Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How Cheaply Can You Live?

My husband is going to school to be a pastor. He is a gifted preacher and has done a lot of pulpit supply for churches in need, but he is seeking a pastorate. There is a need for pastors in our state, however, most of the openings don't pay well. They don't pay as well as his Walmart job, as they are small churches in rural areas. In an old post, I mentioned that $500 per month was a realistic salary to expect from one of these pastorates, but it is certainly not set in stone that that is what we will get. I also mentioned that it was my goal that eventually, he would not have to work a second job. Is that possible, especially where we want a large family?

First, let's look at our current monthly expenses breakdown:

Rent: $600.00
Phone: $6.09
Internet: $19.99
Auto Insurance: $31.22
Electric: $27.00
Satellite Radio: $12.95
Food: Estimated $140 average
Gas: $30-$90, depending on Dan's classes
Auto: average $40 per month for oil changes and any maintenance or repairs
Average Total: $937.25


The largest expense is obviously our rent. We are looking at building our own home, a small home. We like living in a small space, and it is a personal choice as well as a frugal one. Buying the building materials, as much used and discounted as possible, and building the home ourselves would cost around $20,000. After Dan is done with school, we will have his $4000 tuition money, that we get from our tax refund, to put toward this. So, if everything goes according to plan, which it often doesn't, we could have a home in five years after graduation.

Where do I get these numbers, that building a home would cost $20,000? I get it from the Tumbleweed Tiny House website, which is where we will be getting our building plans from. We shaved a little off their estimated cost, as their estimates are from all new materials.

As our family grows, we are thinking we will be building a second Tumbleweed and putting them back to back as one home. This is something that could be done over several years. A second Tumbleweed would be less expensive than the first; it won't need a kitchen, but would just be living space and loft. If you have questions about the Tumbleweed homes, they have their own website, full of information, and a search function at the bottom of the page.

There are portable houses from Tumbleweed, and that is what we really want. Their largest is 130 square feet, but we would customize the loft, which isn't included in that measurement, doubling the floor space. The loft would be for sleeping and clothes storage and downstairs would be our living area. We don't feel that we would ever need a home larger than our current apartment. Two Tumbleweeds, back to back, both with a full loft gives us 520 square feet.

There is the possibility that Dan will land a pastorate with a parsonage. These are rare in our area, as the churches are struggling financially, so we are not resting on this possibility.


With a house on wheels, you can park it temporarily in a trailer park, renting a lot. I've heard of people parking it on a friend's lawn. But we would eventually want to buy our own piece of land. In Maine, land is plentiful. Once we are only paying lot rent of some sort, we could be saving much faster.


The next largest expense is food. I had a small garden this year, and am looking to enlarge it next year, more and more every year. This expense will increase with more children, but will decrease when we have land. We can be growing a large portion of our food and we are looking forward to eventually keeping chickens and a dairy cow. I imagine a $600 food budget will be possible to feed our family at it's largest. Consider also that we won't have all of our children at the same time. I think ten kids is a fair estimate, as we don't use birth control, but at no time will we be feeding ten teenage boys. (The birth control issue will be it's own post at some point.)

Energy and Heat:

Solar panels are getting more and more affordable. I imagine that by the time we are ready to buy, we can get them for $4000, one year's tax refund. Not to mention, you can make your own solar panels. I would investigate making my own pretty thoroughly before investing anything into it, though. There is solar heat, which I've found for under $3000. We would want that to be backed up with propane. Propane would be what we start with, as the cost is included in the estimate of building the home.

The Rest of our Current Expenses:

Phone, internet, and auto expenses are hard to determine at this point. We don't know where government regulations and the market will lead these prices, nor what our needs will be, such as how far we live from the church where Dan pastors.


When we have a home on our own land, we will be paying land taxes. This may change the order of purchases more than anything else. It may be wise to not buy our own land until we have a solar panels and solar heat, so that our tax refund can be going to the land taxes.


Our kids' clothes come from yard sales and from relatives' hand-me-downs. I also sew girls' clothing, mostly because I like to design it. Clothes are and will continue to be handed down from one kid to another. Taking care of the clothes allows them to last a long time and homeschooling will relieve my kids of the pressure of only having name brand and trendy clothes. We really only need to buy two full wardrobes, with some replacements over time. There is one wardrobe for boys, and one wardrobe for girls. There won't be two kids the same size at the same time, unless we have twins. Regardless, I don't consider clothes to be a large expense, as we are very frugal about our clothes choices.

Our goal is sustainability and partial financial independence. I want my husband to be able to devote everything to the work he cares so much about, being a pastor. We don't know when we will reach this goal completely, or if it is something we won't reach until most of our kids have grown. In the meantime, if he has to work outside of his pastorate, he can go from full time to part time, and at some point rest on a few days of independent contract jobs per month to make up any additional income. It is a step by step process, and each step brings us closer to financial independence.

Yes, there are a few overlooked expenses, such as trash pick-up and water, not listed. This is meant to be a general overview of our goals, not a total breakdown of every anticipated expense.


Anonymous said...

I know you will likely take some heavy criticism for this, so I just gotta give everyone a little perspective from a child's point of view.

My absolute fondest memories of my childhood, were living in a trailer at a campground. My parents sold our home and began building a new one. We lived in our camper for an entire summer and then some.

