If there’s one monthly payment you can live without, it’s probably your housing payment. Even when a mortgage payment is cheaper than paying rent, there’s a good chance you’re still spending at least $1,000 a month on housing. That doesn’t mean you can’t live somewhere with free rent without risking your personal safety.
Let’s face it, in big cities, sometimes it feels like your only option to pay less in rent is to move to a less-than-desirable part of town. Before you resort to this option, give these suggestions a try first.
Thankfully, you have many options to slash your housing costs. When it feels like most of your take-home pay is used to make rent, these opportunities can be the financial lifeline you need most.
The Best Ways to Get Free Rent
It doesn’t matter if you’re a recent college grad that’s also juggling student loans or a working professional only needing a couple more years to finally afford to buy a home, or an aspiring world traveling.
Housing no longer has to consume a large portion of your income. Using the strategies below makes it possible to improve your immediate financial situation and achieve long-term financial goals too.
1. Become an Airbnb Host
One of the easiest options is to become an Airbnb host. Because you’re not renting to full-time tenants, you can choose which dates are available for rent. And, you can meet some fun guests in the process.
You’ll have more flexibility if you own your home because most rental property agreements forbid short-term stays. It’s also a good idea to check your city or subdivision regulations to verify Airbnb properties are authorized.
Here are several examples of how you can rent your house on Airbnb:
- Spare bedroom
- Furnished basement
- On-property guest house
- Your entire house when you leave town
If you also happen to have access to a second property, you can also turn that into an Airbnb rental property too. Maybe it’s a family member’s old house or your spouse’s house. The Airbnb rent can help pay for your housing costs, and you don’t have to rent out your own living quarters.
Airbnb also offers its hosts these rental protections:
- $1,000,000 coverage for accidental damage
- Host Protection Insurance for guest injury or property damage
Even with these protections, you still want to make sure you maintain an active property insurance policy with liability coverage.
2. Become a Live-In Nanny or Au Pair
Another possibility is becoming a live-in nanny for a family. If you’re a caring for their children full-time, it can be easier to live on premise. Not only do you earn a full-time income, but you can also have housing included as a benefit.
Searching for jobs on Care.com is one place to find local opportunities. You can also try asking your friends. If somebody has a connection with a family that’s moving abroad for work, you can also get paid to travel the world! Even if they live stateside, they may also pay to bring you along on vacation.
As with any job, make sure you set expectations with the family before you accept the position. Some of the topics you might discuss include:
- Daily work schedule
- Housekeeping responsibilities besides caring for children
- When you’re “off call”
- What living expenses you pay for (i.e., food, internet, trips)
Because you’re living in your employer’s house, it can sometimes feel like you must always be on call. This isn’t the case. You still have the flexibility to run errands or visit friends when you’re not working so you can still have a life outside of work.
3. Share a Home With the Elderly
Younger people can live with an elderly person for free thanks to elderly home sharing. Maybe you care for them, run errands and buy groceries, or maintain the property. Home sharing between young and elderly singles is a growing trend in large cities where young people struggle to pay high rent or even afford to buy a home.
In exchange for getting free rent, you agree to help the elderly homeowner with weekly chores. For example, you might commit to helping out 10 hours a week around the house to get a free room.
Elderly home sharing can take many different approaches. A second option is for elderly singles to share a house and each tenant has their own bedroom. If there are five bedrooms, five people to share the house to greatly reduce living expenses.
4. Housesit for Friends
You may have a family friend or connection that is moving out of town for business or taking a long sabbatical. It can be for several weeks or a couple years. Their house is going to be vacant, however they don’t want to sell or rent it. Living in their house ensures the grounds are maintained and you get a free place to sleep too.
It’s not uncommon to live in a house rent-free when the owner’s mortgage is paid for. You still might have to pay utilities, but it’s better than paying rent too.
When you don’t have anybody in your network to house-sit for, you can still connect with homeowners on Trusted Housesitters.
5. Petsit for Traveling Owners
If you rent, your landlord probably has restrictions on the size and number of animals you can have. So, you may have to petsit by staying at a pet owner’s house while they travel. Not every pet owner wants to board their animal, but keep them in familiar surroundings instead. This is where you come in to save the day!
