How This Frugal Family of 4 Paid Off $96k in Debt & Built a Custom Tiny House

**How This Frugal Family of 4 Paid Off $96k in Debt & Built a Custom Tiny House**



View Time:18:7Minutes



After finishing school, Jocelyn and Jarvis had $96,000 of debt from student loans, credit cards, and buying a small rural property. This is the story of how they paid it off in just 20 months, and then built themselves a debt-free custom tiny house for their family of 4.

After ignoring their finances for a long time, the couple finally faced reality one night when they sat down and added up all of their debts, and compared it to the revenue they had coming in.

When they realized how much they owed, they decided to make some drastic changes so they could pay it off and stop worrying about money.

To start, they moved to a smaller apartment, changed jobs, shopped second-hand, froze a credit card in a block of ice, switched to using cash only, and made a budget that allowed them to chip away at their debt.

They had a white board with a list of all their debts, which they updated every time a payment was made so they’d continue to be motivated. After 20 months, they were completely debt-free. After that, they continued with their minimalist, frugal habits and were able to save up enough money to build themselves a custom tiny house on wheels.

They’ve been living in the tiny house for over two years now, with their two children, and plan to continue living in it for as long as they can. They are currently saving money to buy a small acreage where they will build a larger off grid home and keep the tiny house as an income property.

We’re very inspired by this young family’s dedication to improve their lives by paying off their debt, by their awareness of their energy consumption, by their efforts to buy less and live a low waste lifestyle.

They’re trying to make positive change in every aspect of their lives, and that’s not always an easy thing to do.

Thank you, Jocelyn and Jarvis, for sharing your story with us! And for the beautiful day we spent at your place!

Thanks for watching!

Mat & Danielle

PS thank you to all of our Patrons who support us so generously and a very special thank you to our backbone supporters: The Burgess Family!


Facebook: /exploringalternativesblog
Instagram: @exploringalternatives


We want our channel and our comments section to be an inclusive space where everyone feels welcome to watch and to contribute. For this reason, comments that are inappropriate or hateful will be reported and/or deleted.

Please discuss and debate with respect, and report inappropriate or hateful comments directly to YouTube.


A very special thank you to our subtitle and closed captions contributors!

If you would like to contribute subtitles or closed captions to an Exploring Alternatives video, please click here to see which ones need your help:


We occasionally include paid sponsor messages/integrations in our videos to help fund the channel. We do our best to work with companies and organizations that offer products or services that are in line with our values, and that we think would be interesting and useful to our viewers.

We will always disclose if we’re promoting products that were given to us for free, or if we’re including a sponsored message in our video.

For business or sponsorship inquiries, please email us at [email protected]


Music & Song Credits:
All music in this video was composed, performed, and recorded by Mat of Exploring Alternatives.

