In a recent survey of 1,000 U.S. renters by Rent.com, an astonishing 61 percent said they spend more than they make every month. Here are five creative ways renters can curb their spending habits:
1. Trim the fat. Almost half of the renters Rent.com surveyed (49 percent) said the hardest part about saving money is costs just continue to increase. While you can’t do much about rising costs, you can stop spending money on things you don’t need. For example, paying for a gym membership will burn more money than calories. Instead, create a mini home gym with some simple, inexpensive fitness equipment, like resistance bands or kettlebells, so you can stay fit without straining your wallet. If you don’t watch a lot of television but you’re paying for cable, consider switching to a cheaper online option, like Netflix or Hulu Plus.
2. Be prepared. Life is unpredictable, but don’t be like the 26 percent of renters who said necessary-but-unbudgeted expenses are the hardest part about saving money. Put a small amount of your paycheck aside in an emergency fund until you have at least six times your monthly income. If—or better yet, when your car breaks down or you need a root canal, you’ll be glad you have the extra cash on hand.
3. Treat yourself (responsibly). Impulse purchases were the downfall of 15 percent of the renters surveyed. Saving money doesn’t mean you can’t ever buy yourself anything. In fact, if you don’t allow yourself some fun, you’re more likely to break down and go on a spending spree. The key is to give yourself a limit by including monthly indulgences in your budget.
4. Have fun for free. Going to bars and restaurants can get expensive—just ask the 6 percent of renters who said socializing is the hardest part of saving money. There are plenty of things you can do with your significant other or friends for little or no money at all. Consider hosting a board game night or potluck dinner, getting active outside with a bike ride or hike, or attending a free community event. With a little creativity, you can have a good time without draining your bank account.
5. Get help budgeting. If you’re just bad at budgeting, like the 4 percent of the renters reported in the survey, you’re in luck. There are plenty of free online resources to help—and some even do the work for you. A go-to budgeting helper is Mint.com, a highly-trusted, secure website where you can link your bank, credit cards, loans and investments, so you can see all of your accounts in one place. In addition to helping you stay on top of your finances, the site will also help you set and reach your financial goals.
Niccole Schreck is the Rental Experience Expert for Rent.com, the only free rental site that helps you find an affordable apartment, gives you tips on how to move and then says, "Thank you" with a prepaid $100 Reward Card.