house to apartment moving

Advice for Moving From a House to an Apartment

No matter the reason for the move, going from a house to an apartment can be a difficult transition. There are limitations to space, storage, and even something as car storage can be an issue. It is important to keep many things in mind when it comes to a move like this. Here are some tips on how to deal with this tricky transition.

Dealing with Less Space

Unless you manage to snag a gigantic apartment you’re going to have less space. It can make for cramped quarters, but it can also be a positive. You’ll be able to cut out a lot of clutter and live more minimally. Things like heavy duty furniture and old clothes in your closets are areas where you may have to cut down. With fewer and smaller kitchen cabinets you will have to keep appliances and utensils in mind.

If the apartment is only part of your short-term future you might consider renting a self-storage space. This is a great option for things you just cannot get rid of, but you simply don’t have the space for it.

Considering Your Pets

Pets are part of our families, but when you live in an apartment they can be a limitation. Not all apartments allow every type of pets. Some may allow cats but not dogs. Even if you do find a place that will accept your pet it can be a stressful time for them as well. Dogs may not adjust to losing a big yard. Be sure to consider amenities such as nearby dog parks when it comes to keeping your furry friends happy.

Get Cozy with Your Neighbors

Are you used to playing music as loud as you want or having quiet time at any time? A downside to living in an apartment is that you probably now share walls with your neighbors. Sure, you can pick a corner unit to help with noise, but it can still be a factor.

Increasing Rent

If you had a house you’re probably used to a static house payment every month that did not increase. That’s often not the case with renting an apartment. In an apartment complex your rent can increase every year. It is also subject to a property management company, so there is not a lot of room to negotiate.

As you can see, there are many aspects to consider when it comes to renting, especially if you are moving from a house to an apartment. It is not all bad, however. With the right complex and amenities apartment living can be quite comfortable. Plus, you can live more simply and efficiently.

 

 

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4 Tips for Cleaning Pet Hair from Carpeting

It’s the one thing that annoys pet owners the most: the fur that spreads on every piece of furniture, every inch of carpet, like a disease. Some people refrain from wearing dark clothes in general because their pet’s fur somehow lingers on clothing surfaces despite multiple tumbles in the dryer. What are pet owners to do? Luckily, these four easy tips can help you both prevent and clean pet hair, no matter your carpet.

Vacuuming is a given. Although you should at least vacuum your carpet three times a week to remove most pet hair, Home Guides provides a useful technique for gathering up all the hair into clumps, like leaves. To make vacuuming easier, they suggest, “raking your carpet with a rubber-bristled carpet rake collects the pet hair in clumps, so you can remove the hair by hand before vacuuming.” RugCare.com adds another step to this process: if you powder baking soda over your carpet before you vacuum, it can help loosen up the fur, making the cleaning process much easier.

Similarly, News Press Now explains that some pet owners purchase pet beds for the sole purpose of limiting pet fur to a certain section of the apartment. If you get your pet a large enough bed, or a flat pillow, all you’ll have to do is take it outside every once in a while and shake it out to prevent pet hair from spreading all over the carpet and furniture. Rugs can also act as a catch-all for pet fur. Carpet Keepers Inc points to this role when they write that if you place a rug along your pet’s high-traffic area, it can both catch whatever dirt is on its paws and also the fur that falls off it when it moves.

Just remember, rubbery tools like rubber rakes and gloves can help you collect pet fur from the carpet, and catch-alls like beds and rugs can help prevent fur from spreading. Although there are no perfect solutions to cleaning pet hair from carpeting, these four tips will make pet shedding somewhat beside the point, and the pet hair a little less annoying.

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Why You Should Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

The importance of eating enough fruits and vegetables in your diet cannot be overstated. Sure, fruits may be sworn off by the most fervent No Sugar No Grain (NSNG) dieter, but the sugars in fruits are not exactly like processed sugars in candy bars. The NSNG crowd is not all wrong however, as there is some cause for concern for all kinds of sugar in our ultra-processed food ecosystem. Studies suggest you should avoid dried fruit as they contain more sugar with less nutrients. And smoothies and fruit juices should also be avoided, as they do not provide the benefits of an actual fruit but are densely packed with sugars.

According to NPR,

“There are lots of kinds of sugar. Fruits have fructose, glucose and a combination of the two called “sucrose,” or “table sugar.” But the sugars in fruit are packed less densely than in a candy bar, according to Elvira Isganaitis, a pediatric endocrinologist at Joslin Diabetes Center and a Harvard Medical School instructor.”

So it is better to eat a whole piece of fruit, as it contains fiber (providing the feeling of satiation after you eat) and other healthy nutrients and minerals. But, unfortunately, most Americans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Here’s why they should.

The Harvard School of Public Health, a fantastic resource for all things dietary, published a general list of benefits associated with increased intake of fruits and vegetables in your diet. These include:

  • Reduce risk of heart disease and stroke;
  • Prevent cancer;
  • Promotes healthy eyes.

And, helpfully, The Huffington Post, summarizes more extensively the relevant literature on the benefits of both:

Vegetables:

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family, which also includes kale, collards, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and cauliflower. Members of the Brassica family are rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties. Broccoli is a true nutrition powerhouse: It is chock full of vitamin C, the mineral calcium, fiber, and vitamin A. It is also rich in sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound that can fight cancer.

Carrots are a good source of fiber, which helps to maintain bowel health, lower blood cholesterol, and aid in weight maintenance. The orange pigment found in carrots are due to the antioxidant beta-carotene, also found in other deep orange foods such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, papaya, and cantaloupe. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and helps to maintain healthy eyes, support your immune system, keep your skin healthy, and protect against certain cancers.

Spinach is available year-round in grocery stores around the country, offering a readily-available source of many vitamins and minerals. Spinach contains the minerals iron and potassium, as well as vitamins A, K, C, and the B-vitamin folate. Spinach also contains phytochemicals that may boost your immune system and flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that may be preventative against certain cancers.

Sweet Potatoes are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene and are also full of fiber, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, and the mineral potassium. They are especially nutritious when eaten with the skin on, and contrary to a popular dieting myth, they are not fattening!

Beets contain healthy doses of iron, the B-vitamin folate, and fiber. Red beets offer betacyanin, a plant pigment which may protect against colon cancer.

