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Alternatives to Renting: 20 Genius Apartment Alternatives

Explore Beyond the Ordinary: Embrace Adventure in Alternative Living Spaces
Written By: Megan Miller
Reviewed by: Mike Reyes
Last Updated February 20, 2024
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In this article, you’ll learn:

  1. Diverse Alternatives to Traditional Renting: Discover a wide range of alternatives to renting an apartment, catering to different lifestyles and preferences. These include living in vans, work-trade rent exchanges, house sitting, and even unique options like living on a boat or in a mobile home.
  2. Opportunities for Work-Exchange and Travel: Many of the alternatives mentioned involve some form of work-exchange or employment that provides free accommodation. These options not only offer a way to save on rent but also provide opportunities for travel, gaining new experiences, and potentially exploring different cultures, especially in roles like working for a host family in a new country or on a cruise ship.
  3. Adaptability and Trade-offs: You’ll learn the importance of adaptability and the willingness to make trade-offs when considering these alternative living arrangements. Choosing an alternative to renting an apartment depends heavily on personal circumstances, preferences, and the ability to balance benefits against potential drawbacks.
apartment alternatives

Are you tired of throwing your money away on rent? Are you looking for an alternative to renting? If so, you’re in luck! Here are some fun and feasible options you must consider as alternatives to renting an apartment.

Living in an apartment can be an expensive and exhausting affair. If you live in a costly city with high housing prices, the good news is that there are many alternatives to renting an apartment. And one of them is sure to fit your needs. People are always looking for other options and creative ways to save and make their lives easier.

Alternatives to renting that’ll help save money

Alternative Living OptionDescriptionSaves money and provides accommodation.
Work-Trade Rent ExchangesLive with a host in exchange for help with house chores.Cultural exchange covers living costs.
Living in a CarUtilize your car as a temporary living space.Drastically cuts housing costs.
Van DwellingLive in a van for a mobile, rent-free lifestyle.Low-cost, flexible, travel-friendly.
Couch SurfingStay with strangers for short periods.Free, good for short-term stays.
Cruise Line JobWork on a cruise ship with free accommodation.Travel the world, earn income.
Hostel WorkWork in a hostel in exchange for free lodging.Social environment, no rent costs.
Resident AssistantAssist in campus housing for free accommodation.Ideal for students, saves on rent.
Free Campsite LivingCamp at no cost in natural settings.Connects with nature, free accommodation.
Farm WorkWork and live on a farm.Fresh air, free housing, earn income.
Host Family AbroadWork for a family in a new country.Cost-effective travel opportunity.
Mobile HomeLive in a tiny, mobile house.Affordable, flexible location.
Sabbatical HomesRent a home for a short period in unique locations.Eco-friendly, customizable, and affordable.
WorkampingWork at campgrounds in an RV.Travel, low living costs.
Boat LivingLive on a boat for a unique lifestyle.Affordable, eco-friendly.
House SittingCare for a home while the owner is away.Free accommodation, comfortable living.
Container HomesReside in a converted shipping container.Cost-effective social interaction.
Shared Living SpacesShare a living space with others.Take care of children in their homes.
Live-in CaretakerLive with someone in need of care.Free rent, rewarding experience.
Sober Living House ManagerManage a sober living house.Free accommodation, responsible role.
Live-in NannyTake care of children in their home.Free room and board, family environment.

20. Look for work-trade rent exchanges

This is a fantastic and fun alternative to renting an apartment. With work-trade rent exchanges, you stay with a host who wants help around the house for free, and you get to live in their apartment for free.

Doing so will help save some money over the long term. Hosts list their requirements, such as how many hours of cleaning or childcare they require. If you are willing to do the work, this can be a great alternative to renting an apartment!

19. Live out of your car

a woman living out of her car as an alternative to renting

You may consider living out of your car if you cannot afford an RV. Living out of your car is not the most comfortable option and should probably be a short-term fix. But it could cut your housing expenditures drastically. If you can find a safe and reasonably comfortable place to park your car, this could be an excellent alternative to renting an apartment.

18. Try living in a van

Van dwelling is an increasingly popular alternative to renting an apartment. Many people are doing it, and you might want to try it too! If you don’t want to pay rent but don’t want to live in your car, consider living in a van. It’s an inexpensive alternative to paying the high costs of rent.

Van dwellers are typically students or nomads who travel around the country.

17. Couch surf with strangers

Another great alternative to renting an apartment is to couch surf with strangers. If you aren’t familiar with this concept, it means that you stay with strangers for free. It may not be the most comfortable way to live, but it could help you save a lot of cash on housing costs. This is not for traditional housing. Instead, this is a perfect option for people looking for cheap accommodation.

16. Cruise line job

You could also consider a job with a cruise line. You can get free housing and a paycheck if you work as a staff member! Having traveled to more than 40 countries on cruise ships as a passenger, I can say this can be a fun and easy way to travel globally, all while earning some cash!

Living in an apartment complex can be an expensive and exhausting affair. The cruise line job solves both of these issues.

15. Work at a hostel

Another fantastic alternative to renting an apartment is to work at a hostel. This could be an excellent option for those who prefer the social and communal aspects. Hostels usually offer free accommodation, so you won’t have to pay the rent!

If you’re looking to save money on housing, consider a job as a property manager in a hostel since you’ll be responsible for managing your accommodations.

One of the job responsibilities could be managing the day-to-day business at the property. Alternatives to renting an apartment are not hard to find if you are creative and think outside the box.

14. Be a resident assistant on campus

If you’re a student, consider becoming a Resident Assistant on campus. You’ll get free housing for one or two years in return for helping with the housing operation. This can be an excellent opportunity to save your hard-earned money on housing costs while you study.

