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How to Save Money on Rent When You’re Self-Employed

One of the items on my financial Leap List this year, is to become debt free, so I can move to a new location, like Southern California! In the long term I’d love to move to a different city, but I enjoy my Texas roots so much I don’t have plans to move too far away.

So right now, I’m looking around for a bigger apartment, with a space for an office and a bigger kitchen.

My current lease expires at the end of September, so I’ll need time to plan ahead, do some research and save up some extra cash for moving. While moving is an added expense, I can use the opportunity of signing/renewing my lease to my advantage.

Here’s how I negotiate for lower rent and live large on your self-employed budget.

Take Advantage of the “Best Time”

The optimal time to negotiate for lower rent, is when you’re signing a new lease, or renewing your current one.

You can prove your good financial history of paying rent on time, and use that as a bargaining chip. This is also the best time to request they sweeten the deal (more on that below).

Sacrifice Living Space

For almost 3 years, I’ve lived in a small 640 square foot apartment in a not-so great apartment complex. All I was interested in, was the location near my job and cheap rent so I could pay off debt. My total monthly rent is 19% of my income which is way below the 25% recommended amount.

Pay Early and Go Paperless

Landlords and apartment managers love tenants who pay their rent a few days early. They spend the majority of their resources and time chasing down rent payments.

I get a 10% discount each month by going paperless and paying my rent with an echeck 4 days early (for free using and a $10 bonus).

Use Your Positives as Leverage

High maintenance tenants include those with pets, several roommates or kids, and people who are rough on their furniture/appliances.

I’m a low maintenance renter because I don’t have any pets and am rarely ever home. I don’t need stuff constantly fixed or repaired, and I do my best to not lock myself out of my place (it only happened one time I swear, lol).

Research the Competition

While looking for a new place, I’ve been able to research the competition and what the going price is for a decent apartment within my budget.

By using my knowledge of the area, I make sure the landlord knows “there’s other fish in the sea” and can put a little more pressure on them to reduce the monthly rate. If the deal is good enough I might decide to stay put instead.

Ask Them to Sweeten the Deal

If you get to a point where you can’t negotiate the monthly payment any lower, consider asking them to sweeten the deal in other ways.

For example, I was able to get a new paint job and carpet cleaning for free, the last time I renewed my lease. Plus, I’d rather pay the same price or a little extra for added luxuries like, peace and quiet (no barking dogs) or a beautiful scenic view.

These are just a few methods to help you live large on a small budget. With the money you save on rent you will have more freedom you to fund your dreams. Your living space should be fun and comfortable, but not suck the life (or money) out of your budget.

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About the author: Carrie Smith is a financial writer, business consultant and freelance coach. After paying off $14,000 of debt she quit her accounting day job and launched Careful Cents as a blog and community aimed at helping freelancers overcome financial mountains and build client-based businesses through meaningful relationships. She works one-on-one with freelancers and side-hustlers who are ready to make a profit without selling out. When she’s not writing about finance, and geeking out over numbers, she enjoys painting, sketching, and making food with her chef husband. You can connect with her in real time on Twitter or Instagram: @carefulcents.
20 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • My Alternate Life April 9, 2012, 9:39 am

    These are great tips! I’ve made use of them all over the years, but most recently I used “sacrifice on living space”. I live in a small studio, but the benefit is my rent is only $350.00/month, all inclusive.

    • Carrie Smith April 9, 2012, 10:45 am

      Wow! That’s fantastic. My rent is $600 and includes utilities, which is not super cheap but not super expensive either. It definitely pays off since I enjoy traveling, working and being social, so I don’t spend much time at home.

    • Thrifty Writer April 10, 2012, 5:25 pm

      WOW!  That is some great rent!

  • Daisy @ Add Vodka April 9, 2012, 9:41 am

    I have really cheap rent (for Vancouver), so when I tried to negotiate and my landlord wouldn’t play, I was ok with it. You can get a lower price for a longer lease, but leases are very constricting.

