Planning Our Retirement Move to a Mountain Cabin

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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A-frame house
Photo by Bruce McElmurray

We started planning our move to our retirement cabin well in advance of the actual move. It took careful planning, because our finances were very limited and the cost to develop our property was beyond our financial ability. We knew we had to plan carefully and change our lifestyle habits if we wanted to accomplish our long-term goal.

When the dream is finally formulated, the planning starts. In our case ,it was years of planning, so we had plenty of time to put together a realistic plan. We made our plan by segments. Our first segment was to determine if we could even afford the move based upon our ability to earn money. We were aware that we would need a total and complete plan to make our move successful.

Determining Financial Ability to Make the Move

To determine if we could even make the move, we had to first determine if it was financially possible. We knew that we had years to go before we could make the move so we had plenty of time to make a plan. To start, we had to take inventory of our financial situation. We each took a small notebook and for one month, every time we made an expenditure outside our required living expenses, we wrote it down.

We were really surprised when we sat down to review the results. We found we were spending a large amount of money on things like eating out, unnecessary clothes, entertainment including movies or theater plays. Armed with this new information, we went about figuring out which of these expenses we could cut out and which we could reduce. The extra money we would set aside in an interest-bearing account that would go toward our dream.

Now we were amazed when we watched our savings grow. We could see how our dream could actually be a reality if we maintained our current direction. We still dined out on special occasions and indulged in entertainment rarely. While we were building a financial base to achieve our dream, we also decided to plan how and what we wanted as a home. Our main choice was to have a small cabin that would be easy to maintain and keep clean.

Starting the Cabin Construction

During that time we unexpectedly received a letter from a builder where our property was located. It had three sets of plans and the A-Frame seemed to fit our needs. We made plans to then take a trip to Colorado, where we met with the builder and established that he would build a shell house. We decided to finish the interior ourselves, do the electrical run and do the plumbing. We were several years away from making the move, so we could use vacation time to finish the cabin a piece at a time.

Electrical run was first on the list. I had never done any electrical work but fortunately, one of my co-workers guided me through it. His father was an electrician and he told me it was not as difficult as I imagined. He said I should go to the library and check out a how-to book on running electric throughout the house. As I learned about electricity, it became clear to me I could do this, but I wanted to hire a certified electrician to double check my work. It turned out I did a good job, as the electrical inspector passed us quickly.

Nextup was plumbing. Another vacation and again my co-worker came to the rescue. He sent me to the library again for a book on doing my own plumbing. He told me I only needed to know two things: “Water runs downhill and payday is on Friday”. Since our cabin was small, we only needed our plumbing to service two areas: our kitchen and bathroom, which shared a common wall. That part went well and is working without problem to this day.

It was now time to have our well drilled. Another vacation, and we made plans to have our well drilled. We were again fortunate as we connected with a well driller who had graduated from Colorado School of Mines, and he told us an aquifer ran down the mountain. He situated our well precisely to take advantage of that aquifer. Our well is 215 feet deep, and our water is clear sparkling freshwater that requires no filters. It is the first time I have relished water that isn’t treated or filtered.

Finishing the Cabin Interior

Finally it was time to finish off the inside of the cabin. Two or three more vacations and we were able to finish the interior of our retirement cabin. Now all that was left to be done was make sure our remaining finances would support us until we could make the move permanent and settle into our new adventure. When we had saved enough to take us through a few years before we could draw social security we were well on our dream initiated years previous.

We still lacked major appliances and furnishings, so as we could afford them, we bought a refrigerator, stove, snow thrower and other items. We would store them until we could eventually make the move. The time lapse before the move also gave us an opportunity to dispose of items we no longer needed for our new lifestyle. When everything was in order, we rented a large truck, loaded up and made the move.

That was nearly a quarter of a century ago and we have not regretted making the life changing move. It has been a strenuous lifestyle, but we are both healthier and more fit due to the work required to maintain this lifestyle. We know that we will not be able to maintain this lifestyle forever, but until that time comes, we are enjoying ourselves. We will plan our next move as we did the initial one.


Bruce and Carol live in the mountains in S. Colorado with their canine family and take measures to protect them from the wild predators that are around. They lead a somewhat different lifestyle and for more on them and their canine family visit their blog site. You can read all of Bruce’s Mother Earth News posts here.


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