The Tiny House Movement: Where Do You Fit In?


It's hard not to be inspired by a blog like Little Digs, a site dedicated to living in spaces 500 square feet or smaller.

This month, they featured a story about Macy Miller, an architect living in Idaho who spent two years building her beautiful 196 square foot home for only $11,000. She's currently living in the house with her great dane puppy and is giving birth to a baby girl next month. She plans to continue living simply for at least three years so she can stay home and raise her daughter. There are several photos of her tiny home here.

A recent New York Times article, Freedom in 704 Square Feet, featured a couple of academics who built their tiny home to free up more of their income for education expenses. They also wanted to live somewhere that was low maintenance, so they could focus their time and energy on other projects and interests.

I've been fascinated by the idea of living in a tiny home for quite a while now, but I suspect the interest was piqued upon discovering Tennessee Tiny Homes. First, I love the design and efficiency of these houses; everything has its place and no space goes unused. In addition to their smaller carbon footprint, I'm attracted to the low cost and the simple lifestyle. I may be in the minority, but there are a lot more tiny house people than you may think.

The FYI television network (formerly known as the Bio Channel) is even launching a ten episodes of a new show called Tiny House Nation, exploring the tiny house movement and their lower impact on the environment.

Still not sold on tiny houses?

An infographic on The Tiny Life blog shared some surprising statistics:

– 68% of tiny house people have no mortgage, compared to 29.3% of all U.S. homeowners.

– 55% of tiny house people have more savings than the average American, with a median of $10,972 in the bank.

– 78% of tiny house people own their own home, compared to 65% of homeowners with traditional houses.

– The average cost to build a tiny house is $23,000 if built by the owner vs. $272,000 for a standard-sized house.

– The average tiny house is 186 square feel while the standard U.S. house takes up nearly 2,100 square feet!

– 89% of tiny house people have less credit card debt than the average American, with 65% of tiny house people having zero credit card debt.

While the tiny house lifestyle may not be for everyone, it's hard not to recognize the positives of living this way, especially for someone on a tight budget. Who wouldn't want to pay off their mortgage, pay a fraction of their utility bills, and free up a lot more money to save?

And living in a yurt would be pretty freaking cool.

Readers: What's your stance on the tiny house movement? Would you ever consider downsizing?

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Discussions — 42 Responses

  • Lauren February 28, 2014 on 1:48 pm

    I love tiny houses! Some of them are so beautifully designed, both inside and out. I’m not sure how well I’d make out in less than 200 square feet with my family, but if it were just me, I’d be fine. Having almost always lived in small spaces, 2000+ square feet seems excessive!

    • Addison Cash Lauren February 28, 2014 on 1:49 pm

      It would definitely be hard with a family, but for one or two people – perfect πŸ™‚

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach February 28, 2014 on 3:05 pm

    I love the idea behind it and seeing everyone’s homes and hearing their stories, but personally I don’t think I could live in one. Well…maybe me, but not if there were multiple people. I don’t need a huge home, but I do like some space to spread out.

    • Addison Cash Tonya@Budget and the Beach February 28, 2014 on 4:16 pm

      Yeah, I haven’t sold the bf on the idea. And it would be hard for our cat who has grown to love 1,400 square feet to hang out in.

      • Mr. Cash Addison Cash March 21, 2014 on 6:20 pm

        Is he an outdoor cat?

        • Addison Cash Mr. Cash March 21, 2014 on 8:42 pm

          No, indoor.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor February 28, 2014 on 4:11 pm

    I love tiny houses, for all the reasons you mention. If I were on my own, no question I’d be all over this living option. And I’d put my tiny home near a carsharing hub and transit so I don’t have to own a car either.

    Establishing a low cost lifestyle is 75% of the battle when it comes to being debt free and saving enough to retire early!

    • Addison Cash Kurt @ Money Counselor February 28, 2014 on 4:17 pm

      I’m with you, Kurt! I would love to live in a tiny home without a car. That sounds like freedom to me! It would be the key to saving the majority of my income.

