Across the UK, the cost of renting is pretty steep – from the relatively inexpensive £526 for renting in the North East to an eye-watering average £1,564 to live in the capital. And that’s just the rent – it doesn’t take into account bills, furnishings, Council Tax, deposits or estate agent fees. So, because we’re all about saving money here at Bamboo, we thought we’d put together a list of our top tips for renters, to help you save money when you’re looking for a place to live.
And, to make things even easier, we’ve broken the list down into stages. There’ll be tips for renters looking for a new place, tips for renters who are about to move into their new place and tips for renters already living in their place, but looking to tighten the purse strings a little.
One: Thrifty tips for renters looking for a new place
This is the exciting stage, isn’t it? It’s that rose-tinted stage where a number of places seem like your dream place – just from a few pictures on Rightmove, you can see yourself sitting in the living room after a long day at work, or inviting your friends over at the weekend. But when that initial excitement has worn off, it’s time to focus on being thrifty, smart and sensible. Choosing the right property (and making sure everything is in order before you move in), is your best opportunity to save yourself some serious money.
Tip #1: Consider living with vulnerable people
If you’re looking for a place just for yourself then thinking outside the box can save you a tonne of money. If it’s just you, and you don’t mind a bit of chatting, watching TV and keeping an elderly/disabled person company, then a home-sharing scheme might be a great option for you.
Of course, it’s not without its setbacks – you have to stay in four nights a week, sleep there five nights a week and provide 10 hours of support (taking the bins out, cooking, cleaning, etc…) every week – but it is an absolute steal. Don’t believe us? Average rent for living in London: £1,564 per month. Average rent for living in London as a home-sharer: £200 per month. Plus, you get company, somebody to chat to and that warm fuzzy feeling you get from doing something nice for somebody else. For more information, click here.
Thriftiness Score: 10/10
Tip #2: Consider becoming a property guardian
If you’re not mad on the idea of living with somebody else, then this is another outside-the-box option to save a lot of money.
The idea is simple: you get reduced rent to stay in a property to prevent squatters. You’re the guardian of the property, and for that you’re rewarded with heavily discounted rates. Plus, the range of properties available is incredible: you can live in a church, a mansion, a country house or a fire station. When are you ever going to get that opportunity again? Of course, like home-sharing, it comes with its draw backs. You have fewer legal rights (you can be told to leave with only 14 days’ notice), have to pay some fees and may have to stay in some odd (and very basic) places where you’ll need to provide your own furniture. It’s a mixed-bag, but if you’re young, adventurous and aren’t afraid to stay in abandoned buildings, it’s an opportunity to live in fantastic properties in great locations for a fraction of the local rental rate.
Thriftiness Score: 6/10
Tip #3: Stay ahead of the game
If you’re looking to rent, we bet that Rightmove and Zoopla are pretty high on your ‘most visited’ lists. But if you really want to stay ahead of the game and find those bargain properties, download the respective free apps and set up alerts for when properties are listed. That way, within minutes of the property going live, you can swoop in and nab a bargain.
Thriftiness Score: 5/10 – It’s not so much thrifty as a smart move.
Tip #4: Interrogate the estate agent (or landlord)
Ask as many questions as you can about the property. Not only is this a good opportunity to find out the nitty-gritty details (will your deposit be put in a deposit protection scheme?) but to find out everything about the contract, the property, your responsibilities as a tenant and what it’s like living at the property. No question is too trivial or big – get all the information you need to feel completely happy with the property. If you find something wrong, walk away (saving you money, hassle and stress) or use it to negotiate the monthly rent. Win, win.
Thriftiness Score: 4/10 – again, it’s more of a solid tip than a thrifty tip
Tip #5: Don’t just look at the cost of rent
Look at other costs of renting that property too. Do you have to maintain the garden? Do you have to buy furniture? Is there a cheap supermarket nearby? That one adds up, by the way. You move in thinking ‘Oh, I’ll just drive 10 minutes to Lidl when I need something for dinner’ but after a week, you find yourself at the local convenience shop or ordering takeaways. (Trust us, we’ve been there…)
Most of all, check the local travel routes. If you drive, is it quick to get to work? Or do you have to take a long detour every day? If you catch the train, how much are the tickets to work a day? And how much will this be a month? If it totals too much to afford, it might be time to consider a new area.