Fruits

Cantaloupe. This member of the melon family is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, a plant-based vitamin A precursor that helps with eye health, among other conditions. It is also rich in the mineral potassium, which may help lower blood pressure and the risk for stroke. And, it is terrific if you are watching your waist — a one-cup serving contains a mere 50 calories.

Watermelon, which is especially terrific this time of year, offers a juicy, sweet taste and a high water content, while packing in the antioxidants lycopene, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, and the minerals potassium and magnesium.

Citrus fruits, including oranges and grapefruits, provide a significant source of vitamin C, folate, and potassium, as well as fiber. Pink grapefruits are particularly rich in the antioxidant lycopene. Eating these fruits whole yields more nutrients than drinking the juice.

Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which may help raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol) while lowering LDL (bad cholesterol). They are also high in the antioxidant vitamin E.

Grapes. Consuming grapes may reduce the risk of blood clots, lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), and prevent damage to the heart’s blood vessels, aiding in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure. Antioxidants called flavonoids may even increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind). The resveratrol found in the skins of red grapes may interfere with cancer development. Eating the whole fruit instead of consuming the juice contains the added benefit of fiber.

Kiwifruit, with its brilliant green inside, is packed with vitamin C and fiber.

As you can see, fruits and vegetables contain an absurd amount of vitamins and minerals. So much so that new guidelines suggest half of your plate should be split between servings of fruits and vegetables. Next time you’re in the grocery store, don’t leave out what could be the most important part of a balanced, healthy diet: eat more fruits and vegetables for a healthier life.

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What is the Keto Diet?

It’s all the rage these days: the ketogenic, or “keto,” diet. It tells you the ideal diet is the opposite of the food pyramid, which makes grain and carbohydrates the staple of a healthy diet. According to the Harvard Medical School blog, the “ketogenic diet is not something new. In medicine, we have been using it for almost 100 years to treat drug-resistant epilepsy, especially in children.” Continuing, the Harvard blog explains the diet succinctly:

“In essence, it is a diet that causes the body to release ketones into the bloodstream. Most cells prefer to use blood sugar, which comes from carbohydrates, as the body’s main source of energy. In the absence of circulating blood sugar from food, we start breaking down stored fat into molecules called ketone bodies (the process is called ketosis). Once you reach ketosis, most cells will use ketone bodies to generate energy until we start eating carbohydrates again. The shift, from using circulating glucose to breaking down stored fat as a source of energy, usually happens over two to four days of eating fewer than 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.”

Because this diet moves away from carbs, each meal contains more fats and proteins than a typical meal. There is, of course, no restriction on vegetables with this diet, but it is emphasized that the main source of energy come from fats rather than carbs. That’s what sets the ketogenic diet apart. As a result, people on this diet utilize oils to cook foods more regularly. And Dr. Cate Shanahan, a biochemist from John Hopkins University, provides a useful list of good and bad oils to use for cooking.

So is the ketogenic diet good? Dr. Eric Westman, director of the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke University, is summarized by Time Magazine as reporting it “can help reduce appetite, spur weight loss and improve markers of heart disease.” Dr. Westman’s studies also suggests that “a ketogenic diet can help treat obesity, type-2 diabetes and fatty liver disease.”

The main risk with the keto diet is confusing good fats with bad fats, and eating too much processed foods, which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. As with any change of diet, you will want to approach with caution, consult with your doctor, and thoroughly research the keto diet if you plan to jump on the bandwagon.

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Don't Fall for the Fruit Juice Trap

As carbonated, sugary drinks fall out of favor with the public, fruit juices and fruit smoothies are on the rise. Whereas sugary soft drinks have been linked to obesity, squeezed fruit can’t be unhealthy, right? The logic is pretty simple: people believe fruit juices are equivalent to the serving sizes of a few piece of fruit, contain real fruit sugar, and have about the same effects as eating fruit. Unfortunately, this wrong in every case. In fact, the same scientists who blew the whistle on corn-syrup in soft drinks are ringing the alarm bell again.

In his interview with The Guardian, the scientist Barry Popkin warns us against the myth  that a glass or two of fruit juice is equivalent to one or two pieces of fruit:

“Think of eating one orange or two and getting filled,” he said. “Now think of drinking a smoothie with six oranges and two hours later it does not affect how much you eat. The entire literature shows that we feel full from drinking beverages like smoothies but it does not affect our overall food intake, whereas eating an orange does. So pulped-up smoothies do nothing good for us but do give us the same amount of sugar as four to six oranges or a large coke. It is deceiving.”

Indeed, because fruit juices contain little-to-no fiber, you don’t feel satiated after drinking them. According to Susan Jebb, a government advisor and head of the diet and obesity research group at the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research unit at Cambridge University, “Fruit juice isn’t the same as intact fruit and it has as much sugar as many classical sugar drinks. It is also absorbed very fast, so by the time it gets to your stomach your body doesn’t know whether it’s Coca-Cola or orange juice, frankly.”

But that’s not all. Barry Popkin continues,

“The most important issue about added sugar is that everybody thinks it’s cane sugar or maybe beet sugar or HFC syrup or all the other syrups but globally the cheapest thing on the market almost is fruit juice concentrate coming out of China. It has created an overwhelming supply of apple juice concentrate. It is being used everywhere and it also gets around the sugar quotas that lots of countries have.”

Disturbingly, “Popkin and colleagues found that fruit juice concentrate was the fifth most common sugar overall and the second most common, after corn syrup, in soft drinks and in babies’ formula milk.” And, “all the long term studies on fruit juice in anything show the same kind of effect whether it’s a smoothie or natural [juice] and whether it’s a diabetes or weight gain effect,” Popkin added.

As The Guardian reports,

“Researchers from the UK, USA and Singapore found that, in large-scale studies involving nurses, people who ate whole fruit, especially blueberries, grapes and apples, were less likely to get type 2 diabetes, which is obesity-related, but those who drank fruit juice were at increased risk. People who swapped their fruit juice for whole fruits three times a week cut their risk by 7%.”

So don’t fall for the fruit juice trap and don’t believe the hype that it’s a good addition to a balanced meal. At least, not all juices are created equal. Be sure to conduct thorough research before you make up your mind as to whether fruit juice will find its way into your fridge.

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Cats and Furniture

A common misconception about cats is that they’re mostly aloof. This well-known myth tells us that cats fend for themselves and do not need, and mostly do not want, interaction. But the myth is simply wrong. Although cats are not like dogs, catering to your every emotion, like all animals they enjoy playing and moving around. They have instincts: they’re excited by certain stimuli in their environment and ignore others.

