Save On Rent: Flexible Living Arrangements

One of my very first blog posts was about how to save 70% on rent.

My rent is $350/month. I live in a beautiful, fully furnished studio apartment with utilities and internet bundled into that total. I’ve got a big backyard and the best neighbours ever. Even around here, a one bedroom apartment will run around $600, maybe without utilities, and it won’t be a palace like the place I’ve got. So what’s my secret to paying such low rent, for such a great place?

View from my apartment window.

This view alone is worth $350.00

I only get to live there 8 months of the year.

You see, the flat is actually owned by some relatives of ours who live in Toronto most of the time. From September 1st to November 30th they are away, as well as from January 1st to May 30th (give or take a week or two here or there). During the summer months and for the month of December, they come back to my small town to visit, and they live in the studio. My fiancée and I live there while they’re away, and we clear out while they’re home. We get cheap rent, they get to cover their costs of maintaining two separate residences, everyone wins. Almost.

The only problem is what to do while they’re home for the holidays. The one month over Christmas is pretty easy, we bounce around to a few relatives’ houses, try not to overstay our welcome, and our kitty stays behind in the flat (because she’s so awesome, who wouldn’t want her?). The three months in summer, however is a bit tricky. This summer we’ve been lucky enough to secure residence for a comparable price in a small one bedroom right down the road. It was a lucky snag, and hopefully we’ll have the same opportunity next summer. The kitty will be coming with us, and I’ll be happy to have a bedroom door again.

It’s not the perfect living arrangement. Yes, the apartment is beautiful and the price is amazing. But there is a small part of me that doesn’t like moving around so much. On the other hand, there’s a part of me that loves the living arrangement because it brings out the minimalist in me (I can fit everything my fiancée and I need into our car).

In my ideal life, I’d be sitting pretty in a lovely apartment or small house, freshly furnished, and with enough of a backyard for a dog. But, as I’ve established, this isn’t my ideal life. In my alternate life, spliting my time between two apartments is a necessary step that we’re taking to cut costs and take advantage of an opportunity that we wouldn’t have if we were a bit older and not so mobile (aka: had a kid). Sure it’s not a perfect arrangement, but our flexibility allows us to seize these opportunities when they arise, and benefit from them.

What You Can Learn From Me

Not everyone is going to be in my situation, but almost everyone has lived in a city where sublets are aplenty (especially if you live in a university city). Taking advantage of a low priced sublet for a few months could save you significant costs, if you’re all right with living a flexible and mobile lifestyle. I had a friend in university who I’m pretty sure lived entirely off sublets for the last two years of school – and I bet he saved a fortune on not just rent but also furniture.

Beyond sublets, there’s always long term house sitting as an option. I know it’s not for Ninja, but others might find a situation like that perfect.

So that’s it. You want to save on rent? Think long term house sitting, think sublets, think outside the box and the savings will come.

What have you done to cut costs on rent? Do you have any horror or success stories? I want to know!

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  • Vanessa Pagé

    I live in a 1 bedroom for only 660$/month including utilities which is FANTASTIC since I'm right downtown. Obviously there are some issues with the place (as I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago) but overall it's a steal.

    I love that arrangement that you have. Personally though, I'd just hang at my parents' house all December instead of bouncing 😛

    • Jordann @ My Alterna

      I moved out of my parent's place when I was 17 and have never been back. :) Also they got divorced while I was away from school so my "room" is no more. I definitely plan on spending at least a week or two and their places this year though, there's always so much food there I can't resist.

  • fromshoppingtosaving

    I retweeted this on twitter! I just love saving money on housing because it makes a huge difference rather than saving on buying Starbucks once in awhile. If you can lower your rent/mortgage then you just made a huge savings!

    Right now I totally get where you're coming from because I sacrifice a lot just to save money on rent. I know that I could be happier living in a nicer place but I'd have to pay for it. The happiness I get on saving money from rent is better for me, but it all depends on what others want to use their money on.

    Your situation sounds like an awesome deal. Also I get bored easily so if I had to find a place to live for a few months out of the year, I think that would be really fun!

