My First Apartment http://www.myfirstapartment.com Wed, 29 Jun 2016 14:00:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 25 First Apartment Essentials http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/2-essentials-need-first-apartment/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/2-essentials-need-first-apartment/#respond Wed, 29 Jun 2016 14:00:25 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20531 Moving into your first apartment and not sure what you’ll need? Here’s a list of 25 essential items that will get you started furnishing your new place. Cleaning Supplies: 1. Broom and dustpan 2. Mop, bucket, and all purpose cleaning liquid 3. Paper towels 4. Disinfecting spray 5. Wash cloths (microfiber works great) 6. Laundry…

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Moving into your first apartment and not sure what you’ll need? Here’s a list of 25 essential items that will get you started furnishing your new place.

Cleaning Supplies:

1. Broom and dustpan
2. Mop, bucket, and all purpose cleaning liquid
3. Paper towels
4. Disinfecting spray
5. Wash cloths (microfiber works great)
6. Laundry detergent, softener, and stain remover
7. Vacuum cleaner if your floors are carpeted
Have items 1-5 on hand on your moving day and use them before you start unpacking.

Kitchen:

Young Couple Moving In To New Home Together8. Pots, pans, and mixing bowls (you can start with one large pot and one cast iron frying pan)
9. Cooking utensils (wooden spoon, metal spoon, spatula)
10. Dishes (plates, bowls, cups, and silverware)
11. Scissors
12. Trash can and trash bags
13. Dish soap and sponge/scrubber

Furniture:

14. Couch and/or chair
15. Lamps
16. Bed
17. Bedding (mattress, mattress pad, sheets, comforter, pillows)
18. Night stand
19. Dresser

Bathroom:

Shower curtain20. Toothbrush and toothpaste
21. Toiletries (bath soap, hand soap, shampoo)
22. Toilet paper and tissues
23. Shower curtain and rings
24. Towels and wash cloths
25. First Aid Kit

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7 Point Apartment Security Checklist http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/apartment-security-checklist/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/apartment-security-checklist/#respond Sun, 26 Jun 2016 14:00:09 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20693 Moving into your own place is so exciting that apartment security may be the last thing on your mind. Unfortunately, bad things can happen even in best places. Luckily, you can minimize the chances that they happen to you by taking a few simple safety measures. For your additional peace of mind, make sure to…

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Moving into your own place is so exciting that apartment security may be the last thing on your mind. Unfortunately, bad things can happen even in best places. Luckily, you can minimize the chances that they happen to you by taking a few simple safety measures.

For your additional peace of mind, make sure to get renter’s insurance. It is affordable, usually under $200 a year, and it will help you get back on your feet if your possessions are lost or damaged.

1. Smoke Alarm

Smoke DetectorFirst, make sure that your apartment has a smoke alarm. It’s your landlord’s responsibility to provide one. Next, check that your smoke alarm has working batteries.  It’s really simple – just press the button on the alarm and it should peep. No peep, replace batteries.

2. Carbon Monoxide Detector

If your apartment comes with one, make sure it has batteries that work. Some states do not require landlords to provide these detectors, so get your own at any hardware store or order online for as little as $15.

3. Door locks and keys

deadboltVerify that your landlord replaced the locks when you moved in. Find out how your building stores tenant’s spare keys. They should be kept in a locked cabinet and coded, so that if someone gains unauthorized access to the cabinet they will not know which key goes to which apartment.

If you have lived in your place for a while, verify the location of all the copies you may have made of your keys. You may have given a set of keys to a neighbor or a friend or your ex. Do you still trust them to have your keys? Or have you hidden a set outside your apartment? Confirm that the keys are still there and the location continues to be safe.

If you have sliding glass patio doors make sure they have a rod in the track (so that they cannot be forced open from outside) and pins in the overhead frame (so that they cannot be lifted out).

Also, check that the peephole is not painted over and use it always to verify your guests.

4. Window locks and gates

All ground floor unit windows that open should have working locks and security gates. In case of fire, all windows should be easy-open from the inside. Make sure that the window locks work and, most importantly, verify the location of the key. (As extra safety measure, keep your shades drawn, so passers-by can’t peek in and be tempted the things they see inside.)

5. Outer door and intercom

Old colored bell system on blue plasterYour first line of defense is the outer door and lock to your apartment building. The door should close automatically behind you and the lock should work easily, so you are not fumbling trying to enter. If the lock does not work properly notify the landlord immediately. It’s his responsibility to fix. Likewise, if the building’s intercom is not working properly it is another safety risk and must be fixed.

