if you buy a new washer and dryer. You have to put water in the washer, and pay for electricity or gas to run them. I have no idea what those costs are, but they aren’t free.

  24. I understand that a tiny house is not for everyone but I’ve lived for many years in a 350 sqft apt and I had none of these issues.
    I had a washer/dryer, I hosted parties and because I saved so much on rent vs a bigger place, the extra 5%-10% on commodities was totally worth it.
    Granted that it works only in large cities like NYC or Chicago, you’d have more challenges living closer to nature, and if you’ve got kids it could become challenging very quickly.
    But I respect people you have the option of more and decide they’d be happy with less. At least it forces them to not accumulate too much crap over the years! (guilty myself)

  25. Nice article! Rarely considered costs that one would never think about. I had considered tiny living and at first glance, it seems like a huge money saver, but in reality, as you pointed out, when you factor in the hidden and surprise costs, it may be more of a money pit.

    Laura Beth

    1. These are a bit out of date….guy in australia just came out with a 1.5×1 foot washer that is foot peddle operated. (no jeans or sweaters) and then what about the space under the trailer for storge….if not then a tarp outside. In canada you could leave your food outside locked up for half the year….plus thw new ideas with storage, instairs, hollow walls..etc

      As per hosting parties…..chairs outside or a firepit providing in the area to do so.

      Seams like a silly article because these things are do-able if you are in the mindset of making a downsize change

  26. I agree that people should weigh the pros and cons, but I disagree with the things this article suggests that a tiny house can’t have.

    I don’t know how much experience this person has with living tiny, but my husband and I have been doing it for 2 years. We’re on the bigger side (300 s.f.), but we have a washer&dryer, I couldn’t do it without them. We host parties a lot, actually, we just spend more time outside. We have a full sized fridge, and a small shed outside. So, we are able to store stuff like our bikes, lawn equipment, extra food, and our extra cleaning supplies. When we finish school, we plan to buy a big plot of land and put the house on it, but for now our land lease is less than 1500 per year for just over an acre. We also have 2 large dogs and a cat living in the house with us. We’ve had 3 people stay overnight with us before, though that’s not too terribly many. We go shopping about twice a month, but can go about a two months before our food storage is exhausted. We still have more stuff than we need. I just wish we had a loft area like some other tiny houses do, if we did, we could easily go smaller.

    1. Sorry for the grammatical errors. I didn’t proof read it very well.

  27. The answer to the laundry issue is to handwash and airdry. Go to Amazon for a MobileWasher and the NinaSoft spindryer; they’ll pay for themselves in a few short months and don’t take much room to store. I wash in the bathtub and dry on hangers from the shower rod. Clothesline would be preferred for drying, for those not in the city.

    Handwashing this way is simple, cheap and kind of a fun light workout. Won’t work for quarterly blanket/bedspread wash and bathtowels are a bit of a hassle unless you have pestemals; but I do all clothes, kitchen linen and full-size bedsheets (sheets one at a time). Everything is cleaner, less wrinkly and smells fresher.

    Folks with a lot of kids will shake their heads, but -for singles/couples- it’s a wonderful solution.

  28. Storage is no problem everyone needs a shed for yard tools. Have a room seperate for household goods. Too freakin easy.

  29. Is a tiny house 300sq ft or less? ?I don’t know. But my husband and I are empty nesters now. Our son and his wife live in China and we are visiting them for 3 months. My husband and I currently living in about 530sq ft. We love it! This apartment has 2 small bdrms, one is used as a small office and the other believe it or not has a king sized bed with one tiny night stand and one double wardrobe and a single shelf wardrobe the rm size being about 8’x12′. A western toilet and shower (very important to have here)! Now regarding that washer … We have a small one that sits under the counter. And you may or may not know this but America is one of a very few countries that use dryers. So with that said our clothes hang outside to dry. But that’s another story all together! And for more suggestions and ideas with regards storage, shopping even energy savings take a look a some of my Pinterest boards. As empty nesters this apartment works great. And I am seriously thinking about building a smaller a.k.a tiny house. Regarding raising a family with two children, boy and girl, I think 1,000sq ft would be my minimum ?
    P.S. Remember when tiny homes were called “cottages”?

    1. Ma Kettle says:

      Agreed! I’m from the (rural) prairies and all my peers grew up in small homes in households averaging 5 persons and a cat. (We all had dogs but some kept them outdoors all the time.) With those homes, the livable space may have been small and even sometimes tiny but the UN-livable space made it possible: unheated, uninsulated basements were often little more than a pit under the house but the furnace and water heater (if you had one)occupied that space and a crate of potatoes and shelves for preserves were there, too. Small is still the norm in many small towns: why build a $100K house (I know that’s low) when small older properties can be found for $5K? Really.

