10 Ways to Save Money on Monthly Rent Payments

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If you’ve been in the market for an apartment or rental home, you know how deep you have to dig into your pockets to find a place you can afford.

Rent affordability – the percentage of income spent on monthly leases – has risen steadily since 2010 and dramatically since the Covid pandemic of 2020. Low-income renters are taking the biggest hit, seeing higher percentages of their monthly income go for rent.

The cost for rent has nearly doubled since 2014. Condos that averaged $1,700 a month in 2014, now go for $2,800. Houses that rented for $1,500 are now $2,600. Apartments that were $1,300 are up to $2,300.

Back in 2010, Americans spent 25% of their income on rent. Now, the Census Bureau says that 20 million renters are “cost burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent. Another 10.4 million are severely cost burdened, meaning they spend more than 50% of their income on rent.

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Why Is Rent So Expensive?

The soaring cost of owning a home, plus a shortage of affordable rental properties has made leasing a residence a real strain for U.S. consumers.

The National Association of Realtors has an index that measures mortgage affordability, and their index says a family with a median income can’t afford a median-price home in 2023.

It doesn’t help that interest rates have soared from 2.9% in 2021 to 7.7% in late 2023, making it even more difficult for people to afford a home. In just one year, the average monthly mortgage payment went from $1,770 a month to $2,234.

This is similar to what happened in 2008 when the housing market crashed and homeowners underwater on their mortgages had to abandon their house and find a place to rent.

The rental market wasn’t ready for them, and rents started soaring because there were not enough properties available. That challenge is now being faced by individuals and families that can’t afford the downpayment or monthly mortgage in the current housing market.

There are some choices that can ease the strain, some agreeable, some maybe not so palatable, depending on your situation.

How to Save on Rent

1. Get a Roommate

This one is obvious, and it will save by far the most money. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the U.S. in 2023 is $1,505. The average cost of a two-bedroom apartment is $1,862, or $931 per individual. That is $574 a month in savings, or $6,888 over the course of a year. And that doesn’t include shared savings on expenses like utilities, kitchen supplies, toiletries, and groceries.

2. Negotiate When You Renew a Lease

Landlords want to keep good tenants. It costs them money to move you out and bring someone else in. That means you have some leverage.

Research similar apartments in your area and come in with a number in mind. If the landlord won’t budge, tell them you’re going to look elsewhere. If you’ve been a good tenant, they’ll want to keep you.

Word of caution: Know who you are dealing with. Independent landlords have a lot more wiggle room than property management companies. Maybe they have multiple renters in the complex and aren’t willing to make concessions, so try to sweeten the deal by offering something in return.

3. Pay Upfront

Offer to pay for the entire lease or at least a few months upfront for a discount if you can afford it. The landlord may cut a deal to have cash in hand, but it’s only an option if you have enough savings to cover and then some. You don’t want to rack up credit card debt because you emptied your bank account to save a few dollars on rent. The savings would be lost to credit card interest. And if you do pay upfront, make sure you pay the money back into your savings each month.

4. Sign an Extended Lease

What a landlord wants is stability. You can give it to them by signing for a year-and-a-half or two years instead of six months or a year. The longer the lease, the lower the landlord should be willing to go.

5. Give Up Your Parking Space

If you don’t have a car, you don’t need a parking space. Offer to give it up in exchange for discounted rent. The landlord would be able to sell the space to another tenant, who might need extra parking.

6. Look for Apartments in the Winter

Landlords have a tough time finding renters in winter. It’s cold outside in most of the country and people don’t like to leave their cozy homes. Vacancies can go on for months, and landlords lose money with each month they’re not collecting rent.

Rents increase in the summer. Some of that has to do with the weather, and a lot of it has to do with the school schedule. College graduates flood the market during this time of year, and high school graduates enter the market in college towns. Families with children in elementary school will wait until the school year is over to make a move to ease their children’s transition to a new school.

All that makes for an increase in demand, which means higher prices. Look for apartments in the winter and offer to sign an extended lease that ends in the summer. That ensures the apartment hits the market at a good time for the landlord when you move out, and the landlord gets some stability in the meantime. They’ll be willing to work with you for those tradeoffs.

7. Private Rentals

A private rental is a property owned by an individual or family as opposed to a corporation, as is the case with most large apartment complexes. A private rental could be a house, apartment, or even a guest house separate from the main property.