Also, check that the outer door area is well lit at night allowing you to see if anyone is hanging around the doorways as you come home at night.

6. Electrical equipment

To prevent fires, check all your power cords and replace any that are frayed or have loose plugs. Don’t overload your outlets with multiple power strips. Keep your electrical appliances (stove, toaster, etc.) clean. Use recommended wattage bulbs in all your light fixtures.

7. Fire escapes and stairs

Attractive man leaning over the cityMake sure you know the location and access to your building’s fire escapes and stairwells. If you are new to living in a highrise building, you need to know that you should NEVER take the elevator when there is a fire.  The elevator could go to the fire floor, open the doors and leave you stranded. Use the designated stairwell.

 

 

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18 Indoor Plants to Beautify – and Purify the Air in – Your Apartment http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/18-indoor-plants-beautify-purify-air-apartment/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/18-indoor-plants-beautify-purify-air-apartment/#respond Sat, 25 Jun 2016 14:00:21 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20135 Need a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to spruce up your apartment? Bring a potted plant indoors to add color and decoration. With the right water and light conditions, most of these plants are low-maintenance.  Plus, many of these indoor plants purify air, which is a much cheaper – and better looking – way to…

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Need a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to spruce up your apartment? Bring a potted plant indoors to add color and decoration. With the right water and light conditions, most of these plants are low-maintenance.  Plus, many of these indoor plants purify air, which is a much cheaper – and better looking – way to have cleaner air compared to pricey – and unattractive – air filtration systems.

Flowerpots in pots on a window sill

Here are 18 indoor plants perfect for any apartment:

Aloe – This spikey succulent has gel inside its stems that can help heal cuts and burns. Growing conditions: Bright light; moderately dry soil.

Spider plant – This plant features long, narrow, variegated leaves in shades of green and white, along with small, white blooms. This plant grows well in hanging baskets, which allow its leaves to hang freely. Growing conditions: Medium to bright sunlight; moist to dry soil.

Gerbera daisy – This plant features bright, colorful blooms in shades of red, yellow, orange, pink, and white. Growing conditions: Bright light; moist soil.

Snake plant – This plant features thin, tough, upright leaves in shades of green, and is known for being very tolerate of neglect. Growing conditions: Low to bright light; moderately dry soil.

Chrysanthemum – This plant features blooms in a variety of colors including white, yellow, gold, orange, pink, purple, and red, and sizes ranging from small, button-like blooms to large, spider-like blooms. Growing conditions: Bright light; evenly moist soil.

Peace lily – This plant features dark green leaves and white, waxy blooms. Growing conditions: Low light; evenly moist soil.

Croton – This plant features beautiful foliage in shades of gold, pink, orange, and green. Growing conditions: Bright light; moderately dry soil.

Asparagus fern – This fast-growing plant features light, airy foliage and produces tiny, white blooms in the late summer. Growing conditions: Medium to bright light; evenly moist soil.

Anthurium – This plant features bright, colorful blooms usually in shades of red, but also in shades of pink, lavender, white, and green. Growing conditions: Medium to bright light; evenly moist soil.

Cast-iron plant – This is one of the toughest, most low-maintenance plants and can withstand long periods of neglect. Some varieties feature white or yellow variegation on their leaves. Growing conditions: Low light; evenly moist soil.

Christmas cactus – This plant blooms in mid- to late December and features blooms in shades of lavender, pink , orange, or white. Growing conditions: Bright light; moderately dry soil.

Chinese Evergreen – This plant has tough foliage that features shades of silver, gray, and green. Growing conditions: Low light; evenly moist soil.

Dracaena – This plant resembles a corn plant and displays long, variegated leaves in shades of white, cream, or red that grow from a single, upright stem. Growing conditions: Medium to bright light; moderately dry soil.

Pothos – This plant features heart-shaped leaves and grows well in either hanging baskets or upright on a pole. Growing conditions: Low to bright light; moderately dry soil.

Tradescantia – This plant grows well in hanging or mixed baskets and features variegated purple leaves and small, purple blooms. Growing conditions: Medium to bright light; moderately dry soil.

Crown of Thorns – This plant features gray-green stems and red, cream, white, pink, or yellow flowers. Be careful to avoid the thorns that surround the tiny blooms. Growing conditions: Bright light; moderately dry soil.

