House Sitting: Stay for free while wandering

By | June 1, 2017

Sensible flexibility is key when you’re retired. I’m currently spending a bunch of money on life bucket list item #6 (write a book). Cover designers and editors and such. I’m spending this money freely and happily, of course. You should spend money on your hobbies.

But it’s still an unusually excessive amount for me and I am still acutely aware of my charts and how much I’m “allowed” to spend.

Donnie posing for a selfie with me. She’s super friendly.

I could have offset these book costs and hung out in a cheap country for a bit, somewhere in South America or Southeast Asia. You can rent a nice apartment for a few hundred dollars a month in certain parts of the world. I couldn’t get excited about that idea though and found myself yearning for a bit of stability. While sulking in Qatar, I made a list of a bunch of cities where I could see myself staying for the spring and summer. Here’s my list if you’re curious.

Possible new places to call home

  1. New York
  2. Washington D.C.
  3. Boston
  4. Miami
  5. Montreal
  6. Chicago
  7. Denver
  8. San Diego
  9. San Francisco
  10. Los Angeles
  11. Portland
  12. Vancouver
  13. London
  14. Sydney

Then I joined a house-sitting website and applied to any long-term house-sit (at least three weeks) that popped up in any of those cities. The first city where I had a confirmed house sit would be my homebase for a bit. Denver won. Excellent choice, Universe. Denver is great!

Tala has had enough running around on the patio and would like to come back inside now, please.

I landed a gig for eleven weeks in an awesome neighborhood in northwest Denver, biking distance from a lot of things and easy public transportation to everything else. The retired couple I sat for had two dogs, three chickens, a bunch of indoor fish and a koi pond. They visited Europe and I lived their life in Denver. I walked the dogs, ate the eggs the chickens laid and tested the ph levels in the koi pond. I checked the mail and watered the plants and made myself at home.

This arrangement is a mutually beneficial arrangement, a symbiotic relationship. The homeowners get peace of mind that their babies are being taking care of while they’re gone. They enjoy their vacation without worry and with regular updates. I get a place to stay and a chance to get to know some animals. Dogs are excellent cuddlers. Gathering fresh eggs each day is a special type of joy. The fish are…I don’t really get the appeal of fish, to be honest.

The koi fish coming out of hibernation. Did you know fish hibernate?

I joined a couple of other housesitting websites upon arriving in Denver and spent a few seconds every day scanning the new listings. Whenever I saw one in Denver, I applied, with the offer to meet for a drink beforehand so they could see I wasn’t a psycho. And it worked. Better than I could have imagined, it worked.

For five months in Denver, my only housing expenses will be the membership fees for the housesitting websites (about $200 total). For comparison’s sake, I looked at furnished sublets on Craigslist and if I had rented an apartment during that time instead, it easily would have cost me $7500 for worse places.

I also get to try on different neighborhoods to see which one looks best on me. Because this is Colorado, everyone has a bike I can use too. Some people will even leave cars for you.

And! I get to hang out with several cats, a few more dogs, two snakes and a chinchilla. I completely understand why people befriend and live with animals. A home feels a lot less empty with another soul inside it. Cuddles! Touch! Someone to talk at so you’re not a crazy person mumbling to herself!

Julio helping me edit my book.

I’m incredibly excited about all of this if you can’t tell.

Dedicated house sitting websites aren’t the only way to do this. I initiated Operation Enjoy the Crap Out of Denver and met so many souls while out interacting with the world. When people learned about my situation, quite often they would exclaim that they were also going on vacation soon and had pets and was I available?

Existing friends are a good resource too. I’ve pet-sat for friends in New York many times.

My friend Z, who I’ve mentioned before, put up ads on Craigslist offering her pet-sitting services in Maui so she could easily visit her sister when she popped out a nephew. And it worked. Think outside the box.

Housesitting websites*

This one is ~$120/year. You go through identity verification and background checks and all that other fun stuff.

This one is only $30/year for house-sitters and free for homeowners listing their sit.*

This one is $50/year.

There are more too. Lots more websites. There’s even one that will pay you to pet-sit. I haven’t tried that one because I love the mutually beneficial nature of the three I listed above. A situation where both parties feel like they’re getting the better end of the deal is the best type of situation.

A lot of people have pets. These people travel and need you to take care of their babies while they do. If you’re not super picky about where you housesit, you could, theoretically, never pay rent again.

*Affiliate link. Maybe. I’m not confident I set it up right.

35 thoughts on “House Sitting: Stay for free while wandering

  1. Claudia Casebolt

    I really enjoyed reading this post. We travel 3-6 months a year and we have used for about 4 years. We live an hour out of Seattle on 4 acres of waterfront with pets and plants that we can’t bare to leave alone. I’ve been very happy with the arrangements we’ve made. I’ve written an extensive housesitting manual, we pay to keep the house functioning and our housesitter only has the expense of food. Though we’ve used several people, we do keep going back to one woman we like and she has become a good friend. I love the money free economy where people simply help out each other.

  2. Rob

    I love it! Very resourceful. Thanks for sharing this with us:))

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I have to admit that I was hesitant because I don’t like the idea of more competition. But then my less selfish asshole side won over.