We loved it! I remember (gasp) sharing a bed with my little sister and giggling the night away. My other siblings were in bunks, my parents on a fold-away bed. It was absolute bliss and we wished we could live that way forever.

I remember it so fondly, that I have even crunched numbers and tried plotting ways we could stay the summer in a campground with our children.

Now that I'm thinking about it...with my husband traveling for work, maybe we could borrow my in-laws pop up and set up camp near work for the summer. Hmmm....

Sheila said...

I like your planning, but the part I don't understand is how you can assume a $4,000 tax refund every year. I would assume that at your income you aren't paying that much tax, so how can you get that much back?

Amber said...

Anna it's one thing to do that for a summer, but it's another to expect your teenage children to live without privacy and without a place to call their own.

Emily, I think that, unfortunately, you're a little delusional to think that you can have a 12 person family in a 500ish sq foot house. I also wonder how you are going to stop at 10 if you do not believe in birth control, so I will be interested to read that post.

Emily said...

Sheila, we get the earned income tax refund.

Amber, we don't want to isolate our kids in their own rooms from the rest of the family. We want our family to be together. I know this is contrary to most American thinking, but it is how we are raising our family.

Amber said...

It is important in a child's psychological development to have space to get dressed, be naked, and have time to just think alone. I grew up without a tv, computer, etc. in my room to encourage as much family time as possible. We rarely went to our rooms except at bed time, but it was still crucial to my psychological developemt to know that there was a space that was mine.

Even when you share a room you still have a space that is intrinsically yours. It's impossible to give your children that sense of being without giving them a sense of space.

How would you even eat together as a family (since family is important) with such a small house? There isn't even room for 12 chairs.

I think that a small house is fine, even having the boys share one bedroom and the girls share another, but 520sq feet is too small and probably breaking some laws for occupancy somewhere. I would say at a very, very minimum you would need 1000sq feet. We lived for a while in a 950sq foot, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house and it was tight, but I could see how 12 people could somehow survive in it. Anything smaller is absurd.

Anonymous said...

A dairy cow doesn't live free, nor chickens either. They also don't produce well on the cheaper feeds.

Twila said...

Emily, I have to agree that it's delusional to think you're going to live with 10 kids in a 520sq. foot space. Children don't stay little babies, you realize. They get to be adult sized. Why don't you grab 11 of your friends to come hang out in your apartment and have them bring all their stuff with them so you can see how great it is. You wouldn't even be able to fit beds for everyone and chairs for everyone to sit in into that kind of space, much less store all their things. So... what? People eat on the floor? Standing up? How do kids do schoolwork with nowhere to sit and spread their books and things out? This is admirable but just not practical AT ALL.

Anonymous said...

Where will you store bedding, towels, food (you'll need a chest freezer so that you can save money on food), eating utensiles, clothes, bathing supplies, etc?

I admire that you are planning ahead, but I, too, think it is crazy to think that will work.

Captain Cleavage said...

Emily ,
you said you make girls clothing...just curious...have you thought of opening an etsy account and making clothing to sell online for extra income? obviously you are content with your lifestyle and budget but maybe do this as one of your back-up plans.

Emily said...

As far as storage, you are thinking of the ways you store YOUR stuff. I won't be storing your stuff. We won't have a dozen chairs around the table, I can guarantee it. I have a plan for a customized pull down bench and table. Towels will go in the bathroom, linens really don't tak up than much space, and beds will be mattresses on the floor. This may not be how you want to live your life, but that's okay. And it doesn't break any occupancy laws, I've looked it up.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be absolutely nothing left over in case you need any extra money for medical expenses, etc. Do you plan to get free government care if one of your children breaks a leg or gets sick? Not attacking, merely curious if there is any plan there.


Meg said...

This may come as an insanely dumb question. I know it's personal, and you can refuse to answer it, I understand.

Where could you possibly find a place to be privately intimate with your husband in a 520 sq. foot house with 10 children?

How would you find any space to do any baby making? Seriously.

Emily said...

Jen, I've covered how we pay for medical expenses in other posts, and that won't change.

Captain Cleavage, no, I don't think it's something I'd enjoy devoting my time to.

The rest, I'm going to be looking up home sizes in ratio to family size in other countries. I'm not going to pretend I want to live like the average American, as it's clear I don't, but I don't think this is odd if you have a more balanced world view.

autumn said...

We too are planning on how low we can go...my husband wants to be self employeed and we are trying to make a bare bones budget as well.

We currently have five children and are also planning on building a smallish home where all the kids share a room. Well, except our son...we have four girls who will share.

My only tip is to make sure you have some sort of health insurance...I was always healthy and we never thought I'd get sick but I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 25 and thankfully we had healthy start( government paid) insurance. My chemo cost thousands but I'm alive.

Anonymous said...

Now why do you accept God's resource of EIC, but not WIC. WIC can really help your family out. It is in place for people like your family.

Diana Par-Due said...

I think living in a small space is not a bad thing at all. My husband and I have a small house and there are a couple rooms we don't even use because we prefer to hang out in the living area. However, with ten kids, space is sometimes necessary simply for when there's a quarrel, or cold weather. I know families with ten kids and there are times when people just need to be separated. My family there are seven kids and for two weeks we went on an a road trip in an RV....by the end of those two weeks we needed a little bit more space or I was going to go crazy.

