If you’re reading this right now, you probably spend a significant portion of your paycheck on rent every month and every year, you’ll spend more. I travel full time and people are always asking us how we can afford it. There are a lot of ways I could answer their question but let me tell you my absolute biggest money-saving tips: 30-day stays with Airbnb.
How it works
If you logged in to Airbnb right now and looked for a private place, you’d probably find prices ranging from $90 – $300 (all prices in USD) a night for a one-bedroom or studio apartment. That could mean a reservation bill of $2700 – $9000 for the entire month! But no. I have found that searching for an Airbnb for at least 30 nights brings up an entirely different pricing system. Rather than show you the nightly price, Airbnb shows you the monthly cost. Hosts are able to set discounts on stays which are 30 days or more, and they usually do and these discounts range anywhere from 15% – 60% cheaper.
How much can you really save?
I usually end up spending $600 – $900 per month on a one-bedroom apartment in a nice neighborhood. This includes all your utilities like water, sewer, garbage, electric, and gas! Don’t forget your cost for WiFi. Before I started traveling, I spent $17,600 a year on rent plus another $2500 on utilities. Now, I spend about $9000 A YEAR on my accommodations. So, right there I just saved you over ten thousand bucks.
My tips to choosing the best possible place:
1. Get Superhost
The Superhost feature on Airbnb is given only to hosts who rarely cancel, have nearly perfect reviews, and who’s homes look professional. These hosts are usually renting out a bedroom, apartment, or house as their way of making side income and not just because they won’t be home for a few nights and want to pay for their vacation. That means things tend to be a bit more practiced and professional which looks like cleaner bathrooms and better WIFI (two things I can’t really live, or at least work, without).
2. Try out different arrangements
If you’re planning out multiple months of travel, spend some time trying out different arrangements of where you’ll be staying. What I mean by that is, look at the price to stay in a particular place during various months in the year. For example, sometimes you’ll save way more money if you decide to stay somewhere in November rather than October and it might not make that much of a difference to you.
3. Spend some time figuring out what the neighborhood you’ll be living in will be like.
Not only do you want to know if the neighborhood is safe and a place that interests you, but you need to look into what the cost of living is like there. Sure, the place might be listed for $200 less than a place that looks equivalent, but think about the money you might have to spend on transportation if everything you want to access is far away. For me, I want to avoid using a car so I make sure that I can walk to the grocery store or that there is reliable, frequent, cheap public transportation I can use. If not, spend the extra money and stay at a place closer to the center of town. You’ll probably end up saving money (and a lot of time).
4. Don’t make your choice simply based on how many stars a place has.
Although stars on Airbnb are usually pretty accurate, make sure you fully read the reviews. If a place has Superhost status, and is located in a place I want to stay. I look into it. There are some things I am willing to compromise on that other people aren’t. You might not mind if the apartment isn’t the quietest or if people have complained of dust. In a long stay, those things are solvable if you’re willing to wear earplugs and pick up a dust rag. Other things, like complaints about poor WiFi connectivity are a huge red flag to me. However, I might still message the host and ask about some of the issues I saw in the reviews. Often they’ve recently hired a new cleaning service, purchased new routers, or installed more soundproof windows.
5. Try to book refundable accommodations
Plans change… a lot. What’s that saying? “We plan, God laughs.” And when that happens, it’s nice to get all your money back. If you do have to cancel a nonrefundable stay, make sure you talk to the host first. Almost every one of the hosts I’ve had to cancel with has been super gracious and made some kind of deal with me. So don’t just click the button and see all those zeros being refunded to your account. Explain your situation and ask for an exception.
Of course, there are a few cons to not having your own place and this article wouldn’t be complete without me sharing them with you…
1. Sometimes hosts cancel
Especially when you book month-long stays. Some hosts claim that they didn’t know about the price reduction for month-long stays. I don’t really believe this because the host has to set the discount up on their account. Once in awhile, I’ll request to book a place, get approved, and then the host will try to convince me to send them more money. They’ll say some reason why they can’t honor the discount and they’ll send you a request through Airbnb for more money. Never, ever send more money. If you feel uncomfortable, reach out to Airbnb and ask them to help resolve the issue. I’ve never lost money over a dispute like this but I usually lose the accommodations. However, if it is a Superhost account, they may not want to lose their status and they will just keep the reservation (this is another reason to book Superhosts!). Mostly, this is just annoying and a good reminder to book well in advance so you have time to find a new place.
Recently, I dropped a jar of salt on a glass-top induction stove. The jar and the stove top shattered. I was embarrassed and annoyed, but I did the right thing and told the host right away. My travel insurance covers any injury I might have but it doesn’t cover breaking stuff in someone else’s home. I asked the host if she had renters insurance to cover this kind of thing and she said no. I find this annoying but not uncommon and if you break something, you’ll be required to pay for it. I recommend fessing up right away rather than getting into a dispute after you leave and potentially having your credit card charged for an amount of money you might not be in agreement with. With small things, usually hosts don’t charge you but something like this has to be replaced. So, there went my $300.
Moving around all the time has a ton of perks, but to be honest, it can leave you with feelings of homesickness. To me, it’s worth it: the money saved, the nomadic lifestyle, and the amazing places I’ve gotten to live more than make up for it and, I think, if you’ve made it this far in the article, it would be worth it to you too!