Tips for Living Affordably in a Micro-Apartment or Tiny Home

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Tiny houses and micro-apartments have been growing in popularity over the last several years, but saw a surge in trendiness during the pandemic. A recent survey by IPX1031, a Fidelity National Financial company, found that 56% of respondents would consider living in a tiny home. Among the primary appeals of occupying one of these itsy bitsy domiciles is the affordability. According to Rocket Homes, a tiny home costs an average of between $30,000 and $60,000 — much less than a traditional starter home that can go for a couple hundred thousand bucks more

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 A smaller space also can lead to lower lifestyle and monthly costs.

“Tiny living usually helps us save on the major expenses like housing costs and utilities when compared to living in a typical home,” said Bri Bell of Frugal Minimalist Kitchen, who lives in a tiny home. “It also helps us curb impulse spending on unnecessary things for the simple reason that there just isn’t room to put more things.” 

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Lack of Storage Could Lead To Spending More on Food and Handiwork

But big savings and tiny living don’t automatically go hand in hand. For instance, you might notice yourself spending more on food. 

“If your kitchen is extra small or not particularly functional, you might end up eating out more because cooking meals at home is really difficult due to the space constraints,” Bell said. “If you have control over the design of your space, try to take that into consideration.” 

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You may also not have the space to store food in bulk. To tackle this problem, Melanie Hartmann, co-founder of Dreams Built In, recommends upping your coupon game and taking advantage of supermarket sales. 

Additionally, Hartmann said the number of tools and supplies you are able to store in a small living space can be quite limited. 

“You may find yourself spending more money renting tools or hiring professionals to complete household repairs than you might if you had space to store these tools yourself,” Hartmann said. “To cut down on these costs, you could borrow a neighbor’s tools and do the work yourself or offer your time to mow a neighbor’s lawn or babysit their kids in exchange for them doing some handyman work on your house.”

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When Possible, DIY It

Tiny homes may be bought, but often they are built from scratch, costing DIYers as little as $10,000 to build. If you can build your own home, you can probably handle just about any household project, but if you bought your little abode or micro-apartment, now is the time to embrace the DIY spirit. 

“You can either overspend by hiring a professional to do things for you, or you can watch a couple of tutorials online and do it yourself,” said Chris Brown, CEO at Tudor Housing Consulting. “If you make DIY a habit you will be saving a lot of money in the long run.” 

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A Popular Location Comes at a Cost

Location famously can make the price of living skyrocket and that doesn’t exclude tiny houses. 

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“Micro-apartments tend to be in large, metropolitan areas with high rent prices,” said Lily Burns, PR coordinator at AptAmigo. “Despite saving on square footage, location can still cause rent prices to be high in some cases. Renters can cut the costs by sharing the space with a roommate or partner, but doing so will likely come at the expense of more limited space.” 

Aim for finding (or building) a micro-apartment in a low-cost city, or spring for a tiny house off the grid altogether

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Last updated: July 7, 2021

About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.

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