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When I was looking for an apartment online, I typed in the amount of rent I could afford and perused the results. Depressed by the meager options, I plugged in a few thousand dollars more than I could afford – just for fun. I ogled at pictures of gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and read about the luxury of having six bathrooms. It felt great until I drifted back to reality. Before you start your search, know your numbers. Consider the following:

30 percent. The popular rule is no more than 30 percent of your income should go to rent. You’ll need money leftover for food, entertainment, savings and emergencies.

Debt load. If you have unpaid bills and owe money for student loans, you might want to consider paying even less rent so you can deal with your debt.

Budget preference. Consider whether you want to live in an incredible apartment with a tight budget, or a mediocre apartment with the flexibility to have a little fun.

Roommates. Sharing the rent with others can significantly lower individual costs and you might be able to afford a bigger, nicer place.

For more information about renting an apartment, check out these helpful tips about negotiating a lease, understanding your rights and protecting yourself with renters insurance.

by sophie

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