We couldn’t afford to save a house deposit whilst we were renting. So we stopped renting.

Hello. My name is Alex, I’m almost 33 and my partner and I live out of two suitcases, a box of food stuff and one sports bag.

We put all of our belongings into storage just over a year ago and we’ve not paid rent since. We travelled for a couple of months and then came home to Bristol. Rental prices here are not far off those in London but the salaries are yet to catch up. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that only a fraction of our friends own their homes. And that’s largely only because they inherited their deposits.

Both Dave and I come from close-knit families but neither of us are on track for a healthy inheritance so when it comes to saving a house deposit, we’re on our own. All of this got us thinking. There must be some way to beat the system. Some way of ‘turbo-saving’. Turns out that there is. And funnily enough, it involves moving house… a lot.

I hate that term ‘digital nomad’ but really, that’s something like what we are. Most digital nomads spend their days on social media trying to sell e-books and make us believe they earn six figure salaries lazing by the pool in Bali and occasionally tapping on a laptop. I like to think that what we’re doing is closer to the reality for most. We work. But we’re not poolside and we’re not in Bali (which for the record, we thought was overrated). Nope, we’re in Bristol.

I’m a marketing manager, part freelance and part time at a creative agency. Dave is a graphic designer and works full time. We house sit around Bristol and Bath for approx 85% of our time, looking after people’s homes and pets whilst they’re on holiday — the rest, staying with friends and very occasional Airbnbs.

Although at times this way of living puts us under immense stress, we do enjoy the freedom of moving around and the novelty of living in some beautiful homes. At first we were petrified of breaking things and killing the pets accidentally. I remember this time last year, Meg, our beloved Portugeuse Water Dog found and ate a bit of raisin. Dave was beside himself. She survived of course and is sat next to me today. We’ve grown in confidence now and know that pets, like humans, are actually quite invincible. We’ve learnt that a dog can eat and sick up a whole rabbit and still want you to throw her ball (that’s you Mabel).

We’ve met some incredible people along the way but honestly, at this point, 12 months in, we’re focused on for the savings. Of course there are still plenty of anecdotes. Like that time one of five sausage dogs barked every 20 seconds (we timed it) for an entire night. Or that time we thought we’d lost a cat but it was stuck under the cooker. Or when we looked after a maine coon who, despite his enormous size, was shit scared of everything because he was once bitten by a snake (true story).

House sitting is something you read about all the time. People do it abroad and during their travels but I don’t know many people who do it full time like we do. It’s allowing us to save a house deposit in approximately a third of the time it would take us otherwise. Our outgoings are low, often below £500 a month; food, drink, socialising and running the car. We don’t restrict ourselves entirely but do try and save as much as we can, which is currently around £1000+ a month.

We get asked a whole myriad of questions. From ‘do you look in the drawers’ to ‘why don’t you Airbnb their spare room’ to the more usual ‘how does it work?’ and ‘do you get paid?’. So, to clear up the mystery once and for all here we go:

  • We don’t get paid. This is a quid pro quo situation. Free rent and bills in return for the care of someone’s home and pets.
  • No, I never look through their stuff. It would feel weird and disrespectful.
  • We book our house sits through Trusted Housesitters, this ensures we are all covered legally and everyone is vetted to prevent any awkward situations and potential insurance issues.
  • Dave sometimes eats their biscuits, but we always replace them.
  • You need to be an animal lover. Fortunately we are.

So far we haven’t met a pet we didn’t like — except maybe that barky little sausage, although even he was cute in the daylight. Even bouncy, slobbery Wilf (French Pointer) had a charm about him. I’ve shed tears for dogs and cats on more than one occasion (Bella the Bichon Frise has my heart) as we’ve moved on and we’ve met some wonderful people too. Now a year in, we’re fortunate to be back at many of the places we started with as the families head off on their annual holidays.

We have a target of early Summer for completion. Around 6 months left before we’re ready to buy our own place. I think it’ll likely feel like all our Christmases have come at once as we unbox our lives. Imagine looking at pictures on the fireplace of your own friends and family and knowing immediately which drawer the teatowels live in.