UPDATED: December 23, 2021

Housing is a necessity but not everyone can afford it.

Did you know that the national rent growth in the US in 2021 has outpaced the increase in housing costs before the pandemic?

Since January 2021, the national median rent skyrocketed by 17.8%. The figure marks a massive increase from the 2.6% average rent growth recorded from January to November in 2017-2019.

With the high prices of rent and homes, an increasing number of people are looking for cheap, creative, and eco-friendly housing alternatives.

This article is for you if you: 

  • Have a low income and struggle to find an affordable place to live in, 
  • Are a young adult who wants to live on your own but doesn’t have enough money to spend on rent, or 
  • Are a free-spirited person who wants to go on adventures and in search for a cheap alternative to traditional homes

In this article, you’ll get a list of the most convenient and affordable housing options. Let’s begin.

10 Cheap Housing Alternatives

1. Tiny House

As a tiny house owner, you can expect your monthly living expenses to range from $500 to $1,000, which includes your utilities and insurance.

The average cost of a tiny home is $45,000. A tiny home, which is usually between 60 square feet to 400 square feet, with little to no amenities may cost you as low as $8,000 but a highly-customized one may cost up to $150,000.

The overall cost of building a tiny house depends on various factors, such as the size, types of materials used, building permit costs (average of $1,350), and utility access. A professional can build a tiny house within 300 hours or 500 hours if you’re planning to do it yourself as an average DIYer.

If you don’t want to build one from scratch, you may also buy a preowned tiny house for as low as $30,000.

Less clutter Can’t have large furniture and appliances 
Less time cleaningCan’t entertain a lot of guests because of the small space
More savings on home maintenance, utilities, and property taxes Tiny homes aren’t covered by a traditional mortgage
Not having to pay a monthly mortgage, which is at an average of $1,200Need to have the cash to pay for the house upfront
Promotes a higher quality of life
Lower carbon footprint

When building your tiny home, hire a professional instead of going DIY. It’ll help ensure that you’ll get quality design and the job is done right the first time.

Building it on your own can be a challenge, especially if you don’t have the expertise, tools, and equipment for the job.

Find a location that offers cheaper land where you can build your tiny house. Use sites like Zillow, LandWatch, or Land And Farm to search for land based on the location.

If you’re interested in having a tiny house but want to try it out first before committing to this lifestyle, you may consider renting one first for a week. Check Airbnb or Try It Tiny for tiny houses with rents ranging from $40 to $100 per night, depending on its size and quality.

You can also go for a rental if you’re not planning to stay in the place too long or if you don’t have the cash to build a tiny house.

2. House on Wheels

The average cost of a house on wheels ranges from $60,000 to $80,000. The cost is affected by various factors, such as the size of the house and the materials used to build it.

You also need to factor in the cost of the foundation, which may range between $5,000 and $8,000, building permits (average of $1,350), and the installation of utilities. 

Lets you travel with your home, which you can tow using your SUV or truck to a preferred destination Not covered by the conventional mortgage
Customizable, eco-friendly, and cheaper than traditional homes Must secure enough funds to build one either by saving or getting a personal loan
Can become easily crowded, which makes it a less ideal option for growing families
Not much space for your belongings
Not allowed in some places

A house on wheels is a perfect option if you love to travel but don’t want to worry about leaving your home unattended for an extended period.

House on wheels isn’t for everyone. But if your job requires you to travel regularly or if you’re the type of person who loves to go on an adventure, then this option is for you.

3. Shipping Container Home

Shipping container homes are available in various sizes ranging from 10ft to 40ft.

Smaller and most basic home containers cost between $10,000 and $35,000. Larger homes featuring multiple containers and amenities may cost up to $175,000.

You can move into a basic cabin-type shipping container home between 2-13 weeks. You’ll have to wait much longer if you want more features to be added to your home.

As with any other home building project, there are other factors that need to be considered. The cost of building a shipping home container may increase based on the land cost, utilities, design, siding, flooring, etc.

You also need to factor in the cost of having a container shipped to your place, which amounts to about $3,000 per move.

