Rent takes a big chunk out of your monthly paycheck, so when your budget feels stretched a bit too tight, start by lowering the amount you pay for a place to live. Luckily, there are ways to reduce your housing expenses so you’ll have money left over to create a nest egg, go back to school, or travel the world. See how you can trim your rent and related housing expenses with these ten helpful tips.
1. Move to a More Affordable City
Rents are soaring nationwide. According to a real estate report by RENTCafe.com, the national average rent reached an all-time high of $1,426 per month in February 2019 and is further expected to increase. People across America are struggling to find affordable apartments and keep down the percentage of their income spent on housing. Luckily, there are still some cities where rent is half the amount of the national average. If you can afford to move – personally and professionally – you’ll find reasonable rent and lucrative job opportunities in cities like Toledo, OH, El Paso, TX, or Oklahoma City, OK.
2. Move to the Suburbs
In general, it’s cheaper to live in the suburbs rather than rent in a premier downtown location. Data shows that the average rent charged by buildings in top-rated locations is 37% higher than the average rent charged in lower-rated areas, further from city cores. In addition, parking is more easily available in the ‘burbs, and you’ll end up paying less when dining out and shopping. The difference could mean as much as $444 per month in your pocket.
3. Downsize to a Smaller Apartment
If your budget is looking a bit lopsided, you’re not alone. Money management experts recommend spending no more than 30% of your income on housing, but most of us pay a little bit more than that when you look at the total cost of living. If you’re in a rental situation that exceeds your budget, search for a smaller place to live that won’t take such a big bite out of your income. For example downsize from a 3-bedroom to a 2-bed place with a lower rent. Finding a place to live that’s a bit more modest – at least for a while – can give you some breathing room so you can start a rainy-day fund or pay off debt.
4. Find a Roommate to Share the Rent
A tried and true way to pay less rent is to share your living space. This can also be the key to affording a place to live in an expensive city. There are a ton of roommate search apps and websites to help you find a compatible roommate who can pay their fair share. If you’re hesitant to share your space, take a look at the upside. Given a choice between living solo in a one-bedroom apartment for $1,000/month and sharing a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate for $1,200/month, you’ll pay significantly less if you’re willing to share the common living areas. If you split the rent equally, you’ll each pay $600/month, or $4,800 less in one year.
5. Don’t Get a New Pet
Before you decide to take on the responsibility for a cute kitten or adorable puppy, remember that pets can be hard on your bottom line. A furry best friend can cost a pretty penny when it’s time to rent a pet-friendly apartment, so make sure you know as much as possible about the extra charges for Fluffy or Fido. If your landlord charges $50 monthly in pet rent, you’re on the hook for an extra $600 per year. With a non-refundable pet fee of $200, costs could be as much as $800 in your first year in a new apartment.
It’s not just the additional rent and security deposit you’ll need to pay. Pets add to your monthly expenses in unexpected ways with veterinary bills, food, grooming, and pet-sitting. If your budget is already tight, you may not be able to afford what it takes to give your pal a happy life and a forever home.
6. Lower Utility Bills to Lower Your Monthly Payment
Utilities contribute to the total amount you pay each month and can cost as much as 10-20% on top of rent. Replace existing incandescent light bulbs with high-efficiency LED bulbs for an energy-friendly update that can save you $150 per year in a two-bedroom apartment. Add in a few timers or sophisticated sensor switches and you can lower the bill even more. You can even take the bulbs with you when it’s time to move – LED bulbs have a lifespan of about ten years.
7. Negotiate a Better Rate
Before signing on the dotted line for a new apartment, consider how long you will stay. In general, a longer term will result in lower rent. Not only that, but it also locks in your rate for the foreseeable future, so you’re not at the mercy of market rate hikes.
If you face a rent increase when it’s time to renew your current rental agreement, start by asking if you can extend your contract at the current rate instead. It’s inconvenient to replace tenants and expenses can add up quickly for credit checks, paint and carpet, and vacancies during the turnover. Many landlords will eagerly avoid the hassle and offer a discount in exchange for an extended commitment from a reliable renter.
8. Eliminate Transportation Expenses
Often the decision between rent and a commute is really between time and money. A long commute extends your workday and can cost more than you think. Moving close enough to work that you don’t need a car will eliminate gas, registration, maintenance, parking, and insurance. Calculate the cost of owning a car and compare that to the cost of walking or public transport. You could save a significant amount of money each month and rent a car when you need one.
9. Make Use of all the Amenities
Many modern apartments are chock full of amenities that would cost you a chunk of change if you paid for each one separately. By not paying a separate gym membership, or renting a co-working space, your monthly cost of living is lower in the long run. So you can afford to live in a successful job market like Dallas and have enough left over to take advantage of all the great restaurants and professional sports teams.
10. Avoid Furnished Apartments
Furnished apartments are an unnecessary luxury if you’re attempting to scale back your monthly expenses. Rent an unfurnished and fill it with second-hand furniture from local thrift stores. Not only will you benefit the planet by reusing and upcycling, but you’ll also be surprised at the sturdy pieces you can find that still have a lot of life left in them. Over time, you can upgrade to more expensive pieces as you determine your style. Stick with neutral colors and simple lines for the most practical choices.
If you’d like to get a little more bang for your buck, take a good look at what you’re paying each month in rent. Money-saving solutions don’t always take a bite directly out of your rent but reducing what you pay monthly leaves you with more to spend elsewhere.