6 Strategies to Reduce Your Rent

It is no secret that the supply of apartments and homes for rent has not kept up with demand. Renters face steeply rising costs in places such as: 

  • San Francisco, CA- up 14.9%
  • Seattle, WA- up 6.2%
  • Los Angeles, CA- up 5.6%

Those numbers are shocking. There are, however, strategies you can use to lower your rent. Here are some great tips to keep more money in your pocket.

  1. Emphasize Good Credit (if you have it) – Even in the tightest housing markets, landlords want tenants who pay their bills promptly. If you have a high credit score, bring it up in negotiations. Stress that the landlord does not have to worry about a costly eviction with someone like you.
  1. Talk about a Long-Term Lease – There are costs to finding new tenants each year. If you really like the property, ask for a two year lease with lower monthly rent. The rental company avoids having to find a new tenant next year, and you do not have the hassle of searching for a new place.
  1. Pay Early and/or Upfront – If you saved 3 months’ rent, use it as a bargaining chip. Ask for a decrease in rent in exchange for that money upfront. Also, inquire about discounts if you pay before the first of the month. Your landlord might conclude that your proposal improves his or her cash flow.
  1. Aim for a Big Reduction- A $50 rent reduction ($600 off per year) might be completely acceptable to you. However, ask for more than the amount you want (i.e. $100 off/$1,200 savings). There are several reasons.
  • Many negotiators feel that they have to “meet in the middle.” If you start out asking for $50 off your rent, the landlord is likely to counter with a $25 decrease in the rent. A more ambitious starting point gives you more flexibility in the negotiations.
  • You just might get the higher amount. There is an old cliché that you do not get anything if you do not ask for it. You do not know what pressure the landlord is under to fill the vacancy with a paying tenant.
  1. Consider Living with Your Parents – You probably read that phrase and went, “What? No!!” Hear me out. In some extremely tight rental markets, it makes more financial sense to live with your parents and pay them a small amount of rent versus paying a lot of money for a cramped, hole-in-the-wall apartment. Besides, if you are not involved with anyone, you will want companionship.
  1. Get a Roommate – Even if your parents live in a fabulous location and it makes sense financially, you just might not be able to stomach living with them. Consider a roommate. A roommate helps with expenses and keeps you company.

Make sure you take steps to protect yourself. Screen any roommate carefully so you do not end up living with someone who is a threat to your safety. Also, do not have a landline in your name on the property. You do not want to get stuck with someone else’s phone bill.

Achieving Your Goals

If you win a rent reduction, congratulations. Remember to get every agreement in writing. You want to avoid any costly disputes.

Lower rent enables you to save for other goals such as a house or retirement. Even in a tight market, responsible, trustworthy tenants are not always plentiful. Make sure you try these strategies if the rent in your area is really high.

10 Ways Your Car Is Draining Your Money

Let’s face it. Cars are expensive! Between the initial costs of buying a car, putting gas in the tank, paying for insurance and making sure it’s maintained, owning a car can be one of the most expensive things in your budget.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be so costly. Many of the things you’ve been taught to do for your car are less for your vehicle’s health and more to help retailers drain your wallet. We’ve collected the top 10 ways your car is draining your money so you can avoid some of these rather pointless monetary wastes in the future:

  1. Premium Gasoline

It might be tempting to shell out for the most expensive gasoline available. We get it — you love your car and want the best for it, but premium gasoline is not the way to go unless using a lesser octane is causing your engine to knock. Trust your owner’s manual on this one: If it doesn’t specifically recommend high octane gas, you’re just throwing your money away.

  1. Dealer Repairs

If you’ve got a warranty that already covers all of your repair costs, then disregard this one. For the rest of us, though, going to the dealer for repairs or routine maintenance is a huge waste of money. Independent shops, at least those that employ ASE certified mechanics, do the job as well or better than the dealership without the excessive cost.

  1. Oil Changes – Part 1

This tends to be a two-fold problem. One, you’re probably changing your oil too often. Many manufacturers’ recommend waiting until you’ve reached 5,000 miles or in some cases even longer to change your oil. The 3 months/3,000 miles rule is a marketing ploy at this point.

  1. Oil Changes – Part 2

The second problem most people run into with oil changes is spending too much on the service. This may be because you’re going to the dealer (as mentioned in #9) or because you’re not doing it yourself. If you’re handy with a wrench, changing your oil yourself can save you a ton of money in the long run. Otherwise, look for sales at your local shops and get it done then!