Cost-effective and can be easily constructed and modified May be difficult to obtain permits
Durable and mobile May be difficult to obtain permits installation of the utilities is different from that of a traditional home

If you can’t afford to have your own shipping container home or if you want to try living in one first before you commit to getting your own, you should try renting a shipping container home.

The monthly rental cost ranges from $75 to $500 depending on the size and amenities or features included in the shipping container home.

If you’re looking for a home that’s affordable, unique, durable, easy to build, requires minimal maintenance, then a shipping home container should be on top of your list.

4. RV and Motorhomes

The average cost per month of living in an RV or motorhome ranges from $1,500 to $3,000. Your initial investment for this type of home ranges between $10,000 and $300,000.

The price varies depending on the condition, size, and features included in your RV or motorhome.

Allows you to travel while bringing your home with you You can easily get too excited and end up spending more on your outdoor adventure and eating out
No mortgage and utility bills to worry about You have to deal with regular maintenance, especially if you’re always on the road to ensure your safety and avoid unexpected breakdowns
May not provide the ideal living conditions if you’re planning to have a lot of kids due to limited space

You can reduce your cost of living in an RV or motorhome by avoiding long-distance travel to cut down on your fuel costs. You should limit eating out by preparing your own meals. Don’t forget to use apps such as GasBuddy to help you find cheap gas stations.

5. Manufactured House

According to the US Census Bureau, the average cost of a single manufactured home is $57,700 with a size that ranges from 784 square feet to 1,440 square feet. Meanwhile, larger manufactured homes that are around $1,700 feet may cost as much as $109,300.

The price varies depending on various factors such as the plot of land where you’ll place your house, the foundation, installment of utility, property taxes, insurance, and more.

Cheaper than a traditional house Not covered by traditional mortgages, which means you need to have the cash to pay for it upfront
Excellent starter home for growing families Difficult to resell, especially if it’s built in a mobile home park
Can have it customized according to your preferences and can move into your new home in as short as 60 to 75 days

Purchase a manufactured home from January to March. You’ll get better deals since only a few people buy homes during the winter season. Look for states with the cheapest manufactured homes.

6. Unfinished Space

If you’re on a tight budget, you should consider buying an unfinished space, which costs a fraction of the price of an unconventional home. These are spaces that were not completed or remained uninhabited for a long time.

You may find unfinished spaces that sell for $10,000 to $20,000. With some effort and creativity, you can turn this space into your dream home.

Cheaper than traditional homes Safety issues due to falling debris or live electrical wires
Less competitionTakes some effort in cleaning the space and preparing it before you can move in

If you’re the type of person who’s not picky about how your home looks as long as you have one where you can stay, then this option is worth considering. You can always renovate the place or move to a better one once you have the budget.

7. House Boat

The average cost of living in a houseboat ranges from $500 to $900. It’s an excellent option if you’re planning to live near water.

A new houseboat may cost from $20,000 to $50,000. But you can also purchase a used houseboat for less than $10,000 or rent one for only $50 per week.

Enjoy a waterfront view every dayNeed to follow the rules of the marina where your home is docked in
Access to boating, fishing, and tubing activitiesPay rental fees unless you own the area where it’s docked
Limited space and lacks privacy than a conventional family home
Won’t provide you with a living space that’s ideal for large families

Are you interested in living near water and have a limited budget? Then a houseboat is a good option. If you’re thinking of getting a houseboat, rent it out first so you can check for issues before you make the purchase. You can visit Boat Trader to check for available houseboats.

8. Be A Live-In Caretaker

If you have experience in caretaking, you should consider being a live-in caretaker. It doesn’t just provide you with a salary but also a place to stay and food to eat while you’re providing care to your patient.

The average salary of a live-in caretaker is $35,713 annually. Check Care.com if you’re interested in caretaking jobs.

Free place to liveYou work alone; no team or supervisor to help you
Free foodYou may end up working overtime and not be compensated for the extra hours
Gives you a sense of purpose as you help others in needYou don’t own the home you’re staying in, which means you’ll have to abide by the rules of the owner
You don’t have to work in an office

9. Bus Home

More people are looking into a bus home, particularly those that love to travel and don’t mind parking at state parks over extended periods.

