Is it possible to spend less on accommodation each year? Is it possible to live rent-free whilst travelling? Yes - allow us to explain how to do it.
Is it possible to spend less on accommodation each year? Is it possible to live rent-free whilst travelling? Yes - allow us to explain how to do it.

Needless to say that if you’ve clicked through to this post that you want to spend less on accommodation. Franca and I can completely understand. We’ve been there too.

We were eager to spend less on rent every month before we started travelling full-time in 2012, and we’ve been doing really well to spend as little as possible on lodging during the entirety of our trip too.

In fact, we seem to be doing better every year.

Over the course of the eighteen months from the summer of 2012 to January 2014 we managed to spend less than £1000 on accommodation on our trip. Over the course of 2015 we’ve not only dropped below that milestone, we’ve smashed it to pieces and turned that milestone into gravel for our driveway*.

*Confession: We don’t have a driveway – or a home for that matter.

Our total expenditure on accommodation during our travel this year was less than £600.

We spent: £598.56 or $888.11*

*Exchange Rate in Dec ’15

Pow! You have no idea how great it feels to look at all of our income and outgoing spreadsheets (Kudos to Franca for being awesome with those) and seeing a grand total like that which doesn’t feel all that grand. In fact, it’s remarkably small when you consider that most travel budgets recommend allowing for around £20 / $30 for lodging per day.

So I guess the burning question right now is how did we manage to increase our saving from our already low total?

Allow me to break it down for you.

How We Spent Less on Accommodation

Couchsurfing

In previous years we’ve been heavily engaged members of the Couchsurfing and the great community of local friends it provides. Over the past year we’ve rarely used it at all, in fact, only slept on someone’s spare bed and sofa nine times during the whole course of the year, down from thirty-five times in 2014.

Whilst we don’t support the false description of Couchsurfing as free accommodation, there’s no denying that those nine nights spent with our new friends in Dundee, Aberdeen, and Glasgow this year were beneficial to our accommodation budget.

Franca with our Couchsurfing host in Aberdeen - How We Spent Less than £600 on Accommodation This Year

Franca with our Couchsurfing host in Aberdeen

airbnb

This year our interest in the holiday rental website airbnb has exploded.

We’ll be the first to admit that we weren’t entirely keen on the idea as we’d tried a similar competitor service in 2012 that we really didn’t enjoy.

Our airbnb experiences have been completely the opposite. We’ve loved having all the comforts that come from having our own ‘home’ – a well-stocked kitchen, clean bathroom, and security that hostels rarely offer – but at a budget-friendly price that’s typically half that you’d pay to spend in an hotel.

This year we’ve stayed in eight different properties in Barcelona, Edinburgh, Vienna, and other European cities for less than £250 / $300, of which £200 was for free thanks to all of you who’ve claimed our $20 voucher for signing up to airbnb.

Minus that amount – that we adore you all for! – and we only spent ~£50/$75 on almost a month of accommodation.

Hostels and Hotels

No matter how well prepared you are, there are always going to be occasions where booking into a hostel or hotel is going to be necessary. We just do exceptionally well do make those occasions few and far between; so the secret to spending little on hostel and hotels is to either hunt around and book the cheapest one, or to avoid them altogether.

We spent less than a handful of days in hotels and hostels this year, which has saved us a great deal. How? Keep on reading.

Hotel Almodovar, Berlin - How We Spent Less Than £600 On Accommodation This Year

A hotel we stayed in this year

Friends and Family

Spending time staying with our friends and family from time-to-time has two large benefits:

  1. It’s very cheap
  2. Spending time with friends and family is better than any travel experience. Period.

Every time we’ve been passing nearby our two homes in the UK and in Italy we’ve always made sure to stop by for at least a week or so to catch up with everyone and recharge our batteries. It’s refreshing to feel so welcome with people we’ve not seen for months, or years on some occasions, and having a safe place to spend the night gives us a peace of mind we don’t always have when we’re mobile.

Those sixty-six days over the past year haven’t all been spent with direct friends and family either. One additional bonus of having a widespread connection of friends and relatives is that there’s always "someone who knows someone" who can put us up for a few days – and when you’re travelling every single one of those count.

Don’t discount the idea of spending time staying the night with people you know with some broken idea that "it’s not really travelling". Travelling is about being location independent and exploring the world one day at a time. If I can spend some of those days with people I care about, wouldn’t I be mad not too?