Owning a home provides more pet sitting opportunities. Boarding pets is the highest income potential when it comes to caring for pets, but it’s not the only way. You can also run a doggie daycare if you work from home and don’t want to keep them overnight.
For any pet sitting option, connect with pet owners on Care.com.
6. Sublet Your Living Space
Subletting is another long-standing way to make money from your current dwelling when you’re grandfathered into a lower rental rate than new tenants have to pay. Maybe you pay $700 a month, but a new tenant has to pay $1,000 for a similar unit. You can charge slightly less than the current market rate and pocket the profit.
This is a perfect option for college students on summer break and traveling professionals. You don’t have to terminate your lease and find a storage space for all your stuff and somebody pays the rent for the months you’re out of town.
Other people sublet their old apartment when they outgrow it and use the subletting proceeds to defray the rent for their new dig. For example, you can sublet the studio apartment you currently live in so you can afford the higher rent payment for a two bedroom unit.
Check your lease agreement to see if subletting is allowed. Keep in mind that you’re responsible for any damages caused by your subtenants because the official lease agreement is still in your name. Finding trustworthy subletter should be a top priority so you don’t lose all your earnings to property repair costs.
To find a subletter, you can first ask your friends or family for leads. Never forget that word-of-mouth referrals are almost always your best option. You can also advertise your space on some of the following online classified sites:
When you find somebody, require a down payment and also consider writing your own lease agreement. This agreement sets upfront expectations for the agreed rent rate and their responsibilities. You may also be required to notify the landlord that somebody else is occupying your apartment for a short period of time.
7. Buy a Duplex Rental Property
If you want to scratch homeowner and landlord off your list in a single swoop, buy a duplex. Some savvy entrepreneurs call this tactic “house hacking.”
You can live in one half and your tenant’s rent payment can cover your mortgage payment. Or if you choose to remain a renter yourself, you can rent both sides of the duplex to pay your rent.
When you’re a renting your home for the first time, there are a few ropes you need to learn. Making a game plan before you accept your first tenant can make the rental process easier.
Learn how to build a real estate empire: Listen to Coach Carson on the Money Peach Podcast Episode 73 discuss his secrets to basic real estate investing.
8. Add an Extra Roommate (or Two)
If you have a spare bedroom, put it to use by finding another roommate. This can be a better option if you don’t live in an Airbnb-friendly complex or you need a consistent income source.
Although you might not receive as much free rent money, splitting your monthly rent payment in half is an instant pay raise. Don’t forget that adding additional roommates reduces your rent costs even more if you have multiple bedrooms.
This option can also be easier than subletting your apartment because you’re still living in the apartment full-time. Landlords prefer certainty and are more flexible knowing that the tenant who signed the lease will still be on the premises.
You can make these arrangements as casual or formal as you desire. It can also be a good idea to draft a written agreement to make sure there’s no confusion on who pays which expenses, to make sure you still get free rent.
9. Live in a Camper or Van
One of the greatest advantages of renting is that you have flexibility in where you live! When your lease ends, you can simply move out penalty-free. You can use this opportunity to upgrade to a better neighborhood, or you can use your rent money to scratch items off your bucket list.
If you plan on taking that epic road trip but don’t think you can afford it, you should follow the example of Stephanie and Nate Yarbrough. They might live in a van, but they also tour the country and also work from anywhere with an internet connection as “digital nomads.”
Not having to pay rent means you can afford to travel. If you can keep your belongings with a family member, you don’t have have to rent a storage locker either!
Although you can pay to stay at campgrounds, it’s also possible to camp for free. Finding free campsites lets you explore some of the most scenic areas in the country. And, free camping also means that you have more cash to spend on your road trip to see more states.
Are you a glamper? If you need more spacious living quarters, you can also spring for a small RV like Michelle Schroeder-Gardner. Learn how she and her husband live full-time in their RV on Episode 62 of the Money Peach Podcast.
10. Work on a Cruise Ship
Some people consider going on a cruise as the ultimate vacation idea. After all, can you think of an easier way to visit the Caribbean or Alaska in a relaxing manner?
