Friday, April 15, 2016

Almost eight months of housesitting on $13/person/day.

Housesitting does not equal "free" - well, not the way we've done it, anyway. There are paid housesitting gigs all around the world, but we weren't quite sure how to find them so we opted for opportunities.

You can certainly save a lot of money housesitting through sites like this but you still pay for groceries, gas, personal expenses - pretty much everything you'd normally pay for with the exception of rent. Sometimes you get lucky and the hosts have a lovely garden and/or laying chickens, which can help to offset your grocery bills. Oftentimes, hosts give you free reign over their oils and spices (and various other foodstuffs), which helps too. And one of our hosts gave us a nice gift certificate to a local market. But for the most part, you're on your own.

When we arranged our first housesit in Portland last year, we didn't actually set a maximum budget because we didn't have a clue about how long we'd be doing it post-Portland. We figured that when we ran out of travel budget money, we'd get jobs... Or something.

That said, Canada's average of $28/day seemed like a reasonable target to shoot for (mainly because we put so much effort into developing that budget three years ago and I wanted to get a little more use out of it!). So we shot for it in Portland, and then Corvallis, and then Alberta and British Columbia, and finally on Orcas Island. I think we did pretty well.

Anyway, here's the lowdown...

Initial budget: $28/day
Actual cost: 220 days at $5775 ($26/day, $13/person/day)

not my best work
  • Groceries: $2059 - about $10/day for both of us, also roughly what we spent internationally whenever we had regular access to a kitchen
  • Alcohol: $1142 - about the cost of a pint a day, also known as our running average when the beer is good
  • Transportation: $998 - gas and car insurance
  • Meals: $266 - mostly eating out in Portland, which was mostly lunches or happy hours
  • Gear: $441 - minor car upgrades to hold all our crap (like the roof rack), random housesitting supplements (like a coffeemaker for Portland and used board games from thrift stores), winter clothes for Alberta and BC
  • Entertainment: $508 - rainy day matinee movies, a few concerts, a few happy hours with friends, minor league hockey games in Canada
  • Miscellaneous: $359 - toiletries we never know how to classify, gifts for friends, and important things like eye exams, driver's license renewals and library fines (ahem Patrick)
This is not exact. It doesn't include the transportation and lodging costs to get to our housesit gigs, our mobile phone costs, gear and groceries we purchased between housesits, and random other housesitting-related bits and pieces. (It should include these but I'd already made the pie chart when I realized this. A rough estimate of these costs would be about $1500, with mobile phones accounting for more than half of that.)

We definitely spent more (percentage-wise) on groceries, alcohol and entertainment during our housesits than during the times we stayed with family and friends between housesits, or just about any other time during our travels. Part of that was due to being in new towns and wanting to enjoy the local fare and fun; part was due to having lots of free time to try new recipes requiring random ingredients that we still have; and part of it was because housesitting really can be quite boring sometimes (at least for us - more on that in the next post).

Other fun housesitting facts...
  • New dog friends made: 7
Ruby & Rusty

Jack and Willie!

Obi & Roxy 
  • New cat friends made: 4



  • Miles traveled: about 1750
 our least meandering route yet!
  • Miles hiked: a shamefully low 40, mostly on Orcas Island... but we did run a lot in Portland!
We got a taste of housesitting in Melbourne and Honolulu in 2014, and a good dose of it over the last eight months. We're happy to have a break from it but we'd absolutely consider it again! Like WWOOFing, camping, and just about any other means of travel, housesitting isn't for everyone. One day soon I'm going to post a FAQ as well as some of the housesitting pros and cons from our perspective... If you have a specific question, feel free to leave a comment here and I'll try to answer it in the upcoming post!