Broke Ass Financial Coaching: How to Properly Couchsurf

While being young, broke and beautiful is all well and good, some people’s finances are more jacked than others.  That’s why we’ve invited Betsy Crouch (aka Coach $izzle) to come onboard and dole out some much needed advice.  She is a professional financial coach after all.  If you’ve got a question you’d like answered please email her atcoachsizzle@brokeassstuart.com.  Maybe your question will be the next one answered.

I just lost my job and now I can’t afford my apartment.  I don’t want to lose my apartment, what do you think I should do?” – D

I certainly have some ideas for you and anyone facing a need to dramatically decrease expenses in the short term.  Job loss is scary and unsettling to say the least, and then to question whether you will lose your home can feel exponentially more traumatic.

You may need to dramatically decrease your living expenses if you are facing job loss, unexpected expenses, or overwhelming debt, etc.  On the other hand you may be in a situation where you feel like you would like to significantly ramp up your savings capacity in the short term, through lowering your living expenses.  If you find yourself in any of these situations, here is what I recommend you consider:

Sublet your apartment for a few months and stay with friends and family for that short period of time. If this means you could save your apartment then please consider this.  You could also use www.couchsurfing.com, which is an amazing community and option.

To those of you who are not attached to your apartment, I suggest you move out.  Give away and sell as much stuff as possible.  Most stuff is not worth saving and paying to put in storage.

I currently have not had a permanent “home” location for two months.  I don’t plan on committing to a permanent home any time soon.  I was ready for a change and ready to move out of my apartment.  I did not want to financially commit to a new apartment in San Francisco.  As a result of this choice I have paid down all debt, months before I thought I would and save twice as much as I would in a “normal” month.  I had $13,000 in medical bills last year.

The financial benefit of Couch surfing can be incredible but is not the greatest benefit of all.

Get it? We're couchsurfing. The truth is we actually all sleep on this this little couch at the same time. It hurts.

Spend time with friends and family. Spending time with friends and family is in my opinion is of the most sacred experiences in life.  No one lays on their death bed and says, “I spent too much time with friends and family,” but they do say “I spent too much time at work.”

In addition, when you are going through a transition or tough time, it can be extremely healing to spend time with close family and friends.  Don’t assume that it would be a burden to them.  Many people are honored and grateful to have the experience of helping you through a tough time.

Here are my keys to making your couch surfing experience beneficial to your friends/family and to you:

1. Ask multiple friends and family members for help: Discuss clearly with your friends and family what you are doing, why you are doing it, that you need help and ask if they are willing to help you.  Having multiple locations will help you create a back up plan, as well as lessen the burden on each host.

2. Clearly establish a time frame that you would like to stay with them, and see what they are open to. Do not stay indefinitely and wait for them to say something.. that is a quick way to hurt the relationship versus strengthen it.

3. Make sure to create an “equal energy exchange”: You may not talk like this but I am a coach so bear with me.  It is extremely important that you are clear with your agreements and that you check in with your friends or family to be sure that they feel that the energy exchange is equal.  What are you talking about Betsy?  You are staying at their house, you are using their hot water, their toilet paper, eating their food possibly, and taking up space.  What can you do to make yourself helpful and valuable?

  • Do you have a skill or trade that is helpful to them?
  • Could you babysit, clean, make dinner, wash dishes after dinner?
  • Could you run errands, take the trash out, or fix something?

If they don’t feel the exchange has been equal at the end, then create a specific agreement about what you will do to make it equal.  If you create a clear agreement at the beginning and have clear communication along the way, they will likely say “yes.”

Too literal? Dammit!

4. Be respectful of their home and their space:

Don’t spread your stuff around everywhere.  Keep your shit contained.  It is a big enough adjustment for someone to have you stay in their house.  Shuttle your toiletries to and from the bathroom if need be.  Ask when a good time to shower is.  Make spaces cleaner and more organized than how you found them. Strip the bed when you leave, ask where they would like you to put them.

Housing is our greatest expense.  Most of us wish we had more time to spend with friends and family.  Look at this as an opportunity that could create stronger personal relationships and a stronger bank account, it has for me and I would strongly recommend it.

I am rooting for you D.

comments/questions?  coachsizzle@brokeassstuart.com

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About the author

Betsy Crouch - Coach $izzle

Betsy hates to brag, but she grew up in Michigan. An unhappy materialist/rabid consumer turned minimalist, Betsy feels right at home in the warm socially responsible arms of San Francisco. With an Economics degree, a basic financial certification, and a range of personal experience, she has developed a unique financial coaching philosophy. She wants you to feel a sense of serenity with your finances and she shares what she has learned from coaching almost 200 people one on one. Betsy wants you to embrace your "sizzle," and for you to become a more confident and empowered Broke Ass.