Meg said...

Oh, and I also have a question about the multiple children and an even smaller income. Will you always use Medicaid, for every single one of them? You realize that with that many kids, it will no longer be "emergency" use only, right? You couldn't afford to pay full price for all of their office visits when they come down with strep throat or something, let alone medications, etc. I don't see how you could go any other route other than Medicaid, you can't afford health insurance now with two and half children.

Also, animals take money. I grew up on a sustainable farm that supplied enough to feed our family year round and in a house that was between 900-1000 square feet. My parents were very frugal. Still yet, there was no way we could have lived on such a small budget. Animals, no matter how well you take care of them, often require veterinary care. They also require more than a field when it comes to food, especially during winter months. All of our meat, dairy, and vegetables came from the farm. At the same time, the initial cost to purchase animals isn't cheap and it also took a good amount of money to buy the supplies to RUN the farm. Setting up to butcher your own animals is a pricey task in and of itself....and we slaughtered them and hung them to bleed out ourselves, then we had to cut it, package it, and store it. Paying someone to do it would have cost much more.

I guess in my opinion, coming from someone who grew up in a fairly small house and a family that sustained themselves, I think you're kind of delusional about it.

Pam said...

Have you looked into saving up to buy a used mobile home? You could buy a lot more "house" for a lot less money.

I bought chickens, thinking I could save money, but it turns out that the eggs are actually costing me more than double what they are in the store right now! I even slaughtered the roosters...and that is a task I do not wish to repeat. If you have issues about what commercial chickens are fed, or how they are housed, raise your own. If you are looking to save money, buy chicken and eggs at the store.

Emily said...

Really, I don't think the comment section is the place to address various tax rebates compared to other gov't programs. People requested I post about it yesterday, and I think that topic deserves it's own post. My medica situation deserves severa posts, and I think I filled this post with enough info to keep us on topic. As I said, this isn't covering every expense, but a basic overview of our goals.

We intend to have land when we have animals, as I said in the post. I know they are an investment, as everything I mentioned in the post is. I know they will take money to feed, but the idea is that they wil produce more than they consume.

Anonymous said...

You cannot count on 2 kids never wearing the same size. My daughters are 4 years apart, 9 & 13, and both are currently wearing a size 10. My 13 yr old is extremely petite, and my 9 year old is avg/tall. We ended up having to buy "older clothes" for the 13 yr old, and handing her clothes down, as she has been wearing the same size for nearly 2 years. I consider myself very thrifty, and never anticipated this, especially with the 4 year age difference!

Emily said...

Anon, I think that is the most valid criticism I have recieved. That is something I thought of immediately when I published this post, especially in regard to the teen years.

Treva said...

I think the 12 people (minimum) in a house that small is going to be basically impossible. When they're younger it might be possible. But I'm thinking ahead to teen years when you've got at least 5-6 teenagers plus the younger ones. I understand the need for a tight family unit, but no matter how well you raise your children, with the best of everything you can give them (time, etc. -- not talking about stuff), you will have at least one that rebels. No matter how much you try to shield them from the world -- no t.v., no movies, no books you don't approve of, limited radio, monitoring of the internet -- the world will still get in and they will see that they live differently. And you can explain that most of the world lives like you, but you just like you wouldn't plop down a McMansion in the slums of India or Africa, most wouldn't keep 12 people in America living in just 530sq feet.

And most of your kids will probably not have a problem with it, but you will have 1 or 2 that simply want nothing to do with it. And G-d forbid they act out on the other kids b/c the close quarters are just too much for them to handle. Yes, it's great to have a positive point of view, but I think we also need to have a realistic point of view.

Mattresses on the floor seems like a waste of space to me. Why not bunks with trundles? Or triple trundles? That's what my mom and her 2 sisters had growing up. They shared a room, but b/c it was a small space my grandma got a triple trundle so each girl had a space to sleep, but had room to move around when it was time to get dressed in the a.m. or whatever.

My grandmother's parents were immigrants. There were 20 living children (1 died at 4 days old) in the house at one point in time -- when the oldest was not too far from leaving home and the youngest had just been born. Even those kids during the Great Depression had their own space. They usually slept 3-4 to a room, depending on age, birth order, etc. The youngest 2 were usually in the parents' bedroom b/c they were nursing. My grandma said the space was tight -- 2 bunk beds with a night stand between them and a very small closet (each child, in case you're wondering had 3 every day outfits and 1 Sunday outfit). Each child normally had a toy that was special (like a rag doll), but most of their time was spent outdoors -- except during winter, when they went outside to walk to school and do the chores and that was pretty much it.

As for clothes, every person is built differently. Yes there will be some similarities, but I think about men's pants and how they are measured to reflect waist size and inseam and by having children close together you will run the chance that they will be in the same size at some point since all children grow differently and are shaped differently. My DD wears one size on her top and one size on her bottom, meaning if she had a sister 1 year older than her who grew slightly differently there's a good chance I would need a bunch of tops in 1 size for both girls, but bottoms in different sizes. Just saying you can't have a bunch of stuff and expect that it will fit each child magically. Children in the same genetic mix can be completely different. My best friend and her husband have 2 sons that are 2 1/2 years apart in age, but the younger one is BIG -- like tall big. The pediatrician believes the younger will catch up to the older completely by puberty/the teen years. That's 2 kids born 2 1/2 years apart that will most likely be in the same size clothing at one point in time.