The movement to declaw cats in large part is a consequence of this myth. The belief is that, although cats do not like interaction, they for some reason are destructive. Maybe it’s that they’re trying to make your home their own. Or maybe it’s that they just don’t like humans, period. Yet, these are just more misconceptions.

The plain truth is that cats need interaction: they love to play. Cats generally scratch objects in the house because it’s a form of stimulation and play. To prevent your cat from scratching, simply buy a few scratching posts for the house, and place them in areas your cat enjoys. Alternatively, you will find that playing with your cat will cause it to release less stress in the form of scratching. Like all animals, if cats do not move around, they build up energy and become restless. Most cats love laser pointers, and this could be a quick way to help your cat blow off some steam. Another way is to build or buy cat trees for them to climb and lounge in.

Whatever you do, don’t buy in to the myth that cats don’t need interaction. Your cat isn’t interested in destroying your things or staying as far away from you as possible. Although they don’t like to rough-house like most dogs, they do enjoy playtime. Figuring out what kinds toys are interesting to your cat is half the battle in preventing them from scratching your furniture. The other half is playing with them.

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Cyber Security 101

Summary:

  • Change your default settings: usernames, passwords, and Wi-Fi network names;
  • Randomly generate long passwords for maximum security;
  • Use offline storage devices for optimal sensitive information security;
  • Ensure you connect to the correct network when in public;
  • Always keep your devices up-to-date;
  • Use a VPN for public Wi-Fi use;
  • If you must, only give sensitive information on websites with an HTTPS connection.

Today’s world is less than ever defined by the features, restrictions, and demands of the physical world. Where the processes of evolution placed geographical, time, and species barriers between us in the past, humanity has developed a virtual world in which nothing like the constraints of the world for the last 4 billion years obtains. We can see anywhere, talk with anyone, and create or purchase anything we want, at any time. The only barrier to entry is a modern technological device, which, if you don’t have a computer, can typically be found at any library in America. All this to say: our lives are becoming as much of an online presence as a physical reality.

What does this mean in terms of stability, security, and identity? Much e-ink is spilled over these questions. Today we just want to look at the basic components of online security. As you follow the tips below, you can rest assured in the knowledge that you have ground beneath your feet when you’re online, and have taken the appropriate measures to thrive in this new, virtual environment.

A Secure Connection at Home

Many believe home network security is taken care of by their internet service providers (ISPs). When consumers purchase routers from ISPs, the belief is that these routers come already pre-set with the best security settings. Unfortunately this simply is not the case. The main reason is because the factor default settings on routers can be discovered by hackers and stored in data tables for later retrieval. As a result, network home security can be improve dramatically simply by tweaking a few settings.

Passwords

How to create and store passwords is an often overlooked topic, though it couldn’t be more important for people who are connected to the internet daily. The best thing to do is randomly create a password for every login and use a password manager to store them all in the same place. As “How to Create and Securely Store Strong Passwords” explains, “Human behavior, even faulty behavior, follows certain patterns and rules. So the main thing is to create a password that will come to you unnaturally and will require memorization. Secure passwords have plenty of things in common: they are long, distinctive, involve a character mixture, and avoid hints and references to our personal lives.”

To begin your foray into the complex world of internet security, begin it on the right foot, by creating, using, and storing strong passwords in secure environments.

Storage

Since everything is online, you can of course use free programs like Google’s Drive to store sensitive information like passwords, financial information, and the like. Cloud services like the Drive are useful to many because they provide instant access to documents so long as the user has an internet connection. With Drive, you can access your documents from any device, at any time.

But with internet companies now selling data to advertisers and bad actors, it’s difficult to know how your information will be used. Luckily, there is a way to store information without exposing it to advertisers and hackers. External hard drives have quite a few benefits:With an external hard drive you can add a password protection. Another advantage is you won’t have your financial documents directly on the computer designated for everyday use. This will keep your sensitive files out of the hands of hackers and, maybe, your children. You won’t have to worry about accidentally sending the files or deleting them, as they’ll always be on the external hard drive, which you can disconnect from all devices when you don’t need access to the files stored there.”

Sometimes the best way to stay connected with your most sensitive information is to keep it disconnected from public spaces and services that are liable to be hacked or used by other people without your knowledge. A good way to disconnect your information is to keep it on an external hard drive.

Wi-Fi Router

There are many steps you can take to completely secure your Wi-Fi router, here we will just focus on a few. Most importantly, change your Wi-Fi’s name and password. This step may seem negligible, but there is more at stake than many people believe. The Rainbow Tables hackers use to gain access to systems actually have millions of stock Wi-Fi router username/password combinations stored. It is actually relatively easy to login to a router if the default username/password combination is used.

Similarly, you will want to disable Wi-Fi access to your router admin panel. Just as Wi-Fi username/password combinations are stored in Rainbow Tables, so are router admin username/passwords. There are actually websites that store factory username/password combinations for anyone to look-up. If somebody knows your router model, they can login to your admin panel through your wireless network and change all your settings, passwords, and restrict access to your network. As simple as it seems, changing your router’s username and password combination is one of the best ways to improve your home network security.

Tips for Public Internet Use

As public access to Wi-Fi networks grows, so do the security risks and threats. Many ordinary attempts at hacking your device comes through the “middle man attack” technique, when hackers use seemingly legitimate Wi-Fi network names like “HiltonGuests” to trick people into signing onto their networks, where they can then see all your device data. Although there are many ways in which to improve your public cybersecurity, below are just a few that will get you on the right foot.

Always Update

For as big of an inconvenience updating your device can be at times, keeping your device up-to-date can be one of the most important steps you can take in the fight against cyberattacks. As the security firm McAffee points out, the major Equifax data breach, which exposed the sensitive information of over 143 million Americans, could have been prevented with just a simple update: “A fix for this security hole was actually available two months before the breach, but the company failed to update its software. This was a tough lesson, but one that we can all learn from. Software updates are important because they often include critical patches to security holes.”

Use a VPN

After you double check your phone for recent updates, you’ll want to download a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) is one of the safest ways to use the internet publicly, if you want to keep your data and your devices anonymous. Without a VPN, your information, including the public Wi-Fi router you are connected to, is open to anyone who might have the capability and know-how to listen in on your connection. Because the internet is a collection of servers and wires, and every action performed on the internet is performed through electrical signals and data packets, servers exchange this information to get you to the servers hosting the websites you want to connect to. This means that a lot of information about you can be in the open at multiple points of every connection.

