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Why We Downsized Before Retirement

Recently I was reading an article on Trulia entitled, 8 Reasons Why You Should Buy A 1,000-Square-Foot House and it reminded me of many of the reasons why my wife Lisa and I decided to downsize even though we weren’t ready to retire yet. We were living in a 3,200 sq. ft. house on 3 acres in the countryside near Richmond, VA. The house was beautiful, we had spent years getting it just like we wanted it. We bought it when our two children were small and the house was only 1,200 sq. ft. Then we added an addition on that included a Master Suite, Living Room, Two Car Garage, and large home office.  As the children grew we gradually added four raised bed gardens surrounded by a chicken run and chicken coop. We had every tool imaginable in our two garden sheds, and two double carports.

The neighborhood was quiet and peaceful, several of our neighbors had horses, our property bordered on several hundred acres of wooded area… why would we want to leave?

Reason #1 – Upkeep

Maintaining a 3,200 sq. ft. house takes work and since the children moved out… we weren’t even using most of it. I was spending lots of time repairing and maintaining a house and for what? We lived in the addition and visited the other side of the house to cook and eat meals. We began asking ourselves why we needed such a large house if we were only going to live in half of it?

Reason #2 – Real Estate Taxes

Taxes in Richmond aren’t anywhere near as bad as New York or California but they were still well over a couple thousand dollars a year (and we weren’t using half the house!) So we figured why not downsize and reduce our taxes at the same time?

Reason #3 – Utilities

In addition to paying taxes on a big house, utilities are considerably higher on a big house than on a small one. We were heating and cooling 1,200 square feet that we used for a couple of hours a day (at the most). Why not let someone else have the house who would appreciate all the great things we had done?

Reason #4 – Yard Work

Along the lines of maintenance comes yard work. Maintaining 3 acres takes a lot more time than maintaining the ¼ acre where we now live. It used to take me two hours to mow the lawn (with a riding mower). And then I would have to do it all over again the following week. There were gardens and driveways to maintain, leaves to rake, bushes to trim, etc.

Reason #5 – Pets

We had 3 cats and 4 chickens. And although the chickens paid for themselves by producing eggs they still required work to maintain and the animals tied us down. We couldn’t travel without finding someone to look in on them and pets cost money. The first year alone a dog can cost you over $1,000 and a cat $500. By giving up our pets we gained freedom to travel and drastically reduced our living expenses. Although we do miss the cuddly fur-balls and even our feathered friends.

Reason #6 – Home Equity

Over the years we had paid off our house and had built up significant home equity. By down-sizing we were able to take out that equity and buy a cheaper house and re-purpose the remainder to help our son buy a condo and our daughter pay-off student loans.

Reason #7 – Travel

By eliminating our pets… no that’s not right, we didn’t exactly eliminate them… let me rephrase that… by finding new homes for our beloved pets, we are able to travel at the drop of a hat. No need to arrange in advance to find someone to take care of things. So if we find a discount cruise that is 90% off next week we can just lock the door and set off for adventures untold. In the past we have done exactly that through a site called Vacations to Go. As of this writing their 90 Day Ticker (cruises leaving within the next 90 days) has an 8 day Alaska Cruise leaving a week from now for only $49/night per person. So if we wanted to hop a plane to Vancouver we could take an 8 day cruise for almost nothing.

After we sold our house and before we bought a smaller one in central Florida we spent a couple of months driving all over the Northern half of Florida and because we had no pets, real estate taxes, or other expenses we were able to travel for about the same amount we would have spent if we had stayed home. You can see how much it cost us here: How Expensive is Full-Time Travel?

Reason #8 – Amenities

We moved into a 55+ community with 2 pools and lots of activities that we can participate in if we want to. So we can relax and enjoy life without the hassles of pool maintenance and have a bunch of new friends to enjoy life with.

So by downsizing and simplifying our lives we have more time to enjoy life and less clutter to maintain. We really feel much freer to travel, have lower expenses and more free time.



About Tim McMahon

Work by editor and author, Tim McMahon, has been featured in Bloomberg, CBS News, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Forbes, Washington Post, Drudge Report, The Atlantic, Business Insider, American Thinker, Lew Rockwell, Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, Oakland Press, Free Republic, Education World, Realty Trac, Reason, Coin News, and Council for Economic Education. Connect with Tim on Google+