Checklist for cutting costs at your vacation rental

    Finding creative ways to save money can help get your vacation rental finances in shape. Being mindful of a budget, negotiating better rates on services and going green can mean an few extra pennies in your pocket. It just takes a little bit of planning.



    Determine where to cut back


    Create a budget. The first step to figuring out where you can trim the fat is creating a budget. If you're spreadsheet savvy, creating a simple budget in Excel with all of your expenses in one column and all of your revenue in another should give you a good overview of your financial situation. If you're not an Excel whiz, use your word processor (or even by hand) and split the page into two columns, one for revenue and one for expenses. After you determine where the money goes each month, you'll be able to put better cost-cutting strategies in place.
    Reduce the number of premium movie channels that you pay for. Paying for more than one family of premium movie channels is probably unnecessary. Consider adding an inexpensive DVD player and directions to the nearest Red Box

    Cut back on your landscaping and maintenance. If you currently have your lawn tended to every week, try making it every other week.
    Move your personal website to a cost-effective host. If you've had a personal website for more than a few years, you're likely paying a higher rate for hosting than you need to. Check out low-cost hosts like or for deals on hosting and domains.

    Get a free online checking account. If you have a separate checking account for your rental and currently pay steep monthly fees, look into the array of free online checking options that have become available.
    Buy generic brands of household products like dishwashing detergent and glass cleaner. They work just as well and your guests won't be able to tell the difference.

    Put on your bargaining hat


    Refinance your home. If you think you might be a candidate for refinancing, monitor the refinance market closely in the coming weeks and months. If you're considering refinancing, be sure to have all your documentation pulled together so that you can act quickly when you find a favorable rate. Refinancing may be stressful for some but is typically well worth it; locking into a lower rate could save you big bucks in the long term.
    Call your cable, Internet, and telephone companies to see if you can negotiate better rates. They may be open to lowering your rates, especially if you hint that you're considering their competitors. You may also be able to save a bit of money if you buy all three in a bundle from one provider, or you may even qualify for commercial rates.

    Shop around for homeowners insurance. You could be overpaying for homeowners and liability insurance if you haven't shopped around in a few years. Just make sure to check the conditions of your current policy before changing carriers to see if they'll prorate the remainder of your policy.

    Contest your property tax assessment. The final number that the assessor comes up with is not set in stone.

    Join in the green movement


    Decrease your heating and cooling costs by checking your insulation and all of the seals on your windows and doors.
    Replace iridescent light bulbs with the compact fluorescent kind. A quick and easy fix to save a little bit on your electricity bill each month.

    Unplug your appliances when your home is not in use. If your home is sitting unoccupied for more than a few days, have your housekeeper unplug all of your appliances and electronics. Just be sure that your fridge is empty or your next guests might have an unwelcome smell greeting them!

    Empty your hot tub (or at least turn it way down) when your property is not in use. Consider dramatically lowering the temperature of your hot tub or even draining it. If you do decide to drain the tub completely, be sure to give your housekeeper plenty of notice to refill (it tends to take longer than you think.)

    Lower your thermostats (HVAC and water heating) when you don't have guests. During the winter months, heating your home can be expensive. Save a few dollars by asking guests turn down the heat before they check out and have your housekeeper double-check it before locking up. You may even want to invest in a tamper-proof thermostat that you can program to save energy. Also, consider having your housekeeper lower the temperature of your water heater before he or she leaves

    Do-it-yourself on small household projects


    Perform your own deep cleaning. If you're currently paying your housekeeper (and/or a carpet cleaning company) to do a quarterly deep-clean of your home, consider doing it yourself. You could save a couple hundred dollars and may even do a more thorough job.
    Minimize decorating costs and get in touch with your crafty side. By watching a few hours of HGTV or doing a little Web research, you can discover tons of great ideas for making your own home décor. For example, you can make a headboard, create artwork, or recover a lampshade.


    Plan ahead


    Anticipate purchases. Make a list of all of the items you may need to purchase for your vacation rental in the next year. This could include new amenities or replacement items for those already in your home that may become worn, lost, or broken. By foreseeing the things you will likely need, you can be on the lookout for sales.
    Purchase items from your hometown instead of buying them in your vacation market. The cost of living in vacation destinations tends to be higher than in the rest of the country. Consequently, the cost of household items like linens, towels, dishes, and BBQ grills tends to be higher as well. Take advantage of the lower prices and possibly, better selection, in your primary home market.

    Plan your stays in your vacation rental during the off-peak season. If you want to maximize potential revenue, consider booking your personal stays during the shoulder or off-season. While you may enjoy the busy season, you would be taking up a week that you likely could have booked at prime rental rates.

    What NOT to skimp on


    Marketing. Decreasing your advertising expenditure may seem like the easiest way to save a few hundred dollars; however, this will likely hurt your business exponentially.
    Housekeeping. For those of us who rent by owner, our housekeeper is often our key to success. Don't risk alienating your vacation rental lifeline by trying to cut corners with your housekeeping.

    Must-have amenities. If you know that your guests choose your home for a certain amenity (wireless Internet, firewood, beach service, or pool heating), don't shoot yourself in the foot by removing or discontinuing that feature.

    Maintenance. Unless you're an expert yourself, don't try to do electrical, plumbing, HVAC, or structural work yourself. More often than not, you'll cause more problems than you'll fix.



    *Last Updated April 11, 2018

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