I Slept with Strangers to Beat My Budget

By Tiffany Mast

This spring I took a business trip to San Francisco. At first glance, I thought I would beat my TravelBank budget with no problem. Then I started looking at flights. Why are flights from DC to San Francisco so expensive? Sure, it’s quite a hike but it’s a domestic flight!

I began to regularly monitor potential flights and turned my attention to finding an affordable hotel. I figured saving in the hotel category would offset the cost of maxing out my flight category. Well, guess what. The hotels are expensive too! Everything short of a hostel, that is.

Fortunately, there are other choices for lodging and I started skimming rental options on Airbnb. My goal was to stay in SoMa for $131 a night. This would get me in at 50% of my hotel budget. Two options kept coming up: a private room in a creative warehouse for $95 a night – way under budget but the room resembled a minimalistic hostel and the warehouse hosted events at night – or a shared loft space in the heart of SoMa for $119 a night.

I booked the shared loft space and spent three nights sleeping with strangers to beat my budget.

I arrived in San Francisco late Wednesday night and immediately passed out when I reached my Airbnb, a shared loft apartment. As in the host couple slept in the loft upstairs while I slept in the common space downstairs and their dog meandered about.

The downstairs was an open floor plan that encompassed a kitchen, dining room and living room. My bed occupied the would-be dining room, which seemed strange but was conveniently located for a guest; just a few steps from the kitchen space and a half bath.

The only shower was in the bathroom attached to their lofted bedroom so I had to sneak past on tip toes in the morning to hop in the shower. When I shut the bathroom door and flicked on the lights I found their dog sleeping on the bathroom floor! She had to hang out with me while I showered because I wasn’t reopening the door with the lights on.

Aside from the funny shower situation, which they were totally cool about and obviously used to, it was a really convenient rental. My hosts were generally out of the house all day, like me, and at night they quietly kept to themselves upstairs. The few times we chatted I learned they had recently moved from Texas and were using Airbnb to offset their costs in a new city. With the extra cash they felt they could really enjoy San Francisco, namely by going out to new restaurants each week.

From their place I could walk to the office, a handful of coffee shops and bars and the San Francisco Flower Mart. Uber rides to further sites around the city were reasonably cheap. And best of all, my loft rental was much cheaper than a decent hotel in the SoMa neighborhood.

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