What is the Cheapest Way to Live Alone?

Adulting is hard, even for adults. You have plans of finding the perfect job, renting or buying a home, driving a good car, and basically live the life you want. But the economy and reality come crashing in. Your job doesn’t pay as much as you thought, rent and utilities are more expensive than you expected, you are still driving the junker you bought in high school, and your student loans are due.

This may sound like someone who has just gotten out of college, but at various times we can all find ourselves in an economic pickle and need to reduce our spending. Of course, an obvious way to reduce spending is to find a roommate to help with rent and utilities, but you may not want to go down the roommate path.

Thankfully, there are ways to live alone cheaply. The best ways to live low-cost and alone are to be a live-in property manager or a house sitter. Of course, in addition to finding a low rent or free place to live, you should get creative with your finances,  pay off any debt you owe, and build up your savings. Continue reading for ideas on low-cost housing, saving on utilities, money management, and inexpensive entertainment.

Find Low-Cost Housing

It may seem that renting an apartment and finding a roommate are the cheapest ways to go, but there are some other options to consider. Some are cheap in the short term, while others may require an upfront investment but have a long-term pay-off. If you can combine living in a place with earning an income, you will free up both rent money and time.

1. House-Sitting

If you are not tied to one place, you could move from town to town house-sitting for people who are taking extended vacations or sabbaticals. Sometimes you can house-sit for two weeks and sometimes for a semester. You might even get a small payment in addition to caring for the house. The disadvantage to this method is that you may find yourself without a place to live if you are between house-sitting jobs.

2. Live-In Property Manager

Different businesses have an apartment on the property that is available for a person who will be the handyman and caretaker. It may be an apartment complex, a storage unit facility, or a hotel. Some assisted living facilities also have live-in positions for property managers.

3. Live-In Nanny

If you are good with kids, you might find placement as a live-in nanny. This situation would provide you with a job and a home at the same time. Generally, nannies are paid as well as having room and board. You would be expected to care for children, possibly provide tutoring and transportation to and from events and practices. Nannies should have CPR and First Aid certifications.

4. Rent a Guest House

Many houses come with a guest house that often sits empty. Look around for an open guest house to rent. You may be able to exchange some property management services for rent and get the price even lower.

5. Buy a Duplex

You may be in a financial situation where you can make an investment. If so, you might consider buying a duplex. You can live in one side of the house and rent out the other side. That way, the rented side will mostly pay your bills. Of course, you’ll have to do landlord and maintenance duties, but you will have your independence.

6. Live in an RV

Buying an RV can be expensive, but a used one is not as much. Also, it gives you the freedom to move around the country and live where you like. There are many places where you can park your RV for free overnight, so that can save you some money. The less you drive around, the less you spend on gas.

7. Live in a Van

There are a lot of people living the #vanlife. It’s essentially camping on wheels. You can convert a cargo van and install a bed, sink, and stove. Or you can live rough out of it and use facilities at campgrounds. Either way, you have the freedom to travel or stay in one place.

8. Camping

You can simply camp. There are no utilities to pay for, and you can move whenever you like. If you stay at campgrounds, you will have access to showers and other facilities. If you need the internet to work, you can access it for free at libraries and some restaurants.

9. Rent a Mobile Home

Often when we set out to find a place to live, we think about apartments. But consider a mobile home. They are generally lower rent than houses and apartments. They also typically have more space than apartments, some outdoor space, and are pet friendly. In addition, some mobile homes have a rent-to-own option for the house and the land they sit on.

10. Tiny House

Tiny houses have become popular recently as minimalist, sustainable living spaces. They are definitely tiny, though. They also can come with zoning difficulties if you are trying to build your own. However, if you find one to rent that has already overcome the building and zoning issues, it may be just the thing to save money and live alone.

