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Jen Smith of Modern Frugality: “Take great pictures”

I love an all-inclusive experience. Whether it’s a resort or a cruise, I just like someone to tell me where to be so I don’t have to plan it myself. And even better when I don’t have to pull out my wallet to pay for anything. It’s the opposite of my real life! Many people dream […]

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I love an all-inclusive experience. Whether it’s a resort or a cruise, I just like someone to tell me where to be so I don’t have to plan it myself. And even better when I don’t have to pull out my wallet to pay for anything. It’s the opposite of my real life!


Many people dream of becoming an Airbnb host but don’t know where to start. In this series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host” we are interviewing successful Airbnb hosts who share lessons from their experience about how to run a very successful Airbnb property. As part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Jen Smith.

Jen Smith is a personal finance writer at ModernFrugality.com and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. She and her husband paid off 78,000 dollars of debt in two years by lowering their spending and increasing their income with side hustles.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

My husband and I got married in 2015 and our first goal was to pay off the 78K dollars of debt we had between us. We had planned for it to take five years but we got so focused with cutting our spending and side hustling that it took us exactly 23 months. That’s what led me to a career in writing personal finance and our interest in side hustles has never gone away.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

We probably should’ve never gotten into Airbnb so it’s funny to see where we are now. We were renting one half of a duplex while we were paying off our student loans and were happy there because the rent was so cheap. But one day our landlord called us and said he wanted to turn the duplex into an Airbnb so we had to be out in 6 weeks. That’s what led us to buy a house quite unexpectedly. We ended up getting a 3/2 and since it was just the two of us and our master bedroom was in the back of the house we thought renting out the guest room and second bathroom would be a good way to monetize our underutilized space. I guess I should thank our old landlord for giving us the idea.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this?

Our second guests ever were a young couple getting ready to move overseas. They were getting rid of all their things and we hung out a lot during their 10 days with us. After they checked out they left us a few “gifts” including some children’s books because they knew we wanted kids but they also left us a backpack with a full set of s&m gear and a note that said “it was a gift, only used once.”

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It wasn’t funny at the time but now I can look back and laugh. We went out of town for a week and had a young couple stay while we were gone. I made the mistake of telling them we wouldn’t be there during their stay and they kind of took over the common areas. We got home and it looked like we’d rented out our whole house. From that point on, even if we were out of town, I wouldn’t tell guests. When they thought we’d be home they were much more respectful of the shared spaces.

What are some of the common mistakes you have seen people make when they first start hosting with Airbnb?

I see this today when looking through Airbnb, bad photos. People overuse the “fisheye” or “panoramic” effect all the time. People know it’s used to make spaces look bigger so it just makes them think the spaces are even smaller than they probably are. And some pictures are so cluttered. Less is definitely more when showing off your space.

What are some of the things that can be done to avoid these errors?

Good lighting and minimalist design are key to taking great pictures. Avoid over photoshopping and please stop using the fisheye or panoramic photos.

Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Airbnb experience? In your opinion, what makes you different from the rest?

I think hosting people in our home without a separate entrance is pretty unique, even though that’s what Airbnb was meant to be! Offering an affordable stay with a live-in local is a traveler’s dream.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host”? Please share a story or example for each.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/b28ca8c8741b89b264fb111c5c77b0c8

Here’s the link to the article where I talk about all that.

  1. Take great pictures
  2. Use positive descriptors in your listing
  3. Get a great mattress
  4. Answer questions before they’re asked
  5. Instead of pricing yourself low, offer more so you can charge competitively

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

I love an all-inclusive experience. Whether it’s a resort or a cruise, I just like someone to tell me where to be so I don’t have to plan it myself. And even better when I don’t have to pull out my wallet to pay for anything. It’s the opposite of my real life!

Can you share with our readers how you’ve used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I share my successes on ModernFrugality.com and on the Frugal Friends Podcast to encourage others to think outside the box when saving and earning money. Paying off debt and building wealth take a lot of self discipline but hearing the stories of others who’ve had success has always been the most motivating thing for me so my goal is to motivate others.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think going deeper is more impactful than going wider. I’m passionate about children and teens experiencing trauma from the foster care system. I believe if we can start a movement of families pouring in, getting attached, and loving one or two children at a time, the ripple effect of that movement would help countless futures.

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

I’m @modernfrugality everywhere on social media. I’m currently doing a lot of quick investing explainers on TikTok. And if you’re a podcast listener who loves saving money, minimalism, and intentional living then subscribe to the Frugal Friends Podcast.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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