If you're looking for an apartment, you need to consider the costs outside of rent each month. These include average utility costs.
Every building and landlord operates differently, so you'll need to find out what utilities are your responsibility and which ones are included with the cost of rent. Some landlords may entice renters by including the cost of Wi-Fi and electricity with the cost to rent an apartment per month, but the majority will be up to you.
A study from the U.S. Energy Administration reported that the average monthly energy bill was about $112. Depending on where you live (hot or cold climates) and how much energy you consume, this could be your biggest expense.
Renters may pay about 20 percent of rent on utilities. If you have roommates, this cost may go down to about 10 percent. (It pays to live with others!)
To give you an idea, here are some average numbers for how much apartment utilities cost each month:
When it comes to cooking, you might pay anywhere from $15 to $100 per month on your gas bill depending on how often you use your gas cooking range or oil heater. If your apartment uses an electric stove or heater, your gas bill will be significantly less, if not already bundled with the cost of your rent.
You might not be directly responsible for everything above, and they're just estimates, which can be higher or lower than your actual utility costs.
When shopping around for an apartment, be sure to ask the apartment manager for details about utility costs before you sign the lease. Find out what the landlord is responsible for and what you're responsible for. Be sure to get this written down in the lease if you decide to rent the apartment.
In the apartment listing, you may see a short blurb about what landlords cover.
Some utility costs covered by your landlord may include:
Landlords usually won't cover the cost of electricity, so be prepared to pay for this.
From a budgeting perspective, you can estimate how much you need to put aside each month for your utilities. If you're moving into a new place, your landlord may know how much utilities typically cost.
If you have the chance, you'll likely get a better estimate by asking another tenant. Don't forget your current utility bills. Those will give you an idea of your usage that can give you a baseline for what it'll cost in your new place.
If you'd like to calculate this on your own, you can create a budget for things like:
You can also use a utility cost estimator or online calculator to assess your projected monthly cost of living. Remember to take these with a grain of salt, as they're only estimates.
If you want a better idea of how much your utilities will cost each month, see what your first three bills look like and take the average.
Note: You may want to wait a few months if it's summer or winter and you have your air conditioner or heater running constantly.
These days, technology has made it a lot easier and less expensive to purchase gadgets that help you understand how much energy you're consuming.
You can try searching in your area for energy-efficient apartments, which are equipped with things like ENERGY STAR appliances and improved insulation. This can help keep the heat in during the winter and the hot air out during the summers.
There are also federal ENERGY STAR programs that certify multifamily apartments and condos that are at least 15 percent more energy efficient.
According to ENERGY STAR, you can make these simple swaps and save some money.
Once you've determined what you're responsible for, start shopping around for the best prices. Retail energy providers can help you find the lowest rate and lock it in. Search online for one in your area.
Gas companies are very competitive, with some even offering cash-back incentives to use their service. Cable and phone companies often bundle services for a discount.
What seems like a bargain to begin with can quickly shoot up once the initial rate expires.
When seeing the options offered in telephone, cable or internet packages, it's tempting to take on more services than you really need. Be realistic about what you'll use and sign up for just those features.
Don't add phone if you have no need for a landline and consider if you really need cable. Any service you cut saves money, especially if you'd never use it in the first place.
What you buy and put in your apartment can make a real difference. You likely don't have control over the major appliances but pay attention to the energy efficiency of what you buy, such as TVs, to make sure you're not buying something that will cost you at the end of the month.
Apartment utilities can be a significant cost, so knowing how much you'll pay each month will give you the best idea of how much it costs to rent an apartment per month. Know what to expect before you sign the lease and do the footwork to get the best possible rates.