5 MIN READ
How I Bunked With Eight Strangers in Miami to Save Money
When I landed in Florida, I had about $500 to my name.
It was the summer after I graduated from college, and I had moved to Miami on a whim. I had a job lined-up in the Magic City, but I had two weeks to go until I saw my first paycheck.
Without enough money to pay the first month’s rent, let alone a deposit and last month’s rent, which is a standard requirement to sign a lease in Miami, I rented a bed in an eight-person hostel room on South Beach.
What I lost in privacy, I gained in dollars. By living in a hostel, I was able to save money more quickly than I would have in any other housing option, and there were a few unexpected perks that trimmed my monthly budget without sacrificing my social life.
Free Breakfasts to Start Your Day
Free breakfasts are becoming a staple amenity in hostels, and these meals are usually already included in the room rate — I found that the additional price is almost always lower than what I would have paid buying groceries to make my own breakfast.
The diversity and quality of food varies from place to place, but fresh fruit, coffee, and a granola bar or oatmeal are typically included. Once you build a rapport with the staff, they’ll usually even accommodate your work schedule by giving you food to go or serving you your breakfast a little earlier, if you need it.
Community Kitchens to Shape Your Diet
Hostel kitchens typically don’t have a stove or oven, so the types of food you can eat while staying there are naturally limited.
Soups and sandwiches are an easy option, and they’re cheaper than most things you could cook outside of a microwave. The communal refrigerator situation also poses some difficulties because you never know how much space you’ll actually have to store your food (or who might snag your tasty leftovers when you’re out of the room.) Spaces aren’t rationed out, so it’s every guest for him/herself when it comes to finding a coveted spot in the refrigerator.
Be warned: By living in a hostel, you’re constantly surrounded by tourists on vacation who have restaurants and expensive cocktails built into their budget. Remember you’re not them, and stick to food you prepare yourself.
Free or Discounted Activities
VIP access to that club you’ve been eyeing? Late-night showing of that new movie you never got to see in theaters? Hostels consistently boast overflowing activity lists, and most seasoned establishments offer free activities every night in order to attract guests.
Take advantage of these perks! I never pictured strolling into Mango's Tropical Cafe on South Beach with a gaggle of men and women speaking Spanish, Portuguese, French and German, and my budget benefited from going out with my hostel-mates instead of strolling in solo due to the discounted tickets our hostel was able to get for us.
Free Local Knowledge
Your hostel staff most likely lives in the immediate area, and they’re usually required to have an extensive knowledge of the city where you’re staying.
Take advantage of this opportunity to ask them what you’re dying to know about the city — best places to eat in the lesser-known parts of your new city, cheapest way to get around town and best places to go to meet other locals.
In my experience, they love these questions because it breaks up the monotony of the same old inquiries they receive daily Taking advantage of this local knowledge can help you make informed long-term financial choices in your new city.
Free Common Areas to Meet New People
If you’re really looking to stretch your budget, hanging out in your hostel’s common area is a great way to meet people without being required to pay a cover charge or buy a drink to linger.
Enjoy knitting or journaling while you sit, and you’re guaranteed to have a fellow hosteler strike up a conversation with you — and you can pocket whatever money you would have spent during a night on the town.
Free Language Lessons
My favorite thing about living in a hostel is the variety of people I can meet in an hour and the dozens of languages I can hear in a day. People who enjoy staying in hostels are generally open to having conversations with complete strangers, and most people are delighted when someone takes an interest in their culture.
Take advantage of your hostel’s multicultural clientele to brush up on that Spanish you haven’t used since college or learn a few basic phrases in Swahili. You’ll save the money you would have spent on a language lesson, and you’ll make a new friend in a different part of the world.
While a hostel isn’t the most glamorous housing option, the money I’ve been able to save has made the communal living more than worth it. I’m able to spend my paycheck on experiences that are important to me, like traveling abroad and attending events around Miami. Living in a hostel is a great option for anyone who is moving to a city for the first time, and I recommend it for men and women of all ages.
India Amos is a thrifty travel writer based in Miami, Florida. She has lived in West Virginia and Argentina and is on a quest for the world’s best empanada.