If you’re a young professional or recent college graduate looking to move out of mom and dad’s place, you may encounter high rental costs. The sometimes low wages of first jobs can be a challenging mix with the costs of first apartments, but there are plenty of creative ways to offset costs if you’re willing to make an effort. Saving a few hundred dollars a month translates into thousands annually—the equivalent of getting a big raise (after taxes). Plus, if you invest your savings in your early twenties it’s exponentially more valuable. Here are four practical ways to save money without clipping coupons on Saturday night.
Negotiate your rent
You argue with the cable company, you don’t buy a car full-price, why shouldn’t you have a conversation with your landlord about your monthly payment? Quality tenants don’t grow on trees, and if you’ve developed a positive relationship with your landlord they may want to keep you around for a cheaper price. Asking to reduce the rent by $25 can save you $300 over a year. Offer to mow the lawn or shovel the stairs for other tenants in the building in exchange for a reduction in your rent —the landlord might be happy to let you take a problem off their hands!
Search for reasonably priced units
Remember that not all property owners are in the same situation. People might try to charge high rent for reasons like debt or a new heating system. Just because one person is charging $1,100 for a one-bedroom apartment doesn’t mean everyone in town has that price point. Remember to keep an open mind about expectations and invent new options. If you want a 500-square-foot studio apartment, you might be able to find a 1,500 square-foot two-bedroom with a roommate and still have the same amount of private/quiet space. Also, don’t be afraid to make negotiation part of your search!
Be savvy with furniture and appliances
Living on your own means you might not have all the same furniture, pots, pans, appliances, pools, or other household items you took for granted at home. Make a commitment not to overpay for luxury items that will wear and tear anyway. Tap your family and social networks for things like dusty old vacuums or extra toasters. People are always getting rid of televisions and couches (two expensive items if bought retail). Craigslist and other local community boards are great resources for filling these needs. You’d be surprised what kind of things people are getting rid of for free (coffee tables, blinds, hot tubs in need of minor repairs). Just use good judgment and don’t bring unsanitary items into your home.
Be critical of utility use and fixed monthly costs
Think of each fixed expense as an opportunity to improve your budget each month. Living on your own gives you the freedom to chop cable or other optional services. If Netflix and sports are the only media you consume, explore some sports streaming packages that are cheaper than the cable company. You can aspire to shower just once a day after your morning workout and before work (bonus points if you use the shower at the gym). If you live with a roommate, involve them in the process and discuss the mutual benefits of reducing your utilities usage. Make sure all the lights and fans are off before you leave for work in the morning. Eight or nine hours of an appliance running can add up quickly. When you have the time, try and shop around for gas or electric companies with the best rates.