A Dozen Ways to Live Rent Free

Ethan Maurice
10 min readMay 15, 2019
A night in my 2003 Honda Element conversion.

For the past five years, I’ve been doing my damnedest to avoid paying rent. Given, I’m quite nomadic and largely avoid leases for the purpose of geographical freedom, but you might be surprised just how much time rent can cost you in a year.

I don’t particularly love articles full of numbers and perhaps you don’t either, but these are eye-opening numbers. Bear with me as we begin with a little math.

For the purposes of this article, let’s say your rent, utilities, and other housing expenses total $800 a month. This is a pretty frugal figure, as the average cost of rent alone for one bedroom apartment in the United States these days is over $1,000. So, at $800 a month, you’re well under that mark, and you managed to work your utilities into that number too. Well done.

$800 per month x 12 months = $9,600 a year

So, each year you would have to make $9,600 to exchange for a living space. This is money on which you get no return, other than a place to live of course. Come the end of a lease, it’s just an extra $9,600 you had to make to stay financially afloat.

Now, we’ll do the math with a few different hourly pay rates, under the assumption you’re working full-time (40 hours per week) and see how much time per year rent costs.

At $10 Per Hour:

The percentage you’re taxed varies based on the total amount of money you make for the year. Throughout this article, I’ll use this handy paycheck calculator to figure out that tax percentage. At $10 per hour, working 40 hours per week, you’d take home 83.20% after taxes. So a $10 per hour gross wage is actually $8.32 per hour.

Doing the math:

$9,600 year / $8.32 per hour = 1,154 hours of work per year

1,154 hours / 40 hours per week = 28.9 weeks per year of full-time work

That’s 7 months per year of full-time work to cover rent at $800/month.

At $20 Per Hour:

At $20 per hour, working 40 hours per week for the year, you’d take home 80.42% after taxes. So a $20 per hour gross wage is actually $16.09 per hour.

Doing the math: