July 14, 2024
6 Gen Z Hacks for Saving Money When the Rent Is Too High

When I heard the expression “the rent eats first,” I could relate. Rent is an unavoidable expense in our budgets: We can’t magically reduce our monthly rent payments because we want to put more aside for our savings. And it’s hard to find a less expensive rental when there’s steep competition and rent prices keep soaring. The most we can do is try to negotiate with our landlords. 

I love writing about how to save money. Yet, like other Gen Zers, I’m “rent poor” with student loan debt, so I struggle to put aside extra cash after covering my bills and expenses.

Some 32% of Gen Zers spend more than half of their monthly income on housing alone, according to Credit Karma. Though many personal finance experts still promote a version of the one-third rule — which says that only a third of your income should go toward housing costs — that guidance feels outdated, especially in most US cities. 

The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in my ZIP code, Austin, Texas, is over $1,700. The only reason I haven’t been priced out is because I’ve always had a roommate. Also, my parents are my landlords. Since 2017, I’ve been helping my folks cover the mortgage payments on their investment property by paying them rent. 

Zoomers are on track to spend about $145,000 on rent by the time we turn 30. Since homeownership feels financially impractical to most of us, we may be renting until we’re 60, unless we win the lottery.

6 ways to save when rent is weighing you down 

Working as a personal finance writer and talking to money experts has helped me get creative. I’ve found a few ways to save, even with inflation and the high cost of living. Here are a few tips for Gen Zers struggling to afford the rent. 

1. Start a side hustle

I started dog-sitting for family members over the holidays to make extra money, and it turned into a legit side hustle. I make between $200 and $1,000 a month, and I’ve found all my dog-sitting clients through word of mouth. I have many friends who would rather leave their dogs with me than pay high prices to board them, so it’s a mutually beneficial situation. If you need help getting started, try posting on Nextdoor or signing up for a dog-walking app like Wag or Rover. 

2. Find a roommate

You’re probably thinking, “Duh,” but having a roommate saves you money on rent and shared household expenses like internet and utilities. I save anywhere from $65 to $100 monthly by splitting the internet and utility bills with my roommate. We also share the cost of miscellaneous expenses, such as the coffee pods for our espresso machine, toiletries, cleaning supplies and kitchen essentials. 

3. Negotiate your rent

When your lease ends and your landlord sends you a rent increase notice, did you know you could negotiate it? It’s easy to accept the change and move on. However, taking the time to build your case as a responsible tenant might pay off. Reach out to your landlord like my colleague Katherine Watt did. She saved $1,200 by writing an email. Self-advocacy is a powerful financial tool. 

4. Find a short-term sublet 

If you live alone or with a partner, find a short-term sublet to bring in a little extra money. Just check to see if you need permission from your landlord first. As a renter, you can’t make passive income from a sublet, but you can save some money on your portion of the rent. For example, a friend of mine who is a teacher relies on a short-term sublet in her second bedroom for three months during her summer break. She typically travels during that time, so having a short-term roommate helps her maintain the house and pay half the rent. 

5. Rent out your parking spot

If you’re like me and don’t have a car (I drive a moped), a parking space doesn’t mean much to you. But if you live in an area where street parking is tricky to come by, you can earn easy income by renting out your parking space. Make sure this doesn’t violate your lease agreement beforehand. 

6. Do building maintenance for reduced rent

Depending on the terms of your lease, certain maintenance responsibilities might fall on you, such as replacing the air filter, mowing the lawn or fixing a leaky faucet. It’s worth asking your landlord if you can take on additional building tasks for reduced rent: maintaining a garden, taking out the trash or doing handy work for tenants. My neighbor recently started a compost bin for our building, and the HOA offered to pay her to maintain it. You can get fined in Austin for violating compost requirements, so she’s doing everyone a favor.

Set your savings on autopilot and watch it grow 

Paying your rent isn’t optional. And if you have debt, saving can feel out of the question. But you can look for creative ways to make a little extra money without going deeper into the red. Once you’re comfortable enough to set some cash aside, open a high-yield savings account to help you grow your money faster. When you settle on a contribution amount that makes sense for your finances, find ways to automate your savings so you don’t have to think about it.

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