It’s important to consider all of the costs of renting, both on rent listed upfront and the hidden costs of maintaining and living in your rental home.

At a surface level, almost everyone will already factor the monthly rent into their budgets. But unfortunately, the costs don’t stop there. At the very least, you’ll have to put some serious thought into budgeting for an electric bill, gas bill, streaming services, cable bill, internet bill, parking and the water bill. And these bills are all contingent on your specific circumstances. There might be a reason – or several costly reasons – why you snagged an underpriced apartment in a fantastic location. Being responsible for all of your utility bills might end up costing as much as your monthly rent.

But how can you come up with a budget when the average utility cost can vary month-to-month?

Calculating average utility costs

To give you an idea, here are some national average numbers for how much apartment utilities (including some calculations for car-related expenses, if they apply) each month.

  • Electricity bill and gas bill: $70 (excluding air/heat/stove)

  • Air conditioning: $65 (average over the year)

  • Heat: $65 (averaged over the year)

  • Internet and cable: $100 (contingent on the services you use)

  • Water: $50

  • Trash and recycling: $20

  • Renters insurance: $13 (about $50 billed annually)

  • Parking: Highly dependent on the area, could be $150 in an urban area

  • Car insurance: $133

  • Cooking gas: $10

  • Total costs: ~$676 (more if highly priced parking is necessary)

Graphic of Average cost of utilties - Electricity and gas $70, Aur conditioning $65, Heat $65, Internet and cable $100, Water $50, Trash and recycling $20, Renters insurance $13, Parking $150, Car insurance $133, Cooking gas $10, Total costs -$676

What will landlords cover?

Oftentimes, landlords will cover the following on behalf of renters:

  • Trash collection (usually it costs around $12 to $20 per month)

  • Gas bill (more likely in an older unit)

  • Water bill (the national cost of water is about $40 per month)

Generally speaking, landlords will not cover electric bills, cable, or anything else that isn’t previously mentioned (e.g. streaming services).

If you have an in-unit washer and dryer, that doesn’t mean that your washer and dryer are necessarily free. Often, the washing cost is included in the water bill and the heating in the electric bill, but if you’re ever unsure, it never hurts to clarify.

Image of a renter and child using the sink in their kitchen

Eliminate or cut back on the non-essentials

If you find yourself in a position with a myriad of items, but not a lot of cash, you may have to reassess what you’re willing to cut out of the budget (perhaps temporarily, perhaps not). However, sometimes this is easier said than done. Assuming that your landlord will cover water and recycling, this eliminates two items. 

Here are some pointers for you to eliminate entirely, or severely cut down on utilities:

  • Cable/Streaming services. Cable is a luxury, not a necessity. Service providers such as Netflix, Hulu, HBOMax and all of the others can really add up (plus, who watches cable TV anymore?). It may be wise to borrow a login from someone you know, or offer to split a subscription with friends or roommates. 

  • Parking and car insurance. Depending on what city you live in, you may not need a car. While cars are convenient, in most major cities, car insurance can really break the bank -- and finding consistent parking can feel impossible (not to mention pricey). Invest in a monthly public transit pass and eat the cost when you need a Lyft or an Uber somewhere far. 

  • Air conditioning and heat. An air conditioner always feels great in those warm months, but at what cost? You can buy a High Velocity fan for around $50-60 which will cover just as much area, but will not take up nearly as much energy. In the winter months, turning up your thermostat can get pricey. You may be able to invest in a space heater, but these are often expensive and can sometimes be a fire hazard. So invest wisely.

  • Internet service. Wi-Fi can absolutely rack up expenses. So in addition to your cell phone bill, it may be worthwhile to find out the cost of an unlimited data plan and utilize a Hotspot on your laptop or TV to stream media.  

Are another person’s non-essentials proving to be your essentials, and you’re having trouble minimizing costs? Consider these other tips to save on your utility bills:

  • Ask someone in the building how much they pay for apartment utilities.

    • While it may seem invasive, it may be worth it to ask. Depending on where you live – whether that be New York, California, Texas, Minnesota – the reality is that your monthly utility bill costs can widely vary, depending on the city or even the neighborhood you’re renting in, as well as your needs.

    • You should also ask your landlord, especially if you don’t feel comfortable asking your neighbors.

  • Add a roommate or two in your apartment search.

    • After all, heat, internet, electricity – these things are cheaper in bulk. Bringing on a roommate can possibly cut your costs in half.

    • While having roommates can be less than ideal, that one bedroom of your dreams isn’t going anywhere. You just may not be able to have that one-bedroom apartment right now. And that’s okay.

  • Use a utility cost estimator or online calculator to assess your projected monthly cost of living.

    • This is helpful when all else fails in budget planning and you just need numbers to plug into your spreadsheet to have something there.

    • While these are only rough estimates, sometimes they can come very close (if not exact) to the real numbers.

  • Another great way to lower your electric bill is to invest in LED and energy efficient light bulbs.

    • Electricity rates can vary in different states, and it can really add up.

Image of an outside view of apartment lights along a building

While some utilities are covered by your landlord, make sure to set them up prior to making the move. Use this guide alongside the packing list for more information. And if you’re looking to save on moving upfront, so you can have more cash on hand for setting up your utilities, use Rhino to help pay for your security deposit in easy installments.

Ben Weger
Ben Weger

Ben Weger is a Content Strategy Manager at Rhino. He's hoping to replace security deposits in his building as soon as he convinces the co-op board.