      1. 5000$ house omg. You cant even get a lot here for less than 10 times that.

  30. Hi Greg,
    Thank you for writing this article. It is good for people to consider every aspect of tiny living before making the commitment. I do feel compelled to bring up a few things in your research that aren’t quite accurate about tiny homes.

    Many tiny homes on wheels have a residential washer/dryer combo installed in them. It’s quite common and it’s a much better solution than a portable washer that’s bulky and has no where to live when not in use.

    Not everyone buys in bulk regardless of their home size. If prospective tiny-home owners are not buying in bulk before they move into a tiny home, then there will be no difference in cost after they transition.

    Not sure why you think tiny homes have tiny refrigerators, but there are many with apartment size and full size fridges. Also, lot’s of people don’t eat packaged foods, which are just about the only kind you can stock up on. If you’re eating fresh fruits and veggies, fresh breads, eggs etc, you’re used to going to the grocery store every few days. Healthy eating does cost more than cheap, pre-packaged food. But if you care about your health, it’s worth the extra cost. Also, they’re are very few tiny homes with just one cupboard.

    Sometimes you do need to rent a lot. In fact, my company is starting the first tiny home community in our area and we will rent lots to tiny-home owner who don’t have a place for their tiny home. Even with lot rent, a tiny home is far less, at least in our area, than traditional housing.

    That being said, tiny house living isn’t for everyone. If you’re the type of person that buys in bulk, eats pre-packaged food, does a ton of laundry, and throws lots of big parties every year, it’s possible that you really do need, want, and prefer a larger more traditional style home…and that’s o.k.

    1. Hey Janet,
      Thanks for adding your two cents to the conversation! (I didn’t write the piece, though. It was a guest contributor 😉 )

    2. adaywithatinyhousewife says:

      Hi Janet,
      I know his is an old blog but this is my first time seeing it. Thank you for your comment. My husband and I live in a 130 sq ft tiny house and it’s a bit frustrating for me to read this blog that in reality is a biased or one sided viewpoint that the author wrote about based on the only research they came up with or know about and that was in relation to their living conditions. I agree though the information is not wrong, it is not completely accurate…and that is why I say it’s a one sided opinion. Most do not live a Costco lifestyle. Most do not throw large parties in their home. Etc. Going to a laundromat is not the only option when living tiny. Not everyone eats packaged foods. Based on reviewing the comments it seems the target audience for this article is for those who like the trend “idea” of tiny houses but are completely opposite from the simpler lifestyle of tiny huse living. What’s frustrating for me the most is that majority of the commenters on this blog who agree with the article seemed to be those who do not live or really know the TINY lifestyle but only admire it and the actual TINY home dwellers are those that disagree with this article and/or can help complete it with more accurate options. Those who truly desire to live a different lifestyle(no matter the direction) will find a way. Yes there are many different factors that can hinder a person from pursuing certain roads i.e.: a spouse doesn’t want the same dream or 2 or more kids + dogs+ parents won’t fit in less than 400 sq ft comfortably. My husband and I live in 130 sq ft tiny house on wheels. You can rent a Uhaul to tow the house instead of buying an expensive truck. We’ve done it. Doing Laundry in our home was/is a must for us so we purchased a discounted but new washer/dryer combo machine meant for efficiency apartments. we love it and I would not desire to go back to 2 separate units. The only that doesn’t fit is our king size down comforter., which I take to the dry cleaners anyway. We eat mostly Whole Foods and therefore only stock up on what will last us before it would go bad. (Did you know: eggs can sit on the counter and don’t HAVE to be refrigerated?). We have plenty of room for our dry stock items and there are ways to to plan ahead before building to make sure one has enough storage options for those items they MUST stock up on. I can stock about 14 rolls of toilet paper in our bathroom. Also it has been mentioned by another tiny house dweller that having a separate moderate size storage shed for tools and overstock of food or other items works well. We have AC, we have a tiny wood stove, we didn’t include a tub because we only take showers but having a tub is possible. My friends live in a 399 sq ft tiny house on wheels and they are bigger built people with a little boy and a dog and seem to have just what they NEED and are quite content. We have hosted a large gathering once before and yes of course it was outside in the summer weather but life was not lost because we couldn’t have it in the tiny house and in our kitchen. Yes there are more conveniences to living larger but are not necessary to enjoy life. We had a 1300 sq ft home prior to living tiny and we decided that we wanted more to our life than working to pay for a larger home we didn’t need…because we don’t have multiple kids and dogs running around. Pursuing a simpler and tiny living lifestyle has enabled us to pay off unnecessary debt, work less, spend more time together and spend more time for the more important things. We are able to be free of “stuff” or refuse, afford the items needed with better quality, spend less time cleaning etc. There really are no “hidden” expenses but only a swapping of costs if not reduced costs. Unless you own your land and home outright, there will be a cost for it. But for the average person this cost will most likely be less for someone living in a THOW than for someone paying a mortgage or monthly rent. This is not ALWAYS the case of course…there are those who have had the awesome privilege of finding a nice modest home that costs them hardly anything and probably costs less than living a THOW. We have experienced moving many times as well as living long term in one spot with our THOW and have paid up to $300 for a place to park. And now we are fortunate to not have to pay any rent for land. We’ve never had to park in an RV park (too expensive and too close to others for our taste). We currently pay any difference to the land owners water and electric which has been extremely minimal, the land owner says they barely notice a difference. We are working towards solar power. We built or THOW ourselves and it cost us about 18k and that included purchasing a used truck for $900. Overall the “hidden” costs of living tiny listed in this article are not really relevant(or road blocks) to those actually making changes to live in a THOW. The only other thing I think I can add is that though it’s possible for everyday living, 130 sq ft size THOW can be a bit tight sometimes for 2 people. I by no means am trying to speak poorly of this article but I would not use this article as a basis in research for considering whether to live TINY or not.

