When you are getting serious about paying off debt (which we are, in case you’re new here), you are willing to make sacrifices that you otherwise wouldn’t make. What each individual or family is willing to give up is different. That is fine! Some of the ideas I’m going to share may sound a little crazy, but hear me out, okay?
What is your biggest monthly expense? For most people, the mortgage payment or rent is the biggest check they write each month. Housing costs take a large chunk of income, yet they aren’t always on the radar when we’re looking for ways to save money.
Here are some ideas to get you thinking about how you could save money by thinking outside the box (or should I say” house”?) when it comes to your living arrangements.
Live with relatives
My husband and I both prided ourselves in the plan that we’d never live with our parents once we were “grown up.” Well, pride really does come before the fall! When we decided to make some audacious financial goals guess where we ended up? We (or at least “I”) laugh at ourselves now, two years into living in my in-laws’ basement with our three little ones. Our pride has morphed into humility and gratitude.
If you have a relative that has extra space, you could ask about the possibility of renting from them or living with them free-of-charge. Tell them your goals and reason for wanting to save money on your housing costs. It may feel a little awkward, but at worst they say ‘no’ and at best you’re saving thousands of dollars a year!
Some things you will want to consider and discuss before deciding to live with relatives:
- Price– Be willing to pay something, yet humble enough to accept whatever help they can give. Would utilities be included? Could you barter or work for part of your rent?
- Privacy– How much do you need? How much do they need? What about shared spaces?
- Length of stay– What’s the time frame? Setting a goal date to be out will probably help both parties.
- House rules– Be extra considerate of your relative’s rules. Remember you are their guest and they are doing you a huge favor.
- Chores or other contributions– Could you offer to keep the yard up, babysit children, make dinner or do regular cleaning to make yourself an asset to your relative? This is especially important if you’re living rent-free.
Share Your Space
Do you have a room that you could rent out to a relative or friend? Having someone else contribute to your monthly housing costs is a great way to keep costs down. Look around and see what the going rate is for a bedroom or basement apartment. To find a renter, start with the people you know: family, friends, church members, work associates, and neighbors and have them spread the word. You’ll want to be sure to address the list of considerations above. Be sure to have the arrangement in writing and signed, even (and especially) if it’s with family or friends.
Another great way to share your space is renting it out to strangers. Have you heard of Airbnb? Their popularity has become serious competition for the hotel industry. You can rent out your room (or house) to travelers for any length of time. You set the cost, minimum and maximum length of stay, and choose the amenities you’ll offer. To get an idea of what others are offering, browse your area (or somewhere you want to travel). You will get a $25 travel credit in your account when you sign up through my link.
Be a Caretaker
When I was in college, the university newspaper often had ads looking for students to help with a disabled person (some college-age, some elderly) in exchange for free rent. My good friend and her husband (and later their kids) lived with an older gentleman who was pretty self-sufficient, but his grown children who lived out-of-state wanted someone to be in the house with him. He enjoyed the company and being able to live out his last years in the comfort of his own home. My friend and her family loved the experience, which helped them out financially while he was attending law school.
Besides taking care of people in exchange for rent, you can find opportunities to take care of houses or facilities in exchange for housing. Older couples may be leaving their home for years at a time to serve as missionaries or take a foreign sabbatical. They will want responsible people to take care of their home while they are away, which often translates into free or reduced rent in exchange for house-sitting.
Maybe you’ve heard about the guy who lived in a van while getting a graduate degree from Duke. He had just finished paying off $32,000 of undergrad debt when he wanted to go back to school. By living in a van that he bought on Craigslist he was able to stay out of debt. I haven’t read his memoir yet, but I’m sure it gives great insights into an extremely frugal and unconventional housing option.
My blog friend Sarah lives with her husband and 3 children (and one on the way) in a bus on their property while they work to start building a house there. They face some interesting challenges and make some definite sacrifices, but they do so with grace and humor. Sarah documents her family’s adventures on her blog Little Bus on the Prairie.
When my in-laws were building their house (the one whose basement we call home), they lived in a pink trailer on their property. They started out with 3 kids and moved into the real house when number 6 was born. My mother-in-law recalls it being lots of work, but my husband only remembers the fun adventures he had playing outside all day.
It Takes a Special Person
Alternative housing arrangements definitely aren’t for everyone, but they may be worth considering depending on your situation. Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. While I don’t expect you to go scour craigslist for a van or bus to start calling home, I hope you can start thinking outside of the box when it comes to reducing those big expenses in your budget.
What do you think?
- Would you consider any unconventional living arrangements to save money?
- Do you have (or have you had) an out-of-the-box housing situation? How did it go?
- What other alternative housing arrangements have you heard of?