Don’t Rent a Storage Unit. Try These Cheaper Options Instead

extra space
Sean Locke Photography/ShutterStock

Is your home bursting at the seams with things you just can’t seem to throw away? Or are you in a temporary living situation and have a whole house of stuff you need to stash somewhere?

Sometimes, it makes sense to store your spare stuff, instead of getting rid of it and starting over. But where can you put it?

Renting a storage unit can be pricey. To rent a 5-by-5-foot storage unit, you’ll typically pay $40-50 per month, according to CostHelper. For a larger 10-foot-by-15-foot unit, expect to shell out $75-140 per month for a basic unit or $115-150 for one with climate control.

But, you don’t have to break the bank to keep your stuff. Follow these tips to get more storage space for less.

Sell or Donate Your Extra Stuff

Before you shell out for a storage unit, take a close look at what you have. Getting rid of extra items can be a gold mine. Consider selling things on eBay or at a garage sale.

Donating unneeded possessions can also be a great way to do a good deed and even get a tax break (sometimes more lucrative than selling things).

Consider whether you really want and need everything you have. You’ll likely find at least a few things you don’t mind selling or donating.

Take Advantage of the Space You Have (or Can Borrow)

Look around your home and see if you might be able to add storage to your existing space. Maybe you could add some shelving to a room in your home or a few storage tubs in a corner of your garage.

If you have an attic, laundry room, closet or even a crawl space, see if you can find a way to add storage. Of course, be sure to safeguard your items from any weather or critters that could potentially get into it.

Ask around. Perhaps you have a friend or relative with some extra space. You may be able to store a few items with them for free or a low rate. If you have furniture you’re looking to store, someone might be happy to put it to good use for a few months.

Consider Getting a Larger Apartment

If you don’t want to part with your things, consider renting a larger apartment or house instead of a storage unit. If you can rent an apartment with an extra bedroom, storage room, garage or attic space, that could cost you less than a storage unit.

To figure out the best deal, shop around. Get a few quotes from local storage companies, find out what it would cost to up-size (don’t forget moving costs). Figure out how long you would need to rent the larger apartment or storage unit.

Renting a larger living space could be a better deal than an expensive storage unit.

Read the Fine Print

Before you sign up for a storage unit, be sure to read the fine print and know exactly what you’re signing up for. Is there a minimum commitment? Do you have to pay initial fees or an extra cost to terminate your agreement early?

What happens if you can’t pay on time? Don’t end up on a show like Storage Wars, where your possessions are hawked to the highest bidder.

Also, find out if you’ll have to pay any other additional fees associated with the rental. Do you have to submit a security deposit? Are you responsible for providing your own lock?

Be sure to find out about accessibility. When can you access your items? Are there limits on the time, day and frequency of your visit? If more than one name is on the unit, are you required to visit it together?

Check if climate control is provided and find out exactly what that means. It typically doesn’t mean the unit will be a cool 72 degrees year-round. Usually it just means the unit won’t drop below 40 degrees in the winter or rise above 90 come summer.

Consider the items you’re storing and if they need any special care or attention. If they’re particularly fragile or valuable, it might make sense to keep them with you and not put them into storage.

Know all the terms and conditions before signing up. Also, find out the liability policy and what will happen if your things get damaged, whether from water damage or even theft.

Know when the storage place is on the hook, when you are and if you need to purchase any supplementary insurance to safeguard your possessions.

Take Advantage of Introductory Specials

Public Storage, which has over 2,200 locations nationwide, offers a first month, $1 introductory special, plus 15% off each month if you sign up for their online introductory special.

But they’re not the only company with an introductory special. Many places offer special deals just to get you in the door.

They know that once you’ve spent a Saturday lugging your goods onto a rental truck and playing real-life Tetris to get it to fit in your newly-rented storage unit, it’s unlikely you’ll pack it up and do it all over again to save a few bucks. Take full advantage of introductory specials.

Put Your Haggling Skills to the Test

Just because a place doesn’t offer an introductory special doesn’t mean they aren’t open to negotiating. Try to get a discount on your first month’s rent. Better yet, see if you can get a discount on your first year’s rent or more.

Ask for a Discount

See if you can get a student, senior or military discount on the storage unit. Also, check if any affiliations, club or union memberships you have may be able to snag you an even better deal.

EZ Storage offers a 10% military discount, and Bend, Oregon’s North Empire Storage offers discounts for seniors and military members. Be sure to ask around and see if your local storage company can give you a discount.

Share With Friends and Family

If you don’t need a full storage unit, it might make sense to share with a friend or family member. Be sure you trust this person, though, since they’ll have full access to your stuff.

Splitting a larger unit with someone else is often a far better deal than renting a smaller unit for yourself.

Be sure to have an agreement in writing with your friend or family member about the terms of your storage sharing agreement.

Decide what will happen if one of you wants to leave early, who’s responsible for making sure payments are made on time, how the storage rent is shared and other terms so everyone is on the same page.

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.