Finding an affordable place to live can be tough -- especially one that satisfies all your needs in a good area with at least some of your additional wants. Once you decide it is more financially feasible to rent than buy, you can begin your search.
If you find the rental you are looking for, it's important to make sure you are getting the best price and keep costs down. It may seem out of your hands, but with the right tools, you can significantly alter your monthly costs. Since housing costs are likely the biggest item in your monthly budget, consider some cost-effective ways to save on rent and rent-related expenses. Here are five creative options to help save money, while getting the property you want.
Before you sign the lease, talk to your landlord about price. It's important to do your research first -- become familiar with competing apartments or properties in the area. If your unit is priced higher than comparable ones, you can hint that you have options. Discounts may be awarded if you can prove that you will be a great tenant that always pays rent on time with a good rental history, recommendations from past landlords and good credit.
When it comes to scoring a rental deal, paying in advance can also help -- if possible, offer to pay several months' rent upfront in exchange for a decent price negotiation. If all rent-lowering efforts fail, try getting utilities or parking space included in your costs. With an open conversation, you and your landlord should be able to compromise on something since he or she wants the apartment to be rented and you want to occupy it.
Keep in mind that your landlord may require a credit check before offering you the apartment. Landlords, just like creditors, want to get paid. This could factor into a negotiation. For example, if you don't have a great credit score, you may have less leverage. You can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.
Oftentimes if you are willing to sign a longer lease, you may be able to reduce your monthly rent. This way you are saving your landlord from having to go through the process of finding another tenant. Depending on the person or management company, this saving of time and money can be worth a lot. If you know you will be staying in the city for a long time and either really like the rental or know you can always sublet if you move on, offer to sign a two-, three- or even five-year lease for a lower guaranteed monthly rate.
Find a Roommate
A great way to lower your rent is by splitting it up. Living with a roommate may complicate your lifestyle, but sharing a space can also save you hundreds in rent and utility costs. If you are thinking of moving in with a significant other, friend, or even stranger, be sure you discussfinancial ground rules. Being honest about your finances and personal boundaries before moving in will streamline the process and ensures all parties know what they are getting into.
You may be able to save some money on rent if you pick a smaller home. It's a good idea to research the difference in cost between living options. If you are looking at apartments, how much more is a two-bedroom over a one-bedroom or studio? Is the extra space really worth it to you? You may think an extra bedroom is nice for visitors but if you only have one or two visitors every year, it may be more cost-effective to offer to pay for a hotel room for those visitors rather than spend the additional amount each month all year long.
A smaller home won't only save you on rent. With less space to heat or cool, this could also save on utilities costs. Utilities can be a real budget drainer because they add up quickly and seem like a necessity. Small changes to your routine can help cut back on expensive utility costs -- and help ease your impact on the environment. It's a good idea to try installing energy-efficient appliances and lighting. Also, when you leave a room, be sure the lights are off. Even better, unplug your electronics, light fixtures and loose wires when they are not in use. Instead of changing the temperature all the time, consider throwing on a sweater or changing into shorts around the house.
Make the Most of Your Space
Sometimes, your home can be used for more than your own living -- and help earn some side money. For example you could use your home to host jewelry, makeup or other parties where you share in the profits. Also consider renting some of your space to travelers on AirBnB or similar websites. Just be sure to ask your landlord for permission and try to get a security deposit before you let strangers into your home to prevent any issues.