The Magical Apartment Ordeal that Everyone Wishes For

September 21, 2008 at 5:22 pm (Apartment Living) (, , , , , , , , , )

I was elated a few days ago, and for the past while I’ve had some issues figuring out what advice to give. But what is advice but experienced echoed in magical storytime? So my elation will now become something you suddenly all want to know about. So sit around me in a circle kids! (Stop talking, picking your collective noses, and pay attention for once.)

When I chose this apartment complex as my nesting grounds, there were a few move in specials that were lumped with it that tend to happen in many complexes. (Not always specifically MY deals, just good deals in general to entice you. Stop taking things so literally.)  The good deals they lured me in with were: 300 dollars worth of ‘money’ that I could apply towards anything I wanted that came as an expense from the apartment complex itself, 1 free accent wall painted to the color of my choice (basically 4 colors they said I could have it and even picked the colors out for me), and then free cable for one month.

Now for some of you, I’m sure free cable would be fantastic, because hey, free cable! Well I don’t watch TV so I didn’t give 2 rat rumps towards it. Yeah, you heard me, I don’t watch TV. Get over it.

Well the thing about apartment complexes is they like to give you lots of paperwork. Copies of all signed forms, notices that the parking lot is being renovated and you need to park in the next state or something, that they are implementing new policies that you can’t have friends in the pool with you because 1 jerk spoiled it for everyone, and so on. Well I got LOTS of these cable notices. The month after I moved in they planned on switching it from 40 dollar a month cable that you could ONLY get through them, to 22 dollar a month cable you could either get through them, or 30 dollar cable you could get through AT&T. Me being the studious lass that I am, I read through everything given to me. Not that I needed to mind you, but if there were some fine print that said something like, “…and you will agree to sell your first child’s virginity to a fat old man who owns this place named George…”, I MAY have some issues with that! Somewhere along the way, I could have SWORN I read one of the flyers stating that if I didn’t want cable after they did the switchover in September, I needed to include a note with my rent check stating that I no longer wanted cable and wished to have it disconnected. Sounds plausible yes? Well it sounded plausible to me, and that’s what matters. Being that I don’t watch it, I never bothered to turn it on to see if it was disconnected or not.

Let’s now fastforward 2 weeks. Two of my dear friends and their spawn child (whom I also love dearly) came to visit me. They do happen to be TV watchers. They decided to turn on the TV and lo and behold, I still had cable for some reason! “Hm”, I thought to myself curiously, “now that is a bit odd!” Fortunately for me, my apartment complex has office hours that leave them open everyday at least at some point. Unfortunately I called when they were supposed to be open and they were not! (What the hell people, false advertisement. FALSE ADVERTISEMENT.) I needed to wait until Monday to contact them.  Well I did so Monday and no one was there then either! (Damnit people.) Tuesday rolled around and I forgot. (My bad!) Wednesday happened and my golden opportunity of glory was at hand. Hear me roar apartment complex!

I called a very nice woman who answered the phone who obviously knew it was me calling and decided to answer my plight because I’m cool. I told her of my situation and how I was unsure why the cable wasn’t cancelled. Well unbenownst to me was a wee little fact I failed to acknowledge. APPARENTLY I was supposed to go in and sign off as saying I didn’t want cable rather than stick a note in with my rent check. Because APPARENTLY the place the check goes is not anywhere near where they or I are. Fine. She was gracious enough to offer me a deal though.

“Here’s what I’ll do…”, said this wheeling, dealing apartment saleswoman, “…how about I contact the office that collects the checks FOR you, and if we can track down the note we’ll take it off your bill. Oh but wait, it looks like part of your move-in special for 300 dollars covered it.”

“WHAT?!”, I roared, but only in my head. Instead I actually said, “Well that would be simply lovely if you could do that for me, I really appreciate it.” Normally I want you to know that I am NOT this saccharine, but when it comes to me and my money, I like to keep it. So I’ll be a little overly sweet if necessary. Not at all dubious, I felt very assured they would track down my note within, oh, 1 hour, and this whole ugly mess would be left behind me. She promised to call me back the next day with news (good news I assumed). The next day happened and there was no call. I felt like I was the victim of a 1 night stand and she was out and about like a trollop solving everyone’s issues but mine. Unacceptable. The next day I called and was on the phone with a different woman. I informed her of my plight as well verbatim as I spoke of it with the other woman. I informed her of what the other woman told me and waited for a miracle to happen. She instead informed me that the woman probably didn’t get back with me because they were swamped in the office. I was assured though that sometime that week I WOULD be getting a call about the situation.

About 2 days later I received said call.

“Hi, sorry about getting back with you so late! This is Jan, the person you spoke with about your cable and the bill the other day. Kristen, the girl you spoke with originally would be calling you, but she’s giving a tour right now and we wanted to tell you the situation regardless. I’m sorry to say, but we couldn’t find your note anywhere stating that you didn’t want cable. However, I do want you to know that Kristen spoke to the manager and she decided to simply shut your cable off now and give you a full months refund.”

FABULOUS.

So in the end, I’m going to guess it had a little something to do with my sorry attitude and my politeness as to why they would decide to give me a refund for something they absolutely didn’t have to do. I was elated though!

So perhaps this is the difference between an average and good apartment complex. Also you should be polite.

The end.

Good story huh?

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So you moved and want to know how much to spend on food?

September 8, 2008 at 8:21 pm (budgeting) (, , , , , , , )

I can usually tell what people are trying to find out based on search tags I’m shown for my blog. I take the most commonly sought queries and find out as much as possible, then post. Frequently, people either want to know lists of things they should have for an apartment or how much they should expect to spend. This is very difficult for me to approach because chances are high that I don’t live in the same area you do. I am going to ATTEMPT to give you a generic price list along with a formula for figuring out what you should be spending. Also I am going to be playing mom (you’ll see what I mean in a bit). So put your seat belts on because this is going to be one helluva ride.

