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Your Trailer: Most Important Tiny House Decision?

This is a guest post by Ethan Waldman, author of Tiny House Decisions

When I was sure that I was going to build a Tiny House on Wheels, the first major purchase that I made was a set of plans. Once that was out of the way, I started shopping for trailers.

One of the first major purchases I made for my tiny house on wheels was a flat bed trailer. You certainly can’t start building a tiny house on wheels without one! There are so many options when it comes to trailers. New trailers, used ones, converted trailers from RV’s, farm trailers, etc. One thing seemed certain: trailers were not cheap.

tiny-house-decisions-ethan-waldman-with-tiny-house-trailer

Being the frugal tiny house type, I started looking into used trailers. I was encouraged by reading Andrew Odom’s account of buying and restoring a trailer for his tiny house build. That’s why I was surprised when I interviewed Andrew Odom recently, and he advised strongly against starting with a used trailer. It turns out that the (significant) work that goes into restoring a trailer wound up costing almost as much as buying a new one.

Back to my story, though: I looked at one used trailer that seemed decent- sure it was well worn, but the tires and the deck looked great and the price was right. Luckily, I showed some photos to a cousin who knew better and pointed out that some of the leaf springs were broken, which was a sign that the trailer could have been overloaded during its use.

It was then that I realized how big of a mistake I was about to make: The trailer for a mobile tiny house is a permanent part of the house– and if it were to break or fail, you’d put your house in serious danger.

This was just one of hundreds or even thousands of decisions I had to make while researching, planning, and ultimately building my tiny house. I’m glad that I purchased a new trailer for my tiny house build, and don’t want you to make the costly mistake of potentially buying a trailer that isn’t right (or even safe) for your project.

That’s why I’m so excited to announce my brand new resource: Tiny House Decisions: Everything I Wish I Knew When I Built My Tiny House.

tiny-house-decisions

Tiny House Decisions is unlike any resource out there when it comes to building your tiny house. In the book, I take you through all the major decisions you’ll make (like whether or not you should even attempt to build it yourself), plus all the major systems like heating, plumbing, and electric. Finally, I cover a range choices in construction materials. For each, I discuss the pros and cons of each option, and what I ultimately chose for my own tiny house build. Be sure to visit this page to learn more about this resource (and even download a free sample chapter).

In addition to my own story, I include interviews from several tiny house experts to provide an alternative perspective. There’s even a package with multimedia- including video tours of each major system in my tiny house where I show you exactly how it’s put together.

Coupon Code for Tiny House Talk

For readers of Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter, I’m doing two exciting things: The first is that I’m offering a special launch discount. Between now and midnight eastern time on Monday, September 22nd, you can get 15% off any of the Tiny House Decisions packages by entering the coupon code tinyhousetalk2014 at checkout!

Tiny House Decisions Giveaway!

What’s that second thing, you ask? I’m partnering with Tiny House Talk to give away one deluxe Tiny House Decisions package with all of the multimedia goodies ($189). All you have to do is comment below and answer this question: What’s the one biggest challenge that Tiny House Decisions will help you overcome to build your tiny house? Alex will select the best response and announce a winner on Wednesday, September 17th.

Update: The winner has been selected! Congratulations Trina! Thank you all very much for your participation!

=> Learn more, buy, and instantly download Tiny House Decisions right here. And remember to use the coupon code: tinyhousetalk2014 (expires 9/22/14)

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 68 comments… add one }
  • Adam Norton September 15, 2014, 1:51 pm

    To live simply. Have more with less. Stop trying to pursue happiness and just be happy.

  • Dustin Main September 15, 2014, 2:01 pm

    My biggest challenge? What is the best way to efficiently regulate the climate inside a tiny house when living in a place (Canada) with temperature swings from +35c (95f) in the summer to -40c (-40f) in the winter?

  • Deb September 15, 2014, 2:05 pm

    I guess we have to buy the book first (with the discount of course), read it and then answer your give-away question.