No, linens don't take up much space, but let's assume everyone has 2 towels -- one for using and one in the wash. That means you need room for 12 towels at any given time. If you have them shower daily, but only change out the towel once a week, they still need a place to hang up 12 towels so they can dry in between use. (Think of winter when you may not be able to hang things up outside.)

tomuchontop said...

Hi Emily,

I have a question. I know you've answered it before in an older post but why is it that you all don't use food stamps?

12 people in 500sqft is tight - very tight. I'm not opposed to kids sharing rooms. I think it's a new fad where everyone has their own room. I shared till I went to college.

I like your blog. I may not agree with everything but when I want to stretch a buck I do come here.

Anonymous said...

I had two thoughts after reading your post, which I found very interesting.

1. Is there an age where your children will be expected to move out or start contribuiting to the household? (I realize this is way in the future.)

2. Have you decided on an age where your children will be manging their own money in ways that they choose?

And I suggest you take a bit of solace in the harsh criticism you recieve. (Ignore the mean comments-they're just being nasty.) But the harsh criticism comes out of concern rather than nastiness- those critics point out what they see as flaws, not solely to be harsh, but because they want you and your family to succeed and live well!


Emily said...

I'm not sure why people think I haven't thought about these things. The details of towel storage were not the focus of this post. I think I'll be posting a series with my sketches of each rooms desribing towel storage, bedding and all of these things. It won't be conventional, I can guarantee it. And we won't be in a McMansion suburb, we'll be in rural Maine. The purpose isn't to protect my chilren from the world, it is to enrich them with family. Yes, children need space, and we are looking forward to owning land, and before that, we will rent land. I know that being outside is what gives me the greatest sense of having space.

Anonymous said...

Emily might I suggest adding a basement to your Tumbleweed house? You could keep a big freezer down there as well as seasonal storage. With all due respect, I seriously think you should consider WIC. It is specifically for circumstances such as yours and Dan's tax money goes to pay for it too. Debbie V

Devon said...

OK, I am not trying to attack either, Emily. I just have a few questions. I understand the concept of wanting to have a close-knit family, though I completely disagree with your methodology. However, I am wondering about all these children: children do not just require a place to sleep, but a place to grow. As in: where in your teeeeeeny home are you planning on putting art supplies, soccer balls, books or a piano? Children need space to discover who they are and where their passions lie--how are you planning on giving them that space? And you can't store everything outside--weather will not permit it. I am not asking you this to be discouraging--I am hoping that you have thought this through to the point that you have accounted for the fact that these are children and need their own space to be themselves. It's a nice thought to be close together like this, but whose needs are you putting first if you are refusing to give children their own space in their home?

Please don't think I'm being horrible to you. I am just wondering what your plan is for this. I'm all for simple living--I wish I could do more of it.

Anonymous said...

Wow you are off your rocker lady.

What is the point of saving money, investments, and living frugally, if you aren't going to use the money at a later date? Do you plan to spend it at retirement? Pass it on to your children?

I am in my early 20s, just married, and just starting off my life. My husband and I have sold our first 800 sq. ft apartment, made a nice sum, and bought a 3000 sq. ft. home in a tropical country. Why? Because we are able to. And why is that? Because we spent our money wisely, not cheaply, but wisely, and were able to make money off of our money.

It takes a little smarts... but you can easily save up money and live a comfortable life.

You're forcing yourself and your children to live in poverty.

AnnMarie said...

Having investigated Tumbleweed houses myself, I wonder how you'll be able to cook for a large family. The kitchen area is TINY and includes at most 2 burners possibly only one (I think they use RV appliances).

I, too, would love to see you succeed and love your plans. I hope you do take our comments as considerations for how to make it all work.

To the person who suggested bunk beds: I think, the way these houses are constructed, there's no room. The beds would be in the loft, which has little to no clearance except in the middle. I don't think there's room to bunk anything. Maybe one could squeeze in the middle.

For personal space, the kids can go build a fort or playhouse or tree house with scraps. Perfect!

Lucy said...

I would like to reccommend a book to you, Storey's Basic Country Skills by John and Martha Storey. It has lots or good info on food prep, storage and preservation in addition to plenty of info on living on less, keeping your own animals as a food source, construction, and a lot more. You may be able to find it at the library; there is a copy at my local library but it's rarely on the shelf! I finally bought my own copy on eBay and it has saved us the cost of the book a couple of hundred times over in a year's time.

AnnMarie said...

Oh, I did a websearch and have to share a FUNNY story. The best link for large family tumbleweed house was a women moving to a tiny space with a large family. Tiny = 1400 square feet (not counting the family room and office downstairs--why aren't they counted??? and since when was 1400 "tiny." I thought my 1500 was plenty large.) Large = 3 kids! If you want to read more: http://www.ecomama.ca/blog/2008/12/large-family-insmall-space-part-one-of.html She also links to http://tinyhouseblog.com/ which may be of interest.

Sam said...

