5 Ways to Save Money on Utilities

energysavingsAfter you have searched apartment ratings and found a place to live that fits your needs and stays within your budget, the next thing you need to think about is your utility bill. Many renters mistakenly believe that there is not much you can do to lower your utility bills when living in an apartment. You have your electric bill, heating bill in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, water, phone, and cable. Just keep the thermostat low in the winter, high in the summer (ideally with a programmable thermostat), and turn the lights off when you’re leaving a room, right? These are the basics, but there are other more creative ways to see monthly savings on your utilities.

Here are five tips that can help save you a significant amount on your monthly utilities:

Don’t Let Your Utility Money Fly out the Window

Proper window management is critical for keeping your energy bill lower in both the winter and the summer. In the summer, keep your windows covered, especially during the heat of the day and particularly on windows facing directly south. Your east and west windows will also pick up sunlight during parts of the day, so keep them covered when necessary as well. In the winter, keep your window coverings open so the sunlight will provide some free heat. You may also want to invest in plastic window coverings for the winter to keep cool air from coming in.

Slow Your Cold Water Flow

Many people are accustomed to running the shower for several minutes until it is hot enough to jump in. However, this can cost you thousands of gallons of water per year. A showerhead adapter with ShowerStart technology is an easy fix. It keeps the water flow down to a trickle until it is hot enough for your liking. Once you are ready, just pull the cord and the water comes back to full speed.

Squeeze Some Green out of your Light Bulbs

However much you choose to participate in the ‘green’ movement, there are many areas where doing so can save you a lot of money, and light bulbs is definitely one of them. The most energy-efficient light bulbs on the market today are LED bulbs. These bulbs use up to 85% less power than a standard light bulb, so if you are planning to be in your place for at least the next year or two, they are well worth the investment.

pulltheplugPull the Plug on Unused Appliances and Electronics

When you have an appliance such as a blender or microwave or an electronic device such as a TV plugged in but not in use, it is still sucking up electricity. That’s why this form of energy waste is affectionately known as vampire energy. There is never a need to pay for electricity you are not using, and this problem is quickly solved with smart power strips you can easily flip on and off. You should have these strips anyway to protect your valuable electronics from storm surges, so this $40 investment will kill two birds with one stone.

Cut the Cord from your Cable Company

Cable and satellite TV are becoming increasingly expensive, especially for something that is not really necessary to function in your day to day life. But many people still need to have some TV to watch, and there is a way to do it very cheap; buy an Internet streaming box. Streaming boxes are available now from Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, Roku, and probably others we are not aware of. One time investments range from $35 to $150. But once you have one, you can stream thousands of TV shows and movies on demand through Netflix, Hulu Plus, and numerous other cheap and free sources and say goodbye to your $60 to $100 a month cable bill.

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Tips for Finding the Best Apartment While in a Different City

RV_Modern-ApartmentFinding an apartment is not easy, and that’s if you’re only moving from one side of town to the other. There are a lot of things that can go wrong during an apartment search, and it is never a good idea to charge forward blindly. But what do you do when blindness is your only option because you’re moving across the country and you cannot afford to fly back and forth multiple times to scout something out?

Step 1: Make a Definitive List of ‘Must Haves’ and Another List of ‘Wants’

The easiest way to get lost when you’re looking for a new place is to not know what you need and what you want ahead of time. Long before you fire up Google and look up “best-rated apartments Poughkeepsie” (or wherever you’re moving), you need to sit down and think hard about what you absolutely must have and what you would merely prefer.

Ask yourself questions such as “How far away from (work/school/groceries/the beach/whatever) am I willing to live?” and “Can I cut some of my other expenses to afford a higher-rent place?” Remember that every ‘need’ comes at the expense of several ‘wants’; the less you need, the more of what you want you can get. So be sure that those things you need, you really genuinely need. One question you absolutely have to address; are you willing to have a roommate to reduce expenses?

