How to save and stay on budget while you’re renting

Much has been reported in the news recently about the soaring cost of living across the UK. Not only have the bills for energy, food, and council tax gone up, but the rental prices have also increased significantly. The average UK rent for a new tenancy was up by 9.5% from last year as of April 2022, according to HomeLet Rental Index.

It isn’t easy to cut rental costs, but there are other things you could do to ease your financial pressure and stay on top of your budget while renting.

1. Check if you can get a council tax discount

Depending on your circumstances, you could be eligible for a discount on council tax. For example:

  • You have no income or a low income

  • If you live alone, you can get 25% off your council tax bill

  • If everyone living in your houseshold is considered ‘disregarded’ – this means they don’t need to pay council tax – you can get a 50% discount. If everyone in your household is disregarded except for one person, you can get a 25% discount.

Here’s a full list of who qualifies for a council tax discount. If you think you should get a discount, contact your local council as soon as possible. You can visit this page to find your council’s contact details.

2. Take regular meter readings

It’s important to take accurate meter readings as often as possible and provide these to your energy supplier. Otherwise, you might get inaccurate bills and end up paying more than you should. It’s also wise to keep your own record of meter readings (take pictures!) to avoid any potential disputes.

The easiest way to find out if you’ve overpaid on energy is to look at your most recent bill – it should include details about whether you’re owed money or not. You can also contact your energy provider directly to find out if they owe you money and how to get a refund.

3. Re-evaluate your subscriptions

When it comes to subscriptions, it’s usually cheaper to get a shared plan. Your housemates will likely have the same subscriptions for Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Spotify. Why not join forces and share your subscriptions? It could save you lots of money over time.

If you have a TV licence, you might want to re-evaluate if you really need it. You can use a laptop to stream services like Netflix and Apple TV+. If you no longer watch TV, cancel your licence.

4. Improve your credit score

A good credit score comes with many benefits. Typically, the higher your score, the better finance deals you can get, as it shows lenders that you can consistently repay on time and you’re managing your available credit lines. A good score increases your borrowing capacity, making it cheaper and easier for you to access money if you need to.

Your credit score can even impact where you end up living. Some landlords will do a credit check as part of their tenant screening process as an indicator of whether you’re likely to pay your rent on time, but they must get your permission first. A bad credit history can hinder your chances of renting the place you want.

While there are no shortcuts to building your credit score, the good news is there are practical things you could do to nurture your rating.

You can tap into our free app tool, Borrowing Power. It was created to give you a clear picture of your financial health, along with tailored tips to help take your credit score to the next level. Using Borrowing Power, you can also report your rent payments, powered by CreditLadder. This can help you boost your credit health and if you’re working towards owning a home, this could bring you closer to your goal.

Check out this post by award-winning financial journalist Laura Whateley for more tips on how to improve your credit score.

5. See if you can save on broadband bills

Though there’s not a lot you can do with gas and energy prices, there’s a chance you could save on your broadband bills. According to MoneySavingExpert, by switching to a new broadband supplier you could save £100s a year and even get a faster, more reliable internet speed. With our broadband switching service – available in the free Zopa app – you can easily check for any money-saving broadband deals in just a few taps.

6. Furnish your place for free

Don't feel discouraged if you’re moving into an unfurnished or part-furnished rental place. Online sites like Freecycle, Freegle and Gumtree can help you find free TVs, sofas, beds and more. Even if the furniture might not suit your taste, think about upcycling it into a unique piece. This has the added benefit of keeping useable stuff out of landfills and saves you some serious cash. Keep in mind that some people do give away quality freebies, so you might hit the jackpot.

7. Save for rainy days

Setting aside an emergency fund can smooth out your renting experience. It creates a financial buffer for you to fall back on if something unexpected happens. It can also help you avoid borrowing more, especially if you’re trying to pay off your debt.

As stressful financial events can occur any time, your emergency fund should let you access your money quickly. It shouldn’t be locked up in a fixed-term savings account or a long-term investment fund. You might also want to separate it from your daily banking account to remove the temptation to dip into your savings and make sure you are earning some interest.

With Zopa’s Smart Saver, you can split your money between easy access savings pots and boosted interest notice pots. This means that you can have some cash accessible for emergencies and some earning extra interest towards your savings goals. Best of both worlds!

8. Consider getting contents insurance

Contents insurance – also referred to as tenants insurance – essentially covers your belongings while you’re renting a property. It protects your prized possessions against things like theft, fire, storms, flood, burst pipes and water leaks. It could also cover accidental damage you unintentionally cause to your landlord’s rental unit, such as walls, windows and bathroom fittings.

So, if you want to protect what matters to you and avoid being out of pocket when mishaps strike, consider getting contents insurance. Remember to shop around and use price comparison sites to find the best deal for you.

These are 8 ways for you to save and stay in control of your finances while renting. Be sure to assess your situation and decide what option is best for you. If you’re struggling, know that you can always ask for help. Check out this post on how to seek support if you’re worried about how to meet future bills or clear debts.

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