You’re Never Too Old to Be Debt-Free

The Smiths’ cabin, which they built in rural Alaska, started as a shell that the Smiths moved into as they worked. They took their time building so they could save money, and their journey has led them to a debt-free existence.

| June/July 2014

  • Diane Smith, the author, moved into this cabin with her husband before it was finished so they could sell their former home.
    Photo by Diane Smith
  • The Smiths put up the shell of their house by themselves.
    Photo by Diane Smith
  • The Smiths continue to add on to their house as they have money and time, saying it’s still a work in progress, and that each new addition brings them joy.
    Photo by Diane Smith

We are both in our 70s and are just finishing our home that was built out of pocket with no debt.

We were fortunate to have purchased our lot as a package deal when we bought and built our former home. This lot — 2 3/4 acres with a well and septic — came with the deal. We had to purchase both lots or nothing. We let this lot sit for about 10 years while we finished the other home. This time we wanted no debt so decided to build as we went.

We sold our former home too quickly and had to move into our new house way too early. It was just a shell. We stayed in a hotel for the first two weeks while we got some plumbing done.

We decided on a log home and bought our logs from a mill down the road that was milling "beetle kill" logs. We paid $4,500 for the total package. Each square log had to be routered (to accept chinking) and set into place. We used a "cherry picker" that my husband rigged with a small motor to help us lift our logs into place. Some were more than 20 feet long. It worked quite well for us. The two of us put the entire two-story shell up alone.



We have built the entire home by ourselves over the past six years, metal roof and all. Our kids have come down some weekends and helped with some of the heavier jobs.

Our two-story home measures 30 by 20 feet — just under 1,450 square feet. It has two bedrooms and a bath upstairs, as well as a great room, kitchen and bath downstairs.






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