5 Alternative Living Options That Can Cut Costs Drastically

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Many of us grow up believing that the American dream involves a good job, a nice house, and a white picket fence (or a three-car garage and a home on the beach). According to a 2013 Washington Post-Miller Center poll, 61 percent of respondents said that owning a home is very much what they understand the American dream to be, whereas in 1986, 78 of respondents indicated that the American dream is about owning a home, suggesting that owning a home is still important now but isn’t as important as it once was.

There are many options for Americans to consider in addition to the idea of owning a home, and some of them can potentially save a lot of money. Although for many people owning a home is still important, there are a number of ways to cut costs.

1. Multigenerational home sharing

The idea of sharing a home with multiple generations, possibly including grandparents, parents, and children, sends some people running the other way. However, the idea has many positives. For adults who want to take care of their parents, multigenerational home sharing can allow them to watch over them personally and to have them live just a few feet away. Many people enjoy being close to their family members, and living in the same house is a way to do this without having to worry about traveling.

Sharing a home with several generations can save money because more people can contribute to the cost of the house. This arrangement can also save on childcare costs, as well as travel costs. According to the Pew Research Center, 51.4 million Americans lived with relatives in 2009, as opposed to 46.5 million in 2007, and the number of people living in multigenerational homes has been increasing since 1980.

2. Co-operative living

When multiple unrelated people decide to live together, this is considered a housing co-op. The people work and live together and own the property jointly. Often the members purchase a share rather than paying rent, and they are governed by a board of directors.

These housing options have many benefits, including the fact that they can often be affordable and cost less than living in a home or condo. Because many co-ops have directors, the people living there usually know each other and feel safe; often, the directors will interview potential members ahead of time. Members also get to manage their land and participate in all aspects of ownership rather than having a landlord. However, there are different kinds of co-ops, and not all of them are run the same way.

3. Living with roommates

If you are open to living with others to save money but you don’t want to own land or participate in everything that is required of many co-op members, having roommates is another option. Roommates usually each have their own room and share the living space. Although having a roommate is often associated with college life (or being in your 20s or 30s), many other people choose to live with roommates for several different reasons.

Having a roommate can save money on rent, and it also helps some people to feel safer in their home or apartment. If you choose to have a lease instead of purchasing a home, you have the benefit of saving money without worrying about dealing with the many legal issues that come with trying to sell a home or divide property if you are not married but no longer wish to live together. According to NBC News, living with one roommate (or more) can provide a necessary lifeline for seniors, as well.

4. Living in an RV

Some RVs are extremely expensive and won’t save you any money over purchasing and maintaining a traditional home, but if you are able to live a minimalistic lifestyle in a simple RV, you can save a lot of money. According to MSN, 1.3 million Americans are RV full-timers. Some people permanently travel, while others stay in RV lots or park at friends’ or family members’ homes.

You can save money by choosing a state with low taxes as your base home location. There are also clubs you can join to save money off of parking costs, and some places you can park for free; traveling less often and going shorter distances will also save you money on fuel. Not only can living in an RV save you money, but it can also allow you to travel and see more places that you want to visit.

5. Managing an apartment complex

If you are looking for a job and a place to live, or if your job gives you a lot of flexibility, you can consider becoming an apartment manager. You need to ask each employer for specifics, but many apartment managers are given a free apartment because they have to live near the tenants in order to do their job properly. In order to do this type of work, you will need to be available at all times of the day and night, so this job won’t work for everyone.

However, even if you do it for a few years, you can save a lot of money by living rent-free. Many colleges also hire dorm managers, and these jobs often come with a free apartment, utilities, and even cable. Lastly, some self-storage places hire managers to live on-site, as well. You can also consider becoming a live-in nanny if you like kids and you are willing to live with a family and work whenever necessary in exchange for free room and board.

There are many other cost-cutting options for alternative living. Certain housing materials are less popular but more affordable than others. Some people enjoy living in mobile homes or even small bungalows. Small standalone structures can also be built in backyards if they meet city regulations. If you are not set on owning your own home by yourself, then there are many options you can consider.

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