36 comments

Making Money while Taking Vacations

Well, we’re home.

As you may or may not have been aware, the Triple M family has been on the road since way back in June. We had a blast. Everyone is sun-kissed and skinny from being outside playing so much all summer.

But aside from these obvious benefits, I got another surprise when we returned from this six-week trip: a healthy pillow of cash had built up in the bank account while we were away not working. Usually people have to save up to TAKE a vacation.. they don’t save up while TAKING a vacation. How did this happen?

As it turns out, it was just the usual combination of thinking about things in a new way, to shift the balance of life away from spending and towards earning.

The first factor was renting out my own house. When you own a house and you go away on a long trip, you’ve got a huge asset sitting there not being enjoyed by anyone. As my own trips grew longer after retirement, I started wondering if it would be practical to rent the house out to a trusted person or family so they could pay me for being away.

It turns out it WAS practical! If you know enough people, and combine it with a little social networking or even Craigslist searching, you may be able to find a fantastic tenant to take care of your house for you, and pay you handsomely for the privilege.  In our case, another family we met through our son’s preschool lives abroad most of the year, but spends every July in the US. Our house is a good candidate for a short-term rental – fancy yet relatively uncluttered since I like doing renovations but not buying objects. So it was easy to sweep away embarrassing personal  belongings and hide them in the basement and have the place looking like a classy hotel for our tenants. Net Income: $2000.

The next factor was finding affordable transportation. Since we live almost 1800 miles from our extended family, it is a hell of a drive. But the wife and son bypassed the driving by picking up a good sale on one-way flights to Canada. On departure day, I dropped them off at the airport, then continued East in order to drive myself separately (normally I would fly a distance like that, but for a long trip and with the requirement of bringing a vanload of tools, I found it more practical to drive). I camped out in the van for the first night (Iowa), and visited a friend the second night (Chicago). After that I reached Canada. So all accommodations were free. Including plane tickets, gas, and an allowance for wear on my older, self-maintained vehicle, we’ll say Net Travel Cost: $1000.

Once in Canada, I did the rounds of visiting but also helped various people out with construction projects. Because I enjoy the work, I ended up doing several thousand dollars of carpentry work on a cottage for free. The inlaws were so grateful, they gave us all food, drink, and even paid for the gas required to drive the tools to Canada and back. Net benefit of food, drink, and gas: $1000

Since we were so busy doing family-oriented things, we found we did not have to buy anything at all on this trip. No Disneyland tickets, no shot glasses, no high-heeled shoes. The things we brought in our backpacks were all we needed.  But we did still make one decadent purchase: a $100 sushi meal with good friends in downtown Ottawa, where everything is rather expensive. Net discretionary expenditures during entire trip: $100

On the way home, the whole MMM family drove together, taking several days to do it and staying with family except the last two nights (note to self: need to make friends in Iowa and Nebraska to round out future trips). We got a little crazy and got pricey hotels both nights for a total of $250. Net travel-home cost: $250

So the vacation looked like this:
Income: $2000+$1000 = $3000
Expenditures: $1000+100+250 = $1350
Net Profit: $1650.
And meanwhile, while we were off spending nothing and enjoying life, the July and August rent checks rolled in from the rental house, adding another $4800. With no mortgage and virtually no credit card bill this month, all of these new employees get to stay. What a great vacation!

My point in all of this is not really to describe details of my own vacation, but rather to illustrate the mindset that can help any Aspiring Mustachian or Early Retiree get further in their own recreational plans. Although the vacation industry tries to encourage us to spend as much as possible, experiencing a new place actually does not have to be expensive at all. If you look at each step of the trip and figure out how to maximize the fun and cut out unnecessary costs, you too can probably travel virtually for free. And if you are taking a longer trip, I would definitely recommend using your home or apartment as an income booster for the duration.

What were your most frugal vs. most expensive vacations so far? Does the level of fun correlate with the level of spending, or is it actually an inverted relationship sometimes?

  • Chrissy August 5, 2011, 8:34 am

    Renting out your place for a long vacation is a fantastic idea. My parents have been doing this for years. They’re part of a home exchange network, so one up the renting it out and actually just trade like-for-like accommodation or will host others and be hosted.

    My husband and I only just had our first rental experience last year. A was looking for a flat in our building for her parents to rent for a few weeks. She was pregnant and they planned to come over to help with the newborn. Thankfully the dates tied in well, and we were able to recoup nearly all of the hotel expenditure for our own holiday. We’ve also discussed coordinating holiday dates going forward to take advantage of the set-up again. Win-win!

    Reply
  • Ginger August 5, 2011, 11:33 am

    I like it. Why did your son and wife fly instead of camping out with you?

