2022 isn’t a great year financially for any of us. Gas prices are higher than they’ve ever been, inflation is completely out of control, and interest rates are completely unaffordable for most people. On top of all that, rent is at the highest level it’s ever been.
In April, the national median rent was sitting at $1,827, which is up 16.7% over April of 2021. Yes, on top of all the other things that are extremely expensive these days, it’s now becoming increasingly more difficult to just keep a roof over your head.
And, while rent has historically been about 30% of most people’s budgets, which was already a huge portion, it’s probably going to be even higher today in 2022. But what if I told you that you could save that 30% and free up room in your budget for other things? Like savings? Or buying a car? Or just eating something other than those $1 ramen packets?
Well, in this article, I’m going to tell you about a couple of rent hacks that can help you live completely rent-free. While it may sound crazy, there are actually some ways that you can keep a roof over your head without paying a single dollar in rent. Here are 6 ways to live completely rent-free.
#1: Rent an Apartment and Sublet It
For a lot of people, renting an apartment in the city where you work is an absolute must. If you have to commute to work every day, you have no option but to rent an apartment that’s close to your office space. But, there’s still a way that you can do this and reduce your net rental cost to zero. And that’s where subletting comes in.
For those of you who are new to the rental game, subletting basically means that your name is on the lease agreement, but that you re-rent some of the space in your apartment to another tenant. So, if you’re hunting for a new apartment right now, you should look for one that’s got multiple living spaces, something with at least two bedrooms and maybe two bathrooms as well.
Then, you can live in one of those bedrooms and sublet the other space to a renter and have them cover part of your rent, if not all or more of it.
For example, let’s say that you rent a 3-bedroom apartment for $3,000 per month. If you can live in one of the bedrooms and then rent out the other two bedrooms for $1,500 apiece, then you’re essentially staying in your apartment without paying any rent since your two subtenants are making up the entire monthly rent expense. If you can get those two subtenants to pay you $1,700 per month, then you’re actually making $400 per month on top of paying your rent! Sounds pretty great, right?
Well, as you probably expected it’s a little bit more complicated than that. First of all, not all landlords will allow you to sublet your apartment, so you want to read the fine print of your lease agreement before attempting this or you might end up getting sued.
Next, you need to start advertising your space on sites like Craigslist, Flip, NextDoor, and Facebook. And it’s not always easy to find subtenants who are willing to pay enough to cover your entire rent. Then, once you do find some potential subtenants, you need to vet them to make sure they’re not going to be the roommate from hell.
But, seriously, picking the wrong subtenant can make your subletting experience a living nightmare and can get you in serious trouble with the landlord as well. But, if you can find a good tenant who’s willing to pay the price you’re asking, you should go to your landlord for final approval, and then you can start collecting rent from your subtenant and using it your pay off your own rent.
Most people who sublet aren’t able to cover their entire rent expense. However, if you’re smart about it, you can use this method to live completely rent-free or, even better, make some extra money while getting your rent covered.
#2: Rent Out Extra Rooms on Airbnb
Now, Airbnb has been around since 2008, so it’s not a new concept. Most of you watching this have probably stayed in an Airbnb at one point or another. But, did you ever consider that the host that you’re renting from might be a renter themself? Yes, a lot of people are using Airbnb these days to cover their own rent and even make money.
And, while managing an Airbnb is a much more active job than subletting extra space in your apartment, it also provides an opportunity to make more money.
In 2021, the average price of a private room rental was $66 per night. Now, let’s say that you’re renting a 2-bedroom apartment for $1,300, you’re living in one of the rooms, and you have listed the other on Airbnb. To make up the entire cost of your rent, you’ll need to rent out that spare room at least 20 days out of the month (because $66 times 20 days is $1,320). If you can rent out your room more than those 20 days, then your Airbnb business is actually profitable on top of the fact that you’re covering your rent.
But, again, this is easier said than done. Just like with subletting, you need to check your lease agreement and the city’s legal code to make sure that you’re legally allowed to run an Airbnb as a renter. Then, you need to put in the work of securing renters, which involves taking nice pictures of the space, writing a nice description, responding to potential clients on Airbnb, and making sure the space is clean and ready for guests.
On top of that, occupancy rates are not nearly as high in the real world as they were in the example I gave in the previous example. If you rent out your room 20 out of 30 nights per month, that’s an occupancy rate of 66.6%, which is outstanding.
In the 4 cities with the highest average Airbnb occupancy rates in 2022 (Portland, Seattle, Tucson, and San Francisco), the average exceeded 66.6%, but those are the best 4 cities in the country to run an Airbnb. And, in pretty much every other city nationwide, keeping your occupancy rate above 60% is going to be a serious challenge.
Still, if you play your cards right, you can definitely find a way to run an Airbnb business out of your extra room or rooms that will cover your rent expense and maybe even more, meaning that you should be able to live rent-free and maybe even have some extra change in your pocket.