If you’re not a student, consider working as a Resident Assistant for one or two years after graduation. You can get student housing in return for managing other students’ accommodations. The idea is to find opportunities to help you live rent-free and save a good amount of money.

13. Find a free campsite

Camping is another alternative way to save on rent and overall housing costs. Find a free campsite and stay there for a while. You’ll have the chance to enjoy the benefits of living in nature for a fraction of the cost. This is only possible if you have a vehicle to travel to your campsite and cover the vehicle’s expenses. These campsites sometimes have parks that will help you to live rent-free.

12. Work on a farm

If the alternatives listed above aren’t suitable, you can opt to work on a farm. This is a perfect option if you like to live outside and don’t mind a little physical labor. Some farms need help during the summer months, which will give you more freedom and a chance to live in the countryside and help you save money on housing costs.

You won’t have to think of renting an apartment since most farms provide housing for their employees. Not only that, you’ll probably even collect a paycheck!

11. Work for a host family in a new country

Another alternative to renting an apartment is to work for a host family in a new country. The best part about this plan is that you’ll have only to pay the expenses of getting to the country. The job will cover your living expenses and provide a paycheck, so you won’t have to pay for rent.

10. Live in a mobile home

Mobile homes are tiny house alternatives to renting apartments. They are inexpensive alternatives, allowing you to live the same lifestyle for far less. Mobile homes are a great alternative to renting an apartment if you want affordable housing. Mobile homes can be considered tiny, but they’re a smart way to reduce expenses.

Mobile homes are among the best options for cheap housing. Also, mobile homes have gained popularity in recent years as you’ll never run out of options to put your mobile home.

9. Try sabbatical homes

If you can live in a small house, consider renting a sabbatical home for a few months. These homes are designed to host people for short periods and are usually located in unique locations worldwide.

This is an excellent option if you plan to travel on a budget since housing expenses are included in the price. Sabbatical homes are a great way to have fun and simultaneously save money. You’ll get to live in unique places for a few months.

Sabbatical homes are available in many countries worldwide, so finding one near your dream destination is easy.

8. Become a workamper

Workampers travel around the country in their RVs and work at campgrounds. This is an alternative to renting and a great way to save money on housing costs. Not only that, you’re free to roam around the country and have fun. You’ll get to work at campgrounds, usually for around eight hours per day, in return for rent-free housing. 

However, running water for toilet use and washing is often unavailable at many campgrounds. Nonetheless, it is a great way to reduce many living expenses. If you opt for this option, consider it a cheap housing option that allows you to live rent-free. The major challenge you will face is the initial expenses, such as modifying your vehicle for living and camping equipment.

7. Live in a boat

photo of someone making a home on a boat

If you are not afraid of water, this could be the best alternative to renting an apartment. Many live in boats because they’re affordable, eco-friendly, and easy to implement, provided you have the right conditions. Life in boathouses is different than life on land. So you have to think about it before making a decision. However, many can easily afford it since they don’t have to pay any mortgage to live in a boat.

This house hack is used by many around the world. You will need a little creativity, but it’s not complicated. 

6. House sitting 

House sitting is one of the most popular ways to live in places for free and an excellent way to save money on housing and live in a beautiful home.

We’ve paid housesitters to take care of our home while we’re away. It is an ideal option for people who want free rent or stay at someone’s house for a while. The house sitters must pay for travel, and the homeowner will cover your living costs.

5. Container homes

Container homes are tiny homes. They are cute, affordable, and eco-friendly. Containers are easy to find, and you can do your interior design for your small house. However, these homes require some initial investment. The cost may vary depending on your requirements. But as mentioned earlier, it all depends on the needs.

You can live in an old shipping container if it’s big enough to have a bed and all the essential amenities. 

4. Shared living space

Co-living spaces are becoming increasingly popular. These spaces can include everything from a full-fledged apartment building to just a few bedrooms and bathrooms to share with others.

Co-living spaces are usually cheaper than getting your apartment and could be a great way to meet new people to hang out with and share your thoughts at the end of the day.

The idea of living in co-living spaces is to reduce living expenditure and rent costs. However, as you will have to share the house with many people, there may be a slight inconvenience regarding comfort and privacy.

3. Become a live-in caretaker 

You can live without paying rent if you can move in with someone needing a caretaker. The person you move in with might be an old family member who knows they could use the help or someone who requires care because of a severe illness.

You must be comfortable caring for others, but this can be a great way to live without rent. This is a great way to reduce your cost of living.

You have to be very responsible and respectful in this living arrangement. You will be in charge of ensuring the house is in order and that your family member is healthy.

2. Sober living house managers

If you are looking for an alternative, rent-free or cheap housing option, consider working as the house manager for sober living houses. House managers are responsible for ensuring patients follow the rules, attend counseling and group meetings, and take medicine.

If you agree, management will expect you to be responsible and drug-free. However, the tradeoff is that it’ll help you to reduce your living expenses. 

1. Live-in nanny

Parents hire nannies to care for their kids and work as a “live-in.” If you love kids and don’t mind living with them, this could be a great way to save money on rent and other living costs. Usually, nannies are given a free room in the house. 

This is not a forever deal, however. Eventually, kids grow up, and you’ll need to find another place to live and work.

Final thoughts

While many options can help you cut down on your expenses and reduce rent costs, there aren’t many options that will let you do so completely free. However, these alternative housing options can ensure you never have to pay for a roof over your head.

This article lists some of the best options to consider as alternatives to renting an apartment.

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