The housing market crash of 2008 affected millions of Americans, and the effects weren’t limited to homeowners — renters felt the pinch too. In fact, according to a 2016 Trulia report, rental prices rose 22% from 2006 to 2014 in the 50 largest U.S. housing markets, despite the average household income shrinking by 4.2% within the same period.
Battling rising costs and inflation can place a heavy burden on your budget, and investing money in your landlord’s property isn’t the best use of cash. That said, there are several ways to upgrade your rental with portable aesthetics that can travel with you to your next home and may even help you save money in the process, which is great if you’re looking to buy a home of your own someday.
1. Light Fixtures
Light fixtures are easily swapped to suit your personal taste. Pro tip: Purchase LED bulbs to save on energy and limit the need to buy new light bulbs as frequently.
2. Outlet Covers
Standard covers for electrical outlets and light switches are inexpensive and removable. Consider buying covers to suit your taste, but just keep the originals so you can replace them when you move out.
3. Ceiling Fans
You can lower your reliance on air conditioning by installing ceiling fans to keep you cool in the warmer months. The Department of Energy suggests buying an ENERGY STAR certified fan to suit your space, as these fans typically circulate air an average of 20% more efficiently than standard models. Just make sure you’re allowed to install this in your rental property before doing so.
Water-efficient faucets are designed to limit the maximum amount of gallons used per minute. EPA-approved WaterSense models are known to cut unnecessary water flow by 30% when compared to a regular faucet, helping reduce your utility bills in the process.
5. Home Security
There are approximately 4,800 burglaries in the U.S. every day according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR), and the average victim suffers $2,251 in property loss. While you may have renter’s insurance, your policy won’t do much to keep intruders from entering your home. On the other hand, a home security system reportedly deters 60% of thieves, at least that’s according to a report from the University of North Carolina’s Criminal Justice and Criminology Department. Many security companies provide à la carte services that are customizable to your home’s size and entry points. Some systems are wireless now, so they won’t leave any damage upon installation, and many may also be relocated if you decide to move.
6. Window Treatments
Standard window sizes depend on the room and age of your rental, but you can probably find stock blinds at your local department store. Trade your landlord’s builder-grade window treatments and install your own style. You might also consider hanging blackout curtains to help you sleep better and maintain your home’s temperature.
7. Cabinet Hardware
If you aren’t a fan of your kitchen cabinet hardware, look around for online deals that provide bulk pricing. Knobs and pulls can be replaced with the originals before your move-out day and used in a new property. (If your rental’s cabinets do not have hardware installed, be sure to ask your landlord before drilling holes into the doors. They may be willing to install the hardware for you or reimburse you for the expense.)
8. Light Paint
Using lighter colors for painting can help brighten up a room for little cost and without the need for multiple coats, assuming this is allowed per your rental agreement. It will also be easier to paint over a light color than it would be a darker one when it comes time to move out.
9. A Smart Thermostat
A Department of Energy report found that heating and cooling accounts for more than half of the average household energy use. A smart thermostat is programmable to help you save money on these costs based on external temperatures, time of day and other factors. Some models can also learn your habits and preferences as you manually adjust the temperature and begin implementing the changes automatically.
10. Adhesive Hooks
Nails and screws in your apartment walls can be difficult to repair, costing you a chunk of your security deposit on move-out day if you don’t repair them ahead of time. Adhesive hooks and mounting strips can hold several pounds of weight, allowing you to hang pictures and other décor to customize the feel of your home. Best of all, the adhesive is removable and won’t damage the walls along the way.
It can difficult to save money in a competitive rental market, but it is possible with a few tricks.You can use some of the money you save to help you pay down any other debts, in turn helping improve your credit, which will also help qualify for better terms and conditions on your mortgage one day. (You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated every 30 days, on Credit.com.) Also: Don’t forget to check for rebates on EPA-approved products as you implement changes into your home.