    If the question was “What’s the one biggest challenge that *you hope* Tiny House Decisions will help you overcome to build your tiny house?”, I could answer with finding a secure location to build (as I live in a Condo right now). 🙂

  • S.Hayes September 15, 2014, 2:22 pm

    The biggest challenge is deciding what kind of life to design the house for. will this be a truly mobile (read road safe) tiny house or just a tiny house on a trailer… solid core wire is a big no-no for mobile vehicles for example…something overlooked by too many people… but means huge costs associated flexible multi-strand, properly insulated, etc. Self contained? or plug and go? would be the next decision I would figure out, then… and only then would I feel secure in planing the build. Personally, Ive got two weeks before I hear back from a recruiter… and I’m stuck in Irons.

  • Trina Stephenson September 15, 2014, 2:41 pm

    Confidence to build a tiny home. I have renovated several older homes, but the idea of building a home from scratch is seriously daunting. Add to the mix, building a “miniature” home where bad design and layout decisions could be magnified since there is no square footage to waste and you have a serious confidence issue! So confidence is my biggest challenge and I am hoping you can help with that lack so I can be a successful tiny home builder and owner!

  • Stephanie September 15, 2014, 2:48 pm

    how to put in stors in whichever tiny house were going to get cuz we’re looking at living in the tiny house until our golden years and beyond so we know stairs are a must but they have to be low enough for my partner to walk comfortably.

  • Eric September 15, 2014, 3:36 pm

    There are many options for heating/cooling a tiny house, including good passive design. I’m interested in seeing all the options laid out with pros/cons for each. Particularly intriguing to me is radiative floor heating (hot water pumped through pipes below floor), as it’s quiet and can be done using solar water heater.

  • Eric Rathgeber September 15, 2014, 3:36 pm

    I would have to say that the biggest challenge that I am hoping to find an answer to in Tiny House Decisions is whether I should continue to research and plan for the home I want, or do I begin taking action by purchasing a trailer. I have so many questions and ideas that it is hard to know where to begin. I am hopeful that your book will help me to make wise, informed decisions as I have been hesitant to take action.

    • Alex September 18, 2014, 3:51 pm

      There comes a point where we’ve researched enough, and if we feel like we’re ready to start, we have to take that leap. I say, trust your gut! Great question Eric!

  • Roy LeBrun September 15, 2014, 4:08 pm

    I have a cancer with no cure, and so face more than a few challenges. I am considering a stand up loft with a murphy bed to give me living room and storage underneath with no ladder to climb to get to bed, only a small staircase. Maybe my biggest challenge is the drugs I need to be treated with. The chemo’s and stuff makes my waste caustic, so when I’m getting treatments I have to flush the toilet multiple times so as not to eat away the pipes and so composting or plastic marine toilets and plastic pipes wouldn’t be a good idea. I own a travel trailer that I have been considering converting. I love the looks of EVERY tiny house I’ve seen and also love the freedom they offer, but I wonder if this is something that would be good for me at this point in my life.

    • Alex September 18, 2014, 3:53 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Roy. I wish you the best in your health and recovery and I’m glad you are enjoying all the idea offered here. Blessings and thanks, Alex

  • alice h September 15, 2014, 4:20 pm

    Pretty hard to narrow it down to one challenge (besides finances of course) but I think the overall biggest issue for me is how practical is my current plan of putting up a shell that will work for the next few years but be upgradable in stages. The inside isn’t much of a worry but I was hoping to use T-111 siding to start, with battens that will transform into furring strips for a nicer siding option later. I can’t seem to get my head around the exact implications for waterproofing and condensation management in a rainy Pacific NW. How to do vapour barriers and house wrap that will work well for both earlier and later stages.

    • Robert September 15, 2014, 4:37 pm

      Wrap the outside with a good wrap.
      Insulate the roof and walls and floor with the best you can and make sure to thermal bridge the studs. 5 years of all seasons in the NW and no issues heating and cooling. No moisture issues.

  • ben philibert September 15, 2014, 4:24 pm

    After years of building myself small camping spaces using a pickup truck and cap, I’d like to go to the next level and consider building a real living structure rather than a temporary camper. This book would help me to make the right decisions for how to upgrade from a small camping lifestyle to a little more robust living space, that I could also consider using as a potentially ‘portable’ home as well.

    • Alex September 18, 2014, 4:44 pm

      Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good head start compared to most people, Ben, thanks a lot for sharing!