Because cruise ships are essentially floating cities, there are many roles you can fill working onboard a cruise liner. Some of the possibilities include:
- Food Service
- Cruise Director
- IT Officer
- Medical Staff
- Security Officer
If you have experience in these career fields and love to travel, why not apply? Living aboard a cruise ship can truly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Since you’re working onboard the ship, you can have free living quarters. You also have the chance to forge relationships with staff and guests.
11. Work for a Travel Excursion Company
Another awesome way to get your foot in the tourism niche and work at different travel destinations is to browse the listings on CoolWorks.
Here are some of the potential locations you can work:
- National Parks
- Ski Resorts
- Five-Star Hotels and Resorts
- The Beach
Each location has different job opportunities, but some of the most exciting include being a zip line tour guide or driving a dog sled. You can also find positions in critical positions like food service, transportation, property maintenance, and desk staff too.
Once again, you don’t have to be a local resident to work at destinations most people only dream of visiting. You already have the skills, so now’s the time to join the adventure!
12. Work at a Hostel
Hostels are more casual than your run-of-the-mill motel chains. That means you’re more likely to live rent-free in a room if you work there. This can be an easy money hack if you live in a big city with expensive rents or you want to be an expat and live abroad. In other words, you can live in a hotel for free in the U.S. or in a foreign country.
If you work part-time at the hostel, you still earn a steady income which you can use to pay for your basic living expenses and enjoy your new destination.
13. Become an Apartment Property Manager
Large apartment complexes may also be willing to offer free rent if you work in the leasing office or on the repair team. You can also walk to work so you won’t have to pay transportation costs either! And, you may also qualify for employer benefits too!
You can find these positions on online job boards like Indeed or Craigslist for a “resident manager.” Another option is asking the leasing office if they have any openings. Since most apartment complexes are owned by a large management company, they usually have at least one sister complex in most cities.
To qualify for a live-in property management position, most apartments do require at least one year of property management experience.
14. Work for a Community Organization
Some community organizations like abuse shelters and recovery homes offer on-site lodging for staff members. Although the house residents might constantly change, staff members need to remain on-site at all times. Whether you work inside the house or maintain the property grounds, your services are needed and give the residents hope.
Being able to help others is a very rewarding experience but it isn’t always the most financially lucrative career option. With your housing costs paid for, you can focus on doing what you love and excel at too.
15. Serve as a College Resident Advisor
Getting free rent isn’t exclusively for working adults. In fact, being a resident advisor is one of the most rewarding college side hustles if you want to work on-campus.
As an R.A., you get free rent and you can develop leadership skills by supporting incoming freshman and other students with their qualms. Being a resident advisor also means you can build lifelong connections and friendships that your classmates miss out on.
Once you graduate, you may also decide to eventually become a full-time resident director. These positions usually live on-campus full-time and supervise student resident advisors. And, you also get free housing too!
16. Become an AmeriCorps Volunteer
As an AmeriCorps volunteer, you can help serve large and small American communities. There are three different AmeriCorps programs you can apply for:
- National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC)
- State and National
Each program offers housing stipends that help you live rent-free. Your best options for free housing will be the NCCC or VISTA programs.
You must be at least 18 years old to apply for these programs. Most volunteer terms last between 10 and 12 months. Your service hours can also repay your federal student loans too.
17. Volunteer Abroad
A fun possibility to live abroad rent-free is volunteering to live with a family. Going abroad can be the perfect opportunity if you’re a nomad and don’t have a family yet. The most flexible option is going to volunteer for different projects on Workaway. Some of the possibilities include:
- Teaching English
- Organic Gardening
- Organizing Sports Leagues
- Volunteering at Hostels
Most assignments require a minimum one-month commitment. However, this can be a fun way to volunteer on a seasonal basis to travel the world. Some assignments only accept one worker, but other places accept several volunteers which can be the perfect experience for couples!
18. Join the Peace Corps
Another international opportunity to consider is joining the Peace Corps. The typical Peace Corps assignment lasts two years, so you’ll need more flexibility. Like AmeriCorps, you can also receive federal student loan payment assistance. After your two-year stint finishes, you also receive an $8,000 cash stipend to help transition back into the “real world.”