I read an article once that said people are eating far more unhealthy these days and spending far less on ‘good’ food than they should. Hypothetically, 20% of your monthly income (give or take) should be going towards food supplies. This really does depend on your budget, consumption, earnings, family size, etc. But I calculated my own and I hit just about that mark. If you’re bad at math, this is how it goes:

(Amount you spend/plan on spending in groceries in a month) divided by (amount you earn a month) = percentage you’ll be spending on groceries.

Allow me to use my own personal situation as an example. I plan on spending 60 dollars a week on groceries. So I would multiply that by 4 weeks to get 240 dollars a month. So…

240 divided by 1,300 (my monthly income) = .184

Moving the decimal two places over, that means I spend about 18% of my income a month on purchasing groceries.

Sixty dollars may SOUND like a lot to spend on food, but a little doesn’t always go a long ways. If you are a heavy meat eater, you are going to have a very rough time. Depending on the meat you purchase, it can get extremely expensive. For example, a pound of chicken could cost anywhere from 3-8 dollars a pound. OUCH. If you’re living the single life, I salute you. Food will be much easier to purchase because you can live on less. I tend to gather the ads that come in the Sunday paper from Walmart, Meijer, and Kroger, then compare every item I would want and go to all three places to purchase what I need at the lowest price. For example, Kroger tends to have fish marked down severely a few days before it will go bad. Meijer simply puts it away at night so you don’t even have access to it. Walmart sells my favorite gallon jug of tea for 2.58 while Meijer sells it for a whopping 3.69! Though Meijer trumps both Walmart and Kroger in the sale of meat.

The unfortunate thing about all of this is that the stores don’t list their perishable food product prices online along with the rest of their merchandise. So to give you food prices? Not so much. But know that when you first move, you’re starting from scratch. That means even simple things you won’t have, like salad dressing, salt and pepper, sugar, etc. Most things can be bought in bits at a time. Every grocery store visit, plan to add a few items to your list. Generically, I made a list of things that will be handy to have in your kitchen:

1.   Olive oil
2.   Salt and pepper
3.   Mayo/ Miracle Whip
4.   Mustard
5.   Bbq sauce
6.   Vinegar
7.   Salad dressing
8.   Horse radish (the Polish in me can’t say no to it on the list)
9.   Spices (Thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, old bay, cinnamon, nutmeg, poultry seasoning, etc)
10. Sugar
11. Bread
12. Sandwich meat
13. Cheese (whether it be for grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos, salad, or whatever your wee heart desires)
14. Milk
15. Juice
16. Nuts
17. Pop (Yeah I know, bad for you. Get over it)
18. Salad
19. Carrots
20. Cucumbers
21. Tomatoes
22. Potatoes
23. Frozen corn, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower
24. Your choice of meat
25. Tuna fish

The list could literally go on forever. I don’t buy the same things every week because that’s boring as hell! If pierogis in the frozen section are on sale this week, I’ll buy those over a bag of chips. If yogurt is 2 for a dollar, I’m going to snatch some up and have it for lunch with a sandwich. Honestly this is truly all on you. You need to figure out your budget and learn to work within it. Obviously if you don’t have much to work with, you better stick to things like hot dogs, beans, apples, and frozen vegetables. These things are on the cheaper end of the spectrum. For you kings and queens, perhaps some fresh pinapple with a nice steak is in order. Everyone (except vegans and those with allergies) need some butter to cook with. Maybe you hate salad and want a big, juicy, grilled portabella mushroom instead (great when grilled with olive oil and vinegar by the way). Truly anything I could type would be bare bones. Find some recipes to survive on for the week and buy the items listed on the recipes. Buy some generic cereal for breakfast. You get the drill. Now hop to it!

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What is a security deposit for?

September 2, 2008 at 10:28 pm (Apartment Living) (, , , , , , , )

Moving in to an apartment means you’re going to have to pay a rather hefty fee that they hold for the entire time you live there. Most people realize that this comes with the territory, but there are some poor, uninformed souls out there still.

My security deposit was 250 dollars while my rent is 520 every month. I’ve seen places where the deposit is as low as 100 dollars and others as high as a months rent. (Holy cow!) The deposit is their way of making sure you all stay good boys and girls. (Though there is a legal deposit limit.)

Let’s back up a bit though and cover some ground. When you sign a contract to move into an apartment, you don’t just slap on a happy face and pay rent. Apartment renters require some more financial means from you called a ‘security deposit’. When you are signing your contract to move into your new abode, they require financial security from you. As long as they have your money, it’s their safety in a sense. If you refuse to pay your rent they will simply keep it for good. If there are damages to your apartment, they will take out of the deposit what it costs to fix those damages. Now if you are good boys and girls like I mentioned before, you get your money back! Now isn’t that just lovely?

If you want the full deposit back, it will depend on how anal your apartment complex is. Most will repaint the walls and do basic cleaning. But if there are obvious gashes, stains in the carpet, or other things ruined, they will hire a professional to come in and fix these things and charge you what it cost them (in essence taking from your deposit). Things like holes in the wall from thumbtacks or nails are things you need to fix. A smooth application of some spackle should do the trick, yes?

Note also! You cannot use your security deposit as a substitute for rent, nor can you do so when moving out. Don’t think you can get away with it either. Apartments can give bad recommendations of you to other apartments and mess with your credit a bit too if you tried to avoid payment.

