Could you be a candidate for a creative living arrangement?

9 Ways to Live Rent Free

by Debra Karplus

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How would you like to live rent free? Sounds inviting, doesn't it? According to the Department of Numbers, the median gross monthly rent paid in 2013 was $905; that calculates to nearly $11,000 annually and more if you live in an area where rents tend to be high, such as Santa Monica, California or Boulder, Colorado. But, if you do a little research, you can find creative ways to live for cheap or even for free. So what are some ways to live rent free?

Cheap or free living is available for college students in exchange for doing a little work.

In October 2014, CBS aired a spot of Steve Hartman on the Road that featured students at the Cleveland Institute of Music who enjoy a rather unusual living arrangement that they treasure. These young musicians are living at Judson Manor, a senior citizen living center. Hartman's interview makes it obvious the value of these two generations living in close proximity as neighbors at the Manor. They perform for their senior citizen co-habitants and live for cheap. You can contact Cleveland Institute about their musician-in-residence program here.

Gamble House in Pasadena, California is a charming old house and historic landmark built in 1908. It is operated by the University of Southern California. USC students can work as groundskeepers at Gamble House while living there. Learn more about this program from the Gamble House website or from the university housing division .

Perhaps your college or university has affordable housing opportunities such as these. If not, don't be disappointed. Most universities have dormitories for their undergraduate and graduate students, international students, and for married students. The universities depend on Resident Advisors to live in their dorms and be helpful to the other students that live there, typically with some specific training. Cornell University, for example, is advertising Resident Advisor positions on their website for the upcoming academic year.

Living in someone else's home for cheap or free is an option for adults of all ages.

You might enjoy being a house sitter. These jobs come with various responsibilities to manage the house while the occupants are away for a long or short time. Look online and you will find numerous websites that list housesitting positions about the country as well as situations where you can swap your home with someone else's home in a place where you would like to live temporarily.

If you live in a college town, you might consider living in a sabbatical house. Websites such as can get you started on you search for cheap or free living on or near campus. You'l be expected to take care of the place as you might with any rental, but these homes are often more upscale.

Sororities and fraternities often need permanent or even temporary house parents to live in the house and make sure the sorority or fraternity residents are being supervised. You'l typically get sumptuous home-cooked food and comfortable living quarters in an area separate from where the students sleep, but expect to deal with the occasional inebriated students or function as a sort of Ann Landers to assist with various matters of the heart.

If you enjoy taking care of others, you can become a nanny or a live-in caregiver to an older or ill person. Expect to have the typical responsibilities that you would have in that work role, but you will get a salary as well as free rent. It may be a great opportunity for you. Numerous caregiver positions can be found on a variety of websites.

Your adventurous spirit can lead you to less conventional, but perhaps more fun, cheap or free living arrangements.

Living in a lighthouse may be what floats your boat. The National Park Service can lead you to the lighthouse of your choice. Specific lighthouses typically have their own websites that inform you of their living arrangements and expectations.

Do you love cruises, but find them to be beyond your budget? Perhaps you would enjoy being employed by one of the large cruise ship companies, such as Carnival or Disney.

Or if you enjoy the open road, enough to give up your house or apartment to take to the road permanently, you may enjoy making a recreational vehicle your new residence. The people who do this claim to love it.

There are many interesting, creative, and fun ways to live rent-free or cheap. Check it out!

Reviewed June 2017

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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