13 Cheap Alternative Living Solutions (Realistic And Cost Efficient )

Are you looking for alternative living solutions?

Housing is a necessity but for some it can be a luxury. It isn’t always affordable so I thought I’d lend a hand and write about various cheap alternative living solutions ideas, so you never have to worry about having a roof over your head. 

Whether you’re renting or looking to buy, this list of cheap housing alternatives should give you an idea of all the other options other than traditional housing. 

Some of them may be a little wacky but all of them have been tried and tested. Plus, I will also include updated information about the cheapest places to live and which is the most affordable alternative living solution in the US!


Stick around, pull up a chair and have a look at all of the cheap housing alternatives available to you. 

Who knows? Maybe you’ll find your next home! 

Here are some of the cheap housing alternatives we’ll go over today:

  1. RV And Motorhomes
  2. Manufacture house
  3. Unfinished space
  4. Become a live-in caretaker
  5. House boat
  6. Live-in Airbnb property manager
  7. Tiny house
  8. Shipping container home
  9. Pallet home
  10. Earth berm
  11. Tree house
  12. Free spirit spheres
  13. Yurt


Some of the links on here are affiliate links and I may earn if you click on them, AT NO EXTRA cost to you. Hope you find the information here useful! Thanks.

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Cheap Housing Alternatives

Are you sick and tired of conventional homes and the massive price tag that comes with them? 

You don’t have to throw in the towel just yet.

 I’m going to share with you some of the many alternative living solutions creative and frugal individuals have taken to over the years.

1.RV And Motorhomes

  • Average cost per month: $1500-$3000
  • Average initial investment: $10,000 – $300,000. This price highly varies based on features, size, and condition (used or new)
  • Pros: you can save money on electricity, cable, internet or rent.
  • Cons: it can be costly if your motorhome breaks down and needs repairs.

Rv Saving Money Tips

This is one of the best alternative living solutions, additionally, some of the monthly costs of living in a motorhome can decrease if you:

  • Avoid long-distance travel and stay stationary in one area
  • Buy items in bulk and make your own meals 
  • Subscribe to RV memberships such as Boondockers, where you can have access to stay with hosts for free while your membership is active.

Your home but on wheels -an RV or  recreational vehicle is a motor vehicle or trailer which includes living quarters accommodation. 

If you like to travel and want to do so from the comfort of your home, you may enjoy living in an RV. 

Like any traditional home, you’ll have access to a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, etc. 

Of course, the whole car console is up front but what’s nice about having an RV is that you can park it at RV camps or parks. 

This RV blogger traveled to 48 different states with an RV and spent under $20,000 that year.

Note:  Did you know you could make some good extra money by living in a van? If you want to learn how, check out my article: How To Make Money Living In A Van [50+ Ways To Earn Cash While On The Road].

2. A Manufactured House

cheap housing options

Average costs in the US

  • Per square foot: $55 
  • Lot rent: $300 per month
  • Buy an acre: $10,000 or less (in a rural area)
  • Pros: It is cheap compared to a conventional home, can be moved, and you can enjoy low property taxes.
  • Cons: some providers use low-quality construction materials, and some cities/towns do not allow manufactured homes.

Manufactured homes Saving Money Tips

  • You can get lower prices to buy your manufactured home between January-March because there are fewer people buying in winter months.
  • You can find the cheapest manufactured homes in New Mexico, Arizona, and Oregon.
  • Also, if you want to buy land instead of renting, the price per acre in New Mexico, Arizona, and Oregon is cheaper than in other states. 

If this alternative living solution caught your interest, and want to dig deeper about land costs, check out this article: cost per acre in each state in the USA.

Another cheap housing alternative for you to consider is a manufactured home. These are common housing alternatives because they are cheap and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. 

The most common type of manufactured home is a trailer or mobile home. 

The average cost of a manufactured home on the lower end will cost you roughly $10k-$15k but if you’re looking for something more luxurious, then you can expect to pay anywhere from $60k-$100k+.

3. Unfinished Space

Did you guys watch Ghostbuster or the Princess Diaries? These movies had one thing in common, the characters used a fire station as their living and working quarters.

