What Can You Afford in Rent? Other Apartment Expenses & Considerations

By Alyssa Laffitte on November 21, 2020

This article is brought to you by GradGuard. We protect college students and their families from the financial risks of college life, like providing a refund for tuition or replacing a stolen backpack when your school may not. When the unexpected happens, GradGuard’s tuition insurance and renters insurance can help you get back on track.

As you start looking at places to rent, you are likely thinking a lot about the monthly rent amount. After all, this is the number that comes up when you look at rental places. However, this number might not be the amount you end up paying in housing expenses. There are many other housing-related expenses that might not be included in the advertised rent amount. These are services that you will have to arrange for yourself. Of course, which services are included and which are not can vary from property to property. For this reason, it’s important to ask the property manager exactly what is included in the rent and what is not.

Image via Isorepublic.com

Pet rent

If your pet will be living in your rented place with you, know that they will probably not be living there rent-free. Pets can dirty a place and could even cause damage to it. Additionally, if the tenant who rents the place after you has allergies, the owner will likely need to make sure the place is deep cleaned, too. For this reason, most rentals will require you to pay a “pet deposit” at the beginning of your lease in addition to a monthly “pet rent” fee. (Yes, this is an addition to the rent amount you already pay.) Be sure to ask about this before you sign a lease.

The amount of pet rent initial deposit and fees vary widely. Some places have very cheap pet rent or none at all, while others have costly pet rent. It can also vary depending on the type of pet you have and how much it weighs. For example, a cat’s pet rent might be cheaper than a dog’s, since they are generally smaller. Similarly, pet rent for a 7 lb dog might be cheaper than pet rent for a 50lb dog.

Before you sign a lease and determine if you can pay the rent, be sure to take into account any pet rent costs.

Electricity

Nowadays, we use a lot of electricity for everything: lighting at night, watching TV, charging our electronics, cooking, and more. The costs of the electricity required to do all these things adds up quickly. In some cases, electricity is included in the rent, but in other cases, it isn’t, so it’s important to know what the situation is for your particular building.

If electricity is not included in your rent, it could be hard to estimate the monthly cost because the cost depends on your usage. For example, if you leave all the lights on and have your TV constantly on, your electricity bill will be higher than someone who is good about turning off the lights and turning off electronics when they’re not in use. To get a rough estimate of the monthly electricity cost you will incur, you should ask the property manager or even other tenants around you. Of course, their electricity usage might be way more or way less than yours, so this estimate is still very rough, but it can give you a good starting point for your budget. Even without a rough estimate, if your heating and cooling system is electricity-based, you can plan to pay more for electricity during the coldest and hottest months of the year. Electricity is expensive, and it might not even be included in your rent bill. If it isn’t, be sure you can pay your monthly electricity cost before you sign a lease anywhere.

Water and sewer

Of course, you will use the water and sewer services a lot at your new place! You will take advantage of these services when you cook, wash dishes, clean, shower, and use the bathroom. Water and sewer is one of those bills that may or may not be included in your rent, depending on your lease, so you should ask the property manager about what’s included in rent. Just like your electricity bill, your water bill is dependent on your usage, so it’s not a cost you can easily predict. Your water bill also depends on things like whether you pay for your in-unit laundry, how long your showers are, and how many times you flush tour toilet. Again, you can ask other tenants how much they pay for their water and sewer service, but it will be a rough estimate, since they may use more or less water than you do. Still, it’s a good starting off point for determining how much to allot for your monthly water and sewer bill. Definitely, you should ask the property manager if the water and sewer charges are included in your rent bill. If it isn’t, you should plan to pay according to rough estimates.

Gas

Another bill that might not be included in your monthly rent is your natural gas bill. Natural gas service likely takes care of your heating and cooling system, in addition to your stove if you have a gas stove. Again, the amount of this bill will depend on how much you use. If you use a lot of gas (for example, if you’re cooking A LOT on your gas stove or if you’re constantly using your heating and cooling system), the amount on your bill will be higher than if you don’t do these things. For this reason, like other bills, it’s hard to get a good estimate. However, asking the property manager and other residents for a rough estimate of how much they pay is a good starting point for planning purposes. In other words, you should find out whether or not your rent includes natural gas. If it doesn’t, plan to pay extra for it.

Trash removal

When looking to rent a new place, we don’t often think about trash removal. But the truth is that it’s an extremely important service that’s not always included in the monthly rent amount. You definitely want to make sure you don’t forget to have this service taken care of! You don’t want to have trash accumulate and not be picked up. You should ask the property manager if trash removal is included in the monthly rent amount. If it isn’t, you need to contact your city to ask them about trash removal. At the end of the day, be sure that the trash removal service is taken care of, whether it is included in your monthly rent or not.

