I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to coffee. I love a good pour-over or a piping hot cortadito! And while I realize I could save a few bucks if I always made my own, I still often choose to go out and pay for such luxuries.
Now, some financial gurus will tell me I’m committing an atrocious sin. That if I don’t stop buying my fancy coffees or avocado toasts – I’ll never be successful. But if you read my earlier post on how to reduce expenses; you already know how I feel about that. (It’s bull.)
It’s missing the point. Like worrying about a paper cut when you have a gunshot wound; far too many people stress over the little expenses and completely gloss over their biggest expense…
Check out this chart. If you live in any metro-area, chances are you’ve seen the skyrocketing cost of rent in your neighborhood. But would you have guessed that rent is outpacing the cost of apparel, food, recreation, and education combined? It was news to me.
Another sobering stat: spending 30-50% of your monthly income on rent or mortgage payments is very common.
So Mr. Guru, how many coffees would you have to brew to even out the mistake of overpaying for rent? Answer: a crap ton.
Trust me, if you want to truly make a difference in your finances the most important thing you can do is sit down and figure out how to live rent-free.
There’s a ton of ways you could go about it, but in this post, I’ll highlight 5 of my favorite methods.
Check ’em out below.
1.) Move back in with parents or family.
If you’re in dire financial straits, you need to ask yourself one question: how bad do you want it? Nobody wants to move back in with their parents. But if it’s the difference between being financially stuck and getting ahead, it’s time to swallow your pride.
While it may be seen as a “last resort” for most people, I honestly think it’s a great option.
I’m firmly in the boat of believing that owning > renting. So if moving back in with family means you can save up a down payment, or kill off high-interest debt, it’s honestly a no-brainer.
Maybe it’s the Asian-collectivistic side of me coming out, but I think there are a lot of additional (possibly more important) benefits of going back home as well.
The main one being spending precious time with your loved ones.
Tim Urban wrote a good blog post that really affected my thinking. In it, he postulates that once you’ve graduated high school, you’ve already used up roughly 93% of your in-person parent time. Since most people after graduating only see their family maybe 5 days a year, it makes sense that if your parents have 20 years left to live, you might only have ~100 days left with them on this earth.
Some things are more important than money.
If you have a poor relationship with your family, it could be a crucial time to make amends and repair those broken bonds. If you have a great relationship, it could be an opportunity to make even more lasting memories. Either way, moving back in may not be as bad as it sounds.
2.) Live out of your car.
While this is not really an option if you have family or kids to take care of, it could be a great one if you’re single.
Living out of your car used to be done only out of pure necessity, but nowadays more and more people are choosing to be effectively “homeless”. The story that really piqued my interest on the subject was the one of Daniel Norris. A millionaire MLB pitcher, living out of a van by choice.
There are dozens of other stories out there as well; of Silicon Valley employees living in their cars, etc. But they all have the same theme: “Rent is too expensive. I’m choosing to live minimally in my car/van instead.”
If you decide this is the route for you; all you really need is a local gym membership (which many people already have) and maybe a week’s worth of clothes.
You can shower, brush your teeth, and do your business at the gym. You can wash your clothes at a coin laundromat, and do your work at a local coffee shop.
It may not be sustainable forever – but once again, if it means you can save up for a down payment or kill off that crushing debt, it could make sense to be a nomad for a year.
3.) Use Airbnb To Host.
The viability of this option is really going to depend on your market and situation. But if you live in a metro area and have a spare couch, or better yet a spare room, using Airbnb to host could seriously offset a ton of your living costs.
Run the numbers. Hop on over to their site and find out what the market rates are for your city.
Once you have that number, you can determine what kind of occupancy rate you’d need to make Airbnb viable. Let’s look at one quick example of how you can figure this out:
These are the current rates for Atlanta, GA on Airbnb.
The median price for a private room was ~$50, and for an entire place was ~$90.
Now jump on over to Hotpads and find out what your typical rent might be.
From just a quick glance, I’m going to say that ‘market’ rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in Atlanta is ~1,200-1,400 per month.