So lead the path of the righteous and good. Treat your place well and clean it before you leave.

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What things will you need when first moving into an apartment?

August 29, 2008 at 5:52 pm (Apartment Living, Necessary Apartment Items) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Well hey, it’s kind of hard to shop for things for your apartment when you don’t really know what to expect! To be completely honest, I didn’t even do my shopping until AFTER I moved into my apartment for most things because I didn’t want even MORE to pack. But for the sake of the readership, I’ll divide what you’ll need into the categories of the rooms in which they will belong. It’s a generic list of course tailored to my lifestyle. Adjust accordingly!

Kitchen:

This is a key area for me because when I have guests over, this is where everyone loves to be. I can make everyone feel more at home with things I can make for them. The better/more supplies I have, the better off I am (or at least it feels that way). To have a workable kitchen, I made sure to have…

1.   Coffee Mugs – Coffee, tea, all delicious!

2.   Glasses – If  you’re not someone who likes to do dishes every few days, perhaps buying a few more to compensate will help you out.

3.   Can opener – I recommend not buying an electric one. It’s tempting, but you can’t use it in power outages and whatnot.

4.   Spatula – Turn burgers, chicken, fries, pancakes, lift cookies, biscuits, slap your boyfriend, etc.

5.   Silverware/ silverware holder/ knives – Silverware is easy to find, but don’t get knives that are TOO cheap. You don’t want them dull after using them for, say, 2 months.

6.   Toaster – Who doesn’t love some crunchy bagels in the morning? Or toast? Or warm, gooey poptarts, or….

7.   Big Serving spoons – These are handy for serving vegetables and fruit or stirring and cooking.

8.   Tupperware – I use it for leftovers and for bringing food to work. These are pretty much a staple of my kitchen.

9.   Dish towels – I guess you don’t HAVE to have them, but I like the convenience of wiping my hands somewhere without worrying about having to buy more (like paper towels).

10. Mixer – For those of you who don’t bake, it’s not a necessity. But I like making baked goods, cakes, etc. So for me? I HAVE to have one.

11. Baking pans – Cookies are pretty okay to cook on them, but I also use them for fries, pizza, and any generic non-liquid situation that is popped into the oven.

12. Pots and pans – I prefer non-Teflon since it’s not the most healthy thing to cook in or on. Try not to get cheap things that won’t last you. If you’re gonna move out, make sure you buy some supplies that are worthy of buying in the first place and will last you a long time. As for sizes, you want a variety. Some frying pans are nice for pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs, etc. Medium sized pots are good for cooking veggies, rice, etc. For large ones? Stews, soups, lasagna noodles, etc. For those daring enough, a wok could be added to this area for stir fry!

13. Broom/ swiffer – I have several tiled areas in my apartment and it’s just nice to not have to bend down with a wet sponge and a paper towel.

14. Dish soap – Good for soaking greasy dishes or cleaning things that won’t fit into a dishwasher.

15. Paper towel – This is more functional for me when I need to clean up cat messes and don’t want it on my nice dish towels. But I’ve also used them for window cleaning and small messes on the floor.

16. Tea kettle – I like my instant coffee and I like my tea.

17. Salt/ pepper shakers – I haven’t invested in a true set of my own yet but I have the disposable ones for now and they function just fine. If you want to impress your friends, you can always invest in the grind-it-yourself salt and pepper dispensers. Those are more expensive to buy, and also to refill.

18. Various spices – I’m not a fan of bland food. Oregano, parsley, thyme, basil, garlic, paprika, onion powder, cinnamon, ginger…these are all your friends!

19. Garbage can/ garbage bags – If you don’t plan on buying these things, I would love if you wrote back to enlighten me on how that’s working out for you. Truly.

20. Saran wrap, aluminum foil, sandwich baggies – Leftovers are always abundant in my house and rather delicious the next day when I don’t feel like cooking. Saran wrap keeps it fresh and fancy. Foil is for wrapping my pans in. I HATE cleaning baking pans, so the metal keeps the fry grease off. Though in retrospect it’s probably not too helpful to the environment. Sandwich baggies are good for ANYTHING really. Just handy to have around I suppose.

21. Plates – As one reader pointed out in the comments, yes, they are needed. (I eat on plates, I swear.)

22. Dish dryer – If you find yourself going into an apartment without a dishwasher, you’ll need some place to stick the wet dishes after you’ve washed them.

23. Crockpot – It’s great to just throw some things into a pot, simmer it all day, and have dinner ready when you feel like it! And for those bachelors who think they don’t need one, just WHERE are you going to put those hotwings you’re cooking for when your buddies come over for football?

24. Oven mitts – I have the flat kind, and also the ones that you wear! It helps to have multiples. I also use the flat ones to set pots on when I have guests for dinner and want to set the food on the table.

25. Bowls – Soups and cereals are just FAR too difficult to eat on a plate! Large bowls are good for putting fruit in, mixing ingredients for baking, etc.

26. Microwave – Far easier than firing up the ol’ stove for everything, I wager.

Cleaning Supplies:

Gotta keep the place clean! Probably not much more unsettling than going to a friend’s apartment and it’s funky-not-so-fresh. Plus you don’t want to get sick. If you leave little bits of food in your kitchen, bugs are sure to come. Don’t get off on a bad start to a nasty feeling and looking apartment.Though if you are someone who likes to live organically, shop at your local Whole Foods (or organic store of your choosing) for organic cleaning supplies. (A vinegar and peroxide mixture is my sisters personal favorite.)

1. Windex – For those ever so sparkly windows and mirrors.

2. Laundry detergent/ dryer sheets (or fabric softener) – Gotta keep that slick, sparkling look about you! Plus I don’t want to smell your week-old undies.

