I must have seen the signs along the highway a million times and never really gave them much thought, other than thinking that the advertised price seemed more expense than renting an apartment. I could not have been more wrong.
The black and red sign read 219.99 weekly. Of course that doesn’t include tax. Still, even with an 11% hospitality tax, which did raise the price to two hundred and forty four dollars and some change, the seven day stay came down to less than thirty six dollars a day? Not bad when your job sends out on road. The other unmentioned cost was a refundable security deposit of 100.00, but the deposit does come back to you on checkout. At first, the room itself seemed small, but I think I was using the house I was living in as a point of reference. The room was complete with bed, desk and chair, dresser, television, and a full size kitchen with stove, microwave and refriderator. Usually my business trips only take one or two days to complete. This time it would take a little longer so I checked in and made myself at home.
Extended stay hotels are not new, although it was new to me. A cross between a hotel and an apartment complex, each room is a studio, and some residents had been living there for years. Jean, the woman across the hall, came when her husband’s illness sent him to the hospital. After several months, her husband passed away, but Jean decided to stay. That was two years ago. I was only staying for seven days, but I could understand how someone could come to call this home. The issue of safety that goes alone with being in a hotel room was not a problem. It turns out that all doors are locked electronically and only residents with a key could get in and out. The security officer walked the hallways and parking lot at night, and they have cameras inside. I felt safe.
The business trip was a success. So much so, that the company offered to move me from our Office in Georgia to the Office in Florida. I decided to take the opportunity. The hotel would be a great place to make the transition from living with a roommate to setting up my own place. However, there were a couple of unexpected setbacks. It turns out that you have to live in Florida for six months before you are actually considered to be a resident of the state. Second, living as an undocumented roommate in my friend’s house, made a back ground check a little difficult since there was no paper trail to show where I had been living for the last two years. The extended stay hotel did not require a credit check or a completed background check other than a sexual predator check which was standard. I was going to need to stay a little longer than I expected. The hotel offered what they referred to as a monthly rate which only consisted of twenty eight days (4 weeks). But it still turned out to save me about twenty dollars a week. I did a little math and realized that for me to live on my own was going to run me about 1500.00 a month with rent, electricity, phone, and cable. The rate of the hotel was less than 1000.00 per four weeks and already included the same utilities. I decided to settle in.
It turns out the setbacks were a blessing for me. They say you never really know how much stuff you have until you move. I had things I hadn’t used in years. When someplace is referred to as efficiency, it doesn’t mean the room is more efficient. It means that you become more efficient, which is exactly what happened. Rather than rent a storage space, I decided to go through what I had and get rid of it. Most of it I sold on Craigslist, the rest went to charity. Once I’d tightened up, everything seemed to move a little smoother. I reorganized what was left in bankers boxes and placed them under the bed. No more stumbling around trying to remember where I put something. I knew exactly where everything was located. I think the biggest surprise was learning that in the State of Florida, after you have lived in a hotel for six months, they drop all the taxes save for one (the tourist development tax). Without realizing it, my rent had actually gone down by 10%. It is rare to find a place that becomes less expensive the longer you live there, but to not have to pay a tax? This is almost unheard of.
Here I am six months later and I like my little room. I bought in a small recliner which I have situated beside the bed with the nightstand between them. Sometimes I wonder if the room is getting bigger. Of course, it’s not, but I have taken to a more minimalist lifestyle and decided I like it. The important thing is I have a roof over my head, I’m comfortable, I’m saving money and the staff treats me like family. I think I’ll stick around for a while.