Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 Millennial women, more than 50 percent of people said they never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28 percent reported feeling stressed out about money every single day. Bustle's Get Money series gets real about what Millennial women are doing with their money, and why — because managing your finances should feel empowering, not intimidating. Today's topic: what women spend on rent every month.
Unfortunately, for many people, rent is a big expense each month. Apartments and houses come in all shapes and sizes — as well as all kinds of prices. I lived in L.A. for years, so I got accustomed to higher rents, and New York for a year between (even higher rents). But when I returned to Chicago for a while, I was shocked at how "cheap" rents seemed there. Of course, the overall cost of living is less there, so it makes sense that rent would be less, too. Wondering what millennials spend on rent a month? Me, too.
Last summer, Go Banking Rates did a study of millennials and discovered that rent was their biggest expense, averaging $1,059.51 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. How many work hours is that worth a week? Sixty-eight, the research found, based on a median hourly earnings of approximately $15.49. According to Go Banking Rates, one's "needs" are supposed to account for 50 percent of their income, so rent being the biggest expense makes sense. And, like I mentioned above, rents and mortgages vary state-to-state.
"I'm a big fan of the 50/30/20 budget, which says you should spend 50 percent of your take-home pay on needs (including groceries, rent, and loan payments), 30 percent or less on wants, and 20 percent or more on savings and debt payoff," Brianna McGurran, student loans and personal finance expert at NerdWallet, tells Bustle. "This framework might be more aspirational at first, especially if you live in New York like I do and spend 50 percent of your income on rent alone. But it's a helpful way to think about bucketing your expenses so you're more aware of how much you spend." I’ll say.
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What about that amazing apartment that’s $100 to $200 more than the practical one?
"When you're deciding where to live, try to keep your housing costs at 30 percent or less of your income, which will give you room to save for the future and pay down your student loans faster," McGurran says. "When you're in your 20s, any money you save for retirement, for instance, goes so much further than it would later on, thanks to compounding. So stick with roommates a little longer, or put off getting a second bedroom if you and your partner are apartment-hunting together. It's important to live in a place you love, but this decade is all about balancing your short-term needs with your long-term goals."
I really wish I’d had that advice back when my ex-boyfriend and I decided to get a three-bedroom place in L.A. — and one room would be an office or guest room, we said… Riiiight. Regardless, what do other millennial women spend on rent per month? I spoke to some, and here's what I found.
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1. Kate, 33
My rent is $1,000 per month, roughly 25 percent of my monthly net pay. I live alone with my kitty in a two-bedroom, 1 1/2 bath townhouse. Honestly, it's too big for us, but I have guests come into town frequently. I recently moved to Austin, TX from Oakland, CA, and the amount of space I could get for less money was so insane, I had to take advantage. I think people should be judicious with their housing budgets — if you don't like your housing or your roommates, life becomes pretty unbearable. It's one of my highest priorities.
2. Knox, 22
I live with two roommates on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Like most people, my rent and utilities take the most out of my paycheck ($770 before utilities, etc., and I share a room). There are some days where I miss the living costs in my old home state — Texas! But I also realize that paying rent in a city means paying for a lot of other ambiguous (but so worth it) things that are about a living experience outside of your four walls. I save what I can, but recognize that some things are just once-in-a-lifetime. I save by skipping out on materialistic binges and focus on putting my money into quality experiences, like my lovely townhouse and dinners with new friends. In five years, I won't remember (or will be getting rid of) the skirt I thought I had to have, but I will remember the friends I made and what it was like living two blocks from the nation's capitol!
3. Gab, 27
I live in a two-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg with my sister. Our rent is $3,000 a month, and we split it right down the middle, along with internet, electricity, and other utilities. I think 40-45 percent of my paycheck goes toward my rent — I know that some say it's meant to be 30 percent, but OH WELL. This is the first time in my life where I don't feel stressed about paying $1,500 per month for rent — and I know that's relatively "cheap" by New York standards. I used to live in a studio by myself — paying utilities and all — which wasn't saving me any money (but was giving me stress). Moving in with someone brings your cost of living down greatly, which I highly recommended.
4. Karina, 23
I live with my fiancé and we split everything 50/50, and that includes our rent and any house bills that we share. The only thing we don't split that way is our personal bills (cellphone, car, car insurance). Our rent is $950, and we live in 3-bedroom home in St. Petersburg, FL. Our rent is about 25 percent of one of our paychecks. Having a "roommate" definitely cuts our living expenses down.
5. Aussa, 30
My husband and I pay $1,500 a month for a 1,200-square-foot 2-bedroom apartment in Denver, CO. We share a bank account and all expenses, so our rent is about 18 percent of our post-tax monthly income. We're saving for a down payment on a house, so we chose to live in a just-big-enough and just-nice-enough place to help save money.
6. Maleeka, 26
My rent is only $475 for a 2-bedroom, 1-bath apartment in an 'OK' apartment living complex. My rent is below the 30 percent margin that most financial gurus would say your rent/mortgage should be. I plan on living where I am until I purchase a home (which is on my radar to happen within the next year or so). Why spend more when I can spend less, and live comfortably? I suggest getting only the amount of space you know you will need. And if you start running out of space, get rid of any excess clutter (clothes, shoes, random furniture pieces). The practice of "minimalism" is slowly making its way into my space.