3. Bleach cleaner – For sinks, tubs, counter-tops, etc.

4. Toilet cleaner/toilet brush – Yeah about this. I REALLY hate toilets that look like another culture is cultivating itself on the insides of the bowl. PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE. Clean your toilet at least once a week. PLEASE.

5. Vacuum – Don’t buy a cheap one, it won’t last and you’ll get pretty ticked when the belt, bag, suction, etc doesn’t work! Yay http://www.consumerreports.org! They are pretty nifty with helping you find a decent vacuum within your price range.

6. Sponges – General cleaning and kitchen supplies. Who knows if you’ll even have a dishwasher! And you need SOMETHING to wipe the counter.

7. Dishwasher soap – If you’re one of the beautiful people who got one in your apartment. And guess what? Don’t use dish soap as a substitute unless you want foaming soap and water to come spilling out of the sides of your machine.

8. Spot carpet cleaner – You know, for when you spill things on your carpet and don’t want to pay the complex to clean the stain or buy new carpet and charge it to you!

9. Spot laundry stain remover – I really hate it when I’m eating a salad with Italian dressing and a spot gets on my shirt. I love the few clothes that I have, so it’s a huge bummer when a stain ruins them for me! So keep something around for grass, blood, wine, dressing, and various other stains for your poor clothes.

10. Air freshener – Hey, clean air is still in the ‘cleaning supplies’ region. If your grandparents come over and bomb out the bathroom, whip out that Febreeze and have a field day. Go ahead, you earned it.

Bathroom:

The bathroom is my source of comfort mostly for the thought that it’s where I can be and don’t need an excuse to be there privately. I take great pains in making sure that I make my bathroom the most comfortable place possible. I pretend I’m thinking of going to a friend’s house and the worse case scenario happens (something like I start my period unexpectedly, I feel sick, I need a makeup overhaul, I need to desperately shower, etc. Just think of experiences where you went to a bathroom needing and hoping beyond all rational thought that they had what you needed for your emergency and they didn’t.) In this, my list will be EXTREMELY biased because I have taken great thought in what would make me and others comfortable and am sure to add those things in my setting. And truly, you spend lots of time in there everyday. You get ready there, relax, use the bathroom, clean, etc. Make it a place worth spending time in.

1. Hand towels – When people wash up, they don’t want to use the towels you used to dry your body with after a shower. They are extremely cheap and you can even buy a nice, full bathroom towel set so that you look like you actually planned a nice looking apartment.

2. Wash cloths – I use shower poofs for my personal cleanliness, but if I have guests, I know better than to not have any of these. There’s nothing worse than being ‘forgotten’ as a guest.

3. Towels – Try not to buy something JUST because it’s cheap. You want a high thread count and have 100 percent cotton towels. If you buy something lackluster, it won’t absorb the water off from your body which is kind of the idea. Be sure to have a couple sets for when you have guests and when your other towels are in the laundry.

4. Air freshener – I can tell you now, after observing people, the one thing they fear is leaving a smell behind when they know others are in the house and will need to use the bathroom too. Don’t give your guests reason to have embarrassment. C’mon! Your (insert parental figure) raised you better! Oust and Febreeze are rather nice brands that I’ve tried and don’t feel guilty recommending. If you’re having a party, light a nice candle in the bathroom and leave it lit for constant air freshening. Be careful though! Make sure it’s monitored or in a safe jar. Another good idea would be having a plug-in air freshener. I ordered some recently from bath and body works and the Moonlight Path scent is heavenly!

5. Rugs – I hate stepping out of a shower wet thinking I’m going to slip on the floor and go smashing face first to my doom. Rugs keep the water contained and keep the bathroom looking nice and well put-together. If you want to be extra snazzy, make the rugs match the towels. I have teal and black towels and black rugs to match. (Even my shower poofs are black and teal!) It’s also nice to have something soft to stand on when I’m standing in front of the mirror every morning to get ready. And when I say rugs, I also mean a snazzy toilet seat cover as well.

6. ‘Shower’ paraphernalia – My apartment complex had a built-in shower rod, but not all of them do. Most large chain (i.e. Walmart) stores have your basic needs: a shower rod, curtain, and rings. Since mine came with a rod already, all I needed was the curtain and rings. My friends had extra rings so they just gave them to me (a package of 12 or so should do the trick). As for the curtain? I didn’t get a decorated fancy one. I got the inner lining to prevent shower water from spraying my bathroom and that was it. I only have one light in my bathroom and shower curtains are fairly opaque. I like to see how I’m shaving and what I’m doing so I simply bought a clear, see through one. It was also labeled antimicrobial. Curtains can get moldy you know! Some places like Bed Bath and Beyond sell curtains that you can wash in your washer!

7. Guest needs – This is the unnecessary part so feel free to skip if you feel so inclined. In order for my guests to feel more at home, I provide basic necessities lest they stay and need things. I keep disposable razors at the ready, spare deodorant, a spare hairbrush/ comb, nail clippers, ibuprofen, Excedrin, shower soap, shampoos and conditioners, hair sprays/ gel, tampons/ pads, a spare toothbrush and toothpaste, spare makeup, and other generic needs as I think of them. I know people don’t HAVE to do these things. But isn’t it nice going to a friends house, realizing it’s too snowy to go home and then having them reply, “Oh don’t worry about anything! We have everything you’ll need.” And the best part would be knowing they are right!

