My First Apartment https://www.myfirstapartment.com Sun, 09 Dec 2018 17:00:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Are Meal Subscription Services Worth It? https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/12/meal-subscription-services/ https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/12/meal-subscription-services/#respond Sun, 09 Dec 2018 17:00:58 +0000 https://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=29637 Sometimes, you just don’t want to plan a menu, figure out what you need, and go to the grocery. That’s when meal subscription services come in. From Blue Apron to Hello Fresh, there are more than enough of these meal kit plans on the market for you to choose from, but given their price tags,…

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Sometimes, you just don’t want to plan a menu, figure out what you need, and go to the grocery. That’s when meal subscription services come in. From Blue Apron to Hello Fresh, there are more than enough of these meal kit plans on the market for you to choose from, but given their price tags, it may be time to ask whether or not their convenience is actually worth the price.

What should you look at when determining whether or not to purchase a meal subscription plan? There are a few key factors you’ll need to keep in mind.

Can You Afford It?

Photo Credit: hellofresh.com

There are a plenty of options out there. Some of the biggest names include Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Plated, and Home Chef. All of them have different price points depending on your needs, but typically, they fall between $40-$65 for three meals, two servings per meal. For example, the classic Hello Fresh plan for two people (the lowest you can choose) at three nights a week cost $54, or $9 per meal, $10 including shipping. Think about if a cost like this is within your budget.

Pro Tip: Most of the plans advertise with heavily discounted introductory offers.  Use them to test different plans in order to find one that works best for you.

Check Your Grocery Bill

Photo Credit: homechef.com

Think about what’s on your typical grocery list and where do you shop? Your local grocery store? An expensive gourmet shop? If you’ve been shopping for food for a bit now, you probably know the cost of those meals. Is it more or less than the cost of a subscription service? If three meals of two servings each costs you more than the cost of one of the meal subscription services, it may just be worth investing in. On the other hand, if you try to keep your grocery budget to no more than $300 a month, or $10 a day, these plans leave no room for breakfasts, lunches and other groceries.

Quality

Photo Credit: plated.com

Are you a good cook? Do you get all of the nutrition you need, or do you live on Cup o’ Noodles and cereal? If this is the case, your grocery bill may be pretty cheap in comparison to a meal subscription, but are you really getting quality food? While saving money is important, so is your health. If you’re not exactly a quality chef, and you feel like you need a little jazz back into your food, a meal subscription could be great for you. The meal plan ingredients tend to be of high quality and include all the spices and sauces that many first apartment kitchens lack. If your recipe needs a teaspoon of cardamom and tablespoon of champagne vinegar, they are included, fresh and pre-measured.  On the other hand, since all the ingredients are packaged for two meal portions, if you are single you’ll be cooking the dish and then eating the same meal two days in a row.

Extra Benefit

Photo Credit: blueapron.com

If you are just starting to cook for yourself, you can use these meal subscription plans with their detailed instructions to learn some basic cooking techniques. Another fun thing about using the plans is that – with the right plan – you can experiment cooking different cuisines and learn to use unusual ingredients and spices.

 

 

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Holiday Hosting Tips For Small Spaces https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/12/holiday-hosting-tips-for-small-spaces/ https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/12/holiday-hosting-tips-for-small-spaces/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 13:00:46 +0000 https://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=29626 Spending the holiday season in your first apartment is exciting! Even if you plan to go home for the holidays, there are lots of holiday party hosting opportunities for dinners, game nights, gatherings and gift exchanges throughout December. Hosting people in a small space may seem intimidating, but fear not! Here are 5 tips to…

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Spending the holiday season in your first apartment is exciting! Even if you plan to go home for the holidays, there are lots of holiday party hosting opportunities for dinners, game nights, gatherings and gift exchanges throughout December.

Hosting people in a small space may seem intimidating, but fear not! Here are 5 tips to make holiday hosting in a small space a bit less stressful.

Go Minimal On Decor

Over-decking the halls is going to make your apartment appear smaller than it is. Keep things simple and clean with subtle greenery, white lights, and uncluttered surfaces. Start with a few LED micro light strings in glass jars, like these strings for $11.99 from Amazon.