  31. I live in a tiny house..i have a stackable washer and dryer..and a can food unit on wall so I still buy in bulk..a bookcase is great for storing health and beauty items (and paper) it can be done

  32. Elizabeth says:

    The one thing that they never talk about on these time house shows is the water and sewer connections? There must be tanks that you store this in or at least places to dump. Driving around you have to store this. Where? Washing machine and shower water to say nothing about cooking and dish washing. Personally small is small enough for me. If you want to go tiny why not rv or camper. They have already worked out all these bugs.

    1. That’s what I’ve been wondering, Elizabeth. I watch Tiny House Nation and they never talk about fresh and used water storage. One website I visited said their tiny houses on wheels need to be hooked up to utilities or external storage tanks.

    2. Rv and campers are not suitable to winter living due to the condensation. I lived on site at work one year and we ran a long hose from the pumphouse for water and had a storage tank for extra sewage which we would dumb every week or two. The other issue with the trailer was the lack of enough hot water.

    3. adaywithatinyhousewife says:

      Hi Elizabeth,
      I am a THOW owner and actually it’s not always possible to live year round in an RV where there are seasons. There is a problem with breathability and therefore mold becomes a problem. Also, with RVs you have to connect to a specific connection for sewer/water and electric. So therefore are limited to where one may park/live. With a THOW like ours we have choices. We can choose to use solar power, pull water from a well, plug into the average power outlet, drain our water to our garden so nothing is wasted, use a composting toilet to save on water(and is WAY easier and cleaner to deal with than the RV sewer system). The composting system can be thrown out with the dog or cat poo or have a separate humanure composting pile system going for later reuse for plants(or with some composting toilets just turned to ash). With careful research and diligence composting is safe and possible and truly not difficult. Here is where I would say the “exchange” or swapping of costs would come into play(maybe but not necessarily “hidden”): So instead of paying for the large water usage in a regular flushing toilet, a composting toilet will need an $11 bag of peat moss about every 2-3 months depending on usage and depending on the type of composting toilet there may be bags needed. Still one thing of bags maybe every 6 months costs about $8. Still this being less than paying for water each month. Getting enough hot water…we find that having a 4 gallon hot water tank with a “low flow” shower head affords us enough time for a nice shower. It only takes less than 30 min to reheat the entire tank and we can adjust the temperature quite easily to save power or just not have scalding water. If one is wanting an offgrid system, get a 70 gallon water trough, put in a unit that keeps the water from freezing(it also heats it like a hot tub!) and/ or use a garden composting system to cover the water line and heat the water coming through. Both these systems are easy and work very well to provide a lot more hot water! We used these systems while living in the Colorado winters. About 13-14 yrs ago I was considering living in an RV but when I discovered the THOW living option via Jay Schafer, did research and compared the pros and cons to both, I found that THOW was the better option for me…and really for a lot of people. Anyway, in life there is always room for improvement no matter the task! Hope this was helpful(even a year later ?).

