This is a guest post from David Bakke, a writer for Money Crashers where he tackles personal finance topics ranging from budgeting and frugal living to real estate and investing.
If you rent a home, budgeting your money can be a challenge. Apart from your monthly lease, you've got utility bills, transportation expenses, grocery trips, and all those countless other expenses that crop up every month. It can all be enough to make coming up with that rent check a bit daunting. If you're willing to adjust your habits and do a little research, however, you just may find that there are plenty of ways to save. Consider the following five tips to get started today:
1. Buy Renters Insurance
Essential for any renter's budget is renters insurance. With some plans offering premiums at less than $10 per month, it's low cost, and may be your only line of defense against a robbery or a fire at your apartment. It can help you with living expenses should you get displaced from your current home and it provides liability protection if someone gets injured while in your apartment. Renters insurance is truly a must-have and can go a long way in protecting you against a variety of potentially major financial losses.
2. Put Yourself on a Budget
The best budgeting tip for renters is to actually put yourself on one. You can use an online service such as Mvelopes, Mint, or PearBudget, or simply write out all your expenses and income on a large piece of paper or an Excel spreadsheet. Compare the two columns to see if your monthly spending is less than your income. If so, excellent. If not, you've got some work to do. Two of the first places you should look to cut back are your personal purchases and entertainment expenses.
3. Look for Ways to Decrease Your Rent
Believe it or not, there are plenty of moves you can make to reduce your rent. If you get a renewal notice with a rent hike, see if you can get it waived by pointing out your solid payment history and your plans to stay at your current property. You could also consider taking on a roommate to split your rent bill right in half. Or you could offer to do administrative work, translation services if you're bilingual, or possibly help with property maintenance in exchange for the property manager giving you a break on rent.
4. Reduce Your Monthly Bill Expenditures
If you currently get your cable TV, Internet, and cell phone service through three separate companies, you can save significant money by bundling those services under one provider. Research a few different options and choose the bundle that best fits your personal needs. If you don't have bundling options in your area, investigate the competition in each of those three industries and look for a better deal – chances are you can find one.
5. Rethink Personal Purchases
Speaking of cable TV, do you still need it? Explore digital streaming options like Netflix and Hulu which can save significant money. In fact, any time you make a personal purchase, whether it's a quick convenience store stop for a snack and a soda, or a new pair of running shoes, ask yourself if you truly need these items. Most convenience store items can be bought in bulk at warehouse outlets for a lot less money, and if you really do need new shoes, check out Overstock for discounted goods.
The economy is back on its feet, but hasn't quite gotten up to its pre-recession pace. To survive financially, you're going to have to do a little more belt-tightening. Keep your money in your wallet when considering a purchase, scour the Internet for better deals on your monthly services, and get creative when it comes to reducing your rent. The more money you can save now, the better off you're going to be in the future.
What budgeting tips do you have for renters?