Strange as it seems to someone like me, there are lots of people who’ve never had to rent apartments. An overwhelming number of them are younger people, but it’s not only young people who need to rent apartments.

Redevelopment of Dachong Village, Nanshan, Shenzhen
Chris via Compfight

I’ve lived in a lot of apartments and few houses. Thus, I feel like I’m qualified to give some advice on this one. Some of my advice is geared towards colder climates, but in a way some might offer something for those living in warmer places also.

1. Always try to start with 1 1/2 times more of cash before you rent a place. The reason for this is because most places are going to require at least a security deposit, which is usually around 1/2 of a month’s rent, while some places will require two months rent, which they call first and last month’s rent for whatever the duration is.

Another reason is that you might need some extra money to hook things up like electricity, phone (yeah, I know you probably have a smartphone), cable, etc. It pays to not have to overly worry about the early expenses.

2. It’s always better to pay a bit more money for a place that gives you “free” utilities. Most people think utilities in an apartment won’t be all that high; don’t believe it.

One of my earliest apartments was nice and sizable; it also leaked a lot of heat in the winter. When my first winter bill came and it was almost $300, and I didn’t have that kind of money to spend on a regular basis, it made my experience living there torture. My next place covered all utilities. It cost more monthly but way less than when I had to deal with utility bills.

3. If you have to pay utility bills, there are a couple of things you’ll want to do or look into so you can reduce your bill.

The first is, if you’re in a cold area, try to find an apartment above someone older. Older people get really cold in winter, so they don’t mind paying more to stay warm. Heat rises, which means if you live above them you won’t have to turn your heat up as much. Truthfully, you could follow this principle by living above anyone; it’ll keep your bills lower than if you’re on the main level.

Contemporary 3-bedroom apartment for sale in Barcelona Old Town LFS3188
Lucas Fox Barcelona – Ibiza – Mallorca via Compfight

The second is if you’re in a warm area try to live on the main level if there are floors above you. This is because cold air is heavy and thus falls into lower apartments.

The third is, if you live in a cold climate and don’t have someone living below you, get a kerosene heater. If it could keep me really warm in my own house this winter it’ll not only keep you warm in your apartment but it’ll last you longer.

4. Unless you have a special need for one, don’t pay more for a garage. It might seem cool to have one, a nice place to keep your car in. However, in many apartment complexes not only is your car further away than parking out in front of your building, but often there’s no real security protecting the cars; not even cameras. Also, if you live in a place that gets a lot of snow you might think your car is protected from the elements but your car will probably be plowed in a little bit. Much easier to get your car out of a parking spot than having to shovel your way out.

5. Many apartments offer storage sheds, although some places charge for it. Trust me, it’s better to keep things like your bike in your own apartment. If you have the need to store away things like books and clothing it’s a much smarter thing to buy those large bins at a place like K-Mart or Target (or many other places I believe) that usually come in around $10 or so.

They’re nice and deep with a top you can snap on, and you can stack them in a corner somewhere. Sure, it might change the overall look of the room, but your stuff will be much more secure in your apartment since often the locks are easy to pick on storage bins. Keeping your stuff out of sight keeps it out of someone else’s mind.

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