8.  Hand soap – I keep a couple different kinds. My sister is allergic to perfumes so I keep Dove liquid hand soap because it’s free of scent and dyes. On the other hand, some people enjoy having those fruity soaps so I keep the pump-foam soaps scented with apple and berry as well. I hate using  bar soap because of how it leaves residue behind, but that is just a personal preference.

9. Plunger – Be proactive for your own sake.

10. Toilet paper – You know, this is sort of an essential ingredient in the bathroom process! I don’t buy the most expensive kind, but I don’t buy the cheapest either. If it’s on sale and looks fairly decent, I do some prices versus brand versus quantity and quality comparisons and make my decision from there. I also have a handy dandy toilet paper holder as well to keep spares in beside the toilet. I can’t imagine anything much more annoying that being at someone’s house reaching for toilet paper and panicking, realizing there is only 1 square left. And conveniently they store it in their hallway closet or bedroom or something. THANKS.

11. Tissue paper – I can use toilet paper to wipe my nose just like the next girl or guy, but there’s something appealing about having some that’s lotion and soothing to your nose. I keep a fairly decent box around just because I hardly ever use it so expense isn’t an issue. I even have it under a pretty little metal box that matches my other things.

12. Garbage pail – Get a nice, big one too. And keep bags in it. It’s soooooooooooo gross when people use them without bags.

13. Reading material – C’mon, you thought you’d escape this one? You know your dad loves his magazine time. Don’t leave a bored bathroom reader. Put a few fun and unique reads in there (visual puzzle books, short stories, magazines, etc.)

Bedroom:

Well, we’re nearing the end of the line now. Let’s keep trucking along to create that great ‘I just moved, am living on my own, and actually know what I’m doing!’ feeling we’re all so desperately craving now. I don’t feel the need to make living room recommendations. That will be up to you for how you’d like your main room to look.

1. Sheets – Sadly I only have 1 set, but rest assured I WILL be getting another soon. Try to wash them every 2-3 weeks or at least once a month. It will keep your room smelling fresher!

2. Laundry basket – I keep my clothes in my room so that’s where I change. It’s handy to just keep a nice basket in there to throw them in.

3. Hangers – My dresser is tiny, so I need tons of hangers to keep my room not looking like a dump.

4.  Bed Spread – I have a nice gold, red, brown, and tan theme going for my room so of course I have a bed spread to match. To be honest, I don’t even USE it unless I need my room looking nice if people are going to see it. I have nice old cotton blankets for all other sleeping occasions.

5. Alarm clock – Getting to work on time is handy to pay for the apartment you’re living in.

Want to add to the list? You know what to do. Have a dispute? I don’t care. Whoops, I mean, please let me know. My hope is this helps you generate ideas for your own ideal living situation. After all it’s going to be YOUR place, YOUR decisions, and all about, well, YOU! Feels good to hear doesn’t it!

User submitted suggestions:

Batteries – Double A and triple A are the most commonly needed ones! Children’s toys need them, as do Wii remotes, portable controllers, etc. And NOTHING is more a pain in the butt that wanting to use something badly and having to run to the store to get more. I use Sanyo Eneloop batteries. They are rechargeable and sold on amazon.com. This site is my SAVIOR. I’ve tried other brands, but after a years time they just don’t hold the charge.

Extension cords – Quite honestly I’m surprised in myself for not remembering to include this on the list. I literally DEPEND on these things.

Scissors – Yes. You will definitely need these.

Kitchen mats – I will agree with adding this. If you’re spending lengths of time in front of the kitchen sink or stove, standing is a pain on your back and feet. Mats will take some of the hurt away. My mom uses carpeted ones in her kitchen, though I’ve also seen rubber washable ones.

Curtains/ Blinds – I’ve seen some apartment complexes that have buildings side by side, facing each other. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my neighbor watching me, no matter WHAT I’m doing.

Toys – No matter who you are, eventually you’re going to have a friend who has kids. And at some point they’re gonna bring those kids over. And how BORING is it being a kid and go to someone’s house and they have nothing for you to do! Disney movies are also your friend if you want to pop one in to entertain the kids for a time.

Tools – I don’t seem to use these as often because I have a great maintainance staff here at my complex. But opening up toys, measuring to fit furniture, and assembling things all need tools like screwdrivers, hammers, tape measures, etc.

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If you live in a bad apartment complex, what are your options?

August 25, 2008 at 1:02 am (Apartment Living, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

So hey, you found out that your neighbor is a felon, his record is rape. His dog poops in front of your car every morning and pees on your tires. Driving to work would be nice, but your vehicle is damaged beyond recognition because the potholes the parking lot is sporting would make a watermelon look like a pea. There is more drug traffic than cocaine out of Cuba. All you can hear is sirens day and night from the area you live in. And that doesn’t even start on the issues your apartment is having. Your smelly carpet already was stained with substance that you’d prefer not to know the identity of. The dishwasher is broke and you submitted a repair request to maintenance 2 months ago. They are probably still laughing at your request. Tile is falling out of your shower for no good reason, the sink leaks, the walls are paper thin, and as far as your dream living experience is concerned, this is probably as close to a nightmare as it gets.

So, what do you do?

This all depends on the issues you’re having and your situation. Know now that there will always be SOME issues with an apartment complex, whether it be noise, repairs, etc. It’s how it is when many people from different walks of life gather into a small area to become buddy-buddy neighbors. If the issue is repairs, try to stick it out. Put in requests as often as possible and BE PLEASANT. You won’t be moving to the top of their repair list if you act like a great big penis on the phone giving attitude and sass. No one likes it. Ever.