A VPN encrypts your data with a secret code every time a connection is established to any server. This means that any information sent to any server is scrambled so that somebody trying to listen in cannot see what each data packet contains, unless they somehow unscramble it. VPNs can change their secret codes at random, making unscrambling nearly impossible. Secondly, VPNs actually work before the Wi-Fi network you are connected to can identify your device. This means that your location, your specific device IP, and which Wi-Fi network you are connected to all remains anonymous to any onlooker. VPNs are a really great way to stay anonymous in the virtual world, where privacy breaches occur regularly. And the Norton security firm offers one of the most cost effective VPNs on the market.

HTTPS Connection

A few years ago, the general belief was that HTTPS was only necessary for websites that stored and managed sensitive user information, like banks, ecommerce sites, and others. As Google has written, this is no longer the case, and perhaps never was. Because HTTPS encrypts data sent and received between a user’s browser and a website’s server, it masks user behavior. This is important, because although a visit to one unprotected website to play a game or read an article might seem benign, a hacker can expose your identity by piecing together behavior patterns. As Google notes, “For example, employees might inadvertently disclose sensitive health conditions to their employers just by reading unprotected medical articles.” This process is known as de-anonymization.

Conclusion

As we continue to move our businesses, personal lives, and social interactions online, privacy and security will become larger and larger concerns. Get ahead of the curve by staying up-to-date on best cyber security practices.

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How to Use Public Wi-Fi Securely

With streaming services, online banking, cryptocurrency, and social media coming of age all at once, it’s no wonder Wi-Fi is in high demand. It’s not just a minor inconvenience when a restaurant, or even now retail stores, don’t offer free Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi for the modern person is at times the deciding factor as to whether a business will be visited or not. It’s more important than ever, consequently, to be able to discern between secure public Wi-Fi options and insecure public Wi-Fi networks, to know the basic steps you can take to use public Wi-Fi safely and securely. Follow the tips below to use public Wi-Fi with some peace of mind.

First Thing’s First: Use the Correct Network

This may seem obvious enough. But the difference between HiltonGuest and HiltonGuests can mean waking up with an empty bank account. Wi-Phishing, which is what this kind of hack is called, entails setting up a Wi-Fi network that resembles a public Wi-Fi connection but which actually takes you to a hacker’s network. You are tricked into logging into the wrong network, and then the hacker has access to all your information. Be sure to pay close attention to the next public Wi-Fi network to which you connect. Hackers leverage the appearance of legitimacy to connect to your computer, so be sure you verify the network you connect to is, in fact, authentic, and doesn’t just appear that way.

Leave the Sensitive Data at Home

Since public Wi-Fi networks are public, they’re accessible by anyone with a device that connects to the internet. That means that anybody can access your information with the right tools and a certain level of know-how. The best way to ensure you stay safe is to refrain from doing online banking, making purchases, or dealing with any kind of transaction that involves personal information while you’re on public Wi-Fi. Or, if you must, follow the three tips below to give you the best chance at avoiding a data breach.

Connect to Secure Websites Only

HTTPS, the mark of website security, is now recognized by Google as an important ranking factor for websites. The largest search engine in the world recognizes how important encryption is for websites, and now you should follow suit. The fact is that website encryption is one of the most important methods of securing your private information on public networks. What HTTPS does is encrypt data packets you send through the wires of the internet (yes, the internet is, at base, a material thing, and not virtual). When data packets are encrypted they are scrambled into a randomized number/letter code so that it is not self-evident what kind of information is contained within the data packet. As a result, a text to a friend looks no different on the surface than a bank number or a photo like on Facebook. Look for the HTTPS or “Secure” symbol in your website browser to ensure you’re using a secure site.

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

VPN services keep your data secure by not only encrypting data transmission, but by also “masking” your data traffic. The most useful thing about VPNs is they reroute your traffic to something like a virtual tunnel. Whenever you use a VPN, the data packets you send and receive will not go through the public Wi-Fi network you happen to be connected to, but will go directly to a VPN server. This makes your location and information anonymous. Everyone who connects to the same VPN, for instance, will share the VPN’s server as the source of their data. This means that your information will not only be scrambled by an encryption, and secured by its transmission directly to a VPN server, but will also be scrambled with a multitude of other user encrypted packets so that it will become practically impossible to separate what belongs to who and what data packets are what. Helpfully, PC Magazine compiled a list of the best VPN services for your convenience. The trusted Norton security software now offers VPN services, and it appears to be the cheapest on the market.

Keep Everything Up-to-Date

And, of course, it is true that you should keep all your apps, and especially your device’s software, up-to-date. The reason is simple: updates are disbursed for two purposes, either to add a feature or improve what is already on a device. Most of the time updates include bug fixes, and a large portion of these bug fixes include patches for security flaws. So always keep your device updated and never trust a device that isn’t.

Conclusion

As public Wi-Fi networks are becoming more and more common, the need for security has grown as well. There are basic steps you can take to ensure you connect to public Wi-Fi networks securely, such as refraining from completing transactions online while your out in public, using only secured websites, and keeping your phone updated. And there are more advanced security steps you can take, such as utilizing a VPN or installing extra virus and malware software on your devices. Whatever you do, pay attention to the security measures you have in place to keep your private information safe.

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5 Tips for Keeping Your Wi-Fi Network Secure

Personal home and mobile Wi-Fi networks are ubiquitous in our day and age. Many people who receive their routers from internet service providers (ISPs) simply use the default password and settings already associated with their routers. But this can spell trouble, as most Rainbow Tables (tables used by hackers to automatically generate passwords) come with millions of combinations (produced by basic algorithms) that may easily predict your password. You’ll want to come up with a random Wi-Fi name, or get creative. Either way, all is not lost as there are some basic steps to ensure your Wi-Fi security is in good health.

Lengthy Passwords

As you change your Wi-Fi network name, be sure to also change your Wi-Fi network password. As lifewire notes, “Longer passwords are better because the Rainbow Tables that are used to crack passwords aren’t practical after you exceed a certain length of password due to storage limitations.” For this reason, it is recommended that passwords are at least 16 characters long. Consider using Norton Antivirus’s password generator, as it avoids many of the common mistakes in creating a password.