The Peace Corps is going to be one of the most time-intensive ways to get free rent, but you will gain invaluable life experience. If you want to become fluent in a foreign language, being a Peace Corps lets you live the language alongside the locals. In the process, you can help improve their local communities.
19. Volunteer on a Farm
There are many ways you can learn life skills that can provide a living for your entire working career. One way is to volunteer on an organic farm to learn the trade without large upfront expenses. WWOOF-USA is one of the best places to strengthen your green thumb at one of their 2,349 farms.
Some of the handy skills you can learn include:
- Growing organic produce
- Animal husbandry
- Making wine
- Building straw houses
You can volunteer on a farm in the mainland U.S., Hawaii, and even the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Many farms even let you bring your family with you so this isn’t a “singles only” volunteer opportunity.
Although you won’t get paid for your hours, most volunteers work a half-day to get free rent. You can use the remaining time to start a side hustle to pay for your other living expenses.
20. Move In With Another Family Member
You can also move into another family member’s house. This is a practical solution when you need to be closer to your job, or moving back home isn’t an option. Since you already know your family, you don’t have to worry about roommate horror stories if you share an apartment with strangers.
Family members might also be more flexible with offering free rent too. You may still have to help out around the house and maybe split utilities, but you’re still saving money.
21. Move Back Home
If none of the other options is a good fit for your circumstances, you can always move back home. Moving home can have many benefits as you’ve already lived at home before and know what to expect.
Keep in mind, that moving back home doesn’t automatically mean you’re a “boomerang child.” We moved into my in-laws’ house while we built our house and my wife and I launched our self-employment careers. Taking an adult gap year would have been virtually impossible if we didn’t move back home.
Instead of moving back home so you can play video games instead of working, make a plan to use this life season to improve your quality of life. You’ll be glad you did!
Tips on Getting Free Rent
You’re most likely familiar with the expression, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” In all of these suggestions, you are either bartering your skills for free room and board, or you need to claim taxable income on your rental income.
It’s not every day that the opportunity arises to get free rent, so you should follow these suggestions to maximize your reduced living expenses.
Make a Plan to Maximize Your Free Rent
Do you know how you’re going to spend your new disposable income? You might not be able to live rent-free for your entire life, so take action now to maximize your gains.
For example, you can use the extra cash for the following reasons:
- Extra debt payments
- Saving for a mortgage down payment
Pursue a “Once In A Lifetime Opportunity”
You don’t always have to pursue one of the options because you’re struggling to pay the bills. If you don’t have a family yet, you have a lot more flexibility to live rent free and have fun in the process.
After all, how many people do you know dream of living in Europe, Hawaii, or the mountains but can only afford a one-week vacation? By volunteering or even taking a seasonal job, you can build memories that many people can’t because they need a steady income to pay the bills.
While you might not get rich from these endeavors, you still have a roof over your head and plenty of food to eat. Flexibility is possibility the best benefit of living a frugal! Not having a rent payment makes it even easier to pursue your dreams.
Set Money Aside for Taxes
If you receive a cash stipend or rental income, make sure you set aside enough money to cover your tax bill. As long as you plan to give Uncle Sam some of this money beforehand, you won’t be surprised with a large tax bill.
As an Airbnb host or landlord, keep a running ledger of deductible expenses. These deductions help minimize your tax bill so you can keep more of the profit.
Carry Renters Insurance
Whether or not you plan on subletting or adding a roommate, you need to have renter’s insurance. Some landlords require coverage at all times, even if you’re the sole tenant. Most policies only cost about $10 a month for reasonable coverage amounts.
Renters insurance protects you against the following events:
- Property damage from fire, theft, building collapse, etc.
- Natural disasters
- Bodily injury to guests and tenants
Even if somebody visiting your apartment accidentally gets injured, you can still be held liable for their medical bills. For peace of mind, you might open a policy for life’s unexpected moments.
Tip: Quickly compare renters insurance quotes at Policygenius.
As you see, there are many different ways you can live rent-free. Whether you want to take a mini-retirement or need to regain your financial footing, you have plenty of domestic and international options. Housing is the largest monthly expense for many families but it doesn’t have to be when you pursue one of these suggestions.
Have you enjoyed free rent in the past? What will you do to get free rent in the future?