The $59 Problem


This past Monday I came home from a weekend away to find a notice under my door that our rent was being raised by $59 a month. As someone who has never experienced this before, my gut reaction was to fight it. A good instinct, but probably not an appropriate course of action in this situation–or a fight that I would win. Landlord’s have a right to raise rent, especially when it’s in smaller increments and law-abiding. And I have been in this place over three years and it’s never happened. I know the landlord could charge a couple hundred more than he does because the neighborhood has boomed in trendiness since I first moved in (note: I keep saying “I” because I moved in here a little over a year before my husband joined me).

How does a frugal person react to such an unexpected atrocity? Who would accept a deal that states “nothing is going to change, but we are charging you more”? Certainly not a savvy financial planner! Should we reconsider moving for the umpteenth time? Do we try to rent our spare bedroom out? No and double no. Sadly, in our case, the answer is, we just pay the extra amount and reevaluate in the new year. As I’ve chronicled on the blog, we have toyed with the idea of moving a lot–looked at many places and even put an application in for one. We know from the market that if we leave this neighborhood, we will upgrade to a house and it is unavoidable that it will cost more than what we pay now if we want to stay close to my husband’s work. So staying put is still the cheaper option, despite the increase. No upgrades, no third bedroom…just the same old place for $708 more a year. No fun.

But what about someone who really can’t take the hit? I decided this was a great opportunity to brainstorm ways one can save on an unexpected rent increase by cutting down in other areas. After all, I’m sure a lot of us use $59 a month for far less important things than cost of living.

Get rid of cable. This is a no brainer. Most finance blogs would call you out for having it to begin with. I researched it for our apartment and it would cost us about $70 a month more than we currently pay with just internet alone. I imagine that’s a ballpark rate for most of us, so right there you have your rent increase covered and then some. Besides, it is now easier than ever to replace the need with other affordable services.

Drive one less tank of gas a month. Yes, a tank of gas actually costs around $59 these days. Sigh. This one could be difficult for commuters, but I’m sure there are some of you who could cut corners in this area. I know living in a walkable neighborhood makes it easier for me to pull this off. And riding a bike is like, so in right now guys.

Get coffee a dozen less times than you usually do a month. I know it hurts. I know you love your iced double blah de blah blah. One finance blog I read says not to sweat the small stuff like coffee and only concern yourself with skimping on bigger ticket items. I disagree! But you ask two different financial experts and you’ll get two different answers. (By the way, I’m not an expert. I just couldn’t think of a better word to go there.) I believe we should all probably spend less on coffee. It does add up and it makes me cringe every time I check out our Mint account and see how much we wasted in a given month.

Just say no to dessert, appetizers or a drink when/if you eat out. You don’t have to cut out restaurant dining completely to be a frugal person. Just know when to indulge and when not to. A quality frugal life does not mean you miss out on all of life’s fun, it just means you are responsible about it.

Sell one $60 thing a month on eBay or Craigslist for as long as you can pull it off. I don’t know about you, but I could definitely have a good time with this one. Finding new and creative ways to sell books that I have multiples of or will never touch again. Old clothes. My husband’s blu-rays–I mean, my unused furniture items that are just taking up room in the closet.

Cancel your gym membership. This kind of/a little bit falls into the category of cable for me. Is it really worth it? Everyone’s neighborhood and living situation is different–and health is far more important than getting to watch reruns of Bewitched on TV Land–BUT–is there another way to be healthy that is free? Jogging? Home exercise equipment? Upgrades like that to your home or apartment could make the rent increase feel worth it!

Do you know what I spend $59 a month on in any given month? Coffee. Home decor from stores like West Elm or Pottery Barn. An Amazon order that combines books or gadgets for the house. Dinner out at a new place we want to try–easy. I could cut any and all of these if I needed to. We are frugal, but we also enjoy a quality life with self-imposed regulations appropriate to our tax bracket. We save the way we need to and spend the way we want. But a nice kick in the pants from your landlord is a good reminder to stay cautious and motivated in what ways you can be saving everyday to make your total load a little lighter.



2 thoughts on “The $59 Problem

  1. These are excellent tips. When I had our son and stayed home to be with him, cable was the first thing off our list. And we were quite surprised to find…we didn’t miss it at all (helps to have the cheaper netflix and hulu). 100% agree on the coffee-way too expensive and not a ‘necessity’. And growing up in a large family, we knew that whenever we went out to eat we were all getting waters. I think my parents saved at least $20 alone on drinks.

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