Cheap Housing Alternatives: 17 Cost-Efficient Ways to Live

In the world today, it is quickly becoming more and more difficult to afford traditional housing. 

Paying for a mortgage each month in itself is expensive, not to mention utilities, internet, and insurance!

There are hidden expenses everywhere and they all add up fast.

The good news is that there are many different cheap housing alternatives to consider that can help you live well below your means. A lot of people are moving towards cheap, unconventional housing alternatives and you can too!

Let’s get started!

17 Cheap Housing Alternatives

Here are some of the best cheap housing alternatives for anyone looking to live more cost-efficiently.

1. Duplex or Tri-plex

This alternative housing method is often called house hacking. House hacking is where you purchase a multi-family property (a duplex or a triplex), live in one of the units, and then rent out the other unit(s). 

This is a great way to lower your own housing costs and potentially live for free if you rent out the other unit to cover the costs of the entire property. 

The upfront costs to purchase a duplex or triplex are typically higher than buying a traditional single-family home, however, it is worth it once you find renters for the other units on the property. Prices of these properties will range based on your state and location.

2. R.V.

Living in an R.V. is an excellent way to significantly cut down on housing costs. Many people all over the world have turned to this housing alternative due to it’s affordability and ease of use.

Most R.V.s come built with bedroom(s), a kitchen, a bathroom, and sometimes even a full living area with a dining table and couches. Sometimes they are even big enough to house a large family.

After purchasing the vehicle, you would need to find an R.V. park to park it so that you have water hook-ups and Wifi. Some R.V. parks will even give you a large discount if you plan to park it there for long periods of time.

This is also a great option if you like to travel as it is very mobile! The cost of an R.V. range between $10,000 and $300,000 depending on space and features.

3. Tiny House 

Tiny homes are quickly becoming popular, alternative living solutions for a lot of people around the world.

If you have never heard of a tiny house before, they are just as the name suggests: tiny, miniature houses!

Unlike an R.V., tiny homes are usually not portable and they are built to resemble an actual house. They typically include bedrooms, a small living space, a kitchen, a bathroom, and sometimes a small porch or outside area.

The most affordable option would be to build one yourself to ensure you can include the number of rooms and storage you might need. The cost of a newly built tiny home is anywhere between $8,000-$200,000 depending on size and features.

4. Boathouse

Living in a boat home is only possible if you live near water (or are willing to move near water), however, it can be an extremely affordable housing alternative. Plus, you will always have a beautiful view!

Boathouses are not for everyone and could be a bad idea if you are prone to motion sickness. However, if you can find one for a decent price, it could be quite an adventure!

You can find a boathouse for between $10,000-$100,000 depending on size and features.

5. Travel/Camper Van 

Travel vans are similar to R.V.s but they are much smaller and would be difficult for larger families to live in full time. However, this is a great option if you love to travel and stay on the road!

There is often a bed, a small kitchen, and some storage options inside a travel van. Keep in mind that travel vans typically aren’t equipped with a bathroom or shower, so you would need to locate a place to park it with these amenities.

You can find a travel van for between $20,000-$90,000 depending on size and features.

6. Manufactured Home

Living in a manufactured home is another great alternative option to help save money on housing.

These are homes that are built off-site and then transported to a home park or already established land of your choice. This is where they will be placed and are typically not ever moved again.

Unlike some of the other cheap housing alternatives, manufactured homes are usually spacious and offer quite a bit of storage. Some of them even offer multiple rooms, which makes this a great option for larger families.

Manufactured homes have a wide price range due to the option of having multiple bedrooms, but you can typically find them starting at $40,000 all the way up to $120,000.

7. Shipping Container 

Living in a shipping container is a very unconventional housing alternative compared to modern living.

Now, it might sound bizarre and maybe even gloomy living in a shipping container, however, most of them are actually quite charming!

The idea with this is to purchase one or multiple shipping containers and remodel them to meet your living standards.  You can even move them around how you like them and create a multi-bedroom living space!

This is also a very affordable option. Smaller, more basic shipping container homes range between $10,000 and $40,000 while larger, more upgraded ones range between $75,000-$200,000.

8. Bus Home 

Bus home living ties in with the other mobile-friendly options listed above. The idea is to purchase a large bus and convert it into a livable space.

Living in a renovated bus is cheap and is actually fairly common with couples and small families.

