Not having enough storage space at home is a very common issue, and one that forces people to make hard choices about which possessions to keep and which to let go. That’s not always a bad thing – you should go through your stuff regularly and discard the items you no longer need.

However, if the lack of space prevents you from keeping items that would be useful to you in the future, you’re in fact wasting money. In such cases, renting a self-storage unit is a smart financial decision.

Do the Math before Storing!

The average national rent for a standard, 10×10 self-storage unit was $113 per month in October 2019, according to Yardi Matrix data. However, depending on where you live, the costs can be significantly higher or lower than this. For example, renting a self-storage unit in San Francisco will cost you about $181 per month, while the monthly rent for a storage unit in Chicago is a little under $100, as per the same source.

Start by searching for storage units in your area, find out how much it would cost you to store your stuff (both monthly and annually) and calculate if the value of the items you will be storing justifies paying that bill. Storing old electronics, boxes of papers you couldn’t be bothered to sort through for years, or outdated clothes is, indeed, a waste of money. The right way to make the most of your storage unit is by using it for important, valuable stuff.

Most Common Items That Might Be Worth Putting into Storage

Suppose you inherited a set of antique furniture, but the house or the apartment you’re living in is too small for such items. It makes sense to store them, because the value of high-quality furniture far exceeds the monthly rent you pay on your storage unit. Whether you’ll be keeping the furniture until you move to a house that allows you to display it properly, or you’re storing it until you sell it, it’s definitely worth paying for a storage unit.

Storing your baby items is also smart. Don’t discard expensive baby accessories, such as strollers, high-chairs, car seats, or baby clothes and furniture, especially if you’re planning on expanding your family in the future. You spent thousands of dollars buying all of that, and it’s a wise financial move to put them in storage until you need them again.

Seasonal items also make good candidates for your storage unit. Things like garden furniture, barbecue grills, lawnmowers, leaf blowers and other garden and yard tools need to be stored somewhere during the winter. If you leave them outside – even well covered – you drastically reduce their lifespan. So, putting them into storage for the cold season saves you money.

These are just a few examples of situations when renting a self-storage unit pays off, but, depending on your hobbies and lifestyle, there are also many other wise uses for one. If you’re a collector, then storage space at home may be an issue for you, and a storage unit will help you keep your prized possessions safe. Collectibles usually increase in value over time, but only if kept in pristine conditions – and a climate-controlled self-storage unit ensures an ideal environment for your treasures.

Pick the Right Storage Unit for Your Needs

Saving money on self-storage goes beyond the items you are planning to store. It’s also important to choose the size of your storage unit carefully. Too small a size means you’ll have to squish your belongings together, risking damaging them, while one too big means you’re paying more than you need to for the service.

A 5×5 unit is about the same size as a regular home closet, a 10×10 unit is comparable in size to a small bedroom, while a larger unit – such as a 10×20 storage unit – can hold the content of an average household. Do a thorough inventory of the items you intend on storing and get a unit that’s suitable in size.

Consider whether you should rent a regular unit or “splurge” on a climate-controlled one. Sometimes, the climate-controlled ones are the better choice, even if the rent is a bit higher. Delicate and expensive items, such as wooden or leather furniture, books, collectibles or electronics, need controlled temperatures and humidity, especially if you’re living in an area with extreme temperatures, either very hot or very cold.

Get Entrepreneurial!

A storage unit also makes a great tool for expanding your small business without spending a fortune on office space or on commercial storage. If, let’s say, you’re an accountant working out of your home or out of a small office, you need plenty of storage space for all your documents, files and other business-related items. Or maybe you’re a restaurant owner, and the space you have is too small for all of your equipment and utensils. You probably even entertained the idea of renting a bigger space. However, there’s no need to pay good money on commercial space just so you have access to more storage – simply get a storage unit located near you and put your excess in there.

Storage units are a great money-saving idea for many other types of businesses too. Whether you’re an artisan, a fashion designer, a landscape artist, or a contractor, you will need a safe, conveniently located place to keep your tools, equipment and materials, and storage units provide that service at very reasonable costs.

Make Moving Simpler and Less Expensive

Moving can be quite exhausting, and it doesn’t come cheap either – you need to seriously amp up your planning and organizing skills during this period. Renting a self-storage unit for a couple of months makes moving a lot easier to manage and less expensive. Instead of packing and transporting all your stuff in one go – which usually entails help from professional movers – you can do it little by little, at your own pace, with no rush, chaos or stress.

Get a self-storage unit located close to your new home, and, as you sort through your belongings and pack them for moving, you can also store them in your unit. This way, by the time the actual moving day comes, a lot of the work is already done. You’ll probably be able to manage the remaining items with the help of family and friends, while the bulk of your belongings are only a short trip away from your new home.

This strategy works best in the case of short distance moves. If you’re moving long-distance, you need a different plan of attack. Let’s say, for example, that you are moving from New York City to Miami – Florida, which is actually the favorite moving destination of New Yorkers, so we’re dealing with a strong likelihood of this scenario. Instead of getting a long-term lease on an apartment, only to find out that you don’t really like the area or the apartment itself, go for a short-term lease on a small studio apartment, complemented by a Miami self-storage unit for your things. Take your time in exploring the city and finding out which neighborhoods suit your lifestyle. Then shop around for the perfect apartment in your favorite area and move in for good – it’s going to be easy, since most of your stuff is packed and in storage.

When Long-term Self Storage Makes Financial Sense

Long-term self-storage can be a waste of money if you’re treating the self-storage unit like your personal dumping ground, the place where you throw away your unwanted stuff. However, in other circumstances, renting a self-storage unit long-term could save you a lot of money, stress and inconvenience. If you’re planning a long trip (one that exceeds a few months) or if your work takes you abroad for a while, you must solve one thorny issue – what to do with all your belongings. Asking family or friends to keep your things at their place is definitely an imposition and a poor idea overall.

Continuing to pay your rent – or house maintenance – during your time abroad, just so you have a place for your stuff, also doesn’t make a lot of sense. You need an inexpensive, practical solution. A medium-sized, climate-controlled storage unit can hold all your furniture, clothes and the rest of the household items. Should you need it, you can also store vehicles long-term.

Long-term storage is also a useful tool for people living in large cities, where rent is expensive. Whether you’re living in a really tiny apartment or you’re sharing one with roommates, renting a small self-storage unit allows you to hold on to your important possessions while still being able to maintain a tidy, uncluttered space at home.

Downsizing Without Compromising

Downsizing usually happens when children grow up and leave the family home, but downsizing is a money-saving tool that could potentially work in other circumstances. Many people live in houses that are too large for their needs – and, oftentimes, the reason behind this is that they have too much stuff.

You can potentially save hundreds of dollars each month on rent, mortgage, maintenance and heating and cooling costs by moving to a smaller house. The process entails some effort, and you need to ponder whether it truly suits your family and your lifestyle, but it might be well worth it in the long run.

Don’t worry – downsizing to a smaller home doesn’t mean you’re bound to live in a stuffy, cluttered place. If you have important and useful items to store but not enough space at your new home, you can always rent a self-storage unit located close to you. Whether it’s your off-season clothing, sporting gear, tools or any other items, have them safely stored in an easy-to-access unit.

Self-storage is a useful tool that can help you save money in different ways, from allowing you to hold on to your belongings and thus reducing the need for buying new stuff in the future, to reducing your housing costs or your business-related expenses.


Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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