Rent, a common cost of living, may seem difficult to avoid — but, surprisingly, it’s not impossible to live rent free.
If you’re overwhelmed by your living expenses or want to find a creative way to reduce them, consider one of the options below. Depending on your personal finances and unique situation, some ideas may work better for you than others.
In this guide, we explain several different ways you can live rent free, from sharing your living space to taking work opportunities across the world.
If you prefer to stay close to home rather than travel, you have some options:
House hacking involves owning real estate, like a multi-bedroom apartment, and living in one room while renting out the rest. Renting rooms will offset the cost of your mortgage payments and other housing costs.
If done successfully, you can live rent free in your home, or even generate some extra money. Because the IRS considers rental income taxable income, you need to speak with your tax professional to be sure you’re accounting for this on your tax returns.
If you have a spare room but prefer the idea of a part-time roommate, you can provide a living space for other people and offset your rent costs by listing it on Airbnb. It can also make a great side hustle. Keep in mind you will need to follow Airbnb’s requirements and guidelines in order to host.
Additionally, you should also check for any laws and restrictions in your state, or reach out to a Homeowners Association (HOA’s) for guidelines on short-term rentals. The IRS has guidelines for how to report taxable income from renting out space using Airbnb. Check with your tax professional to assess how to report these earnings.
In-home caregivers help clients, typically children, people with disabilities or seniors, with day-to-day care and household responsibilities such as preparing meals, bathing, grooming or monitoring chronic health conditions. Generally, caregivers are provided with housing on-site, anything from a free room to a separate dwelling, and transportation to support their full-time work.
Like caregivers, live-in nannies live in their clients’ homes to provide full-time childcare support, as well as perform everyday household chores or anything that the homeowner needs assistance with. In exchange, you become part of the family, and would have a room of your own in the home, and possibly access to a cell phone or car to use in fulfilling your responsibilities.
Moving back in with your parents or other family members can not only help you save money, but it can also give you time to consider your current financial situation. Before doing so, make sure to discuss ground rules and understand how long they’ll allow you to live in their home rent free.
You’ll also have the benefit of being able to spend more time with family and contributing to their lives in non-financial ways around the house.
The federal government offers a housing assistance program for very low-income families, people with disabilities and the elderly. While this subsidy program will not cover all your rent, it may help if money is tight. In order to qualify, you’ll need to be eligible for a housing voucher and apply through your local public housing agency (PHA). Keep in mind that, due to the amount of applications, the processing time is usually long, so you’ll likely be placed on a waiting list.
If you are approved, the PHA calculates the maximum amount of housing assistance, which is typically the lesser of the payment standard minus 30% of your family’s monthly adjusted income or the gross rent for the unit minus 30% of your monthly adjusted income.
Are you looking for a change of pace? You might want to consider working for one of these organizations, or working a job that provides you free housing as compensation. Here are a few examples:
A hostel is a place that offers affordable accommodations for travels, with options to sleep in private or shared rooms. If you decide to work in a hostel, you’ll be responsible for tasks such as working reception, housekeeping or preparing meals. In return, you may receive free accommodation, and access to free events or meals, although this will depend on your workplace.
House sitting is when a homeowner asks another person to stay in their home while they are away, usually paying them to do it. A major upgrade to couch surfing, a house sitter takes care of a person’s house or someone’s residence in an apartment building and performs any daily errands or maintenance tasks the homeowner might have. The job may also involve pet sitting. While it’s a temporary situation, it’s a good side gig to make a little money and receive housing for a short period of time.
You could find house sitting opportunities through your own social network, like friends and relatives, or try joining a house sitter website. Keep in mind that websites may require you to pay an annual fee for membership.
If you’re skilled in childcare and want to see what life in another country is like, consider becoming an au pair. Au pairs are like live-in nannies for international families. They provide full-time childcare and perform other tasks to take care of the house and support their host family. In return, they receive pay in the form of weekly stipends, along with room and board.
If you enjoy traveling and teaching and are certified and skilled in the English language, you could consider teaching abroad. There’s a great demand for English teachers abroad, especially in countries like South Korea, China, Qatar and Oman. Some organizations provide free housing for English teachers as part of their contract.
If you care about causes, you can find many opportunities to volunteer that can also help you live rent free. Try volunteering your time for these organizations:
If you’re passionate about organic farming and sustainable living, check out the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). You can contribute your time to becoming a WWOOFer and learn about the agricultural movement, meet people from different backgrounds and experience farm life. The length of your visit can vary from a single day to a few months.
If you enjoy giving back and care about causes like fighting hunger, supporting education and helping disaster response, consider becoming a volunteer for AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. These organizations offer housing and a living stipend to their volunteers. After two years of service in the Peace Corps, each volunteer is provided with more than $10,000 pre-tax to help transition to life back home.
Living rent free may sound amazing, and many of these ways may work for you — but it does usually involve making a major change to your life, whether that’s bringing more people into your home or giving up your home entirely to move or travel abroad.
If you’re on the fence about making a life choice like this, or want to look for ways to save money in the meantime, you can make many smaller lifestyle changes to help you achieve your financial goals. Some of these include:
If you’re considering living rent free because you need time to rebuild your credit to secure a place of your own, consider some of the tools Self offers. You can use these tools to create better habits and take your first steps toward rebuilding credit.
Ana Gonzalez-Ribeiro, MBA, AFC® is an Accredited Financial Counselor® and a Bilingual Personal Finance Writer and Educator dedicated to helping populations that need financial literacy and counseling. Her informative articles have been published in various news outlets and websites including Huffington Post, Fidelity, Fox Business News, MSN and Yahoo Finance. She also founded the personal financial and motivational site www.AcetheJourney.com and translated into Spanish the book, Financial Advice for Blue Collar America by Kathryn B. Hauer, CFP. Ana teaches Spanish or English personal finance courses on behalf of the W!SE (Working In Support of Education) program has taught workshops for nonprofits in NYC.
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