Have Too Much Stuff? 10 Ways to Cut the Cost of Self-Storage

There are times when storage space may be necessary, but don't spend thousands to keep stuff you don't really care about.

Americans buy — and keep — a lot of stuff. That’s made self-storage a $38 billion industry according to research firm IBISWorld.

According to the Self Storage Association, an industry trade group, nearly 84 percent of all U.S. counties have at least one self-storage facility. It’s been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the commercial real-estate industry for the past 40 years, the group says — and nearly 1 in 10 American households rents them.

But rental costs for a no-frills storage unit can run nearly $100 per month — or more depending on the size of the unit. Renting for a short time can make sense, such as during a home renovation or while moving. But is it worth it to rent space so you can keep things you rarely see or use?

So if you’re a pack rat, take a long, hard look at what’s going in your storage unit. Money Talks News financial expert Stacy Johnson says he spent more than $18,000 over a decade to store stuff worth only a fraction of that amount. Don’t follow his example!

Follow these 10 tips on how to save:

1. Get more organized

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It’s true that time is money, and going through all your stuff is a chore. But do you want to be paying rent on junk you’re never going to use again because you were too lazy to sort it out? Take a weekend, and cull the clutter. You’ll feel better and save money. Hint: If you haven’t touched it in more than a year or forgot you even own it, odds are you don’t need it.

2. Sell or donate stuff

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If you’ve got a lot of property in good condition that you no longer need, maybe a yard sale is in order. Too much bother? Donate goods to charity for a tax deduction. (Save your receipt.) Either option will help partially recoup the costs of storing the stuff you do keep.

3. Weigh replacement costs

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Some people keep everything, thinking, “I might need this someday,” while others purge so zealously they toss or sell stuff — especially furniture — that they’ll end up buying again. Be realistic, because either mistake can be costly.

4. Rent the smallest space you can get away with

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Storage units usually start at 5-by-5 feet and can be 8 feet or more high. Practice your real-life Tetris skills and see what fits in there. You can always upgrade if you need to. If you’re looking at long-term storage, you probably don’t need to leave space to access and reach everything, so pack tight. Put the stuff you’ll need to pull out soonest closest to the door.

5. Store with friends or family

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If you know someone with extra garage space, ask if they’ll share. They might be more receptive to the idea if you offer to pay a few bucks a month — still cheaper than the commercial option. Better yet, maybe you have something they can borrow and use until you have space to reclaim it.

6. Compare with cost of living space

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Sometimes, storage space does make the most financial sense. If you have to upgrade to an apartment with another bedroom to store your stuff, $50 a month for storage space beats a $200 a month rent hike, to say nothing of the hassle of moving. But if you’re living in a condo or townhouse with a homeowner’s association, ask if they have storage space for rent — it might be cheaper than public storage units.

7. Shop around

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According to the Self Storage Association, occupancy at storage facilities nationwide was 90 percent, in the second quarter of 2015. The national average price, however, for a 10-by-10 foot unit was $96.06 per month, Sparefoot.com reported. Compare rates and pit rentals against each other. SelfStorage.com lets you search by ZIP code for prices.

8. Check discounts

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Some storage companies offer “move-in” specials with discounted rates or maybe one month free. There may be discounts for seniors, and SSA-affiliated storage companies are offering military perks, including 10 percent to 30 percent discounts off rental rates, free months of rent, gift certificates, free use of moving truck, $1 move-ins, no rent increases while deployed overseas, waiver of security deposits and administration fees, and more.

9. Buy your own storage

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If you’re considering renting storage space, you’re going to have to buy at least a padlock anyway. While you’re shopping for one, check the price of other self-storage options. You may be able to fit everything in your garage by buying a few shelving units and plastic bins, or a stand-alone shed. These items may cost a couple of months of storage rental but save money in the long run.

10. Buy less stuff

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The best way to reduce future storage costs is to own less. That sounds obvious, but most of us are a lot better at buying goods than losing them. Be a minimalist, not a hoarder. Your house will look better, you’ll feel better, and your bank account will thank you for it.

Ready to clear out your clutter? Make some money with “10 Tips for a Killer Yard Sale.”

How do you handle stuff that piles up at your house? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Jim Gold contributed to this article.

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