If the walls are paper thin, this can happen in a lot of complexes. There is normal noise that comes with the territory. Sometimes you really will hear a neighbors get together, their TV, them having sex, them moving furniture, etc. It’s just how it is. You do have a right to peace and quiet also. If they are excessively noisy constantly, file complaints. In my apartment complex this is how it works: you call maintenance and let them know your noise issue. They must come to your apartment to witness it. If they hear it, a written warning will be given to the perps. If this happens 3 times total, they are evicted. If this makes you uncomfortable to be so forceful with it, there is also the option of calling the police to have them politely remind your neighbors that their party needs to be toned down. You could also knock on the door yourself with a friendly reminder and an apology that you know they are all having fun, but you need to work the next day and would appreciate if they toned it down a bit. Sometimes people really don’t know if they are being excessive in what they do!

If the issue doesn’t fall under these things and you know deep in your heart of hearts that you absolutely must leave, you can either stick it out the next couple of months and not renew your lease, or you can break it and pay a hefty fee. Usually apartment complexes charge about one months rent to break a lease, sometimes less, sometimes more. But if you’re tearing your hair out that much, perhaps it’s best for peace of mind to do so. If you’re feeling ambitious, let the world know that they did you wrong, and just how they managed to do that. Go to http://www.apartmentratings.com/ and find your apartment complex. Then write a report on exactly what happened and rate them. You may have suffered, but at least people can read your experience and decide if they are willing to tolerate the same thing.

If perhaps you feel absolutely in the right of leaving due to extreme negligence on behalf of the apartment complex itself but feel it’s unfair to pay the fees they request, then contacting a lawyer may be helpful. The website http://www.nolo.com/resource.cfm/catID/31250834-6A2E-4970-9EDD4DAF221A0C7E/104/138/ seems quite helpful in educating renters on their rights. To find your own specific rights, search yahoo or google by typing in “renters rights (insert your state)”. You’ll be able to solve your issue more easily this way by educating yourself.

For those further experienced in the matter, please feel free to contribute your horror stories, helpful hints, or good tips on what to do!

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How much is food for an apartment?

August 20, 2008 at 9:49 pm (budgeting) (, , , , , , , )

Well, again, it depends on where you live. General food supplies like milk are usually far more expensive in, say, New York than they are in, say, Michigan.

I have a system when I shop. I don’t like buying things if they aren’t on sale. Sales usually go in rotation and apartment complexes provide sale ads. If not, perhaps invest in a subscription to your local newspaper. They tend to offer discounts to those in apartments and in the Sunday paper you can get sale ads and coupons. Places like Kroger usually double coupons as long as the coupon value is or below 50 cents off.

You should write a list of things you know you’re going to consume when you grocery shop. And never grocery shop hungry! (Because, duh, you’ll buy things you can’t afford and don’t need because everything looks good to eat.) You’ll need breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I can sum up a list of things that I purchase as a staple for food:

1. Milk (dairy)
2. Juice (fruit)
3. Cereal (wheat, grain, fruit)
4. Potatoes (starch)
6. Fruit (whatever is on sale, usually apples, strawberries, blueberries, etc) (duh)
7. Frozen Vegetables (duh)
8. Pasta Noodles (wheat/ grain)
9. Crackers (wheat/grain)
10. Meat/ Mushrooms/ Peanuts (protein)

I use frozen vegetables because I live alone. It’s very hard to consume the quantities provided. Things can go bad pretty fast! I like to keep frozen corn, broccoli, cauliflower, and other things if they are on sale. (Notice how I keep saying sale? Try to buy sale items if possible. That way you can buy more in the long run and save yourself a lot of money.) Be forewarned. Many foods that are bad for you will usually be on sale. You’ll slip into buying more of them and probably gain a lot of weight! Make sure you eat healthy things first and dessert last. You won’t have as much room for it but still satiate your sweet cravings. If I’m stocked on those things, then I spend extra on other things like onions, a dessert, eggs, olive oil, vinegar, condiments, chips, cheese, etc.

Your personal budget will depend on how you eat. I allocated 70 dollars maximum a week towards groceries. A pair of friends of mine spend significantly less a week (probably around 30 dollars for the 2 of them and their baby). I usually wait for things like chicken to go on sale because it can become VERY, VERY expensive to buy on it’s own. Red meat costs less but is also worse for you. Also when milk goes on sale, I buy two gallons. That way, I can use one for now and stick the other in the freezer. The milk stays good, it’s harmless, and then you can use it later rather than running out and paying 50 cents to a dollar more when you really need it. If my fruit is about to go bad, I wash it, cut it up, and stick it in baggies and pop those in the freezer as well.

Also remember. You don’t have to eat the way you grew up eating. Just because your mom bought and made fancy dinners, doesn’t mean you have to. As long as you’re getting proper nutrition and can afford what you do, don’t worry. If you don’t want to make bacon, eggs, and toast for breakfast, invest in poptarts. If you don’t have much of an apetite at dinner, eat an apple. Just do whatever works for you.

Shop around as well. You can write a list of everything you need for the week and go to a couple of different stores to get the best prices. It will save you gas so you don’t have to keep going out for trips during the week and you’ll be nicely stocked since you spent less by buying things cheaper. (Notice how I keep emphasizing buying things on sale? PLEASE DO! It’s imperative if you plan on living in a budget. True story.)

You can figure your food budget by simple determining what you eat and gathering prices at the store to figure out how much you spend on average. USUALLY 50 dollars per person works just fine if you want to live with a little bit of extra food lying around. And just because your budget is 50, that doesnt mean you have to spend it. I figured “fun time” into that 70 if a friend wants to go out for dinner. So just watch your spending and have fun buying for yourself! You’ll get the hang of it.

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Washer and dryer? Yes? No?