It seems silly to rely on what the government gives you each year at tax time to finance your dreams. You should sacrifice what you want now to finance your dreams. You enjoy this lifestyle, and while many people might think you sacrifice a lot, you really don't. You have everything you want in life and enjoy your lifestyle. Maybe you and your husband should put your dreams on hold and get better paying jobs, scrimp and save your hard earned money, build your home, and then pursue your dream of being being a pastor and stay at home mom to 10 kids. As it is, you get to live life the way you want and let the government finance your future. You're not required to take the credit. The government doesn't require you to take any credits, they are just ways of making your taxes a little less of a burden - or in your case a way to tithe, go to school, build a home, buy land, buy solar panels, etc, etc so you don't have to get another job to do it yourself. I'm not trying to be snarky, I'm just sharing my thoughts on the subject and maybe hoping you'll look at your situation from another angle.

Penny Saver said...

"I'm going to be looking up home sizes in ratio to family size in other countries. I'm not going to pretend I want to live like the average American, as it's clear I don't, but I don't think this is odd if you have a more balanced world view."

The thing is, you're _intentionally_ placing yourself among the world's most impoverished people when comparing home size and family size in the way you are. I would venture to guess that a large majority of the people living in a similar sized home, with a similar sized family, on a similar income, if given the choice would not subject their families to the kind of poverty that you're describing. I think most of us can't wrap our minds around choosing to have a third world life when most of the world is struggling to escape it.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the other comments yet - so I hope I don't end up repeating things. Anyway, I'm glad you posted about this because it reminded me of what I wanted to tell you last week!

Have you checked out "Katrina Cottages"?


If not, google them! They've come out with large ones recently - but they have a variety of tiny floor plans and they are super cute. Lowes carries the plans as well as kits - and they can also be built cheaply. I was planning on building the 612sq. ft. one...but due to major changes in my life that didn't happen. I don't think my hubby wants that small of a place - but i LOVE tiny houses! LOVE them!

The smaller ones can easily be made with a loft over the front porch...which could be a sleeping loft for a couple of people.

One of my absolute favorite small floor plans comes from Ross Chapin - they start at about 300 sq. ft. They mostly all have lofts and are soooo cute!

I'm pretty sure the katrina cottages can be portable, btw.

Oh - but on another note, you are probably estimating too low. My dad builds houses for low income people for a living, and before that he's been doing carpentry work for over 20 years, and estimates are typically too LOW. It's not always easy to find the materials you need used - but something neat to consider would be buying a wooded lot, clearing out some of the trees and using the trees to build your house!

Maybe I've read too much "mother earth news" haha.

Anyway - sorry if this is too long and scattered! Just thought I'd share :)

P.S. Do you read www.walkslowlylivewildy.com? I think you'd really like Sarah's blog. She's a Christian who's very into health and down sizing. They are working on fixing up their RV to live/travel in!

Treva said...

I think a series of posts about the house would be wonderful! You could tell by my abnormally long comment that I've got lots of thoughts and questions about this. And lots of other people have questions, too. What a wonderful idea -- go for it!

I know the post wasn't about towels. It was just one of those little things to think about. I know that you know when you are planning to live in a space that small with that many people -- maybe more if there's no birth control! -- that as many details as you can think of should be thought out in advance. I'm sure with a series of posts your readers would be able to help hash out those ideas even more.

Anonymous said...

You cannot successfully home school 10 children in that environment. There is not even enough room for everyone to sit, much less store school supplies and books. Much less do you laundry and dry it. Plus cook for 12.

You are setting yourself to fail. It is best to re evaluate your plans and make the changes now, versus learning the hard way down the line.

You have received lots of good advice from many who have been in similar positions. It is okay to change your plans.

Jessi said...

What is pulpit supply? The first time I saw you write it, I thought it meant working for a church supply company, but from the context I'm thinking it means he fills in as a lay preacher...?

This isn't a term used by any of the churches I've been to, so I'm not familiar with it.

Nota said...

Relax people!! She's making a plan, not doing everything tomorrow. The most wonderful thing about planning is that plans can change when you realize they don't suit your purpose any longer. If at some point she and her husband feel the children need more space than what they have, they can adapt their plan.

I do agree that children need some privacy, as do adults, but I don't see anyone taking into account their resourcefulness in creating it. Familes have lived for millions of years (if you're an evolutionist) without a home at all, with multiple families in one tent/cave/hut/house. You should see the sleeping quarters/personal space allotted on a Navy ship! Just because it's not what we're used to and isn't something we'd sign on for, doesn't mean it can't be done.

But if she finds out that she can't make it work, then she can change the plan.

Emily said...

Yay Nota! One of the best parts of buiding our own home is that we can customize everything to our needs.

Jessi, yes he fills in for churches without a preacher or for churches where the preacher is on vacation.

crabcakes said...

Anyone ever hear of the "Duggars"? They have a huge home, true. But have you seen their bedrooms? There are two bedrooms total for the kids. All 18 of the ones still living at home. That's about 9 kids per room, give or take.

Kids do NOT need their own rooms. I don't even think kids need their own bed.

I DO, however, think that you will need more space for your growing family. Nevermind the sleeping arrangement (which isn't the issue for me) but the LIVING space and being on top of each other like that. You don't realize the impact right now because you are not there yet. But 12 people in 500 square feet is going to be a little maddening.