    • Jordann @ My Alterna

      Thanks for the retweet! It's so funny I've never really looked at having to move as an awesome opportunity to check out new places, I've always seen it as an inconvenience, I guess it's all about how you frame things!

      I also really agree about the low rent, I paid super high rent for my last apartment and I loved it to pieces, but it was unsustainable. I love this place too and it's 30% of the price.

  • Modest Money

    It sounds like a pretty sweet arrangement for now. Personally I just have too much stuff to manage something like that. If all my stuff could fit in my car though, moving around wouldn't be so bad. It does save a lot of money in your case. I should probably look into finding cheaper housing. I really hate how much I pay for the kind of apartment I have.

    • Jordann @ My Alterna

      The only reason I don't have very much stuff is because where I live right now is totally furnished. Obviously I can't fit a couch or bed in my little Golf. But moving around has really brought home how little I need to be happy, 75% of what I own is in storage, and I don't even miss it.

  • Savvy Scot

    What a great arrangement for you guys! You must be saving a lot of cash together for a deposit / downpayment!

    • Jordann @ My Alterna

      It's all going to debt and wedding savings. But after the debt is paid off, I'm thinking saving for a big down payment will be a cake walk.

  • yourlifeforless

    This sounds like a pretty nice setup you have here. Being flexible with living arrangements can save you a lot of money and open you up to new experiences. While I was in college I needed a place to live for a few months during an internship in another state. I jumped on Craigslist and found a place for a lot cheaper than I could have found anywhere else. Plus, I met some interesting people that I wouldn't have met otherwise!

    • Jordann @ My Alterna

      Sounds like the makings of an adventure, I never considered all of the interesting places I could live in the summer time.

  • The Happy Homeowner

    This is great; love the outside of the box thinking.

    I worked two different jobs for over 5 years that included full room/board. It's how I saved my house downpayment fund and paid off all my CC debt but it was a crazy sacrifice!

    • Jordann @ My Alterna

      Sacrifices can be worth it!

  • centsofacountrygirl

    What a lovely view. Sounds like a great arrangement.

    • Jordann @ My Alterna

      Thanks! That view is to die for, I also have a river literally in my backyard.

  • seedebtrun

    That's a crazy good deal! Since I've got kids and tons of stuff…I'm not sure something like this could work for me unfortunately. I love that they keep your kitty…that's a pretty sweet part of the deal :)

    • Jordann @ My Alterna

      They are actually a family of 4 (living in a studio!) and the kids love the cat, and she loves them, so it works out for us pretty well.

  • Emily @ evolvingPF

    Very creative! Do you stay in furnished apartments during the summer as well? I think that's the hard part, at least around here… It would be a pain to move that often if you had to move furniture.

    • Jordann @ My Alterna

      This summer the place I'm staying at is sparsely furnished, we'll be bringing our own linens, towels and our entertainment system. I'm crossing my fingers that we'll be able to live there next summer as well, if all goes according to plan. All of our furniture is currently packed away in a basement so I agree it would be much more convenient to live in a furnished space.

  • eemusings

    Sounds like a great setup. I know a girl who has made housesitting a lifestyle – I think that would be too much upheaval for me (moving every couple of months).

    • Jordann @ My Alterna

      I find the upheaval of moving around to be a bit difficult, but I'm trying to look at it as an adventure instead of an inconvenience.

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  • OutlierModel

    That seems like a great arrangement. The holiday moving does suck but it seems like you get a lot of perks with it as well. I have in the past contemplated putting up our apartment as a vacation rental, making a bit of money a few weeks out of the year. I am not sure where we would live during that time though, which is the main reason that idea never went anywhere…

    • Jordann

      It definitely wasn’t an ideal situation, but it was good enough that we went through with it for eight months before we found a new place. I would definitely recommend long term house sitting as a way to save on rent.

  • Meredith

    For two years, I lived in a church. There was an apartment on the third floor that wrapped around the organ pipes (read: not where you wanted to be on Sunday morning), and the deal was living there rent-free in exchange for unlocking in the morning, securing the place and locking up at night, making coffee on Sunday mornings, setting up chairs and tables for special events, etc. I found out about the opportunity, because a friend lived there before me, but it was also posted on craigslist. Mostly, I want to know how to find out about more great opportunities like this!

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