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A Paper Clip to a Tiny House

Staying out of debt in an unconventional way

· Story,Budgeting,Frugal

Meet Amber Holup, she's 18, a current college student and looking to trade her way to a tiny house all from one blue paper clip. Amber is not your typical 18 year old. While most college freshmen are clueless as to what they want in life, Amber is fully aware of what she wants to accomplish.

When she was younger, Amber found an instant connection at her local teen center. After dealing with bullying in middle school, she found the teen center to be the place that helped others with the same struggles she faced. This was a catalyst that formed how she wanted to live the rest of her life. It made her realize that her personal mission was to serve and help others. Amber works at her local teen center now and dreams of working in a similar setting to help others. Her goal is to graduate with a degree in business administration with a concentration in nonprofit management.

After dealing with bullying in middle school, she found the teen center to be the place that helped others with the same struggles she faced.

Now that Amber is hard at work with school, she is also well aware of the amount of money she may need to borrow to graduate. Unlike most teens, she is very financially conscious on how she can get through school without being Buried in debt.  While she knew her future career would definitely be rewarding, she realized she wasn’t going to be rolling in the dough. 

The first time Amber discovered the world of bartering was when she stubbled upon an article about a man named Kyle MacDonald. He bartered his way from a red paper clip all the way to an entire home in Canada. Amber mentioned that she was both inspired by Kyle’s ability to accomplish all these trades in one year and also intrigued by his journey. Amber told herself- “if he was able to trade all the way up to a house, I can trade up to at least a tiny house”.

You may be asking why a tiny house? Amber realized that she would have to pay for room and board for her last two years in school. She worked hard to save money, earned scholarships and received some financial help from family. This still wasn’t enough to pay for all the costs of college. She found out that a tiny house can give her everything she needs while in school and for only $50-$60 dollars a month in utility expenses. She even found a family friend with extra yard space to park her tiny house. Amber set off to begin her journey bartering her way to the tiny house of her dreams!  

She started with her little blue paper clip and made her first trade to a pencil

She took that pencil and traded it for a sweet VR-headset

The VR-headset was traded it for a mountain bike!!

Winter was coming...SNOWBLOWER!

Winter was now over...LAWNMOWER!

The next trade was for TWO Mac computers

Amber accomplished all this in two months but also mentioned that it wasn’t easy. Hours spent posting on different sites, posting on her school bulletin, and finding people that were willing to trade for what she has.  She's had her ups and downs and at some points felt like she would never to be able to find her next trade. She said it is tough to find people with the right things but she has patience to achieve her goal. Though she does have her hurdles to overcome she does think that this has become one of the greatest experiences of her life. She has met so many different people and everyone she trades with has great stories to tell. 

Amber hopes to make her last trade to the tiny house of her dreams within two years, right before her junior year of college. If she can get her tiny home by then she says she can graduate debt free and have place to live once she starts her journey out of college.

If you’re interested in trading something with her, follow her journey at:

Amber's Twitter:


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