WPA2 Security

Unless your router is a few years’ old already, this is most likely something you won’t need to worry about. Most older routers use WEP security, which sends all packets of data using the same encryption method. This means that if somebody is eavesdropping on your connection, and attempting to crack the data encryption, they just need to figure out the encryption for one packet, and everything you send can be read.

 

WPA2 (PSK) is the most secure for personal routers, as it ramps up encryption by using a 64-character hexadecimal character set, scrambling the encryption key, and verifying that data hasn’t been manipulated or altered during data transfer. If you have WPA2, you will want to enable it as soon as possible. Most likely, especially if your router is new, WPA2 will already be operative. And, if you do have a new router and it uses WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) which is supposed to make Wi-Fi setup quicker, be sure to disable that feature, as it contains known security risks.

Admin Login

The great thing about Wi-Fi routers today is they come with advanced options accessible through a simple admin login screen. From this screen, you can generally track which devices are connected to your router, remove and add devices, allocate router resources by prioritizing certain connected devices, change your Wi-Fi password, and, mostly, anything else you’d want to customize with your router. You will want to change this default admin login, however, for the same reasons you will want to change the default Wi-Fi name and password. Websites like RouterPasswords.com actually store admin login credentials based on router device model. MakeUseOf.com provides a simple guide for changing Admin credentials. You’ll want to do this as soon as possible, and, of course, if the feature is available, disable “Admin via Wireless.” If ever you need to adjust settings on your router, it is best to use a wired connection.

Firmware Updates

As security vulnerabilities are discovered and patched, ISPs release these patches in the form of router updates every once in a while. When you get a router, be sure to ask your ISP if the router will automatically update or if you have to manually download these updates and install them on the router yourself. If so, they can give you specific directions to do this. And, don’t worry, it sounds more complicated than it is. For being one of the most important security-improvement activities you can do, it only takes about one to two minutes, and generally involves just a few clicks of the mouse.

Firewall

Lastly, you’ll want to ensure your router’s firewall is activated. Firewalls are like castle walls, shielding and protecting everything within the network from attacks outside. Firewalls can take many different forms, from a hardware component in your router itself or specialized code in the software. The main way firewalls protect your network is by making the network invisible to hackers. Another way it protects your network is by comparing all incoming packets of data against a database of information, accepting the data packets only if they pass a certain test. To ensure your firewall is working, you can test it by following LifeWire’s guide. Just be sure your firewall is activated and running (if you have “stealth mode” turn this on also).

Conclusion

If you just recently purchased Wi-Fi, are in the process of moving, or are just updating your router, now is the perfect time to ensure your wireless network is secure. Although times of transition are perhaps the most convenient to establish and verify network security, don’t wait to do so. As more and more transactions are occurring online, and sensitive information is passed along to different websites daily, it’s important that you’re using a secure network. Follow these tips to ensure your wireless network is secure.

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Eliminate the Waste: 5 Tips for Saving Money on UtilitiesOne can’t go wrong when taking steps to conserve energy use in their apartment home. Besides helping to save precious natural resources, residents can also save a good bit of money by making a few small changes in their units and in the way they live. These five useful tips for reducing utility use can ease one’s conscious as well as those monthly bills.

1.  Kitchen Energy Efficiency Tips

The use of ovens and dishwashers can make the kitchen one of the hottest rooms in the home. In warmer months, experts recommend using these devices in the evening time when it’s cooler to reduce the AC’s heat load. Furthermore, utility use can be further reduced by disabling the second rinse and heat cycles on the dishwasher and allowing them to air dry. Another way to keep the kitchen cool is to install small LED lights beneath counters to reduce use of heat producing and energy draining overhead lights.

2.  Smart Power Strips for Modern Households

In a gadget loving society, most households have numerous appliances, consoles and chargers plugged in at all times.  Whether they are being used or not, such juice drainers are called ‘energy vampires.’ However, today’s smart power strips are designed to save energy and money by shutting down energy flow. These modern accessories cost around $40, feature multiple outlets, provide surge protection and also power down connected devices when they aren’t in use.

3.  Water Wise Conservation Tips

Many apartment communities include water with rental rates as an amenity, so low-flow shower heads and toilets are likely already installed to minimize water use. However, some steps renters can take to further reduce water use and energy costs include:

  • Doing laundry in large loads and using cold water.
  • Running the dishwasher only when it’s full adjusting settings to shut off second rinse cycles and heat drying.
  • Keeping showers short or taking baths in lieu of showers to expend less water.
  • Collecting rainwater in buckets to use for watering plants. It’s free, and plants prefer it over tap water.

4.  Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Lighting

Traditional incandescent bulbs may provide ample lighting but are rather inefficient in a number of ways. They tend to burn rather hot and increase cooling costs. They also draw more energy than today’s modern options such as LEDs and compact fluorescent light bulbs that are far more efficient. Furthermore, energy-efficient options have a greater lifespan that incandescent bulbs, so renters can save even more over the long term. Changing the most commonly used five bulbs in the home can have a noticeable impact on utility bills whole reduceing one’s carbon footprint.

5.  Take Control of Heating and Cooling Costs

Depending on the age of the apartment building, there may be a traditional thermostat or a smart home thermostat installed. Regardless of the type, lowering the thermostat by one degree can reduce energy costs by 3 percent. However, energy rated smart thermostats can help renters save much more, as they can be controlled at will even while away from home. These are ideal for those away from home for several consecutive hours and want to reduce use but prefer to return to a cozy temperature.

At the end of the day, every small change made can add up to big savings. While upgrades are certainly helpful, habits can make a huge difference when they’re consistent. If you’re looking to help the environment or just want save a little bit more every month, these changes can get you headed in the right direction.

 


 

This article was written by Kris Lindahl REALTOR® CRS CLHMS
CEO/Owner The Kris Lindahl Team at Kris Lindahl Real Estate
Don’t Forget to Check Out Her All New “Minnesota Moving Guide“!
www.krislindahl.com
twitter.com/krislindahl
linkedin.com/in/krislindahl
www.minnesotacommercial.com

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Tips for Living with a Roommate for the First TimeLiving with a roommate can be an eye-opening experience, especially if you’re accustomed to living in on your own. Yet, even if you roomed with a brother or sister, living with a complete stranger is a totally different experience. Conflicts can arise for, seemingly, arbitrary reasons. Sometimes unexamined habits, such as eating food in a certain area or leaving dirty dishes in the sink, may cause tension. A vital piece of advice: maintain open lines of communication and set clear expectations with your roommate from the very start. The following are a few boundaries you’ll want to discuss from the start to establish a shared understanding and maintain peace and harmony with your roommate.