  1. Check Engine Lights

We’ve all done it — ignored a check engine light or even put a little piece of electrical tape over the dash so we didn’t have to look at it anymore. That can be a costly mistake because small issues that may trigger the check engine light can become worse if ignored. Many parts stores, like AutoZone or Advance, offer free code reading, so you’ve got nothing to lose!

  1. Neglecting Your Filters

We all know to change the oil and air filters, but when was the last time you changed your fuel filter? A clogged fuel filter can become an expensive repair and compromise your car’s fuel efficiency.

  1. Underinflated Tires

Walking around the car to check the air pressure in each tire can be a pain, but it’s a great way to save money in the long run. Improperly inflated tires affect fuel efficiency, wear out quickly (often requiring costly replacements) and can even blow out if not correctly maintained.

  1. Idling Your Car

Sometimes idling is unavoidable — at a stop light, in slow-moving traffic or when trying to warm up your car in freezing temperatures. However, restarting your engine uses less gas than idling your car for 10 seconds. When you can, don’t idle.

  1. Flushing Coolant

Yes, you do periodically need to flush out your cooling system, but it’s not nearly as often as you think. Most new coolant only needs to be changed every 5 years or 50,000 miles, but that may vary because of your car’s make, model or year.

  1. Expensive Extras

Sure, that onboard navigation or movie system might be tempting, but you probably have a smart phone or tablet computer that does all of that and more for a fraction of the price.

Onboard navigation can cost thousands of dollars. You can buy a Garmin or other dashboard GPS for less than $200, or simply use your phone to navigate. Think about that the next time a car salesman talks about all the benefits of onboard navigation!

While things like coolant and oil changes are necessities, there’s no reason you should have to break the bank to keep your car on the road.

Anum Yoon is the founder and editor of Current On Currency. You can catch her on Twitter to read her updates.

7 Things to Do When Reducing Your Debt

7 Things to Do When Reducing Your DebtIt is no secret that Americans have a lot of debt. Here are just a few of the statistics.

You do not want to be trapped with a large debt load and no assets. Develop a plan and incorporate some of the following ideas.

  1. Prioritize Your Debts – Not all debts impact you equally. Examine your finances and identify the debts with the highest interest rates. Pay off the highest interest rate debt first.
  1. Negotiate, Negotiate – Whether it is the interest rate on your credit card or the cost of cell phone service, call and ask for a lower rate. Think of it this way, businesses negotiate with vendors to reduce their costs all of the time. Take the same measures to avoid unnecessary expenses.
  1. Beware Careful with Debt Consolidation Plans – It is normal to feel embarrassed and overwhelmed by your debt load. You might also be a shy person who gets nervous at the thought of negotiating with a company. It is tempting to use a debt consolidation company. Not so fast! Many “professional” debt consolidation plans/services are not beneficial to you. A credit card issuer might give the same interest rate reduction to the debt consolidation company that it would have given to you. Unfortunately, you now owe the negotiator a fee.
  1. Examine Balance Transfers – The balance transfer is another strategy that can have more downside than upside. Some cards hit you with a balance transfer fee that might total hundreds of dollars. If you try shifting debt from card to card multiple times, it lowers your credit score. A lower credit score equates to a higher interest rate for a car loan or mortgage. Do not make a balance transfer unless the deal is sound (i.e. 0% rate) and you pay off the card before the teaser rate expires.
  1. Monitor Your Expenses – How much do you spend on restaurant meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) during the week? Do you go shopping for a new coat and come out of the store with a new outfit and shoes too? “Convenience” and impulse buying really add up quickly for people. Reduce the number of times you eat a restaurant meal per week. Make a shopping list, stick to it, and do not get lured into buying extra items.
  1. Apply Extra Money – Did you earn a bonus at work? Receive an income tax refund? Inherit money from a relative? If you received a windfall, use it to pay down debts.
  1. Make More Money – You do not want to spend money frivolously. However, you need to maximize your earnings too. If you’re a top performer at your company, make a case for better compensation during your next review. Consider taking a side job and applying all of your earnings from it toward debt reduction.

Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

High debt loads cause anxiety and threaten your long-term financial freedom. One researcher found that households without credit card debt had 3 ½ times more savings than those with credit card debt. Do not let yourself become just another sad case. Start reducing your debt today.

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