Step 2: Research the Neighborhoods within Your RadiusRV_Girl-Laptop

Once you know what you need, you should be able to take a map and draw circles around a few places — your future school or place of employment being the most probable — and determine which neighborhoods you could reasonably live in. Look up those areas on Google and figure out what they are called.

Then either look up each neighborhood on Google, or find any of the many sites that have neighborhood-specific pages (Reddit’s many neighborhood-specific subreddits are great for this.) Find out what the crime rate is, what the people are like, and what the biggest problems people there have. Use this information to make a ranked list of neighborhoods you’d most like to move to.

Step 3: Find the Cheapest Housing You Can Stay In For a Couple of Weeks

Here’s the “real” trick. You can find a cheap apartment with a month-to-month lease or you can find a ‘long-stay hotel’ — you could even use an outside service for this purpose. The point is to find a place that you can stay for 2-4 weeks while you pop around and visit all of the apartments that made your list of ‘needs’ and ‘areas’, and see how many ‘wants’ you can fulfill while staying in-budget.

You could also consider having a friend, family member, or even hired apartment broker or other expert in your new-to-you town do this kind of in-person research for you without doing the whole double-move. But the truth is; nothing is quite as good as doing your own legwork.

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Ensure Your Safety When Looking for an Apartment Home

Casual Man in YellowThere comes a time when safety becomes a primary factor when a single person looks for an apartment. Times are changing and besides that there is a considerable rise in the number of single people in urban areas, living alone, working late and long hours. Though there is more social acceptance for the single people, in big cities, and loads of professional opportunities, the vulnerability of safety pose a great danger of being single. However, there are ways to help ensure your safety.

For single people, locating a safe rental apartment is becoming a problem. It is advisable to identify a respectable locality or housing societies. Pay close attention to cost-cutting. It is wise to conduct little research on the neighborhood before moving in. This includes, but not limited to, finding out who are your direct neighbors, how well connected is your apartment, and basic amenities. Shy away from stand-alone houses, and instead look for apartments with proper security guards and visitor’s book. Safety is in numbers. Check apartment reviews to see what problems have been reported at the apartment community you are considering.

There are a number of potential issues and problems that single people need to address before moving to new apartments. Identifying mold, dust and moisture problems, particularly in storage areas, bathrooms, ceilings, and washrooms are of essence. Mold or dust poses health risks to many people. In addition, single people need to consider safety issues for instance grounded outlets, cracked or broken glass, and emergency escape routes. Blocked doors, windows that fail to easily open, and apartments with no smoke detectors are no go zone.

In conclusion, single people have to locate local police blotter to find out if there are crime records within the area and specifically the apartment building. Any form of frequent police calls to the apartment building is a bad signal. Following your intuition when looking for the perfect apartment is highly advised, and remember never settle until you are completely satisfied.

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How to Make the Most of Your Laundromat Trips

When your apartment complex doesn’t have laundry facilities, you’re forced to either buy a roll-about washing machine that plugs into your kitchen sink (which, unfortunately, takes up a significant amount of space) or get used to going to the Laundromat. That’s not an easy thing to get used to if you’re new to apartment life, so let us help you out with a few tips.

8.19_Renters-Voice_Laundry-OverloadGo Regularly

Figure out how many days’ worth of clothes you have for the season, and plan to go to the Laundromat when you get to about half of your total available days. Do that because your plans won’t always work out, and postponing Laundry Day can often lead to some very eccentric wardrobe choices.

Keep the Change (and Count It!)

Don’t forget to keep any quarters you get as change over the course of your week! There’s nothing more awkward than loading up a dryer, realizing you’re 25 cents short, and having to ask around the room for a spare quarter.

Use Sacks, Not Hampers

You can certainly use a laundry hamper at home to store your dirty clothes, but when it comes time to go to the Laundromat, transfer everything to large sacks. You can get large mesh sacks at any big-box or household goods store, and they’re great for transporting clothes while taking up a near-zero amount of space when they’re not in use. Sort your laundry by the loads in which you’ll wash them (colors, jeans, delicates, etc.) and put them into separate sacks at home before you leave; it’ll keep the process flowing smoothly once you get to the Laundromat.

