The Ultimate Guide to Lower Rent: 12 Little Tips to Saving Really Big Money

Tips from a former renter, now landlord, on how you can save thousands of dollars a year on housing…

My first rental apartment, at age 22, was a one-bedroom, fourth-floor walkup (daily step-climbing workouts included at no extra cost 😉).

It overlooked a large bakery.

The scent of freshly baked bread was fabulous. The constant thin layer of white flour covering everything in our home? Much less so.

Over the following 16 years, we rented a total of 10 homes.

The shortest rental period was just 10 months (the landlord asked us to leave two months early because he needed the place for his kid) and the longest was two years.

Another 18 years later, we moved to our current home and started leasing out our previous one, making us landlords for the last four years.

Image Credit: Depositphotos.

Housing Is One of the “Big Three” Costs — How Much Should You Spend on It?

Housing, transportation, and food are the three largest costs for most people. Of the three, housing is often your highest cost.

How much should you spend on it?

As Alexis Hongamen, CFP, CRPC, Founder and Financial Planner, Total Financial Planning, LLC says, “A good rule of thumb is to limit your rent to 1/3 of your take-home pay. If you’re paying more than that, you’ll have serious problems paying for all your other obligations such as transportation, food, utilities, healthcare, retirement saving, etc.”

Since buying isn’t always an option, in many situations, saving on your rent may be your best bet. 

With experience drawn from both the renter and landlord perspective, here are the 12 best tips for renters who want to save big on housing costs.

The Right Location Is King

They say the three most important factors in real estate are location, location, and location. That’s true when you buy, but also when you rent.

Here are a couple of ways location can save you big bucks on rent.

Remote Work Opens the Door to “Geographic Arbitrage”

Imagine earning a high salary working for a Silicon Valley (or similar) employer while paying the relatively tiny rent of a middle-America town.

Especially following the Covid pandemic, many employers let employees work remotely as long as their role allows it and productivity stays high.

Some may trim your salary if you move to a lower-cost region, but others won’t. Even if your employer reduces remote workers’ wages, that reduction may be small enough that your lower rent and other costs more than offset it.

Not All Neighborhoods Are Created Equal

In most towns, you may be able to find a more affordable neighborhood that’s still safe and attractive if it’s a little less desirable for many renters because, e.g., it’s a bit farther from the city center.

Especially if you can work remotely at least part of the time and/or come in during off-peak hours, a longer commute may be an acceptable trade for the lower rent cost.

As Jorey Bernstein, Executive Director, Wealth Manager, and Founder, Bernstein Investment Consultants says, “You should balance housing costs with safety, accessibility, and overall quality of life. You want convenient access to public transportation and amenities such as grocery stores and healthcare facilities.”

If you pick this option, talk with friends and colleagues to identify good candidate neighborhoods, especially ones with good public transportation options and/or good highway access.

After Location, Consider Your Timing

If you have some flexibility, e.g., because you can live with your parents or couch-surf at a friend’s house for a few months, you can look for a place that comes on the rental market during the historically slower winter months.

Landlords whose leases end during the winter months often have a harder time finding good renters without leaving their property vacant for a month or longer.

As a result, they may be open to offering you an incentive such as a “move-in special,” lower rent, or possibly help with the cost of the move.

Reducing Landlord Risk

Landlords are in this as a business.

We need to balance the risks and costs of having our properties stay vacant, finding renters, turning a property over, getting stuck with a deadbeat renter, etc.

If you help us reduce those risks and costs, we’ll often be open to giving you a better deal.

Sign a Longer Lease

Two things landlords hate are finding our next tenant, and having our rental sit vacant while we’re looking.

That’s why, when our first renter offered to sign a two-year lease, we agreed to drop his rent by 10%.

It was a win-win. He saved over $7000. We saved by not having to spend hundreds on advertising for new renters, paying hundreds more to clean and make minor repairs for the next renter, and avoiding a potential vacancy that could have cost us over $6000.

Another way this can help is if your original lease is about to expire and change into a month-by-month rental. If you offer to sign another year-long lease, your landlord may be willing to lower your rent.

Prepay Rent

Especially if you’re just starting out as a renter and can afford it, some landlords might give you a discount if you prepay several months’ rent.


Because it reduces their risk that they’d need to kick you out for non-payment as soon as the first month of the lease term ends and you fail to pay your second month’s rent. It’s a signal that your finances are stable enough to keep paying and that you’re committed to staying there for at least the initial term.

Saving the Landlord Money

Another way to help your landlord save you money is to help save him or her money. Here are two ways you may be able to do exactly that.

Offer to Help with Maintenance and Cleaning

Especially in multi-unit situations, if you’re willing to shovel snow, rake leaves, mow lawns, clean common areas, etc., you’ll save your landlord maintenance costs and can request a lower rent in return.

Offer to Provide Services

Landlords often have to hire a handyman to do minor repairs, a marketer to bring in new renters, customer-service people to respond to renter questions and requests and show units to prospective new renters, etc.

If you have the time and relevant experience, your landlord may be happy to lower your rent significantly, possibly by more than the straight cost of hiring others. This is because it might avoid the costs and responsibilities of employing (more) people and because you’d be right there at the property whenever you’re home.

Sharing Costs

The next couple of tips have to do with splitting costs with others, but you have to read the small print of your lease and/or get your landlord’s agreement ahead of time.