Hoya – This plant is fast-growing and grows well either in a hanging basket or upright on a pole. Hoya features sweetly scented pink or white blooms. Growing conditions: Medium to bright light; moderately dry soil.

Kalanchoe – This low-maintenance plant features blooms in shades of white, pink, orange, red, and yellow. Growing conditions: Bright light; moderately dry soil.

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Decorator’s Toolkit: The 5 Essentials http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/a-decorators-toolbag-the-essentials/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/a-decorators-toolbag-the-essentials/#respond Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:00:31 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20261 When moving into your first place, a basic toolkit is pretty important for decorating and other little jobs around the apartment. Every decorator, newbie or extraordinaire, should consider investing in the list below to make apartment decorating easy. Without the necessary tools, hanging pictures or other art can become a huge mess. Avoid the frustration by creating your…

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Woman measuring the wallWhen moving into your first place, a basic toolkit is pretty important for decorating and other little jobs around the apartment. Every decorator, newbie or extraordinaire, should consider investing in the list below to make apartment decorating easy. Without the necessary tools, hanging pictures or other art can become a huge mess. Avoid the frustration by creating your own decorator’s toolkit. And don’t forget to throw some masking tape into the cart, while you are tool shopping.

Level

This is way more important than you think it is, I promise. I was the queen of “eyeballing it” until I realized all of my hanging decor was crooked. Not only are levels extremely useful, but they are also stupidly easy to use. Set the level on a surface (i.e. the top of a picture frame you’re hanging), adjust the frame until the bubble falls in the center of the yellow water. Two steps!

2016-05-25_15-21-54

Check this pocket level out on Amazon for just around $5. A longer one would be a little more precise, but costs a little more as well.

Measuring Tape

Again, same comment about how “eyeballing it” really doesn’t work in the real world! Get a good, long measuring tape to make projects a breeze. Whether it’s building something, hanging frames next to each other, or any number of home-improvement activities, this will become your best friend. 2016-05-25_15-58-25

Found it on Amazon for $6.

Hammer

This is a basic as well! Hammers and nails are the only way you’re going to get things hung properly in your first place. I tried using Command Strips (even the expensive kind!) and was jolted awake multiple times to my picture frames and artwork crashing to the ground in the middle of the night when the adhesive couldn’t take it any longer. I’m a huge fan of Command Strips, but for hanging decor, you are WAY safer going with the basics. And, nails are much less expensive! Just make sure you measure well (with your new measuring tape!) before hammering in.

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Here’s one for just $9!

Drill OR Screwdriver

Depending on how home-improvey you are, decide to save (screwdriver) or splurge (drill). You’re going to need one of these (much like the hammer) for more than you’d imagine! We bought a drill (which was a major time-saver, although a quasi-expensive one) and it made hanging our curtains a breeze. Screws are great when you need it to be just a bit sturdier (i.e. curtains, anything hanging over your TV, shelving, etc.) because they grab into the drywall much tighter than nails do and leave you with a stronger hold.

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Here’s a screwdriver with multiple tips (for different kinds of screws) for only $5. The drill (plus “bits” aka tips) comes in around $50.

Stud Finder

I know what you’re thinking…I’m not a home-improvement expert, I don’t need a stud-finder!

…But oh are you wrong. Having one of these will save you HOURS of frustrations (and massive holes in your walls…trust me on this one). Apartment walls have studs (or heavy beams) that hold them up behind the drywall. The good thing? They keep your house from falling down around you. Another good thing? You can hammer, screw, or drill into them safely to hang heavy items, such as shelving. If you anchor shelves only to drywall, you risk a massive drywall hole when they crash down. The Stud Finder will alert you to where the beams are (and are not) so you know where it is best to hang items.

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The pricing ranges on these. This one’s just under $15 and should get the job done.

For a more extensive, all-purpose toolkit items list click here.

 

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Moving In Together and Blending Decorating Styles With Your S.O. http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/decorating-advice-blending-his-and-her-style/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/decorating-advice-blending-his-and-her-style/#respond Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:10:29 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20257 I’ll admit it. Decorating my apartment was one of the things I was MOST looking forward to when moving into my own place. The only hiccup? I actually first moved into my boyfriend’s place. We were both very excited to live together and it was one of the best decisions we could have made for our…

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I’ll admit it. Decorating my apartment was one of the things I was MOST looking forward to when moving into my own place. The only hiccup? I actually first moved into my boyfriend’s place. We were both very excited to live together and it was one of the best decisions we could have made for our relationship. But… his place was fully furnished (yes, and decorated) when I moved in so we needed to figure out how to blend our styles! Although I helped him pick out a lot of the furniture and decor, he absolutely had free reign over his place for the two years he lived there without me.

