Why Paying for a Storage Unit Is Always a Terrible Idea

cost of storage unitThe comfort of consumption can push people of all ages to accumulate so much stuff that the average 3,000 sq.ft. U.S. home can no longer accommodate the stacks of Pulp Fiction posters, specialty kitchen appliances and IKEA bookshelves that have amassed. Paying for storage facilities might seem like an easy solution when you’re in dire need of short-term space.

Reducing clutter from your life might seem like a no-brainer, but many consumers invest in storage facilities believing that the goods stored within will lead to savings down the line — whether in the immediate or distant future.

According to the Self Storage Association, approximately 7.0 sq.ft. of self storage space exists for every person in the nation and that “it is physically possible that every American could stand — all at the same time — under the total canopy of self-storage roofing.” Further, 1 in 10 U.S. households used self-storage in 2007, which equates to an astounding $10.8 million households.

Keep Reading: Top 5 Collectibles You Wasted Money on in the Nineties

However, despite the number of households actively holding their belongings in storage for some hidden value years into the future, the up-front cost of storage unit prices are very rarely worth the return.

Self Storage Unit Prices

The common misconception is that by storing old furniture, clothing and other belongings, you can relieve your savings account by not having to repurchase these items when (or more appropriately, if) you need them in the future. Unlike storing extra belongings in your home’s attic or garage, though, keeping units at storage facilities costs you extra money.

Storage unit prices are determined based on the size of the unit, the location of the storage facility and other special storage unit features. Average national price ranges can become very costly per month:

  • Small storage unit (5 ft. x 5 ft.): $40 – $50
  • Medium storage unit (10 ft. x 20 ft.): $95 – $155
  • Large storage unit (20 ft. x 20 ft.): About $255

The most common storage unit size that households occupy are the medium storage capacities, which can hold enough items to fill three rooms in a house. Considering that Americans often pay for years of storage space, the convenience that this service provides can lead to thousands of dollars in losses, not including specialty storage features like climate control that costs about $100 extra per month.

These expenses combined equate to another car payment or monthly grocery bill for many U.S. households.

Common Justifications for Using Storage Facilities

Americans opt for paid self-storage facilities for a number of reasons. Ultimately, however, they pay for the convenience of being able to put years of purchases aside into a dark hole. The scenarios under which you’d be compelled to endure high storage unit prices might vary, but they usually fall into these categories:

A Love Affair With Old Collections

You might still be defending your decision to purchase a frighteningly large collection of beanie babies or other kind of “collectible” that, 10 years ago, promised to make you a hefty profit.

As if spending $100 on a single beanie baby that depreciated to under $1 wasn’t enough the first time around, you’re still hoping that by letting your collectibles stick around, they’ll be worth something 50 years from now. While that might be the case, chances are it’s not. That bet is still incredibly risky and likely not worth the thousands of additional dollars you’ll spend on storing these valueless items for the long term.

A Temporary Housing Arrangement

If you’ve moved into a smaller home, but feel the need to keep the dining room set that doesn’t fit in your new abode “just in case,” you’ve probably considered buying into storage facilities and their pricing. The problem, however, is that all too often, rented storage facilities are left to gather dust for longer than expected. In fact, renters can easily leave units unvisited for years at a time.

Related: How to Move and Still Have Cash Left for a Security Deposit

If this situation fits your personal experience, it’s time to give your budget a break by reducing clutter from storage facilities. After all, do you really want to keep that outdated dining set from 12 years ago? That’s $21,600 you’ve spent to save money on a $700 dining room set.

The Yard-Sale that Never Was

The phrase “you’ve got to spend money to make money” doesn’t work in your favor with this scenario. You might have been reluctant to donate or recycle your late-80s IBM computer that you originally purchased for $500, so you’ve decided it’s smarter to keep your old junk in hopes of reselling it at a yard sale. While your frugality in trying to get at least some money back is admirable, the fact is you won’t be getting anywhere near the cost of a month’s storage unit rent for that outdated item (in all honesty, it will be difficult even finding an interested buyer considering how old it is).

Instead, host a yard sale at your home or at a friend’s yard to sell off as much as you can before you have to move or are forced to lock up your stuff in storage facilities; anything that doesn’t get sold must go to your local donation center.

“I Don’t Have Time”

By saying you don’t have time to clean out your storage unit, you’re really saying you have money to burn. And really, in this economy, only a few select people can say that with a straight face. Most Americans simply need to muster up the motivation to organize, sort, sell or do away with the belongings trapped behind storage facilities.

President of the consultant group Storage Marketing Solutions told The New York Times, “Human laziness has always been a big friend of self-storage operators, because once they’re in, nobody likes to spend all day moving their stuff out of storage. As long as they can afford it, and feel psychologically that they can afford it, they’ll leave that stuff in there forever.”

It’s easy to forget that your seemingly harmless $100 per month rental adds up quickly into the thousands, and as the years go by can turn into a devastating financial loss.

Motivate yourself into spending a day cleaning out the storage unit and putting an end to high storage unit prices by thinking about what you would do with an extra $1,000 or more a year, like take a vacation or fund an early retirement.

After all this, ask yourself if empty space is really worth keeping you from doing what you want to do.

Photo credit: jarrodlombardo

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  • Angelo_Frank

    Renting a storage unit to hold clutter while selling one’s home is a good idea. Extra clothes, family heirlooms, suitcases and miscellaneous items should be out of view. An open, clean, uncluttered home shows well.

    • ODWms

      That’s what attics are for.

      • Angelo_Frank

        To begin with, many homes don’t have attics, especially on the West Coast. Besides, many items are too heavy to move into the attic and the question of temperature sensitivity of heirlooms comes into play. The home inspector while probably making you move the items, may trip over something, get injured and sue the home owner. I’d rather play it safe and rent the storage unit.

        • IIlI

          heirlooms = codeword for junk that the next generation has no interest in. what a joke. get rid of stuff. it takes over your life. we are all gonna die and take NOTHING with us other than memories. objects will be dumped in a landfill

  • H Smith

    Storage units are decent short term use; i.e. you’re in college and moving out of the dorms for the summer, and where you’re staying for the summer is several hours away. Just renting a nearby storage unit for about three months may be easier than making several trips for stuff you wouldn’t use there, such as the mini fridge, the xl sheets, and the heavy winter jacket.

  • Tina

    I’ve been thinking of getting a storage unit lately so I can move out of my house and into an apartment. See, my mom owned this house but she died a year ago. Since then the mortgage has gone up and I haven’t been able to part ways with her things sitting upstairs. I could rent this place out and earn money instead of losing it, and comparing the costs of staying here and renting a small apartment with a storage unit makes me think it would help. Can anyone give me a valid reason not to? Also, I know it’s odd but I want to keep the stuff, but not have to see it.

  • BSman

    Just as they say. “It’s easy as heck to get into a storage unit, but hard as hell to get out of one”. People don’t realize that every month they have items in a storage unit they are devaluing what is stored there by paying rent to keep it. Great for self storage facilities but bad for the average individual who really can’t afford storage in the first place.