Personal and public stuff.

This has to be clear: which stuff that you have in common areas are okay for common use and which stuff is only yours to use. Do you share your laptop and your books? What about pots and pans, utensils, knives? What about your shampoo and conditioner? Be clear about what you’re okay with sharing, and also have a clear understanding of what your roommate is willing to share with you.

Visiting hours.

Your apartment community may have their own timeline for this, but your roommate and you should also set expectations with respect to your own apartment.

Noise

Some like television, while others avoid it. Nevertheless, it’ll likely be on at some point, so make an arrangement as to what volume level is reasonable for the TV to be set at. Also, discuss music volume. Maybe certain times of the day are better than others.

Housekeeping schedule.

Make an arrangement on the everyday household tasks that will need to be completed, and set a schedule: Who deals with cleaning the floor, putting out the trash, loading and unloading the dishwasher? Will you take turns buying groceries? The significant thing is to be fair.

Lights out.

Different work and school schedules mean that you and your roommate might need to sleep or wake up at different times. Discuss expectations about when you both expect your sleeping, working, and studying schedules to be.

Bill payment.

Since you may have to pay for some bills such as water, electricity, in addition to cable and internet, be clear on how you’ll be sharing the responsibilities for the bills and use of these utilities. Also take notice of the items you’ll have to continually purchase. Have an agreement on how you’ll buy and use your bathroom and kitchen supplies and also food. You might want to buy your own or share the costs.

The best step toward living cohesively with a roommate is to set clear expectations and follow through on them. These expectations not only give you an idea as to what you have rights to in the apartment but also what you are responsible for. Follow the suggestions above and be flexible as new situations and issues arise.

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Basic Tips for Keeping Clothes in StorageWhen the closet becomes full and room for new clothes is scarce, a self-storage unit can be just what you need for the clothes you’re not wearing but still wish to keep in a safe place. When placing clothing items in a self-storage unit, it is necessary to take every precaution to prevent your clothes from damage, whether by weather or pests. No matter if you’re storing your clothes for thirty days or one year, follow these tips to keep your clothes in great condition until you are ready to wear them again.

Clean all garments thoroughly before storage. For long-term storage, don’t use starch or any other form of fragrance on the clothes as it will attract moths or other pests. The place where you store your garments should be cool, dry, and dark. Sunlight, extreme heat, and moisture might damage your clothing. Extra care should be taken when keeping garments in regions with high temperatures, perhaps in these places, a temperature or climate controlled unit would be best.

Try not to leave clothing in storage without reviewing its condition on at least a quarterly basis. Leaving your clothes sitting for months-on-end could promote the growth of mold, especially if they don’t have access to appropriate ventilation. This is particularly true in regions of high moisture. Using silica gel is a fantastic way to mitigate humidity in these kinds of environments. And for moths, cedar cubes are a great, all natural method to discourage them. These will offer protection for the garments without the lingering odor of mothballs or other chemical pest control items.

When utilizing hangers, nonmetallic hangers are best because they won’t rust, and be specific when labeling storage containers. This will help retain the integrity of every item and protect against mildew or dye transfer between clothes, as will storing clothes with as few folds as possible.

Whatever you do, a bit of research can’t make your situation worse. Before you put your clothes in storage, being prepared with all the relevant information will make it anxiety-free and worthwhile.

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8 Tips to Get Your Budget on TrackGetting back on track with your budget can be disheartening, if not a source of anxiety. How will you eat out four times a week if you’re putting all the money you make away for twenty years? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. Heed the following reasonable, simple steps to get back on track with your budget.

Set a Goal

Your goal must be realistic, measurable, achievable, and timely. Are you aiming to have just $50 at the end of every week? Want to save $100 for the holidays? Do you plan to move when the lease is up and hope to put money down on a house? Think about your future, what you’d like to achieve or obtain, and set a timespan in which you can reach your goal, and measure your progress as you go along.

Monitor What You’re Spending Monthly

Begin your budget by maintaining detailed records of your expenses for 30 days. Track every purchase down to the cent. This will help you win back control of your budget by knowing exactly where your paycheck is being spent, and it’ll provide a guide to set a realistic spending budget with. It’ll also give you indications where you can change your spending behavior.

Set a Spending Budget

You now know where all your money is going, so setting a realistic spending budget will be easier. You will have to make adjustments to understand what will work best for your way of life, so do not be afraid of change, yet also don’t be afraid of sacrificing immediate pleasure for long-term gain. You won’t have to cut out all the fun stuff, but sticking to your spending budget will assist you in reaching your goals.

Choose a Savings Account Thoughtfully

Savings accounts can differ greatly with regards to interest, fees, and minimum balance requirements, so do your homework and find the account that’s best suited for you.

Save Automatically

All of us have weak moments when we intend to put money into savings, but something comes up. Maybe that birthday you forgot about, or your car gets a flat tire. Avoid the situation three months from now when you look at your savings to discover you only have $10 in it by making your contributions automatic, establish direct deposit from your payroll and avoid a saving’s plan derailment. You may also have it automatically drafted from your bank account into your savings via  tools on your bank’s website.

Establish an Emergency Fund

What would you do if you lost your job or were in an accident causing extended hospitalization? Do you have enough money to get you through if have to take off work for a few months? While your savings account could be utilized for a significant purchase like a brand new car or a down payment on a brand new home, an emergency fund is an account you fund and don’t touch unless there’s an actual emergency. Financial experts say you should have four to seven months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund.

Be a Clever Shopper

Look for ways to save. Sign up for rewards or programs loyalty, shop at the warehouse and club stores, use coupons and plan your trips strategically to take advantage of the best offers. When shopping online utilize cost comparison websites.

Get App Savvy

You’ll find an application for almost everything. So look for applications that can help you be a better saver. There are budgeting applications, ones that assist you in finding the best local deals and applications which will help you to sell your old items to other people. Consider YNAB (You Need a Budget), although coming at a price of $50 a year, it connects to your bank account and updates your charges from your budget automatically, and it is totally customizable.