So, that left us with a bit of a dilemma when we moved into OUR first place. Fortunately, it was a bit bigger than his first apartment, so we had a little room to shop for new furniture and decorations together. Here’s a bit what I learned when blending my style with my significant other’s (S.O.)…and it turned out very well!

Prepare for compromise

Happy couple in new apartmentThis is The. Most. Important. Part. Compromise is critical to success here! Remember, this is your first apartment TOGETHER! That means both of your perspectives are equally important. By getting into the “compromise” mindset ahead of time, you’ll save yourself some trouble later down the line. Hate his dark furniture? Talk about painting or refinishing some of it together. Can’t picture his sports memorabilia displayed in your shared living room? Consider investing in a few nice frames to display some of it, or “give” him wall space in your room or the office for his things. (Plus, I learned, chances are if you compromise on space for him to display his own things…he probably won’t actually do it.)

Plan ahead

When it comes to combining furniture, planning ahead is very important. If you both have a sofa, work through which makes the most sense in your space. Make sure both of you really love each piece that comes into your apartment. If one of you isn’t sold, sell it or donate it and wait to replace with something you love later on.

As far as buying furniture, again, compromise is crucial. For example, we used my BF’s black TV stand and coffee table (which we both love), and lightened up the place by getting rid of his dark brown couch in favor of a light grey one. That compromise (using a couple of his pieces and the sofa of mine), meant that both of our styles started blending together from the start. Fortunately, we both like a more modern look, so the styles worked pretty well together.

To tie it together, we shopped for rugs and throw pillows in patterns and colors we both liked. Not only was it fun to shop together, but we both have a better sense of the others’ favorite colors and styles, and we were able to choose details that we both really like.

Use color wisely

colorwheel_100istockThe best part about color is that it shows personality but doesn’t have to be overwhelming! We found it very useful to choose big furniture pieces (sofa, kitchen table, bedroom furniture) that were neutral (think black, brown, white, grey) and could spruce it up with throw pillows, blankets, table runners, and rugs. Use the color wheel to select colors that work well together.

Great news, couples! The color wheel also shows how different colors can look beautiful side-by-side. So, if you love yellow but your S.O. loves blue, you can choose colored details in both colors…without much compromise!

Shop for furniture together

Shop for everything that you can TOGETHER and listen to each other. That way, you’ll learn more about each others’ styles and can save time returning items one of you hates back to the store. Furniture is especially important to tag-team for, since it’ll likely last a long time and be the focal point of each room.

Take your time and have fun!

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART (after compromise…but I guess if you compromise, having fun should come naturally). This is an exciting phase of life for you and your S.O! Enjoy the time together shopping and decorating, and most importantly, enjoy your first apartment together!

For all other issues to consider when moving in together check out My First Apartment’s Complete Guide to Moving in With Your Significant Other.

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2-Hour Sunday Routine for a Stress-Free Work Week http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/2-hour-sunday-routine-for-stress-free-work-week/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/2-hour-sunday-routine-for-stress-free-work-week/#respond Sun, 19 Jun 2016 14:00:07 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20254 Sunday marks the end of the weekend and, for me, it also means my last opportunity to prep for the work week ahead. If you’re off on Sundays, or even if you work a shift or two, take a couple hours each week to prep for the following week. It’s calming, organized, and will help…

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Sunday marks the end of the weekend and, for me, it also means my last opportunity to prep for the work week ahead. If you’re off on Sundays, or even if you work a shift or two, take a couple hours each week to prep for the following week. It’s calming, organized, and will help you be sure you’re ready. Here a 1-2-3 quick Sunday routine to complete each week!

1. Laundry

Young Man With Girlfriend In LaundromatThis one’s a given, especially if you only work during the week. You likely need your uniform or dress pants clean, and if you’re anything like me, the laundry builds up from working, exercising, and going out during the week. By completing laundry weekly, you avoid a huge pile-up and can keep your closet organized. I’ve found that when I wait for longer than a week to do laundry, I spend extra time during the week digging through it for items I need…or end up doing it after work one night when I’m already exhausted. Do yourself a favor and start your laundry early so it’s all done within 2 hours.

