Housing — whether it’s renting an apartment in a major city, living in student dorms, or financing a home — tends to be a big money suck.
But it doesn’t have to be.
From living in company parking lots to making 713-mile commutes overseas, people all over the world have found creative ways to live on the cheap. We aren’t recommending you take these tactics … unless you’re ready for a serious lifestyle change of the biggest kind.
Here are 11 of the more extreme measures people have taken to save on the costs of housing:
The 23-year-old software engineer's one recurring cost is truck insurance ($121 a month) -- and he's saving 90% of his income by avoiding an overpriced San Francisco apartment.
He's used the savings to pay down student loans, get a head start on investing, and set aside money for his goal of travelling the world in a few years.
Sarah Carter, 23, opted out of settling into an outlandishly priced San Francisco apartment and moved onto a sailboat instead.
She pays for electricity and water, as well as a small monthly docking fee, which includes internet access. Her housing costs add up to about $350 a month -- not bad considering the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $3,500 a month.
Joel Weber took one look at the cost of residence halls at the University of Texas at Austin (about $1,135 per month) and knew dorm life wasn't for him.
To save on student housing, he constructed a tiny house in a friend's backyard for less than $15,000. He now pays nothing in rent and plans to graduate debt-free.
In the summer of 2012, 'Terry K.' (the pseudonym of the writer who tells his story on Salon) rented out his Venice Beach apartment and moved into his office.
He used his cubicle as a bedroom for over a year, which saved him more than $20,000 and freed up the time and money to travel and pursue his interests. Today he lives in a slightly more traditional setting: a tiny home attached to his truck.
Adam Costa and his wife, Darcie Connell, have been travelling the world and living in multi-million dollar homes since March 2014 -- and it saves them about $100,000 a year.
They do it by house sitting. In addition to never having to pay rent and other monthly expenses, travelling the world out of their two backpacks and suitcase has meant reduced health insurance and lower federal income tax costs.
Jason Roesslein, 24, lived in his 'studio on wheels' -- a 2006 Dodge Sprinter van -- from October 2014 through March 2015, using Tesla and his gym to shower and eat most of his meals.
After five months of van life, he reverted back to a more traditional lifestyle with nearly $10,000 in extra savings, some of which he diverted toward paying off his student loans in full.
In exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month, six students are living free of charge at a long-term care facility in the Netherlands.
It's a win-win: Students save on housing -- which is often cramped, and is increasingly difficult to come by in the Netherlands -- and the care center, which has been struggling to stay afloat in recent years, gained a valuable group of volunteers.
Paying off a mortgage can be a long and stressful process, so Justin Craig, 35, and Alia Polsgrove, 33, decided to forgo it altogether by purchasing a 103-year-old fixer-upper in cash and renovating it.
They're doing most of the renovations themselves, which is saving them about $66,000, and they expect the finished product to cost a total of $120,000.
In a couple of years, they could be sitting on a nice profit margin -- currently, homes on their block are listed around $215,000, and Craig predicts they will start selling for $300,000 in another three years.
After graduating from the University of Buffalo in 2005, Ken Ilgunas had $32,000 of student debt. He moved to Alaska and spent two years paying back every dime.
When he enrolled at Duke University for graduate school, he was determined not to make the same financial mistakes, so he turned a van into a mini dorm room and secretly lived in a parking lot off-campus. It paid off -- he graduated in May 2011 completely debt-free.
In 2014, Kelly Tousley and Curtiss O'Rorke Stedman vowed to quit their jobs, leave their home base in Juneau, Alaska, and see the US by 'paying gas, not rent.'
The couple bought a 14-by-seven-foot utility trailer and spent the next nine months converting it into what would be their new home before hitting the road in May 2015.
Their new lifestyle has allowed
O'Rorke Stedman to pursue his dream of playing music professionally -- plus, they have
been across the country and back, visiting destinations that most people don't get to see in a lifetime.
A mysterious apartment hidden in an unused tunnel in Berlin's subway system was discovered in December during a routine fire inspection of tunnels.
So far, no one seems to know who created the room -- theories range from cash-strapped students trying to save on rent to artists staging some type of performance.
Who knows. There could be even more rooms lurking beneath the city.
Have you created a unique living situation to save money? Email [email protected]
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