13 Alternative Housing Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank



Many people are looking for new housing options these days, whether it be downsizing to a tiny home, building homes from shipping containers, or finding ways to live more sustainably. So in this post we’ll be looking at some good alternative housing ideas that won’t kill your budget.

These are in no particular order.

Let’s get started.


13 Alternative Housing Ideas


#1 – Houses and Tiny Homes Built From Shipping Containers

This is actually one of my favourite options for alternative housing as shipping containers are cheap to buy, cheap to modify, and much of the construction has already been done for you.

They have the added advantage of being super tough too, being constructed from hardened steel, with walls, roof and floor already in place.

There are 3 common size shipping containers, which are:

  1. 10 foot
  2. 20 foot
  3. 40 foot

The 10 foot container is a bit small, but the 20 footer is the most commonly used container for repurposing. 40 foot works well too, for those longer homes or bigger housing projects, but you can actually make a pretty decent tiny house out of one 20 foot cargo container.

Lots of places specialise in remodelling shipping containers as houses, along with retail stores, roadside kitchens, office space and so on, so you likely won’t have any trouble finding an experienced remodeller somewhere near you.

Another topical point to consider is that when you build an alternative home from shipping containers, you are recycling these cubes of metal and preventing them from ending up as landfill. That’s great for the environment.


#2 – The Pallet Home

If you’re not sure what I mean by “pallets”, I’m referring to those wooden structures that cargo is commonly transported on and moved around by forklift.

Used pallets are another item that often get discarded and goes to waste. While some pallets are made from inferior wood, other pallets are constructed of super strong hardwood and are perfect for building solid structures like a small house.

Again, the recycling of all this wood is great for the planet, as well as making for a unique building material.

Now, the house doesn’t necessarily have to be constructed from complete pallets. The pallets could be pulled apart and the individual boards used as building materials. There are a number of options here.

One thing is for sure, your pallet home will look very rustic, especially if the wood is stained a nice dark colour.

It might not be the dream home of everyone, but definitely an interesting option for those on a pretty tight budget.


Pallet HouseSource: Morning Chores


#3 – A Renovator’s Dream

These aren’t everybody’s taste, but are perfect for the DIY enthusiast, as homes that are rundown and require a lot of work to fix them up are often being sold off cheap.

Of course, there’s going to be a bit of money to be spent even after paying for the house and land, but if your goal is downsizing to a smaller home, then not only will the house be even cheaper still, it won’t cost as much to fix up and won’t take as long to return it to pristine condition.

There is definitely a certain satisfaction attached to renovating a home yourself and transforming it from rundown to looking new and modern again. It’s not for everyone, but definitely a really good way to save a few dollars on the initial purchase.


#4 – Prefab Homes

Shipping containers are one type of home that can be constructed off-site to save time and money, and the prefabricated home is another. With prefab homes much of the build is done within a factory environment, where a team a tradies and other workers don’t need to show up to a building site each day.

This is good for your budget, is more convenient, less noise and hassle for the neighbours, plus it helps save the planet in a small way by not having a load of construction equipment being used on-site each day.

If you’re going for a tiny home, then getting a small prefab home really isn’t going to break the bank and is certainly an option worth serious consideration.


#5 – How About An RV?

If you’ve got the cash, then a new RV is a pretty cool – and very mobile – housing option. It’s like the epitome of a transportable tiny house. And if money is a little tight, then you could always purchase a second hand RV and do it up over time.

What I love about this alternative housing idea is if you get tired of living in a particular location, you can simply just drive off and find somewhere else.

There is certainly a lot of freedom attached to mobile living. There are also lots of recreational vehicles on the market at any given time, or you could even get one custom built to suit your personal tastes and requirements.




#6 – A Bottle House

This is a home predominantly made from recycled glass bottles. Probably won’t want to be throwing any stones near this one.

The house doesn’t have to be constructed entirely from glass though, as the recycled bottles can be cemented into the walls as a way to let in natural light.

You could do a full build using mainly bottles, or just use them for specific and unique features in just one or two walls.

Likely not the most versatile idea for alternative housing, but it’s different and also helps the environment by recycling a ton of old bottles.


#7 – Purpose Built Tiny Houses

You might buy one that’s already built and on the market, or you could purchase plans, have a builder build it, or even build it yourself if you’re skilled and that way inclined.

Just because you downsize doesn’t mean you get to miss out on all the mod cons. Your tiny home can be decked out with the appliances and furniture you need, just likely on a smaller scale.

