8 refreshing insights about money and happiness from people who ‘live tiny’

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Brothers Justin and Adam Fricke are traveling the US in an 82-square-foot Dodge sprinter van.
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www.brod-trip.com

“Living tiny” – whether in a van, houseboat, or 98-square-foot home on wheels – can save a lot on housing.

But a compact, minimalist lifestyle offers more than just substantial savings.

Here are a handful of refreshing insights about money, happiness, and life from van dwellers, tiny-home owners, and people living off the grid.


Society’s definition of luxury doesn’t have to be your definition

Daniel Norris, MLB pitcher who lives in a 1978 Volkswagen camper during the off-season

“I grew up with a simple lifestyle, and I knew going into professional baseball that would be tested,” Norris told GrindTV. “In my mind there’s no need for luxury, or at least society’s sense of the word. I consider my life luxurious – I live on a beach with an ocean-front view, hearty meals, and hot French-pressed coffee at my disposal. That’s fancy, right?”


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Brandon, who asked to withhold his last name, has been living in this 2006 Ford for a year in the Google parking lot.
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Brandon

Your material goods don’t define your level of wealth

Brandon, lives in a 128-square-foot truck in Google’s parking lot in the Bay Area

“I get the most enjoyment from self-improvement, and for me, that comes from books, exercise, and working on personal projects,” he writes on his blog. “I wouldn’t be any happier with a 50 inch television or a PlayStation 4, because those don’t align with my goals for life. Being wealthy isn’t a function of material, it’s a function of contentedness.”


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Dan Timmerman and his wife live on solar power in their cabin in rural New York.
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DirtWireTV/YouTube

Having money is secondary to living the lifestyle you desire

Dan Timmerman, professional cyclist living off the grid in a cabin in rural New York with his wife, Sam

“The best thing is the direct access to nature, being able to do all the stuff we do,” Timmerman tells Business Insider. “And the financial aspect. We’re really comfortable financially. It really gives us a lot freedom. Like, if one of us wanted to start a business or something, and we had to invest in it, we’d have the freedom to do that because we don’t have all the overhead where we live. That’s secondary to just being able to live the lifestyle. But they are both big advantages.”


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After dealing with $32,000 worth of student debt after completing his undergrad, Ken Ilgunas vowed to never take out loans again.
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Photo courtesy of Ken Ilgunas

Student loans are much more than a monthly payment

Ken Ilgunas, lived in a van during graduate school at Duke to avoid taking out student loans again

“Some people think of their student debt like a car-insurance payment – just something they have to pay each month,” Ilgunas tells Business Insider. “I think of it like a ball and chain – something that’s keeping you from living a full life.”


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www.brod-trip.com

You can make money doing what you love

Justin and Adam Fricke, brothers exploring all 50 US states in an 82-square-foot sprinter van

“We’re two Floridian brothers fighting society’s natural pull to the post-college desk life,” they write on their blog. “Who says you can’t do meaningful work that you love and have fun doing it? We say you can.”


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Alek Lisefski built this portable tiny house for $30,000.
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Photo by Alek Lisefski

Less is more

Alek Lisefski, lives with his girlfriend and their dog in a tiny home they built on an 8-by-12-foot flatbed trailer

“Without room to hoard things and hide away from the world, I’ll be forced to spend more time outdoors, in nature and engaging with my community,” Lisefski explained on his blog when he first started his project. “This will foster better health and healthy relationships. With no more rent to pay, I’ll save money, allowing for a less hectic work life and more time and funds for health, leisure, and travel.”


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Kline estimates she’ll save about $20,000 a year by trading in her condo for a tiny house on wheels, which she named “The Koop.”
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Courtesy of Lori Kline

Downsizing creates freedom

Lori Kline, lives in a 120-square-foot tiny house on wheels just east of Austin, Texas

“Living in a smaller footprint in a tiny house on wheels has given me freedom,” Kline tells Business Insider. “Freedom from all of the stuff I hadn’t used in years; freedom from being a pawn in the game of the housing market; and freedom to do more things by freeing me up financially from huge expenses that come with home ownership of a traditional home. I am free to do what I want, when I want, and I love it!”


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The Roes estimate they save £11,630 a year — about $16,539 — by living off the grid.
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Scott and Ruth Roe

You don’t have to live ‘off the grid’ to save money

The Roe family, live off the grid in rural Wales on the property where Led Zeppelin wrote one of their biggest hits, “Stairway to Heaven”

“It’s interesting that the biggest savings are ‘lifestyle’ choice savings – growing our own organic food, upcycling, and taking advantage of free, outdoor activities – that go hand-in-hand with off-grid living, but some of which can be done without actually being off-grid,” says Scott Roe.