Saturday, July 25

Free rent, the sleazy way

Photo by extremeezine

While perusing the Phoenix housing ads, I stumbled on this little tidbit (twice now!) and I thought it should be shared.

Hi, I've got a room across from the Glendale Community College campus with access to pools, jacuzzi, tennis/racquetball courts etc... I'm offering Free Rent + Utilities in exchange for "Personal Services". The room is unfurnished, but furniture may be arranged for the right roommate. During the fall and spring semesters I both go to school and work full time, I'm in my mid twenties and I'm not hung up on ethnicity, I'm just looking for someone laid back and preferably 420 friendly :-) so if you're interested then by all means drop me a line, I'd love to hear from you {^_^}

Okay, of course, I'm not advocating selling yourself for free rent. There's also a reason that this ad continues to be up: No woman has called just begging to take the place. But it's an interesting reminder that we all have a lot more options to make or save money than we admit to.

We think about things like a second job, selling off items around the house or cutting all meals out. Once that stuff has been exhausted, we tend to assume we've done everything we can. That's not true. Instead, we've done everything that we're willing to consider.

Again, I'm not saying that every woman should consider selling herself -- de facto or literally. It does, however, raise an interesting question about our options as we see them. Dog Ate My Finances actually talked a bit about this in a rant about how people see themselves as having fewer options than they actually do. In fact, most of us have more choices than we let on, or perhaps even realize. (This is something Dog pointed out to me once in comments. While I still don't love the way she generalized some things, she does have a point about the choices we make -- often without realizing it.)

Point being, if some woman is really having a hard time making ends meet, would this be such a bad thing? Maybe she's easygoing about sex. God knows, men don't exactly tend toward picky, but if women act even a quarter as cavalierly as men they get called sluts. Or maybe she meets the guy and decides he's someone she'd probably consider sleeping with anyone. So, at least now, she gets free rent rather than a couple of drinks bought for her. Or maybe she's just really can't afford rent and this is her best bet at keeping a roof over her head. No matter what the scenario, I guess I wonder why it's a big deal. Why most of us -- myself included -- have that initial reaction of disgust. It's really just another example, if an intimate one, of bartering.

After all, you could argue that this situation isn't all that different from others where sex is involved. A lot of women stay in unhappy relationships/marriages because they can't (or believe they can't) survive financially on their own.

At least here, the woman might find the guy tolerable. She also wouldn't experience the resentment that builds as a relationship founders. Nor would she have to mourn the loss of "happily ever after." There'd be no starry-eyed idealism about that in the first place.

Yet, for some, that makes the situation that much worse.

This sort of thing fascinates me. I suppose it's because our knee-jerk reactions tend to be based on societal norms. This is especially true of anything that smacks of prostitution.

I know the arguments against it: it's demeaning, dangerous, etc. But is that the act itself, or the conditions created because the act is illegal? I don't ever want to sell my body, but I also don't think we have a right to tell a woman she can't sell hers.

But back to the main point of this piece: What you are willing to do to get or save money is very different from what you can do.

You could sell illegal drugs or steal cars to sell to chop shops. These things are illegal though, and even if you're not worried about getting caught, you probably have ethical problems with these. I don't think marijuana should be illegal, for example, but I'm not willing to risk jail time to sell it. And I have far too active a guilt complex to steal things.

You could sell items that are of great sentimental value. But if you have a steady job, then it's usually not worth the sacrifice. For example, I have a couple of pieces that my grandmother gave me before she died. Even when the jewelry market was better, I didn't want to sell them. I would, if it became necessary, but I prefer to pay down debt more slowly and keep these.

You could sell every scrap of furniture in your house, but most of us would rather pay off debt more slowly and be comfortable in the interim. While Tim and I are slowly winnowing down our possessions, we are putting most of the furniture sales off until closer to the move date. Even so, we will take the bed, the couch, and a dresser with us; the items are more expensive to replace than to move. That said, if we did get a caretaking job that meant free rent but just a single room, I would sell off the couch before we left.

You could eat the cheapest food available. I'm not talking junk food with coupons, though that sometimes qualifies. I'm talking rice and beans, chili with rice and tortillas, chicken and then boil the chicken carcass for stock for chicken soup later. My mom still mainly eats things like this. She gets very sick of leftovers at times; but the meals are simple, easy to cook and cheap. Most of us want a little more variety in life and cuisine. Most of us would rather keep going out to eat at least on occasion. So we find room in the budget for it.

You could sell everything except the absolute, bare essentials. Most of us are unwilling to live this way on purpose, though. When I was an infant, my mom was single and working as a clerk. She had just enough clothes to get through the week. She'd wash them on the weekend and start again. Three decades later, in some debt from a divorce, she didn't go back to that lifestyle. She did buy pretty much exclusively from thrift stores and had a bunch of my old shirts -- as in, high school castoffs -- for wearing around the house. Still, as much as she hates debt and worries about money, she was unwilling to go back to near-deprivation to cope.

I guess it simply boils down to what you are willing to do for money. And a lot of that, I think, is predicated on your situation. Some people consider sacrifice to be taking their kids out of private school. For others, it's about getting a second job. There's a wide range of choices -- so much so that we often don't realize how many choices we rule out automatically.

So ask yourself: What have you automatically ruled out? What is an absolute no, and what are you willing to reconsider?

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Anonymous Mike said...

What's 420 friendly?

July 26, 2009 at 2:05 PM

Blogger Abby said...


420 friendly is a reference to marijuana. Pot smokers celebrate 4/20 of every year and "the" time to smoke every day is 4:20 p.m. I looked it up once and couldn't find any real answer to why this is.

July 26, 2009 at 2:17 PM

Blogger Jenny's Vegcafe said...

It didn't say specifically that he was interested in a woman though.
I knew of a similar situation where a poor 18 year old former foster kid traded her body for a roof over her head. He kicked her out whenever he got mad or drunk. Not a life I want to live.

July 28, 2009 at 3:12 PM

Blogger hustler said...

Is that legal? I've seen enough episodes of "cops" to know that they arrested a hooker and guy even though he paid her with boxes of dorritos from his truck. :)

July 29, 2009 at 9:07 PM


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