Buying and creating a cute cottage for real cheap. Living simply.






I have posted many blogs about this house because I am unashamedly proud.  Those of you who follow my blog are probably about to start spamming my write ups, however, I’m always writing for the new person that comes on the scene looking for a more frugal life, a less expensive way to live, a way to survive and thrive on one income.

Welcome! You have come to the right place.  I love nothing more than to drink coffee and talk about doing life and homemaking, raising a family, following a dream…and all of that in the easiest and most affordable way.

Don’t get me mixed up with cheap skates and thrifty queens from the land of penny-pinching and beyond though.  I do love to shop now and then and I love my stuff.  I’m also into decluttering and simplifying.  A walking contradiction?  No, just finding that balance daily and working it to my advantage.

I feel as though, now that I have finally purchased our first home at age 47, that I can talk frugal shop with the veterans at last.  I have earned at least a few titles.  Why?  Because I found, bid on, and won this fixer upper for dirt cheap at the worst time in the market in California when all the housing is at an all time high.  I did this when there wasn’t much out there, it was all exorbitant, finance rates were going up, people were freaking out, as well as myself.

But I did it and I did it with only a $130,000 loan to work with in a market that mere shacks in bad neighborhoods were starting at $200,000.  And I found that one house that looked awful but was a true diamond in the rough.  This house had many of our friends pursing their lips and faking their happiness for us.  Later many of them would admit that they were wondering just what the heck we were thinking.  They didn’t want to tell me that the house was a filthy and run down mistake because they knew that I was pretty fragile at that point and this house was truly my last hope.

But all sorts of magic occurred.  God sent a handy man desperate for work and who, though slow as molasses and wound up leaving in the middle of the night for Mexico half way through the job, was skilled and knowledgeable and got us most of the way through the transformation.  Bali found skills he didn’t know he had.  I found brain power I had no idea I had access to all these years.

It literally took some mowing, fertilizer, major pruning, a few days of rain, planting of trees, both fruit and shade, and fences to make the outside look great.  As for the inside, it took a bit of plumbing, a tad of electric, lots of scrubbing, tons of paint, carpets were torn out, and windows washed to bring it back to its old glory.  But not much more than that.  The foundation was solid, the electric and plumbing are old but the good old stuff.  The house has solid bones.  It was built during a time when homes were built to last.

All in all the house renovation with the handy man (while he was around) cost a total of $15,000.  That was for everything; the worker, electrician, plumber, paint, all the garden supplies, trees, seeds, plants, all the fences, 6-foot cedar fence in back and white picket in front, the exterior paint (which we still have 10 gallons of), and dump runs.

The house was a total of $135K plus $4K closing cost and $15K renovation = $154K.  Wow!

We now enjoy a mortgage of $918.02.  That includes taxes, MIP, and insurance.

Now, I know for some of you in other states you may laugh at all this being that housing is much cheaper elsewhere.  Here in California, it is out of control.  An average house in the Sacramento-Sutter area is around $300K to start and that is for nothing special.

I desperately wanted our mortgage to be smaller than any rent we have ever paid.  Our rents have always been around $1300 give or take a hundred dollars.

This house is very small.  The house is 1120 square feet and the yard is 5,220 square feet.  It is a two bedroom and one bath.  There are 4 of us and now an elder that has joined us, so 5 people, 2 large dogs, a cat, and I’ve created the back yard into a mini urban farm.


Although it’s small, I feel like we have all the room we need and we can create even more if we desire.  After fencing in all the yard it made it more vast.  We have a detached garage that can be later turned into a studio apartment if needs be and we have planted a mini food forest that will continue to expand and grow.  The house is stuffed with people but the way it’s set up with a hall and separate rooms, we have plenty of room for now.  Of course, our boys are also very small still and don’t take up much room.  I have most of their toys either packed up in the garage or outside to play with.

In the old days, a house like this was cherished and tended to.  Families our size inhabited this small home and it was considered more than enough.  With the trend of bigger homes, bigger cars,  and supersized everything…this home may seem small to the average family.  But we are into keeping things simple and easy.  I have decluttered down to what is absolutely necessary, quality, and cherished so our home isn’t packed with stuff.

I long ago learned that a simple can of paint and lush house plants can make all the difference.

We are really into this new movement (new to us that is) of urban farming and we have been practicing living simply and frugally for years.  Now with our own home, we get to practice all of the green and sustainable living.  Not much is wasted here, including space.  We love nothing more than being thrifty, down home, and reusing, composting, recycling, and re-inventing everything.

