How to Save Money as a Renter Throughout the Year

Lilly Milman

By Lilly Milman

Sep 13, 2023

When you sign a lease agreement for an apartment, you’re on the hook for a lot of money upfront, between your first and last month’s rent, security deposit, and (in some cases) a broker fee. It wouldn’t be surprising if you needed to make a big dent in your savings account to cover all of the expenses that come with apartment hunting.

If you’re feeling like your finances have been spread thin in the first few months after moving into a new apartment, you’re not alone. The good news is, though, that there are a few tried and true methods for saving money as a renter throughout the year. Below, we give you a money-saving goal for each season and go through all of our favorite money-saving tips.

Winter: Lower Your Heating Bill

Your biggest expense in the winter is likely heat — so the best way you can save some money in the winter is by lowering your heating bill. We outline a few steps you can take below.

Turn the heat down outside of peak hours.

You don’t want to waste money heating your apartment when you’re not home, so turn your thermostat down before you leave for the day (if you have a thermostat that you can control in your apartment). Try setting your thermostat to around 64 degrees before you leave for the day, or even before you go to bed at night. You can raise it back to a more comfortable temperature when you’ll be spending a lot of time at home.

Just make sure you never turn your heat off completely. This could lead to your pipes freezing and potentially bursting. 

Seal your windows.

Many hardware stores sell easy-to-use, low-cost window insulation kits that you can set up yourself. Typically, these kits contain double-sided tape and large sheets of plastic shrink wrap. When the weather starts getting colder, consider using one of these kits to cover all the windows in your apartment. This will prevent heat from escaping. The only downside is, once you wrap your windows, you won’t be able to open them (without scrapping the insulation materials). Make sure all of your windows are properly locked before wrapping them.

Use your ceiling fan.

While you may only use your ceiling fan to cool down your apartment in the summer, it actually can help keep your apartment feeling warmer, as well. It just depends what setting its on. Your ceiling fan should have a switch that changes its direction from counterclockwise (which pushes cold air downward) to clockwise (which will draw cold air up). So, by reversing your ceiling fan and running it clockwise, you can make your room feel warmer, which in turn could lead you to turn your thermostat down a few degrees.

Spring: Straighten Out Your Finances.

Spring is the perfect time to get your finances in order. April is Tax Season and brings with it your annual tax refund, which can help you kickstart a year of smart financial planning and savings.

Use your tax refund wisely.

While you may be tempted to blow your tax refund check on a non-essential purchase, consider using it as an opportunity to kick off a year of saving. We spoke with Scott Lieberman, a finance content creator and editor, who recommended paying off any high-interest debt (like student loans or credit card debt) with your refund. If you don’t have any debt, you can reach out to a financial planner for help investing your refund. Another option, Lieberman says, is depositing your refund into an FDIC-insured high yield savings account, which will accrue interest at a greater rate than a traditional savings account.

Set up autopay for your bills.

No one wants to pay late fees on utility bills or rent payments. Look on the websites of your utility providers or your bank to see if there’s an automatic bill pay option available. By turning on autopay, you can ensure that you never miss a payment and accrue interest or pay a late fee again. Plus, some companies will even give you a small discount on your bills if you agree to autopay each month. (Signing up for paperless statements may also save you a few bucks each month. 

Summer: Lower Your Electricity Bill.

Summer is the season for spending time outdoors — so what better time is there to save on your electric bills?

Try cooling your apartment without AC. 

We know: It’s tough to live in most U.S. cities without AC in the summer. But if you’re spending most of your time out of the house, shave down your monthly expenses by turning off any air conditioning systems you have when you aren’t home. One free way to keep your apartment cool without the AC is by keeping the sun out during the daytime; keep your windows closed, as well as any curtains. If it’s breezier at night, you can open the windows after the sun has gone down. 

Unplug electronics when they’re not in use.

Another easy way you can lower your electric bill (and, incidentally, cool your apartment down as well) is by unplugging electronics and appliances when they’re not in use. Before you leave the house, remember to unplug bulky appliances like air fryers or microwaves. Not only do they use up electricity even when they’re not being used, but they also emit heat.

Fall: Commit to Everyday Savings

As the year comes to a close, finish out strong by enforcing good saving habits in your everyday life.

Start a “no spend” challenge.

Have you ever tried not spending any money for a day? What about a weekend, or a week? Keeping yourself accountable with a “no spend” challenge can help you put your spending habits into perspective. Which purchases are totally necessary, and which should be reserved for an occasional treat? Of course, it may not be possible for you to completely cut off spending for a period of time, but being more conscious of where your money is going is the first step to financial success.

Look for cheaper rentals in your area. 

The colder months are the best time to negotiate rental rates, as landlords have more trouble filling vacant units in the winter, so start your research early. Spend some time looking at how your apartment compares to other units or apartment buildings in your area. If you discover you are currently paying a much higher rent than similar rental properties in your rental market, you have some wiggle room for asking your landlord for a lower rent price. Use this research as a basis for negotiations, or if your landlord won’t budge, consider moving to one of the cheaper properties you found to save money on rent.

Take stock of your subscriptions.

In a world of streaming services and monthly subscriptions, it can be easy to sign up for something you never end up using. This fall, we challenge you to go through your credit card or bank statements and highlight all of the services you pay for monthly that you actually used multiple times. Cancel anything that doesn’t make the cut.

The Bottom Line

Having clear financial goals is the first step you can take toward finding big savings throughout the year. Above, we’ve outlined one potential plan you can use for inspiration when trying to save money as a renter. Just remember: If you have questions about your personal finances, it’s best to refer to a trusted financial planner or advisor for the answers.

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