Or hang a beautiful, simple wreath in front of the window. Williams and Sonoma has a bay leaf wreath for $29.95. You can also pick some greenery from a nearby tree seller and make your own wreath.

Rearrange Furniture

If you’re worried you may not have enough space to host your guests, rearranging the furniture will create more room for your event. Store unnecessary furniture and decor items in your bedroom, or if you are friends with a neighbor, in their place. (Just make sure to invite the neighbor!) Create an open living room by moving chairs and couches against the walls, or move your dining table into the living room to create more space for dining. You can also repurpose existing furniture. Ottomans can become extra seating, a bookshelf can become a bar area, etc.

Skip The Yankee Swap

Games where your guests will need to sit in a circle in close proximity to each other can be uncomfortable in a smaller space. Also, something like a Yankee Swap where there will be gifts and tons of wrapping paper and boxes can make things feel more crowded and messy.

Use Plastic Dishes

If you’re hosting more than 3 people, it’s best to keep the good crystal wine glasses in the cupboard and opt for plastic instead. With several people in a small space, chances are someone may bump into something at some point and you don’t want your best dishes or grandma’s crystal to get broken.

Opt For Finger Foods

Having a full sit down dinner and moving hot dishes in and out of your kitchen can be tricky in a smaller apartment. Finger foods are fun and easy, and can be left on the counter or table for your guests to enjoy throughout the evening. If you want go beyond cheeses, hummus and crudites, check out your grocer’s freezer section for hot hors d’oeuvres that you pop into your oven for a few minutes. They usually have at least spinakopitas, mini quiches and the perennial favorites,  pigs in blanket.

Happy Holidays!

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Taking Care of Chores When Living With a Roommate https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/12/taking-care-of-chores-when-living-with-a-roommate/ https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/12/taking-care-of-chores-when-living-with-a-roommate/#respond Mon, 03 Dec 2018 13:00:12 +0000 https://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=29546 Living with a roommate can be a tricky business. Do you know them already? If not, do you try to be friends with them? Either way, communication is essential to making sure you live in the most harmonious apartment possible. Otherwise- chaos. One of the biggest issues between new and old roommates is chores. Ideally,…

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Living with a roommate can be a tricky business. Do you know them already? If not, do you try to be friends with them? Either way, communication is essential to making sure you live in the most harmonious apartment possible. Otherwise- chaos.

One of the biggest issues between new and old roommates is chores. Ideally, before moving in with a roommate, you’ll have an idea of how they live, and more specifically, how they clean. If you haven’t approached your roommate about the subject of chores and apartment cleaning, here’s a quick guide to how you can start!

Establish what “clean” means.

Clean has different meanings for different people! Your definition might be shining surfaces and a bed you can bounce a quarter off of. But on the other hand, your roommates definition of clean might be just the act of moving 8 dirty mugs from a table to the sink. If you and your roommate have the same definition from the start – lucky you! However, if you and your roommate fall on opposite ends of the cleaning spectrum, do your best to meet in the middle and find a definition of clean that will appease both of you.

Make a list

Sit down and create a list of chores that need to be taken care of and how often they need to be done. If you’re clueless about chores and looking for some guidance, here’s a quick outline of typical housekeeping chores:

Daily

  • Doing the dishes
  • Feeding pets
  • Preparing meals
  • Wiping down commonly used surfaces
  • Watering plants

Weekly

  • Dusting
  • Sweeping
  • Vacuuming/Mopping
  • Washing bedding
  • Taking out the trash

Monthly

  • Cleaning the fridge
  • Changing or cleaning air filters
  • Cleaning the blinds
  • Vacuuming furniture and/or curtains

Divide and conquer

Divide up the chores. You like vacuuming but hate dishes? Great. Volunteer to do the vacuuming each week if your roommate does the dishes. Try to divide chores as equally as possible so everyone in the apartment is pulling their weight. If you really want to spice up your cleaning (because this stuff is exciting), rotate chores every few weeks so your mind stays fresh. No seriously, multiple studies have shown that your brain works best when participating in novel activities every few weeks!

