Cheap Living: 12 Cheap Alternatives to a House

According to Zillow, they expect the typical U.S. home to grow in value by 10.3% by November 2021. With high real estate prices, some families may feel purchasing a house is out of reach. Fortunately for others, there are cheap living alternatives for many people who still want a place they can call home.

So, if you’re struggling to save up for a down payment or want to avoid high monthly mortgage payments, here are 12 cheap housing alternative ideas to consider. As a disclaimer, not all of these alternatives are legal, but people wishing cheap living have gone to some of these extremes.

1. Live-In Property Manager

It’s not uncommon for landlords to hire property managers to look after their properties and manage the tenants. The good news is that some property managers get to live on the property for free as one of the perks. 


How much more motivated does a property manager need to make sure the landlord is happy? Additionally, some landlords offer a bonus to their managers if they maintain a certain occupancy percentage.

2. Living in a Van

The van life movement has exploded on Instagram with over 9 million mentions. This lifestyle has attracted those who enjoy the outdoors and only need a place to sleep. 

This cheap living arrangement doesn’t tie them to an apartment lease or a mortgage. Furthermore, embracing minimalist living reduces the number of personal belongings they have, causing you to spend less money.

3. Live-In Flip

If you’re up for living stingy, consider purchasing a property that needs significant renovation. These rundown houses will easily deter first-time homebuyers who want a turnkey property. This opportunity can allow you to save money in the thousands of dollars for the purchase.

Additionally, you can make money if you decide to sell the property. Or, you can convert it into a rental property using the BRRRR method. BRRRR stands for buy, rehab, rent, refinance, and repeat. With the right kind of deal, you can flip a property into a cash-flowing rental property, recoup your initial investment, and position yourself to do it all over again.

4. Live in a Boat

If you’re a fan of water, living in a boat is an alternative way to get your feet wet with cheap living. Similar to van life, your space is limited. Thus, forcing you to cut back on living expenses and be fiscally responsible, especially when it comes to boat maintenance.

On the other hand, you have an opportunity to rent out your boat for some extra cash. You can even use the money towards the upkeep of your water vessel.

5.  Own a Multi-Unit

Although home prices are skyrocketing, it’s hard to ignore the benefits of house hacking. House hacking is when you own a multiunit property, such as a duplex and triplex, live in one unit, and rent out the other units. 


As long as you have no more than four units, you can purchase the property with a residential mortgage loan, allowing you to qualify for low-interest rates and down payment. The tenant’s rental income will pay the mortgage while you live mortgage free with the ability to make extra money.

6. In-Home Caretaker

Sometimes parents are so busy that they need help with their children, whether it’s changing their Aldi diapers or putting them to sleep in a Moses basket. Other people may need health aides, personal care, or simply a house sitter.

Fortunately, you don’t really need the magic of Mary Popkins to qualify as a live-in caretaker. However, states may have different qualifications to be a paid caregivers. Be sure to have high-quality referrals from previous families to give your next family confidence for free as one of the perks. 

7. Mobile Home

Manufactured homes are a cost-effective alternative to a house. According to, the average price for a new, single-wide mobile home is $45,000, whereas the average cost of a new site-home is $379,500, making it one of the cheap places to live. 

8. Modular Homes

Instead of building a traditional home, homebuyers can buy a modular home. A modular home is not necessarily a tiny house nor is it the same as a mobile home due to the metal frame under a mobile home. Rather, installers connect the modular homes to the city’s central systems, such as electrical and water.

Modular homes are an affordable living situation because manufacturers use materials efficiently and stick to a timeline because they work in a weather-protected, closed environment, which does not hinder production.

9. Living off the Grid

I’m calling all nature lovers! You can save a significant amount of money living off the grid. Whether you’re steeping in a tent or living in an RV, it’s possible. One of the beauties of living off the grid is taking advances of the resources around you.


Need electricity? You can invest in solar panels or a turbine. What about water? You build a well to provide you the water you need. But, if you greatly miss camping, check out the Sedona, Arizona area.

10. Stay in a Motel

If you need a place to sleep for a few hours and don’t care about amenities, then motels make a cheap housing option. Originally, motels were mean for travelers looking for a temporary place to stay. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t also take advantage of their low rates, free parking, personal customer service, and an occasional swimming pool.

11. Move In With Your Parents

No matter how old you are, your parents will always love you. Therefore, the cheapest way to save on housing costs is to move in with your parents. They will welcome you with open arms and even provide you a warm meal. Just be sure to show your appreciation in return if you want to live rent-free. 

You may lose some independence, but at least you won’t be losing money. If you’re striving for cheap way to have housing, then you’ll gladly set aside your pride.

12. Live in a Storage Unit

Remember my disclaimer earlier about cheap living scenarios that are not necessarily legal? Living in a storage unit is the one I was referring to. I’m in no way recommending it. But, I did want to share that at least one person did it.

A man lived in a 10-by-20-foot storage unit and converted it into a mini apartment. He was paying $200 a month before getting evicted after his YouTube tour went viral.

Bonus: Geoarbitrage

Geoarbitrage doesn’t necessarily mean not living in a house, but it is a great way to save money on living expenses. Moving from a high cost of living area to a low cost of living area can greatly reduce your mortgage payments. You may even be able to pay cash for a fixer-upper!

Final Words

Whether you live in a 128-square-foot living space or sleep on your parent’s living room furniture, be sure to adopt frugal living tips to continue to live cheaply, such creating a monthly budget or getting rid of credit card debt. It’s essential to build solid financial habits regardless if you make much less money or not. 

Make sure your significant other is on board with this cheap living lifestyle, making it a great pre-marriage test. It’s vital to have a common personal finance goal to build a solid financial foundation for the long run.