Editing Credits:
Mat and Danielle of Exploring Alternatives

Filming Credits:
Mat of Exploring Alternatives

Construction Photo Credits:
Jocelyn and Jarvis
humans are really adaptable we'll just adapt to whatever whatever our environment is and we have just learned to live in this space really well it doesn't it doesn't feel like a sacrifice at the end of this month we'll have been in our tiny house for two years the the freedom within our lifestyle I think it's just it feels like a constant sort of gift to ourselves for us it's it's it's the whole picture it's the whole process for us recognizing where we were financially of taking the steps and that's a really hard part for a lot of people is actually starting that process of making sacrifices in your life to simplify to start saving more money to start spending less money and that whole process really started making or made us question our life our consumption our expenditures and then we started to simplify a little bit more and then we started thinking about a tiny house and then rebuilding the tiny house and it's the whole journey that's been out to where we are it didn't happen overnight and I think where we are now isn't a result of just one of those pieces it's a result of the entire journey the whole path Russ we both had finished school and we were starting our adult life kind of ready to launch out into the world and one night we sat and tallied up our debts because we realized we were really kind of living outside of our means and from our combined student loan debt and a rural property that we had purchased together we were ninety six thousand dollars in debt and it was just incredibly sobering and we knew we had to make some really big changes I mean a lot of it was student loan debt but we still we were using credit cards sort of indiscriminately we were going on little trips one whenever we felt like it so we changed everything we moved to a different location into a one-bedroom apartment we started using only cash we were able to get out of debt in 20 months we went from lying awake at night stressing about our debt load to feeling like we suddenly had all these options and we no longer wanted to spend money in the same way you know we actually whiteboard we had a whiteboard we wrote down everything that we we owed everything we had and all the money coming in and all the money going out and not that was really sobering every time we'd make a payment on her dad we would update the whiteboard and it went from minus ninety six thousand and I remember when we hit minus fifty thousand we were like and we started forecasting for anyway we can't wait til we have zero you know like we don't have a penny for our name that's gonna be awesome when we got out of debt soon after we had our daughter and we just continued to live really frugally we stayed in our one-bedroom apartment we we just really enjoyed that new way of living we buy everything secondhand most everything that we can and and just having a lot less it was really wonderful having a new baby and having minimal possessions having no debt we started saving money and going into you know the opposite where we had we were telling up our savings and our whole plan was to get a you know chunk of money for a down payment on a house and we got to that point where we were like well we could leap now we could buy a house and you know the market in the city that we live and it was just it was really we had to really think about do we want to now you know I take on a huge mortgage and although people really tend to view that as a different kind of debt for us we've gone from this very very heavy burden of debt to feeling very free and so we envisioned a different a different solution we were thinking we love living small we don't know if that will for sure stay in our city forever so if we build a tiny house we have the freedom of living without debt and still being able to save money and also if in the future we want to relocate to a smaller community we can do that we can bring our little house with us so when we went through that process of analyzing sort of taking stock of all of our debt we categorized it in a number of different ways we had a huge spreadsheet and one of one of the things was to sort of rank the debt in the amount of interest free of pain on it the total amount of debt for each liability and we were really honest with ourselves that we we had to make some really serious changes so we moved I got a different job I was working myself at the time we looked at all of our expenses and we just slashed where we could we were super aggressive I think going to cash was yeah our biggest strategy's no longer using the card we've broke down what our weekly expenses were and every Monday we we still do this we take out cash for the week and when that cash is gone it's very visible we have our little glass jars up here that have our cash in them and when the money's gone yeah that part of it we set up a really realistic budget and that's something we revisit all the time it's not it's on it do it once and and it works forever because things change in your life you know what do you have kids or remove or whatnot that's always changing that that amount of money you need at the start of our getting out of debt process we also did a year experiment where we didn't buy anything new for a year if we needed something it had to be secondhand but it was also just trying to go with exactly what we already had and if we really needed something we would write it up on our chalkboard and we would usually wait a week or two and and not let ourselves go get it even secondhand we would try and see do we actually need this can we borrow it from so on can we improvise and that really curbed our spending everything weeks late yeah I really made us question everything we brought into her house I don't think I was coming into a tiny house as fast as you were when the opportunity came to us where there was a tiny house that had just been started that's where the decision support was needed to actually well can we do this and we actually had a tweet window to make a decision yeah I have been looking at tiny houses for years I'm I'm a nurse and a night on night shifts I would sit and and just dream about these little homes and I always thought oh geez if I was a single person this is what I would want to do and I thought you know maybe down the road when we're a lot older this would be an adventure that we'd have but I never actually considered it with children and then this tiny house that our friend had bought that was just framed in on on the trailer came available and I was like oh my goodness we could actually do this never seen I never said I wanted to live in a tiny house I said a small house not a tiny house so we had to make a decision quickly because there was a lot of interest in the tiny house and and you know two weeks from the time that we were told about it to buy I really had to pitch it yeah it was not only like do you want to live in this house but do you want to spend the next which we X number of you can completing it please even though you have no building x-ray so so we did she talked me into it so our plan was to work on it just weekends Jarvis was working full-time and I was working a half time nursing position and we thought oh it'll take about four to five months so we started in May and we thought we'd be in for about November and it took 14 months and it was a really interesting process in some ways it was really really exciting and fun we got to learn a whole bunch of new skills you in particular we spent our evenings on YouTube watching work trying to learn how to do well our evenings of watching you know mindless entertainment stuff on on the Internet turn into watching videos on how to wire or know how to flash a roof or something like that everything changed yeah it was also really difficult by the time we were just about finished I sort of hated the tiny house for a while I remember my mom asking me if you could if you were to do it again do you think you would choose to do the tiny house again and I I remember saying I don't know because it was a huge sacrifice as a family we had I think we calculated 56 weekend's where Jarvis was working at the house and I was taking care of our daughter and we went from being this super cohesive little family that you know we were all about leisure time and being together and weekends to just slaving away every weekend and a lot of weeknights on the house but now that you know as soon as we moved in and we were actually living in it we were like yes this was totally