Check out these cheap ways to live and relieve yourself of financial stress!
Are you looking for ways to live cheaply and save some more money?
Do you want to cut costs?
During and right after my divorce, I was struggling financially and desperately needed to cut costs and save some money (and pay some bills!).
If you need to cut costs fast, then you have to look at your spending first.
The three top expenses in most people’s lives are:
- Housing (Rent/Mortgage)
There are other categories that might come close, but generally these 3 are the most expensive bills you will have each month.
So, if you want to find cheap ways to live, you need to cut the expenses in at least one of these 3 areas (or all of them!).
By far, housing is usually THE most expensive item on everyone’s list. We all need a roof over our heads!
Let’s start by checking out how to cut costs for housing.
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Cheap Ways to Live – Housing
After my divorce, my 2 little kids (ages 3 and 5) and I moved into a very tiny 1 bedroom apartment (because it was the cheapest place I could find in the area I had to live). I really wanted to pay off bills and save money and I had a lot of financial stress at the time so the cheaper rent did help quite a bit.
There are certainly other ways that you can save money on housing, but you might need to think outside the box a little bit.
Here are some cheap ways to live by spending less on housing costs:
1. Live in an RV, Van, Truck, or School Bus
There are people who make living in an RV or van their full-time home. Yes, it’s definitely a small space, but you can move around to warmer weather in the winter!
2. Live Abroad
Many other countries have a cheaper cost of living. If you are able to, you can try living abroad.
3. Live in Low-Income Apartments
If you qualify, you can look for housing in low-income apartments where the rent is cheaper.
4. Live with your Parents
This might not be ideal, but it’s very common for young adults to live with their parents in many other countries (and it’s not a bad thing). If you have a good relationship with your parents and they have space, you can save a lot of money by staying with them.
5. Live in a Duplex
If you buy a duplex (2 homes on 1 property), you can live in one and rent the other one out.
6. Live in an Efficiency Apartment
Efficiency apartments are basically very small studios (they don’t have full kitchens, for example). If you are single, you could rent one of these very tiny apartments – this could be a great option!
7. Housesit or Pet Sit
Many families are looking for reliable people to watch their homes (and pets) while they are away from home. I heard about one guy who lived as a house-sitter for over a year – with no home of his own – just moving from housesitting gig to housesitting gig!
8. Live with Roommates
Sometimes it’s really hard to live with roommates, but if you are willing to make it work you can save a lot of money on rent by sharing the cost with one roommate (or several!). Try looking at roommates.com.
9. Live in a Fixer-Upper
If you have some handyman skills, you can buy a house that needs a little TLC and fix it up while you are living there.
10. Be a Live-In Caregiver
Many people need full-time caregivers. If this job suits you, then you could definitely save money on housing expenses.
11. Be a Live-In Nanny
Many people also need nannies! And some of those people would like live-in nannies.
12. Be a Live-In Property Manager
Some apartments complexes need to have a property manager live on the premises. If you are willing to do maintenance jobs and attend to the needs of the tenants, you can be a property manager.
13. Rent a Guest House
You can rent out a guest house on a property and often get a great deal on rent.
14. Rent a Room
You can rent a room in a house to cut costs instead of renting an apartment all by yourself.
15. Rent Out a Room
If you have an extra room or an extra space on your property, you can rent it out. Once we stayed in an Airbnb where the owners lived in the separate garage-converted-into-apartment, and we stayed in the main house.
16. Live as a Nomad
If you don’t mind traveling around and are very flexible, you could live cheaply as a nomad and look for the least expensive places wherever you go.
17. Live in a Shipping Container
If you think outside the box, you can even live in a shipping container (have your kids read the story of the Boxcar Children?).
18. Live on a Boat
While maybe not as romantic as Sleepless in Seattle, you can still cut costs by living on a boat.
19. Live Off Grid
I knew a couple who lived “off-grid” for many years!
What exactly is off-grid living? This basically means living without public-supplied utilities (particularly electricity).
20. Live in a Tiny House
Tiny houses are definitely small, but overall are cheaper to build or buy than a traditional home. You can even live in them with a family. Check out some tiny house families here.
21. Buy a Mobile Home
Mobile homes are generally much cheaper than typical houses because they don’t go up in value as a house would, but you can certainly save money on housing with one. If you buy a mobile home on a good piece of land, then that is an even better deal!
22. Negotiate your Rent
If there are a lot of rentals where you live and not a lot of tenants, you might be able to negotiate your rent. Landlords would rather have their properties filled with renters than sitting there empty (no money coming in!). You could also possibly get a discount for signing a longer lease.
Anytime you downsize you will most likely save money.
If it seems hard to downsize, it might help to look at your financial and retirement goals.
Do you want to:
- have a large house?
- own lots of items?
- keep your large collection of Beanie Babies?