Make a calendar

Work better when you’re on a schedule? Hold you and your roommate(s) accountable by putting together a chore calendar or chore wheel.  If you’re going to do a chore wheel or chore list, make sure all roommates are on board with it! Some roommates can find a chore list or wheel insulting and overbearing so it’s important to communicate with them prior to assigning any chores or hanging up any dang lists. But if everyone agrees that a calendar is a helpful way to keep track of essential chores, then by all means hang up that list!

Set reminders

If you’re prone to forgetting about doing chores (it happens!), set up a recurring alarm on your phone so you don’t forget. Yes, sometimes we come home from work and the last thing we want to do if take a broom to the kitchen tile, but having an alarm annoyingly going off reminding you of responsibilities is a step in the right direction.

Split up costs

Dividing the cost of cleaning supplies between all roommates can help make sure that everyone is contributing equally to the household. As far as budgeting goes, financially investing in cleaning supplies may also make everyone feel a bit more motivated and invested in household cleaning. Here’s a list of common cleaning supplies you and your roommate may need:

  • A general cleaning bucket and cleaning gloves
  • Disinfectant cleaner/ Glass cleaner
  • Microfiber scrub pads
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Toilet bowl brush
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Broom
  • Mop
  • Floor cleaner
  • Duster
  • Trash bags
  • Trash can
  • Paper towels

Your cleaning list will vary based on the surfaces in your apartment and the type of cleaning it requires, so this is just a starting point!

A clean apartment will give you and your roommate piece of mind. Clean rooms reduce stress and anxiety, both in your personal life and between you and your roommate. A clean apartment will also reduce the chance of getting sick, especially since cold & flu season is officially here! Just remember, communication is essential between roommates, especially when it comes to chores. When in doubt, talk it out and then do those dishes.

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Double-Duty Decor https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/double-duty-decor/ https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/double-duty-decor/#respond Fri, 30 Nov 2018 13:00:21 +0000 https://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=29447 Without a massive budget for decorating, your decor should do double-duty… meaning having more than one use! Instead of spending money on items that only serve a single purpose, consider some of these double-duty decor hacks in your first place! Key hanger / entry table Wayfair $37.99 What’s the first thing you want to do…

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Without a massive budget for decorating, your decor should do double-duty… meaning having more than one use! Instead of spending money on items that only serve a single purpose, consider some of these double-duty decor hacks in your first place!

Key hanger / entry table

Wayfair $37.99

What’s the first thing you want to do when you walk into your apartment?! Drop your stuff! Check out the layout of your place and determine some decor that makes sense. Maybe it’s a cute key hanger, like this one from Wayfair, next to your door so you can keep an eye on your keys all the time or a little table for the entryway where you can plop your keys and briefcase after a long day, or a small coat-hanger mounted to your wall where you can hang everything within reach! This decor can be so functional while also adding some personality to your space.

Functional ottoman 

If you’re anything like me, sitting on the sofa pretty much requires me to stretch out your legs and relax. When shopping for an ‘ottoman,’ find one that does double-duty! Consider a coffee table that you can use to rest your feet or a softer ottoman with built-in storage for throw blankets, pillows, games or DVDs. There are plenty of thoughtfully designed ottoman out there, like this one from Target … go find one you love!

TV stand 

Your TV stand, like this one from Walmart, is a great place to get decor to work for you. When shopping, look for stands that have doors (so you can hide clutter!) and multiple shelves for your belongings. We use our TV stand for books, movies, games, and throw blankets (sometimes)… then close the doors so it still looks neat and tidy!

Storage bed-frame

Everyone needs a bed… right?! When you’re shopping around for a bed frame, look for one that provides a little storage! Many frames, like this one from Wayfair, come with drawers under the bed so you can store extra clothes or shoes (or whatever else!). Depending on your budget, you can also just use a metal bed frame to lift your mattress from the floor and offer you some under-the-bed storage space of your own.

Barstools 

If you have a bar area or island in your apartment, add a few bar stools! These will be great for you to snack on breakfast at the counter, and also serve as additional seating when you have friends or family over to your place. Lightweight stools, like this one from Wayfair, are best so you can easily move them around your apartment when guests arrive!

