Princess: How about a little credit?
Yesterday, I decided it would be a good idea to pull my credit report, you know, just to stay on top of things.
I was feeling super-confident on account of my first successful summer as an innkeeper. I don’t know if you can call our mother-in-law apartment an “inn,” especially since it has only one bedroom and two beds and can accommodate only four people (as long as they’re willing to sleep in pairs), but it’s been a success nonetheless.
When we bought our house, my only thoughts about the downstairs apartment were, “Who forgot to connect these two extra bedrooms to the rest of the house?” and “Why is there a kitchenette in my fourth bedroom?” and “Damn, we need to repaint this, stat. And get rid of that ugly sage-green carpet!”
The sage-green carpet is still there, and I still don’t like it, but we did fix the place up with some cool paint colors and cutesy furniture. In the end, it looked a lot like the one-bedroom apartments Ryan and I had lived in since we met, very homey and familiar and expertly furnished by people with experience living in small spaces.
It was my brother who turned us on to Airbnb.com, which, if you haven’t already checked it out, I’m telling you right now, is going to upend the travel industry. It took vacation rentals by owner to the next level by taking a highly functional e-commerce site with a sophisticated booking engine and combining it with the interactive, social-media functions of eBay and Facebook. It also goes beyond the realm of vacation rentals by promoting more unconventional properties (yurts, Airstreams, boats, backyard shacks and spare bedrooms) to host guests at competitive rates that are much more affordable than a hotel room with hosts who often are like in-house tour guides.
Like eBay, everyone who uses the site has a profile with a photo, a bio and verified contact information. Airbnb handles all the transactions so I don’t have to collect money. When a guest pays, Airbnb pays me by depositing the money into a PayPal account. I don’t have to pay a fee for my listing, but I do pay 3 percent of every booking. I mean, what is 3 percent in today’s world?
We’ll get back to that in a minute when I come around to telling you about my credit report. Aren’t you so excited?
The coolest part is I can see who is coming to stay and communicate with them beforehand. So I am not only the chambermaid but also the reservations and front-desk person. It’s not like pulling people’s hairs out of the bathtub with toilet paper doesn’t totally gross me out or that I ever imagined myself taking out someone else’s garbage, but still: It’s profitable.
No, I did not intend to wake up today and write an infomercial. This is all true.
The point is, this thing went gangbusters this summer. We were pretty much sold out, with just a few days between guests. We had people from all over, as far as Paris and Brazil. We had fishermen and honeymooners and a guy who was traveling around Colorado with his 91-year-old father.
I would go above and beyond to leave a little something for each person. Like the girl who came to run the Golden Leaf Half Marathon — I left her a little gift basket with energy bars, electrolyte mix and some Biofreeze (which is like Icy Hot but better — just in case one infomercial wasn’t enough for you today). For our honeymooners, I had roses and champagne. For the folks who were coming to meet their grandkids, I left chocolate-chip cookies. And for the woman with the 8-month-old baby who had some pretty ambitious hikes in mind, a fresh bag of Starbucks ground coffee.
So anyhoo, we managed to accumulate some cashola over the summer, which made me think it was time to pay some bills and take a look at those credit cards that I’d been ignoring.
I wish I could just keep my money where I can see it. Like, I have always been tempted to stash cash in fireproof boxes because I’m so tired of Wells Fargo stealing my money every time it feels like waiting for a few extra days to clear a perfectly good check I’ve deposited. That way, when I want to buy something, I can just open the floorboards or go up into the ceiling into my little cash-hiding place and grab a wad to pay for it.
That would be a lot better than what I’ve done.
What I have done, like so many of us, is accumulated debt on credit cards that began with a 0 percent or low interest rate and then went up into the 20s when I wasn’t looking. I can totally see myself at the counter in some store, throwing down the credit card because it seemed so easy at the time, my head spinning with rationalizations on why I needed it (it actually fit) and how it had some kind of discernible value (I have nothing to wear to so-and-so’s party) and why I deserved it (it made me feel better about myself).
If and when I ever manage to pay these cards down, I will paid double for these items that have probably already have made their way to Susie’s or Heirlooms or the Thrift Shop because the lighting in the dressing room was different or it doesn’t look good with the shoes I always wear.
So you see, the money we have is spoken for 10 times over already. I can keep it in my nice little savings account to create the illusion that it’s mine, but it’s not.
At least I have a way to start battling that mountain of debt — I can just roll out the ol’ welcome mat.
The Princess made the mistake of weighing herself today. Email your love to email@example.com.
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Aspen City Hall reporter Carolyn Sackariason reflects on the same old story, different year, different decade.