Overall, I don't have issues with how you live your life and your plans for the future. I do think that you are underestimating the amount of living (breathing) space your family will need as they get bigger.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I find your blog interesting. I think the comment portion is exceptional.

My grandfather and I were just talking about his home. He was raised in a home that was 1000 sq. feet (although the owner, his uncle, had one of the 3 bedrooms for himself, at 12X12). He and his 5 siblings lived in the home and never felt it to be small. He in fact was discussing how they had one of the larger homes on the city block.

Why are kid's passions and interests only developed and nurtured with material goods? Why do children *need* a separate area for eating and school? While I do agree with some posts points about the "game plan", I think that it is refreshing to see so many others voice their opinion that the "norm" doesn't make it the "right".

Our grandfather's generation accomplished a great deal of things with so much less than our parents' generation. I think a lot of what you do is different than the choices my husband and I make. That doesn't make them wrong or harmful to your children. Thanks for the blog, it's very interesting.

P.S. I would look into some Asian minimalist design ideas for creative, multi-purpose storage and every day use products. I think the fold down bench for the dining table is great!

Anonymous said...


I have been reading your blog for a while now and I find it interesting- and extremist.
I work for a major contractor as an accountant and was looking at the sq ft numbers you were talking about for the tumbleweed homes and your math is off (I’m taking all of these numbers from the website-please look at the plans when reading this- it will make more since then). When you look at the plans for the 130sq ft home it includes the loft (or rather the half loft because you want to do the whole upstairs)

Main: 7.5 x 6.5 = 48.75sq ft
Kitchen: 6 x 4 = 24sq ft
Bathroom: 6 x 3 = 18sq ft
Loft: 6 x 6.5 = 39sq ft
If you add those: 48.75 + 24 + 18 + 39 = 129.75sq ft

So if you take into consideration that you want to put full lofts above the space you are really looking at 168.75sq ft per home (129.75 + 39(another half loft) = 168.75). You were just multiplying the 130*4=520 which is incorrect. So for the two homes you will have a total of 168.75 + 168.75 = 337.50sq ft (which will not all be used for sleeping/storage as some of it is bathroom space and some is kitchen space- yes I know you will only be making one kitchen). So realistically you will have about 337.50 – 24(a kitchen) – 18(a bathroom) = 295.5sq ft of living/sleeping space if you only have one bathroom- smaller 295.5 – 18(a bathroom) = 277.50sq ft if you have two.

I just wanted to give you a more realistic view of the home dimensions. Better to know now then later.

I assume this might change your view on how much space you will need- 12 people in 337.50 sq ft is not reasonable in my opinion. The loft is only 3.6ft in height and will barely fit mattresses in it- and will definitely not fit any trundle beds or bunk beds.

I didn’t write this to be snarky at all- just to let you know what you are really working with so you can come up with alternatives now instead of finding this out later.


Anonymous said...

When we were looking to build our own home the basement, water, and sewer were $20,000.00 on their own...

AUC said...

Are you planning to school your kids at your husband's church?

AUC said...

Oh, I forgot to ask my my prior comment- what is your view for cooking when you have more kids? Do you plan to always cook in your slowcooker?

Emily said...

Kera, you've got me crunching numbers!

According to this link


the loft is not incuded in the total square footage of 130 square feet, and although your numbers are compelling, the total house size, is

width 8' x length 19' = 152 square feet

you subtract walls and such, and you've got 130 square feet, and that means the lofts will be 130 square feet as well.

Where we will be customizing so much, it will be somewhat more open, so the inside walls won't have as much space.

I'm not planning for trundle beds for kids in the lofts, and the mattresses are not conventional mattresses at all. However, I am thinking of changing the pitch of the roof to make a little more height in the loft, on the sides. I can't raise the middle. (:

Thanks for looking carefully, and checking my facts, though.

Anonymous said...

What if you have a child with claustrophobia? I have been clostrophobic since I was a very small child and wouldn't even sleep in a crib because it apparently freaked me out. It's a very real disorder, and something that is actually pretty common. The thought of living or sleeping in such a small area has my heart beating fast!

What would you do in a situation like that? It would be cruel to force a child to live and sleep like that when they are claustrophobic.

Anonymous said...

I read the link you provided. And I can understand why you might think that it does not include the loft space- however I encourage you to contact the makers and find out for sure (Now. not later- because you want to be correct in your planning). Going by this logic…

“you subtract walls and such, and you've got 130 square feet”

…is irresponsible and you will leave you upset and under prepared if my numbers are correct, which I think I am. When you look at it a different way- only using the dimensions of the rooms numbers from the main floor:

Main: 7.5 x 6.5 = 48.75sq ft
Kitchen: 6 x 4 = 24sq ft
Bathroom: 6 x 3 = 18sq ft
(btw the approximate width of the bathroom and the kitchen ~= the approximate width of the main area and therefore do not include any cabinets or appliances)

You get a total of 48.75 + 24 + 18 = 90.75sq ft. If you can tell me where an extra 40sq ft of living space (which is a key word “living” space) appears from then I’ll give it to you- however I am relying on my experience in the field I work in to suggest otherwise.

Emily said...

