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Family Ditches $2K/Month Condo For More Family Time in RV


The Swifts were paying $2,000/month for their condo in San Diego, but when Heather and Michael decided they wanted to have more time with their son and be able to home school, Heather decided to quit her $60K/year job. This meant something had to give!

Heather’s parents lived outside of the city, near her brother, and offered to allow them to park on their property. So the couple sold just about everything, bought a new 5th wheel RV, and moved! Now they have far more family time (including time with cousins!), are paying down debt quickly, and enjoying minimalism.

Their RV features two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a spacious living area/kitchen. While they didn’t do a full reno on the place, they’ve truly made the place their home. We had the pleasure of interviewing the couple, which you can read below the photo tour! Follow their tiny life on Instagram here.

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RV Life is Helping this Family Have More Time Together

Here’s the adorable family of three!

Their son, Judah, spending time with his close-by cousins.

Their living and dining space in the bump-out.

This RV even has a cozy fireplace!

To the left is the staircase to the Master bedroom.

It might be an RV, but they found ways to make it look like home.

Heather prefers this kitchen to her condo kitchen!

They have a nice big island and huge refrigerator!

Their puppy even has a stylish spot!

Here’s their son’s room.

He even has his own bathroom!

His cousins came over to play!

A close-up of his bathroom.

And here’s the Master fifth wheel.

Nice, large shower stall.

And some additional storage.

What do you think of their home?

Q&A with the Swift Family

————————————————————–

What are your name(s)?

Michael, Heather and Judah Swift

How many people (and animals) are living in your fifth wheel?

2 adults, and a 2 year old. 1 dog and a fish

Where do you live? How long have you lived tiny?

We live in Alpine Ca, which is in San Diego county, and we have been tiny living over a year.

What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?

Michael is a 6th grade English teacher, Heather is a stay at home mom. We are parked permanently.

Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?

We really wanted Heather to be able to stay at home and home school our son, however she had a really good corporate job making over $60,000 so we knew in order to lose that salary in San Diego we had to make huge life changes. We lived in the city and were paying over $2,000 in living cost. Heather’s parents lived in Alpine which is about 20 minutes outside the city. They had land and said we could put a 5th wheel on their property. We decided this would be the only way to stay in the area and Heather stay home. We hope to gain more family time with our son and with my parents, and pay down student loans.

How did you first learn about tiny house life?

We have seen shows and articles about it. Always been interested in it.

Did you renovate your fifth wheel or buy it as is?

We purchased our 5th wheel brand new because we wanted two bedrooms, so that way my son has a door and can take naps and go to bed without us having to be quiet. However we have done little things here and there to make it less 5th wheel feeling and more like home.

Are you comfortable sharing how much your tiny home cost? What are bills/utilites like compared to before?

We paid $55,000 for our 5th wheel and have a payment of $460, however we pay $1,000 a month just to pay it off faster. (That’s also because we paid a car off since living tiny). We live 100% off the grid so we have a well for water, solar and a generator for back up on rainy days. The heater and stove run on propane. So for gas and propane we spend about $75 a month. We were spending about $150 a month at our house for gas and electric. We also have a 300 gallon holding tank under the 5th wheel for our black water and that gets pumped by a company every 3 months which cost us $80 each time it is pumped.

How did you find a place to park and live in your tiny house?

We are very thankful our parents owned property and allowed us to park on it.

Before going tiny, what was life like? Is there anything from your old life that you miss?

We lived in a town house in the city, both of us working 40 hr jobs and my son going to my mom’s house everyday for childcare. The weekends were busy because it was house chores, groceries, and laundry. We don’t miss that at all, now all that stuff I get done during the week, and weekends are all family time to do fun stuff together. We also now have all teacher breaks off together (like the summer) and that has been a game changer.

How are the kids adjusting to tiny life?

I am not sure he as even noticed life different. He loves having all the space outside to run around.

Any particular challenges having kids in a tiny space?

We love it, I love having less stuff and I feel like my son is learning that already too. “We just don’t have room for that” and he is ok with it.

What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?

Freedom financially, more family time, and I don’t have this desire any more to buy tons of stuff because I have no where to put it. I think once we finally buy another house we will never go back to having tons of stuff. It’s all about making room to have people in our home and not stuff in our home.

What about some challenges?

