How Much Of Your Income Should You Actually Spend On Rent? And When Does It Make Sense To Buy?

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If you live in Manhattan or the Bay Area, you already know that you’re likely paying through the nose for your apartment. But if you live anywhere else in the U.S. and you don’t have national publications bemoaning the state of your city’s rental market, it can be harder to know if you’re paying a decent amount for your accommodations or not.

But whether your rent is high or low, you might be wondering: how much should I spend on rent? What’s a reasonable sum—and what’s excessive?

And then, of course, there’s the whole “home buying” thing. You might be curious at what point it makes sense to stop paying a landlord and start paying a mortgage instead.

Here’s how to decide these questions for yourself.

What the Experts Say About Rent

First, let’s turn to the financial experts for answers.

Bestselling author Dave Ramsey recommends a monthly payment of 25% or less of your take-home pay. This doesn’t include any extras that might add to the monthly cost.

Popular TV host and author Jean Chatzky advises that your housing costs be no more than 35% of your take-home pay. Her calculation includes not just rent, but associated expenses as well, such as renter’s insurance, utilities, and any repairs you’re responsible for covering.

It seems fair to state that anywhere between 25%–35% of your take-home pay is a reasonable amount to spend on rent and other housing-related costs.

But perhaps more importantly: why this much? It’s because you’ll still need enough breathing room in the rest of your budget for other expenses.

According to Chatzky, for example, 15% of your take-home pay should go towards debt payoff (which sounds eerily similar to the amount you’re probably paying on your student loans). Another 15% will go towards transportation, 10% should go into savings, and you’ll need flexibility with the remaining 25% to cover everything else.

Keeping your housing costs to 35 percent (or less) of your budget will give you that flexibility and breathing room.

Where your personal comfort zone falls within that range depends on your overall financial goals and priorities. If you’re trying to pay down debt, for instance, you’ll want to stick closer to 25% (or less) so you can throw as much money as possible towards your repayment goals.

To do this, you’ll want to use a few tricks to minimize your rent.

How to Keep Rent Down

Whether you live in a city with notoriously high rent or you’re simply looking to slim down your budget, there are several ways to reduce the cost of your rent without having to move to a whole new city.

Of course living with roommates can go a long way towards alleviating rental costs. You’ll have your own private room but share common rooms like the living room and kitchen—and you’ll also share the cost of the monthly rent bill and utilities.

If you prefer to live alone, you can consider moving into a studio rather than a one- or two-bedroom house. Studios often come cheaper than options with bedrooms since they may have less space or a less-desirable layout for some.

Another solution is to find housing a little further away from the “hottest” neighborhoods. For instance, you could live in Queens instead of Manhattan, or in the outer suburbs of Atlanta instead of Midtown. You may have to spend extra time (and gas money) commuting each day, but those costs could be worthwhile when compared with the money you save in rent.

When Does It Make Sense to Buy Instead of Renting?

If you’re a renter, you’ve likely had plenty of people telling you that renting is like “pouring money down the drain” or “putting money in someone else’s pocket.” But buying a home isn’t necessarily the best solution for dealing with the high cost of renting.

There are plenty of other issues to consider when it comes to home ownership beyond the money aspect; you also have to factor in your current life situation and short- and long-term goals.

If you plan on staying in a particular area for at least 5 years, your income is stable, and you’re ready for all the responsibility that comes with home ownership, then buying a home may be right for you.

If you’re comfortable with the commitment of a mortgage—and/or you’re willing to rent out or sell your home if you move away—you might want to start looking at home-buying options.

You may be wondering: why the 5-year rule-of-thumb? When you buy a house, you’ll pay a variety of closing costs, including appraisal fees, loan origination fees, title insurance and more.

In addition, the mortgage payments that you’ll make for the first five years will predominantly be applied towards interest rather than principal. This means it will take roughly 5 years for you to “break even” with the closing costs and interest and start gaining any considerable equity in your house. For a more in-depth look at this issue, though, refer to the calculator below.

If, on the other hand, you think you might like to move in the next few years, your job is uncertain or you simply don’t want the responsibility of repairing the water heater and cleaning the gutters, you may find that the extra convenience and flexibility that renting allows you is worth the extra cost.

That being said, of course, to rent vs. to buy is a massively complex question. From a financial perspective, here are a few of the factors you’ll need to consider:

Total cost of homeownership

As a homeowner, you’ll have more expenses than just a mortgage (plus closing costs). You’ll also pay for the cost of repairs, maintenance, lawn care, and other home-related expenses.

For example, if replacing your roof costs $20,000 and needs to happen every 20 years, think of it as paying $83 per month for your roof. If replacing your windows costs $15,000 and must happen every 18 years, it’s like you’re $70 per month for the windows.

You’ll need to calculate the costs of long-term home maintenance based on the age and condition of the property and the amount of time you plan to own it. (Alternately, if you buy a house in an HOA-governed area, you’ll need to factor in the associated HOA costs).

In addition, the property tax rate in your locality can add several hundred dollars each month to your costs, as does the culture of your area with regard to whether or not landlords typically cover utility costs. (All homeowners must pay for their own utilities; renters may or may not have to cover these bills.)

Total cost of renting

That being said, renting bears its own costs, including the expenses associated with moving more frequently, the cost of security deposit losses, and the higher utilities costs that might stem from energy-inefficient dwellings.

Bear in mind, also, that rent typically rises with inflation, while fixed-rate mortgages stay the same. In other words, you’ll pay a $1,000 per month mortgage payment with increasingly cheaper dollars over time, while your $1,000 rent payment will continually rise. In addition, you don’t receive the tax benefits that homeowners enjoy (mortgage interest is deductible).

Opportunity cost

Finally, consider the opportunity costs associated with tying your down payment into your home equity. If you put $20,000 down on a house, for example, what opportunity costs do you suffer from alternate uses of those funds, such as using that same amount of money to pay off your student loans or investing the money in the stock market? (Bear in mind that there are tradeoffs associated with using home equity to repay loans.)

As you can see, there are substantial variables to consider in deciding whether to buy or rent. To get a better idea of which option is best suited for you, here’s a rent vs. buy calculator that factors in variables many variables you should consider, such as:

  • length of time you’ll live in the property
  • your mortgage rate
  • down payment
  • mortgage length
  • home price appreciation
  • projected rent increases
  • inflation rate
  • growth of alternate investments
  • your personal tax rate
  • property taxes in your area
  • maintenance and fees
  • additional renting costs like rental broker fees (if applicable)

At the end of the day, though, much of this equation is conjecture. You don’t know how much your home will appreciate in value, how much rental costs will rise, or what your alternate investment gains might be. At a certain point, you’ll need to make the decision based on quality-of-life considerations.

As with many things in life, your decision of how much you should spend on rent and whether to buy or not comes down to your priorities.

Did you switch from renting to buying? How did you decide?

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit, email us at, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.

Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.

Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.

Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance:Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.470% APR assumes the current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 0.64% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.

5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of October 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.22%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.32% (2.72%-8.32% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Estimated average savings amount is based on 14,659 Education Refinance Loan customers who saved on loans between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. The calculation is derived by averaging monthly savings across Education Refinance Loan customers whose payment amounts decreased after refinancing, calculated by taking the monthly payment prior to refinancing minus the monthly payment after refinancing. We excluded monthly savings from customers that exceeded $4,375 and were lower than $20 to minimize risk of data error skewing the savings amounts. Savings will vary based on interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of loans to be refinanced. Borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if monthly payments are lower.

2.47% – 6.99%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 5.87%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.47% – 8.03%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.95% – 6.37%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 6.25%5Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.32%6Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.