  • Robert September 15, 2014, 4:43 pm

    The best time to build a Tiny House. Five years ago.
    The second best time to start a Tiny House build. Today!

  • Karen September 15, 2014, 4:53 pm

    What’s the one biggest challenge the book will help me overcome? Ignorance, I hope!

    • Alex September 18, 2014, 4:47 pm

      Thanks Karen! Keep on absorbing information and getting ideas as it’ll help make that feeling of ‘ignorance’ go away 🙂

  • Elena September 15, 2014, 4:53 pm

    Hi Alex! I feel the biggest decision the book and media would help me make is around the different systems in my tiny home. We are building a tiny house for many different reasons but the big two are for financial freedom while paying down student debt and reducing our negative impact on the earth and living green. This will help me balance the budget with eco friendly dreams. Some of the big questions are solar vs propane vs plugging in and what type of plumbing system – grey water, rain water, composting toilet, etc. Either way I am very excited to get a hold of this information m I’m so thankful there are people who have forged a trail and made mistakes we can learn from!
    – Elena

    • Alex September 18, 2014, 4:46 pm

      Hi Elena! Most people are like you in that they’re in it for the financial freedom that tiny living offers. And that usually also happens to translate into better for the environment which is perfect. Living better, happier, getting to keep more money, AND living a lifestyle that helps save the environment.. It doesn’t get much better in my opinion. Great questions and I encourage you to order the book as you’ll likely find it very valuable. Thanks Elena!

  • Marsha Johnson September 15, 2014, 4:58 pm

    Land. My biggest challenge is where CAN I put it? How much land do I need? ETC.

  • Ocean September 15, 2014, 5:05 pm

    The biggest challenge for me which I hope “Tiny House Decisions” can help me with is developing the confidence to actually pursue the dream of building my own tiny house. I am NOT a handywoman by any stroke of the imagination, but this is something that I would like to change. I’m not saying that I hope to be a full-fledged building contractor by the time I move into my house, but hopefully I will have learned and developed some skills which I can then use for future projects. I like the idea of becoming more self-sustaining and able to do things for myself independently rather than relying on others. I am Deaf and I do have to rely on others for certain things such as communication access (using a sign language interpreter). To the extent that I can, I want to be able to do as much myself as possible…and I think your book and other related resources will be a valuable tool for helping me to do so. Thanks!

    • Ford September 16, 2014, 5:18 pm

      Ocean, keep the faith and the dream going! As a carpenter, I’m reminded of the things (skills and hearing) I often take for granted. I live in a tiny 6×10 Shasta trailer by choice, even though I do custom work on 1.5 mil houses. The tiny house movement is all about giving Americans a dream again, but this time without all the baggage of ‘stuff’. The dream to get by and be content so we have energy for that which matters. My dog tells me we have it made and she’s right!
      I’d love to offer any help to you in taking some steps towards your little place. Your words have been heard.

      • Alex September 18, 2014, 4:43 pm

        Thanks Ford and Ocean for sharing and supporting each other! That’s what community is all about. Big smiles, Alex

  • Jordan September 15, 2014, 5:09 pm

    To answer the question “What’s the one biggest challenge that Tiny House Decisions will help you overcome to build your tiny house?” I’d have to say that the biggest challenge will be seeing if my significant other and myself can actually live in a tiny house. Living by yourself is do-able, but with another person is a little harder.

    • Alex September 18, 2014, 4:42 pm

      Hey Jordan, I can attest to that. While I know I’d find a tiny house to be perfect for me and my lifestyle. It’s totally different when Andrea comes into play. So for that reason (and the fact that I work from home full time), I’m sticking to and shooting for ‘small’ instead of tiny.

  • R. Myers September 15, 2014, 5:31 pm

    I’m in the research phase of living my tiny house dreams and I think this package will serve as a proficient and realistic start to that process. I’m already thinking about the “big decisions” and what that means for me and the community in which I live. Hopefully through this opportunity, I will learn more and determine truly what’s the best path for me. Thanks!

  • Ocean September 15, 2014, 5:41 pm

    By the way, as a Deaf person I would like to point something out that many, Many, MANY video creators do not think about when they make their videos.

    They do not caption them for deaf and hard of hearing viewers who have difficulty hearing the soundtrack.