That means if you had a spare room in ATL and wanted AirBnB to completely cover your monthly rent, you’d need to have it rented out anywhere from 26-28 days out of the month.
Seems pretty unlikely.
But what if you were able to rent it out just half of the time? 15 days out of the month. Assuming you’re able to charge the ‘average’ – that’s still an extra $750 a month that you could have in your pocket.
Seeing how the average rent for a 1 bedroom in ATL is well over $1,000, getting a 2 bedroom with a plan to AirBnB could definitely make sense.
Even better: what if you were able to rent out the spare room for 15 days out of the month, but additionally 5 days out of the month you rented out the entire place? (You can either crash at a friends place or use option 2 and sleep in your car those days).
Now your total gross monthly from AirBnB jumps to $1,200.
That’s almost your entire monthly living cost.
4.) Teach Abroad.
Do a quick Google search for “teach English abroad in X” and replace “X” with a country of your choice. There’s probably a program available for you.
In fact, I know many people who’ve taught English in Korea for a year. The demand over there for native English speaking teachers is outrageous. Most programs will pay for your airfare, housing, and even food. Not to mention they will pay you a monthly wage.
And while you’re not going to get rich from what they pay you, if you’re willing to hustle and live frugally, you could really save up some cash this way. You’re only required to teach English during the day, so your nights are completely free. You could just roam the city and have fun, OR you could pick up a second job being a private tutor. You’re also free to work in the evenings as well.
It’s an option that’s, once again, more viable for people without kids – but still a very real option.
5.) House Hack.
I left my favorite option for last.
House hacking is extremely powerful, and a great way for beginners to dip their toes in real estate investing. The process of “house hacking” is essentially just: purchasing a property that you’ll live in, and having it generate enough rental income to cover all your monthly expenses.
You can do this by buying a small multifamily property (duplex, triplex, quad) and renting out the other units, or by just purchasing a large home and renting out individual rooms.
The most important thing is really making sure you purchase the RIGHT property. In order to do this effectively, you’re going to need to educate yourself. That’s because real estate is not just local, it’s hyperlocal. Rental rates and purchase prices are not just different from city to city, they’re also vastly different within neighborhoods within cities. The biggest mistake you can make here is overpaying for a property or underestimating what kind of expenses you might incur.
House hacking is how I’m able to essentially live for free, and I can confidently say it’s the best financial decision I’ve ever made.
Some Final Thoughts & A Couple of Warnings
I realize I left out a lot of steps and content in the house hacking section. And that’s because learning how to house hack correctly really deserves its own separate post. I’m planning on releasing an in-depth “how to guide”, as well as numbers and pictures from my own house hack later this month.
In it, I’ll detail everything you need to know about finding the right property, calculating expenses, picking a good tenant, etc. etc. If you want to know when that guide gets released; subscribe to my email list and I’ll notify you when it’s live!
I hope this post has given you value, and helped spark some ideas on how you can drastically reduce your living costs! But with that being said, I’ve seen some sketchy advice given on this subject from other blogs, and want to end with a couple of quick warnings:
1.) Don’t Hustle Your Landlord
I’ve seen someone suggest online to sign a lease on an apartment and then rent that place out to someone else for higher while not even living there (aka rent arbitrage). While the idea sounds smart, I can almost guarantee you are violating your lease. Put yourself in your landlord’s shoes. The landlord leased the place to you because he likes and trusts you. You passed all his background checks, credit checks, and references. The person you flipped the lease to, didn’t.
Not only does this violate your lease; it’s just morally wrong. Gray at best.
2.) Please Don’t Take Advantage of People
Along the same lines as the first warning, you might be able to sign a lease on a 3-4 bedroom house, and rent out the rooms at a jacked up price, effectively lowering your own monthly rent at the expense of others. But in my humble opinion, if this is not made clear to your roommates ahead of time, you’re taking advantage of them – plain and simple.
If this is your plan to reduce your living costs, make sure the people you’re renting the rooms out to are okay with what you’re doing. I’m a firm believer in doing the ‘right things’. People matter, as well as your integrity.