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Ready to Save Money on Appliances? https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/ready-to-save-money-on-appliances/ https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/ready-to-save-money-on-appliances/#respond Tue, 27 Nov 2018 17:00:23 +0000 https://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=29550 Buying even small appliances can be expensive and overwhelming. When every current appliance on the market seems to come with an HD TV, wifi, and other extra bells and whistles, it can be tough to choose, especially when moving into a new apartment. While you might feel that you have to either buy brand-new or…

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Buying even small appliances can be expensive and overwhelming. When every current appliance on the market seems to come with an HD TV, wifi, and other extra bells and whistles, it can be tough to choose, especially when moving into a new apartment. While you might feel that you have to either buy brand-new or take your grandma’s old toaster, there’s an in-between area that can help you find quality appliances within your budget. Here are some tips that will help you pick the perfect appliances for your apartment while you’re on a budget.

Scratch n’ Dent

Often, brick and mortar appliance stores, as well as some online retailers, will place discounts up to 40% on home appliances because they were damaged during production or shipping. These discounts can be as small as a tiny scratch on the front of a stainless steel fridge. These aesthetic flaws of appliances can mean a huge steal for you on some really nice appliances! However, before purchasing any appliances from a scratch n’ dent section of a store of a website, inquire with a salesperson to make sure the appliance still functions properly and it hasn’t been discounted due to a functionality issue.

Price Match

Stores such as Walmart and Best Buy will price match appliances if you can provide proof that the identical washer-and-dryer set you saw on Amazon was advertised for a lower price. If you plan on price matching an appliance in-store, make sure to remember and bring proof (flyer, printout of the offer, link or a screenshot) of the lower priced item, as not so shockingly, most stores will not be inclined to just “take your word for it” when you tell them you saw the product for $100 less online.

Thrifting

For some small appliances, like microwaves, toasters, and blenders, buying from a thrift store can be much cheaper but provide the same quality as buying from a larger retailer. But again, it’s always important to ask if the appliance works properly before purchasing! But hey, as long as the toaster does it’s job and toasts the dang bread, it doesn’t need any of the extra fluff, like wifi or a Bluetooth speaker. Plus, you can find some rad sets of vintage chinaware and dining sets at many thrift shops — plus an ugly sweater or two (hello Christmas parties!). 

Buy Energy Efficient

Yes, energy efficient appliances are more expensive…in the short term. But in the long term, can actually save you a lot of money! On average, energy-efficient large appliances can save you over $100 per year! Yes, they will be more costly up front but that’s because they’re an investment and appliances that you will be able to use and save money with for years to come. Energy efficient appliances are marked by the Energy Star logo. It’s also important to note that by purchasing an energy efficient appliance, you’re helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants caused by the inefficient use of energy. 

I think we can all agree that appliances are a pretty necessary thing to have in an apartment, and finding the most cost-effective appliance options for your lifestyle is possible, even on a small budget. As long as the appliances do what they’re built to do, the latest extra features most likely aren’t necessary, especially when you are on a budget. Shop around, do your research, and find some great appliances for your new home!

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Organizing and Packing for a Move https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/tips-for-packing/ https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/tips-for-packing/#respond Sat, 24 Nov 2018 17:00:00 +0000 https://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=27532 Moving is stressful, so it is important to simplify as much as possible. Packing for a move can be hard so you want to make sure you organize everything as much as possible. 1. Figure what size move you have. If all your stuff is coming from one room then you have a small move.…

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Moving is stressful, so it is important to simplify as much as possible. Packing for a move can be hard so you want to make sure you organize everything as much as possible.

1. Figure what size move you have.

  • If all your stuff is coming from one room then you have a small move. If you don’t have any appliances or more than one closet you can pack with 8 boxes.
  • If you have two closets and a couple appliances you have a medium move and you need about 18 large boxes.
  • If you have bought all the latest electronics and appliances with 2 closets full of clothes and shoes you have a large move and you may want to get rid of some it. If you don’t get rid of any of it you will end up exhausted from the move.
  • If you need 28 boxes or more you should hire someone to move for you.

