Here are some things to consider when trying to find a budget-friendly home:
· Go small: The easiest way to save money is simply to look for a smaller apartment. Can you live in a studio instead of a one-bedroom unit? Look for a small apartment with a well-laid-out floor plan. That often makes a major difference in a smaller space.
· Think lower floor: Consider living on the third floor instead of the seventh. This will translate to lower rent in most cases.
· Skip amenities: Consider living without amenities such as a front-desk concierge, a gym or a pool. Can you live with a common laundry room instead of a washer and dryer in the unit? Often, a property that has common laundry rooms and no washer and dryer in the unit will include some, if not all, utilities in the rent. If utilities are included in the rent, this could save you about $50 to $150 monthly, depending on the size of the home.
· Bypass new: Older properties, unless they are newly renovated, will offer lower rents. In many cases, you will get more square footage than in a newer property.
· Consider ma-and-pa landlords: Individually owned rental homes can often cost less than apartments in rental communities. Rental communities are frequently on systems that can increase prices daily based on the current market. Rent increases at the end of your lease term are often higher in rental communities.
Depending on their circumstances, individual owners can usually offer their rental home for a bit under market value, and rent increases can typically be negotiated with an individual owner at the end of the lease term. Rental communities will not generally be able to negotiate on rent increases. If that’s the case, ask them to offer the same special they are offering incoming residents, such as one month of free rent.
· Avoid busy months: You can usually find the best prices on apartments during slower times of the year. April to early September is the busiest time to rent a home. October through February will typically be slower for the rental market.
· Move farther away: If you don’t work long or late hours, can you consider living a bit farther from the city center? If you can live even a few Metro stops from the center, that could save you about $200 to $300 a month on average. That adds up to a tidy sum of $2,400 to $3,600 annually.
If you can go several Metro stops farther, you may be able to find a one-bedroom unit for the price of a studio. You may be able to find a higher-quality place with more options. Parking spaces are also less expensive. Is being two blocks from the Metro necessary, or can you walk seven blocks? The farther you are, the lower the rent will be in most cases. Can you take the bus instead of the Metro? Not being within walking distance of the Metro typically equates to lower rents.
· Cut expenses: Think about your extra expenditures that are automatically charged each month. How many streaming services do you have? Can you eliminate one to save $10 or $15 monthly? Try watching only movies and shows that are free for one month and see what you save.
Call your cellphone provider every so often to see whether it can offer you a better rate. If not, see whether you can change providers for a better plan. You can try the same course of action with your Internet provider. Have you considered bringing your lunch to work instead of buying your lunch at local eateries? Consider what you spend on lunch versus what it would cost to make your own. Good-quality coffee or tea is nonnegotiable for many people. If you spend $3 to $5 once a day on workdays, that can add up to $60 to $100 monthly. If you made your favorite coffee or tea at home and brought it to work, think about how much you could save.
Many little expenditures that you might not even think about will add up quickly. Prioritize the expenses that matter to you most. Trim or eliminate the expenses that don’t matter that much. This will help make living in a city with higher rents more manageable.
It can also help you save for a vacation, your retirement or a down payment on a home sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Nancy Simmons Starrs is the founder and president of Apartment Detectives, a D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia apartment-search service.