Kera, yes I see your numbers, but here is what the site says:

"Just know that the total house measurements include the walls, and typically room sizes do not."

Your adding room sizes together. That has nothing to do with the square footage of the LOFT, which will have fairly thin walls without shelving. The walls they use in the downstairs are full of shelving, which is not included in the floor space of the measure rooms. They measured the length and width of the interior before the walls were put up to get the 130, that that transfers to the loft.

Look at the floor plan on the site. It has a huge chunk taken for shelving between the bathroom and kitchen and living space. I'd guess that to be 2x7.5 = 15

It also looks like they didn't measure the front beside the door, that the front room is actually 6.5x7.5 + 2.5x5 = an additional 12.5(litte bit next to porch)

So, I haven't got all fourty square feet, the rest would be somewhere in the walls.

We will not make the shelving unit in the loft as they do, and in the second tumbleweed, it will be mostly open space downstairs and in the loft.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this has been addressed but I am curious as to why you think you will only have 10 kids without birth control. Look at the famous Duggar family who do not believe in birth control, Michelle is about 41 and they are on number 19. I know you are trying to plan ahead but if you do not plan on using it, I think 10 is unrealistic. You will have a lot of mouths to feed. Just a thought.

rikkitikkitavi said...

You do realize that Earned Income Credit, the likely source of your $4000 tax "refund," is a form of welfare, right? It is money provided to you free by the government - and by extension other taxpayers - and is most definitely not a refund of taxes you have actually paid into the system.

I have absolutely no problem with people availing themselves of this credit - or indeed other welfare entitlements - but I do find it hypocritical for someone who wants the government out of her family's business nontheless to support herself in large part through handouts from the same government. By no means do I want you to reject government assistance, but I do think it would be more honest to recognize, for all your vaunted independence, just how much you and your family actually depend on the state. If the numbers you give are right, a good 40% of your family's income will be from government assistance - or possibly more, given that you depend on the state for health insurance as well.

Anonymous said...

rikkitikkitavi if she was to be honest about that, she'd have to also be honest about the fact that having 10 kids is in no way sustainable or frugal.

Jennifer said...

A bit off-topic but a number of comments have said it's not frugal or sustainable to have many children - I just read something today that rather supports your plans.

The link is: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2009/09/28/reader-mailbag-82/ and the relevant paragraphs:

"To put it simply, if you believe strongly in a cause to the point of taking action to push your cause forward, the best thing you can possibly do is have children, raise them to think and be independent, and get them involved in the cause, too.

Many people who are driven to success in life or push themselves toward a cause eschew the idea of having children ... Instead, people who are not driven and not committed to a cause tend to have more children..."

Your faith and your desire toward simplicity definitely counts as a "cause" in my book!

Anonymous said...

Hm, I think the square footage is too small, but you won't really know until you start having the family members.

I have a 912 sq ft (2 bed/1 bath) house with just me full time, toddler and partner half time. It's huge. My mother said she grew up in a home smaller than this in a family of ten. She said it never felt small. It's what they had and so they made it work*shrug*

I also have a huge yard and live in the desert. Lots of outside time. I used to have chickens too.

No childhood is perfect. The kids can choose to live in an opposite manner as adults. If someone in the family is seriously struggling I like to give you the benefit of the doubt you'll build them a bedroom.

Anyway I don't believe your plan is totally out there. It's similar to what I want for my family within the next decade. -Cris

Culinary Science Investigator said...

I'm very sorry, but I think you get entirely too defensive and hostile about legitimate questions and concerned criticism.

If you want to invite people into your very tiny home via the Internet, I don't think it's fair to get so hot under the color when people question, correct or express concern.

lilaclady said...

Hi, Emily! I wrote so much commenting on your post & on what others have said that I just posted it on my blog. http://fixingshipwreckedfinances.blogspot.com
I hope that's ok.

K said...

Where do you get internet for 19.99?

Emily said...

K, it's in Maine, but the company's slowly going under, so I'm not sure how long that's going to last. It's DSL.

Nydia said...

Hi Emily, I wanted to tell you that we purchased a storage shed with a cute porch that was made by the Amish in Pennsylvania..we live in Va but a company here sells them, it is 12 foot by 24 foot and only has a partial loft, and it has a very cute porch on the front that makes it look like a doll house. We purchased it because we needed extra living space for a while, our house is 900 square feet and we are a family of 6. We paid $4,500 for it and spent about $800 to insulate it and we put paneling over it and ran electricity under the ground from our house for it, this included 2 fancy fun ceiling fans because we are using it as a play room , and an air conditioning heating unit that vents through the window. The inside is nicer than anyroom in our house in my opinion...so cute. It could easily have a full loft. I do not know anything about plumbing and how much that would cost, but could possibly end up being much cheaper than the tumble weeds estimate to do something like this. And less work, because all we had to do was finish the inside of it. And paint the outside...very minimal. We have people joke that they are going to move into it!

Blessed said...

Emily, not to overwhelm you with too many comments, but I am so glad I know about you and your blog and wish I could invite you over for a cup of tea. : ) Thanks for posting these things, and I do agree with the rather testy commenter who said not to get irate with people's sometimes tactless questions--I wish people found what I write about in my blog interesting enough to leave such thought-out comments! Seriously! You are making people think, and challenging their ideas about what is normal and doable--good! we are also living in a very unconventional way, with 6 people in a 550 sq ft house, and so far we love it. I will never go back to a big house again, although I would really like a flexible playroom space for our family to stay when they come visit, and so love the ideas being tossed around here.