Heating and cooling

In addition, heating and cooling service is also important to take care of. Sometimes, it is not included in rent. Other times, it is reflected in other bills, like the electricity bill or natural gas bill. If your heating and cooling system is powered by electricity, it will be reflected in your electricity bill, it won’t be an extra bill. Similarly, if your heating and cooling system is powered by gas, it will be reflected in your gas bill. Take some time to learn about your heating and cooling system, and to ask if it’s included in your rent (or in your electricity or gas service).

Cable and Internet

Nowadays, we rely on the Internet and cable TV a lot. These services are usually not included in rent. If it’s not included in your rent, you should take some time to research cable and Internet providers that service your area (since not all providers service every neighborhood in every city). You can also take a close look at the different packages each provider offers to determine which one meets your TV or Internet needs. For example, you don’t need to get a package that includes movies and sports if you’re not into movies and sports. You can opt for the most basic package if that’s what works for you. The beauty is that you get to choose! If you don’t watch TV at all (like more people are doing nowadays), you can just get an Internet package that will be less expensive than one with both Internet and TV. Thankfully, unlike other bills, this bill is fairly easy to estimate. With your research, you can easily estimate the price. (Of course, don’t forget to allot for any installation fees.) In short, your cable and Internet bill will likely not be included in your monthly rent. This will be another expense to allot for when outlining your monthly budget.

Laundry

Before you sign a lease, you should learn about the building’s laundry situation, since they can vary widely from building to building. It’s important to know the laundry situation because not only will it affect your monthly budget, but it will also affect your lifestyle. For example, will you need to go to a laundromat to wash your clothes every week, or will you have the freedom of an in-unit washer and dryer? For these reasons, you should definitely find out about the laundry situation before you sign a lease.

Some places have an in-unit washer and dryer, meaning you will not need to pay separately for laundry. Instead, the cost of laundry will be reflected in your water bill, since you will only need to pay for the water you use as you do laundry. On the other hand, some buildings have a communal laundry room whose costs are not covered by your rent. Communal laundry rooms usually will require you to pay a small amount to use a machine. This amount isn’t very much, but if you use two machines (one washer and one dryer), and if you’re doing multiple loads each month, the cost can add up quickly. In fact, if this is your building’s laundry situation, you might want to make a specific line on your budget for laundry. Some buildings are so old that they don’t even have a laundry facility. In that case, you will need to go to a laundromat to wash your clothes, and the cost will be similar to using a communal laundry room. You should also take into account the cost you might incur for driving to the laundromat and parking there.

Clearly, you should investigate the laundry situation before signing a lease, since it can greatly affect your monthly budget.

Image via Isorepublic.com

Parking

Just as it’s important to know the laundry situation before you sign a lease, it’s important to know the parking situation before you sign a lease if you have a car. Again, this will not only affect your budget but your lifestyle. For example, if your building doesn’t have parking, will you need to park on the street? (This will likely cost A LOT of money. You might want to continue your apartment hunt if this is the case.) Can you park in a nearby garage? If you go grocery shopping, how far will you need to carry your heavy groceries from your car to your building? These are all important lifestyle considerations.

Additionally, the parking situation might affect your monthly budget. If the building does offer parking, is it free? (If it is, consider yourself very lucky!) If not, how much is it? And very importantly: is it right outside of the building, or is it a block away? Are you guaranteed a spot? Can you pay less for a spot that’s further away? Can you pre-pay for an entire year and get a discount? All these little details about the parking situation are important to know since they can greatly affect your lifestyle and your monthly budget.

Renter’s insurance

Finally, another bill that might not be included in your monthly rent is renter’s insurance. We don’t want to think about bad things happening to your rentals, but it’s something you should be prepared for. You should consider getting renter’s insurance. A renter’s insurance policy can protect your apartment in the event of something like a robbery, break-in, or even a natural disaster. Of course, the level of coverage (and what situations are covered) depends on the policy you choose. It’s better to have renter’s insurance and not need it than need it and not have it. One place to start looking for renter’s insurance is GradGuard, since they specialize in insurance for students. They have plans that will meet your needs.

It’s no secret that college costs a lot of money. Make sure your investment in higher education is protected with GradGuard. Our affordable tuition insurance and renters insurance plans are specifically designed for college students. Customizable plans make it easy to protect your tuition, room and board, laptop, bike, and so much more.

23, ISFJ. Biology student. College lifestyle blogger. Avid reader and writer. Dog lover. Nerd. Boyband enthusiast. Superhero in training. Here to help you become the best you can be!

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