How we turned financial obligations into housesitting dreams

Like the sound of the housesitting lifestyle but think you can’t afford it? Think again.
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Picture of Lawrie Masterson

Lawrie Masterson

Lawrie Masterson is an award-winning journalist from Melbourne Australia. In August 2018 he and his partner Kirsty Carter sold everything they couldn't fit into two suitcases, told their families not to wait up and embarked on an open-ended tour of the world.

LIKE the idea of the housesitting lifestyle but think you can’t afford it? Think again. Certainly the financial side of this life must be considered with extreme care and everybody has different circumstances, so, please, anything you read here is not meant to be considered as anything like professional advice. You should get that from a professional advisor.

What's your cost of living?

First, we thought about how much it was going to cost us to live in our home town, Melbourne, Australia, as a retired couple. All these figures are approximate. We had the excellent base of owning our apartment in central Melbourne, so no mortgage, but it was a high-end building with a gym and pool and full-time manager, and we were forking out $9000 a year in body corporate fees. 

Our Melbourne City Council rates were $2500 a year; water cost us $1000; power $1600; and a landline phone $1000. We had one car, so there goes another $1600 for registration and insurance and, even with our limited use, another $3000 a year for fuel, mechanical maintenance and the occasional wash.I worked out with a personal trainer once a week ($3600 a year) and Kirsty loved her piano lessons ($4000).

Then there are all those little bits and pieces you buy — cleaning products, a new floor mat, plants, stationery, those towels you love but do not need, cushions, a new blender and other kitchen gadgets, knickknacks for the bedroom dresser. Let’s be conservative and say another $3000. 

Living in the City, we were always passing stores that had constant sales on clothing, so this T-shirt, that skirt, a new scarf for the winter and, oh, I just love that coat … it all adds up. Ring up another $3000. That’s a total of $33,700 for just those basics.

Now what?

Now we have that money to redirect towards air and train fares and other on-the-road expenses. 

I’m not going to give exact figures here, but we also sold the apartment and the car and, with the help of our professional advisor, we invested that not inconsiderable sum primarily to ensure we will be able to pay for a new — smaller — Melbourne apartment we have bought off the plan, and which hopefully will be ready for us occupy some time in 2021. The investments also are designed to make enough interest to help fund our current lifestyle.

With neither of us earning a salary these days, it is fairly tax-effective. Again, ask your advisor.

If we need more ready cash, there’s always our superannuation and a small aged pension, although we are trying to conserve those as much as possible so both of us can live to age 126 or so. Well, you’ve got to have an ambition, don’t you?


42 questions you must ask to avoid housesitting hell.

Everything you ever wanted to know but are were too afraid to ask! 

So what do we pay for?

The great advantage of this life, of course, is that we literally are seeing the world through other peoples’ windows. Being house sitters means we care for houses and pets in exchange for the roof over our heads and all the reasonable comforts of home. 

In other words, we do not pay for accommodation unless we are between sits and, in our experience so far, that often has been by choice, just to give us a break from the responsibility and allowing us a taste of a nearby city or area we have particularly wanted to visit but haven’t been able to get a sit there.

Recently we had a short break in Lisbon, Portugal, on our way from a sit in Cairo, Egypt, to another sit in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. After Tenerife, we flew to Madrid for a couple of days off before going to some UK sits. We stay in hotels only when absolutely necessary (perhaps to remain close to an airport before a ridiculously early flight) as a way of limiting the costs of those breaks.

Travel, food and clothes costs

Of course, we still have to pay for our flights and feed and dress ourselves. Clothing is the easy one. We live out of one suitcase each, so space is at a premium and weight is important. Our rule is that if we buy an item of clothing, something similar has to go. We do not buy randomly these days. We are not big on souvenir T-shirts. Check out our Facebook posts — we’re wearing the same three or four outfits over and over again. At least you don’t have to worry about what to wear today!
Lawrie and Toby the dog making dinner
Food is a major expense that also can be mitigated. Most housesitting hosts have told us to help ourselves to perishable food they leave and made us welcome to use their condiments, herbs and spices and so on. We’re also lucky that we both enjoy cooking and, usually, the results.I may have just caused a world shortage of the stuff by buying a new bottle everywhere we go.

More to explore

7 Responses

    1. Thanks, Tony. I’m having fun writing, so it’s good to know people are enjoying reading.

  1. Being a retired financial adviser I’m very pleased you mentioned the importance of professional advice. You will have everything well and truly sorted by 2021. Also consider using super as the mechanism to purchase your principal place of residence, particularly if you decide to turn it into an investment later on.

    1. Thanks Carol. Enjoy!

      Lawrie’s favourite pasta

      400g rigatoni
      2 garlic cloves, crushed
      500g cherry tomatoes, halved
      1/2 cup kalamata olives
      1 cup artichoke hearts, drained and halved
      1 teaspoon chilli flakes
      1 teaspoon caster sugar
      2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
      1/4 cup olive oil
      60g baby spinach leaves
      200g feta cheese, crumbed

      Cook the pasta in a large saucepan. Drain and return to pan. Add all the other ingredients and toss to combine.

      Serves four.

      If they happen to be lying around, I also like to throw in some capers and roasted red capsicum.

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