Franca with friends in Verona - How We Spent Less Than £600 On Accommodation This Year

Friends we stayed with in Verona

Business Stays

You’re keen to know what the secret is to our spending so little on accommodation per year, and if you’ve been reading travel blogs for a while you’ll probably assume that the following paragraphs are the route explanation – but you’re wrong.

On occasion we’ve been hired by companies to write content for them and the blogs on their company website, and as a freelance travel writer I’m often given the option to be paid financially, or with a free stay in one of their locations.

From the past year we had thirty-three "Business Stays" in return for all the hours I spent researching and writing blog articles, of which I’m really grateful for – yet it’s still not where the biggest saving is…

The Biggest Saving of All….

House Sitting

Over the past year we spent 161 days house sitting for people whilst they’re away. That’s over a third of the year.

If you’re not familiar with the practice then it’s quite simple to explain:

House sitting is the process of a home owner inviting someone into their house whilst they’re away on holiday or business so that they may watch over their home and pets. It’s typically a free exchange between the two parties as one side gets ‘paid’ with a place to stay and no bills to pay, whilst the owner gets the added security and peace of mind knowing that there’s someone watching over things whilst they’re not there.

One huge bonus that we’re always keen to point out is that pets can often be affected psychologically from being placed in strange surroundings, such as a kennel, where as adjusting to a stranger in the familiar environment of the home takes no more than a day. Plus, it goes without saying that even the best and fun kennels can cost almost as much money as the holiday itself.

We’ve looked after cats in apartments in Berlin and dogs in Bournemouth in England, just to name a few – all because we signed up to the house sitting website Trusted Housesitters which that made the whole process incredibly easy.

You may like to read: Which House Sitting Site Is Best?

We renewed our membership with at the tail-end of 2014 for the discounted rate of £53.91/$79.99 (you too can also get 15% off with our discount code). Take that amount and dividing it across the 161 days we spent house sitting and we come to only £0.33 or $0.49 per night for accommodation.

Not only is house sitting highly beneficial to us and our budget, it also provides us with several other advantages:

  • Privacy: If you’ve ever spent time in hostel dorms you’ll know how we feel about having our own space and private bathroom.
  • Adorable Pets: We’re addicted to both canines and felines. Being without either when we travel makes us sad. Having new furry friends during our travels makes us happy.
  • Longer Durations: We learn more about a destination the longer we stay there, so when there’s the opportunity to spend three months in Spain, we take it.
  • A Kitchen – If you have any dietary requirements yourself then you’ll know how much of a blessing it is to create your own meals for a change, rather than having to hope that the next restaurant you visit knows which items on the menu are gluten free or vegan.
  • Rest: Sometimes you just want to lie in and take it easy, but when the cleaner is desperate to get into your hotel room to prepare for the next visitor there isn’t much room for slumbering. Being able to take our time and recuperate our energy after long periods of travel is great for avoiding exhaustion.
  • Office Space: When we’re travelling it can be tricky to stay on top of this blog, our emails, and the freelance work we pick up along the way. Having a base for even the shortest period can really help with the workload, as many other digital nomads are also finding.

What’s even more exciting for us is that ever since we perfected how our profile is written, we’ve been more successful than ever in securing house sitting assignments, resulting in our going from one house sit to the next for almost three months (Brighton, Bournemouth, and London).

One last reason we’re really excited for house sitting is that so many people are using it as an alternative to renting in their home town, especially when long durations are available. We’ve read, and seen on television, news of people house sitting long-uninhabited houses and offices sometimes for free, and other times as paid professional house sitters, meaning that paid house sitting would certainly offset the cost of renting even more.

Franca with Alfie, a dog we sat for in Brighton - How We Spent Less Than £600 On Accommodation This Year

Franca with Alfie, a dog we sat for in Brighton

How You Can Spend Less than £600 Too

Adding all of our expenditure on accommodation for the year comes to £598.56 or $892.48, which is astonishing to us both – especially when we see other people spending several thousands every year in their own travel budgets.

In comparison we’ve been spending about £1 / $1.50 per night on lodging whilst travelling the world, *and that’s for two people. Even as I write it I still can’t imagine how it’s possible, and it is – and I promise you can do it too.

Open a Couchsurfing account, start using airbnb, contact all of your distant friends and family, and join a house sitting website today so you too can see the world, slowly.

How do you spend less on accommodation when you travel?