Negotiate the rent or security deposit
Some landlords are actually willing to negotiate the amount they’re asking for their space. I’ve been straight with landlords in the past, telling them that I loved the place but that it was a bit more than my roommates and I could afford; they lowered the rent by $200 per month. This kind of negotiation is easier when the property a person manages is smaller. You may also get cheaper rent if you agree to stay longer, and if not, you might convince the landlord to take care of other expenses (like water or trash) not originally included in the agreement.
A bit obvious, but worth mentioning: it’s much cheaper to live with other people. Try to find ones you don’t hate, so you’re more likely to continue the arrangement. If you really want to save, take the smallest/crappiest room so that you’ll pay less rent than your compadres.
Be smart about energy savings
We take electricity for granted in this country, but it doesn’t actually come that cheap. If you’re running a huge television for hours a day, you’re going to run up a huge bill. My downstairs neighbors were spending $600+ per month on electricity, thanks to their electric heaters. (How do I know? Their bill got switched with ours. Another way to save: don’t pay for someone else’s electricity.) Although I hate to say it, Wikihow actually has a pretty good list of all the ways you can cut back on your utilities bills.
When the time comes, consider moving
If your landlord is going to increase your rent after the first year, it might be worth moving somewhere else—although you should also consider the costs of moving (renting a truck, etc.) and whether you’d want to stay in your apartment long-term and eventually qualify for rent stabilization. Tell your landlord that you’d really love to stay, but you need some time to compare the increased rent to other places available in the area. If you’ve been a good tenant, she might decide to keep you on at your current rate.
Remember commuting costs and utilities
When looking for a new place, don’t forget to factor in things like commuting costs and the varying charges landlords charge for different apartments. It may be cheaper to rent a more expensive place from where you can bike to work. It also might be cheaper to rent a pricier flat where you don’t have to pay for gas, water, trash, parking, or some other amenity that will add up over time.
Make sure you get your security deposit back
When you finally leave, make every effort to leave the place spotless, i.e. to give your landlord no excuse to withhold your security deposit. This might mean doing some repairs yourself. With any luck, you’ll be able to put that check straight back into your savings account, or at least use it towards your new place.