Is it possible for a family to live for free?
Take some time today to think about how you live, your lifestyle and how it might be possible to do some of what you do for free.
I know it is easier for singles and there are various articles about single people living for free, but how doable is this for families?
As a mother of 4, there are numerous things I have sourced for us for free. Here are a few.
This post may contain affiliate links to products and services I use. Read the full disclosure statement for more details.
How to Live for Free
The first thing you need to do is assess all the areas you spend money and work out how you might be able to get them for free.
If you cannot get them for free, can you make enough money from them to cancel out their cost?
Each day we make choices about our life and lifestyle.
Those choices impact our cost of living. For example, some people want stability and to stay in one home for a long period.
This means they will need to buy or rent a home.
Others like to travel which means they can housesit, couch surf, work on farms or stay at other free accommodation.
It’s your life, you can choose which option suits you and use your budget accordingly.
This article has a lot of suggestions, not all of them will be for everyone.
How To Get Free Accommodation
One of the biggest expenses we have in life is accommodation, whether that be rent, a mortgage or boarding, many people spend 30% or more of their income on their accommodation.
Interest rates have skyrocketed as have rents in recent years putting more pressure on the budget.
In fact, many families are now spending more than $20,000 a year on housing.
What could you do with that much extra money?
Free accommodation is out there but it sometimes requires moving around a lot or having a nomadic lifestyle.
Other times you can get long-term free housing.
When people go on holiday they do not want their homes left empty.
Check out Gumtree or set up your own page on Facebook and let people know you are house-sitting.
Read how to make money house and pet sitting for tips.
Work With Accommodation
WOOFING (Work On Organic Farms) is one option in Australia where you work and get free accommodation.
Other options include cruises, being an au pair, nanny or housekeeper, groundskeeper, work at caravan parks or camping grounds or volunteering.
Couchsurfing is the idea of staying at someone’s place for free.
You can use an official site such as Couchsurfing, check out Facebook groups or use your own network to find places to stay.
I have used the Couchsurfing site both as a guest and host.
My experiences were all good (although one guest and I had nothing in common and it felt a little awkward, my other experiences more than made up for it.)
Free Camping Grounds
Did you know there are loads of free campgrounds around the world?
Not all of them have toilets or running water, some are in the outback or similar, but there are some great ones with amenities.
A quick Google search will help as will this Facebook group.
Make Your Home Pay For Itself
If you have a home, could it pay for itself?
I outlined in this post ways to make a home pay for itself based on the house I was living in at the time.
This is something I do every time I look at a property.
Some of the things I and others I know have done to make a home pay for itself include:
They pay an agree amount which may or may not include bills, you need to decide that.
Have clear rules and a proper contract in place.
Do a background check and check their references.
When I have had a roommate or boarder, it’s been someone I knew or a friend of a friend.
I chose to do it that way as I have kids and didn’t want random people.
I have rented rooms out for a few nights at different times.
In Canberra it was only $70 per night when I started on Airbnb (a decade ago) but now that room would rent for $125+ per night.
Living in Melbourne my apartment was worth a lot more. For 1 week during the Australian Open, I made the equivalent of a months rent.
Another time I made $1,300 in 5 days over Christmas in a much smaller apartment and over $600 for a week when I went away in the middle of winter.
Where I currently live and where I lived in Noosa both go for around $10,000 a week during peak seasons but not all areas are this good.
Check out my full guide on how to make money with Airbnb for all my tips.
Rent The Garage
Living in Sydney, I rented my garage to a mum in business who needed more space to store fabric and sewing supplies.
It was cheaper than renting an office or something to have on her property and we lived around the corner from each other.
Another time I rented my underground car space in Melbourne on Spacer and a guy booked it to store his spare Mercedes.
In Canberra, my garage was rented out for 6 months to store furniture.
Turned a Lounge into a Studio
I ran classes, as did my friend/flatmate, from our home studio.
One class a week with a few people paid the rent from those classes.
We ran a series of classes such as photography basics, social media, marketing, business etc. and they booked out fast.