Private landlords may be laxer when it comes to application fees or deposits. They don’t have strict corporate guidelines to adhere to. This means they may be more willing to negotiate rent amounts or overlook past evictions that could bar you from renting elsewhere.

However, every landlord will be different. Some may go as far as to complete background checks out of pocket. Be upfront about your situation and expectations to avoid any inconvenient surprises down the line.

8. Consider a New Location

This can be one of the most cost-effective ways to save money on rent. Big cities like New York and Los Angeles are attractive and expensive. The average one-bedroom in New York was $4,742 in 2023, while in Los Angeles it was $2,742. If you need an urban vibe, but can’t afford those prices, consider cities like Houston or Las Vegas where you could get a 2-bedroom for $1,550 or maybe Columbus, where it’s just $1,350.

9. Offer to Work for the Landlord

If you know your way around appliances or plumbing, you can offer repairs to your landlord in exchange for a discount on rent. Each time something breaks down, your landlord has to pay someone to fix it, so he or she may be willing to work with you instead if it saves them time or money. Don’t be discouraged if you’re not particularly handy, you don’t need any special skills to mow a lawn or trim hedges.

10. Referral Fees

Ask your landlord if they offer tenant referral fees. Some landlords will offer you money in exchange for referring a new tenant. This is more likely to work with the larger apartment companies since they would need to have an excess of vacancies before offering you money to help fill them. A private lender with one or two properties probably won’t offer you much or anything for a referral, but it never hurts to ask.

How to Save Money While Renting

If you’re having trouble securing a low rent, or obligations keep you living in an expensive city, consider some of these cost-effective strategies to trim down on your monthly expenses and save money.

1. Saving on Utilities

Americans spend an average of $290 a month ($3,480 a year) on basic utilities like electricity, water, natural gas, and sewer. About half of that cost goes to heating and cooling, where adjusting the thermostat to proper levels (78 degrees in summer, 68 in winter) can save a boatload of money. Energy also is wasted by inefficient appliances, drafty windows and doors that make it harder to maintain a comfortable temperature. Wasted energy equals wasted money. You can save money on utilities by upgrading old appliances or making some repairs around the house. However, you should talk to your landlord before making any major changes.

2. Switching Cable Providers

If you have cable, consider switching providers or downgrading your package. Cable options may be limited where you live, and the most affordable option may not be available there. It’s still worth negotiating with your provider for a lower rate. If you threaten to switch providers or ditch the service, they may be more open to negotiations.

3. Cutting Cable Completely

More Americans are cutting the cord. According to Samba TV, 52% of Americans no longer pay for cable TV. They’re doing it because it’s cheaper to stream the content you want. Consider switching to one of the major streaming services. Most of these cost between $10-$20 a month for a basic package.

4. Cooking at Home

You don’t have to cook three meals a day every day, but eating out constantly will drain your funds, forcing you to tighten your budget elsewhere. Most people won’t go broke from eating out once a week, but if you try to eat out every meal, you will end up spending more on food than rent. Consider learning a few easy recipes that you can knock out after work when you’re tired and most tempted to call it in and order take out.

5. Don’t Use Credit Cards for Rent

You may hear it’s a good idea to pay rent with a credit card so you can cash in on mileage rewards or cash back from credit card companies. It’s not. Property managers typically hit you with a service charge that will exceed any benefit, and you’re also risking overloading your credit card.

If you don’t pay your balance monthly, it will hurt your credit score. And the last thing you want to do, while trying to save money, is to add credit card debt.

You don’t have to follow every one of these tips to save a good chunk on rent. Analyze your situation and decide what makes the most sense for you. Some of the tips are big changes, like moving halfway across the country to save on housing costs. Something like that may not be possible. But others involve a lot less effort. Assess your options and find what works for you, and you may find it a lot easier to scrape up the rent money every month.

If this all seems overwhelming, put a call in to a nonprofit credit counseling agency and ask them for a free budget review. Putting your income and expenses down on paper should make it easier to trim spending and afford where you live.

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About The Author

Joey Johnston

Joey Johnston has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist with the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times. He has won a dozen national writing awards and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Sports Illustrated and People Magazine. He started writing for InCharge Debt Solutions in 2016.


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