Home & Garden Home How Can I Live Rent-Free? By Amy Y. Conry Davis Writer University of San Diego Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University Amy Conry Davis works as a writer, content, creator, and photographer. She lives full-time in an Airstream and travels throughout the United States. our editorial process Amy Y. Conry Davis Updated February 26, 2021 FatCamera / Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email Home Thrift & Minimalism Pest Control Natural Cleaning DIY Family Green Living Sustainable Eating Living rent-free involves a lot more than just getting rid of one major expense every month — it is truly a lifestyle change. The choice of living mortgage or rent-free, as well as the reasons why, are as varied as the people pursuing this lifestyle. For some, it's an intentional choice that comes from a desire to live more minimally or sustainably. It may also be an opportunity to put freedom, flexibility, and work-life balance at the top of the list. For others, it's a reexamination of conventional trends that are no longer working or relevant in their lives. And, sometimes, it's forced into reality due to a life event, family situation, or financial hardship. The path to living rent-free is not without hard work. Like any other major life decision, it requires research, budgeting, organization, and planning. First and foremost, start with the important questions. Take plenty of time to carefully consider (and be honest about) things like career goals, personal belongings, finances, and relationships. Remember, your rent-free life can look any way you want or need. What Does Living Rent-Free Really Mean? A common misconception about living rent-free is that it means living without ANY bills. Unless you're independently wealthy, this is just not the case. What it does mean is greatly reducing your monthly expenses by altering, changing, or omitting certain factors related to your home life. Home ownership, in the traditional sense, can bring feelings of accomplishment, stability, and security for many people. It can be a great way to establish credit and build equity. However, as a homeowner, you’re ultimately in charge of every home repair, big or small, not to mention the bills associated with insurance payments and property taxes. Renting, on the other hand, can alleviate many of those obligations, but you're left with no equity on the home. Once your lease is up, though, you’re free to move along to the next place with a much greater sense of ease than having to sell a home. The whole concept of paying rent and mortgages goes back centuries. It actually began as a bartering system, using crops and livestock as capital. Wealthy property owners, usually from noble families, would allow villagers to live on their land in exchange for working it. Over time, ideas of private property, leases, and tenants began springing up in the European legal system and developed into what we know today in the United States. In our modern financial times, the goal of home ownership has become more of a hardship or impossibility for many people. While some still dream of owning a home, others have changed their minds about the need for it. They don’t share the same sentiment when it comes to how and where they live and most don’t want to be saddled with a long-term mortgage that can take a lifetime to pay off, if ever. On average, whether you own or rent, only about 30% of your monthly income should be spent on housing. This is a commonly accepted rule of thumb when it comes to personal finances. On top of that, financial advisors would suggest having three month's worth of savings for unexpected issues like job loss or injury. Ways to Live Rent-Free There is no one way to live rent-free. While factors such as age, income, job options, and location may have some bearing on the decision-making process, the sky is the limit. Here are some suggestions that will give you a place to start your own journey. Downsize Tony Anderson / Getty Images Sometimes the process is as simple as minimizing the size of your living space. If you’re in an apartment, condo, two-story home, or mansion, just considering alternative homes can be the best first step. If you’re someone that loves being on the water, maybe a houseboat is the way to go. If you enjoy rustic living and working the land, a rural homestead or small cabin with off-grid features would be appealing. For those interested in traveling and seeing different places, a travel trailer or RV can offer perfect mobility. The van life movement has been immensely popular as a way to go wherever the trail takes you. In addition, tiny home communities are cropping up all over the country and offer a way to live with others who want to share resources and talents. One of the most adventurous ways to live rent-free is with just a backpack. You can camp, couch surf, travel internationally, and change your accommodations at will. Work and Live If your job allows you to work remotely and you don’t mind living out of a suitcase or backpack, there are ways to travel the world living rent-free. WWOOFING, a term that refers to working in organic farms all over the world, is an option that allows you to trade your sweat equity for a place to sleep. You can learn valuable skills about farming, plants, agriculture, and more, all while living rent-free. If you’re someone who enjoys looking after children, being an au pair, especially in a place you’d really like to live, is an option. This kind of job can be very demanding, but there may be opportunities to travel with the family or partake in things you might not otherwise do on your own. Working as a building manager is another option. You can live on-site and your commute is a short walk to the office. House-sitting and pet-sitting have also grown in popularity over the years. There are several different companies that can facilitate the process for a small fee and connect willing homeowners with eager house-sitters all across the globe. This can be a wonderful way to travel, discover other cultures and reap the benefits of home life without the headaches. Rent It Out If you already own a home, condo, or apartment, thanks to sites like Airbnb and Vrbo, there are ways to get your mortgage paid without digging into your pockets. Many people are turning to vacation rentals as a way to supplement or pay their rent or mortgage entirely. If your place is located in a popular beach or ski destination, for instance, a consistent rental income is almost guaranteed. Getting a roommate or subletting a part of your home is also an option. Though this can sometimes have its challenges, it can alleviate a lot of your costs and help split the bills. Plus, you may end up finding good friends in the process. Lastly, moving in with family or friends who have spare rooms should be considered. In lieu of paying rent, you could find ways to barter services and help around the house. Any number of skills could be helpful, such as gardening, carpentry, caring for an elderly family member, or running errands. Best Places to Live Rent-Free If you're considering a move and embarking on this new lifestyle, it'll be important to start with a little research. First, think about the kinds of things that are important to you. Do you want diversity? Affordability? Green practices? Good schools? Next, ask yourself if you want to stay in your own country or move abroad. Remember, relocating to another country may come with legal implications to consider before you can work or live there. Livability is full of profiles on small to medium cities across the United States. AreaVibes and BestPlaces can also help with your checklist. If you're making a career change or looking for a new type of job, you'll have no problem discovering companies that foster a strong work-life environment suitable to this kind of lifestyle. The Muse is a great option which allows you to research the right company to suit your needs.