It appears that the first week of the minimum wage challenge will begin on the right foot. I just got word from the parents of a friend that they would like me to house sit for them for a week beginning on December 30th. This isn’t a house sitting / pet sitting gig I would normally take (it’s a little short as I usually like to have a minimum of 10 days, and a plane flight away which would eat up most of the money I would make in normal circumstances), but it made sense to take it with the challenge beginning.
This will be an ideal situation to begin the challenge because it’s a win-win for everyone involved. In exchange for me house sitting for them, they’ll buy me an airline ticket, let me use their car as well as a few other benefits while I am there. This means that I will avoid any lodging charges during that time and have the opportunity to take day-drives to places of interest without having to rent a car.
I’m not new to house sitting. I have done house sitting and pet sitting from time to time if it has fit into my schedule in the past. I believe in 2012 I did it about a half-dozen times. I have always considered it to be one of my charitable works as the money that I earn from the daily fee I charge would go to buying food for the local food shelter or donated to the local SPCA. This year I’ll likely try to do it a bit more often to reduce my overall lodging costs for the challenge.
The questions that some of you are probably asking is why would someone be willing to pay for me to fly me to their house to house/pet sit? The answer actually isn’t that difficult to understand. It would cost them about $35 a day to lodge their dog at a local kennel during the time they will be gone which is about the same amount as my ticket will cost. In return, their dog gets to stay in a place where it’s familiar, they have someone in the house so it’s less likely to get robbed, and there is someone to take in the mail and to water the plants and make sure that everything is in working order. It ends up being a win-win situation for both of us.
For pet owners, there is nothing that they hate more than sending their pet to a boarding house, especially if it’s for a long period of time. They worry about them being locked in a cage for long periods of time and not getting the attention they are used to. They wonder if the pets will get their walks and how much stress the new environment will put on them. If they had a choice, almost every pet owner I know would rather have the pet stay at home where it’s familiar and comfortable rather than placed into a boarding situation. The problem is, there are very few alternatives for them.
While most of the house sitting I do includes pet sitting, that’s not always the case. I have a few clients that simply don’t like to leave their houses unattended for long periods of time and ask be to stay there and look after things, While this pays less than house sitting with pets, it makes the work that much easier and makes for some easy money. It can pay off for the house owners as well. I was house sitting one time when a breaker tripped turning off the electricity for the refrigerator. had I not been there, they would have lost several hundred dollars worth of food plus had a sticky mess to clean up when they returned.
For those that have the flexibility to house sit, it can be a great way to earn extra money. The most difficult part is finding your first few clients, but once you do (and if you do a good job), the recommendations should keep you as busy as you want to be. In 2012, I turned down as many requests as I actually did so I could have done a lot more house sitting if I had wanted to. Once your name gets out as a reliable person to do this, it’s quite easy to get work if you want it.
There’s an automatic assumption that house sitting / pet sitting is only something that a single person can do, but there is an opportunity for anyone to do this if they want. Yes, it can be easier for a single person to do this in various places all over the US, but the truth is that most of my job offers are concentrated in two specific areas — the San Francisco Bay Area and Lake Tahoe. Since recommendations tend to be passed on to others in the general area where you have done house sitting before, even married couples with jobs can do this by house sitting for people who live around them.
I have friends that take full advantage of this. They are a married couple without kids. They own their own house, but they house sit for their neighbors and treat these times as “mini vacations” while they still work. Basically, they use the new setting of the house where they are house sitting as a break from their normal routine so it seems like a sort of vacation, and they get paid for it.
Doing this could even be a way to earn extra money for those who have a family. Granted, there would some sacrifices that would need to be made in order to do it, but for anyone living on a low wage budget, it’s work that really doesn’t take a whole lot of extra time compared to taking up a typical second income — you have the flexibility to choose when you are willing to work, and you can do as little or as much as you like. Obviously, one parent would need to stay home with the kids while the other did the house sitting, but it could be a great opportunity for “me” time for both parents if they switched the duties.
I guess my point is that doing this as a way to make some extra money for even married couples who have a place to live isn’t as far-fetched as a lot of people seem to think it is. It certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as a way to bring in some extra money for those needing it. The fact that not many people do it and there are a lot of pet owners who would love to have someone they trust take care of their pets means there is a huge opportunity for those motivated to earn money this way. If you simply mention that you do this at gatherings, you’ll be surprised at how many people with pets will express interest.
Most people I know charge a lot more than I do. I simply ask for what it would cost to have the pet boarded during that time. For a single pet, that usually comes to $25 – $50 a day depending on the area. If the family has multiple pets, it can quickly add up to a lot more. Since your house sitting provides extra advantages, it would be easy to charge more if you wanted, especially if you gain a good reputation.
While I do have some other things I can do to reduce lodging costs, I hope that I can make house/pet sitting into one of the main ways I get free lodging this coming year. Lining up opportunities will take a lot of pressure off of lodging costs for the year and give me some leeway in spending in other areas. Although the challenge terrifies me in some ways (I know the unexpected is going to throw me a lot of curve balls and wreak havoc to my plans), I’m also excited to see if I can pull it off…
Next article: Love and Hate at CVS