Location. Some neighborhoods are more expensive than others, and you may find that many of the cheapest apartments are located in less desirable areas. If you depend on public transportation or want to keep your commute to work or the ASU campus reasonable, you may have fewer neighborhood options.
Size. Many cheap apartments in Tempe are lofts or one-bedroom units. Some may have mini appliances due to limited kitchen space, and a loft typically features one open room with an attached bathroom. If you need multiple bedrooms at an affordable price, look for apartments with multiple floor plans for two or three-bedroom units. You may get a price break if you select a unit in a less desirable position within the community or with less square footage.
Community Amenities. The more amenities offered within an apartment complex, the more you can expect to pay even for a one-bedroom unit. You have to determine if you want to pay more for access to a swimming pool, recreation center or dog park.
Interior Features. Cheap apartments won't come with crown molding and vaulted ceilings. Many units won't come with a dishwasher, and you may have to settle for window or portable air conditioners. You have to decide if you're willing to sacrifice some of the conveniences that others enjoy in order to save on rent.
Before you start looking for apartments, commit your budget to paper. Determine the maximum amount that you can pay for rent each month as well as the amount that you would prefer to pay. Make sure to consider the cost of utilities, food, transportation and other expenses unique to your lifestyle. You don't want to guess how much you can afford and then find yourself struggling to pay rent.
Are Utilities-Included Apartments Cheaper?
Don't assume that an apartment will save you money if the utilities are built into the rental agreement. Your landlord will estimate the cost of electricity for your unit or the apartment complex as a whole, and then they will add a flat rate to the rental fee to account for the utility bills. This estimate is created for your unit before you move in, so it's not based on how much electricity and gas you actually use.
The landlord isn't required to show you the actual bills, and they can charge more than they pay out for your unit. In some cases, you will actually save more money by moving into a cheap apartment and hooking the electricity up in your name. You will pay only for the electricity that you use, and there are many ways that you can conserve in order to keep your bill to a minimum.
The Pros and Cons of Roommates
If you want to live in a nice apartment complex with some amenities but can't afford the rent, consider moving into a larger apartment with roommates. You each pay your share of the rent and enjoy a more spacious or luxurious living environment. This also gives you the comfort of having other people in your household, which is always nice if you're moving to Tempe to attend ASU and don't know many people in the area.
The downside is that you have to live with other people. You may enjoy the social aspect at times, but you will also have to deal with the habits and lifestyle patterns of each roommate. You may also have to sacrifice some of your privacy if you have more than one roommate and there is always someone else roaming around your apartment.
If you decide to take on a roommate or two, make sure to ask the following questions to limit your chances of ending up with an incompatible houseguest:
- What hours do you typically keep during the week? What about on the weekends?
- How often do you invite friends over?
- Do you plan to have parties in the apartment?
- Do you smoke, drink or use illegal drugs?
- Do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend? If so, how much time would they spend at the apartment?
- Do you have children? If so, how often will they visit the apartment?
- Are you good at keeping your personal space clean?
- How often will you cook in the apartment? If daily, do you agree to wash your own dishes and keep the kitchen sanitary?
- Do you have a job? If not, how do you plan to pay your part of the rent?
- Why are you interested in moving at this time?
- Are you willing to commit to a one-year lease and have your name on that lease?
Don't feel awkward asking someone you don't know well about their finances or the situation with their current or previous living arrangement. If they are responsible enough to keep up with the rent and help you maintain a clean and comfortable living space, then they will want to ask you the same questions.
Even with roommates, you should try to find cheap apartments that offer adequate space for every tenant. Ideally, you will select the apartment together so that you can pick a floor plan and location that works for each of you. If you can't work it out, then you may need to find a small apartment and live alone.