8.19_Laundry-in-Dryer_Renters-VoiceBYOD(etergent)

Bring your own detergent, plus your own bleach, fabric softener, or dryer sheets if you use them. Most Laundromats will have such things on sale, but at inflated prices designed to take advantage of a niche of forgetful laundry-doers. Just be sure that once you’ve loaded your machines, you keep an eye on your detergent and other items; otherwise they might end up missing.

Run Small Errands While You Wait

Unless you have a laptop and a hotspot, you might not get anything useful done sitting at the Laundromat. Instead, load up a few machines, wait to make sure they’ve started up properly, and then head out to take care of small errands that might otherwise suck up more useful time. Return library books, drop off outgoing mail, pick up that one-off item you need from that store you never go to on shopping day — that kind of thing.

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Your Wedding Reception, Musically Speaking!

party and musicOnce you say I will and I do, your wedding reception is next. And like all the components of your planning for the big day, this too requires your full attention. As a professional wedding deejay having hosted over 300 successful wedding receptions and parties, I’d like to point out there are many things for you to consider. First and foremost, who will provide your music? Although there are many potential choices, you will most likely choose between a deejay and a band. Once you’ve completed your price comparisons and depending on your budget for this affair, you may just decide on a deejay to provide the music.

Keep in mind, just about anyone can play music; for the most important day of your life you need a very special person to host, interact with your guests, wedding coordinator, photographer, videographer and event staff to ensure a successful event. I always suggest referrals from friends, acquaintances and relatives, but keep in mind everyone has different tastes in style and music. Once you narrow down your list of potential candidates to host and provide music for your wedding reception, I highly recommend you inquire if they have an upcoming affair that you and your fiance’ can observe.

Once your deejay is chosen, you’ll need to provide and review all information pertaining to your reception including a list of names and pronunciations of your bridal party, family and friends that will be introduced. After you’ve decided on your very special first dance song and other special songs including parent’s dances and bridal party, share this with your deejay and get his/her input. I’d strongly suggest that you prepare a list of songs you would like played during your reception; discuss how these songs will work along with tunes the deejay normally uses to keep the party lively with your guests dancing and having a great time that will be long remembered. You’ll take the worry out of your very special big day by taking these steps when planning your reception and music. In fact you and your guests will have a blast!

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The 4 Most Common Roommate Problems

Roommates are an amazing way to reduce your expenses, but they come with their own price in the form of several potential headaches to deal with if you find one that is incompatible. From the ever-classic “Whose turn is it to do the dishes?” to the extreme and scary “What happened to the money I gave you for the electricity bill?”, roommate problems are part and parcel of sharing space with a stranger or a friend. Here are 4 of the most common roommate problems and some quick fixes to help keep the peace.

Splitting the Bills

There is often tension when payment day rolls around, because money can be a sensitive subject. If you plan on splitting the bills right down the middle, make sure you and your roommate are on the same page from the start. If you both agree to split them, then you can hopefully avoid any arguments later about who used more water or wasted electricity that month. Continue reading

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Simple Tips that Can Change Your Health

apartment reviewIf you’re like me, your day is fairly busy and you don’t really have time to make big changes in your lifestyle to lose weight. I don’t have time to spend 2-3 hours at a gym or hire a personal coach/dietician, but I also don’t want to look like Jabba the Hutt. There are several simple changes you can make to help lose a few pounds or just make yourself a bit healthier in the long run. These things don’t cost an arm and a leg, and don’t take a lot of extra time or effort.