 I’m not saying go out there and look for abandoned fire stations to live in but instead, look for unfinished spaces that you can purchase for a fraction of the price of a conventional home.

Why are they so cheap you ask? 

Well, more often than not, they can be in odd locations, the building process was never completed, or simply it remained uninhabited. I find that the owner of these spaces just want to get rid of the property and they’ll do it at a low cost.

With a few do-it-yourself activities, you can turn that unfinished space into your dream home and do so without breaking the bank.

Talking about unfinished and abandoned spaces, did you know that some cities and towns in the US are giving away homes for free or at affordable prices?

For example, in St. Louis Missouri you can get a single-family home of less than 1,500 square feet for $1!!!

Of course, this does come with disadvantages as these cities are mostly abandoned and you will still need to invest in renovation. 

But, if you are in need of a play to stay and can’t afford a conventional home this may be an option to consider.

4. Become A Live-In Caretaker

cheap housing options
  • Average salary per year in the US: $35,713
  • Top 3 cities that pay the most: Richmond, CA, Stamford, CT, and Bellevue, WA.

Do you have some experience in caretaking or possibly even nursing experience? If you do, becoming a live-in caretaker is a cheap housing option to consider. 

Live-in caregivers often receive free accommodation and meals in exchange for their caregiving services. 

You can look for caretaking jobs on websites like Care.com.

5.House Boat

alternative living solutions
  • Average cost per month: $500-$900
  • Average initial investment: $20.000$50.000
  • Pros: you don’t have to pay property taxes and in general it is low maintenance.
  • Cons: lack of space and privacy, plus unpredictable repair costs.

This is truly one of the best cheap unconventional housing alternatives to consider! 

But, before purchasing you should: 

  • Rent your houseboat before buying it, this could help you spot any issues to fix or problems with the houseboat.
  • Get into Facebook groups, just search “houseboats + your location” and ask around about prices and lifestyle costs to get an idea about how much you’ll need.
Alternative Living Solutions

Don’t like the idea of a home on wheels? What about a home on water? If you love the water and want to dive into your backyards, try out a house boat.

Houseboats are pretty common in some parts of the world -take the Netherlands for example, over 100,000 people live in houseboats docked by the water.

You can choose to buy or rent but a great website to have a look at is Boat Trader if you’re interested in houseboat shopping.

6.Live-In Airbnb Property Manager

A lot of people have had success renting on Airbnb but have you wondered what happens to the accommodation when no one is living there? 

Or what if the owners don’t even live in the country? Some Airbnb hosts have been known to shrug off their property responsibilities onto others -that’s you.

As a live-in Airbnb property manager, you can live in the property or area of the property for a fraction of the price as long as you manage the turnover process. This could mean tending to the property, managing the guests or other accommodations. 

When I visited Budapest, I met a full time Airbnb Property manager who managed the property of wealthy families living abroad. She arranged the Airbnb I stayed in and started in a separate part of the house rent free. 

What a great cheap alternative living solution, don’t you agree?

Making money with your extra space is one of the smartest ways of getting some extra cash with low investment. 

For this I have created a guide that will help you make $200 fast, and on top of that get tips from an airbnb superhost, so you can have your house ready for guests and successfully earn money with your extra space!

7.Tiny House

alternative living solutions
  • Average cost: $30k-60k in the US
  • Pros: lower maintenance cost, it is portable so you can use it for traveling around other cities.
  • Cons: minimal storage space.

When thinking of small inexpensive homes to build, the first thing that comes to mind is a tiny house. 

If you’re a minimalist looking for alternative living situations, and you feel like you don’t need more than a few squared metres to live in, then why not live in a tiny house?

You can buy or rent your tiny house but with the tiny house movement fast becoming a trend, new tiny houses can sell for $60k. 

You’ll probably save much more money if you build your tiny house.

