11 Real Ways To Live Rent Free: No Couch Surfing Required

Here are creative ways to supplement your mortgage or rent payment.

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Updated May 31, 2024
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Housing is generally the most significant monthly expense for most people. So, it’s no wonder that finding ways to reduce housing costs or live rent free is a popular idea.

From being a pet sitter or live-in nanny to traveling the world on a cruise ship or the Peace Corps, many people have discovered ways of living a rent-free lifestyle while still accomplishing their dreams or supplementing their income.

While it may not appeal to everyone, with some creativity and preplanning, learning how to live rent free can be a fun challenge that also helps you save money.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • There are multiple ways to live rent free, including house and pet sitting, being an in-home caregiver, or buying a duplex and renting out one side.
  • If you rent space in your home or sublease an apartment, be aware of your legal requirements as a landlord.
  • Travel enthusiasts may find working on a cruise ship, joining AmeriCorps, or house-sitting around the world to be excellent ways to live rent free.
  • If you rent an apartment or room in your home, always request and check multiple references to help avoid potential issues, and consider asking all potential tenants to submit a background check with their application.

11 legit ways to live rent free

  1. Rent out a spare room
  2. Become a house sitter
  3. Become an in-home pet sitter
  4. Find enough roommates to cover your rent
  5. Buy a duplex and rent out the other half
  6. Be an in-home caregiver for people with disabilities or seniors
  7. Be a live-in nanny
  8. Work on a cruise ship
  9. Work as a live-in property manager or maintenance technician
  10. Teach English abroad
  11. Volunteer with the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps

Rent out a spare room

If you have a spare room, renting it out can be one of the easiest ways to live rent free in your own home. Sites like Airbnb and VRBO can help you find potential short-term renters based on your schedule. These sites take a small percentage of the rental amount (generally about 3% to 5% of the total price) along with fees, and you’ll need to pay taxes on your earnings.

Consider longer-term rentals if you don’t like the idea of constant turnover. Opening your home to one person who stays for six months to a year can be an excellent way to earn a reliable monthly income and help offset your mortgage payment.

Before you decide to advertise a room for rent, be aware of landlord/tenant laws in your city and state, and consider getting insurance to help protect you and your home.

Become a house sitter

If you enjoy a nomadic lifestyle, consider becoming a house sitter. Ask around for acquaintances who might have upcoming travel plans or research sites like Trusted Housesitters or Nomador to find job listings and locations.

If you use a website, you’ll likely need to sign up for a yearly membership (plans range from $149 to $299 per year on Trusted Housesitters) and complete a background check before you are eligible to accept work.

Become an in-home pet sitter

Similar to house sitting, pet sitting can be a great way to travel to different locations while also enjoying the company of some furry friends. Both Trusted Housesitters and Nomador offer pet-sitting gigs in addition to house sitting, and you can choose the types of pets and locations based on your comfort level and preferences.

Some sites may offer a limited amount of insurance for pet sitters, but if you work directly with pet owners or plan to make pet sitting a long-term choice, consider getting insurance to help protect yourself and cover the owner’s pet or home if there’s an accident or emergency.

Find enough roommates to cover your rent

If you own a home but want to offset your mortgage payment, consider adding roommates to help reduce your monthly costs. Ask close friends or family members if they’re looking for a new place, or consider looking on sites like Roomi or Roomster for potential housemates. Be sure to ask for references from their previous roommates, even if you know the person, and consider requesting a background check on everyone who would live in your home.

Before posting, draw up a roommate agreement outlining the expectations about things like visitors, cleaning, and quiet hours so that everyone understands the details. If you’re adding a roommate to an existing apartment lease, thoroughly read and understand your master lease agreement. Be careful about subleasing since adding roommates without the landlord's permission may lead to additional fees or eviction.

Buy a duplex and rent out the other half

Buying a duplex and living in one half while renting out the other, sometimes called “house hacking,” can be a great way to offset at least part of your home’s mortgage. While purchasing a duplex is not much more complicated than buying a single-family home, you may find that the available properties are scarce and potentially more expensive depending on where you live.

If you purchase a duplex, understand the tax and insurance implications and your responsibilities as a landlord. Consider working with a property management company to help you screen tenants and handle maintenance and repair requests.

Be an in-home caregiver for people with disabilities or seniors

If you have a family member or close friend who needs in-home assistance, discuss becoming a caregiver in exchange for room and board. Home caregivers provide companionship, assist with hobbies and errands, and help someone with daily activities like making meals or cleaning.

Some caregivers are employed and placed through home care agencies. If you work through one of these agencies, ensure the company is fully licensed and eligible for business in your state.

Home care providers are not medical professionals and generally don’t need special training, although completing a caregiver certification is a good idea and helps set you apart from other applicants.

Be a live-in nanny

If you love kids and have good references from past clients, becoming a live-in nanny can help you save on rent while earning a small stipend for living expenses. While each household is different, your responsibilities as a live-in nanny, or au pair, would probably include childcare, some cleaning, meal preparation, or running errands for the family.

