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Burdened by Your Rent? Try These 6 Savings Tips

Is writing that rent check stressing you out? Try these tips.

Feeling overwhelmed by your rent payment? With Trulia’s rent prices for major metros like San Francisco, Miami, and New York averaging almost 40% of the median income, it’s becoming a very hot topic for renters.

Don’t sweat. There are plenty of ways you can make your dollars go further, despite the premium prices on your apartment. A little creativity, imagination, and negotiation go a long way.

If you’re feeling rent-poor, try these six tactics:

1. Ask for an upfront payment discount

Ask your landlord or property manager if they’d be willing to give you a 5% discount in exchange for paying a few months of rent upfront.

Emphasize two points: First, they could probably earn more than 5% if they invest that money (or used it to pay off their investor loans). Therefore, they’ll financially benefit from having the money upfront.

Second, emphasize that this reduces their workload. They don’t need to hunt you down, ask for the check, and track whether the payment cleared. Your upfront payment will reduce their management headaches.

2. Negotiate a discount for a longer lease term

Did the landlord or property manager say “no” to Request #1? Don’t get discouraged. Instead, try another tactic: Ask for a discount in exchange for a longer lease term, such as a two-year or three-year lease.

Why would they be motivated to grant this? A few reasons:

  • Vacancy is expensive. Every month your unit sits empty is a month that they’re forgoing rental income. By signing a longer lease, you’re protecting your landlord from that vacancy.
  • Turnover is a hassle. Your landlord needs to conduct a move-out inspection, post advertisements, answer calls and emails, host showings, meet the new tenant for a lease signing and move-in walk-through … these tasks demand their precious time. And time is money. By signing a longer lease, you’re reducing their workload.

Emphasize those advantages when you lobby for a lower rent rate.

3. Get a roommate

You might not be jazzed at the idea of sharing your refrigerator with a total stranger, but a roommate will (effectively) chop your current rent in half.

(And if you can find a roomie who’s a frequent business traveler, you’ve really scored: You’ll get the price-reduction benefits without the lack-of-privacy drawbacks.)

What if you live in a one-bedroom or studio apartment? When your lease term expires, look at moving into a two-bedroom that you share with a roommate. Your personal portion of the rent will likely be lower.

Paying for half of a two-bedroom unit is usually cheaper than paying for a single one-bedroom, because the “overhead” (the kitchen, the living room) is consolidated.

4. Go green

If you can’t lower your rent, focus on reducing your utility bills (while also protecting the planet):

  • Remove your incandescent light bulbs. Replace these with compact-fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) or LEDs.
  • Unplug small appliances when they’re not in use.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Add weatherstripping around your doors and windows. (This costs only a couple of dollars at the hardware store, and it can make a massive difference in your utility bill.)
  • Buy a “window insulation kit” (sometimes called “insulation film” or “window shrink-wrap”). This adds another layer of insulation to the windows throughout the winter months, lowering your heating bills.
  • Hang heavy drapes or curtains by the windows to further reduce drafty cold air from seeping in. (Leave the curtains open during the daytime so that sunlight can warm your room.)
  • Keep your thermostat at reasonable temperatures. Wear a light jacket and hat indoors during the winter rather than running the heater at full blast. Likewise, wear sleeveless shirts and drink plenty of water in the summer rather than overrelying on the air conditioner.

5. Live in a pedestrian-friendly zone

Choose an apartment that’s located in a pedestrian-friendly or bike-friendly area. Save on the cost of gasoline by walking or biking to work, to the grocery store, to the local farmers market, or to your neighborhood restaurants and bars.

What if these aren’t all located in the same area? Which of these is most important?

First and foremost, live close to work. You (presumably) go to work more often than you hit the bars or head to the grocery store.

Once you’ve mastered that, look for a location that’s close to other spots you frequent, such as your grocery store, dry cleaner, or gym.

Speaking of which …

6. Look for public spaces

If possible, look for an apartment that’s close to public spaces such as city parks or beaches. This offers two benefits: First, you can drop your gym membership and start working out in the park instead. Second, you can skip the overpriced happy hours and hang out in the park with your friends instead.

In other words, public spaces provide free entertainment, which allows you to save money. And if you live close enough to walk there, you’re enjoying added savings.

What other resources have you employed to help save on rent? Share your comments below.