Tips when building your tiny house:

  • The trailer is the foundation of your tiny house. It is VERY advisable that you don’t buy a cheap used trailer but instead buy a new one or a custom made for tiny houses.
  • A recommended company is Perfection Trailers sale, it has good reviews and provides high-quality trailers.
  • Do not buy anything on a whim, in tiny houses, size and weight matter a LOT. For example, this includes planning your window frame and correct sizing.

8.Shipping Container Home

Looking for cheap unconventional housing alternatives to wow your friends with?

Shipping container homes are actually another form of traditional housing alternatives. Suitable for those looking for the comfort of home in a smaller space but not as small as a tiny house. 

Shipping containers can range from $1500 to $5k -if you’re lucky there are some on the market for $800 each. 

But if the sound of remodelling a shipping container doesn’t sound too appealing to you, you can also purchase prefabricated and designed shipping container homes for $15k and up. 

A crucial tip: Find out what was inside the shipping container before you purchase it. Some shipping containers are used to transport toxic chemicals -you don’t want to be making a home in that one if that is the case.

9.Pallet Home

When thinking of pallets, a house does not come to mind, A bench, swing, spice rack or even bed frame sure, but a house? Nope. 

Turns out, you can actually build a sturdy and liveable house entirely out of pallets. It isn’t a fancy affair but it is something cheap and unique.

alternative living solutions

10.Earth Berm

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the famous line, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” as the opening words of his award winning novel. 

I wanted to live in a hole in the ground just like a hobbit and guess what?

 You can -they’re called earth berms!

An earth berm is an underground cheap housing option that has one front facing area that the world is able to see. They’re also known as earth shelters.

11.Tree House

If you think about it, a tree house is a great cheap alternative housing idea. 

And when I say tree house, I mean a fully fledged home with all the comforts of a regular house in a tree -not the kind you see children playing in. 

It can be done and it has been done! 

Have a look at this article and behold the wonders that can be done with a tree house. If you’re in Crossville, Tennessee, check out the tallest treehouse in the world, also known as the Ministers’ Tree house.

12.Free Spirit Spheres

Want to bring your tiny house living choice to another level literally? A free spirit sphere is a round home that is suspended by ropes attached to trees. 

This is for those of you looking for a little thrill for their next new housing alternative -not so much for anyone that is scared of heights or the idea of their home hanging in the trees.


If you love camping then a Yurt should be one you list of alternative housing options. I think yurts are basically sturdy and spacious tents that have an amazingly decorated interior. 

It’s like an eternal glamping (Glam+Camping) trip and it’s a fantastic cheap housing alternative for someone who likes to be close to nature.

alternative living solutions

What Town Has The Cheapest Rent? (In The USA)

The World Population Review deemed Mississippi to be the cheapest state to live in in the United States but according to this article Toledo, Ohio is actually the most affordable city in the U.S. to rent in. 

The average rent price in Toledo is $550, making it one of the three of the top five most affordable cities in the Midwest.

What Is The Cheapest Building Material For A House?

If you’re stumped on cheap alternative living solutions maybe you should have a look at cheap building materials. 

That way you can build your dream home with the best and cheapest materials -that’s another way to ensure you get the most out of your cheap housing alternative.

Keep costs low and by using a mixture of these materials and you’re well on your way to frugal living. 

Not sure if it can be done? Here’s an article that shows you how to build a house for dirt cheap using earth bags.

Earth Bag

Did you have a look at that home they built in the instructables article above? 

When you think of building a home, cloth isn’t the first material that comes to mind -unless you’re building a blanket fort. 

Earth bags are essentially feed, rice or cement bags that are filled with soil, dirt and yup you guessed it -earth.  

The appeal with earthbags and reason for its growing popularity is its low cost. You can build homes for $1k to $5k and have a lovely home that will outlast conventional wood-framed homes.

Traditional Brick

Alternative Living Solutions

Brick houses are popular because they last long and they are affordable. 

Wait, just a side note -brick houses will last long if you do not live in an area susceptible to earthquakes. 

Other than that drawback, bricks are great building materials to use because they are fire and water resistant. 

They also make for a very quiet home, plus have you seen those exposed brick walls in some houses? So rustic, count me in!