2. Get organized.

Now that you know what size move you have it’s important to get organized. The more organized you are about your move the easier it will be to unpack.

  • Label every box with the room it belongs in. In addition, mark all boxes that contain special items, such as anything fragile. The better your labels, the easier it will be for you to put everything away when it is time to unpack.
  • Pack heavy things in small boxes so you can still carry them.

3. Schedule your packing order.

  • Start in the living room. Try to start packing at least a month in advance. If you are working five days a week you need enough time to pack. This is where you will need the least things every day. At the end you might have only a couple pictures up that you have to pack at the last minute.
  • Next you can pack the kitchen. Leave only dishes and pans that you use every day. If you live with roommates most of the kitchen stuff is probably not yours, but if you have a few favorites that you can keep you will lower the amount you have to spend at your new place.
  • Pack the extras in the bathroom. Leave things you use daily, such as your toothbrush, make up and moisturizer. If you have extras pack those away.
  • Pack up extra towels and sheets.
  • Finally pack up your clothes. Leave enough out to make your move. This is a great time to go through all your clothes to see if there are some things you don’t wear any more.  Make sure you try on anything that you don’t know for sure if it still fits.

When you are packing you will definitely find things that you haven’t seen in a long time. You may even make some happy discoveries of things you thought were lost. It’s a great time to decide if these things are worth a move. Just a word of caution: don’t get sidetracked and start going down the memory lane with your eight grade diary or old camp pictures. You can do that when you are unpacking in your great new place!

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Happy Thanksgiving! https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/29573/ https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/29573/#respond Thu, 22 Nov 2018 13:00:12 +0000 https://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=29573 Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Thanksgiving from the MFA Team. We’ll see you again when all the pies are gone!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from the MFA Team. We’ll see you again when all the pies are gone!

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Easiest Ever Last-Minute Thanksgiving Dinner Party https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/easiest-last-minute-thanksgiving-dinner-party/ https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/easiest-last-minute-thanksgiving-dinner-party/#respond Tue, 20 Nov 2018 13:00:25 +0000 https://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=29536 It’s your first Thanksgiving away from your family and the budget does not allow you to go home. Instead of getting depressed and crying into your sushi dinner after a lonely movie, throw your own last-minute Thanksgiving dinner party. The menu planning is a breeze, and by now it’s a truly casual invite so nobody…

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It’s your first Thanksgiving away from your family and the budget does not allow you to go home. Instead of getting depressed and crying into your sushi dinner after a lonely movie, throw your own last-minute Thanksgiving dinner party. The menu planning is a breeze, and by now it’s a truly casual invite so nobody expects perfection.

Here’s what you’ll do:

Invite five other Thanksgiving “orphans” – roommates, co-workers, ex-roommates, your cute next-door neighbor. Six is a nice size group for a starter Thanksgiving, more is a bit risky, and fewer will not have that real Thanksgiving feel.

When the guests ask what they can bring, be ready. Assign drinks to guest #1, bread and pumpkin pie to #2, salad to #3,  one side dish to #4 (sweet potatoes? Brussels sprouts? green bean casserole?) and appetizers to #5. You’ll be in charge of the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

Cranberry sauce. Do not use the canned stuff.  Buy a bag of cranberries and follow the direction on the bag. (Read the directions in the store – you may need to buy sugar.) You can do the cranberries the day before and refrigerate.

Turkey. Buy about a 10 pound bird, you’ll want some leftovers.  It’s now too late for a frozen bird, so get a fresh one.  Skip the gourmet butcher and head to the local supermarket, their turkey will be just fine.  Before you start, make sure you remove the plastic bag with some nasty looking parts from inside the bird. They are actually the liver and giblets and can be cooked with the turkey, but without the plastic. Pat the bird dry, inside and out, with paper towels, then rub it all over with a little oil. Next, salt and pepper the bird, even inside.  If you want to more flavor rub on some Bell’s Seasoning, available at any supermarket. Use a disposable roasting pan, but place it on a cookie sheet, otherwise it will be wobbly and you might spill some hot turkey drippings on yourself.  Follow the cooking instructions on the turkey wrapper. If you have a question, check online, or call 1-800-Butterball turkey hotline or your mom.

