How To Live Rent Free: You may have dreamed about living a care-free life where you don’t have to worry about rent or mortgage payments.
There are umpteen ways to live free, some more obvious than others. Some people have resorted to living in abandoned homes or cars on private property. Yet, squatting and trespassing are illegal and will win you some hefty fines or jail time.
You have to be creative and do your homework. Whether looking to save more money, pay down debts or stop paying other people for a place to live, you’ll be surprised that there are many legitimate ways to live rent-free.
One of the most common ways to live rent-free is to have other people live with you and share housing expenses.
Ask your friends and family if they know anyone looking for a place to rent or post a want ad in your local paper or on Craigslist.
If you have several roommates who split the utility bills, often you can pay your rent and have a few extra bucks left over each month.
Be sure to run a background check on potential renters, especially if they’re total strangers.
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List Rooms Online
Like having a roommate, you can set up your home to accommodate vacationers and travelers that visit your area.
You’ll have the flexibility to limit people’s stay to a few days or allow them to stay on longer terms. While you can post ads, a more secure way is to use web-based services like Airbnb and VRBO.
You create an online listing, communicate with ID-verified residents and get paid through the website or app.
If you’ve got the space and own your home, you can partition off sections of the house and allow for private entry. This way you could set up coded-locks and never have to arrange to meet with the renter in person.
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Buy a House and Rent It Out
This rent-free and mortgage-free option is similar to getting a roommate or listing on Airbnb. If you don’t already own a home or condo, this might encourage you to consider buying one.
Many new homebuyers have taken advantage of various mortgage loan programs requiring little to no down payment. These include organizations such as the USDA, the FHA, the VA, Navy Federal Credit Union and others.
If you’re ambitious and want to earn an income, consider purchasing a duplex, fourplex or small apartment. Live in one unit and rent out the others to pay off your mortgage.
>> Related: How To Make Money Renting Your Home
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Get a Home for Next to Nothing
If the idea of owning a house and renting it out excites you, but you’re looking for something that’s not going to have you committed to a 15- or 30-year mortgage, then you’re in luck.
There are many cities offering incentives for those willing to buy fixer-uppers to help revive communities.
If city-living is your thing, you can bid on a $1,000 home through the Building Detroit auction program.
Some places are even giving away land like the free home plots in Elwood, Nebraska.
Be warned; you’ll need to have an open mind, be good with your hands, have money for repairs and learn another language for some of these rent-free options.
Run a Campsite
Being a homeowner might not be your thing because you prefer something more mobile. Whether you have a large RV or a small camper, many campsites will let you live rent free.
There’s one concession. You’ll need to help run the campground by checking people in and out, doing maintenance and groundskeeper duties and handling emergencies.
Many seek couples who can split the responsibilities. Some places will pay you a small salary or let you stay in a cabin on the premises.
You can sign up for alerts and find opportunities on websites like Work Kamper.
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Those who shun “glamping” and prefer to rough it in the great outdoors might enjoy living off-grid. Now, this isn’t to suggest that you quit money, live in a cave and eat roadkill like Daniel Suelo of Utah.
In most cases, it’s illegal to stay in National Parks, State Parks and private land areas. But, you can camp out for free at many places within 450 million acres of public lands located through the U.S.
The only stipulation is that you’re usually only permitted to stay for 14 days in a National Forest or 21 days at a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) camping area.
So, as long as you keep moving around, you can live rent-free and sleep under the stars.
Some people don’t like to camp but don’t mind bouncing around from place to place. If that’s you, then you might find being couch surfer to be loads of fun.
This is a great way to meet new people all over the world while always having a place to crash. Where exactly you sleep varies from someone’s couch in the living room to a blowup mattress on the floor to a comfy bed in spare guest room.
Hosts often take it upon themselves to show you around town or share a homemade meal.
Forget about going to tourist traps and explore all of the local hotspots. When using sites like Couch Surfing, be sure to choose places that at least have a few excellent reviews.
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Work on a Cruise Ship
Instead of campsite to campsite or couch to couch, you could go dock to dock. There are all different types of jobs available on cruise ships.
You get free room and board plus a salary to boot. Whether you’re a cook, singer, childcare worker, masseuse, medical professional and so on, you can put your skills to work.
Being a crew member is an easy way to cruise the open seas and travel to exotic places while someone else foots the bill.
Simply go to your preferred cruise ship’s website or check the All Cruise Jobs site for global listings.
Live on a Boat
Working on a cruise ship isn’t for everyone. The quarters are often cramped, you spend months away from friends and family and your social life is limited to other workers.
