Favor Frugality? Know How To Pick Your Battles In Your Short-Term Rental Business

I consider myself a top-tier money-saver. I HATE spending. I find great joy in knowing that I’m able to forgo select creature comforts in exchange for a little extra money in my bank account. When it comes to my short-term rental properties, however, I’m smart enough to understand the areas that are NOT skimp-worthy. I have identified items on which I refuse to penny-pinch, for their benefit to my business is well worth the extra expense. So, if you’re frugal like I am, I hope you’ll read this article and highly consider following suit. I will explain the areas worth more attention and money, and the areas where you CAN happily save!

Spend It

When thinking about the items to shell out on, consider three themes: comfort, safety, and longevity. The first two should be thought of in the lens of the guest. Comfort is key to short-term rentals. You want to give your customers a cozy feeling during their stay. I mean, the personal home-touches of a rental are what sets stays booked through sites like Airbnb apart from stays at cookie-cutter hotels. Safety is pretty self-explanatory. You want your guests to feel protected in your home and on your property (plus avoiding lawsuits is cool). Longevity has to do with making investments in your property, rather than cheap expenses. Certain items in the home, when done right, can last a lot longer than their cheaper alternatives. This being said, here are some items I consider worth-the-wallet.

Mattresses and Mattress Toppers – Don’t go cheap on the mattress. You don’t need to go TOP of the line here, but you definitely want to impress the guests when they get into bed. Certainly don’t go used! Your mattresses are investments that will last for years and be a serious driver of reviews for your rental. Once you find a mattress and topper that works for you, as with all of your staple items, be sure to track them in a spreadsheet so you can easily find them when it’s time to add a new home to your business. The Sleep Foundation has a list of some top picks for STR mattresses.

Mattress and Pillow Protectors – These ones aren’t necessarily going to break by any means, but it can be tempting to skip them to save a few bucks. This is a longevity play. These plastic covers can protect your investments in mattresses and pillows. A spill or a heavy sweater may stain your sheets, but the extra layer of protection can keep the pricier parts of the bedding safe. There are many options that don’t feel plastic-y at all. In fact, guests won’t even know they are there.

Smart Lock – Buying smart locks for my front doors was one of the best decisions I made when outfitting my rentals. Instead of hiding a key in a manual lockbox, for which every guest has the same code, investing in a digital smart lock to replace your old door handle is a much more luxurious – and safe – way of allowing access. Not only does a touchscreen number pad give your home a futuristic and hospitable feel; it also allows you to change the code, from wherever you are, for each guest. Even if you choose not to change the code between guests, the smart lock at least gives the feeling that their code is unique and that they are the only ones who will be coming and going during their stay. The Sifely Latch Lock is what I use and it is on sale now for $129.99.

Security Cameras – While you cannot put cameras inside your short-term rental, outdoor cameras watching the entrances provide safety to your guests, yourself, and your property. Get cameras that can alert you when people are coming and going from your home. This could help you stop an unwanted party before it even starts.

Cleaning service – My cleaning partner deserves her own post (or a few). She is fantastic and worth every penny. I wanted to make sure I included this item in the list of spend-worthy because the cleanliness of the home is going to be the FIRST thing each guest notices. They want to feel confident that every surface has been sanitized, every linen washed, and every utensil scrubbed. Going with a cheap cleaning service, who doesn’t specialize in short-term rental turnaround, may save you a few dollars but you’ll likely start to regret your decision when your guests complain about cleanliness or your trust for quick between-guest turnarounds dwindles.

Save It

Okay, now for the fun part! Let’s talk about areas of the home that are perfect options for Walmart, resale shops, or Facebook Marketplace.

Dishes and Silverware – As long as they match and there isn’t any damage, there is nothing wrong with a used set of dishes. You’d be surprised at the quality of set you can find at a garage sale. A discount store is a good option too, if you want to go new, just make sure the dishes don’t have a lightweight, “cheap” feel. When it comes to coffee mugs, many people like the eclectic mix of mugs collected from different places and times. If this is a feel you want to go for in your home, check out your local thrift store for mugs as cheap as 25 cents.

Decor – Now, this one may vary based on location and the ~vibe~ you are shooting for in your home, but I have had great luck finding colorful vases, funky paintings, and vintage vinyl albums for my home decor-on-the-cheap at yard and estate sales. Expensive artwork and statues are just begging to be stolen or knocked over and busted anyway!

Functional Furniture – Things like dining tables and chairs, dressers, end tables, and TV stands don’t need to be expensive…they just need to work and fit the style of your home. These are also hot items at thrift stores. If you can find an older piece at your local Salvation Army, there’s a good chance it was built to last. Save lots of money here.

—– Controversial Pick!! —–

THE COUCH – I have heard both sides of the argument for couches. Some say you need to provide an extremely comfortable and luxurious experience for guests coming “home” at the end of a day of business or play, and that the only way to do that is by bringing out the big bucks. Some say that new, high-end couches are some of the biggest rip-offs out there… I am in the middle.

I would never argue against the fact that the living room sofa needs to be cozy and home-like for the guest. As with the mattress selection, you need to cater to the relaxation of your guests. That being said, there are great deals at retailers like Wayfair, Big Lots, and even Facebook Marketplace.. That’s right, used couches. See, when people need to get rid of a couch, they NEED it gone. It’s not an easy item to shove in storage or toss out at the curb. You can find great deals on used couches for a fraction of what they are really worth. Often the owner is moving and just doesn’t want to deal with transporting the damn thing. Of course, go and inspect it for yourself first.

So, I say feel confident in your choice of saving money on a couch, if that’s the direction you want to go. (Plus, if a guest ever spills and ruins your budget couch, you’ll be glad you made this choice!)

In Conclusion

Furnishing your home for short-term rental is an exciting time. The space is a blank canvas on which you get to decide the kind of comfort you will be providing your guests. Certainly your decisions are not set in stone, but it makes it easier if you can nail it off-the-bat. The choices I’ve made regarding where to “spend” and where to “save” are just my own opinions. Your mindset shouldn’t be focused on penny pinching if it doesn’t have to be. You should be prioritizing your guests and the quality of experience you will be providing them. All I’m saying is…if you can save a little money here and there… why not do it?

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