Frugal Housing-How to Cut Your Biggest Single Expense

For most of us, the cost of keeping a roof over our heads eats up a larger portion of our income than any other single item, even food. The cost varies depending on what region you live in and even by neighborhood, but no matter what if your income has gone down recently keeping up can be daunting. The solution depends on a number of variables, including the following: Do you have a family or are you on your own? Do you own or rent? Are you in deep trouble or just feeling a little squeezed? And finally, how far are you willing to go for relief?

Home Sweet Home

The first and easiest solution is to get a housemate. Shared housing used to be just for younger people, mostly in college. But this is no longer the case. If you own your own house or are the master tenant you are in good shape to do this even if you have a family to consider. You will be the one to place an ad in an online bulletin board like craigslist, or a local paper. You will be the one to choose or reject the applicants. You will set the criteria. But be aware that the current economic climate has given you plenty of competition, so be reasonable. Also, be safe. Make a written contract. If you have easy access to a lawyer, ask for help. Or, more frugally, use a Nolo Press guide to housing law, available at a local library or bookstore.

If you are not a home owner, you will be the one answering the ad that someone else published. You will have to convince someone that you will make a good housemate, that you are easy to live with, and that you will pay your share consistently. But don’t give up hope. The people willing to rent a room really do need the money. Having good credit helps, but even if you don’t have it, just be truthful. I know of a case where a recently divorced, recently bankrupt woman found a home by putting her honest story on a local bulletin board, including the fact that she couldn’t afford more than $300 a month in an area where the average room rent was twice that. She had a place within a week. If you have a family it is better to try to rent a whole house and be the one to bring in the housemate, though sometimes a couple can find a room in a house. It is just harder.

There are several other things you can do to cut your housing expense. You could move to a cheaper location. If you live on either coast you are likely paying more than people inland are paying for housing. In California, the Bay Area is a lot more expensive than Fresno for example. There are whole states that have good comparative housing prices. Do the research. Find out what the employment outlook is, as against housing costs. It might seem extreme, but these are extreme times.

If you are a back to the land type and plan on building your own house, consider something small. Smaller houses are more environmentally friendly and cheaper to run. You might even look in to the latest thing-the very small house. There are easy inexpensive kits that you can put together with many fewer resources than convention housing, saving your time, energy and money for other things that matter to you.

Finally you could consider getting involved in an intentional community or co-housing. Intentional communities range from the fairly wild, such as Harbin Hot Springs to the more eco-spiritual, while the co-housing movement picks up where the communes of the sixties left off, but all grown up and without the hassle factor.

The place you choose to call home is a huge factor in the stability and happiness of you and your family’s life. Don’t let the strain of over-spending turn a dream into a nightmare. Take action to get your home life into balance with your wallet as soon as possible. Do this one thing right and many other things will fall into place.

Check out these links for more information: a complete list, just click on your city legal info including real estate law in case you are thinking of moving for building small how one person solved the housing conundrum intentional communities–a-frugal-solution-to-the-housing-dilemma-a300949 one of my articles


52 Responses

  1. Such a timely topic with great resources. I hope that economic relief is in sight for the hundreds of thousands of people coping with job loss, housing fears and who fear they can’t put enough food on the table. Scary times to be sure.

  2. My in-laws gave us a house when we married after they built their new one. SO fortunate. I don’t know how we’d do it otherwise.

  3. This is a great post! Home is a big issue for many people. Right now, a friend and I are planning a green building project. We are considering a shipping container house or an earthbag house. Perhaps this economic crunch has a silver lining as many people are considering alternative ways to live that are both eco friendly and wallet friendly.

  4. Lots of good ideas here. Congrats on getting frshly pressed!

  5. Great post. There are a lot of usefull ideas here. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I agree with much of what you said. I think people should also look around at other things that up their housing costs. For example, heating costs can be extremely excessive for some people based on old windows or even older heating systems. Updating some of these things will save tons of money.

    • Check out my post-Keep Warm without Breaking the Bank from about a week ago. After direct housing costs and food, this ties with transportation as the biggest expense! Thanks for reading…

  7. This is great Annabel. I’ve always liked your mind and how it works since you started writing this blog. You think way out of the box and at the same time you are pragmatic. Uplifting! wish you had a radio show so could listen on the way to work.

    Michelle Dunn

  8. We need to do something about housing costs because in New York City they are wickedly expensive.



    Congrats on being Feshly Pressed!

