Thrifty couple reckon they've found the secret to living in London 'for free'

A couple say they now live for ‘free’ after ditching their home for a canal boat and renting it out on weekends.

Rosanna Irwin and her fiancé Killian Connolly had been spending £1,700 a month on rent and bills and were keen to buy a ‘fixer-upper’ property of their own.

Despite a budget of £500,000 and spending six months scouring listings, they found themselves unable to afford a one-bed flat anywhere in London.

Exasperated by the tough housing market, they started to consider living on a boat.

The 28-year-old wasn’t interested in the idea initially, believing it’d be ‘tough and dingy’. But after she and her partner explored the inside of one, she decided it was worth a shot.

The couple bought a £100,000 boat, which measures 60ft x 12ft, last summer and haven’t looked back.

The vessel is one long room divided into a laundry room, a sitting room/kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom – proving to be a compact but multi-functional space.

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Rosanna claims they now pay ‘ultimately nothing’ as their loan repayments are covered by weekend Airbnb rentals – when they stay in their campervan.

Even better, they manage to save around £20,400 a year.

Rosanna, currently moored in Hackney, East London, said: ‘We wanted to buy somewhere in London because we were sick of renting.

‘After looking at apartments, we realised there was no way we were ever going to be able to afford one.

‘One day we were out on the canal and we saw a canal boat go by, he offered us a look inside his boat.

‘For ages we had thought canal boats were a bit tough to live on and a bit dingy, but this was so gorgeous.

‘Living on the water, waking up and seeing the swans go by is pretty nice. It’s really lovely and takes off a lot of stress, but the best thing is the amount of money saved.

‘Ultimately we don’t pay any rent. We pay back a loan each month but it’s much, much cheaper than paying rent.

‘It was the only way we could purchase something of our own in London, there was no other way.’

They think their vessel is nicer than any one-bed apartment in London.

Rosanna said there are some less glamorous realities to boat living, though.

‘You need to be a certain type of person to live on a boat.

‘We don’t have a kettle or toaster, I don’t use a hair dryer or straighteners.

‘We just have a compost toilet, you need to be not-so squeamish. There are more jobs than a regular toilet, you don’t just flush and forget about it. It’s a separator toilet.’

The lifestyle suits the pair as both work remotely, so they have the time and flexibility to move their boat as necessary.

Canal & River Trust tells boaters they need to move every two weeks (or sooner depending on the mooring sign).

Along with their £100 boat licence, the pair spend just £2,500 a year in total, including on insurance and fuel, and see no reason to live in a house.

Rosanna said: ‘We generally stick in and around London but we’ve gone up to Watford and Stansted before.

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‘I think it’s because they don’t want the same people to be taking up the best spots in London and so it disperses everyone every two weeks so everyone has a chance at getting a nice spot.

‘My friends and family definitely think it’s quirky, everyone does come on the boat and realise it’s much nicer than they thought it’d be.

‘My passion is tiny homes, I just find them so fascinating.

‘We live in a world where we have all built these massive houses for no real reason other than because they can.

‘I love seeing how much you can add into a tiny space. I love cabins, street houses and canal boats, they’re definitely so much cosier.’

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