Need to save money on rent? 6 ways to reduce your housing expenses

If you're trying to save money on rent, consider these six ways to help reduce your housing expenses and make a tight budget work.

Author: Sarita Harbour

Housing expenses a little high for your comfort? You aren't alone. Apartment dwellers all over Canada wrestle each month with that one expense that's tricky to reduce: rent. No matter how diligent you are, chances are rent is one of your biggest budget items, which means trying to save money on rent could be at the centre of your financial challenges.

No, you (probably) can't walk up to your landlord and demand cheaper rent. But with a little creativity, you can lower your housing costs. Here are six ways to get started.

1. Get a roommate

One of the most dramatic ways to save money on a tight budget and cut rental and housing costs is to share your space. This immediately slashes your rent to half or even a third of what you were originally paying. True, you'll give up some privacy and take on the role of collecting rent. However, you'll also enjoy significant savings you can use to pay off debt, put toward buying your first home, or fund a dream vacation. Plus, next time you want to have a home movie night or practice your big work presentation, your audience is already right there. Not a fan of having a full-time roomie? You might want to consider renting your spare room on Airbnb.

2. Find a less-expensive neighbourhood to fall in love with

Rents across Canada vary wildly depending on where you live. And while work, school, or family commitments may keep you within a certain area, research what rent looks like in nearby neighbourhoods or cities. Generally, rentals closest to universities and business-heavy downtowns cost more, while apartments and homes closer to the edges of a city tend to have lower rents. Increased commuting costs may offset the rent savings, so it is important to consider the bigger picture when deciding to move to a new neighbourhood.

3. Downsize

Do you really need a large two-bedroom apartment with one and a half baths? Downsizing to a small one-bedroom or even a bachelor can be an effective way to save money on rent. It also cuts down on your heating and cooling bills. Although you might find it cramped at first, remember all the money you're saving. Pro tip: think vertical. You'd be surprised how much you can fit in a tall shelving unit.

4. Lower your utility bills

Don't be too quick to sign a "utilities included" lease agreement. When you handle your own utility bills, you pay for the electricity, heating, and water you actually use, giving you the ability to reduce your usage and take control over your budget.

To save electricity, for example, get a power bar for your television and sound system and turn it off when you aren't using it. Unplug your phone and laptop when they're done charging. Instead of cable, enjoy your viewing a la carte with a less expensive streaming service. You can also play around with the temperature. Lower your thermostat while you're away during winter days and increase it on summer days to reduce your energy consumption (and, in the process, your bills).

5. Trade work for lower rent

Are you handy? If all your friends come to you when they have a leaky faucet, squeaky hinge, or loose cabinet door, you might be able to put those skills to work to save money. Try negotiating with your landlord to complete repairs in your unit (or building) in exchange for reduced housing costs. This could include painting, cleaning, clearing snow from common areas, or breaking a sweat mowing the lawn and taking care of minor landscaping work.

6. Rent out your apartment when you're away

If you regularly travel for work or find yourself away from home on overnight trips, consider making some money by renting out your home through Airbnb or a similar platform. This can help recoup some of your monthly rent. Before you do, though, check your lease carefully to make sure there's no clause prohibiting these kinds of short-term rentals.

It's true that rent might be your highest monthly expense. But with a little imagination and work, you can reduce the cost and free up some cash to help you meet your other goals.