  9. Good point! It seems like so many people think they have to buy the biggest, fanciest house possible in order to be happy. When I bought my house, people seemed to think I was nuts to be looking for the cheapest house I could get while still being in a decent neighborhood, but I find it much easier to be happy without a huge mortgage to worry about! I figure my house should provide for my needs, not the other way around.

  10. Perfect topic, great ideas! Congratulations on being freshly pressed, you deserve it.

  11. I am single and I rent. I am able to spend less than 25% of my net income on housing. My apartment is rather small — but because it is so inexpensive my life is very BIG!


    • Whoa! Where do you live that that is possible?!

      • I live in SD…and I was lucky enough to find an apartment (albeit very small) that includes all bills and cable for super cheap. It’s a great deal and I probably spend $200-500 a month less than other people my age who are renting.


  12. Good overall information. If renting a room, I also recommend the following:
    -Know the people you are renting to by doing a credit check on prospective tenants and by calling their previous landlord.
    -Don’t ask for last month’s rent. Ask for first month and a large security deposit.
    -Review the classifieds in your area to see what rental rates are going for.

  13. I moved my brother in with me as a housemate, no sense us living in the same town both paying mortgages. Great article.

    *British Texan Blend*

  14. Great post! Times are tuff for alot of people, but like you said how far do you want to take? We tend to live beyond our means, but at the same time you get what you pay for.

  15. Great post!

  16. […] Frugal Housing-How to Cut Your Biggest Single Expense (via The Frugal Goddess) For most of us, the cost of keeping a roof over our heads eats up a larger portion of our income than any other single item, even food. The cost varies depending on what region you live in and even by neighborhood, but no matter what if your income has gone down recently keeping up can be daunting. The solution depends on a number of variables, including the following: Do you have a family or are you on your own? Do you own or rent? Are you in de … Read More […]

  17. Good suggestions and resources. The disparity between people with the resources to buy McMansions and those who struggle to get any kind of housing is huge.

  18. If you can somehow do it, try to work from home. Then you’ll be much more flexible about where to move and you can move to a cheaper area in the countryside instead of having to live in Manhattan.

  19. I am moving due to losing my house and I am trying hard to save enough now to be able to be the one who rents a place and has someone move in with me. It’s so difficult, but I think I’ve found a place I can afford to live that is within the geographical area I want.

  20. I’m a big fan of gender equality.

    But now it’s common for two salaries to contribute to owning one house. This makes mathematical sense, but causes a lot of strife in the real world, as interpersonal relationships, especially among the unmarried, have become a central issue when it comes to affording a house. I wish there could be a good study about how the two-salary dependency and volatility might be impacting the frequency of foreclosures, regardless of a recession or not.

  21. We live on our boat in Old City Philadelphia. There’s a great community here, we see sunrise every morning (over Camden NJ….okay, so it’s not that romantic), we own the boat and pay a monthly slip fee. Very economical. But you have to like small spaces and don’t mind if your house rocks back and forth sometimes!

    • philawriter, I hear you. Especially in CC, you really have to do your homework. I live in a small apt on the Wash West side of Old City, but between getting around without a car, not being in the apartment hardly at all (school and I travel a lot for work) I can’t justify living in a larger place, and paying more in rent. Plus I’m extremely active when I’m not in school or work. Been able to save loads and public transit makes it extremely easy for me to get around. Can’t beat that. You CAN make it work in a big city too.

  22. Great post, Annabel! Much useful information in this age of be thrifty or die. Cutting back expenses while maintaining a comfortable life is an art form!

  23. That’s some great advice. It’s true about sharing the house – I’m currently renting, but when I buy I plan to have flatmates that will help pay off my mortgage. It’s all about the little steps you can take.

  24. Good advice! I’ve stopped checking zillow nowadays… the decline on my property values just heightens my depression 😉

  25. I think more and more people are going to be ” living frugally ” in the UK with even more job losses on the horizon.

    I think this period of time will be remembered for a long time and if we ever get back to the “glory days” people will be more cautious with their spending.

    cheshire house removals

  26. Good advice!

  27. Or you can try Energy-Efficient Prefab Homes.

    When it comes to energy efficiency in prefab houses versus stick-built houses, the prefab versions are probably more effective. The range for errors is greater in stick-built homes. Prefab homes tend to be well-fitted and better-insulated, leaving less opportunity for air to leak out or seep in.

