Living in Southern California where the starter home prices average in the $400,000’s makes it difficult to ever imagine owning a traditional 3 or 4-bedroom home with a little bit of land, especially on an average income. So, renting has been the way of life for me. Sure, there were times when the housing market dipped to somewhat affordable levels, but inventory was an issue (perhaps I was being too picky, wasn’t financially stable or was really just too nervous to jump right in.) I poo-pooed the homes that were in the right price range as either in a “not so good” neighborhood or too shabby for the asking price.

Yet, knowing that I need a paid-off property by the time I retire, I need to start making a plan…NOW. Talking to others in a similar situation and rolling around a few other ideas in my head, I’ve put together some alternatives to the dreaded “renting forever” situation that I’m in:

 Buy/Build a Weekend Cabin

Winter Cabin in Washington
Winter Cabin in Washington

I absolutely love this idea of buying  a cabin in a wooded or prairie area at the foothills of the Sierras. Once you move away from the coast of California, property does become much cheaper, but you run into problems of finding private land for sale (much of the land is federally owned.) I’d have to do quite a bit more homework on how to obtain the land, but here are a few pros and cons:

  • Pro: A cheap way to owning property. Build a small cabin for “weekends” for under $40,000 and once I include the land at around $85,000 I’m under the $200,000 mark.
  • Pro: A weekend cabin or cottage could be used before retirement. Heck, I could even rent it out when I’m not using it if it’s in a prime location.
  • Con: Location. With this idea in mind, the cabin would probably be quite removed from a town or an area with good hospitals. Remember, if this is my “retirement” plan, as I get older hospitals and healthcare will be on the top of my “must have” list.
  • Con: Utilities. If my cabin is in the middle of nowhere, where the heck do I get my water and electricity from? I could probably figure out the electricity part, but the water is a huge problem.
  • Pro: If I found land near a small town that’s not so removed, this idea could work. (But where,  oh where, is that town that’s bustling like a city with all the benefits of the “country” that’s also bike friendly? In my head, apparently.)

I found a website that indulges me in this fantasy and has a whole section devoted to weekend cabins:  Adventure Journal go ahead and get hooked.

Buy a Rental House

Buying a rental house before owning my own property might sound backwards, but not if the rental property is in another state with more affordable housing. This is a topic Mr. LH and I have been seriously having lately. If we could purchase a decent rental house for around $100,000 in another state, we could rent it out while paying it off. It also wouldn’t break the bank if it was empty every now and then.

  • Pro: Own property free and clear before retirement. Hopefully in an area that sees property appreciation or an area we’d be willing to move to when we’re older.
  • Pro: Have a source of side income from the rental.
  • Con: A rental in another state could be a headache for many reasons – bad tenants, repairs, natural disasters, etc.
  • Con: If the property is clear across the country, we’d also have to be willing to travel there quite frequently which could add up in both time and money.

I’m sure there are many more con’s than pro’s with this idea, but  it’s a possibility if everything lined up just right. We would most likely hire a property manager to handle the showing since we wouldn’t be able to dedicate a month’s time or more during or in between vacancies.

Both of these ideas works for either our final retirement living or as a resale where we’d invest the profit in something permanent.

Over the next year we’ll continue to hash out these ideas which may be included in my fourth quarter goals!

Where do you plan to retire?


  1. It’s tough when you live in an expensive location. Good luck. Another option is to live way out, but then your commute would be terrible. Maybe buy a triplex and rent out the other units?

    • @Joe – We’ve thought of moving farther out, but I think instead of commuting, I’d want to find another job. However, I’m in a unique situation where my salary would drop by quite a bit if I changed districts, so the cost of living would also have to drop by the same amount. A little harder to find!

  2. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter Reply

    We live in an expensive city too. I am sure we will want to retire elsewhere, but for now we are stuck here with our jobs, friends, and family. We own a home but we have a renter in the basement so that makes up for a lot of the cost.

    • @Daisy – Having a renter is a great idea to help afford the costs of owning a home. If we found just the right house with a guest house, that could work. The biggest hurdle is having a large enough down payment for the price of the house!

  3. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life Reply

    Living in NYC, I feel similarly about trying to buy a home. With prices so high, it doesn’t seem like it will ever be a possibility. I wouldn’t mind a small cabin in the woods though.

    • @Stephanie – My sister is in the same boat. She moved to Jersey City from NYC to find a less expensive rental and now is thinking of a “weekender cabin” as well. So silly expensive in The Big Apple!

  4. I’m in LA too, and thinking about buying a house is straight up scary. I live in the city now, and while I’d be open to moving to the valley, there are definitely cons like being farther away from people. But I can’t imagine bringing up kids without a yard. Maybe there will be a huge dip right when we’ve saved up a lot of money and everything is stable? We can hope!

    • @Daniel – The valley is definitely less expensive than the city, but for the price it’s still not a great deal when you factor in the void of good restaurants (mostly chains around here) and culture (no where cool to hang out)! But who knows, maybe we’ll have a natural disaster (earthquake anyone?) and prices will plummet. 😉

      • Yah, it’s definitely not CHEAP for what it is, but I think you just made me root for a natural disaster? feels right but o so selfish..

  5. The Frugal Exerciser Reply

    I wouldn’t retire in California, too many problems and especially water shortages are only going to get worse. I have a home and I used to think that renting was a bad thing, not anymore. If you have no debt and put most of your money in savings, I don’t think it is a bad idea.

  6. femmefrugality Reply

    What great alternative brainstorming! I love it. If you’re okay with Pittsburgh, we have a pretty affordable housing market and all the perks of being a big city (albeit tertiary.)

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