    Reply
    • MMM August 5, 2011, 1:10 pm

      Good question.. we were originally planning to drive together, which would have been even more frugal, but these affordable flights came up and those two decided they were eager to get started on visiting the grandparents right away, rather than taking a leisurely week of driving and visiting with me to get there.

      The extra cost is actually even less than the price of the tickets, since when driving alone I can roll for 12 hours, then sleep in the back of the van. With the family, we can only comfortably travel 6-8 hours, and then either need to find somewhere to camp and set up a tent, or get a hotel at $60+ per night. In the future I envision a compact diesel VW vanagon-type vehicle with a flip-up bed area above the roof.. then you get cargo capacity AND sleeping capacity, all in a package no bigger than a minivan which uses less fuel.

      Reply
      • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple August 5, 2011, 1:18 pm

        Our neighbors have a camping van. It’s not frugal particularly (I think those things, new, are about $80k), but they use it constantly and they can now say it sleeps 7. We went camping with them. It was so windy that our tent kept blowing away. Even if we tried to block the wind with the cars. So my husband and son slept on the downstairs of their van. The five of them slept in the pop-up – admittedly, three of the five were aged 5, 3, and 6 months.

        I slept in the back of the Matrix. We folded the seat down. Sometimes it pays to be short.

        Reply
      • photogdave July 19, 2014, 7:32 pm

        A Vanagon camper is an excellent mustache-mobile! I’ve had two over the past 10 years (upgraded to a syncro three years ago) as my only vehicle. I bike to work and bike or walk for errands etc. so wear and tear is minimal as it’s just used for awesome FREE camping trips and FREE accommodation on road trips.
        I think Vanagons are especially mustachian because:
        They provide a kitchen and a bedroom every time you camp or road trip
        They are fairly simple mechanically and therefore easier to self-maintain than modern cars
        There is an incredible online community for technical support, parts and fun events
        They hold their value very well and in many cases actually APPRECIATE
        The camper models can be registered as RVs and get cheaper insurance
        They have an incredible amount of interior space so even the full camper models can be used to haul tools, building supplies, furniture etc.
        You never have to buy a vacation home – your van is your vacation home and you can move it to whichever beautiful spot you like
        They look cool and make people smile

        Reply
  • Kristin August 5, 2011, 12:21 pm

    It looks like this choice was better than a “staycation” great article

    Reply
  • Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple August 5, 2011, 1:24 pm

    Most expensive vacation: Hawaii. We’ve gone 5 times now. The most recent vacation was probably $4000 for a week.

    Cheapest vacation: long weekend wise, it’s surely camping. For a longer vacation, it’s probably the trip we took driving around Arizona. Probably $1000. Gas and a few hotels added up.

    Both these trips were this year.

    OH, wait. We took a train to Santa Fe, NM over the holidays one year. Our friends’ parents have a house that they only visit in the summer, so we stayed there for $100 – the cost of a nice dinner out (we bought them a gift certificate). The train tickets were $400 for the three. Food was probably another couple hundred. So that’s more like $700.

    The older I get, the more I appreciate the low-key vacations – I look forward to camping, and have thought about buying a teardrop trailer that you can tow with a regular car. The older my husband gets, the more he would rather go to Hawaii. So…there’s a problem there. Except I do most of the travel planning.

    About once a year or every two years, our travel is simply a trip to visit family on the East Coast. It’s usually a 10 day to 14 day trip, and generally costs $1800-$2500. With 3 plane tickets, rental car (or other transportation for the 8 hr drive between families), and parking at the local airport – it’s pretty hard for us to go much below that. We have to buy very little in food because we are always staying with my parents or his. And no hotel.

    I have considered renting out our house. Or more – on occasion, I think my neighbors or friends have visitors in town the same time we are away. Even without getting paid, I’d love to have someone trusted “watch” my house while i’m gone.

    Reply
    • MMM August 5, 2011, 1:45 pm

      Hey, don’t you live in coastal Southern CA? If so, I might know someone who would like to rent your house during some portion of the winter season while you’re on a trip – ME!! We often spend a few weeks somewhere warm in December or January to break up the Colorado winter.

      Reply
      • Melissa Wannabe blogger March 12, 2014, 11:17 am

        I live in California .. But I’m a renter…. I dont know how much you’d like to stay in an apt … Plus I believe most apt have a clause about subletting .. :( .. But that would have worked out great since we went on a long vacation to Michigan This past december where my husband is from for 3 weeks…it would have been great to make back the money we spent on flights… Everything else was really inexpensive since we just stayed with his parents…

        Reply
    • Bob August 14, 2011, 1:54 am

      Marcia,
      Renting out a place for vacation use works both ways. Instead of spending so much on your next trip to Hawai’i, try finding a vacation rental, like mine on Kauai (check the link). Check out the services of sites like airbnb.com, too! It”s well worth the savings and there are often great benefits (savings) when you can make some meals in your own kitchen, instead of eating out for each one.