    There are several options available that use the natural environment to power the home. Passive solar energy systems use sun, wind, and other weather patterns. Architects are designing prefab houses to be built as high performing, self-regulating buildings with low emissions. Gas-filled windows are included to help insulate and control the interior climate. They also use efficient lighting such as fluorescent lamp and LED lighting, which have extended lives and consume less energy.

  28. Worthwhile practical advice. We will link you to our blog and use it to refer our community to. You address what layers of marginalization and poverty industry parasites have failed to address for decades-we call it turning the tap off.

  29. Great information! Especially in such a difficult economy and housing market.

    Thanks for sharing!


  30. You had some great suggestions. In the past, I’ve considered inviting a housemate to share the house. It’s a tough decision so instead I have drastically changed my spending habits and reduced spending to what is necessary. Not so fun but in this economy its required. Congrats on Freshly Pressed! LB

  31. Interesting info. Keep the nice posts up!

  32. You are a interesting person. I like the way you write. And it reminds me on the “Golden Girls” – I loved the witty soap – and how good they lived together. I think that is also possible in real life. In jounger years I lived often with housmates and girls. All the best and pardon my mistakes – I am German.

  33. In London (hugely expensive!!!!!!!!!!!!!) it is very common to share flats and houses- sometimes with even 4 or 5 people…

  34. I bookmarked this guestbook. Thank you for good job!

  35. thanks for the cool share. It is really interesting.

  36. Very Nice. As a fellow blogger who’s just as frugal, I really liked the content of this posting. Keep up the good work! Thanks for the excellent links.. I will be putting a link to your blog from mine. Thanks and keep up the great work!

  37. […] It Is Way Too Hard To Build Your Own …Master The Skill Of Natural Link Building | vivianlewis.comFrugal Housing-How to Cut Your Biggest Single Expense The Frugal …Buy A Treehouse of Your Own: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building an …Using Website Templates To Build […]

  38. In my days selling real estate, I saw so many people push to get as much house as they possibly could. These last several years have been a great reminder of what’s really important.

  39. I get more knowledge here..thanks

  40. Nice post. Thanks for the tips and the links. Really need it, esp with the inflation going on.

  41. our world needs us to invest and have respectful energy efficiency budgets .
    these kind of blogs help achive this goal.
    all the best

  42. Thank goodness I understand money. Thank goodness my dad taught me the value of money. He couldn’t help it as he is a CPA and money management is in his blood and mine too, I guess!

    With all the housing crisis going on around the country I want to reflect and share my 2nd home buying experience.

    When I purchased my second home in the year 2004, I was told “no problem, if you want to buy a home for $300,000 just go for it!!”. “You can qualify for that and the payment will be fine for a few years”. Growing up with a father who is a CPA taught me a few things and one of them was to live below your means. Glad I had that knowledge as I purchased a home under 200,000 and I’m happy that I did as my payments are low and locked in on a 30 yr. mortgage. I want to pay off the house and live cheap. I pay extra on my mortgage and it makes me proud when I look at the time I’ve shaved off my loan over the last couple of years.

    Being a Realtor, I council people to be very careful about overextending themselves as you never know what the future holds and how jobs/lifestyles can change quickly.

    Remember October 2008? Very scary for a self-employed single home owner.

    I truly believe the consumer needs more education about the loan process and how to be smart and saavy when buying a home. A home is to live in not to be used as ATM machines to buy more junk. Maybe we are finally coming to the realization that staying in a home and paying it down is not a bad thing. Keeping up with the Jones’s is very much over rated and I think the country is finally waking up to that idea. At least I hope it is.

    Thanks for a great article and I hope the people who need to hear it find it. I’ll be following your blog.

  43. I wonder if some of this content might have been taken from a feed, it’s all over the internet and various peoples websites, unless you’re the original author?

    • Greg, I am the original author, of this post and all the others on this blog so far, though I may be willing to have a guest blogger at some point. I do include links on each post if there are sites that might be helpful to the readers. I am glad to hear that this post is getting around, because the housing crisis hasn’t slowed down a bit as of this writing.

  44. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my blog so i came to “return the favour”.I am looking for ways to add things to my website!Is it ok if i use some of the things i saw here?!

  45. Hi I found your site by mistake when i was searching Google for this issue, I have to say your site is really helpful I also love the theme, its amazing!. I dont have that much time to read all your post at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also add your RSS feeds. I will be back in a day or two. thanks for a great site.

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