  • MyMoneyDesign April 9, 2012, 11:31 am

    Good luck on looking for the new apartment!  Having a space for an office and more kitchen is very valuable!  I like the theme of these tips – basically you need to have a strategy and not be afraid to ask if you want to get a better deal.

  • MyCanadianFinances April 9, 2012, 1:46 pm

    I totally wish I had negotiated for cheaper rent when I moved in to my current place but I did not really know what I was doing. Oh well, I have a roommate now so it is considerably cheaper.

    • Carrie Smith April 9, 2012, 2:19 pm

      I did the same thing when I moved into my place 3 years ago. This is how I found out I could negotiate when I re-signed my lease. It’s always a learning process, but I’ve gathered some tips along the way. :)

  • This Aggie Saves April 9, 2012, 2:05 pm

    Good luck on moving!  It’s a painful process, but it will give you a chance to go through everything and purge what you don’t need anymore.

  • James April 10, 2012, 5:21 pm

    I used to negotiate my rent every year.  I live in a city that has a lot of single people, therefore there are a lot of apartment buildings.  My leverage was always paying on time, never making noise, and mentioning how many apartments there were in the area available for rent

  • Thrifty Writer April 10, 2012, 5:24 pm

    While I would love to be paying lower rent (having lost a decent-paying job, my rent jumped from being 25% of my income to 40%) I know that I have a good deal.  The landlord usually rents the floor my roommate and I live on for about $300 more per month, but we happen to sign on during the point of the recession when it was a renter’s market (a VERY brief window in NYC and its boroughs), so not only did we get the lower rent, we also didn’t have to pay a security deposit, and he threw in an window A/C unit. I thought that he would increase the rent our second year, but we’re good tenants, plus he knows he’d have trouble getting someone else to rent with his noisy kids running around upstairs:-) 

    • Carrie Smith April 11, 2012, 12:02 am

      Being a good renter and having a favorable market, definitely works to our advantage. It sounds like you got in at just the perfect time!

  • YourFinancesSimplified April 10, 2012, 9:00 pm

    When we rented the wife and I definitely lived in smaller spaces to save money.  We saved on rent and not having to furnish such a large place.  I would also say a good tactic to lower your rent is to offer to pay 2-3 months upfront for a monthly discount.  

    • Carrie Smith April 11, 2012, 12:00 am

      Not having to furnish a big house/apartment is a big deal too. And paying up front for several months is a great tip! 

  • Average Joe April 11, 2012, 9:27 am

    You should definitely ask for ask much as you can get in the way of upgrades, especially if you’re an early-paying, no-hassle person.  Carpet cleaning and paint should be a standard renewal thing. As a landlord, I WANT to paint and carpet clean to keep the place looking like new.

    • Carrie Smith April 16, 2012, 3:11 pm

      I agree, but it seems my landlord doesn’t exactly go “above and beyond”. At least they were willing to work with me and negotiate a little.

  • Jen @ Master the Art of Saving April 12, 2012, 12:10 pm

    I tried to get some kind of perk the first time we resigned our lease and they just gave me an odd look and said, “we don’t do that.” That sucked. I hear about it working for tons of other people. :-(

  • Pete Sveen April 12, 2012, 5:28 pm

    Great advice Carrie. I think that negotiating for everything in life is something more people need to do. When buying a house you negotiate. Why not negotiate when renting an apartment, business space, or warehouse? I think it is great that you emphasize the importance of improving negotiation skills as they will make help you out so much in life. Thanks for sharing and I hope people follow your guidance! – Pete

    • Carrie Smith April 12, 2012, 9:22 pm

      Thanks Pete. I definitely agree! Sometimes we forget (or don’t realize) we can negotiate for lots of different things. Most of the time it never hurts to ask. :)

  • Farouk April 16, 2012, 2:48 am

    Hi Carrie
    i loved the post
    i always believed that i have to sacrifice many things to save but your post gave me a creative way to save without sacrificing anything
    thank you :)

  • Robin Uram @ Quizzle August 28, 2012, 9:11 am

    Awesome article! So many people do not realize they can negotiate their rent. It pays to be on time with all your payments!

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