  • J. Money February 28, 2014 on 4:33 pm

    Loooooove this!!! And I want one so bad pa-lease!! Someone convince my wife!! πŸ˜‰

    • Addison Cash J. Money February 28, 2014 on 4:35 pm

      I seriously want to build one in my backyard to live in so I can rent out my house πŸ™‚

  • Income Surfer February 28, 2014 on 7:44 pm

    I love the idea. We have talked about doing this several times, and I’m sure when we get back from our one year trip……and find the right piece of property we will. I’m just a couple years older than you Addison and I think while our parent’s generation was about taking/owning all they could……ours is looking for much more peace and balance.

    I do recognize that our generation has never had to struggle though something like the cold war or the great depression….which were formative events for the previous generations. Maybe 9-11 will have the unintended consequence of people focusing on building the type of life THEY want?!

    • Addison Cash Income Surfer February 28, 2014 on 9:20 pm

      I think the Great Recession was enough of a reminder to cut back, live frugally, and never take a job for granted. A tiny house seems like the ideal living situation for single, 20 or 30 somethings. We spend less time at home and don’t want to have to spend out time off maintaining a large living space.

  • Anneli @thefrugalweds February 28, 2014 on 9:15 pm

    LOVE LOVE LOVE the concept of tiny houses! In our own way, we live in one (by LA standards) Our condo is only about 900sq and it’s cozy for us. I don’t know how we’d manage getting something smaller.
    I’m glad the movement towards small houses are gathering steam. No one really ever needs a 3000sq behemoth of a house – EVER!

    • Addison Cash Anneli @thefrugalweds February 28, 2014 on 9:22 pm

      Agreed, Anneli. There are so many positives about the movement and it’s definitely hard to see why any family would ever need a 3,000 square foot house. Great job living minimally in L.A.!

  • Raquel@Practical Cents March 1, 2014 on 12:25 am

    I love this! I have a small house. But not that small. 800 sq ft. Plus the basement has another 800 sq. ft. I never wanted a big house because of the high cost of maintaining one. I like your idea of building a small house for yourself in the backyard and renting the bigger house. I can do that, too. Would be a nice side income. πŸ˜‰

    • Addison Cash Raquel@Practical Cents March 1, 2014 on 4:33 pm

      So cool, Raquel! I could definitely make 800 square feet work, especially with the storage space in the basement. I’d love to focus more on my outdoor space with a garden, fire pit, etc.

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life March 1, 2014 on 3:59 pm

    After living in NYC for ten years, 500 sq foot living spaces don’t really shock me anymore πŸ™‚

    • Addison Cash Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life March 1, 2014 on 4:34 pm

      So true, Stefanie! I’m sure you guys could easily adjust to living in a tiny house.

  • Michelle March 2, 2014 on 3:59 pm

    I actually love the idea of a tiny home! I have a friend who is absolutely obsessed with them and her boyfriend is in the process of building one. I cannot wait to see what it looks like!

    • Addison Cash Michelle March 2, 2014 on 5:44 pm

      Are they building their tiny home in the city? I’m especially curious about tiny houses in urban area.

  • Shawna @ Money Misfit March 2, 2014 on 7:45 pm

    Ooh, I love the idea of this. I’m off to check out that site now and maybe find out more about that show. I wonder if you can do this anywhere? It would definitely be a great way to lower living costs. Even more so if you could add in some solar power or something.

    • Addison Cash Shawna @ Money Misfit March 2, 2014 on 8:18 pm

      I’ve seen some seriously cool tiny houses powered by solar energy! I’m curious about building tiny homes in inner city neighborhoods and how that would affect the lifestyle of young, single folks without kids.

  • Dividend Mantra March 2, 2014 on 11:18 pm


    I like the idea of living in a small pad, but not quite that small. I currently live in 2 bedroom apartment that is a little over 900 sq. feet. I share that with my girlfriend and her child. If it were just me, I’d probably be just fine with about 600 sq. feet.

    I don’t like big houses. It’s just a lot of unused space that requires furnishing, cleaning, heating, and cooling. No thanks!

    Best wishes.