As you get your budget on track, don’t be discouraged by hiccups along the way. The great thing about a budget is it’s flexible, and you actually have built-in safeguards for emergencies and unexpected events. If you get anxious, just put more money toward those areas for a while. Getting back on track with your budget will save you time, money, and put you in the best position to succeed in the future.

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7 Quick Ways to Conserve Energy and Save MoneyWith so many things to do in a day, the idea of having to worry about saving energy in addition to everything else just isn’t attractive. So what happens? Many people pay it no attention. Yet, energy conservation is important as it helps the environment. As much of our current energy sources are created from dirty sources like fossil fuels, daily energy use produces pollution. Saving energy reduces energy demand and therefore lowers the amount of pollution generated. To begin is really quite easy, just follow these 7 tips to get started!

  • Regularly inspect areas inside your house such as hoses, connectors, and taps to check for any leaks. Repair as needed. Particularly ensure you have no leaky faucets. Even a slow drip of warm water can add a great deal to your monthly energy bill.
  • Place open water containers outside and use them for a wide range of outdoor maintenance activities like watering plants, washing concrete surfaces, outdoor tools, and the like.
  • Take showers instead of baths. Not only will this use less warm water, which requires more energy, but less water generally. Secondly, take shorter showers, and utilize a low-flow shower head. Have a faucet aerator in each faucet to conserve water and heat and maintain high water pressure.
  • Wash garments and dishes with cold water whenever possible.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use, to reduce ghost power usage, also called standby power, that uses energy even when the appliance is not in use. One way to do this is to connect all appliances to an intelligent power strip. Then when you use a certain appliance just switch the strip on, and when you’re finished turn it off and don’t worry about it.
  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. They utilize 70-90% percent less electricity than incandescent light bulbs, last 10 to 25 times longer, and save $30 to $80 in power cost in their lifetime, according to the ENERGY STAR government site. Similarly, use products that have earned the ENERGY STAR certificates meeting strict energy efficiency recommendations.
  • Insulate your water heater to prevent any loss of heat. This may retain heat for a longer period of time for the water inside and reduce the amount spent on energy monthly. Insulate the connecting pipes as well to further prevent the loss of heat.

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Natural Solutions for Cleaning Your KitchenMost of us want to make cleaning as painless and as inexpensive as possible. The kitchen particularly is a unique challenge due to the variety of cleaning demands.  Now you can have an easy day of cleaning without using toxic cleaners. Almost all of these guidelines use things you’ll find around your house. Expensive cleaners aren’t necessary in most cases. And the best part is, by using non-toxic cleaning supplies, you can also get the children involved!

The Stove Top – Clean up grease by throwing a little bit of cornstarch or baking soda on it, wiping it away after you clean up the rest of the kitchen. Auto wax will make the surface sleek, smooth, and simple to clean.

Oven and Microwave Cleaning – To clean the microwave, place a sponge soaked with white vinegar or lemon juice in the microwave, heating it for a couple of minutes. Don’t open the microwave for about five minutes. The stuck on food should slide off. The same procedure can be used on ovens except, without a sponge, using a shallow pan together with a few cups of white vinegar. Heat for five to ten minutes and allow the oven to cool for approximately half an hour. Food will slide right off.

Red Dye Spots – For red meals dye stains on counters, such as those left by drinks, use straight rubbing alcohol, enough to cover the stain. Leave it for a few minutes and wipe away. Use a sudsy cleaner on the counter after.

Tarnished Silverware – For tarnished silverware, heat 2 water cups and add 2 tbsp of baking soda. Put silverware on a sheet of aluminum foil in a pan, making sure the silverware is in contact on the foil. A combination of metal and baking soft drink will cause the tarnish to disappear.

Of course, there are many other tips and tricks for cleaning around the kitchen. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and share your solutions on Facebook!

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4 Apartment Warming Gift Ideas

Moving into an apartment can be thrilling, exhilarating, and slightly frightening particularly if you’re a first time renter. To celebrate the move, apartment warming celebrations thrown by family and friends are becoming more and more common. The following are several gift ideas that are great for people who rent apartments!

Gifts for Emergencies

Everyone should be prepared for emergencies. When coming up with gift ideas, a fireproof box along with a basket of emergency supplies is a good gift for practical people. The fireproof box will protect important paperwork and sentimental items in case of emergencies like fires, floods, and severe weather. And the basket of emergency supplies will come in handy in case of a power outage.

A wireless security alarm is also a pragmatic gift and, most importantly, offers some peace of mind. Some alarms activate when doors or windows are opened, others will turn lights off and on when the apartment is vacant. Prices vary from about $25 and up.

Other gift ideas for first time apartment tenants include gifts of convenience.

Who wouldn’t like to relax on the couch while the floors are cleaned by robot vacuums? These vacuums, like iRobot’s Roomba, clean at the push of a button and some can be scheduled to automatically run during certain hours of the day. There are various types to select from depending on what you’d like it to do and what kind of floor it’ll clean. The price depends on these factors and the model that you choose.

Whether they’d admit it or not, a lot of people love singing in the shower. That means sometimes getting lost in song and losing track of time. Mull over the idea of gifting a shower radio with a clock display. With this gift, your friend can listen to their favorite songs, sing along, and be on time for work.

So long as you put thought into it, a good present isn’t determined by the amount of money you spend. When considering first time renters, think of presents that will be useful and appreciated, and you’ll be sure to gift good presents at the next apartment warming party you attend.

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In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to create and securely store passwords. Each year hundreds of millions of consumer accounts are hacked, thanks to passwords that were easily guessed or reused after they were revealed following large information breaches. The solution, of course, is to create strong and unique passwords regularly. And the easiest way to do this is by using a password management program. Management programs not only help mitigate the worst of our habits, preventing us from reusing the same password over and over with simple variations like character substitutions rather than character strings that are  arbitrary, but they are also the most secure for this task, as they are specifically designed and encrypted for password storage.

Password managers can generate secure passwords for every site you use and put them in a list. The only catch is you have to create a master password to have access to this list. Security researcher and creator of Have I Been Pwned? Troy Hunt says that, when developing a master password, it must be strong. What does this look like? Human behavior, even faulty behavior, follows certain patterns and rules. So the main thing is to create a password that will come to you unnaturally and will require memorization. Secure passwords have plenty of things in common: they are long, distinctive, involve a character mixture, and avoid hints and references to our personal lives.