Having people over and just making sure there is room and they are comfortable can be a little stressful. Once in awhile the potty smells and there is really nothing you can do about it. And then always making sure our gas cans and propane are full so we don’t run out.

What makes your tiny home special?

It’s ours, we own it, and my family is growing stronger together because of it.

What is your favorite part of your tiny home?

My kitchen, we have a big beautiful refrigerator, we have a kitchen island and it set-up great for cooking. It’s the hub of the house. It’s small but I feel like it functions better than our house did.

What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?

It was harder then I thought to sell everything we owned. As people would come to buy our stuff and take it away, I felt like everything my husband and I worked for was gone. However a year later I don’t miss it and I love this choice. But my advise would be take time to figure it all out. We spent a year getting ready for this move. Find the house that functions the best for your family, even if it cost a little more. We never thought we would buy a new 5th wheel, but I am so thankful we did because it has everything we need and we have no regrets.
Anything I didn’t ask about that we should know? We do have a Instagram were we post just our day to day and what it 5th wheel life looks like called trailer_and_treasures.

Highlights:

  • Spent $55,000 on RV
  • Payment is $460/month, but they’re paying $1000 to pay down debt
  • 100% off grid
  • Living 20 minutes outside of San Diego
  • Heather quit $60K/year job to be home with son
  • Family gets far more time together
  • Live closer to extended family & cousins
  • 2 bedroom 5th wheel
  • 2 bathrooms!

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife and mama of two little kids. She and her family just purchased a small fixer-upper and are starting a self-sufficient homestead on their happy little acre.
{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Avatar D. Pedersen
    September 12, 2020, 10:35 am

    That recliner and red bedspread have to go – sorry, but they are simply bad taste. The recliner looks like it has been taken out of a bad taste man-cave. And the bedspread looks like something out of a brothel.

    • Avatar James D.
      September 12, 2020, 3:01 pm

      No, it’s just an RV, loveseat recliners are nearly as common as dinette seating areas and they’re part of the furniture that comes with the RV… While the comparison to a brothel is really uncalled for just because they have different preferences than you…

  • Avatar Donna Rae
    September 12, 2020, 3:42 pm

    You have taken a generic RV and done a nice job making it feel homey. The photos make it look surprisingly roomy, too. Nice big shower is a surprise. Way bigger than the one my parents had. I have always wondered why RV manufacturers choose the finishes they do but you made it feel comfortable and an enjoyable place to spend your time. Good job. *Ignore the brothel comment from the rude person. You be you and enjoy your own decorating choices! I thought it added a nice touch of color.*

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      September 14, 2020, 8:14 am

      I agree, you did a great job making it lovely!

  • Avatar Julie M Haverstock
    September 12, 2020, 3:59 pm

    I thought it was beautifully done! Not alot of people would even try what they are doing and it’s done beautifully. And the money they are saving is wonderful.
    Quite frankly, considering the fires out west, they can pack up, go and protect their home without losing too much comparative to someone with a home that isn’t on wheels. It’s very smart what they’ve done. The interior is very elegant. The 300 gallon holding tank is very nice, as well.

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      September 14, 2020, 8:10 am

      That’s a really good point about the fires, Julie!

  • Avatar Richard Lynn Herrington
    September 12, 2020, 6:58 pm

    The majority of women out here that have a good job quit the job and get pregnant just as soon as they get married, thus putting the full financial burden upon the husband. What starts as a two income family soon becomes a one income family with multiple people for the man to support. No wonder smart men are remaining single and keeping their money and resources for themselves.

    • Avatar James D.
      September 13, 2020, 1:57 am

      That’s not how it works…

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      September 14, 2020, 8:09 am

      First of all, many, many families are still two income families where the children go to daycare. Secondly, if a woman stays home it’s a joint decision, and often because the cost of daycare is almost as much as what she earns. I’ve never met a woman who forced her husband to let her stay home…

  • Avatar Bluesgirl
    September 12, 2020, 8:15 pm

    Outstanding I would love to live in your home and I would love to wrap it with glass
    Imagine if you covered wrapped this beauty with glass and had a wood burning fireplace outside
    that heats a hot tube and grow all kinds of fruit and produce all year and grabbing sun under the glass
    Thank you for sharing
    Check out how many others people have houses under glass It’s a game changer

  • Avatar Marsha Cowan
    September 12, 2020, 10:43 pm

    Lovely home! Seems more like a cottage than an RV. Great job!

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