    • Addison Cash Dividend Mantra March 2, 2014 on 11:21 pm

      900 square feet for three people is pretty impressive! My boyfriend has already vetoed the idea of building a tiny house in the backyard and renting out our house, but at least I tried πŸ™‚

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  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance March 4, 2014 on 7:25 pm

    We’ve got a pretty tiny house (about 700 sq feet) and while it’s perfect for us, I don’t know if I would be able to do anything less than about 500. I don’t know how that lady makes due with a great dane! Our dogs are big, but not that big. I do want to keep living in smaller houses, but realistically with kids and pets, I think we will have to upsize at some point, much to my chagrin. Two bedrooms won’t cut it at some point. But that house in the picture is seriously beautiful!

    • Addison Cash Ryan @ Impersonal Finance March 4, 2014 on 8:30 pm

      700 square feet with dogs is impressive! I know I could cut back from 1,400 square feet, but that cat has really gotten use to having the space to spread out πŸ™‚

    • Free to Pursue Ryan @ Impersonal Finance March 5, 2014 on 3:09 pm

      As an owner of a larger breed dog, they take less space than a mid-sized dog because they lie around and sleep so much. I would say that my current 75lb dog takes up less room than the 2 cats I used to have many years ago. She sleeps 18-20 hrs a day, so she occupies a 4X4 space…that’s it!

  • Free to Pursue March 5, 2014 on 3:15 pm

    I know a tiny home is in my future, given we want to get into slow travel at some point. I currently live in 1,400 sq ft and it is WAY TOO BIG! My husband and I could easily live in 1/2 that space. I would prefer a very small home (600-800 max) because there is less to worry about and you can’t keep as much baggage. Less stuff and more freedom to move around if we so please – love it! Building one also sounds like an amazing project. We just might try to do it ourselves!

    • Addison Cash Free to Pursue March 5, 2014 on 6:12 pm

      I’m in agreement that 1,400 square feet (the size of my house) is too much for two people, but my boyfriend disagrees πŸ™‚

      • Free to Pursue Addison Cash March 6, 2014 on 3:50 pm

        Ah, the joys of compromise…

        • Addison Cash Free to Pursue March 6, 2014 on 6:10 pm

          Compromise or dream home? All a matter of perspective πŸ™‚

  • Justin @ Root of Good March 5, 2014 on 4:19 pm

    I like the idea, but it might be tricky with our family of 5. And the wife might not be on board! We’re in an 1800 sf house right now, but we really only use about 1200 sf of the space, so could easily downsize. Part of the problem is wanting to live in the city and in a regular neighborhood.

    • Addison Cash Justin @ Root of Good March 5, 2014 on 6:13 pm

      I can see how a tiny house with five people would be a challenge! Do you know of anyone in SF with a tiny house?

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  • Mel @ brokeGIRLrich March 17, 2014 on 3:09 am

    Tiny houses are so cool! And I actually think I could adapt to one really well. Especially if you’re living on your own, why would you need a ton of space anyway? The one in your picture for this post is ridiculously cute too.

    • Addison Cash Mel @ brokeGIRLrich March 17, 2014 on 12:21 pm

      I agree, Mel. If I were single, I’d already be living in one!

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  • Rosie1234 January 16, 2015 on 6:20 pm

    Tiny homes were not only supposed to be a way for people to reduce their carbon footprint, but they were also supposed to be a way for people to afford a home and own it out right. Today MSN featured some tiny houses that were outrageously priced! There’s no way I’d could afford a home that was approximately $1,500.00/per square foot no matter how nice it was. They failed to mention that these homes were in highly desirable neighborhoods or on several acres of prime real estate. In order to afford a tiny home, you’d have to design it and build it yourself out of reclaimed materials.

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  • KK June 15, 2016 on 12:36 pm

    Does anyone know a company in Nashville, TN that would build me a 700 sq ft home for under $50,000?
    Including electrical, plumbing, etc? NOT a tiny home on wheels… it has to be build on a solid, flood-safe foundation for the area I’m wanting to build. THANK YOU!


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