Rule of Thumb: How Much Should Your Rent Be? |

Financial|Real Estate|Savings

Rule of Thumb: How Much Should Your Rent Be?

Now that winter has broken in many parts of the country, and it won’t be a punishment to move, people are heading to virtual rental tours in droves so look for new digs. But before you start cruising Zillow, Redfin, or other similar sites to look at your options, take a few minutes to figure out what you should be paying for rent.

The Short Answer Is 30%

Most experts agree that you should spend approximately 30% of your gross income. That’s before taxes are taken out. This means if you make $1,900 per month before Uncle Sam takes any, you should be planning on about $570 for monthly rent. Keep in mind that this is a general guideline and not a rule.

The major factor in how effective this estimate is is the cost of living in your area. While a simple one-bedroom apartment in the Bay Area or North Jersey could cost $2,000 or more per month, renters in rural areas of the midwest could see the rental of a 2 bedroom single-family home for less than $400 per month.

The 50/30/20 Method Works Well For Many

Another great method is the 50/30/20 split. This looks at your total take-home pay and splits it into three categories. This is 50% for your needs, 30% for your wants, and 20% for saving, investing, additional debt payments.

Your needs are expenses like insurance, broadband access, utilities, consistent debt payments, groceries, and of course, rent. Your wants are shopping splurges, dispensary trips or happy hour, concerts, and cosplay. For the last 20%, remember that you should only be keeping an emergency fund in a savings account, while all of your long-term savings should be invested in some fashion, so avoid inflation decay and begin building retirement income. If you have any debt, payments above the minimum should be in this category as well.

This means if you bring home $1,500 per month after taxes, your 50/30/20 split would look similar to this:

  • $750 for your needs
  • $450 for your wants
  • $300 for your future

The second and third categories are necessities, though in different ways than the first. You need a proper work-life balance, so if you can only afford to constantly work just to be able to eat, sleep, and work, your life can get bleak, fast. Make sure you make it a consistent goal to invest in your leisure, and your future.

With this in mind, you can get a really good idea of your rent payment by taking your $750 for needs, from our example, by starting with your relatively constant monthly bills, and working backward. For example, if broadband is $50, your groceries are $150 (I know, just pretend for our example), insurance is $35, and your minimum payment on your only high-interest debt account is $15, that comes to $250 in needs otherwise, so there’s $500 available for rent.