Shelter Institute: Learn How to Build Your Own House in 2 Weeks

siframeWhile listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast with guest Mr. Money Mustache, I came across this quote from John Taylor Gatto in the comments. Apparently Gatto was not a fan of compulsory schooling and offered this instead:

I want to give you a yardstick, a gold standard, by which to measure good schooling. The Shelter Institute in Bath, Maine will teach you how to build a three thousand square-foot, multi-level Cape Cod home in three weeks’ time, whatever your age. If you stay another week, it will show you how to make your own posts and beams; you’ll actually cut them out and set them up. You’ll learn wiring, plumbing, insulation, the works. Twenty thousand people have learned how to build a house there for about the cost of one month’s tuition in public school.

The idea of building your own home is certainly romantic. I was pleased to learn that the Shelter Institute is still going strong, offering a 2-week Design and Build Class that costs $1,500 for one person ($2,500 for a couple) on their 68-acre campus in Maine. I guess people drive or fly there and stay nearby; they have housing options starting at $100 a week. Classes run from 8am to 5:30pm every day:

Intensive courses that provide you with extensive home building knowledge from site planning to foundations, insulation, engineering, design, wiring, plumbing, tool knowledge and the ability to Design and Build. Whether you have been dreaming of building a home or are already heavily involved in the building industry; the Design Build course or the Contract-It-Yourself course will provide a new understanding of construction and confidence in your ability to complete a project.

I gained some additional insight into the general concept of building your own home in Building a Home of Your Own, an article at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston for some reason:

For those who desire more individual instruction, the Shelter Institute offers intensive one- to three-week classes on all aspects of house construction. In business since 1974, the Shelter Institute has taught 25,000 students who have gone on to build 8,000 homes. “A lot of people come here thinking that there’s some magic thing they have to learn to know how to build a house,” reported Patsy Hennin, the Institute’s co-founder, in a recent interview with Down East magazine, “but there aren’t any secrets. Perseverance is the biggest thing. Gadgets aren’t the answer. It’s not about how to use a hammer; it’s about how to use your head.”

There are many books and “courses” that about building your own home, but I doubt it can replace an interactive environment where you are handling the tools and watching actual houses being built in person. A few similar schools will teach you to build your own log cabin in 5 days or build your own tiny house in a week.

According to 2016 data from the US Census, only about 6% of new single-family homes are “owner-built”, which means built entirely by the landowner or by the landowner acting as his/her own general contractor. A former manager of mine was the general contractor on his own new construction and also did the electrical wiring and other parts himself. I don’t know if I’ll ever build my own home, but I’m happy that there are still DIY folk out there doing such things. These intensive courses sound like a cool vacation idea actually (if someone could watch the kids).

T-Mobile vs. Verizon New Unlimited Data Plans Comparison

phones7Competition is good. Without the popularity of the T-Mobile unlimited data plan, we wouldn’t have the reluctant, new Verizon Unlimited data plan. In turn, Verizon’s new plan features made T-Mobile improve their deal to include HD video streaming video and 10 GB of LTE tethered hotspot data. In addition, starting 2/17, T-Mobile is running a special promotion of 2 lines with Unlimited data for $100 with taxes and fees included. If you assume $5 on monthly taxes and fees, that works out to $45 + $5 taxes per line. This is nice if you’re a 2-line household like me and are unable to take advantage of the 4-line deals. T-Mobile is effectively $35 + $5 taxes per line if you have 4 lines. Until 2/22, you can also stack another $150 for each line ported to T-Mobile (bring your own phone).

Here is a comparison graphic of the T-Mobile and Verizon Unlimited plans as of 2/17/17. Although created by T-Mobile, I found it fair enough. Adding in an estimated $5 per line in taxes and fees is even low in some geographic areas.

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The final comparison point remains network quality (coverage, reliability, and speed). Although T-Mobile touts their network availability is within 2% of Verizon according to OpenSignal, this still remains a local issue. If T-Mobile doesn’t have coverage in your living room or in the middle if your commute, you don’t care about the rest of the network.

Premium features with a smaller price gap. Usually the “frugal” plans I talk about are MVNOs, but these plans have features that most MVNOs don’t have like:

  • Free voice roaming. For example, the unlimited T-Mobile plan will let you roam on AT&T GSM networks in rural areas where they don’t have voice coverage. Verizon also offers voice roaming onto other networks in areas where they don’t have coverage.
  • 4G LTE hotspot tethering. Most MVNOs either ban tethering or charge extra, including Cricket and Straight Talk.
  • Unlimited high-speed data without throttling. T-Mobile will “network de-prioritize” your data after you use 28 GB in a single cycle, while Verizon will do the same at 22 GB. Basically, if the network is really busy at a specific point in time and you have exceeded those limits, your data speeds may go down. This is different than the “throttling” that other MVNOs do, for example an always-on speed limit of 128 kbps.

For travelers, T-Mobile also includes unlimited international text and 2G data in over 140 countries. While some MVNOs have poor customer service and support via e-mail only (no phone number), the major 4 carriers will at least have humans via 1-800 number.

Bottom line. T-Mobile and Verizon have both improved their Unlimited plan features and lowered the prices recently. While they still cost more than MVNO alternatives, they also offer a few premium features like hotspot tethering that MVNOs usually don’t include. You’ll have to decide if the premium features are worth it at these new price points.

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Becoming an Amazon #1 Bestselling Author for Under $5

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H&R Block Lowest Price Ever on Amazon: Deluxe Fed + State $18.99, Premium $26.99 (2/6 Only)

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