When choosing an apartment on a low-income budget, there are several things you can take into consideration that may help you to save money in the long run.
One of the most important is to choose a unit that is not on the ground floor. If you choose a second floor unit or higher, your apartment will tend to be warmer in winter because of the warmth rising from the unit below you. This can help save on heating costs. Our last apartment was so warm that we never once turned the heater on in winter.
A second level unit is also safer because the windows are not at ground level. Most break-ins occur in first floor apartments. Besides, climbing the stairs is excellent exercise!
Choosing an apartment with a balcony is essential if you want to grow your own food. You can grow a surprising amount of food on even the smallest of balconies. Even balconies that are in shade most of the day can grow some shade-loving food plants such as lettuce and spinach. By laying down bags of soil and planting in slits you have cut in the tops of the bags, you can make almost the entire surface area of your balcony a garden. Check your local library for books on how to grow square foot gardens and other high-yield gardens.
We once had an apartment whose entire front was shaded by a large tree. It wasn’t like the linq condo with great views, quality amenities, and accessibility. It cut down on our electricity use immensely by keeping direct sun out of our apartment. We saved almost $100 a month in electricity costs during the summer. It was also a much more beautiful view than just staring out at the parking lot would have been. Look for an apartment that is shaded during most of the day if you can’t find one with a balcony.
Consider fireplaces when apartment shopping. How poor are you? If you will be able to afford heating in winter, do not choose an apartment with a fireplace. It will suck heat from the room when in use and when not in use, will let in cold air, even when the vent is closed.
If you will be unable to afford heating, however, you should choose an apartment with a fireplace so that you will be able to have some way to warm yourself if necessary. You can often find free firewood by checking Freecycle.org or Craigslist.org under the “free” section in your area.
Check to see if the apartment has washer and dryer hookups. Coin washers are much more expensive than running your own. You can usually find free washers and dryers on Freecycle or Craigslist. If you cannot afford to run a washer, choose an apartment with a bathtub so that you can hand-wash your laundry.
If you live in an area with very hot summers, see if you can find an apartment that has a good swimming pool. It’s a great way to escape the heat for a little while and cool off during the day when you can’t afford air conditioning.
If you are planning on choosing a newer apartment or an apartment with appliances, check to see if they are Energy Star appliances. Refrigerators and dishwashers use a surprising amount of electricity. If it’s a choice between two equal apartments, choose the one with newer appliances. They usually are more energy efficient.
Before committing to a contract, check all of the seals on your windows and doors. Poor seals will reduce the energy efficiency of your apartment. Also, check the amount of direct sunlight the unit receives by finding out which direction the windows face. In warmer areas, too much sun will heat up your apartment, but in cooler areas, this can help to reduce your heating bill.
Remember, don’t bee embarrassed to ask to see the unit before you move in. Too often we have taken a rental based solely on price without being able to see it once or twice in advance. If you check it more than once, remember to go during different times of the day and also drive by the place at night to make sure the neighbors are not accustomed to playing loud music in the evenings. Consider all of your options and be picky. Just because you are poor doesn’t mean you don’t deserve the best of what you can afford.