The cost of a bus home ranges between $10,000 and $40,000 depending on size and features.

9. Yurt Home

Yurt living is a very unique and affordable alternative living solution for a lot of people around the world.

A yurt is a large, portable, circular tent that can serve as a sustainable, alternative living option. They are very low cost and are extremely easy to maintain.

As un-cozy as living in a giant tent sounds, yurts are very customizable and can be as luxurious as you want. They are very spacious and are easy to pack up and move as well!

The average cost of a yurt home is $15,000 to $50,000 depending on location, space, and features.

10. Fixer-Upper House

Buying a “fixer-upper” home is not for everyone and can be quite a bit of work. However, you can typically find older, more run-down houses for cheap. Then you can either live in it how it is or fix up it to look how you want it.

This is also called “house flipping”. House flipping is the process of purchasing a fixer-upper, upgrading it, and then selling it for a much higher price than what you bought it for.

The average cost of a fixer-upper home differs greatly in different locations. I would recommend checking Zillow or speaking with a real estate agent for potential opportunities.

11. An Outbuilding

An outbuilding is a building such as a garage, shed, pool house, cottage, or barn that is converted into a livable home space.

You can alter an outbuilding to look and feel however you would like. This is a great cheap housing alternative and is fairly cheap to have built for yourself brand-new.

Outbuilding costs also range by location and size.

12. Stay in a Guesthouse

If the above options are not possible, there is nothing wrong with staying in a guest house for a while (if available)! You may have a friend or family who has a guest house that you could rent out for cheap, or you can look around on Craigslist for cheap guest homes.

These are typically rented out for much cheaper than the average apartment or rental home.

On the other hand, if you currently live in a home with a guest house, consider renting it out to others to cover some of your own housing costs!

13. In-House Airbnb Manager 

Some Airbnb hosts prefer to travel and not tend to their Airbnb locations themselves. In this case, they will hire a live-in Airbnb manager to live in the home or somewhere on the property for cheap in exchange for managing their properties. This is where you come in!

Living in an Airbnb is a great housing alternative for those who prefer low-cost living and who don’t mind managing the guests and the property while the owners are away.

14. Have Roommates

Another option to lower your housing costs is to live with multiple people. Having roommates to split the cost of your housing is a win-win for all parties who live there!

You can equally split the cost of housing along with other shared amenities like cable and electricity.

15. Rent out an Extra Bedroom 

If you live in a home with extra bedrooms that aren’t being used, consider renting them out to either friends or family, or on Airbnb.

Even if you live in a smaller home with limited bedrooms, you could remodel a garage or shed into a small living space to rent out. Doing this could potentially offset a lot of your own housing costs!

16. Buy a Small Condo 

Smaller condos are usually much cheaper than purchasing a house. Because condos are smaller than most homes, utilities are typically cheaper as well.

The price of condos varies by location. I recommend checking out Zillow for condos in your area.

17. Move Back Home

If you are close to your family, you may be able to move back home for a while. You could offer rent at a significantly discounted rate.

This might not be a forever housing option, but can be great if you need to save up some money for future housing costs!

The Bottom Line: Cheap Housing Alternatives

Whether you are looking to live on the sea, in the trees, or in a classic housing unit, there are a number of different cheap housing alternatives to choose from.

Even if you aren’t short on cash, you could try living in one of the options above to try something new while maximizing your savings.

And who knows?

Maybe you will love it!

I would love to hear from you, which is your favorite cheap housing alternative? Would you ever consider any of these low-cost living options? Let me know in a comment below!

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4 thoughts on “Cheap Housing Alternatives: 17 Cost-Efficient Ways to Live”

  1. Such great information and greatly appreciated. With the 2020 being one of the strangest years in history, being cost conscious of living and lifestyle is critical. I am grateful for this information.
    Furthermore, the shipping container once a concept is a really interesting alternative and, done correctly, be very nice alternative. Mobil homes have a HUGE price flux right now. fmI literally just saw one personally sell for high 40’s and also several hundreds of thousands oddly depending on the park/neighborhood. Enjoy your content. ~Subscriber

    • Hi Ken! I am so glad you found this post helpful. I definitely agree with you, it is important to live cost consciously right now. I think it would be interesting to live in a shipping container home depending on where you live. Definitely some options to keep in mind! Thank you for the thoughtful comment!

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