A background in early childhood education and first-aid and CPR certifications is a good idea. You will also likely need to pass a background check and provide proof of insurance if you’ll be driving the children in your car.

Work on a cruise ship

Sailing the seven seas sounds like a life of adventure, and working on a cruise ship can be a great way to get paid to see the world. Since cruise ships are often called “floating cities,” various skills are needed to make them function.

From waitstaff and maintenance people to event planners and musicians, cruise lines often have a variety of positions available, and some may require little or no prior experience. However, you’ll need a valid passport and applicable visas or work permits depending on which country you’re from and which countries you’re traveling to, and you’ll need to meet other job-specific requirements.

To find available positions, search for the name of the cruise line you’re interested in and then “job openings” and see if anything matches your skill set.

Work as a live-in property manager or maintenance technician

A property manager generally collects rent, provides tours to potential new tenants, organizes maintenance requests, and typically acts as a local presence for the building owners.

On-site maintenance technicians handle general maintenance and upkeep around the property. They may be required to be on-call if a tenant experiences an emergency at night or on weekends.

Some apartment buildings offer a significantly reduced price or even rent-free housing as part of an overall compensation package in exchange for being available at odd hours.

While you may not need formal training, property managers generally need excellent customer service skills and familiarity with sales, real estate, and tenant laws. Maintenance technicians must be well-versed in heating, plumbing, and electrical, among other home repair skills.

Teach English abroad

If you enjoy international travel and people, consider teaching English overseas. Sites like the International TEFL Academy or Go Overseas offer Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) courses and can help you find teaching jobs or other work abroad in the locations you’re interested in.

If you are a native English speaker (or have native-level fluency) and have a valid passport, a bachelor’s degree in any subject, and a TEFL certificate, you can often find work teaching English worldwide. While some programs require you to cover your housing costs while abroad and pay more because of it, you may be able to find programs that include accommodations as part of your compensation package.

Volunteer with the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps

If you like traveling to a foreign country but don’t necessarily want to teach, consider volunteering with the Peace Corps. Peace Corps volunteers work in 60 countries worldwide and assist with improvement projects while immersed in the local culture. Commitments can range from a few months to a few years, and housing and a living stipend are generally included in the program.

If you want to stay in the U.S., check out AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps volunteers help with various service projects nationwide, including home repairs and other services after a disaster, assisting the National Park Service, and working with veterans and military families. Some AmeriCorps programs provide housing, while others may provide a larger living stipend so that volunteers can find their own accommodations.

How to choose the best way to live rent free

Finding the best way to live rent free can take some consideration. Before you decide to change your living arrangements, consider the following things.

  • The time commitment: Before signing up for anything, consider how much time you’re willing to commit. Home or pet sitting may mean you’re only in one place for a week or two at a time, which may be perfect for off-setting accommodation costs during a vacation. Peace Corp volunteers or on-site property managers will likely find that receiving rent-free accommodations requires much more commitment.
  • Additional income requirements: While you may have your housing figured out, you likely still need to earn money for food, clothes, and other day-to-day expenses. If your rent-free work doesn’t come with additional income or a stipend, consider starting a side hustle or looking for a part-time job to help cover your day-to-day expenses.
  • Understand the trade-offs: While being rent free might help you save a lot, you will likely need to adjust your lifestyle to fit your accommodations. If you’re a caregiver to someone who needs help with daily tasks like eating and bathing, you likely can’t spontaneously decide to take a long weekend away. Ensure you understand what you may be giving up to save on housing costs.
  • Know the risks: In many cases of rent-free living, your accommodations are a condition of your employment. If you suddenly find yourself unemployed or need to quit, you will likely need to quickly find a new place to live. Work out a plan with friends or family members ahead of time and focus on building up your savings to be ready if you have to stay in a hotel or promptly rent an apartment.


Where can I live when I have no money?

Finding a place to stay when you have no money can be challenging. Start by asking friends and family if you can stay with them while you get back on your feet. Look for work that includes some accommodations or offers a housing stipend as part of the contract. If needed, look into government programs that help with subsidized housing and emergency placements. Your local public housing agency can also be a helpful resource.

How can I live on my own for free?

There are various ways to live rent free, including staying in an RV or van you own, buying a duplex and renting out the other half, or engaging in different types of house hacking where you generate income by renting out some portion of your home or property.

Bottom line

Finding ways to live rent free can take some creativity. If you try living rent free, decide how long you’re willing to try it and have a backup plan if you need to adjust quickly.

Even if you aren’t quite ready to try a rent-free lifestyle, finding ways to reduce your housing expenses and learning how to manage your money can help you save significantly in the long run.

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Author Details

Kate Daugherty

Kate Daugherty is a professional writer with a passion for providing others the head start they deserve on their financial journeys. Largely self-taught, Kate relied on books, blogs, and trial-and-error to learn how to budget and save for the future, all while working to pay back about $15,000 in student loans.