Most of us approach large purchases exactly wrong. When we are thinking about purchasing a house or a car we often start with the question: What can I afford? There are special calculators and numerous articles written to help you determine how much house you can afford. Yet there is very little advice to help you figure out how much you really need.
What do you need in a house? Obviously, in the strictest sense of the word, you need very little. Shelter from the elements, a place to prepare and eat your meals, a comfortable and safe place to sleep, a toilet and a shower are about all you need. So let’s start there. Next, we can ask what would make you comfortable. You probably want to be able to easily accommodate the whole family at once around a table for meals and it may be important to you to have a washer and dryer. You may not remember it, but there was a time in this country when kids shared a room with their sibs. And, everyone shared one bath.
In 1950 the average new house was only 983 square feet, but by 2007 the average new house had ballooned to a whopping 2,629 square feet. This expansion occurred at a time when the typical family decreased in size from an average of 3.1 people/family in 1970 to only 2.6 people/family in 2000. (LS3P Knowledge Center)
A bigger house means more in taxes, insurance, utilities and upkeep. And, of course a bigger price tag. If you want to own your house (and not have it own you), give some thought to what you really want. Do you want the freedom to travel, the money to participate in your expensive sports, funds to pay for your kids college?
Lots of people are going very very small. Here’s a video of a PBS Story on the tiny house movement. I’ve never lived that small but I find the idea fascinating.
The three of us lived in 640 square feet for four years. It was an old house and poorly laid out. The refrigerator was on the back porch and there were no closets. Even at that, I don’t remember ever being unhappy because we had limited sqare footage. Our extremely low expenses allowed us to travel, a lot. We sold that house when we had a need to be in a different city. We bought our “new” house based 100% on location. It’s massively larger than the old house and of course the expenses are much higher, but we love the location. I think it would be cool to try and make 500 very carefully laid out square feet work for us.
What if you could be happy with housing that cost 20% of your income instead of 30%. What dream would that 10% allow you to follow?