  33. I love the thought of the tiny house living. I as a now single 50 yof has sold everything that I had in my big home and in the process of having 624sqft tiny house built. That includes a loft and laundry in the bathroom. It will tiny but OMG I’m so excited….no more clutter and no more high electric bills.

  34. Many of these points are easily refutable, as professional tiny home builders are popping up all over, most catering to the affluent middle class who want to jump on the tiny bandwagon, but not give up their comforts. These manufactured tiny homes often include full-size appliances, small (but not tiny) stackable washers and dryers, and while they are often short of kitchen cabinet storage, they generally have storage under stairs, in 2or 3 closets, and large lofts in addition to beds for 2 to 4 people downstairs. I have toured a number of these homes, all 400 sq. ft. That did not include the good-sized outdoor decks added onto these models. True, you could not entertain more than a few people at a time inside, but if you have done any amount of reading on the subject, as well as watching any of the plethora of television shows that are cropping up, you know that many tiny home dwellers entertain outdoors. As far as large celebrations are concerned, such as weddings or large family reunions, most people I know don’t have room in their conventional homes for such events, and would be planning on booking a church, hall, or other venue, anyway, so that does not seem like a “hidden cost” to me.

    That said, I am pleased to see this article, even though it is too short for me to use in the college writing classes I teach, simply because it dares to point out that not everything about living in a tiny home is better than living in a conventional home. I could add my own downsides to your list, but I will save them for my own venues. Thanks for a thought-provoking read.

  35. I’ve seen a lot of tiny house shows that have tons of storage, a washer/dryer combo, etc. I’ve seen many that have plenty of open space for a folding table and chairs for parties. If planned out right, I think there’s a lot you can do with a tiny house. I would definitely need a shed or something for holiday storage and a few things that I’m just not willing to give up.

  36. I am a futur tiny home owner. Ive been interested and have lived in small spaces since before it was popular. This article seems very poorly researched. We did almost all our shopping at costco when I lived in a travel trailler for a summer. Also as a woman a lot of my clothes is handwash and my spin dryer is already my best friend. With a clothes line who needs a dryer. Also tiny houses can host people over just not 20 plus people. With a bbq you can cook for a crowd too not a problem with a little planning. Pretty much every point on here can easily be refuted. It would have been nice to have this article written by someone who actually lives in a tiny house .

  37. Isn’t a tiny home a glorified RV. RVs are MADE for moving around on the open road, with built- in with necessities.

    1. Jason Shepard says:

      Meme, RV’s are made from fiberglass and aluminum in most cases. They are poorly insulated and easily damaged. Tiny Houses on Wheels (THOWs) are made to normal stick-built house standards from wood or steel construction and utilize standard insulation for far better energy/thermal performance. RV’s tend to lack real storage space, while many THOWs are now being built with loads of storage (built-in under stairs, under beds, inside the seats of banquettes, etc). RV’s are designed to move regularly whereas THOWs are designed to move only occasionally.

      There are significant differences between the two. Hopefully, this helps you understand them a bit.

  38. Soo, my husband, myself , plus our 2 large dogs & I tiny diva dog live in a home that is 2brd 2bth. Essentially one Bdrm, and one complete whole extra bathroom that gets cleaned every single week, yet not nearly as often as it is used, plus one full open bedroom that stores Extra Junk!! Stuff that you simply keep at a certain point due to the thought? “If I threw out all this extra, than what ever Can I do to find all that is needed VS all that is wanted?? It would seem to me that since the introduction to the Tiny House Nation, that some or even just one representative of our states would grab onto the concept of helping others with a hand up!! Why not lease a large government plot of. Land, build say 15-20 per piece of land space. Tiny dwellings. All that feed INTO one giant well base for water, and as well one Main giant septic system to accommodate those above houses, why not offer exceptionally low level cost for someone to pay rent to. Would that not be one of the best or helping hands way out of very large cities dire and ever growing rate of Homeless families who have taken their only source of personal safety to be their own personal camping tent, that gets sprung up ANYWHERE within and outside of the direct downtown area. A community that works together to keep it a giving growing land space, while teaching skills plus providing warm shelter to those who need it most.

  39. One cost rarely mentioned is that most states require that anything on wheels needs license plates, priced based on value and weight, renewable every year.

  40. My husband and I lived in the woods for a year in a 150 sqft home with no plumbing. I might consider doing a tiny house again in the future but it wouldn’t at all be like we did it last time. For one, we originally we’re doing it with the cheap-cost-of-living = freedom mindset. In the end it was just endlessly limiting, at least for us. Ever discsion is made with the reality check of, “There’s only 150 sqft”. If we owned another tiny house in the future it would be an addition to a full life and not a substitute for one.

