There are about a million reasons to have a budget if you’re a renter (or looking to be one). The main one: Being able to pay rent on time and not get evicted. As important as it is, though, budgeting is not only somewhat difficult, it’s also super boring. Where do you start? What do you include?
To help you out, we put together a list of the top 10 budgeting tips for renters, including some of the expenses you’ll definitely need to include in your budget.
On a semi-related note:
Get an easy-to-use, easy-to-access monthly budget spreadsheet. Google has a pretty decent monthly budget in its Sheets templates that you can easily access via your Google or Gmail account, or you can create one by following this link. If you do have a Google account, click the nine squares in the top right-hand corner, and find Google Sheets. At the top of the page that opens, you’ll find a bunch of templates including the monthly budget template.
- Think monthly and yearly. Budget for the short term and the long term. Month to month, you may know what your income and expenses will look like, but over the course of the year, unexpected expenses could appear that might leave you scrambling to pay the bills and the rent.
- Include all expenses. Your monthly budget needs to include more than just your month-to-month costs. Think about expenses you’ll incur over the course of a year, including
- birthday, wedding and Christmas gifts
- medical expenses
- tuition and textbooks
- year-end tax dues
- car repairs, insurance and registration
- Be honest about your costs. If you’ve budgeted yourself $150 a month for food you’re going to need A) a reality check and B) proof that that’s what you actually spend. There are ways to save money on groceries, though. Your budget should include a certain amount for groceries, but you’ll likely eat out from time to time, so those costs might get factored into an entertainment expense.
- Budget for increases. Sadly, increasing costs are a fact of life. It’s likely that during your tenancy, your rent will increase (it’s allowed to go up once a year). Costs for other things will change too, like gas, food and travel. These should be considered when you’re figuring out your income versus expenses.
- Build in a contingency fund. Unexpected things will, inevitably, happen, and often, these surprise events incur costs. Having a contingency fund (or a savings account) is probably the most important tip we can give you, because you’ll need a cushion to cover unforeseen costs that arise.
- Try to reduce your expenses. When the difference between your income (or savings) and expenses begins to narrow, you’re at risk of getting into or deepening your debt. There are only a few areas where you can cut back to re-balance the budget, and for many people, it’s reducing the restaurant/party budget. Sad but true.
- Keep receipts for everything that you buy or pay for. This will make it easy to enter the amounts you pay into your budget every month so you have the most accurate financial snapshot possible.
- Set priorities. Every month, set aside money for the critical expenses: Rent, groceries, utilities, transportation debt repayment and health (and tuition and textbooks, if they apply to you. Which, just BTW, you can check out these student specific neighbourhoods). You could put the money for these costs into a separate account that’s only accessed when the bills need to get paid.
- Check the budget often. Update your budget monthly. The amounts you spend should be tracked frequently so you don’t lose track of where you’re at. Checking in often gives you the opportunity to reassess your spending and decide where you’re overspending and ensure that you always have enough to pay the rent, and other necessities, in full and on time.
Got any other budgeting tips for your fellow renters? Share them here!