How to Find An Affordable Apartment When You’re on a Budget

how to find an affordable apartment

So, you’re ready to move into a new place. Whether you’re leaving the nest for the first time, just graduating college, or looking for a change, you’re in need of a home — and quick! But, figuring out how to find an affordable apartment can be overwhelming. You might’ve noticed just how expensive monthly rent can be. And then there’s the logistics and expenses of the move. It’s a lot, mentally and financially.

The good news is you can learn how to find cheap apartments and find a space that fits your budget and makes you happy. So before you sign a lease, check out these simple ways to find an affordable place.

Find an affordable apartment based on your income

Figuring out how to find an affordable apartment comes down to how much you can actually afford. Affordability is relative. When it comes to figuring out how much you can afford to pay every month, you need to take a good look at your finances.

A good rule of thumb to follow is to not spend no more than 30% of your monthly income on housing. In reality, Americans currently spend about 37% of their pay on rent. Other people pay even more if they’re in a competitive market.

Keep in mind you’ll also need to qualify to be a tenant. This means filling out an application (and paying a fee) to hopefully get approved to rent the property. Generally, landlords will require you to make at least three times the rent amount every month to qualify for the rental.

For example, if the monthly rent is $1,500 per month, then the tenant should make at least $4,500. They use a money ratio known as rent to income to calculate this. If you don’t make enough, you may be asked to get a guarantor to get approved.

Once you’ve figured out how much you will qualify for, figure out how much you will spend on expenses. Take into account any new bills you will now be responsible for, like electricity, gas, and the internet.

Will you need to pay for public transportation or a parking garage? Will you be buying new furniture and decor? Review your budget to accommodate these expenses. If you’ve never been one to budget, this is the perfect time to start. Budgeting is a key step when figuring out how to find an affordable apartment.

Best websites to find apartments

Part of learning how to find cheap apartments is knowing where to look. But, believe it or not, it's possible to find a cheap apartment for rent that's also nice. Here is a list of the best websites to find apartments on a budget:

1. Airbnb

Airbnb is a great place to start if you're wondering how to find an affordable apartment on a short-term basis. The best approach is to reach out to people on Airbnb to see if they would be willing to accommodate you for a couple of weeks or months.

There are spots on Airbnb as low as $20 a night, which is about $600 every month. That's much better than sky-high rents in the downtown of any city. On top of that, there is no need to pay for utilities, Wi-Fi, and cable. Many Airbnb locations include a kitchen, too.

2. Facebook Marketplace

Since Facebook is one of the most popular social media sites around, it's no wonder it's also a go-to for those looking for a cheap apartment to rent. The Facebook Marketplace has tons of listings for apartments and houses for rent. Some people even advertise for roommates too.

3. Walkscore

So, if you're really trying to live a frugal lifestyle, then Walkscore is one of the best websites to find apartments. This site helps you find a cheap apartment for rent that also shows you what is called a "walkable score."

This score shows you the ease of access by walking and biking to public transit, restaurants, and more! This can save you a ton of money on gas because you can either walk or bike almost everywhere you go!

4. Zillow

You may automatically think of Zillow as a site for homeowners, but it actually can be a great way to find a cheap apartment for rent. Download the app and sign-up for notifications for alerts on apartments in your area.

5. Apartments.com

Of course, apartments.com is one of the best websites to find apartments. They have over a million apartments, houses, and condos listed to rent. So you can find a place no matter what city you live in.

Figuring out how to find an affordable apartment is much easier with these essential websites.

Make your affordable apartment even cheaper

Now that you know how to find an affordable apartment check out how to save more money by making your rent cheaper. Here are some ideas to help you snag a deal on a rental.

Get a roommate

Another more traditional way if you're looking for how to find an affordable apartment is to find roommates to live with. Start by asking friends or family, and then move on to looking for outside connections.

Social media can help you connect with friends of friends, so you don’t have to live with strangers. Facebook groups are another great place to search.

Work in exchange for an affordable apartment

Believe it or not, you can live rent-free. There are several ways to accomplish this. You can go the home-sharing route and move into an intergenerational home and help out in exchange for a place to stay. Similarly, you can become a nanny for a family.

If you’re a student, you can get free housing as a Resident Assistant. As a bonus, you wouldn’t have to worry about driving through traffic to get to class. You may also be able to find a job at a hotel, hostel, or even on a ranch in exchange for working at the property. Knowing how to find cheap apartments is great but living for free is even better!

List your new apartment on Airbnb

If you love company and playing host, renting out your apartment is a great way to get money back every month. Airbnb hosts are making over $900 a month!

Before you get too excited, be sure to check the terms of your lease. Your landlord may not allow it or may require permission. You may also need to apply for a permit in your city.

Get a remote job

Don’t need to be in the office? Try moving to a less expensive city and working from there instead. It may sound crazy, but the benefits of remote jobs are becoming more mainstream and accepted.

You don’t have to be a freelancer either. Companies are hiring talent from all over the country. In fact, it's projected that by 2025 over 36 million Americans will be working remotely!

Learning how to find an affordable apartment will save you money

So now you know how to find an affordable apartment and that it may be hard but definitely not impossible. Even if you're moving out of state to a new city! It just requires a good amount of time, patience, and a little perseverance. Taking the time to research and find an affordable place will prevent you from jumping into a place you can't really afford.

Keeping your rent low will free up more money, so you can save for other things like a downpayment on a house if that's your goal. Learn more about financial goal setting and building wealth with our completely free financial courses!

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