I also enjoy learning all I can about living well on very little as we have one small income that provides for all of us and I just don’t buy into this consumerist society.  I believe that we must all change our ways of living for families and individuals to thrive and for this planet to heal and thrive again.  We need to go back to simpler times and reincorporate that into today’s world, to find balance with modern times and our great grandmothers time.  If we mix the two we can find the life that connects us to Mother Earth, God (or Spirit), to ourselves and those we love, and slow down this crazy pace and dollar chasing lifestyle to something more real and pleasurable.

The start of that is living under our means and this house was my answered prayer to that.

Every Penny: A family's journey living on one small income by [Singh, Kate]The Homemade Housewife: The last book you will ever need on homemaking and frugal living by [Singh, Kate]

20 thoughts on “Buying and creating a cute cottage for real cheap. Living simply.

  1. Don’t you dare stop posting about your house–I love to see everything you’ve done and how it changes as you build a home. The Redneck doesn’t know it, but I am about to attack the junk room that was supposed to be his ‘man cave’ when he bought the house almost 2 years ago. It’s a one car garage that the former owner tuned into an extra room. It has two doors to the outside and one into the dining room. Unfortunately, life happened, and now it’s a disaster. So I will be opening the outside doors and pulling everything out so I can clean it well, then I have a gallon of paint a friend with a painting company gave me that will go on the walls. Then I am going to put the stuff back in in a fairly simple manner, so he can go in and organize it the way he wants. After that, it’s all his ‘baby’. Okay, I’ll dust, sweep and mop once a week.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There is nothing dearer to my 61 year-old heart than an old home, especially an old home that has been revived by someone who loves and cherishes it. I’ve had my share of fixer-uppers, and have learned that it is a gift to bring a downtrodden house back to life, and doing so is an act of love and creativity. A house just needs to know you love it, and it will reveal its inner beauty.

        My first home was an 1864 cream-city brick home in a rural Wisconsin valley that had been sorely neglected, but I knew the minute I stepped foot inside that this was where I wanted to raise my children. My current home in New Mexico was built in 1939 and has most original elements intact. (When looking, I wouldn’t consider anything less than 50 years old!) And, it is under 1000 sq. ft! Oh, how I love small homes! They are so intimate, and unlike many homes built for square footage, a small home offers a feeling of ‘shelteredness’. Not to mention, they are less costly to maintain, less costly to heat and cool, and easier to clean, too.

        Blessings on your home, Kate, and on all the loving, creative energy you put into it to make it beautiful.


      2. Well said. I love all the old touches that they just don’t do now. The scalloped trim on the ceiling in the kitchen, the built in cupboards in the hall and dining room, the curved entry ways to the other rooms, the hall. It is small but doesn’t feel that way. We have enjoyed bringing it back to a cheerfulness…not really it’s original beauty but something like that. 🙂


  2. I enjoyed reading your post! Your house is super cute. There’s just something about fixing, building, or decorating that takes ownership to a whole other level. My husband and I have been talking very seriously of downsizing from our 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom to a small cottage with a couple acres. There’s just so much potential! … and possibility of chickens! **money saver** Thanks for sharing your story. I look forward to reading more. 🙂


  3. Oh my goodness! I’m a fairly new reader, so this was all new to me! I love your home! My dream is to buy a little fixer upper cottage type home within the city limits somewhere. I would love to walk to the local stores, visit neighbors, etc. I don’t know if it will ever happen, as we recently bought a home several miles outside of town, but it does have the cottage feel. I just love your picket fence and your happy colors throughout. Well done!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Mrs kate S. I have read two of your blog posts-completely- because your ideas and writings remind me of my own style and my own desire to have the cottage life and to blog about ways to help people bring beauty, peace, and joy into their lives and the lives they touch. Your work is enjoyable and encouraging. I hope you will be inclined to check out my blog as well at Lisa.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve binge-watched all your videos so now I’m going through your blog. I’m perhaps a little “Kate-obsessed” – ha! I love the way you’ve used color. I’m truly tired of all the grey and other neutrals that everyone is using these days. As for the size of your home, that’s about what my mom grew up in. My grandparents, my mom and my aunt lived in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house in Santa Monica and they did just fine. In later years my grandpa added on to the house a bit but it was never quite finished and this was after the girls were married.

    When I was six we lived in a one-bedroom house for about a year as my dad was starting a new business and building a house for us. It was teeny, tiny for a family with three kids and it didn’t even have a bathtub. My mom bathed us in a little plastic tub set in the shower (I was the oldest). My parents’ bed and the crib were in the single bedroom and my other brother and I slept on a sofa bed in the living room. It wasn’t ideal but we did survive.

    Aside from the colors, my favorite part of your home is the picket fence out front. I’ve always wanted a picket fence. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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