2. Meal Prep

fresh_vegetables2If you’re a cooker, or if you’re trying to be one, try meal prepping! Here are some tips to make it successful. This can be as complicated as you want it to be, but if you’re trying to save money from eating out or trying to eat healthier, meal prep is a great step to take to reach your goals! Not only is eating in generally less expensive than going out, but you can also cook meals that are healthier and control what ingredients (and how much) go into each dish.

Some weeks, I meal-prep lunches for the whole week so I’m not tempted to eat out. Other Sundays, I prep snacks to grab-and-go during the work week. It just depends on how dedicated you’d like to be and how much time you can spare. Use a couple hours on Sunday to finish grocery shopping for the week and preparing easy grab-and-go, or heat-able meals.

3. Light Clean

Nothing feels better than coming home to a clean apartment! Take 10 or 15 minutes to straighten up. Try the following:

  • housekeepingPut away all dishes in the kitchen
  • Wipe down kitchen and living room surfaces
  • Put away any clutter (shoes, jackets, clothes, cups, etc…those are what pile up in our place!)
  • Make your bed
  • Wipe down bathroom surfaces and clear countertops

This won’t take more than a few minutes and will leave your apartment sparkling for the week ahead.

Reward Yourself with ME-Time

Most importantly, spend some time for YOURSELF on Sundays! Whether it’s taking a walk outside, watching your favorite show on Netflix, or spending time with friends, use Sundays as a day for relaxation after your work is done. By prepping for the work week AND taking some personal time, you’ll start off Monday with a fresh (clean) apartment and fresh (re-freshed!) attitude.sunday

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10 Point Apartment Walk-Through Checklist http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/10-item-walk-through-checklist/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/10-item-walk-through-checklist/#respond Fri, 17 Jun 2016 15:48:12 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20611 Before you move in, you should conduct a walk-through of your apartment with the landlord or his representative present. During this walk-through, you should note and take pictures, if appropriate, of all problem areas you discover. The items on this list are all things that should be taken care of by the landlord, with no…

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Rear view of couple standing in new houseBefore you move in, you should conduct a walk-through of your apartment with the landlord or his representative present. During this walk-through, you should note and take pictures, if appropriate, of all problem areas you discover. The items on this list are all things that should be taken care of by the landlord, with no cost to you.

1. Door locks, latches and intercom —Lock and latches need to work smoothly with and without the key. If they don’t, request that they be lubed or replaced, since you don’t want to come home some night and be locked out of your own place. The front door lock should always be replaced to protect you against unauthorized access to the apartment by previous tenants who may have kept a key. In an apartment building, also make sure the outside entry door closes securely and the intercom system works.

Peephole— Check that the peephole in the apartment door has not been painted over. This is a surprisingly common problem. Ask it to be cleared.

2. Ceilings—Check every ceiling for water spots, particularly in bathrooms. Water spots mean that something is leaking, and anything leaking is a bad thing. If you find water spots, notify the landlord immediately.

3. Closet doors and patio door sliders—They need to work smoothly and glide easily. If they don’t, ask for an adjustment now, or plan on a headache later. Also, make sure to check the patio door locking mechanism. This needs to work flawlessly and hold securely.

4. Windows, screens and security gates—All windows should slide with little effort, and all screens should be in place and not have any holes. If the windows have security gates, make sure they can be opened easily from the inside, in case of fire or another emergency. If they are locked, get the key.

5. Floors—If carpeted, look for stains. Stains become your responsibility if not pointed out right away, and if you don’t say anything now and document with pictures, you’ll pay for it later. If you are lucky to have wooden floors, note and document stains, chips and scratches.

6. Faucets and Drains—Check faucets for dripping, but more importantly, check beneath the sinks for drain pipe leakage. You’ll know if it has been leaking right away as there will be discoloration on the pipes, major water stains on the inside surface, and quite possibly a build up of mold.

7. Kitchen appliances—Make sure that the stove, oven, microwave and refrigerator turn on and are all in a good working order.

8. Heating and Air Conditioning—No matter what time of year it is, turn on the heat, and you will hear creaking coming from the baseboard heaters as the metal expands. Check in all rooms to make sure the heaters are warming up. Do the same with the air conditioning. Turn it on high and make sure you feel cool air coming out of the vents. Note: This applies to houses and condos.

Apartment building typically turn off the heat completely in the late spring and start again in the fall, so you cannot test heat in the summer. Likewise, you may not be able to test air conditioning in the winter.

9. Walls—Check the walls for marks and holes. Be diligent about this, and write down and photograph any blemish that you see. Most apartments will charge the renter to repair or paint over holes or marks in the walls when they leave, so you want to be thorough and point out anything that you see.

