Alternative house-hacks for FI

Alternative housing can help speed you to financial independence. I am fascinated by alternative housing and the various movements around them. To work towards financial independence you need to save money, a lot of money and the best place to save money is your housing costs because for nearly everyone, those are the highest per month costs. So, I like to explore alternatives to the ‘normal’ mode of living in a normal house and enjoy looking at some of things people are doing to escape the high costs of rent and mortgages. The big issue about alternative housing seems to be “getting out of your comfort zone”.

Tiny houses

I have been interested in both mobile and tiny house living for a long time. I have lived in very small spaces, I lived on a boat and I have lived in a 175 square foot apartment on a beach. Currently now with a family I am in a much larger space but I still enjoy watching the video’s of people with their tiny homes and I give it a lot of thought as nearly every video you watch the people talk about financial independence. The numbers don’t seem to lie either, 68% of tiny house owners have no mortgage. (source)

Not having a mortgage allows tiny house dwellers in the US to save money as well and 32% of them have more than $10,000 saved, compared to 25% of the US as a whole. 57% of US homes have less than $1,000 saved! (source)

The average cost of a tiny-house is $23,000 which is less than what my car is worth. Not having a mortgage seems to be the key ingredient here.

This lady does a decent breakdown of her expenses on just her tiny-house. She manages to only pay $134/month if she was paying electric and parking ($400 for her spot) the total cost sounds like they would be more like $575/month


Yes, I used a hashtag there because it is a big thing. Millenials are big on #vanlife as a inexpensive way to travel and freedom. I know multiple people who live or have lived full time in vans and several who have converted vans for long trips they do from Spring to Fall.

There is a whole movement of people who convert vans to live in. A van conversion can be $5,000 for a fairly simple one up to $16,000 for a full interior and adding solar panels to the roof, a van can be purchased fairly cheaply. Or, if you want to get fancy with a sprinter van, a new one will cost you about $46,000.

This video is a documentary that interviews many people about living in their vans and their reasoning.

Note how all of the vanlife people talk about the cost savings over living an apartment or a house.

Van life, total cost of living


RV’s are #vanlife for older people, and there are a TON of people who live in RV’s – either full or part time. In Arizona they call them ‘snowbirds’ because they come to Arizona for the weather in the winter and then travel the other parts of the U.S.A. in summer. Issues with RV’s are that they are not very good on gas and if you are camped somewhere, you can’t easily just ‘run into town’. The costs can be very reasonable, you can get yourself into an RV for $20-30k fairly easily as people buy these things and then realize they don’t like driving a huge thing around.

Airstream trailer

You can get smaller Airstream trailers and easily live in them. My plan after I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail was to get a Jeep Wrangler and an Airstream Sport to live in and travel around the West coast while working remotely. You can fairly easily live in campgrounds for about $600-$900 per month and the nice thing about an Airstream is that you can park it and then your car is available to get out and do things. A typical Airstream is very expensive and the larger ones are astronomical, however you can pick them up used between $20-40k though they may require some work. A cheaper alternative would be something like a Starcraft satellite, which runs about $15,000.

liveaboard (boats and houseboats)

I have lived on a boat on lake union in Seattle, the costs were very minimal and I would recommend it for anyone as it is a great way to live. I had put in an offer on a boat in Los Angeles a few years ago but could not get the boat because I could not get the the slip included with it. Living on a boat can be pretty nice and there is a whole community of people who do it, the main cost is mooring which can be very minimal. Even in Marina del Rey it was only around $600/month.

Depending on your type of boat, one of the nice things is that you can pull up anchor and go, so you can easily move around the coasts with the seasons, or in the case of a lake, you can have it moved to another lake.

The theme could not be more clear.

This couple has a $340/month cost of living on a boat (and spend $700 on food, which is awesome)


In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, there are the Wagenplatz all over. The one place in the United States which is the same is Slab City note: Wagenplatz dwellers don’t pay rent because they are technically squatting.

FINomad avatar
About FINomad
FINomad is a life hacker, nomad and new father who is working towards financial independence.
comments powered by Disqus