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How To Save On Your Rental
by Kari Lamanuzzi

So you are looking for an apartment, and probably because you are not in a financial position to purchase a home. How, you may ask, can you make the process even easier on the wallet? In times like these, saving money is on everyone's mind so don't get cheated by smarmy landlords and uber-hip home furnishings.

If you are lucky enough to have a lot of time before you move, use it to your advantage. If you live in a college town or somewhere that actually experiences climate change in winter, and you can move in during the months of November, December, and January when most people are not moving, you have a lot more leverage. Sure, hauling the couch to the new pad in the snow may not be ideal but landlords tend to give great deals in the winter. Look for places that will offer a discount on your first month if you move in immediately.

It never hurts to try and bargain, so ask a potential landlord if they will offer you some kind of move-in deal. You wouldn't go buy a car without first haggling, right? If you are looking at a place owned by an individual and not a big company, you'd be surprised at what deals you can get just by asking.

Often times it is not rent that drains your bank account, its your utilities. It's so easy to forget about those pesky utilities when calculating your potential cost of living, isn't it? Look for apartments that include utilities, or at least heat, especially if you live somewhere cold. Ask your neighbors if they have wireless internet and see if you can'throw them some money to use it, rather than spending more than $50 on your own high-speed access. Also, find out if you can share their cable. You may have to get another box from the cable company but it saves a big chunk if you're splitting the cost.

A really easy and great way to save on your rental space is with your decorating and furnishing. Why pay exorbitant amounts of money for used-looking items when you can really do it yourself? Get tables and chairs from thrift stores and spray paint them. To reupholster a seat cushion, all you need is a staple gun, a piece of fabric, and half an hour. Check out your local craft store for no-sew options like iron-on fusing tape and make your own curtains from old sheets, blankets, or remnant fabrics. All you have to do is fold over the top 4-5 inches and fuse it down with the iron-on tape. Voila! A one-of-a-kind curtain in under 20 minutes!

Don't forget that it is almost always cheaper to live with roommates than to live alone. Sharing the cost of utilities, food, entertainment, and all the other accoutrements that come with apartment living is a really easy way to save money. The more roommates you have, the cheaper things will be, but make sure that you have similar living styles or the next 6-12 months will be really frustrating! You don't want to live with Pigpen if you are a germ-o-phobe just as you wouldn't want to live with a morning person if you work at a night club.

Use common sense when looking for deals. Don't snag a place in the 'hood just to save some money. Don't forget to exhaust options like room rentals and sublets because often times you pay less up front by dodging security deposits and the cost of furnishing your new digs. Don't forget to ask questions and follow your gut, if you feel like you are being swindled, you probably are. Don't doubt yourself. Go out and be a DIY master and remember to haggle. You never know unless you ask.

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