  • Turn off the TV! Seriously, is it absolutely imperative that you catch that episode of Walking Dead while you eat your dinner? Let it wait until after you’ve eaten, you might actually taste your food. Studies have shown people eat 40% more while watching TV than they would have if they had just sat down and enjoyed their meal. For you smartphone/ipad addicts, this includes YOU! Put your phone down, turn off the TV and just enjoy your food. Visit with your family if you have one, or just enjoy the downtime if you live alone.
  • Stick to water after breakfast! Notice I said AFTER breakfast – please do the world a favor, and do not skip your morning coffee/juice/tea or whatever gets you going. The average person takes in an extra 250 calories EACH DAY from soft drinks. That equals out to around 25 lbs EVERY YEAR!! It’s best to keep one of those insulated cups around, because we all know water is better cold and you’ll end up drinking more of it than you would if it’s just so-so. Staying hydrated can: make your skin look younger, make your complexion more even-toned, allow your body to heal faster, keep your organs and tissues running smoothly, make your hair shinier and healthier, and give you an all-around feeling of wellbeing.
  • Don’t eat until you’re actually hungry! When’s the last time that your stomach growled at you? Don’t just eat because it’s lunch time, eat because you’re hungry. So many people eat when there is no physical need. We eat because we’re bored, or stressed, or unhappy, or angry. We need to wait until our body tells us that we are hungry before we pick up that burger, or bag of chips, or whatever we were about to stuff our face with. Find some other way to deal with emotions than eating, and it’s guaranteed that you will feel and look better.
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How to Save Money While Apartment Hunting

Apartment hunting is both a fun and mildly intimidating activity. On the one hand, you have a degree of control; what do you want in an apartment, and more importantly, where do you want to live? On the other hand, you expose yourself to some serious potential for rejection and failure, and the expenses involved in your apartment search can get out of hand if you are not careful. If your goal is to find the ideal apartment while keeping your budget under control, these steps will help:

Evaluate Your Budget

This does not necessarily mean “set a price and stick to it”; quite the opposite. There are a huge number of techniques and tricks for shifting money and payments around in your life. What you need to understand about your budget is how far is can be stretched, and why. For example, having a rent that is $30/month higher can be well worth it to get an apartment that is within walking distance of work, because you are likely to save that much (or more) on commute costs every month. Knowing your limitations and your personal requirements can help you save money in the long run.

Use Apartment Reviews Before Visiting

Online apartment reviews are a great way to get a ‘startup evaluation’ of a complex. Getting a good idea of what apartment life is like at a location can really help you narrow down your selection so you can prioritize which apartments you should research. That way, you won’t have to spend money unnecessarily on application fees, or gas money to visit the locations. Once an apartment has made your shortlist, you should physically visit the location — or have someone you trust make the trip there if you absolutely cannot make it — and see the place first-hand. It is surprising how quickly new management can turn around a formerly poorly-run apartment into a great place to live (or unfortunately, vice-versa). This means that an apartment review from three or four years ago may be outdated. To confirm what you have read, make sure to get a look for yourself.

Find a Compatible Roommate

Often the best deal on a roof over your head in a new city can be had by finding someone who is looking for a roommate to share expenses with. If you can find a compatible companion to move in with (and make sure to do your due diligence in that search as well), you can expand your apartment search to include places that may have better amenities and be closer to work but would have otherwise been outside your price range.

Ask About Discounts

Apartments sometimes run special offers, like waiving a parking permit fee or deducting a certain amount from your first month’s rent. However, they may not mention it to you right away, either because they’re not advertising it or it’s simply not top-of-mind for the leasing agent you’re talking to. It never hurts to ask what kind of special offers an apartment can provide.

 

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Easy Ways to Organize That Messy Closet

clothesIf you’re a clothes/shoe/accessory addict like me, it doesn’t take long for that nice big closet to get way out of hand. Hunting for that belt that looks perfect with that one dress, or trying to find that one shoe can turn an easy morning into a witch hunt for missing articles. There are stores with entire sections dedicated to organization, and some of them can get a bit overwhelming, not to mention costly.

