Renting a Storage Unit? Here Are 5 Ways to Get Your Money’s Worth

A woman sits in a small box in a storage unit in this illustration for a story about storage tips.
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Packing sucks.

There is nothing particularly enjoyable about filling up boxes and containers with your life’s possessions and transporting them to someplace new.

The experience is even more soul-crushing — and expensive — when renting a self storage unit is part of the equation. Now you’re paying to store stuff you won’t see or use on a regular basis.

Still, renting a storage unit can be useful if you’re in between homes, downsizing to a smaller apartment or simply have run out of space where you live. But it’s important to do it right if you want to keep more money in your bank account.

Here are five self storage tips that’ll help you save money.

1. Consider If You Really Need a Storage Unit

Renting a self-storage unit doesn’t have to be your only option if you need some extra space. Sometimes storage units just aren’t worth it.

For example, if you pay $85 a month for a storage unit and keep it for a year, you’ll spend over $1,000 for belongings that, most likely, are depreciating in value.

You might be better off selling your things and using that money to replace your belongings when the time comes. Or you could use the cash to pay off debt or invest and put yourself in better financial standings.

If you don’t want to part with your possessions, you could ask family or friends if they have extra space available — or get creative with some overlooked space you may have at home.

There are also nontraditional storage space options — like Neighbor, a peer-to-peer storage rental site that boasts rates that are half the cost of traditional self storage units.

2. Be Careful Where You Store Your Stuff

When choosing a storage facility, cheaper isn’t always better. You want a place that’ll keep your belongings safe and undamaged.

Vet facilities by checking their ratings and reading reviews. Visit the premises ahead of time and take note of the security measures. Is the property gated? Well lit at night? Are there an adequate amount of surveillance cameras?

Consider what types of storage units are available. Outdoor, garage-style units may cost less than an indoor, climate controlled space on the third floor. However, that third-floor unit is less likely to be bothered by weather conditions, pests or burglars.

Additionally, if you plan to make frequent trips to your storage space, choose a convenient location so you don’t waste time and money visiting it.

3. Be Mindful About What You’re Storing

If you have items that are very fragile, valuable or sentimental, think twice about putting them into storage. You’ll also want to avoid packing food or anything perishable that could rot or attract pests.

If you’re storing wood or upholstered furniture, electronics, books or artwork, spring the extra cash for a climate-controlled unit, so you don’t find out months later that your stuff has been ruined by extreme temperatures or humidity.

Having property insurance is a smart money move because you can get reimbursed if something unfortunate were to occur. But don’t just sign up for the policy the storage facility is selling. Your renter’s or homeowner’s policy may cover your belongings, or you may be able to add that coverage to your existing policy. Compare costs and coverage to get the best deal.

4. Have an End Date in Mind

Ideally, your storage rental should be temporary, but many people wind up paying for their units longer than expected.

Set a goal for when you want to move your things out of storage and try your best to stick to it. Write down all you need to do to reach that goal and focus on ticking those items off your checklist.

Manually paying your storage fees each month rather than setting up automatic payments can increase your awareness of the growing expense. However, if you believe you might miss payment due dates, then stick to the automatic payments. Just don’t set it and forget it.

5. Be Wise About How You Store Your Belongings

The larger the storage unit, the higher your monthly cost. Ask your storage facility for a unit sizing guide so you don’t end up with too big (or too small) of a space.

Make the most of your unit by stacking items to utilize vertical space. Stash smaller boxes in cabinets, drawers or shelving units. Make sure you protect fragile items so they don’t break.

Purchase a sturdy lock to keep your unit secure, and make sure you keep track of the keys so you don’t have to call a locksmith on move-out day.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.