Thriftiness Score: 6/10
Two: Money saving tips for renters moving into new properties
You’ve found your ideal place at a bargain price, you’re happy with the contract and you can’t wait to move in. You can’t save any more money now, right? Uh-uh. There’s still ways to save money, whether it’s directly – getting cheaper bills, or indirectly – helping your credit score.
Tip #6: Get free furniture
If you’re moving into an unfurnished property, then you’re going to need some furniture pretty sharp-ish. But before you open the Argos catalogue, head to Freecycle or Gumtree instead. You’ll find a tonne of furniture that people are giving away for free, letting you kit your place out without spending a penny. Plus, it isn’t half as annoying when you spill red wine on a sofa that you got for free.
Thriftiness Score: 10/10 – it’s free stuff, what’s thriftier than that?
Tip #7: Do a thorough inspection – this one’s important
Grab your magnifying glass and deerstalker – it’s time to look at everything in the house or flat. Note down and photograph, if possible every mark, scratch, crack or dent and get them over to the landlord. That way, you can’t be blamed for the damage when you leave (and lose precious deposit money). Shelter have a great form to fill in if your landlord doesn’t give you an inventory.
Thriftiness Score: 4/10 – although, this gets a 10/10 for forward-thinking.
Tip #8: Get on the electoral roll
This isn’t a biggy at all – at least not in the first few days of moving in – but if you’ve got ten minutes with nothing to do, it’s worth getting on the electoral roll before you forget. Why? Because it can affect your credit score in the future and, possibly, stop you from being accepted for loans, credit cards or overdrafts.
Thriftiness Score: 4/10 – thrifty in the long run
Tip #9: Switch utility providers
Gas, electricity and internet can all be that expense that you forget about and pay every month, unaware that you’re paying through the nose for it.
Get smart and look to switch whenever your contract is up (or even before). Energy and internet companies often offer the best deals to customers, so there’s no need to stay with one provider out of loyalty. Grab your laptop and start comparing, you could save hundreds of pounds.
Thriftiness Score: 7/10
Three: Frugal tips for renters settled into their new place
Tip #10: 3M is your friend
There’s nothing a landlord hates more than nail holes or blu-tack marks on the walls. Or, depending on your outlook; there’s nothing a landlord likes more than docking your deposit because of nail or blu-tack marks. And there’s nothing a tenant hates more than bare walls or that god-awful picture of bison drinking from a river as the sun sets. If you’re wondering about the story behind that oddly-specific example, be glad you didn’t live in my student house. Luckily, 3M is your friend. If you’ve never heard of 3M, its adhesive tape (a little like Velcro) that’s strong enough to hold up frames, pictures and – if used cleverly – wall decorations, without leaving a mark on the wall beneath.
When it comes to moving out, just pull the adhesive strip away from the wall and walk away, deposit intact. If you’re looking for ways to decorate your rented property without losing your deposit, we wrote an article on that not too long ago.
Thriftiness score: 6/10 – long term thrifty, again
Tip #11: Make sure you get your deposit back
When it comes to leaving, there are lots of things to do to make sure you get your full deposit back:
- Read your contract again. Check the fine-print and make sure that you don’t have to mow the lawn or bleed the radiators to get your deposit back.
- Fix any minor damage – fill holes, paint marks and remove those stains.
- Go through your inventory (and photos) again to make sure everything is present and correct.
- Clean, clean, clean. Clean every nook and cranny. Deep clean the carpet, wash the curtains, dust the picture rail, bleach the bath. You don’t want to give the landlord any reason to take a penny.
And there you have it, a pretty comprehensive list of tips for renters to save money. If you’re looking for affordable accommodation for students in London, why not read what we’ve said about it here.