Find ways to free up some cash and lower your monthly cost-of-living expenses.
Rent is probably the single biggest living expense in your budget. With shelter as a basic need, keeping a roof over your head is obviously money well-spent. But forking over hundreds of dollars each month — or even thousands of dollars, especially if you live in a rent-burdened city like Boston, MA — can still hurt.
The good news is that even though rent may be a necessary cost, you can find ways to reduce the amount of the expense. Saving $50 per month means creating an extra $600 per year to keep in your pocket. And that’s just a starting point. Cutting $100 off your rent means saving $1,200 per year.
If you’re ready to ease your rent’s burden on your budget, try these strategies for saving $50 (or more!) on your living expenses each month.
Renegotiate your lease
Saving $50 to $100 per month might be as simple as opening a conversation with your landlord. If you’d like to stay in your apartment, talk to your landlord about your options. Can you sign a new lease for an 18-month term instead of the usual one-year length, in exchange for a slightly reduced rent? Vacancy is the biggest expense and risk for landlords, so guaranteeing you’ll stay on as a tenant for an extended period provides a benefit to them as well.
Shop around for something new
You can always look for a new place. While this comes with some hassle and potential costs for moving, there’s also potential for big savings. If you live in the city, look into the possibility of renting farther from downtown. You can stick close to public transportation to make it easy to commute in and out of the city proper — and you could save hundreds of dollars per month in rent if surrounding areas are considerably cheaper than the urban center.
Also, when you’re signing a lease on a new place, you can flat-out negotiate for a lower monthly rent. If you have strong credit and a good income, your landlord might see you as a more reliable, less risky tenant, making them more willing to work with you. You don’t need to play hardball. Say your rent is $1,200 per month, which is the median rent in a city like Austin, TX. You can ask the landlord if they’ll come down on the rent by just $50 to seal the deal for you. The worst they can say is no.
Save on energy costs
If you can’t get your rent to budge, focus on what you can control. That starts with other living expenses, like utilities. You control how much electricity, water, and gas you use. Making small changes and cutting back here and there could save you $50 per month. This could be as easy as using the heat less often in the winter and bundling up more instead. If that’s too close to roughing it for you, there are other ways to make your place more energy-efficient so the space takes less power to heat and cool throughout the year.
Install a programmable thermostat so you can use less energy when you’re away or out for the day. (Check with your landlord first!) Buy an under-the-door draft blocker for a cheap, temporary way to keep warm air in and cold air out. Take this approach a step further and apply weatherstripping to windows and doors. Look for cracks and gaps that let in cold air (or let cool air escape in the warmer months) and close them. Small projects like these are probably ones you can do yourself, but if you run into a big change or repair, talk to your landlord about making the upgrade for you.
Open your doors to roommates
Another way to save on a rent expense that just won’t come down? Consider getting a roommate who can share not only the cost of rent with you but other living expenses too. Your roommate(s) can pay a percentage of utilities, internet, cable, and other services associated with your living space that everyone uses.
Depending on how much of the space you share and how many roommates you’re comfortable with, you could save hundreds of dollars on your rent each month. But be sure to check your lease first. If your current agreement doesn’t allow you to share your space, talk to your landlord or leasing office. It may just be a matter of updating the paperwork. Always ask first.
And of course, do your due diligence in finding a roommate. It’s not unreasonable to do a background check and get plenty of references before accepting someone to share your living space. Take care of the legal aspects too. New roommates should sign the lease and other agreements so they officially share the rent expenses (along with any responsibilities you each have as tenants).
Sublet your place when you’re not there
Again, this will depend on your lease (and your lifestyle). But if full-time roommates aren’t an option for you, you might consider subletting your apartment to ease the burden of paying the full month’s rent on your own. You could save $100 or more per month by sharing your living space.
If you travel a lot or are frequently away from your place, subletting is a great way of making use of the vacant space when you’re gone. Just make sure to read up on your responsibilities and what you could be on the hook for if someone damages the property or other issues come up.
Offer your skills in exchange for a break on rent
A landlord or property manager may not lower your rent by $50 or more each month simply because you asked. If that’s a no-go, you might be able to offer something in exchange. You can do work for your landlord, especially if it’s something they usually outsource, such as lawn care, regular maintenance and repairs, or seasonal chores like snow shoveling. Your labor could save them money, and they could pass some of those savings on to you in the form of reduced rent.
If you live somewhere with a leasing office or property management office on-site, you could look into working part time in exchange for a lower rental rate. Some full-time employees may even get to live on the property for free as part of their job benefits, so explore this option if working in real estate is up your alley.
All these strategies could allow you to save $50 or more on your rent expenses each month. If you can manage to combine them, your savings could easily expand to $100 per month and beyond.
Have your found effective ways to lower your monthly expenses? Share your success stories in the comments!
About the author
Kali Hawlk is a freelance writer and the co-founder of Off The Rails, a free mentorship platform for creative women. She’s passionate about helping others do more with their money, their work, and their lives. Get in touch by tweeting @KaliHawlk.