How Much Should You Spend on Rent?August 20, 2018
Last Updated on May 25, 2023
You’ve got that first job or a new job. Maybe just got a raise or your moving to a new city, that’s awesome. You’re excited about this new chapter in your life and then you find, “woah, rent is really expensive!” That’s likely what you’re saying as rising rent is outpacing income in most major cities in the country. So, what do you do? How much can you afford? How much should you pay? Well, you’ll find the standard answer is 30%, but it’s not that simple. Every situation is different and there are a lot of things to consider but don’t worry, you’ll figure it out and you probably don’t have to live in a van down by the river, unless that’s your thing.
How much are you really making?
First things first, you need to know how much you’re really going to be bringing home from that paycheck before you know how much you can really spend on rent. People often base their rent on their annual salary, which can really leave you hurting financially because they haven’t considered things like taxes, health insurance, 401ks and other deductions. Here is a good paycheck calculator to help you get to a more reliable number to work with. After that you need to calculate your debts, be it credit cards, auto loans or student loans.
Figure out what you really need.
This isn’t just a tactic to be really frugal, it’s pretty fundamental. Do your research. Know yourself, your habits and what’s realistic for you and the city you are going to live in. Living in the suburbs may be an attractive option because it’s cheaper, but maybe you don’t even need a car? Could walking and public transportation be enough to get you around? If you are moving to a new town or city that you’re not really familiar with, try and stay with a friend or rent an Airbnb for a couple of days in an area you’re considering. It can be a great way to prioritize what is going to be most important to you. You’ll often find that some things that seem like important must-haves could potentially be needless costs.
So, what’s the answer?
You’ve figured out your salary. You’ve weighed your priorities. If you’re like most people, you’ll find that the decision still isn’t easy. If you need something more concrete to avoid yourself financial heartache in the future, try following the 50/20/30 rule. That’s 50% towards the must-haves like rent, utilities, transportation, and food. 30% towards fun and 20% towards savings and/or paying off debt, like cars, credit cards, and student loans. As an example, the average rent in Manhattan, NY is $3,100 for a one-bedroom. In order for that to be a financially sound decision, you’d want your monthly take-home pay to be above $8,300. Using a rent affordability calculator is another great way to see if a particular rent amount would work well for your budget or not.
If all of this still sounds totally unrealistic to you then you may have to look to alternatives like having a roommate, especially if your situation is more temporary. If you know you’re definitely going to be staying somewhere for a while, you may be able to negotiate with your landlord or rental company for cheaper rent. if you can commit to an 18 or 24-month lease. No matter what you decide to do, just make sure you give it some good thought. Save where you can and spend on what’s important to you.