If you choose to do this, check your insurance and legalities for the area.
Rent Out The Driveway
This could be to people looking to store their caravan, a boat or if you live close to office blocks, you could rent the space to workers.
If you live somewhere close to a stadium or showground, you could rent your driveway and lawn to people attending.
Signs on Fences/in Windows:
Local businesses sometimes pay homeowners to have signs on their fences promoting the business such as plumbers, builders, fencers etc.
Even circuses visiting the area look for this but sometimes the only offer free tickets to have a sign on your fence or yard and you need to be in a good position.
Rent the Garage/Lawn/Garden/Pool
The garage or lawn can be rented for storage such as for a caravan, boat or special car.
A garden can be divided into plots for others to use to grow things.
Your swimming pool can be rented on it’s own through Swimply or to a fitness/swimming instructor to run classes.
Rent your house for movies, photo shoots, videos, advertising and other options.
This isn’t just for light and airy homes or spooky homes for horror films.
Decorate your home in a specific style, (e.g Scandinavian or quite light/airy homes or bohemian), have props like in magazines then rent out your home.
You can rent by the day, by the hour, per room or the whole home.
Your home can be rented to small businesses looking to do product shoots, companies wanting to do headshots or videos for their business, bloggers, magazines or TV and movie producers.
My last few photo and video shoots (where I was a brand ambassador) were done this way.
Before you think these options are only available to people with a spare bedroom, large house or similar, I have done it in small units too.
If you do any of these have a clear contract with terms, conditions, liability, insurance matters and everything covered.
Trust your instinct and don’t rent to anyone you feel uncomfortable with.
Check the legalities in your area and abide by any laws you need to.
Food or groceries are one of the biggest expenses for Australians (the other highest ones others are tax, housing and transport).
The cost of groceries has increased drastically this year, with many families easily spending a few hundred each week on food alone.
If that family drinks alcohol, it is not uncommon for families to spend $100 a week on that too.
It adds up fast but what if you could get some or all of it for free?
You can get free food by foraging and before you turn your nose up at it, Ben Shewry forages for Attica, which was listed as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world for 5 years in a row.
Berries, apples, wild weeds such as baby dandelions and many herbs are items I and others I know have foraged.
Growing up, my primary school had blackberry bushes at the back which were not sprayed like they are now.
We used to fill our lunch boxes with them and mum would make jam or desserts.
Some areas still have these but you need to check if they are sprayed by council or not.
My ex mother in law told me that when they lived in Hawaii they foraged tropical fruits, kumara (sweet potato) and plenty of other plants.
She said many hotels had edible food in their gardens they were able to access.
How legal that was, I’m not sure…
Many countries allow and even encourage foraging.
When I was hiking in Slovenia, the guide showed us various edible mushrooms, berries and told me about how they love to forage chestnuts and roast them.
Check any wild food to see if it is an area that has been sprayed and if it is public land or allowed to be foraged on.
Councils view blackberry bushes and many other plants as weeds and attempt to kill them off with poisons.
Do NOT forage in National Parks for example.
To know more about where and what to forage check out books at the library or local gardening groups.
Check your own backyard first. You’ll be surprised at the edible weeds you have.
Growing up we had fruit trees (apricots and nectarines usually).
Our neighbours had plums and other fruits.
Many people in our community swapped produce or bartered services for produce.
Alternatively, one option I have had with a few flatmates was they paid for groceries while I meal planned and cooked for us.
They hated cooking and I saved them hundreds each week because I am a frugal cook but still cooked exactly what they wanted.
I’ve done this both as a single person and as a single mother.
Knowing how to cook really paid off.
These are only available around your birthday, so you can’t use them all the time but all family members can sign up individually. Check them out here.
Grow Or Catch Your Own
If you have space you can grow your own produce.
Many items can be grown from cuttings or if you purchase them with the roots in tact (such as herbs or lettuce) you can cut off what you need and plant the rest to grow.
If you have fishing gear you can catch fish, which we do often and cook it over the fire.
