This article is part of our 52 week journey through Bill’s latest book, The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money. Each week, a full excerpt from his book will be presented from beginning to end. To get your copy of his book, visit www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.
Tricks To Save Money
There are not any magical formulas or anything that will be able to help you save tons of cash. There are, however, several things you can do to minimize your apartment costs. Even if you are unable to negotiate a lower monthly rent you can try to save money in other ways relating to your apartment. Sometimes you have to be a little creative; other times you should just use common sense.
The first step is to thoroughly look around for a great deal on an apartment. Many of the large apartment complexes offer sign-on incentives such as free rent the first month or reduced rent for the first three months. Weigh the total cost with that of other apartments. In other words, if you can get an apartment for $600 per month, but another place offers one month free, but the regular price is $800, you will still spend more for the $800 apartment in your first year ($800 x 11 months = $8,800 compared to $600 x 12 months = $7,200). See there, I just saved you $1,600. Too bad I don’t work on commission.
As mentioned earlier, you should find out if your employer offers any type of moving service, relocation reimbursement, or even apartment recommendations. Perhaps you could ask your human resource contact to talk to some of the employees and see what they can tell you. If you know anyone in the area (assuming you are moving to a new area) see if you can stay with them for a few days before your job starts and use that opportunity to visit several places. Also, ask them if they know anyone who rents and find out what they recommend.
Once you have found at least one place you like, find out if there is any type of incentive. If they are not willing to offer an incentive, find out if any part of the contract is negotiable. Maybe the landlord would be willing to reduce the monthly fee slightly or even pay for some of the utilities. If nothing else, see if they will settle for a lower deposit (such as $250 instead of $500). The less money going out, the more you get to keep. Believe me, if you are moving, you need to hang onto every dollar you can. By the time you buy all of the little items (garbage cans, toilet scrubbers, shower curtains) you will have exhausted every last dollar of savings.
If you still haven’t been able to save much money, or even if you have, there is more you can do. If you have an independent landlord (your building is owned by an individual and not a corporation), you may be able to save money by improving the apartment. Talk to your landlord and see if he or she would be willing to reduce rent one month if you paint the outside of the apartment house, or landscape the yard or even mow the lawn. Depending on your situation, and your skills, you may be able to save a few dollars here and there by doing a little handy work. If you don’t know how to do any handy work yourself, call your dad. He’s not sending you money anymore, so you might as well get something out him, right?
Another way to save money is by reducing your utility costs. One quick way to reduce costs is to replace any air filters in the furnace (if they are really dirty). The furnace will not have to work as hard to push air through and your energy bill will be reduced. You can also replace the existing thermostat with a programmable one, unless your lease specifically disallows for any minor changes. You may want to get someone who understands wiring to do this for you. It is simple enough that even I was able to replace the one at my house without any problems and my home improvement skills haven’t really moved past a hammer, a screwdriver and a lot of yelling to fix things around the house.
The programmable thermostat can be set to automatically reduce the heat at bedtime and while you are not home (during the winter) or reduce the air-conditioning during these same times (during the summer). Doing so saves in electricity costs by only using your furnace or air-conditioner when you actually need it. You could also just keep the standard thermostat and remember to set it back before you go to bed, but you won’t have a nice comfortable home after work.
If you have any rooms in your apartment that you do not use, close the door to these rooms, and shut off any air vents. There is no use heating or cooling any rooms you do not use. You can buy magnetic covers that go over your closed vents to prevent any air from seeping through.
Bill Pratt is a former credit card executive turned student-advocate. He is the author of Extra Credit: The 7 Things Every College Student Needs to Know About Credit Debt & Ca$h and The Graduate’s Guide to Life and Money. Bill speaks at colleges to educate and entertain students about real-life issues in money, leadership, and success. His goal is to help students succeed personally and financially so they can improve the lives of those around them. You can learn more at www.ExtraCreditBook.comor www.TheGraduatesGuide.com.