August 20, 2008 at 6:33 am (Apartment Living) (, , , , , , , )

When I moved out, I pretty much knew immediately that I wanted the convenience of having a washer and dryer right in my apartment. There probably isn’t anything much more convenient than being able to do an emergency wash on that favorite shirt of yours that you put a stain on. Or when the weather is terrible but you’d like some clean towels.

My sister opted to rent a cheaper apartment sans washer and dryer. It probably saves her money off the rent for not having them, but now she has to pay $1.50 for a wash, and the same for a dry. And guess what. Her clothes aren’t always dry! You’ve gotta love the apartment provided washers and dryers (ie: cheap pieces of crap that can’t hold any laundry or dry it decently). Also, because they are shared by everyone in the complex, someone is ALWAYS using them. It can be very infuriating. They don’t hold very large loads so when she does her and her boyfriends laundry, it ends up totalling about 10 dollars each time. Because she also can’t seem to get into the washers and dryers at her apartment complex, she needs to go to the laundromat. This takes gas (which everyone feels the pinch right now) and annoying time spent somewhere that isn’t your comfy home. If you don’t want your clothes stolen you should probably stay with them, eh? So have fun staying a few hours trying to read that book while the weirdo across from you eyes your ‘delicates’ circling in the transparent laundromat washer over and over.

The flipside of the coin is the money factor. I pay MUCH more than her because I have a washer and dryer in my apartment. It’s a huge benefit that many wish they could have/ afford. You need to decide what is priority for you, because no matter what you’re still going to need to do laundry. If that daring feeling jumps from your chest into your throat and then head, you can go purchase a washer and dryer and have them installed in an apartment that supplies washer and dryer hookups. Again the downside though, you are responsible for the repairs. If the apartment provides them then they have to fix them for you! Snazzy eh?

So when figuring budget, don’t forget laundry!

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10 things should you expect when moving to an apartment

August 18, 2008 at 9:02 pm (Apartment Living) (, , , , )

Moving from your situation now, and living in an apartment for the first time can require a bit of an adjustment. The following list details a few things you may want to expect when moving to your new commode:

1. Noise

Now your neighbors are literally above, below, and next to you. There isn’t a whole lot that separates you anymore. Loud noises of yours will disturb the neighbors, and reverse. You better hope that your downstairs neighbor isn’t a night owl so that you can be graced with their loud TV listening preferences at 3 am. Also pray those around you have stable relationships. Although, there really isn’t anything much more entertaining than finding out how he REALLY feels about her mother and the rest of her family in a good, old fashioned shouting match. What isn’t always as entertaining as finding out just how much and how long your neighbors enjoy their verbal sexual escapades.

2. Bugs

Unfortunately, bugs seem to like apartments. A LOT. And just take your pick, because there’s a whole bouquet to choose from. You may be lucky and find and apartment complex that will respond quickly when you call maintinaince to complain about the problem. Or you may have to cough up some dough yourself for the peace of mind that ants aren’t carrying your fridge down the stairs in a nice, orderly line.

3. Downsizing

You think you have room for all that crap? Guess again. Apartments aren’t houses in the sense of space. Just think of it this way. It’ll be good for you to finally sort through all your crap and do a little good for humanity and donate stuff you really don’t need or use.

4. Funky Carpet

And I don’t mean that cool 70’s situation. Who knows what the last 5 people did who lived there? Who knows if the apartment complex even CLEANED it? Who can wager when the last time they even changed it was? Recommendation? Wear socks. Lots and lots of socks. And maybe you can rent a little steam cleaner yourself.

5. Mail

The lucky ones like me are people who have their mailboxes inside their building. Not all of you will be so lucky. Sometimes mailboxes are in huge lumps outdoors several buildings over. Have fun driving up to it along with 5 other people in a rainstorm trying to get your check!

6. Windows

Blessed are those who can leave their blinds open without nosey people peeping in. But hey, it doesn’t happen that way often. Be careful about leaving things open like that. If you live on ground level your apartment may be pretty easy to break into. And with a nice shopping view, the thief can check out your nice TV, Playstation 3, and whatever else his little heart desires while you aren’t home.

7. Decoration

Beware about sticking nails in walls to hang your pictures, or painting walls however you’d like. Apartments love excuses to not return your security deposit. They will do this by finding scrapes and scratches in walls that you didn’t spackle, stains in carpet, strange smells that require a specialist to come into eradicate, and the list could go on. Leave the apartment in the exact way you found it, if not better. Don’t be the shmuck that loses his or her money based on a few cleanup details.

8. Pets

Not everyone loves your dog Muffins nearly as much as you do.  I live on the third floor, while my neighbor on the 2nd floor has a dog. “Riley” seems to be a good boy, except for when he’s taken out for 1 hour walks, barking the entire time in the early AM while the owner shouts his name over and over. And there really isn’t anything else more “beautiful” than finding what Riley spat out of his rear on the grass either. Also be forewarned, apartments charge extra, MUCH extra, for you to keep pets in your apartment. There are those who are daring, such as my sister, who bring them in without informing the apartment people. If they find out you have them, they can evict you, charge you a lump sum of money for all the months you lived there that they assume you had the animal, and so on. Be very careful how you approach that situation.

9. Children

Every time I visit my friends, I am reminded that there is a child living in the apartment above. The first clue being that when he runs back and forth, he stomps around like crazy. It’s CLEARLY heard right through the floor. So either be warned that this could happen to you and simply learn to get used to the noise, or put a leash on your child and make him or her wear padded socks and tiptoe EVERYWHERE. (Don’t we all wish.)