After you put the turkey in the oven, make sure you carefully wash your hands and all the counters and utensils the turkey touched, in order to avoid cross-contaminating other foods.

Important! Your turkey will take about 3 hours in the oven. Time your guests to arrive when you’ll be taking the turkey out of the oven. It can rest covered with tinfoil while you heat the sides.

Stuffing. You must have stuffing –  Thanksgiving without stuffing is like a day without sunshine. Buy a bag of dry stuffing mix (Pepperidge Farm and Arnold are good brands) and couple of cans or low sodium chicken broth.  Follow the instructions on the stuffing bag.  If you want to jazz it up, sauté a chopped onion together with couple of ribs of celery, chopped, and throw into the stuffing.  You can also add some sautéed mushrooms.  Do not get fancy and stuff the bird if this is the first time you are roasting a turkey.  Under-cooked stuffing can be bad news. Cook the stuffing separately, in an oven-proof dish. You can do this after you take the turkey out of the oven, while you let it rest. At the same time, you can heat the side dish brought by guest #4.

Gravy. Skip the stuff you get in a can and make real gravy.  Pour the drippings from the turkey pan into a pot, let them stand a bit and skim off  the fat from the top. Be careful – drippings are hot!  Add a little water into the turkey pan and scrape all the good bits from the bottom and add to the gravy pot, then bring to boil.  Make a thin paste of about tablespoon of flour and a couple of spoons of water.  Whisk this into the gravy and let simmer couple of minutes. Taste. Then season with salt and pepper and maybe some mustard, a bit of ketchup, a shake of Worcestershire Sauce, if you have. Season gently and keep on tasting until you like what you taste. (Or if you must use canned gravy or gravy mix, check online to find out which brand is edible.)

By now everyone is starving so sit down at the table, or on the floor, or anywhere there’s room. Ask everyone to say one thing they are grateful for this year. They’ll all say they are grateful they know you.  And next year they all call and ask if they could bring a friend.  Before you know you’ll be a famous for your fabulous Thanksgiving dinners.

And all of this will not cost you more than that movie and sushi dinner!

P.S. If cooking a turkey really scares you, pick up couple of nice rotisserie chickens instead. It’s your first Thanksgiving dinner party, so you are allowed!

P.P.S You may need to pick up paper plates and plastic cutlery if you don’t have enough dishes for 6.

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Quick Ways to Cut Your Bills https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/quick-ways-cut-bills/ https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/quick-ways-cut-bills/#respond Sat, 17 Nov 2018 17:00:51 +0000 https://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=29392 Even if you budgeted perfectly for your first apartment, expenses can add up over time! If you’re looking to cut your bills, here are a few quick and easy places to start with, to save you some money without sacrificing your lifestyle. Gym & social memberships Look through your bank statements to ensure you’re not…

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Even if you budgeted perfectly for your first apartment, expenses can add up over time! If you’re looking to cut your bills, here are a few quick and easy places to start with, to save you some money without sacrificing your lifestyle.

Gym & social memberships

Look through your bank statements to ensure you’re not paying for memberships that you aren’t using!

The gym is a great place to start – identify all of the “health” resources you’re spending money on each month and narrow down what you need! A friend of mine looked through her bills to find that she was paying for a fitness app, a meal tracker app, a specialty yoga membership AND a gym membership. This is pretty common as we sign up for different things and can forget to cancel. Check out your expenses and eliminate where possible! If you’re stuck in a contract, try to negotiate a lower rate or transfer your membership to a friend that’s interested in joining… doesn’t hurt to ask!

Also consider other social memberships like online dating websites, sports leagues, sorority or fraternity fees, golf or other sporty memberships… check out what you’re spending on and see if you can eliminate any of them! If you’ve already paid up for the year, call the provider to see if they can give you a pro-rated refund (so you get paid back for the months you don’t use – which may not work, but is worth a try!).

Estimated savings: $30 – $100/month, $360 – $1200 annually

Television / movies

The way we watch TV may be changing, but the desire for entertainment is as strong as ever! Talk with your friends and family to see what services they use to watch television and movies! See if you can partner up and split some of those expenses with a family account. YouTube TV, Netflix, and Hulu all have family plans that are easy to add users to. Think over if you really need also an account with HBO or Showtime. Then, split the bills!