10. Outlets and breakers—Check every outlet to make sure it works, by plugging a small electrical appliance like a hairdryer or a fan into each one. Make sure you know where the breaker box is, and check to see if they are all turned on.

Note: Over the course of your rental agreement, lightbulbs will become your responsibility. If need be, ALWAYS replace the bulbs with the same type or wattage that was originally in the socket.

Taking the time to do these basic checks before you move in, can save a lot of time, hassle, and your security deposit.

We thank Dale Y the Maintenance Guy from LaCrosse, Wisconsin for contributing to these tips.

 

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Financial Planning to Make Sure You Can Keep Your First Apartment http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/financial-planning-to-keep-your-first-apartment/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/financial-planning-to-keep-your-first-apartment/#respond Wed, 15 Jun 2016 13:50:48 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20226 If you’re just starting out in your first place, it’s likely that you’ve secured a job (or some sort of income) to ensure your bills can be paid each month. While the job market has stabilized in recent years, it’s always important to prepare for a worst-case-scenario when it comes to money. What would happen…

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If you’re just starting out in your first place, it’s likely that you’ve secured a job (or some sort of income) to ensure your bills can be paid each month. While the job market has stabilized in recent years, it’s always important to prepare for a worst-case-scenario when it comes to money. What would happen if you lost your job today? How could you pay for your apartment? Would you get evicted?

Thankfully, that’s probably not going to happen. But if your answers to those questions were unsure, keep reading! Here’s some advice on being prepared for a lost job and making sure it doesn’t ruin your first apartment experience.

1. SAVE! 

iStock_000009605852XSmallpiggy bankAt any given time, try to have at least one-month’s bill money in a savings account just in case. I know that’s easier said than done (trust me!), but if you start saving now, that will build over time and leave you prepared. If you’re an investor, invest that money in low-risk accounts so you can trust that it’ll be there in an emergency.

By having a one-month cushion of money, you give yourself precious time to search for a new job without risking losing your apartment or getting behind on other bills.

Here are two neat tricks for saving money that my fellow blogger Audra has discovered:

  1. The 50/50 Trick — It’s easy, whenever you make a purchase that’s a non-necessity, you put the same amount of what you spent on your purchase into your savings account. It’s a great way to hold yourself accountable for your purchases and build a safety net for yourself along the way.
  2. The “Frog” Method — Like the proverbial frog that does not realize to jump out of the pot when the water is heated slowly, you learn to painlessly  save increasing amounts. This is meant to be an annual system, and it’s really simple: you save $1 week 1, $2 week 2, and so on, until the last week of the year you put away $52.  Total saved over 52 weeks, $1,378! Of course, nobody forces you increase all the way $52/a week. If after 20 weeks or even 10 weeks, you really feel the pinch, stop increasing but continue saving at that level. If you get up to $20 and continue at that rate, you’ll save $850, and at $10, you’ll save $475 in a year. Not too shabby!

(MFA Editors: We’d like to add  the “Change in Your Pocket” method.  Empty out your change into a jar every day and deposit in your savings account once a month. Every little bit helps!)

Here are some of our posts about boosting your savings:
Save More, Spend Less
Pay Yourself First

2. Track your spending

Paying billsIf finding money to save at the end of the month is difficult, track your spending throughout the month to find areas you can cut down back on so you can dedicate some funds to your safety net. Perhaps that means cooking more than going out or limiting weekend vacations until you can build up a healthy savings account.

Tracking spending will help you identify areas to limit in order to develop your savings account and safety cushion.

Here are a few of the many posts My First Apartment has published about tracking and controlling expenses:
How to Keep Track of Your Monthly Expenses
Living on Your Own -How to Avoid Budgeting Woes
Our Favorite Money Management Sites

3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Mixed Race Young Female Agonizing Over Financial Calculations in Her Kitchen.When finding your first apartment, make sure you find one that is well within your means. If you choose a place that forces you to scrape by each month, perhaps that’s not the best place for you. Make sure that your rent/utilities payments leave you with plenty of spending money for food and activities…and savings!

It’s very important, especially in your first place, to live WELL within your means without forcing yourself to stretch your money. If anything were to happen to your job, and you’re already struggling to make payments each month, you may end up in a situation beyond your control.

