by Kimberly Mok
For many, financial freedom can be an elusive goal. People work long hours to pay off student loans, mortgage loans and consumer debt, but rising costs of living and housing prices mean that true financial freedom is increasingly difficult to achieve without some serious reconsideration of how to get past the finish line.
For Jocelyn and Jarvis, gaining financial freedom meant undergoing a process of recognizing their financial situation, taking steps to curb their spending, setting goals and sticking to them, and also building their own small home, which they have lived in for the last two years. Their multifaceted approach of simplifying their life meant that they were able to eliminate a debt of $96,000 in 20 months, while ultimately living a lifestyle that they feel is more fulfilling.
The couple first confronted their debt of $96,000 from student loans, credit cards, and from purchasing a small piece of property in the country. That moment of financial reckoning came one night when they took a hard, “sobering” look at their finances and realized that they were spending more than they were making. They decided to take drastic measures to help them pay off their debt as quickly as possible, which included drawing up a strict budget, moving into a smaller apartment, buying only used items, changing jobs, using cash only for daily expenditures and actually freezing their credit card in a block of ice.
After paying off their debts, they continued to live a frugal lifestyle and save up money for buying a home. Their interest in simple living led them to look at tiny homes, and when a pre-framed tiny house shell became available, they decided that they could complete the build themselves. It took them 14 months of building on almost every weekend while working full- and part-time jobs to complete their tiny home, which is now home to the couple and their two children.
Thanks to their efforts, the couple has created a beautiful home that includes a multipurpose living area, which serves as a lounge and a dining area, thanks to the folding IKEA table that can open up during meals.
The kitchen is in the centre of the house; it has a full sized stove and oven, and hidden underfloor storage.
Above the kitchen is the master bedroom, which can be accessed by a ladder.
The bathroom is near the kitchen, and includes a small soaking tub and shower, as well as a composting toilet.
Beyond the bathroom and down the hall is the room for the children. There’s plenty of storage here for clothes, toys and books.
The smaller size of these homes often means that tiny house dwellers will spend more time enjoying the outdoors. Here, the family has erected a porch, a playhouse for the children and planted some gardens for growing their own food.
Besides having more financial independence than ever, the family has consciously reduced their water and energy consumption, and has adapted well to living in a small space, even with two kids, says Jarvis:
Humans are really adaptable. We will adapt to whatever our environment is, and we have just learned to live in this space really well. It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.
But perhaps most importantly, Jocelyn believes that living a simpler lifestyle in a smaller space will teach their children some important life lessons:
It feels like we are coming into a time ecologically where the generation that we’re bringing up are probably going to need to know how to live with less, to live more simply. I don’t think that the path the world is on will be sustained for much longer. So I feel like we are trying to give our kids some tools in understanding how much they actually need and how much it takes to really be happy.
Fittingly, the pair point out that tiny houses might not be accessible to everyone: not everyone can or wants to build their own home, finding a place to park it continues to be a common issue, and some high-end tiny houses end up being so costly they defeat the whole purpose of living simply. For now, the couple plans to live as long as they can in the tiny house, but are keeping their options open by saving money to potentially purchase more land and build another larger, off-the-grid house.