#3: Become a Property Manager
A lot of apartment buildings are owned by super-rich people or companies miles and miles away in a completely different city. And these people want to just sit back and collect rental income without actually having to deal with the day-to-day operations of the building. That’s where you come in.
You can become a property manager and be paid a salary from the owner of the building. Plus, many of these owners will allow their property managers to stay in one of the units for free. Or, at the very least, you’ll get very heavily reduced rent as part of your compensation package. But, of course, you’ll be paying for that rent with the work that you do.
The exact details of the job are different depending on whatever the owner’s needs are. But, generally, a property manager will be involved in setting the rent price, advertising units to fill vacancies, preparing units for new tenants, collecting rent and enforcing lease agreements, and managing stuff like complaints and repairs.
It’s a lot of work and you’re constantly on-call because someone might complain to you about something at any time. However, it’s a great way to make a solid salary while not having to worry about paying rent.
To become a property manager, you’ll need to fulfill some basic requirements and education. You need to be 18 or 21 years of age, depending on your state. You need a high school diploma or GED, you need to complete a real estate course and pass the final exam in most states, and you need to be a legal resident of the United States.
But, once you fulfill these requirements and can get a job as an on-site property manager, you can make some good money. According to Glassdoor, the average on-site property manager in the US makes nearly $57,000 per year. And, when you consider what you’re going to be saving on rent, that’s a whole lot of money.
So, not only are you empowering yourself to live rent-free by becoming a property manager, you’re also making a fine salary that you can contribute to your other expenses and to your savings.
#4: Find a Rent-For-Work Situation
This method of living rent-free is a bit more unorthodox, but it’s becoming more and more popular among digital nomads and people who’d rather travel around than be locked down to one place. The idea is to find a work-for-rent situation that allows you to stay for free in exchange for completing a few hours of work each day.
For example, there are tons of farms across the U.S. and all over the world that allow people to stay on their property in exchange for doing things like feeding animals, weeding, managing crops, cleaning stalls, and all of the other work that goes into running a farm.
One of the best places to find opportunities like this is the website WWOOF, which connects you to farmers all across the world that will let you stay on their properties in exchange for work. If you want to expand your opportunities beyond just farming, you should make yourself a profile on sites like Workaway or HelpX, which can help you find opportunities at backpacker hostels, on sailboats, at restaurants, and pretty much any other kind of business you can imagine.
Typically, your duties will be about 4 or 5 hours per day and then you can live rent-free and use the rest of your time to do whatever you want. If you’re concerned about saving money, you can bring a laptop with you and use the rest of your time to earn money online. Not sure how to make money online? Well, we made an entire video about it.
Then, once you find yourself a digital nomad job, you can find a rent-for-work situation and do cool stuff like take care of elephants in Thailand or teach English in Mexico to cover your rent and then use the rest of your time to earn money.
On top of providing you the opportunity to live rent-free, looking for these kinds of rent-for-work situations can also help you learn new skills and discover new passions. Plus, you’ll probably meet some super cool people along the way. It’s a win-win.
#5: Live Out of a Van
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of the fact that tons of people these days are doing van conversions and living full-time on the road. And, while living in a van has historically been something associated with people who can’t afford to live in a house or apartment, it’s actually a great way to experience the world and travel while still having a place to rest your head for the night. We actually made an entire video for our Ideal Cars channel about the best vans to live in full-time.
A lot of the vans in that video are pretty expensive, though, and will probably cost you more than if you were just paying rent. If you’re looking for some cheap options, you could find something like a moderately-priced Ford Transit van on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist to convert into a rolling home.
Want to really stand out from the crowd? Go on PublicSurplus.com and check out all the ridiculously low-priced school buses that you could be living out of. They have school buses for under $2,000! But paying to fuel those beasts might cost you a pretty penny, especially with gas prices being so high.
But, if you can get creative, you can probably even live out of the car you have now! I installed a rooftop tent on my Porsche 911 a few years ago and lived out of it for over a month, all while doing my job and creating YouTube content.
So, if you want to live rent-free and have an epic cross-country adventure at the same time, finding a way to live out of your vehicle might be a great option for you. Sure, you might have to sleep in a few Walmart parking lots, but that’s all part of the journey!
#6: Move In With Your Parents
Not many people who have moved out of their parents’ house have a burning desire to move back in with their folks. But, in times like these, with rent prices being at historic highs, it might be time to swallow your pride and start saving some money.
I know you want your own space, you want to feel like an adult, you want somewhere to spend time with a significant other alone. But, if your parents will let you stay at your childhood home rent-free and you’re currently burning your entire paycheck on rent, it might be time to move back home.
It’s certainly not the most glamorous way to live rent-free, but it could help you save money to afford a nice place in the future when rent prices go down.