worth it but it was it was a big endeavor yeah it was it was definitely a stressful time it was everything was new for for me and for you you were doing the primary caregiving role for a railer at the time and and yeah those jaws Jocelyn said every weekend I was here and then and then in many nights of the week just working working away and sometimes you'd come down and you'd be just so excited to see see the progress and I had spent half a day moving you know we had all of our hardwood flooring and all the wall cladding piled up in the house and such a small house that you know if I had all the hard wood piled here and I needed to work here half the day we moving all this pile of wood over there or up into a lot so she'd come down and she'd be so excited to see how much progress I made on a Saturday and I'd be like yeah I worked all day moving and 500 pounds of lumber from that side of the house this side that we initially moved in as a family of three so behind us there's our kids room so when we built the hot tiny house we wanted to make sure that we would have a separate room for our daughter at the time so she has her own little bedroom back there and that helps that helps a big time that she is in a little place that she can go in and closed her door and it's a great little place for now that there's four of us it's become a kid's room not our daughter's room I think having the room still though is going to be key for for us to live in this house we're not going to be in this house forever we know that as the kids get bigger it's going to become a challenge so we don't know when that is going to happen but we're just gonna ride it as long as we can for now but having having a separate bedroom for the kids I think is key we've seen a lot of designs online where our videos where people have sort of a little nook or something for the kids room and I think that would be really challenging because they have kids have lots of stuff their room is sort of their domain and when they're playing it's it's a mess and that's fine but if that was in her living room all of the time it would be it would be a little more challenging living in in a house that that is this small I really promotes living a lot of time outside which we love and there's so many windows in the house we feel like we're so much more connected to the seasons when we lived in this rate in the city and we were in an apartment we sometimes wouldn't go outside for most of the day and here in the warm weather we fling the door open first thing in the morning and we don't close it until evening and the kids are running around outside so much more than they would be I think in a apartment or even a regular a regular house this winter was challenging we had a really cold winter and I think almost everyone I know felt pretty cagey by the end of winter and we definitely did we were super super excited for spring this year so it is built on a 32 foot long trailer standard 8 foot wide square footage on the lower level is about 224 square root of 25 square foot down below in about a hundred square foot box up top so overall if you calculating the loft is about 325 square feet we heat and cook with propane our hot water comes from a hot water on demand which is tucked up into our bedroom closet in the loft and we operate off of 15 amps which is just a standard plug into a outlet from the owner's home I wanted to build a house so wherever we showed up we could plug into a regular living into a house an entire house can be powered by a 15 amp circuit we don't have a blow dryer blow dryer is off-limits yeah we when we use our food processor sometimes we unplug our dehumidifier so we're just really aware of our energy use and are actually our plan is to go up for it this summer we have solar panels because in the future when we have our own property we'd like to be off-grid so our electrical needs are very small we have a composting toilet and we've found we've adjusted to that really really easily because we're getting into gardening we're finding it's just another way that we have feel connected to natural systems and you know we've we've been here two years so our first bin of a compost that has been laying fallow for close to two years is now completely broken down and we may have the soil tested just to show that it's microbe really neutral at this point so cooking for you pathogen-free yeah so it's that's been interesting we have five gallon buckets we have four of them and when the bucket when you go to the washroom you just toss organic material we use wood chips and you cover your waste and then when the buckets full we take it out to our spot in the woods where we add it to the larger bin and we cover everything with ample amounts of straw and then we leave it when it when that been out in the woods woods is full it lays fallow for two years we're actually on well water so the site that we rent from they have a well and it's been fine and then we do have a great water system so obviously we have accomplished the toilet for all all the black water but the grey water so for the sinks in the tub we when we moved here we had a grey well dug and put in for us and we use that heads for working fine and we're just really careful about what products we use we make a lot of our own body care products and then we buy from our local soap exchange so that all our shampoo and dish soap is all natural so make sure nothing goes into the grey well that would be toxic we have a deck that wraps around most of the front of the house and that really expand its tens our living space and then off the kids room they have a door to the outside and they have their own little deck to play on we have some chickens which has been really wonderful for eggs we don't have any pets at this time because the house is feeling a little too small for a dog or a cat I don't want to maintain any other small creatures this is so chickens have been great we have a garden built into our hillside and we're kind of just novice gardeners and really enjoying that behind the garden is a really beautiful pond we're really lucky to have access to and then Jarvis built the kids a really beautiful little treehouse in the woods and everything that we build we make sure can come with us because we're planning to buy our own acreage in the next in the next couple years debt-free we want to do that mortgage free and so that's what we're saving for it I think it's important to acknowledge that we have been really privileged and being able to do this because I don't think that this is necessarily accessible to everyone you've been able to learn to you know build this house yourself so that's really cut down on our cost but for people who aren't inclined to build for themselves it can actually be really expensive to build a tiny house I think there's a fallacy that they're really cheap and they can be but we're seeing a lot of tiny houses online but per square footage yeah they're they're really cost prohibitive so for us this has worked out really well we've been able to find a really great site I think that not everyone can find such a perfect site where they have all this green space we have a space where no one Minds us being here the property owner is really happy to have us and there's there are no issues but I think that people have to be really really realistic that you're probably not going to park it right in the middle of the city and not everyone is going to love your tiny house and there are issues with septic and how you dispose of your waste you need to be really responsible and careful about the environment around you I think living in our house personally I just feel really free I feel like we can because we don't have debt because we don't have a lot of possessions and because that truly makes us happy we have a lot of freedom if one of us decided that we wanted to change our career tomorrow we absolutely could if one of us decided we wanted to stay home full-time with our kids we could we are architecting our life I don't ever get the sense or feel that we're you know along for the ride we very much feel in control of our lives we have a vision of what we want for our kids how we want to raise them we feel that we're coming into a time ecologically where you know the generation that we're bringing up there they're probably going to need to know how to live with less to live more simply I don't think that the path that the world is on will be sustained for much longer so I feel like we're trying to give our kids some tools in understanding how much they actually need and how much it takes to to really be happy you

