Couple halve their monthly bills by ditching renting to live on a narrowboat

Like so many of us, couple Jack and Gemma Cox were struggling to get on the property ladder while spending a load of money on rent.

So they took an unconventional approach: ditching renting and moving aboard a narrowboat instead.

Jack, a 29-year-old secondary school teacher, and Gemma, a 29-year-old paramedic, were paying £1,000 a month (for rent and bills) to live in their flat in Manchester, all while trying to put as much money as they could into a Help To Buy ISA in the hopes of buying a place closer to Gemma’s family in the Dales.

They realised that, looking at an average house price of £280,000, they faced years of strict saving just to be able to afford a property they might not even like.

Rather than settling for that path, they binned off their ISA and bought a two-bed beam boat, moored between Manchester and Yorkshire.

Their monthly outgoings have been halved as a result.

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Gemma said: ‘We took a loan out to buy the boat, and even still, the boat was way under half the amount of the houses we were looking at.

‘We got out a loan to buy the boat, and we pay £550 a month paying it off each month.

‘That is our only proper outgoing each month, the only other thing is getting the toilets pumped, which is £15 once a month, too.

‘It started off as a bit of a laugh but we kept thinking about it, and Jack kept saying “imagine living on that boat”.

‘Then we just kept thinking about living on a boat.

‘When we realised it was only an hour away from us we decided to go and view it. Two weeks later we had put the deposit down on it and were about to move onto it.’

The couple are now loving their new lifestyle on the boat, which they share with their pet tortoise, called Teacake.

Saving a bunch of money is a major bonus.

‘We were paying £650 in rent for a two bed terraced house in Manchester, and then £450 in bills that included our gas, electric, water, council tax and internet,’ Gemma explained.

‘We now use solar panels for our energy, and when it starts to run out in the evenings, we use a camping stove and camping gas, so we don’t have any bills to pay now.

‘Our phones have unlimited data so we just use the hotspot from our phones too.

‘We live a completely nomadic life, and we’re always on the move.

‘We pay £1,100 yearly to the canal river trust which includes being on the water, as well as using water at the canal water stations.’

The journey from renters to boat people wasn’t easy.

‘When we first moved onto the boat I felt like everyone hated us because we had this huge boat on the water and no idea what we were doing,’ Gemma said.’

‘We had to do a lot of research beforehand, it takes a lot of hard work and time to actually be able to live on a boat, and things did tend to go wrong a lot of the time.

‘I have a bit of imposter syndrome but Jack is so good, we have learnt so much now.

‘When we first moved onto the boat we were a bit unsure if we had done the right thing, but when my friends came and surprised me for my birthday and we were drinking cocktails on the boat in the sunshine it solidified we had definitely made the right decision.

‘We’re in this big boating community where it just feels normal to us now, but when we tell people we live on a boat, people are always so intrigued and interested in it, always asking us how the boat is.’

The couple could journey around in their boat, but choose to stay in a ten-mile radius so they can still get to work.

They plan to live aboard for at least the next five years.

‘We moor up in some of the most beautiful places, we’re surrounded by the countryside, it’s so peaceful,’ said Gemma.

‘We are going to stay on it for at least five years, definitely until the loan is paid off.

‘We just have so much fun on it, especially in the summer.’

Monthly costs breakdown:


  • Rent: £650
  • Bills: £450 including water, electricity, gas, council tax and internet.

Monthly total before: £11,00


  • Loan repayments monthly: £550
  • Toilet pump monthly: £15
  • Diesel: £50
  • Maintenance: £30

Monthly total now: £645

Insurance yearly: £800

Canal river trust: £1,100 including water usage and being on the canal.

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