11. Join the Military

This might not be strictly living alone, at least at first. But it is a way to live cheaply. Your food and housing will be covered, and eventually, you can live in private accommodation. The military will pay for your college education as well. If you stay in the military long-term, your retirement will also be paid for.

12. Flip a Fixer-Upper

For people who are handy and into construction, buying a fixer-upper and living in it while you flip it is possible. It may take a while, and it is definitely an investment, but it can pay off in the end when you sell the house.

Managing Your Money

One of the key features of living alone cheaply is knowing how to manage your money. For example, how much should you spend on rent? How do you know if your rent and utilities are reasonable? How do you continue to have a social life if you are trying to save money and get out of debt? These hints will help you save money now.

13. Budget

Create a realistic budget and stick to it. You can expect your rent to be 25-30% of your monthly income. Figure out how much you need to pay on your debt to get it paid off and commit to that. Set aside some money each month to budget for clothing, healthcare, and emergencies. Consider what you can live without. Cable is not a necessity. You can go to the library for wifi. See if you can switch to a cheaper phone plan. Keep to your budget, and you will see success.

14. Small Town Living

Living in a small town is generally less expensive than living in a big city. Rent is cheaper, and there are fewer places to eat out.

15. Furnishing Your Home

You can furnish your home for a low cost by shopping garage sales, estate sales, and thrift stores. You can also try Freecycle, “Curb shopping,” and asking friends and family for things they can donate. Check out college campuses on move-out days. Students who are moving a long way or moving out of dorms permanently tend to throw out perfectly good furnishings. You are likely to be able to get most of what you need for low cost or free with a bit of effort.

16. Save on Utilities

Once you have moved into a place, you will need to save on utilities. You can live hot in the summer and a little cold in the winter. Keep your thermostat at 75 or higher in the summer. Use a ceiling fan or other fans to keep air moving. In the winter, turn that thermostat down to 65. Wear layers and pile the blankets onto the bed.

Take the time to plug any leaks around your home. For example, you can use spray foam around windows and door frames. You can also roll up towels and blankets and put them on windowsills and on the floor by doors to stop drafts.

17. Save on Laundry

You can also save money while doing laundry. First, wash your clothes in cold water. That way you aren’t heating water, and it’s better for the clothes. Then, dry them on a clothesline. It will save the electricity for running the dryer or the dollars you have to feed the dryer at the laundromat.

18. Save on Food

Eating out seems like a fast, easy option, but it can add up fast. Learn how to cook. You will make your dollars stretch a long way. Use coupons when food shopping and cashback services like Ibotta. You can also shop at bakery outlets for lower-cost bread items and discount grocery stores like Aldi.

Entertainment

19. Tabletop Games

We all need to socialize and spend time with friends and family. But it doesn’t have to break the bank. Invite friends over for a potluck dinner. You will all eat, and no one person will have to foot the bill for the party. Try out some board games and tabletop party games. Playing games with friends at home is as much fun or more than going out on the town. You can build relationships and memories.

20. At-Home Movie Night

If you want to have a movie night or binge a tv show, check out your local library. They usually have DVDs to check out, and many have online offerings to download. And, because it is the library, it is free to use.

21. On the Town

Finally, if you all want to go out, see what events are happening in your town. Many places have free public events like gallery openings, community concerts, and art walks. Get involved in the community for an evening of free entertainment. You can also see if local venues hire temporary staff for concerts and performances. You’ll have to work, but you are also likely to get to hear the concert or the show and get paid to do it.

Conclusions

It may seem daunting to live alone on a low salary, but you can do it and still live a fulfilling life. Look for unique living situations like a live-in caretaker or nanny. Find low-cost housing such as a guest house or rental mobile home. Create your own place if you have the skills to flip a house. Above all, set a budget and stick to it. Watch your spending by shopping carefully and using coupons. Find low-cost entertainment for you and your friends. Then, you can successfully live alone and while saving money.

Related Questions

  • How do you live out of a van?
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  • How can I save money by cooking at home?

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