Now, don’t sit there on the edge of your seat thinking I’m about to share the holy grail of organization miracles. I’m just going to give you a few easy, non-expensive ways to make your life easier.

Suitcases. Use those empty suitcases/bags wisely by storing out of season sweaters, blankets, or linens in them. Pop a cedar shavings bag in with them to keep those pesky bugs away and slide them up on those top shelves, or in the back of that closet. They’ll stay neat and clean for when you’re ready to use them again, and your luggage is storing more than air.

Color Code. Yeah, you knew I was going there, admit it. This approach is an oldie but goodie. It doesn’t take long to do, but it will definitely save time when it comes to picking an outfit. Take all the clothes and arrange them left to right, with the darkest hues on the left. Also, when hanging clean laundry, take the extra second or two to put each article of clothing back in correct order. Otherwise, it will only take about 3 laundry days to totally disorganize the whole thing.

Clothing type. I personally have my closet done this way, and it is a HUGE advantage if you are chronically running late, like I seem to be most days. Keep all the coats/jackets together, dresses, skirts, shirts/blouses, and jeans. I also have a small section dedicated to “club” style clothing, and one for sundresses. This way, when I’m in a hurry, I can just reach in and grab exactly what I’m looking for. I also keep the tops between the skirts and jeans to make choosing an outfit easier.

Accessories. It’s easiest to keep belts in one of those hanging shoe organizers, just roll up the belts and put them in the little cubby holes. Scarves are best kept looped through a large hanger or I use an over-door coat rack on the inside of my bedroom door. Purses are best kept on the top shelf of the closet, or a wooden coat rack (the old-fashioned type) works great as well. Do NOT just throw them in a bin! First, no one wants to carry a smashed up purse; Second, respect the purse! As for shoes, just keep them nicely lined up or in the boxes at the bottom of the closet.

Share your tips for organizing a messy closet with us.

 

 

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Sanity And Stress Savers For the Busy Parent

stressFor those of you that are the main parent in your household, you know what it’s like to get to the end of a day and feel like the whole thing has gone full tilt, with barely a moment for you to catch your breath. Between morning wake up calls, getting breakfast for everyone, daily errands, soccer practice, dry cleaning, having dinner ready at a reasonable hour, and god forbid you actually have a job on top of it all.

Being a busy mom or dad doesn’t have to mean that you run through life feeling scatterbrained and a little crazed. There are a few simple things that can save your sanity and lower stress without sacrificing all you get accomplished in your hectic day.

1. Get up 15 minutes earlier! That short amount of time won’t make a huge deficit in your sleep requirements, but it can make a huge difference in your mindset for the day. Take those few moments to grab a cup of coffee (tea/juice/water…pick your poison), and maybe step out on the patio/porch, and start your morning slow. Taking a few moments to ease yourself into the day can lower your blood pressure AND your stress levels. If you start the morning off already in a blur and feeling rushed, the rest of the day doesn’t look promising.
2. Breathe! (correctly!) When you feel yourself starting to get irritated or stressed out, stop and take a few deep breaths. The key to this is making sure you’re doing it correctly – take deep breaths, moving your diaphragm with each breath instead of breathing shallow. To know if you’re doing this correctly, place your hand on your stomach and see if it moves with each breath. If only your chest moves, you’re doing it wrong! With just 5-7 breaths, you can lower your stress and blood pressure, as well as soothe your mind. For those that swear they can’t stop long enough, you can do this while you’re driving. No excuses!
3. Take Action! When something goes wrong (flight got canceled, you’re running late, all the cupcakes for the school burned up in the oven), are you the type that sits there and worries about things? “Why did this happen to me?” “What am I going to do?” Don’t just sit there and think up a bunch of ‘what-if’ scenarios or have a pity party about how your life is so unfair. Get up and do something about it! Worrying and self-pity don’t get anything done, and actually take up more time that you could be using to actually accomplish something. You are raising your stress level and getting nothing in return. Adopt the mindset, “OK, this happened, I need to do this to handle it”.

 

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