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Ways Renters Can Save Money

ways to save money when renting a houseAfter being a landlord for almost three years, I’ve learned that tenants do some crazy things. From showing up drunk at a move in inspection to leaving all kinds of valuables behind, I really am not surprised by very much anymore. Since I get to see things from a different perspective than most of my tenants, I’m going let you in on ways renters can save money.

1) Don’t Move If You Don’t Have To

Every time you move into a new rental, there are expenses that include rental and utility deposits, costs of moving, and any new household items, like blinds or bath mats, that you might have to buy. You might get deposits back at some point, but you just as easily might not if your landlord requires a cleaning fee or deems something is damaged.

Obviously if you have to change cities or live in a rental that’s in poor shape, it makes sense to leave when your lease is up, but what if you don’t mind your place? Do your best to stay put. The grass is not always greener in a different home. Even if the landlord wants to raise rent, you have some options.

2) Negotiate Your Lease

If that landlord decides to raise rent and you’ve been a good tenant, don’t roll over and take it. As a business person, it makes sense to raise rents as market conditions allow. It isn’t personal. Landlords are in the game to make money, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a voice.

I don’t know a landlord who wouldn’t make some exceptions to keep a good tenant. The easiest thing is to remind the landlord you’ve been a stellar renter and would like to stay but can’t manage an increase in rent. If that doesn’t work, you can also offer to sign a multi-year lease or do some of the maintenance or yard work in exchange for no rent increase.

Remember that the mortgage payment your landlord pays is likely fixed, so if your rent is adequate to cover costs, raising rent might not be necessary. Also, it’s much cheaper to keep a renter than take the risk that the property might be vacant for a few months. There is no harm in asking for a rent freeze. I’d never say no if it meant losing a renter who is clean, on time, and an asset for the property.

how renters can save money

Amazing find left by a former tenant!

3)Don’t Leave Stuff Behind, Including a Mess!

I don’t mind when tenants leave their stuff behind. Much of it is junk, but there are often hidden treasures, or at least things I can use myself. Recently, I’ve gotten some new cookware, dishes, dish towels, and a sweet money jar from a tenant who left everything behind. The stuff I don’t need can be sold or used for one of our rentals we are listing as partially furnished. If you’re too lazy to move or sell your own stuff, go on and leave it behind. It makes more money for us (insert evil laugh).

The thing that is not fun is when tenants leave behind a mess. While we’ve never had a renter who trashed one of our units, my property manager has tons of stories. She actually showed me some recent pictures from a slob tenant who left trash, stains, and dog turds all over the place when he moved out. He didn’t want a bad recommendation, so he paid to replace all the carpet and paint, which cost his $1000 deposit plus and additional $2000. He will also get a bad recommendation because what landlord is going to say that’s OK?

Leaving your stuff means loss of income for you either in potential sales or in cost to replace. Leaving a mess means loss of deposit and potentially a bad reference if you ever do want to rent again. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of word of mouth referrals.

4) Make Sure to Include Utilities in Your Monthly Expenses

Renters are no different than many house shoppers who fall in love with a place and calculate monthly costs based on the housing price alone. Even though tenants don’t have to pay for maintenance, they still have to consider utilities and insurance costs.

Ask the landlord for a yearly average of utility bills. Again, rental property is a business, and property owners are generally not going high end on rental finishes. Windows, insulation, and appliances might not be set up to reduce energy costs.

Renter’s insurance is a cost tenants can’t afford to go without. Even if your stuff isn’t worth very much, could you afford to replace everything at once if there was a fire or other catastrophe? Don’t spread yourself so thin on rent that you skimp on insurance.

5) Maintain a High Credit Score

Those hoping to apply for a mortgage aren’t the only ones who need to pay attention to credit scores. Landlords almost always do a credit check as part of a rental application. Having a low credit score sends a red flag that you might be someone who pays bills late or not at all. Luckily, there are several ways to raise your score including checking for and correcting errors, paying down debt, and making sure all bills are paid on time. You can get a free credit score in a few minutes from sites like Credit Sesame or Credit Karma.

I do hope to make money as a landlord but not at the expense of silly tenant mistakes. Home ownership is not for everyone, but we all have to live somewhere. If you are going to be a renter, make sure you take advantage of ways to save money.

What ways have you saved or lost money as a renter? Have you ever negotiated against a rent increase?


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I’m so jealous of your party money jar! Where do I get my hands on one of those?!?!?!

    I agree about negotiating rent. We have had the same renters in one of our properties for five years and I have never raised the rent. They take good care of the property and are reasonably responsible. I don’t want to try to replace them, so I happily keep their rent where it is.

