How to live rent-free


If you rent your living space, it’s probably your largest recurring bill. By a fairly significant margin.

(Or, at least I hope it is. If it’s not, either you’ve got a great living situation, or you’re in big trouble. Maybe I can help.)

I bet there’s a part of you who looks at your bills and sees that the largest one is much larger than the others and think: I wonder if I could get rid of it?

And indeed you can. Here are some ways.

Occupy Building

I once knew someone who moved overseas for a while. I never quite understood his situation, but I gathered that he and some other folks had found an abandoned or otherwise unoccupied building, and were living there.

Now that’s gutsy.

The politics of squatting (a loaded term I admit) are something that I don’t know much about. What I can say is that there are a lot of properties out there that are sitting vacant, and that seems like a tremendous waste of resources. Granted, it’s our own fault, building an excess of places that don’t generate much revenue or even happiness.

So because of a mismatch in either supply and demand, or just priorities, properties are unused. Why not take control of them, even temporarily?

Well, for one, there are external costs associated with inhabiting a building that is not officially inhabited. Even if you take full responsibility for the structure, fixing it as it needs fixing, living “out of bounds” eliminates the sometimes-necessary oversight and regulation that involves buildings. Plus, you’re probably not connected to the utility grid (water/sewer/electric) which causes its own logistical problems.

Without the legal requirement for building maintenance, the potential for deterioration is real. And that can lead to injury and/or death, which adds an external cost to society, to say nothing of being horrific.

It also feels trifle selfish, just like thinking it’s okay to not pay back your student loans. Just because something is there doesn’t mean that it’s yours for the taking.

So it’s an option, but I don’t think I would do it. Not just because I pick and choose my battles with the law, but it’s not something I feel passionate (or desperate) enough to do.

Work to live

You could also pay your way in a non-monetary fashion.

(No, I’m not talking about that.)

When I first visited Europe when I was a teenager, I encountered some Canadians who had been traveling for six months. Six months!? How could they afford that, unless they were rolling in loonies?

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They explained that they would travel to a place and get a job as a live-in pub worker. They would get a little pocket money, but mainly the ability to live for free.

That I still remember this conversation today speaks to how much it appealed to me, and appeals to me still.

I can’t imagine such a scheme still exists in abundance today. Instead, what I hear more about these days is WWOOFing. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. At its heart, it’s a way for people to work on organic farms, with all the benefits that come along with that (learning about sustainable farming, community building, group reliance, etc.)

But it’s also a chance to live somewhere distant, and rent-free.

I know a few people who have spent time WWOOFing around the world. It definitely falls under the heading of “it’s not for everyone”. The biggest issue for me is its lack of permanence. Even if you love to travel as I do, having a permanent home base is a strong interest of mine.

But this is also certainly an option, and one without any legal or structural peril.


Which leads me to the most conventional and yet possibly contentious method of living rent-free. And that’s by owning your home.

Imagine: not needing to pay rent each month to live in a place, and also knowing that you can’t get kicked out on a moment’s notice (like what just happened to me), short of some really unlikely circumstances.

No rent. A permanent residence. Ahhh.

One catch: it’s going to cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars and decades of your life to get there. And not only will you pay rent, but you’ll likely pay more than you would if would have just stayed paying rent.

Many people would dismiss the idea as unworkable for them. And in many ways, I actually wish more people did, because most people can’t afford to buy a home.

But my thought is slightly different: “Wow, decades to get there? I better start now while I’m young.

So that’s what I’m doing, or at least planning to. There might be other ways to live rent-free, but this is the one that seem like it has the greatest potential for me.

But it’s good to know that there are options, especially if things fall through.

I just hope that if I find my own abandoned building, that the floor boards are stable enough that I myself don’t fall through.

But enough about me. How else could you live rent free? Anyone making it happen?

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