The average cost of living in a bus home ranges from $750 to $1,750 a month depending on various factors, such as parking fees, fuel costs, and repair expenses.

You have to spend around $20,000 to $30,000 to convert an average school bus into a home.

More affordable than a traditional houseLots of work to convert and personalize the vehicle
No property taxes, building codes, or HOA regulationsDifficulties in finding parking spaces since some counties and states have strict rules when it comes to sleeping or camping in a motor vehicle
Can be customized according to your preferences
Can live wherever you want and travel anytime you want

If you love to travel, don’t mind the small space, and you’re not bothered by what others may think of you for living in a bus home, then this could be a great option for you.

10.  Live-In Airbnb Property Manager

You may consider becoming a live-in Airbnb property manager. A lot of Airbnb hosts don’t live in the property they’re renting out. They hire a property manager to take care of it for them.

Become a live-in Airbnb property manager so you can live on in the property while managing it for free or for a fraction of the cost, depending on your agreement with the owner.

You can earn an average annual salary ranging from $36,700 to $57,810.

Cheaper than living in a traditional homeCan be a stressful job because you’ll have to deal with complaints and problems related to the rental property
Improves your problem solving and critical thinking skillsTenants can sometimes be demanding and unruly
Don’t have to find another job because you’ll be tasked to manage the rental propertyHave to follow the rules set by the owner of the property
Don’t own the place

What Is A Housing Voucher and How To Get One?

The federal government has created the housing choice voucher program that aims to help low-income families, the disabled, and seniors get a safe, clean, and decent home from the private market. 

The housing assistance is given on behalf of the eligible individual or family, and that means you can choose your own home, whether it’s an apartment, single-family home, or a townhouse.

The public housing agency (PHA) in your area will determine if you’re eligible for a housing choice voucher based on various factors, such as your annual gross income (must not exceed 50% of the median income of the area where you’re located), family size, citizenship, etc.

Contact a public housing agency in your state to apply for a housing choice voucher.

How To Find A Temporary Housing Near Me?

Finding temporary housing can be stressful. Whether you just got a new job or faced an unexpected life event, finding a place to live for a little while isn’t easy. Fortunately, there are tips to help you simplify your search.

Airbnb, Craigslist, Nestio, Trulia, and Apartments.com are some of the most popular go-to sites when it comes to finding a short-term rental. 

The average cost of a short-term rental is about $200 to $250 per room or up to $1,000 a month for a property with three to four bedrooms.

Before doing your search, make sure to consider important factors, such as how much you can afford to pay, are willing to live with a roommate, do you need a parking lot, and would you rather have a finished or unfinished rental?

What Town Has The Cheapest Rent?

Whether you’re financially unstable or just want to live frugally, finding a place where rent is cheap is crucial. According to Rent.com, the cities with the cheapest rent can be found in the Midwest and the South.

If you’re looking for a city where you can save money on your rent, here are some of the best places to check.

  • Fargo, ND – $604
  • Springfield, MO – $615
  • Tucson, AZ – $648
  • Greensboro, NC – $693
  • Albuquerque, NM – $739
  • Mobile, AL – $820
  • Grand Forks, ND – $827
  • Omaha, NE – $871
  • Des Moines, IA – $935
  • Bentonville, AR – $997

Other Ways To Get Help Paying Rent

Whether it’s because of debt or just starting out on your own, there are a few things you can do to get help paying your rent when you’re struggling financially.

  • You can negotiate with your landlord and ask if you can get a modified payment plan.
  • Ask your landlord if you can work for them in return for reduced rent.  
  • Take on a roommate if you have an extra room in your home or space in your studio. This way, you can split the rent into two.
  •  Downsize your home to lessen your monthly rent.       
  • Take on a side-hustle during your free time.
  • Borrow from friends or family.
  • Take out a personal loan from providers like SoFi, LightStream, and Upstart.
  •  Look for non-profit organizations that offer housing assistance, such as Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness.
  • Cut down unnecessary expenses.


Housing prices have skyrocketed throughout the US and an increasing number of people are looking to find cheap alternative housing options. You’ll find several non-traditional housing options nowadays. If you’re searching for affordable housing alternatives, give these tips a try.