45 thoughts on “**How This Frugal Family of 4 Paid Off $96k in Debt & Built a Custom Tiny House**

  1. Nomad Downunder

    Wow..I am the exact opposite. Live in a 4 bedroom house and I am single on a mortgage. But if there is one thing I can get from them, it is to spend less..

  2. Sandra Beghin

    Great video, was just hoping for more on the financial end of things. Like how much income, cost of properties, not just the debt. If we don't know how much their income was, which is probably pretty good with that much student debt, it's hard to know the full picture of the numbers. I am always curious how people actually pull things off financially. Vague in that area. I love the hill garden and the entire property is amazing, so I am curious how they pulled it off financially. Started with this income, etc.

  3. Thalia

    Student loans. So that would mean they most likely have decent jobs making pretty good pay, right? That makes life a lot easier. I'd love to be able to afford a tiny house, even just a small bit of land that I could eventually build on. If you have the means to do that, whether it be on credit or not, then you're not doing too badly.

  4. Doreen M

    So far my favorite!! Rustic looking n just beautiful! I dont think anybody needs a huge home with empty rooms to live happily. why not save money, live simply, and instead use extra money to travel / make memories, and help others in need!

  5. Hermaphrodite Doro

    with the UN agenda 21 many people will lose their property and they,ll live in tiny homes, so sad,

  6. Wu Li

    Good things come in small packages. To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wildflower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.

  7. jackchickenwing

    why take a dump in a box then carry it in a box to a spot in the woods? cut out the middle man and dump right in the woods

  8. TA Lindsay

    I lived frugally this past year while putting myself thru school. I have always bought used clothing…I use cash for everything. I fell back into eating out recently…so I am changing that again. I always packed food for school and just started back I was living large on having a salary again. Love this little family unit. A little sunroom addition for winter months with a little wood stove would make a difference for the space.

  9. angela nadeau

    Nice job Jocelyn and Jarvis 👍Well done. Wish more people thought like you guys. It looks like some are trying though 😎

  10. Cathy B

    Beautiful home, beautiful family, beautiful surrounding.
    Though I'm sad we were not taken through the house details

  11. Daniel Montecillo

    I've seen many videos about tiny houses, but this is by far the most inspiring because of the story behind the making of it. For someone who's aspiring to have a tiny house in the future, I appreciate the honesty behind the costs and sacrifices involved in building one. Thanks so much for this, and more power to you and your growing family.

  12. Fabio Schneider

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences,.
    You guys inspire ! This is AWESOME . ( smiles )

  13. 3rd Grandma Milhises

    Didn't do a complete showing of the house. Outside view is awesome. Never have i seen a loftin the middle of the house.

  14. Solo Hands

    These are responsible parents..
    Having a child and living self sufficiently off-grid and supporting yourself independently is courageous… ethical… amiable… righteous… non-selfish… economical… non-toxic…

    In reality there should exist a taxation for those having children in society…
    While whole families completely dependent on benefits should be obsolete!

  15. Tanja Loewe

    very very cool and authentic. love it. especially your mindest regarding life in general….what is really necessary…. just love and be peaceful, kind with people around you. good luck to you 4 and I hope you can enjoy for a long time.

  16. Popeyes Pipe Dream Demo Salvage Consultation

    Build a enclosed ,& covered deck n a second tiny house for more Bedrooms


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *