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Hosting Homestay Students – The Perfect Side Hustle?

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash

This is a post by Chrissy who guest posted here a couple years ago about going for financial freedom in a high-cost city.  She has since started her own blog, Eat Sleep Breath FI, that details her journey towards financial freedom.  Chrissy is back with another guest post about a side business that has really worked for their family – hosting international homestay students.  Here are the details!

If you’ve ever dreamed of:

  • Side hustling from home.
  • House hacking to earn extra income.
  • Staying home with your kids.
  • Reaching FI sooner.

… then this might be the perfect side hustle for you! Amazingly, it checks off all the above, plus:

  • It offers a ton of flexibility.
  • Requires little or no money and experience to start.
  • Takes only an hour (or so) of ‘labour’ each day.

What is this dream side hustle, and how do you get into it? Keep reading and I’ll fill you in!

What is it, and how did we discover it?

When we decided that I’d stay home full-time with our kids, we knew that we’d be taking a significant pay cut. (My earnings accounted for 40% of our household income.)

The bills would still get paid, but simply covering expenses was NOT okay with me! I wanted to continue growing our savings and give ourselves a bit of a safety margin. I also didn’t want my husband bearing all the responsibility for our financial well-being.

Enter our house hack/side hustle of choice: hosting international homestay students.

We’d learned about hosting from my husband’s uncle and aunt, who hosted for many years. They often shared fun and interesting stories of their experiences, and it sounded like a good fit for us. So we decided to give it a try—and we’re so glad we did!

Photo by Anderson W Rangel at Unsplash

Why hosting students is awesome

Hosting turned out to be an ideal side hustle for us. The extra income (on average, $10,000/year) allows me to stay home with our kids, and the ‘work’ (around an hour per day) easily fits into our daily lives.

We and our children have been forever changed by the experiences we shared with our students. We’ve learned things that can’t possibly be taught in a classroom or book. We’ve made lifelong friends. We’ve grown our repertoire of dishes we love to cook. The list goes on and on.

Homestay hosting’s not only an easy way to combine house hacking and side hustling, but also an incredibly rewarding life experience. I’m not even sure if hosting counts as ‘work’!

A perfect fit for financial independence (FI)

The FI community tends to be open-minded and adventurous. We’re helpful and like to share our knowledge and experiences. We also enjoy meaningful relationship-building (even us introverted types). Just having the FI mindset means you’ll likely love hosting and meet all the requirements to be a good host!

But that’s not all—there are lots of other ways hosting complements FI such as:

Financial benefits

Homestay hosting is a huge FI booster. It’s a house hack that allows you to put unused rooms in your house to use, while also allowing you to write off expenses you’d be paying for anyway. It’s also a side hustle you can do from home—with your family! Not only do you gain more quality time as a family, but you’re also earning money together. Not many side hustles allow you to do that!

Emotional benefits

Being healthy not just physically, but also in mind and spirit is key to a successful FI journey. Homestay hosting fulfills most of the 10 keys to your emotional well-being: altruism, compassion, diversity, empathy, gratitude, happiness, and social connection. Welcoming students into your home not only improves your financial wellbeing but your emotional wellbeing too!

Educational benefits

If you have kids, they’ll receive these same benefits—plus they’ll also learn countless life lessons. Those of us on the FI path know the importance of always learning.

When our kids share their home, belongings, and parents with different people from all over the world, they learn about tolerance, patience, and generosity. My kids’ lives have been immeasurably enriched from engaging with our students. You couldn’t buy an education like this!

Give it a try!

I believe so strongly in homestay hosting that I feel it’s my duty as a FI blogger to tell others about it! Hosting students is such a perfect complement to the FI journey… so get out there and give it a try! I can’t recommend it enough.

About the Author: Chrissy is a financial independence (FI) enthusiast aiming for FI in her 40s. She lives with her husband and two kids near Vancouver, BC. Her passion is helping others discover FI and get there sooner. If you’d like to contact Chrissy, you can leave a comment in this post, or visit her blog: EatSleepBreatheFI.com.

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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Avatar Jackie February 11, 2019, 10:05 am

    It can be a great program if you get good students. I had a horrible experience where the student started flunking out of school, stopped attending, got violent with me when I attempted to correct poor behaviour and ended up getting kicked out of the program. I know this was likely an isolated case, and most other host families find it to be highly rewarding, but just be warned, it can go south in a hurry. A few other observations: I also found as a single person, being tied to cooking meals, packing lunches and having to be home all the time to be quite onerous. I didn’t realize at the time just how often I eat and run or graze at meal times. Just be very honest with yourself if you’re ready to be a full time “parent”. And don’t underestimate how much your food bill will increase! Again if you’re part of a family, increasing the size of your meal might not cost much or take much extra time, but as a single, it was expensive! I had a high school student and he easily ate 2 or 3 times as much as I would, and had specific dietary needs that I didn’t know about when I agreed to host. My student also had a preference for 2 LONG showers per day, which increased both my gas and water bills, also costing more money. You have to pay income taxes on any money you earn, after deductions for expenses. So be aware that it can be a LOT of work, be more expensive than you think, and might not be worth it in the long run. At the end of the day, I’d recommend that you do it for the experience, the social aspect, the education, but don’t do it for the money.

  • Avatar Chrissy February 11, 2019, 10:56 am

    Hi Jackie,

    That’s a great comment—thanks for sharing. You’re absolutely right about the realities of hosting. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine.

    And I ABSOLUTELY agree with you about not only doing it for the money. That’s my number one rule for prospective homestay hosts!

    I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience. If that was our first or only experience, we would not have continued hosting!

    However, we’ve hosted around 100 students at this point, and not a single one was nearly as troublesome and costly as yours. Our students weren’t all perfect, and being a host does take a lot of patience and tolerance at time. But on the whole, it’s been mostly positive for us.

    Again, I’m so sorry you had the experience you did. Thanks for providing insight into the challenges of hosting as a single person. It’s important to know all the factors when becoming a host.

    Chrissy

    • Avatar Jackie February 11, 2019, 12:43 pm

      I’m envious of the people who have a truly enjoyable time! It is a good program for most :)

  • Avatar Harrison Snowdon February 11, 2019, 4:00 pm

    Hi Chrissy,

    Do you mind let us know what organization you use to organize the home stays? It seems like there are numerous options out there…

    Thanks a lot!

    • Avatar Chrissy February 11, 2019, 7:08 pm

      Hi Harrison,

      I’d be happy to share the names of schools and agencies I work with, but unfortunately it’ll only help if you live in the Vancouver area.

      I wish there was a central nationwide service that could connect hosts with students—something like Airbnb. But I’m not aware of one. (It would be a great business idea for someone!)

      The best advice I can give is to simply do a Google search for your local elementary, secondary, and language schools. See if they have international student programs. If so, they’ll have a homestay department or an agency who handles it for them.

      Get in touch with the homestay coordinator, then they should be able to guide you through the rest of the process. (It’s pretty straightforward.)

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

    • Avatar Jackie February 12, 2019, 4:16 pm

      I used Canada Homestay Network in SW Ontario.

      • Avatar Chrissy February 13, 2019, 2:35 am

        Thanks for sharing Jackie. I’ve never heard of this agency—and they have a branch in Vancouver!

        • Avatar Jo March 10, 2019, 3:43 pm

          Hi Chrissy,

          I live in the Vancouver area, could you please share the names of schools and agencies you work with?

          Thank you,
          Jo

          • Avatar Chrissy March 10, 2019, 6:16 pm

            Hi Jo,

            Our favourites are: Chibi Canada, Tamwood, and Eurocentres Canada.

            All are based in downtown Vancouver, take good care of students, and are very professional with hosts.

            Let me know if you have any other questions!

            Chrissy

  • Avatar Mia February 11, 2019, 9:17 pm

    Hi Chrissy,
    I am interested when my kids are a bit older.

    I am curious about the tax implications. Do you have to keep receipts on extra groceries and utilities so that you can deduct from the ‘income’ side?

    • Avatar Chrissy February 12, 2019, 1:17 am

      Hi Mia,

      Great question! You should definitely keep records of your expenses. Things like utilities and property tax are pretty easy to keep records for since you probably get e-bills already.

      But food is a trickier one. My accountant told me an estimate is good enough for this purpose—no need for receipts. (Make sure you confirm this with your own tax pro though!)

      As long as you’re reasonable with the amounts, and you can show your calculations to figure it out, you should be fine.

      How I do it is I figure out my average cost/person/meal. (Frugal types who always cook at home can get this down to $2-$3; eating out occasionally could make that $4-$8+.)

      Then I figure out how many meals each student had, tally that all up, then submit that.

      Hope that helps!

      Chrissy

  • Avatar GYM February 13, 2019, 4:16 am

    My mother in law loves having a homestay and she likes keeping busy. Me I would prefer not to have someone that I don’t know who isn’t family around all the time (haha the hard core introvert in me I guess).

    Do you keep locks on your doors or anything for privacy?

    • Avatar Chrissy February 14, 2019, 12:15 am

      Hi GYM,

      You know what’s interesting? I’m quite the introvert, but I quickly got used to having strangers in my space. Our students’ bedrooms are on a different floor—so that helps a lot for privacy and for getting some space from each other. Both we AND the students need that!

      We do have locks on our doors, but never feel the need to use them because we’ve always been so comfortable with our students—all 100+ of them!

      But maybe it’s also because we’re weird!

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