  2. I’ve lived in the same place for 5 years. For the first two renewals, I just rolled over on the rent increase because “it is what it is” and then I wised up to how valuable we are as clean, quiet, early pay tenants. We’ve gotten the last 2 rent increases cut at least in half. It’s kinda sad that what Hubs and I consider to be common courtesy makes us great renters.

    • That is very true. Bad tenants are certainly like bad apples. I generally go into every rental repair or replacement thinking about how tenants are going to destroy something rather than how they might take care of it.

  3. I have clients who think they have to move every year in New York and it’s such a huge waste of money because even the cheapest of moves seem to cost at least $1,000 a move and if you spread that over the year, they are probably better off staying where they currently live and trying to negotiate better lease terms.

    • Moving is expensive. You’d have to get a much better rental rate to make up for all the other up front costs and time lost.

  4. I’ve had friends who move every year while renting and it just doesn’t make sense – especially if they’re relatively happy with where they live. We’ve tried negotiating rent twice – the first time we got them to reduce the increase and the second time they let us sign for 2 years so it was a win-win in both cases.

  5. Because I’ve been such a long standing good tenant, I do think I have a tiny bit of leverage. My landlord has never raised my rent in the 7 years I’ve lived here. In return, I don’t try to rock the boat with too many requests…as much as it’s driving me crazy that the paint is peeling. I can live with that over higher rent.

    • I would bend over backwards for a 7 year tenant who had always paid and kept things reasonably clean. I bet they would paint if you asked, but it would suck if they painted and raised rent.

  6. Who doesn’t love some party money? I would agree about negotiating rent. I try to renegotiate anything I can get my hands on! It’s incredibly important to negotiate, but do it will class and don’t demand!

    • I don’t necessarily like to negotiate, but it’s kind of become second nature at this point. I just did that with a painter and saved $200. I would have still paid his estimate if he’d said no, but lots of times people quote high thinking you’ll try to haggle. If you don’t, you could be paying inflated prices.

  7. Brilliant point about the utilities! Different properties cover different costs, so there can be a nasty surprise if people don’t pay attention.

    I’m so glad I don’t have to move for the foreseeable future. It’s a huge perk of owning your own place. I moved around so much in my 20s… I became a pro, but it was exhausting. Luckily, it was usually between dorms or taking over a room for a friend for a couple of months. So I didn’t have to worry about deposits.

    But I’m just awfully sick of the entire ordeal. Last time, we broke down and actually hired movers. Big step for me.

    • I hate moving and that’s a huge reason why we’ll probably stay in our current house for at least another 10 years.

  8. We actually rented a home when we sold our home and looked for a new one. It had been a long time since we were renters but we had a good experience overall. I do agree that moving every year just because is generally not a moving saving endeavor. Some people chase lower rents but forget about all those costs associated with money, not to mention it also being time-consuming. The worst they can say is “no” and you’re in exactly the same place. Like you said, if you’re a desirable renter, they won’t really want to lose you because they don’t know who might replace you. 🙂

    • It is much, much easier to keep a good renter than it is to find a new one. Any landlord who doesn’t agree is either very lucky or lying.

  9. The rental market in Minneapolis-St. Paul is tough. We aren’t paying much more on our mortgage than we were paying on our lease, and owning a house comes with so many more benefits. When I rented I evaluated probably 50+ rental properties online trying to find the most affordable apartment that also gave us the most for our money. I think it’s important to take the time to look at many apartments, even if it’s just online research.

  10. Good things to keep in mind- I JUST got approved for a new place yesterday- getting ready for the move and was seriously just looking into blinds and renter’s insurance 🙂

  11. Thinking back to the few times we rented, we saved by keeping things nice and tidy and earning our security deposits back. When we lived in Iowa, we rented a duplex where all utilities were included, including heat/AC! That was a huge money saver. It was $650/month for a three bedroom. Can you imagine?! You got me reminiscing;0)

  12. Oh yes I always negotiate when it comes to rent! We almost rented a house that I talked them down $250 on! That house ended up being a tad too big for my liking, though, and we went with another one that was very similar and even less in rent than the original one. I was happy with the rent price, so I didn’t negotiate the monthly price…but I did ask for half-off the first month’s rent and our landlord agreed! It never hurts to ask!

  13. I saved money by not moving out. I have been living in this apartment since college, which is located in the city so everything I may need is near. We know how much it cost when moving out. After graduation, I looked for a job nearby. So that’s how I have saved money. No regrets at all.

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