Fresh Concrete

Alternative Living Solutions

Raw cement is a good building material to consider if you’re looking for a cheap home alternative.

Much like brick, concrete walls are water and fire-proof and because they are not made from organic-matter, you won’t have to worry about maintenance -say bye-bye to mold or mildew. 

Aesthetically, raw concrete is very versatile -it can give that simple clean industrial look or you could paint over it and change the vibe altogether.

Industrial Steel And Iron

Why not build on that industrial aesthetic with industrial steel and iron? Contrary to popular belief, industrial steel and iron are inexpensive building materials – neither materials melt, warp, break, crack or creep and they last long, are cost-effective, and completely recyclable. 

Reclaimed Timber

alternative housing options

Trendy, cheap, eco-friendly, what more do you want?

 Recycled timber is a popular low-cost construction material that has seen an increase in use these past few years in the building industry.

It’s popularity means that reclaimed timber has become one of the most common cheap and trendy building materials for alternative living solutions. 

Wood can be susceptible to things like warping or splitting -old timber is more durable and dried out meaning you won’t run into this problem when using this material to construct your home.

Corrugated Metal Sheets

Once upon a time, corrugated metal sheets were used for purely industrial purposes but with the industrial themed aesthetic picking up among the youth, corrugated metal sheets have gained popularity.  

Besides their low-cost, steel is a very durable material and can withstand harsh weather conditions like fire or rot.

 It’s easy to maintain, it’s recyclable and you can give it a fresh coat of paint or zinc to keep it from rusting (if that’s not the look you’re going for).

Alternative Living Solutions FAQs

1. What Is The Cheapest Housing Option?

One of the cheapest alternative living solutions is a manufactured house, where the average square per foot in the US is $55.

Another one of the cheapest housing options is a shipping container home, where you can buy prefabricated and designed ready homes for $15,000.

2.Where Can I Live Instead Of House?

There are many alternative housing options, some of the cheapest and most innovative are: 

  • RV and Motorhomes
  • Boat homes
  • Tiny Houses
  • Ship Container Homes
  • Yurts

3.What Is The Most Inexpensive Way To Live?

Currently, these are the best alternative living solutions to save money: 

  • Living a minimalist life 
  • Sharing home expenses with roommates, family, or friends
  • Living in cheap housing options like tiny homes, houseboats, or shipping containers homes
  • Work as a full-time live-in caregiver
  • Live on the road in a motorhome
  • Rent one of your extra spaces 
  • Live in as an Airbnb property manager 

4.What Is The Cheapest And Safest State To Live In?

According to the most recent study made by WalletHub, the cheapest and safest state to live in the US is Arkansas, being the top 3 cheapest city, and having a safety score of 46 out of 50.

This information is very useful for those who are looking for alternative living solutions but are also concerned about the most affordable states to live in as well as their security.

Also, if you are curious about a sweet spot between affordability and security, I checked the data and found the top 5 safest and cheapest cities  in the US are:

  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. Missouri
  4. Oklahoma
  5. South Carolina

Now, in more detail at the present moment in the United States, these are the top 11 cheapest states you could live in:

  1. Alabama
  2. West Virginia
  3. Arkansas
  4. Indiana
  5. Missouri
  6. Utah
  7. Mississippi
  8. Tennessee
  9. Minnesota
  10. Kentucky
  11. Oklahoma

On the other hand, the safest 11 states to live in the US are:

  1. Maine
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Alaska
  4. Hawaii
  5. Utah
  6. Nevada
  7. Washington
  8. Arizona
  9. Vermont
  10. Massachusetts
  11. Rhode Island

This information is according to the WalletHub study which you can read in more detail here: Best States to Live in

And, for more detail about the safest states, WalletHub also made a specific study , which you can check here: Safest states to live in US. 


From tiny houses to houses on wheels, on water, in the ground and even suspended from trees, there are a plethora of cheap alternative living solutions out there for you to explore. 

Take a little risk, follow the path less travelled and who knows? You may come out of it with a new living situation that you never thought was a possibility and extra money in your bank.

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13 Cheap Alternative Living Solutions (Realistic And Cost Efficient )

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