Find Roommates

Especially if you’re single with no kids, finding one or more roommates can make even an expensive place very affordable.

While in college, one of my kids rented a house with five friends, splitting the rent of a nice house six ways. That cost each of them far less than renting a one-bedroom or even studio apartment. It also helped them save on utilities, broadband Internet, and streaming services.

If you don’t have any friends looking to share a rental, you can ask friends if they have friends looking, or use resources such as

Your landlord may require each of you to sign a separate lease or to all sign a single lease. If the latter, make sure to all sign a roommate agreement that specifies who pays what, how you handle situations where one or more roommates want to move out early, etc.

Hongamen agrees, “One way to lower your rental cost is to rent a bigger space with roommates. The per-bedroom rent is far cheaper for a 2-bedroom vs. a 1-bedroom place. The same goes for a 3-bedroom vs. a 2-bedroom home. Another alternative is to rent a room from someone else. Someone who needs help with their mortgage payment may want to rent out a room in their house.”

David Berns, Financial Planner, Truadvice Wealth Management agrees, “Splitting your rent with a roommate or two can be a great way to reduce your monthly housing costs. Look on social media and ask friends if they know anyone in the same boat. Renting a single room in someone’s home is also popular these days, with the higher cost of rent in today’s market. If you’re ok sharing your space, this is a great way to save money.”


Some landlords may not want to have to deal with multiple parties on a rental but might be ok to let you take on that responsibility by letting you sublease a portion of the property.

Note that in this scenario you’ll be the person the landlord will come after if there’s any damage to the property and for the full rent amount regardless if your subletter pays you or not.

If you don’t need to stay there full-time (e.g., if you’re a student who goes back home for 2–3 months each year in the summer), you might be able (with your landlord’s agreement) to lease out the full place, e.g., through Airbnb, Craigslist, or VRBO.

According to SmartAsset, “Renting out a single bedroom in a two-bedroom apartment can serve as a good source of supplemental income in most of the cities SmartAsset examined. In half of the cities in our analysis, an ‘Airbnb roommate’ would, on average, pay at least 80% of an apartment’s total rent.”

That means you could end up paying less than half the rent through short-term Airbnb “rentals.”

Take Advantage of Being a Great Renter

Not all renters are created equal in a landlord’s eyes.

Some always pay their rent in full and on time; take good care of the property; keep things clean, neat, and quiet; and are always friendly and low-maintenance.

Others, not so much.

If you’re in the former category, landlords will always be eager to have you rent from them, which means you may be able to negotiate a lower rent, or at least avoid rent increases.

The law is notoriously pro-landlord in most places. However, that doesn’t mean renters are left blowing in the breeze.

Some cities have rent-control laws that limit how much landlords can increase the rent from year to year.

If your landlord bumped up your rent by more than allowed, you have a strong basis to get him or her to reduce your rent back to the allowed level.

Is Renting Even Your Best Bet?

Finally, keep in mind that while renting provides a lot of flexibility, it isn’t always the most financially savvy move. That’s why, after renting for 16 years, we bought our first house and never rented again.

Since we landlords operate as business owners, we make sure the rent we charge pays more than our costs, and in most cases more even than the cashflow cost of the mortgage plus all other expenses.

That means that if you can find a similar place to buy when the real estate purchasing market isn’t crazy high, mortgage rates are plausible, and you can afford the downpayment and other closing costs, you may very well pay less buying than renting a similar place.

However, keep in mind that you have to account not just for your mortgage principal and interest, but also for property taxes, homeowners insurance, maintenance, and repairs.

Some people point out that you also have to cover utilities, but in most cases, renters have to pay those too so those are a wash.

Timothy Uihlein, CFP, MBA, Partner, Managing Director, and Senior Wealth Manager at Vincere Wealth Management offers an interesting bonus tip, “While it won’t directly lower your rent, you can earn points with no fees by paying with the Bilt Mastercard.” Note that to get those points you’ll need to either rent a Bilt-affiliated property (one of several million) or use your Bilt card for at least four other transactions (of any amount) monthly.

The Bottom Line

Since housing can be your largest budget item, saving a good fraction of it can be a huge help in freeing up money to save for long-term goals, like retirement, and/or paying down debt.

As Berns says, “Saving on your monthly housing costs frees up money to save more or pay down student loans and/or credit cards.”

The above are a dozen tips for saving lots of money on your rent costs. Some are tips you can only use before signing the dotted line. Others, you can take advantage of at any point, including during the lease period. Others yet will help you when it’s time to renew your lease.

Whichever of these tips you plan to use, make sure to carefully read your lease agreement and understand all its terms and conditions first. Then, make sure to follow them to the letter, including getting your landlord’s permission to, e.g., take in roommates or subletters.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered financial advice. You should consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.

About the Author

Opher Ganel

My career has had many unpredictable twists and turns. A MSc in theoretical physics, PhD in experimental high-energy physics, postdoc in particle detector R&D, research position in experimental cosmic-ray physics (including a couple of visits to Antarctica), a brief stint at a small engineering services company supporting NASA, followed by starting my own small consulting practice supporting NASA projects and programs. Along the way, I started other micro businesses and helped my wife start and grow her own Marriage and Family Therapy practice. Now, I use all these experiences to also offer financial strategy services to help independent professionals achieve their personal and business finance goals.

Connect with me on my own site: and/or follow my Medium publication:

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Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered financial advice. You should consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.


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