      Reply
  • Jess August 5, 2011, 4:00 pm

    Interesting idea…have you ever rented a room in your house to vacationers while actually still being present? Sort of along those lines, my husband and I have considered buying an inexpensive condo in Conway, NH since housing is down. We live in New England and enjoy hiking in New Hampshire during the summers, but there is a year-round market for vacation rentals there because of skiing in the winter and hiking/mtn biking in the summer. Wondering if we would be able to rent it out enough weeks to break even…to me the upside of doing vacation/short term rentals is that you’re not having to evict people, and you’re paid up front.

    Reply
  • Frugal Vegan Mom August 9, 2011, 6:28 pm

    I’m surprised to hear you describe your house as “fancy” – photo home tour post please! =)

    Reply
    • MMM August 9, 2011, 10:49 pm

      Haha.. well, not fancy in the McMansion with 1-acre lobby and fake waterfall and special exotic brands of kitchen appliances sense. But still fancier than I could justify purely in a practical sense. At least I did most of the fancification myself, however. Someday I may have an excuse to put up some pictures – especially once I start the Renovation/Construction side-blog.

      Reply
      • Erin the Aussie November 19, 2012, 3:02 pm

        Hi MMM, Just wondering if this side blog ever happened? I’d love to read it!

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache November 19, 2012, 3:13 pm

          Thanks Erin! .. it didn’t happen, since I tend to just post any renovation things that I write about, right here on MMM. Maybe when I’m not raising a young ‘un here at home and there is more free time to build things, the reno stuff will step up further..

          Reply
  • Carl November 4, 2011, 5:12 pm

    You might want to consider a website like couchsurfing.com where you can easily stay for free in nice places when you’re travelling across… well… the world.
    I’ve yet to use it to stay for free (I’m lucky in that I have friends/family in several European countries) but I have hosted people many times in my house just outside of Denver.

    Reply
  • Clint April 4, 2012, 10:36 am

    I wonder if this is applicable to places not really considered vacation spots or near vacation spots, say High Point, NC?

    Reply
  • Brittany May 16, 2012, 8:47 pm

    Good question, I’m not too far from you in TN. Definitely not a tourist spot but nice enough

    Reply
  • Elkbark May 25, 2012, 12:13 pm

    If sleeping in the vehicle is a comfortable option for a long trip, or a short stay in a place away from home and friends, Here’s a companion tip: Find a local gym and request a low-rate one day membership, or better yet a free trial day. In this way, you can keep up a work-out routine while on the road, and have access to a shower without the ugly hotel bill.

    Reply
    • Reverend May 25, 2012, 11:13 pm

      This is why god invented the Vanagon (or Mazda Bongo)! :)

      Reply
  • OWHL July 13, 2012, 7:21 am

    I was homeless in Hawaii for 7 weeks. Only spent around $1300 or less in food costs. Slept in a cave, on the beach and in parking garages. Bathed in the ocean and always walked.

    Reply
  • BLynk May 21, 2013, 9:13 pm

    I was born a Mustachian, loving the game of living the best life possible while spending the least and requiring little. I am 29 and “retired” about half the year, living in New York City on about $500 a month ($300 rent for a great space in upper Manhattan). I just paid off my graduate school loans a year after graduating and I have my dream job: accompany international visitors around the United States for three weeks at a time. I get to meet fascinating people and am reminded of the importance of human relationships over material things every day. I am a year-round biker (originally from Minnesota, where the winters are cold) and my friends tease me because I bring tupperwear to restaurants and dinner parties for leftovers. But all this has helped give me the freedom to take risks and take advantage of opportunities that arise.

    I also LOVE traveling—the kind of traveling where you maximize meeting people and minimize spending money. This complex, problem-solving game of planning my travels as efficiently as possible brings me immense joy. I am about to leave for a 13-week, 13-country adventure through western Europe, the Balkans, the Gulf, and north and east Africa, which has rung in a grand total transportation cost of $2100. I know people in each country I’m visiting (thanks to my international college and my current job), as well as being a couch surfing advocate. There will be some food costs, gift costs, visa costs, and experience costs, but it should easily ring in under $3500, what many people would pay in mortgage during that time (or what some people pay for rent in New York each month!)

    I am so happy to have found the Money Mustache family. I cannot stop spreading the word!

    Reply
    • Hacksaw November 21, 2013, 6:14 am

      Why would you bring a tupperwear to a restaurant? Don’t they usually provide you with a to go container if you so desire?

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache November 21, 2013, 10:53 am

        Because you can wash and reuse tupperware containers – restaurants usually give you disposable foam ones.

