Magnetic Island house sit
Magnetic Island house sit

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Camping at Lake Argyle caravan park
Camping at Lake Argyle caravan park

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Darwin Central
Darwin Central

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Accommodation Cost  - view the breakdown

  • 2015 - $1,600

  • 2016 - $3,920

As most of us know, accommodation is often one of the most expensive parts of any living cost.  Who likes paying rent, I certainly don't as it leaves me with less to save for my dream of early retirement. Sitting in our rented bedroom one day we found house sitting and have never looked back. We have been lucky enough to house sit for some significant lengths of time. Every property has had an aspect we love, some homes are architecturally designed, others in amazing locations. Everyone we have house sit for has been generous and we would not be where we are now if it were not for you, thank you. House sitting for us has made the most significant impact on our finances, allowing us to be in a position of greater financial security.

In between house sits, we stay with friends, or find a cheap hotel or motel room for a bit of luxury. When we are traveling, we will wild camp or use caravan parks. As Kevin has now purchased his sailboat, we live on this when we are not house sitting.

I chose to rent my property to help pay my mortgage and receive the tax offset.

What are the options for reducing accommodation costs? Below I have listed our top 5 accommodation strategies which have saved us substantial amounts of money. And yes, we have experienced them all. Some are not so salubrious, but the end goal is within reason to spend as little money as possible. Above are our accommodation costs between the shared between the two of us, click through to the excel spreadsheet to see how we achieved this.

The minimum criteria we set for our accommodation was the following:

  • Location - I worked in the city and I rode a bike to and from work

  • Parking - We had a vehicle when we started this adventure and the car stored our belongings and had to be safe

  • Shops - Once again we used our bicycles

  • Transport - Close to public transport with a reliable service

1. House sitting

House sitting is our number one accommodation choice and what an adventure this has been for both of us. Thinking outside the box and our comfort zone we discovered house sitting. Click here to read more about our house sitting adventure. House sits do not always follow each other, so we need alternative accommodation between sits. During 2015 the period between house sits cost us $1,800  between us, this included electricity and water.


We joined a site called Aussie House sitters and we have not looked back. We pay our membership each year of $65,  then we offer our services as house sitters. House sitting does require work, but we have not found it difficult to manage and in return we receive free rent, electricity, water, often free Wi-fi, and occasionally we are lucky enough to have a vehicle provided. Which is especially nice as we do not have a car any more.

  • Location - We choose house sits that are as close as possible to my work and enable Kevin to continue work on Clipper.

  • Parking - Our house sits have off street or undercover parking. But we have found the neighbourhoods pleasant and safe. Parking is less of a concern as we no longer have a vehicle. Our belongings are now either stored on Clipper or in a lock up shed provided with the mooring

  • Shops - Since we apply for house sits near the city supermarkets are usually close

  • Transport - Good public transport is essential either bus, train or ferry


You must be committed and ensure you are at the property each evening, There is no going away as pets require feeding, watering and exercise. Ensuring the property is clean on the home owners return is all part of the job. Be aware that you should be leaving the property in a clean and tidy state. We understand this will not suit everyone, but what doesn't suit us is spending our hard earned money on rent with nothing to show at the end.

2. Living on a sailboat

Kevin bought Clipper, our small sail boat for the adventure yet to come. But it has also opened our eyes to other accommodation possibilities. We never would have thought of living on a boat with the potential of saving so much money. We pay for our swing mooring on the river which is a fraction of what we would pay in a marina or on land. If we were staying in Brisbane for quite a few years we would apply for our own mooring. But even your own mooring has other cost implications, we decided it was more cost effective to pay a monthly fee for a mooring. We literally have a million dollar view for a pittance.

  • Location - We are moored within cycling distance of the city

  • Parking - There is plenty of parking and the car was visible from Clipper. We no longer own a car which has brought about more saving benefits

  • Shops -Supermarket and specialty stores are within easy walking distance

  • Transport - We are closer public transport options than living in the outer suburbs

Boats can be either be cheap or expensive to maintain depending on your intended end goal and size of vessel. If all we had wanted to do was live on Clipper to save money we would do very little to her, but as she must voyage again we must fit her out. She has to be hauled onto the hardstand every two years for an antifoul, but that is pretty much the bare minimum. Boats don’t have to cost a lot, and if you are handy you should be ok. Kevin and I joke that if there was one thing I could have done differently it would be to buy a live aboard in my early 20’s, then five years on be willing to sell it, give it away and pocket all the savings. You can get a good live aboard for about $20,000. We think we save a minimum of $10,000 between us each year purely on rent, not including electricity or water costs which are included in our fees. Yes, I have to row to shore each day to go to work, but all I have to do is remind myself how much I am paying in rent each week and off I go to do some more rowing.

3. Airbnb or Hotel

We have used Airbnb on various occasions when we want a bed and shower but don't want to stay in a hostel. I used Airbnb when I first arrived in Brisbane, it is cheaper than a motel or hotel and far better than some youth hostels. At the minimum you have your own room and share the remainder of the house with those who permanently live there, often a family or renters. It is a great way to get close to a particular neighbourhood or the CBD of any city. It is definitely worth a try, you may be pleasantly surprised.

In Darwin we sometimes treated ourselves to the Darwin Central Hotel in the city if there were only a few days between house sits. We found they often had specials for those with a Territory licence and never paid more than $94 per night which included buffet breakfast for two. 

4. Advertise on gumtree

We advertised on gumtree in Darwin when we need accommodation between house sits. You make contact, meet the people and if all goes well, you have accommodation at what ever price is agreeable. In Darwin we were very successful and found a lovely granny flat under a house in Darwin. The owner had a tenant with a month on month off FIFO (fly in fly out) and they wanted someone to pay rent without a contract for a short period of time. We only needed the granny flat for a short time and this was very convenient for them. It worked well for both parties, so try it, you never know what is out there.

Through our Gumtree add we also saw the other side of short term accommodation. We received a reply for a place that was cheap and close to the city. What we found when we had a look was a converted shed. Although clean, there was an outside ablutions made of corrugated iron an outside  communal fridge and gas BBQ for cooking. The locals know it as a haven for backpackers and late night parties. We declined their kind offer and stayed at the next and final choice on on our top five places for accommodation.

  • Location - We didn't have a great choice of the location, but we were fortunate that Darwin is very compact compared to other major cities. We didn't have any problem cycling to work.

  • Parking - there was off street parking but the granny flat was spacious to keep out belongings safe

  • Shops - Close by at Parap 

  • Transport - I was able to cycle to work five minutes up the road

5. Staying in a caravan park

We have staying in a caravan park on the outskirts of Darwin for a two week period. We have a large stand up four person tent and we were in a location which was quiet and the park had good amenities including a swimming pool. It was a reasonable price between two people, but not as cheap as our mooring in Brisbane. We find everyone lived very close in caravan parks compared to our mooring. It was fine for a stop gap between house sits and was bearable for a short time.

  • Location - Caravan parks are generally further away from the city

  • Parking - We took the car with our valuables with us while we were at work.

  • Shops - A shopping centre was close by

  • Transport - We used the car to go to work although there was public transport available we were a little too far out


We have been very fortunate to meet some very kind and generous people at the right time. But if we had not tried to be different and put ourselves out there I would still be a long time away from early retirement and living an adventurous lifestyle.

We would love to hear about your experiences, ideas on ways to save money on accommodation. Click through to the "Your Story" area and we share your experience.