You can always consider cable as well. Call your provider and work with them to identify a plan that makes sense – and don’t forget to ask for a discount if you bundle cable and internet from the same provider!

Pro tip: You can also cut television and movies completely for a month to see if you miss it or not. This is great to try right after a move before you get accounts set up with the different providers.

Estimated savings: $50/month, $600 annually

Music

There are so many great options for music streaming. If you’re paying for music, consider cutting this bill for a month to see if you miss it! Spotify and Pandora both have a free version, and while you will have to listen to ads, it’s a quick way to eliminate excess spending if you need it.

Estimated savings: $10/month, $120 annually

Climate control 

Now, when you’re in your apartment itself, you can also cut those bills! Go easy on your air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. Here are some great guidelines… and remember that you can always layer up or get outside to save some money here. This will adjust month to month, but not being too heavy-handed on the thermostat can add up over time.

Estimated savings: $10/month, $120 annually 

Plus, there are some great apps to help you get ahead of your bills. How else can you cut expenses fast?! Let us know in the comments.

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Our Most Popular Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving Decor and Party Tips https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/our-most-popular-thanksgivingfriendsgiving-decor-and-party-tips/ https://www.myfirstapartment.com/2018/11/our-most-popular-thanksgivingfriendsgiving-decor-and-party-tips/#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 13:00:41 +0000 https://www.myfirstapartment.com/?p=29527 It’s not too late to plan your first Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving Party! Here are some great party ideas from our bloggers. Decorating Tips from Audra Inevitably, not being able to head home for Thanksgiving leaves many feeling blue and wondering how to get that holiday feeling without family around. The truth is, staying local and…

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It’s not too late to plan your first Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving Party! Here are some great party ideas from our bloggers.

Decorating Tips from Audra

Inevitably, not being able to head home for Thanksgiving leaves many feeling blue and wondering how to get that holiday feeling without family around. The truth is, staying local and bringing the festivities to your apartment will be different from going home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make your holidays away from home magical in your own way. One of our personal favorite ways to make this happen and to get into the spirit of celebrating is to decorate our apartment with fun, handmade decor (it’s especially fun when you get friends and roommates in on it, too!). So, instead of worrying about being away from family this season, focus on celebrating with your new family of friends and making your new apartment a true “home away from home.” Here are 5 cheap and easy DIY Thanksgiving decor picks that we’ve fallen in love with!

1. Chalkboard Pumpkinschalkboard-pumpkins

via Better Recipes

2. “I am thankful for…” Placemats
DSC_0741

via Ella Claire

3. Carved Pumpkin Ice Bucketpumpkin-ice-bucket-cherylstyle-B1

via Cheryl Style

4. Happy Thanksgiving Centerpiecesthanksgiving 095

via Bird’s Party Blog

5. Cinnamon Stick Candlestie-cinnamon-sticks

via Becoming the Mrs.

Friendsgiving Planning Tips from Alex

With Thanksgiving just days away, maybe you also want to celebrate with your peeps before heading home to your family. For the past year you’ve been living in your own home and your friends and roommates make up your day-to-day world and you want to honor that. So here’s what you do: host a Friendsgiving!

As you may have guessed, the basic idea is that you and your friends get together on an afternoon and have a delicious feast in the spirit of Thanksgiving. It can be a fun, cost effective way to kick off the holiday season with those non-relatives closest to you. Here’s how you can  to pull it off.

Schedule the celebration on the weekend before Thanksgiving.  If you host it the weekend before, you’ll have your friends still in town excited to kick-off celebrations early, before they head home for their family Thanksgiving.

Invite 6-10 total attendees.  This party functions more like a dinner party than a party-party,  which means that you’ll be serving food, sitting down to eat (even if it’s only on the couch and floor) and that you’ll need to use plates and silverware.

