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Home » Frugality, Home Buying, Mortgages

How I Saved $1,700 By Being a Craigslist Subletting Nomad

Last updated by on January 10, 2016

Subletting & Housing on Craigslist

In a follow-up to yesterday’s 5 Ways to Use Craigslist to Save and Make Big Money post, there is one Craigslist use that I didn’t cover, because I thought it warranted its own post – how to be a Craigslist subletter nomad. This is a true story that illustrates how to use Craigslist when you are in a situation where a long-term or contractual housing arrangement just doesn’t make sense. It’s another Craigslist power user tip.

The Big Move

Back in June of 2007, I started a new job in a new city. The job was located 2 hours away from my house and my wife. Luckily, my new employer covered one month of corporate housing expenses. Beyond that, I had no clue what my living arrangements were going to be.

Big Complications

craigslist-sublettingTo complicate things, I had to take the following into consideration:

  • I had no idea where my wife’s new job would be located
  • I had no idea when my wife would find a job in the area
  • We couldn’t afford two mortgages at the same time
  • I had no idea when we would be able to sell the house we were moving out of
  • We had too much stuff to move into an apartment

All of these factors prevented me from being able to make any concrete commitments, without putting a huge dent in my savings and further complicating things down the road.

Down to the Wire

I hit week 3 of my corporate housing stay, and had a week of borrowed time left. Anxiety was building. I needed a short-term fix, and I needed it quick. That’s when I turned to Craigslist. If you go to Craigslist, find your city, go to ‘housing’, and then click on ‘sublets/temporary’, you will find a selection of possible temporary housing arrangements.

On the final day in corporate housing, I found a good lead, made a call, packed up the car with all of my stuff, and drove over to the location that I saw in the listing. Awaiting me was an 8′ X 8′ room for about half the price of local one bedroom apartments. I would be moving in with three complete strangers, but the only alternative was to sleep in my car. When the landlord asked ‘when do you want to move in?’, my response was ‘my stuff’s in the car’.

Deja Vu

I was glad to have a place to live, but it was only for a month. About two weeks in I started to look around again. This time, my goal was to find a place where I could live on a month-to-month renewing basis without getting into a contract. This may be hard to find, but if you’re in a similar situation, you simply can’t beat the flexibility. I found a place, and at the end of the month packed up my car and moved again. Again, about half the price of local apartments, and no contract.

The 2 Week Whirlwind

Two months went by and my wife found a job. Meanwhile, we had our house up for sale and were getting some serious interest. Within a 2 week time frame, she got a job offer, we sold our house, bought and closed on a new house, she started her job, and we moved directly from our old house to our new house. When all was said and done, I had lived in 5 different ‘dwellings’ within a four month period. But you know what? It was kind of fun.

Here’s what Finding Temporary Housing through Craigslist Saved us:

Having to sign a contract, and the cost of having to break it – typically one month’s rent – Savings of $600.

  • Half the price on a room for three months – Savings of $900.
  • Having to move twice – Savings of at least $100 for the truck rental. If we were to actually use movers, the savings would have been thousands.
  • Having to use storage – Savings of $100 for a month.
  • Total Savings: $1,700

Craigslist Housing Discussion:

  • What’s your craziest short-term living situation?
  • Have you found a place to live through Craigslist?

Related Posts:

About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 10,000+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Nate @ Money Young says:

    G.E. I moved into my place in october, as soon as I moved in I knew I wanted to move out. I’ve been waiting for June ever since.

    I used Craigslist to find a roommate. I came across a few crazies, but the one I found is a lot like me, so it’s worked out well.

    I’m glad your situation worked out well.


  • Trevor says:

    I am currently living on an air mattress in my cousins computer room during the week, while my wife and daughter live in our house 104 miles away. I know when she will graduate from school, but don’t know when she will find a job, hence the air mattress situation. I’m not quite a nomad to the extent that you were, but I do live out of a suitcase/backpack during the week.

  • Rob says:

    Craigslist is my go-to site when I need to move. I moved from NYC to a Midwest college town for work last Summer. By subletting for three months I was able to pay <$300/mo including ALL utilities. And instead of driving my SUV back when gas prices were around $4.50/gallon, I bought a used bike (also on craigslist) and rode everywhere. Sure, I was sleeping on a futon, but I was able to save around 70% of my income because my expenses were so low.

  • Craig says:

    Great story, that’s awesome that your company gave you 1 month’s housing. Helps out a lot. I had a similar situation. When I started my new job, I was expecting a few weeks to allow to find housing, and they said either right away or they would find someone else. I was looking through the craigslist route and was about to do it. I got lucky that I was able to stay at a friend apt for 3 weeks before finally moving into an apartment. Saved me even more money.

  • Shaun Connell says:

    Hahaha, nice story. That sounds like a complete blast, especially if one doesn’t have a wife/family yet. I might have to try it just because… 😉

  • stephanie says:

    This is an awesome story. I’m moving to Chicago in a little over a year, and if I don’t find an apartment right away I might have to try this! I do have a couple friends in the area though, so hopefully I can find a place before I wear out my welcome in their homes. 🙂

  • Michigan Girl says:

    I just finalized a place today to live- that I found on CL. I will be saving $85 in my monthly budget. The rent is $50 cheaper than my current place and there is a gym for all residents(can cancel my gym membership of $35/mo!) I am very excited about this move!

  • Joseph says:

    I know I’m late to this post, but I have a pretty great situation right now – all because of Craigslist. I just moved to NYC a couple months ago and stayed with family and friends for awhile. As I thought about renting my own place, I was disgusted (and still am) by the cost of rent in NYC. I found a room in a shared apartment for $325 per month with awesome roommates on Craiglist. Granted, I looked at 5 places before I found the right spot, but it was worth it. It’s above a bar on a busy street, so I had to get used to some extra noise, but I’m saving almost half my income, I can stay indefinitely, and I’m a mere 20-30 minutes from midtown Manhattan on the train. I beat New York.


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