In August 2017, we were “keeping up with the Joneses”. We had a new car and a house in Cumming, Georgia, and we were living way beyond our means. Then we had our son and soon after our air conditioning broke and we couldn’t afford to fix it. So we borrowed money from my husband Nick’s parents. We have since refunded them, but it was a very eye-opening experience for us. We realized something had to change.
Nick had started watching videos of Dave Ramsey, the finance guru. He started driving for Uber and for Lyft to and from his job at a Fortune 500 company and we were also making furniture for sale at the time. We were doing everything we could to get cash. Then Nick told me how long it was going to take us to get out of debt and be able to build our dream house, which was our end goal.
It was going to take two years just to pay off our $82,000 debt, but then we would need to build up our savings.
Nick had talked about getting tiny, living in a tiny house, but we already had our house and I’m a planner. I felt like we couldn’t go back. So I didn’t want to become very small, especially when our son was very small himself!
Then, on my birthday in September 2019, we went camping and saw the camp hosts who are paid to stay there and help tend the grounds. We thought we could do it. We came home and said let’s just sell the house.
So we listed him and about a week later he was under contract. It sold for $275,000 in 2018. We made a good chunk out of it because we bought it when the recession ended and refurbished it ourselves. With the proceeds from the sale of the house, we were able to pay off all our debts and buy a motorhome with the money. We then found an eight-acre piece of land nearby for $40,000 and paid cash for it as well. The plan was to build our dream home on this lot, but the county we live in will not allow RVs to live long term. To be allowed to install a septic tank and electricity, you had to have a permanent structure. That’s when we went to Home Depot and saw a two story shed they were selling. We decided to try and build our own little house out of this shed.
We had to design what the hangar would look like before talking to them, because it was a hangar, and they’re not meant to house people full time! We paid a little extra for details like a floor joist on the second floor and an exterior wrap around the house, but the shed builders came and erected the shed on our property and built the walls and roof, the latter was the only thing I did. I didn’t want Nick to do it, because it was so high.
We did everything else by ourselves. Nick is our numbers guy so he drew everything to size, showing the size of our kitchen and all the other rooms. In addition to installing a septic tank, which we paid someone else for, we did all the electrical, plumbing, flooring, walls, painting and purchased and installed the cabinets and counters.
The small shed in the house was two stories high and 860 square feet in total. We also put a bathroom under the stairs so it was a one bedroom, one and a half bathroom house. We had a full kitchen with everything we needed, and a very large bathroom and an upstairs bedroom with a walk-in closet.
The goal with the shed was to live there for a few years and build our dream home on the same property, then the shed would become a suite for our families.
With the upgrades we had to get, the shed cost about $27,000, but in total it cost $60,000 to complete our tiny house. We were very lucky. You probably couldn’t build the same tiny house for $60,000 now.
We lived in the RV for about 14 months, and it was a nice reset, because when we sold our first house, we sold everything, including all of our furniture. So we moved into the RV with just the clothes we brought and with each other. Our son was only a year old when we were in the RV so his stuff took up more space than him.
There was something liberating about living the most minimal life possible. The motorhome was that reset button for us to be completely free from all the pressures we had on us for so long.
We finished building the small shed in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit, so it was a good time to get out of the RV and into something bigger. But the shed sat in an 8 acre woodlot, so even the land seemed very minimal.
Then in early 2021 the housing market went crazy and we saw people selling their homes for an insane amount. We had wanted to get out of debt, which we got, and we had the shed and the land, but we still didn’t have the large sum of money we would need for a loan to build our dream house. .
We figured it would take us four or five years to save for this loan, and it would be living in a small one-bedroom shed with a son who was three at the time. We didn’t want to live there for another five years, with him in the same room as his parents.
So we decided to put the cabin up for sale on a whim, and we got interest from several types of people. Some people liked the privacy of the land, others liked the smallness of the house. Some were attracted by the option of living in the tiny house and building later. In the end, it sold just over a year after we moved in, in April 2021, for around $275,000. It has since been resold for $312,000.
We made enough from the sale to be able to start building our dream home on 5 acres of land which we later purchased in the same county. This construction began in June 2021 and took approximately eight months. The house is beautiful, it’s our dream house.
The porch is wraparound, we have a double-sided fireplace in the living-dining room, and the whole house is open and airy. We have three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms, so it’s not huge, but after four years of living really small, it looks big!
It’s just the three of us, we don’t need a big space. Our builder said we had the perfect land for a basement, but we don’t need it. It just means more stuff. We liked the minimal living in the RV and the little shed, so even though it’s the dream home, we still wanted to keep it practical.
I turn 34 in September and Nick is 34 now. The next most important thing is paying for the house. The construction of the land and the property cost approximately $435,000 and we secured a loan for part of it. We try to make double mortgage payments every month, so hopefully we’ll pay it off in 15 years or less.
There are many people who will never own a home, who will pay it off after retirement, or who will not be able to retire because they still have to pay off their mortgage, which puts our situation in perspective. It’s very humiliating. It’s good to know that around 50, the house will be paid for.
Nick wants to be retired at age 55, and he’s always said that when he retires he’d want to go host at Home Depot, so it’s really funny that life will probably go back to Home Depot!
A video of us that went viral recently is the same one that went viral in 2020. But two years ago it felt like it was the fact that we had a shed, a little house, that made her very popular. Now I think it’s more the sense of the story behind it and why we ended up in the little house.
Our goal was to ultimately get to where we are today and have our dream home. What’s unique is how we got there. We know that was pretty extreme, in no way do we think that’s the answer for everyone. But it was our way. I think it’s been inspiring for people to know there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Now people can see our end goal, everything we’ve been through and how weird we were for a few years. If our story just helps one person think outside the box, do something different, and not be afraid to be a little different, I’d be happy.
Nick would like to do more house flips in the future, and after paying off our current mortgage, I think traveling more will be a goal. I want to see the world.
Meghan Lucido lives in Georgia with her husband Nick and their son. You can follow them on Instagram @our.ga.mountain.farmhouse.
All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
As said to Jenny Harvard.