Read here more of our proven tips on preparing financially for your first apartment:

Saving for First Apartment: How Much Money Do You Need to Move Out?
9 Easy Ways to Make Extra Cash
How to Prepare Living Solo
Beginner’s Guide to Managing Debt

As long as you are prepared, even losing your job doesn’t have to mean panic in your first place. Make sure to develop a strong safety net of money underneath you for that worst-case scenario, and you should be out of the woods in no time.

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Thrift Shop Decorating: 5 Basic Rules of Second-Hand Shopping http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/thrift-shop-decorating-5-rules-second-hand-shopping/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/thrift-shop-decorating-5-rules-second-hand-shopping/#respond Sun, 12 Jun 2016 14:00:41 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20512 The idea of furnishing a new apartment, in addition to paying rent, is the stuff of nightmares for those of us paying off loans. Add the Pinterest-induced pressure of accent pieces, space-saving DIY projects, and words like “minimalist,” “bohemian,” and “shabby chic,” and one wants to throw their hands up and sleep on an air…

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The idea of furnishing a new apartment, in addition to paying rent, is the stuff of nightmares for those of us paying off loans. Add the Pinterest-induced pressure of accent pieces, space-saving DIY projects, and words like “minimalist,” “bohemian,” and “shabby chic,” and one wants to throw their hands up and sleep on an air mattress instead.

Flea MarketA message for the easily overwhelmed (like me): There is another way! Luckily for us, the recent trend of second-hand shopping has lead to thrift stores popping up everywhere, even in rural New Hampshire, the home of my first apartment. A simple Google search will start you off in your new hometown, but don’t forget to keep your eyes open: some of my best finds have been off-the-beaten-path and websiteless. Yard sales and roadside sales are great, as are family members or friends randomly getting rid of stuff.

Here are 5 simple rules to remember as you begin exploring:

1. Consider hygiene

First off, there are some things that should not be thrifted. For me, those things are towels, pillows, shower curtains, bed sheets, and mattresses. Everyone has their own things that give them the hygiene heebie-jeebies—buy those things new.

2. Check functionality

To me this goes without saying: If it’s broken or smells weird, don’t buy it! Test electric items like microwaves, refrigerators, toasters, lamps, irons, etc, right there in the store before you buy it. Also, I’ve found that good knives are hard to find, and you’re better off buying a new sharp chopping knife from the supermarket.

Bric-a-brac stall at a market3. Embrace quirky

This is my favorite part of thrifting. You can find some of the weirdest and most soul-stirring things at these stores. I found the craziest pink elephant-shaped creamer that made me laugh so hard that I had to buy it. I will warn you, though: if you get too excited about quirk, your apartment will end up a weird-in-a-bad-way museum exhibit of useless stuff. If you come across a soul-stirring quirky piece, hit it with a small dose of rationality: where will this go? what will this do? (My pink elephant is now a toothbrush holder in my pink bathroom.) I am not a rational person, but even I know you’ll thank me later.

4. Don’t decide on price alone

Yes, one of the many upsides of thrifting is the cheap price, but don’t let that be The Deciding Factor on a piece. You still have to like the items you bring home, whether you got them for $1 or $100. I’ve found that it’s worth it to spend the extra money on something I actually love, rather than something that is cheap but just “okay.”

5. Be patient

Your long term furnishing attitude has to be a patient one. You might not find anything at that first, or second, or third thrift store. Or, you might find a good pot for cooking rice, but its handle is a little loose. Don’t buy it. There will be more pots. Always trust that if it’s not at least almost-perfect, you’ll find something closer to perfect somewhere else. Make sure you do move in with at least the basics though—something to sleep on, something to eat with. The rest can slowly come together.

The real beauty in thrifting is that everything you find has a backstory that you’ll never know. Who bought this originally? And, for some pieces, why did they buy it?! Each store is so unique, and eventually you’ll cultivate your own collection of furnishings and décor that literally no one else in the world has. Even IKEA can’t offer you that.

Here are some specifics from my thrifted collection:

Free things (from my attic, my old room, or family/friends giving away things):

Plates and bowls. Two kitchen chairs. Four wine glasses. Two mixing bowls. A dresser. Sheets, blankets, and pillows. A bath mat. A bookcase. A teapot lamp. A floor lamp. A side table. A futon. An art table. A tchotchke display, not that I accumulate unnecessary stuff or anything…        

Under $10 things:

A toaster. A matching silverware set. Two pots. Two pans. A wok. A kettle. Measuring cups and spoons. Three drinking glasses. A lamp. A lampshade. Aveeno body wash. A natural-wood side table that I later sanded, stained, and finished myself. An easel to display both finished and in-progress art. A dark wood sculpture of lovers that I bought while I was studying abroad.