    PLEASE think about this. There are deaf people out there who would love to build a tiny home, but we can’t because the resources are not available to us. Videos are not captioned. Training workshops do not want to provide sign language interpreters.

    “It costs too much money,” they say. “Captioning takes too much time and effort.”

    What folks are really saying is “You’re not worth it.”

    I’m sorry, but I happen to think I ***am*** worth it. I’m a consumer who wants to build her own tiny house. It would be practical for me to do so, because frankly…Deaf people often are underemployed and underpaid in their jobs. Even though I have a college degree and plenty of experience, I am struggling to find a job that pays a decent salary. Yeah, I know… I am not alone in that situation. But stop and consider this – if it is hard enough for the average person to find a well-paying job, how much more difficult do you think it is for someone who cannot use the phone and communicates via sign language? It’s a double whammy. So yes, I would like to build a house and be debt-free. So would a lot of my Deaf friends. Not to mention that we also want to support the concept of sustainability and downsizing and protecting the environment and all of that.

    Sooooo…. I will pay the $29 for the guide. But unless and until you agree to caption your videos so I can benefit from them… I won’t pay for the bigger packages. Sorry, but it would be a waste of my money. Which is pretty darn sad.

    Unfortunately, too many people don’t give a damn about Equal Communication Access, or the Americans with Disabilities Act, or whatever.

    Sad.

    • Noreen September 15, 2014, 11:06 pm

      Unfortunately, all people with disability issues do not fare as well In the workplace. I am visually challenged and when attending college, could not read what was on the board and that was something the instructor did not accommodate so I had to take the rest of my classes online at home, which created its own set of problems!

    • Bowman26 September 18, 2014, 6:13 pm

      If you have other deaf friends that want to live in a Tiny Home I would suggest you all pool your efforts. You could probably get a better deal from a builder if you all ordered your shells be made by a professional. Think bulk purchases and better pricing. Then once you all have your shells you help one another finish the rest. I have an Engineering degree and I have no intentions of building the shell or roofing anything I build. I’d be more comfortable letting someone that does that all the time handle it for me. It will cost me more than doing it myself but I will be able to get into it a lot sooner and save a lot on the back end installing everything inside and building it out as I go and decide how I want things. As a single man I don’t need much lol. I just know that I don’t know enough to be worth it to me to build the shell but I can handle the rest myself. So consider so options you might have to do different things or get deals where you can. A good crew should have a trailer framed and roofed with windows installed in a few days. Maybe you can find a builder that will take on the jobs in their slack periods when they have a break in time from their last job until the next one starts. Just enough time to knock out a TH shell!

  • Lori Gravley September 15, 2014, 6:17 pm

    My toughest decisions, the ones I’m less sure about, have to do with water and waste. So much information on handling waste and water responsibly, and some of that wars with my own desire to be able to live responsibly, frugally, and conveniently. It’s the area where I have the most questions and concerns.

  • Rebecca B. A. R. September 15, 2014, 8:14 pm

    My most challenging decisions are going to be what building materials to use that will be cost effective, and also durable for my lifestyle. I have a lot of pets, and even foster cats, so I know that I would want all laminate or vinyl flooring. Other than that I would love to know what materials would work well in a tiny house, and what wouldn’t work as well, do to weight, movement, durability, etc.

    • Alex September 18, 2014, 4:58 pm

      Great concerns, Rebecca. It’s different for everyone according to needs, wants and available resources. Keep digging and I’m confident you’ll get all of your questions answered. Thinking as long-term as possible is always helpful.

  • Ken September 15, 2014, 8:34 pm

    This book couldn’t be better timed. We’re planning to start building our tiny house in December and the number of decisions is mind-boggling. I can’t wait to start reading!

    • Alex September 18, 2014, 4:59 pm

      Thanks, Ken, I think you’ll find it to be very valuable since you’ll be starting soon!

  • Amy September 15, 2014, 8:58 pm

    My big question is seemingly simple: Where do I begin? 🙂

    • Alex September 18, 2014, 4:52 pm

      I’d start with defining what your housing needs are exactly and then moving on to playing with floor plans. And of course you can use Tiny House Talk to explore other ideas you might be able to use.