Make it a coordinated pot-luck. Since you’re the host, you should offer to make the main entree. You can make turkey, but since you know everyone will be having turkey in less than a week, consider going with some other hearty main dish, like short ribs (a slow cooker winner!), meatloaf or a pot roast. (You’ll find numerous easy recipes for each online.) As you invite people, coordinate with them what sides they should bring. Make sure the sides match. For example, if you’re making spicy short ribs, have friends bring cole slaw, corn bread, collard greens, beer and sweet potato pie. That said, if one of your friends has a specialty, have them bring it, even if it doesn’t quite match – their specialty is bound to be delicious. And don’t forget to have some sides that your vegetarian friends can eat.

Make a shopping list. In addition to the main ingredients, your dish may require some heavy duty disposable oven pans or some spices you may not yet have. You may also want to pick up some festive paper plates and plastic cups and utensils.  For affordable party supplies and décor, check out your local thrift and dollar stores.

Plan out your space. Have in mind where you’ll put your guests for dinner. Most people in their first apartment don’t have a proper dining room table. So, whether it’s pushing your kitchen table up against a card table you borrowed from the neighbor, or whether it’s having everyone sit around the living room on all your chairs while eating in their laps, or whether it’s using your coffee table as a makeshift table while everyone sits on the floor, you need to have in mind how it’s going to go down – and have your space arranged beforehand. (If you need to move some furniture out of way, behind the shower curtain in the bathtub is a time-honored hiding spot!)

Plan your party day timing. Depending on your main dish, it may take up to two to three hours of cooking, even more if you are using a slow cooker. Read the recipe carefully and pick one that calls for minimal intervention on your part after the cooking starts. In other words, once you get your main dish in the oven or slowly simmering on the back burner, you can focus on other things, like giving your place a final straightening-up or setting up the drinks area.

Invite people to arrive a half-hour before the entree is scheduled to be done, except the friend who is in charge of appetizers and anyone whose dish requires longer time to heat. They should arrive earlier. And just in case your appetizer-bringing friend is late, stock up some emergency crackers and cheese or hummus to put out while waiting. If you picked your entree correctly, you should now be able to hang with your guests while the main dish finishes.

Friends at home watching TV and having funHave a post-dinner game plan in mind. After people are done feasting, they’ll want to hang around – but not like they would at a regular party. If you’ve done your job right, everyone will be half-comatose from food and will want to do something low key after dinner. Have a plan – maybe everyone plays board games. Or, if you and your friends are football fans, watch the game. Or, maybe a movie mini-marathon. Whatever it is, have in mind an activity after dinner where people can enjoy each other’s company without having to stand and mingle.

Easy, On-Budget Friendsgiving Party Menu from Sarah

Thanksgiving is just around the corner (what?!) and for a lot of us, that means the 3 F’s: food, friends, and family. Even if you get to head home for the holiday, host a little Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving get-together with your roomies and take this opportunity to sit down for a fun meal and remind yourselves why you are so lucky to have each other. Don’t think I’ve forgotten that you live in an apartment. With little space. With a half-broken stove. With a fridge that’s full of old food and beer. That’s where I come in. Check out these budget-friendly ideas to make your holiday dinner easy and delicious.

1 Candles & a tablecloth from your local thrift store or Goodwill. Going out and buying a couple (cheap) fancier things will make your setting special and set this apart from other dinners.

2 Write notes to each other and leave them at your roommates’ place settings. Think about  what you appreciate about them and how they have been an awesome roommate.

Make decoration like you did in elementary school.

Recipe for EASY turkey that does take a lot of time, but isn’t complicated and looks delicious. (Note: If you plan to use a frozen turkey, you need to buy it the weekend before and let it defrost in your fridge. Read the directions on the wrapper.)

Potatoes are a necessity and Simply Potatoes take any struggle right out. And they’re surprisingly amazing.

6 Five ingredient green bean casserole!

7 Simple crescent rolls are perfect when you’re (still) craving carbs.

8 Stuffing doesn’t have to be as complicated as your parents make it!

9 Sweet potatoes are easy and delicious–bake in the oven and add butter and brown sugar.

10 Award winning pumpkin pie recipe (that only takes 5 minutes to prep).

11 Don’t forget your cranberry sauce!

12 CHEERS! You did it!!

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