  3. Ally

    What a cool post. Tala and Julio are good spokescritters! I’ve thought about getting a house sitter , but I’d have to clean up my mess. Plus it would freak my cat. I like the idea of being a house sitter even better. Thanks for the links!

  4. cocotte67

    Hi, it’s the first time I’m writing to you, although I’ve been reading your blog for some time now. I feel a little bit of a connection with you because 1, I’m leaving in the Blue Mountains and 2, I try to be very thrifty, work part time and enjoy life on a very low income without feeling poor at all ! 🙂
    And with this post, I even feel more connection as I have just discovered this house sitting “thing”. My parents were here from overseas around Easter and we had planned a week-long road trip away. My 2 dogs were being taken care of by friends, all was well until the friends made other plans and were not able to help me any more. After being discouraged by the prices asked by professional pet sitters, I found, published an add and ta-daa ! found the perfect sitters within 24 hours. This is definitely the kind of “miracle” that make my life a true good one, if you ask me. Going from being all stressed out at the thought of missing on a good week of hols with my parents to leaving the house with a light and happy heart knowing that my babies and my “castle” were in good hand is priceless. I will definitely use this solution again and even maybe go on holidays for free in the near futur…

    1. Thriftygal Post author was one of the ones that I stumbled acrossed that looked great as well. Thanks for letting us know it’s worthwhile! Excellent story of its value. 🙂

  5. Chris

    Hey thriftygal, Boulder is just down the road: have you met up with Mister Money Mustache yet?

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I actually had lunch with Pete yesterday! Pete and Z (the chick I mentioned in my post). I took a picture, but I can’t upload pictures to comments apparently.

  6. snowcanyon

    Sooo…the nitty gritty…did you give up your place in Chicago? How much stuff do you travel with? Inquiring and enthusiastic minds want to know!

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I haven’t had a place in Chicago since December 2013. I moved to Sydney in January 2014 and then got rid of most of my stuff when I retired in October 2015. I travel with one suitcase and a backpack. 🙂

      1. snowcanyon

        Oh wow! I didn’t realize you had been on the road for that long.

  7. walter

    hi Anita, i love animals of all kinds and enjoy spending time with them too! but if depth is where the gold is buried, will having a zoo be enough gold for you? settling has both a physical and emotional connotation. they both don’t have to be negative connotations. unfortunately depth takes time which is partly what makes it special, no? despite our electronic age where one can communicate w/just about anyone anywhere at anytime, i believe one of the precursors of digging for the deepest gold, is to begin digging in one spot, with someone else digging for the same gold right beside you.

  8. Taylor

    Ah I was just in Denver, I would have loved to meet you! I’m glad you found a city with nice weather, easy amenities, and friendly people to settle down in for a little bit. Colorado really is a remarkable place in that (a) everyone there seems to be friendly – in more than a “Hi, how are you?” way; Coloradans (?) will stop and have a conversation with you! Which is all the better since (b) the state is chock full of people who live wonderfully interesting lives, including all kinds of outdoor activities in their current daily lives and all kinds of adventurous stories from their past lives!

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, but I’ll make a note to comment more often so that if we ever cross in the same city again, it won’t be *too* creepy for me to reach out to you!

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Thanks and I totally agree with you regarding Colorado. It’s an easy place to like. 🙂

  9. Liz S.

    Wow, this is a great idea! .Looking forward to your next post! 🙂

  10. Heather

    I moved to Denver 9 years ago and love it here! Glad you’re enjoying your time here!

  11. tt

    If it is not a thrifty gal (trademark) trade secret, what are you doing about library services?

    ‘Home’ library via the web, local libraries extending temporary privileges, other?

    Your site continues to amaze & delight.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Local libraries extending temporary privileges. Libraries want you to use them. They love patrons.

  12. snowcanyon

    How do you deal with health insurance with your moves? Thanks!

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      Hope I don’t get hurt. 🙂 There really isn’t a good answer to this question. But I figure I could go bankrupt from an illness even if I was still employed and had normal health insurance.

      1. snowcanyon

        I mean, do you buy it, and change with every move, or just go uncovered? Agreed, but much less likely.

        1. Thriftygal Post author

          I have health insurance through the state on my driver’s license. I don’t think it’s possible to buy it every time I change locations.

  13. Lydia

    Hey Thriftygal!

    Thanks for the post! My husband and I travel alot, and we usually use AirBnB because it’s thrifty-er than hotels, and you usually get more space and a better location in a city, but this sounds like a great option! Especially when we retire and can go on longer trips!

  14. John F

    I signed up for trusted housesitters but couldn’t get any sits because it would be my first house sit and it seems everyone else had previous reviews. It seems a better option also for couples who want to chill in the countryside and rent a car together rather than for single pringles like me

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I’m a single pringle too and never had trouble! The website suggests applying first for the smaller cities where there is less competition. I think it’s a numbers game. I applied for a bunch when I first got on there. Like most things in life, it’s about persistence.

      1. John F

        Sounds about right. I’ve been applying in europe in peak summer season so that might be the problem!

        1. tessahill

          Yes, my sister sits for Trusted Housesitters and she aimed for local sits first, because that is desirable to folks who would like repeat sitters they know. Also, get some good domestic reviews and it will become easier to get those international gigs, like Europe in high season. 🙂 Good luck and keep trying! You’ll get it!


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