      • Amy September 19, 2014, 1:14 am

        Thanks, Alex! It’s really great of you to take the time to respond to everyone’s comments. Love your website and also receiving your newsletters. All the best to you!

        • Alex September 19, 2014, 10:58 am

          Thanks Amy 🙂

  • Dawn Hart September 15, 2014, 9:04 pm

    The biggest challenge that Tiny House Decisions could help me overcome is to learn from those more experienced than I what can reasonably be done ourselves, and what is best to pay a professional to accomplish. Yes, I know that *eventually* I could probably learn any skill that a building a Tiny House requires. But there must be some things which are truly best in the hands of a professional; They have the specialized tools, a bank of knowledge, and possibly the permitted or legal approval to do things better and faster than we could. I want to save money, and I want that feeling of “We did this ourselves!” but not at the expense of our safety, our house’s durability, and not when it will cost us to do it ourselves than paying a professional.

  • Kelly Libert September 15, 2014, 9:18 pm

    Location would have to come first. I don’t want to fight City Hall. I want to be welcome where ever I choose to land.
    Then lots of light and the illusion of space while accommodating amenities like a stackable washer/dryer.

  • Sara September 15, 2014, 10:27 pm

    True cost. One thing that I find (annoying) in the Tiny House Community, is how terribly undervalued time is. I’ve read that some houses have taken more than two years to build! While the face monetary value might seem low for some of these houses, the cost of time is not factored in. This is time that could have been spent saving money on utilities, rent (or mortgage) while living in a tiny house that was bought used or built on commission by a company that builds tiny houses. Is taking that long to build your own house really worth it?

  • Alyssa September 15, 2014, 10:41 pm

    Your book is going to help me decide if I really need both pairs of the silver shoes but one just has “a little extra bling” so I NEED to keep it, right? Your book is going to decide for me whether or not I’ll keep both of my cats, or one, or any, right? Your book is going to decide for me if I want to be in a committed relationship when I build….or if taking a chance and diving into this alone or with my boyfriend is the right thing to do, right?
    Wrong.
    What I know is that your book will bring up many questions and decisions, small or large, to the forefront of my mind and before putting my all into this, I need to know how I am most comfortable with paving out my LIFE, and not just my DWELLING. That’s the whole point of the minimal lifestyle of a tiny house, for me. To be able to face my life when nothing materialistic separates me from being in tune with my soul. And when that time comes, of course your advice on all the different aspects of the actual build will be of true value. Cheers 🙂

  • Noreen September 15, 2014, 11:11 pm

    Alex, this book will prove invaluable to all who love tiny homes. My biggest challenge is living on a main floor without having to climb any stairs or ladders! It is not easy to navigate stairs or ladders. Even a step stool has challenges as one ages.

  • Cindy and Raymond Thillet September 15, 2014, 11:45 pm

    We are hoping to be in a tiny home in 2 years or less. We are already deciding what we will put in our house. Your book will help us decide to build one ourselves or to have some one else build it. It will also help us decide if the design we have in mind is possible. We need to know where we can add storage and the best way to heat and get water to the house. The main reason for needing your book is that we have never taken such a big step and support is the best thing a person can have.
    Congratulations on being another in the tiny house movement! We hope to be there with you soon.

  • Claudia September 15, 2014, 11:53 pm

    My big challenge is figuring out whether I can live off the grid without having to use propane. I’m hoping your book will help me make the decisions that will make it clear whether that’s realistic. For example, how to insulate the tiny house properly, so that I won’t need to use a heater unless it’s below freezing outside. Whether it’s possible to meet all my electrical needs — LED lights, laptop, low-watt fridge, 1800-watt cooktop that’s not used as the same time as 1800-watt oven — with just 30 amps (from an RV park hookup or solar power).

  • Jeff September 16, 2014, 9:08 am

    My lack of confidence to pull the trigger & start the process.

    • Alex September 18, 2014, 4:51 pm

      Thanks for admitting that, Jeff. My suggestion is to keep learning and maybe start with little projects that you can finish quickly to build confidence. Maybe building a shelf. A chair. Taking a woodworking class. Etc.

