One of the most common reasons why people want to build a shipping container home is because they can be built very cheaply.
In a recent blog post we discussed the cheapest shipping container homes ever built- and some were built for less than $30,000!
However, this isn’t to say that the price is the only reason to be living in a shipping container home. There are lots of reasons why you should live in a container home and for many it is due to recycling unused materials and being environmentally-conscious.
To build a shipping container home on a tight budget, you need to be savvy and know exactly where you can skimp and save money- but also, where you need to spend your money to get the best results.
Want to learn how to be savvy and save your money? Keep reading…
Plan, Plan and Plan
If you want to build a container home whilst on a tight budget, the first thing you need to do is plan– and plan well.
If you don’t have your plan well mapped out then how are you going to know if you are doing well or not throughout your build?
You will be improvising throughout the building process hoping for the best. This is no way to build a home and you will likely run into serious problems along the way.
There are two key elements to planning.
The first is to plan your budget. Decide how much money you have to spend on building your home new.
The second is to decide exactly what it is you want to build. How many bedrooms will your home have? How many stories will it have? Will you be building with new or used shipping containers?
Only with a thorough plan can you hope to build your container home on a tight budget.
Don’t Make Silly Mistakes
The easiest way to lose money when building your new home is to make silly mistakes.
The most common mistake I see with container homes is removing too much steel out of the containers when modifying them.
You know why people remove too much steel?
Because, they haven’t planned properly and don’t know exactly what they want their container home to look- so instead they experiment and end up cutting too much steel away.
There is nothing worse than wasting materials which you’ve already paid for- especially when you’re on a small budget.
I can still remember having to rebuild the fireplace when I built my first home- it cost me several thousand dollars and I still get upset thinking about it now!
If I planned properly and wasn’t rushing, I’m sure I would have avoided that mistake and saved my money…
Make sure you read 5 mistakes to avoid when building a shipping container home.
Which Are the Cheapest Containers to Build With?
One of the largest expenses when building a shipping container home is actually purchasing the shipping containers.
Choosing the right containers is absolutely crucial to both your budget and the success of your project.
The first decision you need to make is whether to buy new or used shipping containers.
Now, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to which type to buy- however I can give you some good reference points to think about.
Firstly, I’d only buy used shipping containers if I could see them before I purchased them. I know quite a few people who have purchased used containers without seeing them first and the containers were really beat up when they arrived!
Not the best start to a home build is it…
Also, whichever type of container you buy (new or used) make sure that they are all the same brand. Manufactures use slightly different measurement tolerances when making the containers, so building with different brand containers can sometimes be difficult.
Personally, I find the most cost effective containers are ‘one-trips’. One-trip containers are shipping containers which have only been used once for haulage- they aren’t used sea-beaten containers which have spent years at sea!
If you want more help when choosing your shipping containers make sure you read which shipping container should I buy?
Choosing Where to Spend Your Money
A great way to help reduce the build cost of your home is to spend most of your money on the things that can’t be altered and skimp on what can be altered later on.
Let me give you a few examples of how this can be achieved.
I would purchase the very best shipping containers that I can afford and I wouldn’t skimp here- you can’t replace or change the containers once you have built your house.
Whereas, I would skimp when choosing my kitchen fixings, carpet or paint. This is because each of these things can be changed quite easily once you’ve moved in.
Another great way to save money is to use building materials which require low maintenance. A great example of this is using a metal roof- they require very little upkeep once they have been fitted.
A final word of warning though: don’t try to save money on the structural components!
Yes you want to build an affordable home- but you also want a home which is safe to live in.
Track Every Dollar Spent
And when I say every dollar- I mean every last one of them!
When I built my first home- money was flying out my bank account from all directions. And very quickly I was running out of money before I’d really got going.
With additional costs thrown in by the contractor for a misunderstanding and a last minute kitchen upgrade I was left trying to save every cent for the last few months of the build.
As I’ve said above- make a plan, but also stick to it and track every dollar spent in a spreadsheet to make sure you are on budget.
There is no sense in having a plan and not tracking what’s actually being spent against your planned expenses.
You can guarantee there will be unexpected costs and things that surprise you- but if you plan sensibly and stick to the plan, you will be able to build a very cheap home for yourself.
Salvage Local Materials
The last tip I’m going to share with you today is to try and use salvaged materials.
You’d be amazed at the things people give away for free!
As they say “one man’s trash, is another’s treasure”.
I find the best place to collect salvaged materials from is demolition sites. Most of the time you can get the materials for free providing you transport the materials yourself.
Even if they do want money for the materials it’s usually a nominal fee.
Just so nobody gets into trouble- make sure you ask the owner first, don’t just assume that you can take the salvaged materials!
Choosing to build your home out of shipping containers can be a great way to save money.
We have seen plenty of container homes built for less than $50,000.
If you have a tight budget when building your container home, make sure to plan everything thoroughly beforehand. This way you won’t run into any unforeseen issues during the build!
Once you’ve planned make sure you keep to this plan and track each dollar you spend against your budget.
To save money you can purchase one-trip containers which are normally a few thousand dollars cheaper than new containers but offer the same benefits.
Also, you can visit local salvage sites to reclaim unused building materials to save even more money.
Got any other great ideas for how to keep your cost down when building a container home? Let us know in the comments below…