How Much of Your Paycheck Should Go Towards Rent?

My sister is moving into her first apartment next month in Chicago and was planning her budget over the long Thanksgiving weekend while I sat next to her reading the paper. 

“So, Ms. First Apartment Expert,” she smirked at me, “how much should I be spending on rent?”

“A quarter,” I said without looking up “…unless you live in New York City where 401K accounts lay barren and die. But, you could spend up to a third if you have to.”

Lil sis is a teller at Chase and makes $11/hour. She works approximately 32 hours/week for a total monthly budget of $1479(to calculate monthly budget, always multiply by 4.2) One quarter of her monthly take is approximately $370. Chicago is far cheaper than New York, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an apartment that thrifty. 

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Calculating one-third of her paycheck, however, is close to $500; there’s plenty of nice apartments for $1500 or less(she’s sharing with two gal pals). 

So, when you’re looking at paycheck and comparing it with rent prices, know that there is no absolute percentage that you need, but that a quarter to a third of monthly salary is a good number to shoot for — if only because rent doesn’t include the extras a la cable, electric, wireless, gas, and, in some cases, heat. And, ya know, extra money to live on and save on. 

But, if you’re just starting out don’t be too hard on yourself. While economists may disagree, you probably have until you’re at least 25 to start saving for retirement. Didn’t Obama also promise to fix social security…? 

For more info on this topic, check out one of our older posts with extended details.

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Author My First Apartment

Posted by

I've lived in apartments in 6 cities (including 2 foreign countries). Does that make me an expert? As of now, my ceiling isn't leaking and I don't have rodents (knock on wood) -- so I'm going to say yes . . . but ask me again tomorrow:) These days, I'm enjoying life Chicago style, but my years in Brooklyn are never far from my mind. P.S. By day I work at, but these opinions are totally, 100% my own.

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Comments (3)

  1. Avatar College Student

    Im moving away to College and going to be living in an apartment, so I’ll be working part time. My fiance is moving with also and plans to work full time. How much should each of us budget from our pay checks?

  2. Avatar SanFranGirl

    I believe no more than 1/4 of your paycheck should go towards rent.
    If you are paid I make about $4800/month and I currently pay $1180 towards rent, until my income goes up I would not pay more than $1200 for my place.

  3. Avatar Jane Doe

    Im 20 and im trying to save up and move to Atlanta..i live in new york how much money should i save a week . how much money should i have when i go. keep in mind im not worrying about furniture because i can always get that down the road.. i dont want a roommate either.. how do i look for apartments that does not ask for credit checks? since i don’t credit i don’t know why. i don’t even know what my credit score is. i can’t get a co-signer either so that’s out.