Under $15 things:

Another lamp. Another lampshade. A microwave. A bedside table. A pink elephant toothbrush holder. A dark wood sculpture of a parent and child to match the one I had. A dark wood hanging sculpture of a thinking face.

Under $30 things:

A coffee table.

Over $30 things:

A kitchen table, because I was sick of eating on the floor. ($50). A chair for my living room that took me a month to find, that I love a lot. ($115)

I spent about $300 to furnish my apartment, not including the new mattress, towels, and shower curtain (my hygiene heebie-jeebies). And the happiness I get from my perfect comfy chair, three matching (matching! from three different stores!) dark wood sculptures, teapot lamp, and pink elephant is, as they say, priceless.

But it definitely adds to my happiness that they were so dang cheap!

Feel free to share your own thrifting stories in the comments section!

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Tattered Elegance: An Introduction To Shabby Chic http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/an-introduction-to-shabby-chic/ http://www.myfirstapartment.com/2016/06/an-introduction-to-shabby-chic/#respond Sat, 11 Jun 2016 14:00:47 +0000 http://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=20243 If you are a budget-challenged first apartment renter, there is a design trend called Shabby Chic that is perfect for you. It’s typified by rustic designs, upcycled accessories, elegantly faded trimmings -such as drapery and linens – and eclecticism, in a way that is both functional and beautiful. Shabby Chic is a wonderful choice for…

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If you are a budget-challenged first apartment renter, there is a design trend called Shabby Chic that is perfect for you. It’s typified by rustic designs, upcycled accessories, elegantly faded trimmings -such as drapery and linens – and eclecticism, in a way that is both functional and beautiful.

Shabby Chic is a wonderful choice for anyone who is decorating on a budget, or who likes a bit of vintage charm mixed in with their modernity. Here’s our brief introduction to Shabby Chic, to its thrift-shop tattered elegance and faded charms.

The Reclaimed Charms Of Shabby Chic

shabby chic white room interior, wedding decorShabby Chic has evolved as a design trend in response to stark minimalism. Instead of clinical white rooms, full of trendy furniture, Shabby Chic imagines a future of dilapidated Victorian charm, “tattered elegance”, with pastel colors and painted furniture. Interior designer Rachel Ashwell is one of the best known Shabby Chic designers with her book The Shabby Chic Home and her successful blog, Shabby Chic. The style has also spread on the internet, capturing the imagination of millions of DIY interior designers on Pinterest, Etsy shops, Tumblr’s, and Twitter accounts with its faded glamour.

Clever designers show that “dilapidated” and “run down” don’t have to mean “gross”, “tacky”, or “cheap”. “Restored” and “distressed” are two of the most common adjectives used in connection with  Shabby Chic, as are “rustic”, “Victorian”, and “elegance”.

Shabby Chic is an extension of the reclamation craze of the 2000s. Rather than trying to ignore the past, endlessly producing new trends, fashions and fads, Shabby Chic gazes lovingly at the past. Shabby Chic designers recognize quality when they see it, and will restore it all costs. Shabby Chic transforms the past, converting thrift store junk into treasured finds; sanding off the rough edges and updating with a few modern flourishes.

Shabby Chic Helps Us Enjoy Our Lives

Shabby Chic Guide

a handmade fairy tale/via Pinterest

The cold, stark, minimalist future view often depicted in sci-fi shows a cold, distant, detached, anonymous Humanity. Yes, they may have great style; perfect skin, teeth, and hygiene; and immaculate homes, but there seems to be a hardness to the eyes, a stooped hunch in their world – anxiety and neurosis always hovering over their shoulders.

Shabby Chic, by way of contrast, invites us to design our living spaces to embrace warmth, companionship, and community. It reminds us that while what we do at the office is important, to be sure, we need to enrich our lives in our off time. We need to talk to each other, to hang out and watch movies, and be comfortable in our home. We need to sit on our porch (or our balcony, or our stairwell) and sip our coffee or tea or kombucha and stare at the sky, listening to our breath.

Shabby Chic is tattered elegance and faded glory, bridging the gap between 1886 and 2016. It encourages us to slow down,  with warm, elegant, inviting spaces. It is pretty and rough and worn and restored. It is loved.

Are you into Shabby Chic? Where do you go to find your tattered elegance? What are your favorite Shabby Chic sites, blogs, or publications? Let us know in the comments and we’ll make sure to check them out!

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