Another option if you like the idea of being on the water is to live on a sailboat, houseboat or yacht.
In coastal cities, people buy boats but either don’t have time to use them or only live in the area during winter. Rather than let their boats rot away or leave them open to thieves and vandals, boat owners will often look for someone to live aboard.
Check boating classifieds, boat owner forums and local marinas for opportunities to live on a boat for free.
Occasionally, you may find an unwanted or abandoned boat available to own for free.
Like boat owners, there are people who don’t want to leave their homes sitting empty for extended time periods.
Hiring a house sitter is common for homeowners who travel a lot for work, are called away to care for a family member out of town or perhaps split their time living at different locations depending on the season.
The options for housesitting are endless and span the globe.
You can stay at someone’s house anywhere from a few days or weeks up to months at a time. Reside in familiar locales, explore places you’ve never been or traverse the globe.
If you plan accordingly, you could housesit in one place and have another one lined-up right after. TrustedHouseSitters.com is one of the largest and most popular websites.
Depending on what you’re looking for there are many job sites that vary in cost and focus on specific regions.
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Be a Caregiver
Some housesitting jobs include caring for a pet.
If you’re an animal lover, then you might be more interested in finding live-in pet sitting jobs.
Pet owners who go on vacation or travel for work sometimes can’t take their cat, dog or other “furkid” with them.
You’d be responsible for feeding, walking, grooming, companionship and any other duties required.
Don’t like pets much? You can be a live-in nanny or a live-in elderly caregiver.
Sometimes you can also find a senior citizen or disabled person willing to share their home in exchange for helping around the house.
Participate in Work Exchange Programs
Not everyone wants to be a caregiver. If you’ve got a green thumb, then you’ll be pleased to know that you can do all the planting your heart desires while living rent-free.
Volunteering for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is one of the best ways to do so. You can choose from more than 120 countries and negotiate with the hosts on how long you stay.
While this is just one example, you can find an array of places where you can stay for free while working.
If you’re in another country and want to extend your trip, many hostels will let you work the front desk or other odd jobs in exchange for a bed. It never hurts to ask nicely.
Manage an Apartment Complex
Helping to run a hostel is a pretty small job but, if you’re up to it, give a live-in apartment manager job a try.
Some individuals or companies that own a small multi-family property will hire a single person to manage it.
You’d typically work weekdays and weekends doing some marketing, showing available apartments and processing resident applications.
In exchange, you’ll be given your own apartment and a nice salary. The only downside is that you’d have to be on-call around the clock to deal with maintenance issues and handle emergency calls.
Join a Commune
Managing a complex might not be your strong suit but if you enjoy living and working in a small community then explore communal living.
There are different types of communes that you can join if you think you’d fit in well with that type of lifestyle.
From free-spirited hippies and student co-ops to ecovillages and religious communities, there’s something for everyone.
They all vary in size, color, shape and location but intentional communities of people all live and work together cooperatively. Some are self-sustainable.
Runaway to the Circus
Of all the ways to live rent-free, this might seem like the most far-fetched one. Believe it or not, people still run away and join the circus when the typical 9-5 way of life just isn’t cutting it.
Unless you’re a featured performer like a trapeze artist or acrobat, your earnings will be pretty measly.
On the plus side, you’ll always have a place to stay, eat and travel for free.
Some people use skills they’ve already acquired while young like dancing, gymnastics or hula hooping.
Others become a circus performer by going to an actual circus arts training school. Once you’re ready, you can search for circus jobs online at Ringling, Cirque de Soleil and others all over the world.
Live with a Friend
Your best friend could be the go-to place when you need a temporary or long-term living arrangement that’s free.
While this sounds like a fun sleepover, it could quickly turn into a crazy circus. In fact, some friendships have been ruined after living together.
As with any relationship, you’ll each have habits and idiosyncrasies that may seem strange to others.
The key is making sure that you either complement each other or have similar ways of living.
It also helps to keep an open mind. No matter the case, choose a roomie carefully, communicate often, do your fair share of work and don’t eat up all the food.
Move Back in With Parents
As much as you love your parents, the thought of living under their roof again may cause you to cringe.
As a last resort, this might be the only option you have left. Have no shame as more adults are living with parents than living with a spouse or partner.
Unfortunately, generational differences can lead to conflict.
In most cases, all it takes is a little attitude change within yourself to accept the less-than-ideal situation. As they say, “family is everything,” and “life is short.”
Cliché but true.
So, take this time to get to know your aging parents better. Help around the house, be respectful, show appreciation and cherish the moments before it all disappears.
Become best friends and don’t forget to say, “I love you!” or send an occasional love note.
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