Okay so maybe the title is a little misleading. You can’t get something for nothing in this world, or else everyone would be doing it. Even if you were to go stay with your Kiwi Aunt Muriel whom you haven’t seen in years, you’d still be paying for it by being forced to choose which of her cats costumes is your favorite, or by the pain in your cheeks (Aunts still pinch peoples cheeks, right?)
There are a few ways that you can still find a roof over your head and possibly even a toilet or running water if you’re lucky. And the best part is, it will feel like it’s free!
1. Find a job that gives you housing
When I first arrived in NZ, I had no job and no place to stay. So the first thing I did was get on that Auckland Airport wifi and look up Backpacker Board which a friend had told me about earlier. I found hundreds of listings for various jobs requiring varying levels of skills and/or experience in the Auckland area alone, and a handful of those even came with housing. By the end of my first day in New Zealand I had already gotten hired on as a pedicab driver in downtown Auckland, and had moved into a house in the richest part of town. Granted, it was the WORST house in the richest part of town. And I shared a small room with 8 other pedicab drivers which, combined with the bunkbeds and late nights, made it feel a bit like a hostel. But hey! At least I wasn’t homeless.
- If you don’t mind what job you do, there are plenty of options that give housing.
- Housing costs are deducted directly from your pay so it feels like you are staying there for free.
- Most jobs are looking to fill spaces immediately, so you can generally move in immediately.
- You don’t get to choose where you live or with how many other people.
- If you don’t do the job well, you’ll not only be fired, but also lose your housing.
- You live and work with the same people which could be great if you enjoy them, or terrible if you don’t
WOOFing began in England in the 70s, and has since become a global network that matches travellers with farmers all over the world. In Australasia, HelpX was born, and spread locally quite quickly, creating a vast network around New Zealand and Australia which has become a global network as well. Workaway is a third option used quite regularly in New Zealand, and is a name many recognize. All of these sites connect people looking for workers with people willing to do the work for room and board. Generally you work a maximum of 4 hours a day and, in New Zealand, the work isn’t allowed to be something that the person would hire, and pay, a permanent employee for.
- You can work ANYWHERE in the country. As long as someone needs help there, it is a new opportunity for you.
- Placements generally run for a minimum of 1 week, but can be extended to suit the needs of both parties.
- Food is also taken care of, so you can potentially spend nothing the entire time you WOOF.
-You can form fantastic relationships with your employer or other WOOFers on the property. This can lead to more hours that are paid work, or other fun opportunities.
-You don’t get paid, so even though you aren’t spending anything, you can’t save up.
- The personalities can make or break a job. If your hosts are caring and kind, then it can be sweet. If they work you too hard, feed you too little, or have you living in squalor, then get out of there as soon as you can. This goes both ways, put in a good effort, and they might just ask you to stay longer.
There are many wonderful volunteer opportunities in New Zealand, but how many come with housing? The Department of Conservation (or DOC) is a fantastic organization in New Zealand that maintains hiking trails, builds backcountry huts, and strives for a predator free New Zealand. They are always in need of extra help which can be a great opportunity for some free housing in some gorgeous parts of the country. In the summer months, and some winter ones too, DOC is on the lookout for hut wardens to check people in, collect fees, do general maintenance and other small tasks. So for a week at a time, they will put you up in a hut with your own private quarters and often even provide you with a bulk of your food, provided you walk it in yourself. So if you like hiking and spending time outdoors, then this is the job for you.
- You get to hike through the beautiful NZ landscape to your new home
- Great work experience that can translate into a well-paid job
- Help an organization that stands for protecting New Zealand land for generations to come
- They will let you do it with a partner so you don’t have to be out there alone
- It is quite remote and sometimes requires you to hike more than 4 hours with a heavy backpack to get to the hut
- Doesn’t pay initially, so you won’t save up money.
- Some huts and trails are definitely better than others so do your research to find one that you’ll be happy in.
This is a great way to pretend like you’re someone else while they are off traveling. There are lots of websites out there so we’ll let you do your own research on this one. Most house-sitting sites require a nominal fee, but some offer free trials so you can see if it’s something you want to pursue.
- You get to live in a new neighborhood and really be a part of the community.
- The quality of the house is probably better than anything you could afford since you’re reading this article on how to live cheaply.
- After a few successful placements, people will start requesting you.
-Little freedom to leave when you want since you are working to the owners schedule.
- No pay usually so you can’t save up.
- The house could be very nice, or it could not be. The neighborhood could also go either way. But hey! It’s free so that’s a good deal.
- Often house-sitting comes with animal or plant care as well. Make sure you know what to expect before you agree to a job.
5. Self Contained Campervan
Okay so maybe this isn’t a totally free option either since you have to pay for the campervan initially. But once you’ve made that investment, you’ll never need to pay for accommodation again. As long as you don’t miss luxurious comforts like showers and walking from your bed to anywhere else in your house, then a campervan is the perfect choice for you.
New Zealand has hundreds of freedom camping spots around the country that you are welcome to use as long as your van is certified self contained. This means that it has a sink, grey water tanks, regular water tanks, and a toilet. If you try to park in a self contained only overnight spot without being in a self contained van, you can be fined $200, so having the certification is definitely worth it. (Check out our article on freedom camping here)
Most of these campervans cost around $4000-$12000 NZD so it can be a steep buy in. Are you lucky enough to have a friend or a partner who wouldn’t drive you crazy in cramped quarters? Then you’ve just halved that cost, and all your fuel costs too. A hostel or cheap hotel can run from $15 - $150 per night,so if you’re travelling for a few months it can pay for itself in the long run.
- Freedom to park just about anywhere unless a sign specifically says no campervans
- Your home base is mobile, so you can travel the whole country instead of being stuck in one town
- There are all sorts of campsites ranging from a hundred other people to no one, so you can choose the vibe you want when you’re feeling it.
- The space can be cramped, so lose what is unnecessary to give yourself some extra leg room.
- Your entire life fits into that van, so a crash it or a break-in could mean disaster
- If you’re with a partner, neither of you will ever have any privacy, so learn to be open and communicate and you’ll be much happier.
With all of these different options, you’ll be sure to find something that works for you. Or try a combination of all 5 like we did so you don’t burn out and decide to leave New Zealand early.