        Reply
        • BLynk November 21, 2013, 11:40 am

          BINGO! Using reusable containers creates substantially less waste. One of the goals driving my lifestyle and several Mustachians, I presume, is leaving a small footprint on the earth and a big heartprint on the relationships and connections with the people in our lives.

          Reply
          • Kira July 15, 2014, 3:10 pm

            I’m going to turn that into a plaque!

            “Leave a small footprint on the earth/and a big heartprint on loved ones.”

            Reply
  • Brooks June 1, 2013, 9:13 am

    I’m heading to Guatemala for a month this summer (my first attempt at working remotely!)

    I thought about renting the house at a discount to a friend that would like to live downtown (I’m within 10 minutes walking from all of our bars and restaurants, so wouldn’t they all?!?)

    After reading, you’ve made me think it’s possible!
    I’m also planning to potentially put on AirBnB as well and hope to find a long term renter.

    Reply
  • Cattis September 26, 2013, 12:18 pm

    This is a great idea, I plan to rent out our house next summer. This summer we spent a total of 5 days at home during our 3 weeks vacation. I´m also thinking about (and saving money) to update our little cottage to a summerhouse for us, that way we can let someone rent our house during the summer, live simple (without rinning water and electricity- like camping) and make some nice money! We love it when we go camping in the summer, if we do this it´ll be like camping the entire summer. That´s how I plan to sell this idea to my family :) my kids will love it! Greetings from Sweden

    Reply
  • Edith October 7, 2013, 12:38 pm

    You’d like couchsurfing, if you don’t already use it.

    Reply
  • Caely November 14, 2013, 9:21 am

    My husband and I live in central Iowa and would be happy to host the MMM family when passing through. Drop us a note any time!

    Reply
  • Michael January 29, 2014, 9:46 am

    Great blog thank you, I’ve started reading from the first post and thoroughly enjoying. Really appreciate your openness and honesty.
    I’m curious if you recommend any kind of standard agreement when renting out your home short term, or do you go for a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ (apologies ladies), or have another way of doing it.
    Please keep writing, I’m getting so hooked on this, I don’t want to completely catch up to the newest posts!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache January 29, 2014, 6:33 pm

      Yeah, we did use a standard lease for that one-month period. These were sort of acquaintance-friends rather than extremely close friends, so it seemed appropriate. With closest friends, it would be a different story (and rent might even be free depending on the situation).

      Reply
  • Getting there February 9, 2014, 7:42 am

    One of the cheapest and most enjoyable vacations that I had was on a vacation farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. This was 20 years ago, so I forget the details, but the daily rates were ridiculously cheap, and included home cooked food by Mrs. Farmer for 3 meals a day, and horseback riding twice a day. They also lent me one of their kids bike when I wanted to take a ride. I spent all day outside walking and talking to the horses, goats and cattle. The accomodations were spartan but comfortable. Most Canadian tourist guides have a section on vacation farms.

    Reply
  • Eva February 21, 2014, 11:43 am

    About 10 years ago, while we were living in Germany, my husband met up with some of his buddies in London for a long weekend. London is an expensive place for a weekend, so I decided to see how cheaply I could travel somewhere. I researched train tickets and got the cheapest fair I could from Stuttgart to Prien-am-Chiemsee (a nice German tourist town on Lake Chiemsee near Munich). Once in town, I went to the local tourist bureau for a cheap room at a B&B. I got a very nice room in someone’s home, with an ensuite shower and even a mini-fridge. I went to a local bike shop and rented a cheap 3-speed bike for the weekend (knowing it was mostly flat in the area), to provide myself with some transportation. I didn’t stint on doing things, which included a 27-mile ride around part of Lake Chiemsee. It was a wonderful weekend and one of my fonder memories.

    Reply
  • John S. March 5, 2014, 10:47 am

    I actually moved into my family’s vacant vacation house two years ago and started doing weekly rentals on my condo in Boston. I made consistently $5,000/month and was booked solid from April through November. It has become a GREAT business for me and I have received such positive feedback from guests. Its great you can create such incredible memories for people while making a boat load of cash at the same time :)

    Reply
  • Amazing Alice May 16, 2014, 3:40 pm

    Well in a few years when I am fully retired we will house swap Mr MM. How do you like Australia ? Sunny Queensland of course! We live in the country and only a couple of hours from the air port. Sounds fun :)

    Reply

Leave a Reply

To keep things non-promotional, please use a real name or nickname
(not Blogger @ My Blog Name)

The most useful comments are those written with the goal of learning from or helping out other readers – after reading the whole article and all the earlier comments. Complaints and insults generally won’t make the cut here, but by all means write them on your own blog!

connect

welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

Ads

$25 Unlimited Smartphone
The Lending Club Experiment
A $500 Signing Bonus... WTF?
How to Start a Blog

latest tweets