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Money Minute: 3 ways to save on rent

America is becoming a nation of renters, a trend that is driving rental prices to new heights. Nearly half of U.S. renters are spending more than 30% of their income on housing, according to a report released earlier this year by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. And one in four renter households spend more than half their income on housing.

Wondering how to save on rent? I've got you covered:

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Some landlords may be willing to drop their asking price -- IF you can prove you’re a reliable tenant. Come prepared with bank statements, a stellar credit history, and references from past landlords if you’ve got them. You can also ask if they’ll lower the rent if you commit to a longer lease or agree to put up several months’ worth of rent in advance.

Rent in the winter and early spring. According to rent.com, this is the slow season for landlords. That means they may be more willing to negotiate their rates. One downside to this strategy is that because fewer people are moving apartments this time of year, you’ll have fewer options to choose from.

Don’t lose your security deposit. Take photos of any existing damage in your apartment as soon as you move in and send a copy to your landlord. And read your lease carefully -- they can keep all or part of your deposit if you don’t follow the move-out guidelines, like cleaning carpets or windows.

Bonus tip: Protect your belongings. Take out a cheap renters insurance policy to protect your stuff. If something horrible happens, like a fire or a flood, your building’s owner will only repair the structure itself -- they’re under no legal obligation to replace your laptop or shoe collection.

Have a money question? Ask me anything.