    Here’s a video of the tiny house when we first bought it and moved in. It cost us $3K for the shell of the shed and maybe another $2k to make it livable, plus we bought the land too. In the end, the experience was well worth the money spent but I wouldn’t have go into it the way we did if I would have known the outcome of selling it a year later.

  41. Interesting article. This is a reality check for anyone thinking abiut getting a tiny house to save money, haha.

    It’s always the small costs and expenses that you never think about that always eat away at your saving. I find tiny houses to be very intriguing though.

    Thanks for sharing!

  42. I’m sorry many of these comments have been nasty! I would love to live in a tiny home but, I believe I already do. I have 7 people in our family and a dog and cat. We live in a 800 sq ft trailer home and I’ve been informed lately that it doesn’t count because 800 sq ft isn’t tiny. Tell that to my kids. I think that some people in this movement are snobs trying to be perceived as do gooders on a mission. While I get the attempt, I’m disturbed at all the snark. Poor people have been living in mobile homes and trailers for ages. But, that doesn’t count because it too extravagant space hoggie for them. How pretentious! So, while people piss and moan over sq footage there are real issues that people over look like how can you comfortably live in a small space. Maybe sq ft per person is a better qualifier. That being said, I personally buy a ton of TP, and shop mostly at Costco, I have a washer dryer, I live in a trailer park so, lot rent is a thing but, I also don’t have taxes on it either, I do love to super stock up but, that eventually just gets annoying. Thank you for writing this article. Purging and teaching our kids that experience is better than things is also a huge deal. It is all a matter of perspective and kindness. I wish more of that would have been shown to you in these comments.

  43. Ugh! Tiny house “aficionados” are the new “raw vegans” of the world! While we understand that tiny living *may* have a definition (which is certainly only a ploy to determine whether the government can make more money off of you) the whole idea of tiny living is SUBJECTIVE! One can choose to live in whatever size/type of dwelling is sufficient for them to reduce their environmental impact and live sustainably and comfortably! Someone or a family coming from 5,000 sq ft to 1,000 sq ft will *still* be living tiny! Geez! No one is pissing and moaning over whether one chooses to have a remote composting toilet vs. a self-contained composting toilet.. It is *all* personal preference, just like tiny living! I thought this article was great and even though I had already realized these hidden costs (via discussions with friends/family) I still feel living tiny is the direction our family should move at least for the next few years. We definitely plan to think out each space in order to maximize the storage space in our tiny and allow us to lead better lives and provide more for our children!

  44. What a cute article for 2015. Unfortunately it’s almost 2017 and these 5 cons are a thing of the past. With all in 1 washer/dryer combos it’s easy to wash big loads using 1 machine and it’s super quiet. 4 solar panels will run the entire tiny house ,combo that with backup generators and your set for days. Full size bathroom tubs and full refrigerators can be fitted at will. As far having family over ?Well Murphy beds and foldout couches work great. Throw a party,build yourself a deck right by your french doors.Then cover it so you don’t get rained on.Land is no issue…most states have these zones now called POCKETS.Their specifically made for tiny houses. Even Canada has jumped on board. If you truly want to grab loads of food and toilet paper ,I’m pretty sure you’ll find a way to do so in a tiny house.If that’s your goal,then build on a 28 ft.or longer trailer. Above all living in a tiny house raises your bank account savings 4 times faster than renting.

  45. Athena n'haLee says:

    Pretty funny article (tho it tries hard)…..when you read something like “no room for that 60-roll bulk toilet paper purchase”; the article, as written, completely misses the whole point of the attraction of downsizing that much: TO SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE. Not to continue your egregious consumption habits; to consciously decide to reduce,reuse, recycle, grow your own (or join a Community Supported Garden), etc. I realize that there are many, many folk who just don’t want to change their lifestyles, and many who can’t (e.g: elders / low income) ….but of those who have the capacity, there are a staggering amount of people that, rather than downsize, make fun of those who do. At least this article is a start…Thanks.

  46. Great points made in the article. I’m a big advocate for decluttering and living a simpler life. But I would say that you can have a tiny house and still enjoy your hobbies. Renting a small storage unit is an affordable way to store things like sporting goods and camping equipment that won’t fit in a tiny home.

  47. That article is misleading. You have to decide what you DO need and what you DON’T need in a tiny house. You can put W/D in them and anything else you need…you don’t have to give up everything. Sit down, plan it out, think it through and whatever size you decide on, it can work. I want one between 350-400 s/f and one that I can travel with.

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