Alternatively, I have friends who hunt their food such as kangaroos (with a licence) and rabbits in Australia or deer in the USA.
Free Community Food
Depending on your circumstances, there are food banks, community pantries and charities that provide food, vouchers and complete meals.
I prefer to leave these for those who truly need it.
If you are in a position where you need extra help, don’t be afraid to ask charities in your area for it.
How To Get Free Transport
As a nation, we spend around $20,000 a year on transport.
At first I thought that was ridiculous, then I ran the numbers for myself a few years ago when I lived in Canberra.
When all expenses were taken into account, including the cost of replacing the car, it was $20,000 a year.
In Melbourne, I spent an average of $90 a month on transport (Uber), a large portion of that was work trips, not personal travel.
When we lived in Noosa, we hardly used the car and lived without one for quite a while.
Where I live now, I am close to everything so don’t need a car but use one as it is quicker and more convenient for a lot of what I need to do.
However, in future I might opt not to have a car again.
Living close to everything I need is crucial for being able to reduce the need for a car.
Here are some more tips for free transport.
You’d be surprised by how far you can walk once you get used to it.
We had quite a few weekends in Melbourne where we walked 15kms or more in 1 day.
When walking on my own, I listen to podcasts, audiobooks or music.
Walking as a family we have interesting discussions and sometimes do photography walks.
If you live close to everything, the chances are you could walk more than you do but it does depend on how much time you have available.
It takes longer to walk most places but means you don’t need to do other exercise as much if you keep active with walking more.
Get a bike plus helmet (check freecycle, your tip shop or groups on Facebook for a free one) and use it instead of a car.
Many cities have well-planned bike paths now to help more people ride instead of drive.
In Noosa, my teenagers rode their bikes practically everywhere and loved how free they felt.
For my toddlers, I am teaching them to ride plus there are bike trailers I can use to ride a bike with them.
Free Public Transport
Some cities have free public transport in certain areas or at certain times.
Check what is available for you.
Free Uber Ride
Get one free trip with Uber (value varies depending on where you live) by downloading the app and using the code kyliet591ue.
Uber isn’t the only rideshare option available but it is the one with the most drivers available in my experience.
If you use Uber, check the fees and if there is surge pricing.
Carpool or work out a bartering system to get rides with others.
You could cook, clean, do yard work or come to some agreement to cover the cost.
Childcare can cost as much as one income in some areas, greatly reducing the motivation and capacity for many mothers to return to work after children.
To get free childcare arrange childcare swaps.
I know various groups of mothers who each take a turn looking after the kids one day a week.
This means everyone can work and the children are taken care of for no cost.
Plus they still get to socialise and learn different things.
While education isn’t completely free, there are options.
Some places offer free diplomas and qualifications for specific areas as there is huge demand for workers but not enough qualified people.
For your own kids, you might choose to homeschool (there are around 30,000 children homeschooled in Australia).
Connect with the free community online, use your local library, the internet and do this yourself.
I have friends who homeschool and I did it when my kids and I travelled full time. It was free and when we returned to Australia, they were a few years ahead of their peers.
You might also like How To Afford School Expenses.
Entertainment doesn’t need to be movies, kids indoor playgrounds or bowling.
Check your local area for free things to see and do, festivals coming up and enter competitions to win tickets to things you want to do.
If you have one of the housing options listed towards the beginning of the article, they generally include utilities as well so you don’t have to pay.
Alternatively, if you are living somewhere, shop around to get a better deal.
Living for free isn’t an easy task, it is doable with a lot of planning, getting creative and changing how you think about life in general.
Many of the things we think are needs are wants and we can do without. It’s up to you what lifestyle you want though.
Get Other Discounts
We have so many discounts and coupons available. While they aren’t freebies, they certainly help reduce the cost of living. We share a list in our newsletter every week plus exclusive discounts we get for you such as:
Get up to $144 off Dinnerly (49% off your first order, then 30% off the next two.)
Marley Spoon offers up to $190 off 4 orders! That’s 53% off your first order, and 20% off your next three.
What do you think? Can a family live for free?
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