Where Can I Afford To Live?

When making a budget, first list all the items you spend money on each month.

When making a budget, first list all the items you spend money on each month.

Like a home mortgage, monthly rent is a serious financial commitment. Before you get in over your head, know what you can afford. Follow these simple steps to calculate how much rent you can afford before you sign the lease.

What’s coming in
What you make each month will be the biggest factor in what you can afford. As a rule of thumb, you should be paying no more than 28 percent of your income to rent.

More on making the most of your budget:

What’s going out
These numbers can be harder to keep track of, especially if you don’t yet have a budget to stick with. First get down on paper all of your fixed expenses. Those will include your current rent, deposits and fees or what your target apartment will cost you. Be sure to have on hand all current monthly loan payments, including car loan and credit cards and totals for child care, health insurance (if not deducted from salary) membership dues, phone, internet and cable service. Create a fixed number for things like savings, clothing purchases, charitable donations and money to help other family members.

For variable expenses, gather invoices and receipts of your medical, dental, utility, food, gasoline, car repair and entertainment expenses from the last 12 months. (If you bank online, you can check expenses through your online account.) This will give you an average of your monthly expenditures. You will also need records of annual or semi-annual payments such as car insurance and taxes. Be sure to set aside an estimate of what an emergency car repair, ER visit or last-minute plane ticket might cost you as well. The goal is to calculate a budget that’s as accurate as possible.

Balance the numbers
Once you’ve got a total for income and expenses, subtract the latter from the former. Ideally, you want to come out with a 10 percent margin in your favor. If your income and outflow numbers are too close, go through your expenses and figure out where you can cut. Shopping for cheaper utilities, insurance, cable, credit card rates and phone plans is a great place to start.

The right rent fit
Once you have a rent range in mind, start apartment hunting and see what’s out there in terms of neighborhood, space and amenities. Perhaps you’ll discover your wants and your finances are in sync with each other.

If you aren’t coming up with many or any choices, make adjustments either in your apartment expectations or your other monthly expenses. Keep realistically fine-tuning your apartment hopes with the money you have to work with until you have reached a good compromise that (ideally) will leave you some wiggle room each month.

Looking for an apartment can be stressful, especially if it’s your first time. But if you are detailed and accurate in calculating your monthly income and expenses, you can surely find an apartment that you can comfortably afford.

More on how to become a budgeting expert:

28 thoughts on “Where Can I Afford To Live?

  1. Hello, l am writing you because l am interested in a one bedroom apartment, and my budget right now is 400.00 – 600.00 a month.

    • Hi, Tonya. Visit apartmentguide.com to search for apartments in your price range. Start by entering your city and state, and then click on “price range” in the search bar at the left to specify your price range. Best wishes on your search!

    • I poked around a little further, and the general consensus appears to be to factor on GROSS income. But there is some debate about that. ; ) Thanks for the comment, and hope the article was helpful overall!

  2. Realistically it should be NET income, since you can’t work with the gross because money is taken out of your pay before you receive it.

  3. 28%??? Ha!! You obviously do not live in NJ. Here is a hint. If you live in NJ, make sure you find a place that has gas for cooking and heat. I have a one bedroom in Flanders, NJ and I pay over $400 a month in energy bills in the winter because my apartment is all electric! That will save you a lot in your monthly budget. And don’t be afraid to demand a lower rent!! You have a right to negotiate a fair rent price. NEGOTIATE!!

  4. I was wondering if you know of apartments complexes renting out for temporary times – like for instance I might be working during the summer down near Beaufort, SC… do they provide a cheaper rent then since I’d only be working part-time and also a place that is furnished would be nice but do you recommend that I get a place that isn’t furnished?

    • Hi, Brandie. Visit ApartmentGuide.com to search for apartment communities in Beaufort. Just enter the city and state in the search bar at the top to access several options. You might check with those properties for more information on their short-term renting policies. Best wishes on your search!

  5. I recently had to retire early and of course my retirement check is pretty small. Where is the cheapeast place to rent in the USA? I have no family so moving out of state is no problem. Also, are there any gov’t programs or agencies(fed, state, or county) that can help? Can’t imagine I’m alone in this situation. Thank you!!

  6. I am retired widower with a small service dog. I am very movbile an have no handicap needs. I receive full veterans compensationaa nd retirment and also Social Social Security. Needs: Quiet with dog walk. I can afford $700 to $1200 a month. One bedroom with a bath enterance NOT through the bedroom. Washer and dyer in apt. Quiet, security & good maintainence. Covered parking and gated community.

  7. On SS income only and looking for a 55+ complex which recognized my income and adjusts for that. Are there apartments which offer subsidies for seniors on fixed incomes?

    • Hi Judi,

      Thanks for getting in touch! We encourage potential residents to contact the apartment communities directly, as they are the best sources of information for issues such as subsidized income, etc. In the meantime, here are our senior-friendly listings: http://www.apartmentguide.com/senior/. You can filter by state and city. Please let us know if you have any additional questions!

      Thanks,
      Apartment Guide

  8. I am disabled and living off of S.S.I. and don’t make that much money. Where I stay now my rent is $158 a month. The reason I need to move is there is mold in the whole building and I can’t handle it. I can’t afford alot to pay on on an apt. but I don’t want to live in a trashy place.

  9. Hello, I am a Student arriving in august to Nebraska, Lincoln to study a graduate master. My budget is very limited and it come from a scholarship. I really don´t know how much to expend in the rent, due to the fact that I actually don´t know the living cost in Lincoln. i. e. with a 1200 total income for a couple how much could be spare for the rent?? and what type of apartment/house should a look for?
    thanks for your advice

  10. hi im looking for an apartment in Huntsville tx close to the university and fully furnish something that ranges to 400$ monthly range

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