  • paula September 16, 2014, 10:28 am

    To build or not to build; that is my biggest question (at least right now. ..)
    I’m weighing the pros and cons of building it myself or having it build for me: do I have the time to do it myself? Can I do it myself? Who should I trust to build my house? How do I know they are doing it right? And the list of questions on this one subject goes on and on. ..

  • Jennie Perkins September 16, 2014, 11:35 am

    Biggest Challenge, Will I be able to have cable TV? No aside from that is getting my Trailer to it’s location (6 1/2 hrs. away North from where I’m at now) and weather it will be able to be pulled up a slight slop to get to the top of my Rual land (Oregon) and make it in one peice, then weather I can afford the cost for water, and then waste. In all trying to keep in mind the eco friendly, should I consider installing for both Hook-up and Solar? and last but not least, the Stairs, which I have implemented into my plans but for some reason got refused, I am planning ahead and don’t see myself going up those stairs with just a ladder, so interesting to see if your book has any do’s and don’t for this issue 🙂

  • Jacqueline September 16, 2014, 12:18 pm

    For us, the most important decision will be cost. We are low income (under $25,000, family of 3, southern MS) so normal tiny homes are generally more than we make in a year. We want to go minimal but keep well under 50% of our earnings so we are researching extensively before attempting. I need this package to make sure we do things cost effectively to maximize our dollars.

  • William Walton September 16, 2014, 7:16 pm

    Cost is definitely an issue. But having never built anything, Everything will be an issue. This is my journey, But I can’t seem to find the road to get there. Maybe your book will help with some of these issues.

  • Jessica Menz September 16, 2014, 7:18 pm

    The biggest challenge that this would help to overcome: FEAR of the unknown. It will be helpful to hear what someone has to say about the whole process from start to finish. I love the idea of a tiny home and I’m sure there are more answers to questions here from someone experienced, than I would even know to ask. Since this adventure would be on my own, it’s best to get as much information as possible and something to come back to during the process!

  • Tracy Firth September 16, 2014, 11:41 pm

    I’m a 39 yr old single female with an 11 yr old son. The single biggest decision Im hoping this resource will help me make is deciding whether to attempt to build from scratch with me snd the help of my friends, build from pre fab, buy something already built and perhaps used, or hire someone to do it all for me. I’m also hoping the book has some information about how to find out where it is legal to park and live in your tiny house. These are the two hurdles I’m facing at the moment. I am grateful someone has taken the time to document their experience in such great detail 🙂

  • Jim Bradley September 17, 2014, 12:27 am

    With so much crazy weather which are the best anchor methods for the wheel bound home? Living small does minimize “clutter” by design and choice but I still want it safe. All else, evacuate given time.

  • Tiana September 17, 2014, 4:43 am

    I am hiping that your publication will help me solve the puzzle of crafting an heirloom home. One that the family would not need to dispose of as the children mature and again as the children move out. Any tiny home can be custom built to the moment of life one is presently found in, but how to build a dwelling that adapts to it’s families flux. From the cradle to the grave. I have a vision of a journeying home that can serve one to six people (2 parents and 4 teens) and back to one again. With grandparent to grandchild functionality.

    • Alex September 18, 2014, 4:50 pm

      Thanks, Tiana. Some people grow out of a tiny house. But it can still be a heirloom because it can be passed on to a teenager in the family. When he/she grows out, maybe it can be used for grandma’s retirement? Etc. Etc. Just build with high quality in mind so it lasts with least amount of hassles/repairs as possible.

  • Susan September 18, 2014, 4:47 pm

    I hesitantly bought Tiny House Decisions 2 days ago. I had low expectations, but was intrigued. I started reading it and couldn’t stop. I finished it last night. Congratulations Ethan! I have been to a workshop, read every TH newsletter for at least a couple years and thought of and researched little else in my spare time. This is now the most valuable resource I have! It is organized, thoughtful, incredibly well written and has succinctly set out pro, cons and suggestions for every part of the planning and building process. My biggest problem is that now I have to print off the 200 pages so that I can add all my notes to it! Thank you! I’m so glad I took the risk.

    • Alex September 18, 2014, 5:24 pm

      Thanks for sharing that with all of us, Susan. I also agree with you and believe Ethan’s done an amazing job with the information in this product. Those who buy and use it will surely be lucky for the value inside!

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