Or would you rather have:
- extra money for savings?
- the ability to take special vacations?
- more savings for retirement?
Plus, larger homes are more expensive to maintain (to heat in the winter or keep cool in the summer). It is also hard to keep general living costs low in big houses. They cost more in energy, taxes, and general maintenance (cleaning, yard work, etc.).
24. Move to a Cheaper Location
If you live in a high cost of living area, a relatively simple way to cut costs is to move to a cheaper location.
This can be a wonderful idea for remote workers or people who are flexible with their jobs (or willing to find a new one).
Research the new location first to find out the rental or home prices.
Cheap Ways to Live – Other Housing Hacks
Here are a few more housing hacks:
- Look for move-in specials (for example, a free months rent or a reduced rate for first few months)
- Find a place with the least amount of bedrooms. Are you living alone? Get a studio or efficiency apartment. (I lived with 2 small kids in a 1 bedroom apartment for several years to save money. It worked and I saved enough for a good downpayment on a home.)
- Save on other daily expenses
Cheap Ways to Live – for Free
It may even be possible to find a way to live rent-free.
- Offer services in exchange for rent (cleaning, cooking, nannying, household maintenance)
- House-sit (like that guy!)
- Find a job that provides housing (living on campus as an RA, for example)
Cheap Ways to Live – Transportation
Transportation can be another big expense. Here are some ideas for saving money on transportation
Carpooling is an excellent, cost-effective way for employees to save money on transportation to and from work. Chat with some co-workers and see if you can set this up.
Another option is car-sharing. Check out one of these companies:
- Turo – This is like the car version of Airbnb. Rent a car from a local host.
- ZipCar – For a small monthly fee, you can book and unlock cars from the app. You can rent a car for an hour-long errand, a weekend getaway, and more.
- Enterprise Car Share – Another car sharing company. Join and rent cars 24/7 for short errands, a whole day, or longer.
If you only need transportation to go shopping, then look into delivery options instead. There are many ways to have your groceries and other items delivered to your doorstep!
5. Remote work
The pandemic helped (forced) many people to work from home for a while. If you can work remotely, you can save a lot of money on gas and transportation, even if you can negotiate working from home for a few days per week it will help!
6. Public transportation
Many large cities have great public transportation. When I lived in New York City, I didn’t have to drive a car at all since there were buses and subways everywhere!
Not only is bicycling good for your health it’s also great for the environment. If you think you work too far to ride a bicycle, I knew someone who bicycled from Seattle to the eastside in Bellevue to work (about 10 miles or so) and back! I knew someone else who rode a bike 15 miles to work and back. Think of what great shape you would be in!
Cheap Ways to Live – Food
If you are really struggling, check to see if you qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or other food assistance programs in your area.
Cheap Ways to Live – Other Creative Ideas
- Insurance – Review your insurance plans (car, house, etc.) and shop around to compare prices. If you do, tell your current company you found a better deal elsewhere and see if they will match or beat it. If you have an emergency fund and savings, you can consider opting for a low premium and high deductible. This can work if you are in good health and don’t go to the doctor often. You can also try increasing the deductible on your car insurance (again, if you have an emergency fund).
- Paper products – Instead of buying paper towels, napkins, and such, try reusable napkins, paper towels, or even toilet paper!
- Save money on food – Eat less meat, look for coupons, shop on sale, work at a restaurant (and get free food). For more tips on saving money on food, check out this article.
- Minimalize your life – Don’t keep stuff you don’t use. You have to spend money to maintain the items or move them when you change locations.
- Save on vacations – Plan ahead, look for discounts, have a “staycation” instead!
- Get a side hustle – Check out these articles: Side Hustles for Single Moms, Make an Extra $1000 per month, Save $10,000 in a year.
- Save money on phone and cable bills – Prepaid phones are the cheapest option. Some companies to check out: Republic Wireless, Mint Mobile
- Switch bank accounts – If you are paying fees at your bank, look around for bank accounts with no fees (some even offer you money to open a new account!).
- Get rid of credit cards and debt – This is the biggest drain on finances. Do whatever you can to get rid of debt (and stay out of debt after that!).
- Get rid of your car – If you live in a city with great public transportation, consider selling your car and using a bus (or bicycle or carpool) instead.
- Earn cash back when shopping – Check out Ibotta or Rakuten.
- Budget – Tell your money what to do! Stop overspending, stay on top of bills, and avoid late fees. The Trim app can help you analyze your spending and negotiate bills, etc.
- Get free stuff – Where? Craigslist has a free section. You can also join a local Buy Nothing group to get and gift items for free.
It IS possible to find cheap ways to live, you just might need to be brave and get a little creative. Start with the top 3 big expenses (housing, food, transportation), and see how you can save in each category. What are your favorite cheap ways to live? What would you add to this list?