How Much Should I Pay for Rent?

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When searching for your next apartment, the first question you’ll likely ask yourself is “how much should I pay for rent?” The amount you should pay is largely dictated by your monthly income, but factoring in what amenities and features you need to live comfortably should also be taken into account. Figure out how much you should pay for rent by following these steps.

Step 1: Take A Look At Your Monthly Income

As a general rule, your rent or mortgage should account for approximately one-third of your income. Use this rule as a starting point, as figuring out how much rent you should pay truly depends on how much you can actually afford. This number will narrow your search and keep you thinking realistically about what kind of units you should be viewing. For example, don’t even look at luxury high rise apartments if you already know your budget falls in the efficiency studio range.

Step 2: Make a List of the Features You Want

Not all apartments are created equal, and chances are there are specifics you’re looking for in your new place. Whether it’s a washer and dryer in the unit, a walk-in closet or extra counter space in the kitchen, you’ll need to account for these extras as you decide how much to budget for rent. Amenities aren’t limited to physical characteristics of the unit–location in a good neighborhood, proximity to public transportation and perceived safety, among other factors, are all legitimate reasons to consider paying more for a place. Think of the features that will have the most impact on your lifestyle, such as location, safety and appliances provided in the unit.

Step 3: Do Your Research

Look on sites like Craigslist to find the going rates for apartments in the size and location you desire. Also ask around and see what friends, co-workers and acquaintances pay monthly for their apartments. You may discover units with similar features going for completely different prices. This is why doing your research is important. Don’t get stuck paying $100 or more for a unit when you can find a similar one for less with all the features you want. Aside from how much your monthly income allows, what you “should” pay for rent is an amount that is reasonable given what other units in the area go for.

Step 4: Figure Out What You Actually Need

A swimming pool and club house certainly sound nice, but aren’t critical to your well-being. If you can’t find an apartment with the amenities you want in your price range, you may need to reevaluate your criteria. Think about what you actually need to make your life easy and comfortable. Chances are a pool on the premise or granite counter tops in the kitchen are not necessities. On the other hand, aforementioned things like the distance you’ll have to travel to get to work or school, inclusion–or lack–of basic appliances (like a dishwasher or stove) and overall building security can make or break your decision to rent a unit. It’s all about wants versus needs.

Other than the one-third of your monthly income guideline, what you should spend on rent is objective. To ensure your overall happiness in your new unit, take time to search for an apartment that suits both your lifestyle and your finances.


Rachael Weiner: I’m a communications professional for a non-profit, which financially necessitates my status as an apartment dweller. Constantly “on-the-go,” I’ve resided in five different apartments across the United States over the past five years. Roommate issues, budgeting, organizing and handling problem neighbors are my specialty.

One Response to “How Much Should I Pay for Rent?”

  1. October 08, 2009 at 11:02 pm, Willem said:

    A couple days ago I saw this cool calculator on Reddit. It pretty much tells you the maximum you can afford before you should start think about low-income/affordable housing.



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