I too get flak from some people for our life choices, but I think more and more people realize that our cultural ideas of what a good family environment is (not the house itself) or a good childhood is (not stuff to play with) or what amount of personal space is really necessary (our American forefathers had huge families in small houses and they did all right!) are not necessarily logical, when you look at how people lived throughout history and still live all over the world. And not just those in poverty!

I am looking forward to reading your ideas and solutions. I do have one word for you: freecycle. Maybe you already know all about this grass-roots movement--if not, you might be interested in reading something I wrote earlier this year that explains the beauty of it:

If you do not have a local freecycle group, start one! That goes for your readers too!

Thank you again.

Hopewell said...

I just found your blog a few weeks ago and am reading it with great interest. As someone who made truly awful financial choices along the way, I DO admire your willingness to take on chores like hand laundry that most find ridiculous. But, at almost 50 with two teenagers living intentionally in a very small house I can say "GOod luck" on that. I accepted Food Stamps years back and can say it was way more than I had spent to that time for food. Here are some comments I don't think I've seen yet:

1. What if one of the many kids you want has special needs and must be in a wheelchair? How will that fit in your teeny house?

2. What if you extended family says "Emily, we cannot stand by and watch you live like this" and either a) buys you a bigger house or b) quits handing down stuff?

3. I've seen children like you describe out in public--they drool over the NEW clothes at Wal-Mart. Still, my kids also wear some used clothing--nearly ALL used clothing when they were little; today we look at the Clearance sales for most things.

4. What happens if you husband is called by a wealthy suburban Church? What if the pastorate includes a beautiful big, 2 story with every appliance, etc?

5. Let me see if I understand: you enjoy sewing little girls clothing and do it well. Your family is in what most would consider dire straights, you can justify time to "save" money by washing your clothing by hand, but cannot spend time sewing for MONEY??? What are you 12?? Still, that's your choice.

6. What happens when your home birth DOESN'T go perfectly?? Health Insurance is sure nice at a time like that, but many, many folks making much more than you DO have to go without it.

7. Dead serious here: How is satelite radio worth more than FOOD??

Emily said...

Hopewell, great round of questions/comments. I thought about adding them to the FAQ, but their pretty simple, so I'll answer them here:

1) http://under1000permonth.blogspot.com/2009/09/i-got-thinking.html

2) I would not take a bigger house, and my family doesn't hand me down much stuff.

3) Not a question, but in the post, I said we would be buying cothes.

4) That's on the FAQ

5) I don't think I could make money sewing. I hand sew the clothes, not time efficient. Selling overpriced hand made items on etsy does not seem like a good business plan. I wouldn't promote it on this blog, as this is a low income living blog. And if we needed money, I have other means.


6) My home birth was lovely. Keep a look out for my birth story.

7) It's not an either or thing. We can afford both satellite radio and food.

Hopewell said...

") I don't think I could make money sewing. I hand sew the clothes, not time efficient. Selling overpriced hand made items on etsy does not seem like a good business plan. I wouldn't promote it on this blog, as this is a low income living blog. And if we needed money, I have other means." GREAT ANSWER!

") It's not an either or thing. We can afford both satellite radio and food." I guess with little ones, often pregnant Mom and hard working Dad I'd choose to buy more protein and put up with commercials.

Like I said in my earlier comment-- I do admire all you do to stay within your means!

Anonymous said...

Hi Emily,

I've been reading your blog with interest. I admire your ability to live on a tight budget and be content. I believe that most Christians in developed countries focus too much on material goods, myself included. However, I feel the need to ask a question about your budget. Do you tithe? This is not included in your budget. For us (my husband and I) this is the very fist thing to come out of our budget, before our mortgage payment, before our electric bill, before anything else. Every Friday evening after we get paid, I sit down and write a tithe check to the church. I believe this is absolutely essential because:

1) The Bible says to tithe.
2) Tithing shows our faith and trust in God to provide for all our needs.
3) Tithing is a way to support ministry. Most ministries do require at least some financial support.

Even when I was a college student, working at Walmart and struggling to make ends meet and pay my tuition, I always tithed. Is this something your family does?


Emily said...

Anna, yes, we do an annual tithe.

DawnM said...

I know this is a bit late, but I can't resist a comment here. We once went through a living history museum - an old fort in Kentucky. We were informed that the typical family cabin was 10 x 14 with a sleeping loft. Families living in these cabins in the 1700-1800s typically had 8-14 children apiece. Since young people tended to marry early, the oldest ones were out of the house before the youngest ones came along. But still, that's a lot of people in that space. You went outdoors to be alone. This is probably much closer to how people outside of the West still live. My grandmother grew up in a household in Kentucky that included 15 children in a 2-room cabin (although, like the example above, the oldest was married before the youngest came along). The children grew up to be normal, well-adjusted, productive adults. They grew up in a loving home that taught good values. That is what is important - not the space you have. The space is a relatively new idea in the history of the world - at least among those who are not fabulously wealthy.

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