The really great thing about tiny living in a tiny house is you also reduce your utility and living costs, so the bills get downsized as well. You’ll consume less power, hot water, gas and so on. Plus, if you’re running heating or air conditioning in your tiny home, it won’t take long to get the place to a comfortable temperature in a small space.

Tiny houses are all the craze these days, with so many people deciding to downsize from a larger house for a whole host of positive reasons.


#8 – How About a Tree House?

Tree HouseI think a tree house is one of the coolest ideas for alternative housing there is. It’s also a different and unique take on building a tiny house up in the treetops.

Living in a tree house would be like living out your adventurous childhood all over again.

Depending on what kind and size trees you have available on your property, you could really let your imagination run wild with this idea. There are no set design rules when it comes to tree houses, and the final design will really depend on the shape of the tree.

If you’ve ever watched the show Tree House Masters, you’ll know just what’s possible. Tree houses for alternative housing is definitely an idea stacked with possibilities.

This is also a good project idea for those who fancy building their own home, although you might want some additional guidance from someone experienced in tree house construction.


#9 – What Is a Cob House?

This is really like going back in time and building a home. In fact, the world’s oldest cob house still standing has been estimated to be over 10,000 years old.

So what is a cob house exactly?

Well, it’s a very specific type of building material. Instead of building a house made of bricks or a mud hut, when you build a cob house you are making it out of cob – sometimes also called cobb and clom.

Cob is a blend of:

  • Straw
  • Sub soil
  • Water
  • Lime

Sub soil should be a mix of sand and clay, but if the sub soil you are using is light on either ingredient, you can always add more sand or clay to the mix.

A cob house is a really cool idea and can be made to even resemble some sort of medieval building.


#10 – The Converted Bus

This is kind of like a different take on living in a RV, except an old bus isn’t already set up as a mini mobile home. That will have to be done from scratch. Could be an awesome project for the do it yourself expert or home handyperson.

The obvious advantage to the remodelled bus idea is that it’s also a mobile home like the RV. Another really handy aspect is that most buses are fairly big, so there’s a lot of space to work with when designing and constructing a cool bus abode.

So long as the bus is mechanically sound and the body work is in half decent shape, you can likely pick up an old bus relatively cheaply, leaving cash available for the conversion process.


#11 – The Earth Berm Home – Live Like a Hobbit

This is exactly like it sounds. You’re effectively living underground. Not like deep inside a cave or a gold mine, but exactly like a hobbit from Lord of the Rings.

The easiest way to build an earth berm house is into a natural hillside, where the hill is hollowed out, reinforced and the house is built.

There is a massive advantage to this alternative type of housing, and that is natural insulation and constant climate control. Earth berm homes are great in hot weather climates, as they really do stay naturally cool and comfortable. They also stay warm in the winter.

The downside is a lack of opportunities to let in fresh air and natural light, as there won’t be much scope for doors and windows, except at the front of the house. Still, it’s a really unique and unusual idea. You can even grow your lawn or a garden all over the top of your home.

I really like this idea, and you really don’t even need a natural hill. You could artificially create one specifically for your underground abode.


Earth Berm Home

Source: Homesthetics


#12 – The Bag House

If you’ve seen sand bagging done to help hold back rising flood waters, then that’s pretty similar to what a bag house is made of, except generally the bags are filled with more solid earth (soil) rather than loose sand.

Essentially the house is built much the same way you would construct a house made from brick or blocks.

This isn’t something that everybody would go for, but one major plus the bag house has going for it is the variety of house shapes and designs you can come up with. Because these bags aren’t solid, they’re more mouldable, allowing you more freedom of expression when building the home.

Not all local councils and zoning officials are going to allow homes constructed in this manner, but it would be legal in certain areas. You would just have to check first.


#13 – The Log Cabin

These always remind me of either camping beside a lake or being out in the wilderness with snow bucketing down from leaden skies.

The thing is though, log cabins can really be constructed anywhere and in any climate. Really all they are is just a less refined and more rustic house made of wood. Instead of the wood all being nicely machined, it’s left rough and natural, and that’s what gives these log cabins so much charm and that distinctive earthy feel and vibe.

When built properly and to a plan, log cabins really are sturdy structures that hold up well even in the most severe weather conditions. They can even be built from either recycled materials, or from trees that have naturally fallen in the forest.

You don’t necessarily have to go out into the woods armed with a chainsaw to cut down fresh trees. That’s one option, but there are more eco friendly options out there that don’t involve even more deforestation to get your house built.

To add to the overall charm, you could even construct some rustic wooden indoor and outdoor furniture to really compliment your log cabin.


Log Cabin