10. The unexpected

Hey guess what? There are hundreds of people living around you. Some could be sex offenders. Some could be perverts. Some could be perfectly nice, normal people that you’ll form a friendship with. But above all, don’t assume that in your stay at least 1 wild thing won’t happen. I woke up the other morning to my downstairs neighbor singing opera. And he was terrible. Your friends who don’t have apartments might find your place a rather nice getaway. If you don’t stand up for yourself, they may find it perfect for staying all the time consuming your food and running up your electricity bill as well. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself. Also, don’t turn into “the douchebag”. This may include: blaring music, yelling, having your TV turned up really loud, playing Dance Dance Revolution on the 3rd floor, and basically being oblivious to the feelings of those around you. Be careful, and if you live alone, invest in some mace. Always lock your doors, and keep the chain attached when you open your door to see who’s knocking if you can’t tell through the peephole (if you’re lucky enough to have a chain). Always inform the apartment complex of issues in your apartment and document everytime you call and everytime they come out. In the event of legal issues, if you have records of things, it will turn out much better in your favor. Save all receipts. As a matter of fact, go buy a folder and keep anything they give you in it. It can’t hurt.

If you need any more advice, let me know and I will be happy to oblige!

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Apartment Air Conditioning

August 18, 2008 at 8:22 pm (Utilities) (, , , , , )

Air conditioning is a godsend in the summer months where temperatures reach a blazing 90 degrees or higher. Unfortunately it’s a very EXPENSIVE commodity. It’s constantly running all day which turns into a very high electric bill if you’re not careful with how low you set the temperature! (Trust me. My sister usually kept hers at a decent temperature throughout the day and night. One month she kept it at around 69 degrees. Combine that with all her other appliances, the computers she and her boyfriend use, and TV….her electric bill was 200 DOLLARS! This is NOT a normal bill.) So how can you regulate such a thing?

I live on the third floor of an apartment. This is great for the winter if the owner has to pay for heat because as everyone knows, heat rises. So your apartment might stay a bit warmer if your downstairs neighbors crank their heat. But as for air conditioning, it becomes far more expensive. I usually keep my thermostat set to 75 degrees. As long as you aren’t doing strenuous activity, it’s at least manageable. And this is coming from a girl who LOVES the cold. If I could, I would have the air set to 65-70 in here at all times.

Also, if you’re leaving to stay the night at a friends, or won’t be home for a DECENT period of time, just turn it off! I don’t know if I’d recommend turning it off if you’re going to work. I’ve never experimented with it, but it would seem like for the amount of energy it would take to try to take the temperature back down, you could have let it run just a little more lazily (say at 80 instead of 75) throughout the day, and then when you return, bring it back down.

Fortunately for me, the only bill I must pay is electric. And since I am renting an apartment that has a washer and dryer in it, the apartment complex drops the heat bill and they pay it instead. But if you prefer to be cold a lot, get a ground level apartment. If you prefer warmth, go higher!

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The beauty and ugly of living on your own

August 14, 2008 at 1:00 am (General Moving Advice) (, , , , , , )

So assuming you’re in a position now of making a modest amount of money and are looking for your own place for the first time, where do you start? How do you go about it? Where is the best place for you?

These can be difficult questions to answer because the cost of living is different everywhere. The resources I have will not be the resources you will have. What is important in an apartment to me will not be so to you. But I can provide some starting ground for how to begin.

I’m going to assume that because you have never lived on your own before, an apartment will be the best choice for you. With house ownership comes massive amounts of bills and otherwise that make it hard for a beginner to handle. Soooooooo apartment it is! The following are good places to begin your apartment search:

http://www.rent.com

http://www.apartments.com

http://www.forrent.com

http://www.move.com/apartments/main.aspx

http://www.apartmentsearch.com/

The list is truly endless for places viable to check. Simply go to yahoo, google, or any other search engine and type in “apartments”. You can be extra clever and type in the name of the city you plan to move to (hint hint). You can easily eye what’s available right now. And you’re going to notice, living on your own isn’t cheap! And rest assured, the less the rent is? There is a pretty good chance you won’t be getting a whole lot with it. Hopefully you’ll have penciled up your budget by now. What is your monthly income? Now start subtracting things you KNOW you’ll have to pay for: gas, food, clothes, entertainment, clothes washing, cleaning supplies and general maintenance, utilities bill, THE RENT!, etc etc. The list could go on. Quite simply, if you’re looking to live on a tight budget, there is a lot you can cut out. I don’t watch TV often, and when I want to, I can simple drive to a friends. So I just saved myself about 30 dollars a month in the form of a cable bill. 30 dollars times 12 months is 360 dollars a year!

WHOA.

Alright, let’s pick up our faces and move on to the next bit of mind blowing information.

Moving. Sucks!

I hope you have friends because you’re going to have a rough time hauling all of that junk yourself. And how are you going to pack it all? If you visit local convenience stores, many receive product shipments all the time and simply tear up and throw away those valuable pieces of cardboard gold. Find out when they receive new shipments and pop in to snag some boxes. Hopefully you’ve been planning the moving process in advance and can actually, you know, take the TIME to plan carefully. Don’t pack things like a crazy person without thinking of how heavy the box is going to end up being when you’re done, or if things will break because you packed your porcelein figurine next to your small set of freeweights. Are you storing the boxes somewhere? I hope none of your electronics are heat or cold sensitive!

Another thing to think about? Label your boxes. FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, LABEL YOUR BOXES. Do you have any idea how many are going to be splayed around your apartment? Wouldn’t it be nice to know where the bathroom stuff is versus the kitchen stuff in case you don’t get everything unpacked right away? It helps to have ‘box priority’ in a time crunch.

Consider this, while I consider more advice.

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