There is an old saying that two people can live as cheaply as one, and it’s true. It’s also true that if you have two people living in the same space, that your rent and utility bills get cut in half which makes paying them much easier. If you live alone you might be wondering how do single people afford rent and utilities? It can be tough, but with a few of these tips, you can do it.
How Do Single People Afford Rent and Utilities?
Before we get into ways to make your rent and utilities more affordable, let’s make sure you aren’t renting an apartment that is actually too expensive for your specific situation.
There are a couple of simple formulas that you can use to determine how much you should pay for monthly rent.
Follow the 30 Percent Rule
While housing costs are high everywhere, they are ridiculously high on both coasts.
If you live in New York City or in California you may feel as if there is nothing you can do about housing costs and you are at the mercy of the housing market.
While that may be true, for most parts of the country, you can take control.
One traditional rule to use when deciding how much you should be spending on rent payments is the 30 percent rule.
This rule says that you shouldn’t be spending more than 30 percent of your take-home pay on rent.
That means if you are bringing home $3,000 a month after taxes, then you can spend up to $1,000 a month for rent.
Another example would be that if you are bringing home $1,500 a month then you shouldn’t be paying more than $450 a month for rent.
Yes, that seems like nothing, but there are apartments out there, especially in smaller towns, that you can find for that amount of rent.
Use a Budget-Based Formula
The one issue with the 30 percent rule is that it doesn’t take into account the specifics of your personal situation.
For example, you might have a lot of credit card debt.
Or you have a large car payment or no car payment at all.
Depending on your financial situation, you might have more or less money left over out of your take-home pay.
With this in mind, one of the easiest ways to determine the amount of rent you can afford comfortably is to add up all of your current monthly expenses and see what is leftover.
You’ll want to include living expenses such as:
- Your student loan
- Car loans
- Personal loans
- Renter’s insurance
- Health insurance premiums
- Car insurance
Once you know what you spend each month in total, you will have a good idea of how much you can afford for rent.
If possible, you want to stay on the lower end of what you can afford.
So, if you can afford $800 dollars a month, see if you can find an apartment that you like in the $600 or $650 price range.
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That extra couple of hundred dollars you have in the bank each month will give you a nice cushion in case of an emergency.
And if you think you can’t find an apartment in that price range, until I purchased my home three years ago, my rent payments fell between $550 and $650 dollars.
I was renting a house in two different states. In Greenville, SC I rented a two-bedroom home for $650 for six years. It was about 1,300 square feet and in a great location.
After that, I rented a two-bedroom house in Illinois. It was about 1,400 square feet, but it also had a garage, a fenced-in backyard, and a washer and dryer.
So, depending on where you live, you don’t always have to pay expensive rent, and the average cost of renting could be less than you realize.
Consider Subsidized Housing
If your income is on the low side, you might qualify for government-subsidized housing, also known as public housing.
The rent you pay is based on your income, so you might pay as little as $250 or $300 dollars per month.
Those living on social security or disability typically are approved for public housing as well.
Most cities and even some small towns have subsidized housing available.
You can find out more about it and if you qualify at the HUD.gov website.
You also might want to find a place that is close to public transportation.
That way you won’t need a vehicle to get to work or run errands.
Move to a More Affordable Housing
I realize moving to a new apartment or even to a new location in another state is always easier said than done, but it is an option for some people.
If your apartment is too expensive and you can’t move out of your current city, then see if you can find an apartment building that offers what you need at a lower cost.
The plain truth is that the cost of living is much less in the middle of the country or in a smaller city or small town.
There is usually less crime and a higher quality of living as well.
So while there is a trade-off – such as losing the excitement of living in a city such as San Francisco, there is the benefit that comes with knowing your neighbors and a lower cost of living.
Tips to Make Living on Your Own More Affordable
Beyond finding an apartment that meets your budget, there are other ways to reduce the cost of an apartment and your utilities.
1. Find an Apartment that Includes Utilities
When I was younger, I lived in Seattle. That was back before it became a very expensive place to live.
My apartment was only 5 blocks from the Space Needle and it was wonderful.
What was really great about it, is that it included all of my utilities such as heat, electricity, garbage, and water.
That was a great saving each month.
While that was a while ago, there are still apartments that include more than water and garbage.
Take the time to look around and find one of these gems.
You’ll be glad you did when it’s time to turn on the heat and you don’t have to pay a giant heat bill in the winter months.
2. Take Advantage of Move-in-Specials
In my mind, there are a lot of pros and cons that come with living in a large apartment complex.
On the positive side, these apartments usually come with a lot of extras, such as gyms, pools, and meeting spaces.
They also come with a lot of people who aren’t always the quietest of neighbors.
Even so, one of the best advantages is the move-in-special.
Many larger complexes will offer you a free month’s rent or reduced rent for the first one to three months.
This can save you hundreds of dollars.
3. Don’t Pay for More Space Than You Need
Here in the United States, we love stuff. We buy lots of stuff and then we rent apartments or buy homes to hold all our stuff.
Some people even rent storage spaces and fill them with even more stuff.
While I like stuff too, if you are trying to make ends meet and make renting more affordable as a single person, then less stuff makes more sense.
None of us needs as much room as we think we do.
So, forget the two-bedroom apartment and consider a one-bedroom. Even better, forget the one-bedroom apartment and rent a studio.
Not only will the rent be less, but the utilities will be as well.
4. Lose Unnecessary Utilities
In this day and age, there are very few people that actually need a landline phone.
There might be a reason for some folks out there, but for the rest of us, it is an added and unnecessary expense.
Cable is another obvious utility that you can live without.
I haven’t had it in years and it saves me $150 dollars per month.
I have both Amazon Prime and Netflix. There is plenty of content on both to keep me happy.
Not to mention there are tons of other streaming services out there, so you should be able to find what you want and still save a lot of money.
5. Use a Microwave or Toaster Oven
Electric costs can add up very quickly.
Even so, there are ways to reduce them.
One easy way is to use your microwave or a toaster oven to heat or cook your meals instead of your stove.
They will use a lot less energy than a stove and you will still get the meal you were dreaming of.
6. Set Your Thermostat 2 Degrees Lower
No one likes to be cold, but if you set your thermostat 2 degrees lower in the winter, the savings will really add up.
If you’re really cold and a sweater won’t keep you warm, then consider a small electric throw.
I use one when I sit at my desk and write. It keeps my feet and legs toasty warm and that way I don’t have to turn up the heat and heat the whole house when all I really care about is the immediate space I am sitting at.
Additional Costs to Renting an Apartment
There are a few additional costs to renting an apartment that you should take into consideration when you are figuring out your budget.
Most apartments will require a security deposit that equals one month’s rent.
They may also request your first and last months rent as well.
While this can be a lot to come up with, you will have two months of rent already paid for before you move.
This gives you time to save up.
While cleaning supplies aren’t that expensive, if you are moving out on your own for the first time, you will want to budget for these as well.
Some apartments require that you have renter’s insurance.
Even if they don’t, you should consider it. If you are robbed or there is a fire, the apartment complex’s insurance will not cover your belongings.
This is true in public housing as well.
To Sum it All Up:
Renting is expensive no matter where you live, and the rental market can be crazy expensive if you live in a big city, but there are ways to reduce the cost. Be sure to follow the 30 percent rule and find a location that gives you the space you need but no extra. It will help you save on rent and utilities.