THE BLOG
07/22/2015 03:43 pm ET Updated Jul 21, 2016

How to Cut Your Self Storage Costs to the Bone

Paying for storage is one of those things that always leaves me scratching my head. Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for temporary storage of your stuff between places to live. That makes perfect sense and something I've done myself for a limited period of time.

But it's the paying to put the things you can no longer fit into your house because you have too much stuff at home. So we spend money to buy things and then have to pay money to store our stuff and lots of people have more than one storage unit as their material collections grow and grow. That makes no financial sense.

The self storage industry loves our societal addiction to collecting and storing stuff. These storage places seem to pop up everywhere and there's even more than one television show surrounding the self storage theme.

For me, I found the secret in lowering costs was to just get rid of as many of the things I had been lugging around. In the end, the whole process was liberating.

My friend Stacy Johnson just shared with me an article he published by Jim Gold on how to deal with the ridiculous costs associated with self storage. Lot's of good tips in the piece and I wanted to share it with you. I'm certainly a big fan of #10.

10 Ways to Cut the Cost of Self Storage

Americans buy - and keep - a lot of stuff. That's made self-storage a $24 billion industry, according to its major trade group, the Self Storage Association.

According to the SSA, 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 35 years, the group says - and nearly one in 10 American households rents them.

Just over half the storage customers say they expect to hang onto their units for just one to five months but the average stay was 10.4 months, Sparefoot.com, an online self-storage marketplace, said in a December 2014 report of customer trends.

In choosing a storage unit, customers said their top consideration was price, according to Sparefoot. Customers also considered -- in descending order -- security, location, access hours, cleanliness, friendliness and reviews.

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.

Follow these 10 tips on how to save:

1. Get more organized


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 out 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


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

3. Weigh replacement cost


Some people keep everything, thinking, "I might need this someday," while others get so eager they toss or sell stuff (especially furniture, which does take up a lot of space) they'll end up buying again. Be realistic, because either mistake can be costly.

4. Rent the smallest space you can get away with


Storage units usually start at 5 by 5 feet and can be 8 feet or more tall. 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 also don't need to leave space to be able to access and reach everything, so pack tight. Put the stuff you'll need to pull out soonest at the front.

5. Store with friends or family


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 vs. apartments


Sometimes, storage space does make the most financial sense. If you have to upgrade to an apartment with another bedroom to store your necessities, $50 a month for storage space beats a $200 a month rent hike. 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. Haggle


According to the SSA, occupancy at storage facilities nationwide was 88.1 percent, up 1.3 percentage points from 86.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. The national average price, however, for a 10-by-10 foot unit fell about 7 percent, to $87.06 from $94.01, in the last quarter of 2014, Sparefoot.com reported. Compare rates and pit them against each other. SelfStorage.com lets you search by zip code for prices.

8. Check discounts


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

9. Buy your own


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 for 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 more than a couple of months of renting but save money in the long-term.

10. Buy less stuff


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.

More Stories from Money Talks News
Where to Sell Your Stuff for Top Dollar
How to Find Thousands of Freebies
10 Tips for a Killer Yard Sale

This article by Jim Gold first appeared on Money Talks News and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.