7. Brianna, 25
My husband and I are dorm parents at a private high school, which means we live rent- and utilities-free! And, we have access to their dining hall! It’s a crazy life, but it's worth it right now. Before moving here in September, we were paying $1,350 a month in rent for our 1-bedroom apartment in a town about 20 minutes outside of Boston. We now take what we would have paid each month and put it straight into a joint savings account. We don’t see what we’re not spending on rent as extra money — that's the important part. Both of us are strapped with a lot of student loan debt, so this is the only way we’re going to be able to buy a house sooner than later.
8. Joanna, 29
A year-and-a-half ago, I moved into my fiancé's house that he bought when we started dating. We are about the same age and he works full-time, as well. When I moved in, we were not engaged and I wanted to contribute to bills, taxes, and feel like I was paying for some part of the house. Being the nice boyfriend that he is, he gave me a "deal" and I paid him $500 per month for "rent." In Boston, actually just outside of Boston, this is a huge savings, because rent is much higher than that per person. I was also splitting utilities with him down the middle, which came to about $200-$300 per month, in addition to rent. At the time, 30 percent of my paycheck was going toward rent, not including utilities. Me paying rent to my boyfriend lasted for about 6-12 months. Now, I no longer pay rent, but we still split utilities down the middle.
9. Amy, 33
My roommate and I pay $2,500 in L.A., two-bedroom, two-bathroom. We think it's a great deal for having TWO bathrooms! We split everything evenly, so $1,250 apiece. We have Roku (not cable) and Wi-Fi, and both of those together are less than $50 apiece per month. We don't merge our groceries — we each buy what we want to eat. Sometimes, we'll make food together, but then we'll each buy certain ingredients.
10. Allie, 22
My rent is $1,088 for a 2-bedroom, 2 bath; I pay $544 of that. I have one roommate, a friend of mine who I originally met off Craigslist. We split everything 50 percent. I've lived with roommates, ranging from best friends to strangers, and I'd rather live with strangers (that are vetted, of course). I chose a cheaper place so that I could save on rent.
11. Emily, 27
Our rent is $2,900 on the UWS. I live with my husband. He basically pays for everything, whereas my much smaller paycheck goes towards savings. (I paid for everything when he was in school last year.) About 19 percent of his paycheck (before taxes) goes toward rent. This is our first apartment in NYC, so we were a bit unaware. I realize now we probably could've gotten a cheaper place, but we love our apartment. It's a studio, but for $2,900 we get a full gym, heated salt water pool, rooftop lounge and decks, etc. So, we don't have to pay for an expensive gym membership!
12. Abby, 26
My rent is $1,950 per month. I live with my boyfriend — he pays $800 and I pay $1,150, because when we signed our lease three years ago, he could only afford $800 a month and I was the one who pushed for the pricier apartment (my parents offered to pay the difference if my boyfriend and I each paid $800 since they liked the apartment). Now that I’m making more money, I pay the $1,150 for rent myself and I’m pretty comfortable with it. About 35 percent of my paycheck goes to rent. We also have rent control, which means our rent can't be raised more than three or four percent annually. If you can find a building with rent control, definitely snag it! When we moved in, our rent seemed normal for the area, but three years later, it is definitely considered a steal for Santa Monica, CA.
13. Meghan, 31
I'm more a sublet person than a rent person. Right now in Chicago, I am subletting a loft for $900 a month in a pretty hip area. I think that's a great deal — a lot of my loft neighbors don't even have bathrooms in their units and have to share a communal one. Mine has a bathroom, but only because the owners put one in, and a shower. They cover utilities, so I pay $900 total. No TV, but, yes, Wi-Fi.
14. Emily, 26
My rent is $670 flat, but usually ends up being around $700-720 with bills. I live with one roommate and we split all bills 50/50. My rent is approximately 25-30 percent of my paycheck. For me, I chose to live with a roommate — even though I feel like I'm reaching an age where I could live alone — so that I could save money to travel. The cost of living is also a ton easier with a roommate — my rent could double and end up being half my paycheck if I lived alone.
15. Peyton, 27
I have one roommate, and my rent is $1,235. We split utilities, which is included in the rent. I just got laid off, but when I was working, one out of two paychecks would go entirely to rent. We divide the utilities up equally. We have our own bathrooms, so we buy our own household items, etc. A rent tip would be to spend a little more on rent even if it's a tad out of your budget — it might not make economical sense, but I pride emotional well-being over my finances. The only caveat here is to adhere to cut corners elsewhere. Also, look for places that have a washer and dryer inside the apartment — it's so convenient and saves money at the laundromat.
So, as you can see, different millennial women spend different amounts on rent, and each person has their own reasons for doing so. Maybe you agree, maybe you disagree. But I know one thing for sure — I definitely got some good tips for the next time I'm looking for a place. #RentGoals.
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