Lorrie Faith Cranor of Carnegie Mellon University says people are predictable. They place their unique characters at the start and end of passwords rather than mixing them up in the center, or use common phrases and patterns, such as iloveyou. In addition, people frequently choose passwords which are too short. For a secure master password, at least 12 characters long is a good rule of thumb. For Lorrie, the key measure of password security is entropy. “This, in computer science terms, is a measurement of how unpredictable a password is based on how long it’d take an attacker to work it out by making a guess at each character.”

By this standard, longer passwords are more secure. Nevertheless, people are bad at being arbitrary. So it’s best to find a good password program that will store and create unique, difficult-to-guess passwords for you, like 1Password.

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How to Store PaintWe all know the situation. You buy a few gallons of paint to paint a room. You proceed to paint the room. And then you have a few gallons of paint left over. Where and how should you store it all?

Storage

The first thing you’ll want to do is seal the can of paint. Do this by wiping the edges of the lid, making sure no paint will stick between the lid and the can’s seal. Next you’ll want to press the lid down. Do this by either using a mallet to tap the lid down, or cover the lid with a piece of wood and tap the piece of wood with a hammer. Never hit the lid directly with something dense like a hammer, as this could cause bends and breaks in the lid, preventing a secure seal.

Next, store the paint cans in an environment not susceptible to extreme changes in heat. Cold air can cause latex paint to separate and heat can cause it dry out. If moisture is consistently present in the environment, elevate the paint cans to keep them dry.

Quick Test to Determine if Paint is Good after Storage

Reopening paint cans is an awful experience for most, especially if left to their own devices. You’ll definitely want to avoid using screwdrivers and hammers because if you bend the lid, you might not get a good seal in the future. Rather, purchase a paint can opener. Then reopening won’t be such a huge deal.

Lowe’s recommends the following, to test your paint.

If you have latex, smell it. If it emits a rancid odor, it’s bad. Secondly, if film is on the top, remove it. Stir the paint. Then test the paint by brushing it on newspaper to discover whether it is clumpy. If it is, then it’s bad.

If you have an oil-based paint, it is good for up to fifteen years so long as it hasn’t been exposed to extreme temperatures and was sealed adequately.

That’s it! It’s pretty simple. Follow these tips to know how to store paint and whether paint you’ve retrieved from storage is good or bad!

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What’s worse than waking up in the morning to a sour cup of coffee: a cup of coffee that, for all the routines and tasks for which you need it to energize you, you cannot stomach? The National Coffee Association gives us a few tips on how to store coffee, in order that your storing techniques won’t contribute to an awful morning coffee experience.

“Your beans’ greatest enemies are air, moisture, heat, and light.”

The best container is light-proof and air-proof. Light will diminish or change the flavor of your coffee, and has the greatest effect on your beans directly after roasting. Light actually causes coffee beans to go stale. So the best container will be one you do not open often and that houses the beans in total darkness. For the chemical changes light causes, take a look at eLightBulbs’ blog.

Another coffee killer is air. This is because carbon dioxide is responsible for most of the aroma and flavor aspects, according to The Atlantic. As carbon dioxide leaves the coffee beans, oxidation begins, which “degrades quality by altering coffee’s essential oils and aromatic components….” Although it is pleasing to smell the bright coffee aroma as you open the sealed container, each time you do diminishes the quality of coffee you can brew.

In fact, all of these elements: air, moisture, heat, and light contribute to the oxidation process, and that’s why the best coffee container blocks these elements.

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Tips for Storing Financial Documents

As you move from apartment to apartment, the task of storing financial documents can seem daunting at first, not only because some documents might be relevant in the foreseeable future while others virtually useless, but because typically financial documents include sensitive personal information. On top of a good organization system, storing financial documents requires a certain level of security not usually demanded of other kinds of storage. Read the following tips to get on you on the right track.

First thing’s first, for documents you don’t want to keep, destroy them: do not simply recycle or toss them in the trash. Because these documents contain sensitive information, the only safe way to dispose of these is through a shredder or incineration. If you don’t have a shredder, and don’t care about incineration, just visit Office Depot, or other office supply stores, to shred documents, as these businesses usually offer shredding services.

Physical Storage

For financial documents you won’t need access to, but should still keep in storage, just place them in filing boxes. To keep it simple and easy for the future, you might name boxes by category. For  security, a filing cabinet with a lock is the best direction to go, or even a locker where you can stack the boxes on top of each other.

On the other hand, if you want certain financial documents accessible, there are a few things you can do. Of course a filing cabinet is optimal, and then categorizing financial document types by file color. Also breaking down categories by date needed or date received could be useful.

Other, long-term financial-relevant documents you might need, like birth certificates, you can store at a safe deposit at your local bank, or purchase a safe for their keeping to protect it from possible future damages.

Digital Storage

A good way to keep your financial documents accessible while also adding an element of security is to purchase a small external hard drive. You probably won’t need more than 5 or 10 GBs, given how little space documents themselves take up, when compared to pictures and videos. With an external hard drive you can add a password protection. Another advantage is you won’t have your financial documents directly on the computer designated for everyday use. This will keep your sensitive files out of the hands of hackers and, maybe, your children. You won’t have to worry about accidentally sending the files or deleting them, as they’ll always be on the external hard drive, which you can disconnect from all devices when you don’t need access to the files stored there.

Another easy way to store sensitive documents is through the cloud, which will enable you to have access to these documents on any network-connected device. A free option is Google Drive, but there are other services like iCloud that provide similar services. You might also just want to look into getting a sensitive document storage program.

Whatever you do, remember to balance security and accessibility.

How to Avoid 3 Common Moving ScamsThe three most common moving scams all involve money. Before you continue to read about the common scams of moving companies, just know that all can be avoided, quite simply, if you sign a contract before you officially decide to hire or use moving services.

  1. Inflating Prices after Packing All Your Belongings

One thing you want to watch out for is hiring a moving company without having a contract with an established, agreed upon price for the move. If you don’t have a contract, some rogue moving companies will pack all your belongings and then require that you pay a fee two or three times larger than estimate or refuse to unpack your stuff. This is a terrible situation: avoid it at all costs!

  1. Inflating Prices after Giving an Estimate

Some dubious movers will just glance at all your belongings and give a “rough” estimate of how much moving fees and services will cost. Do not trust this, and do not base your final decision on the estimate being true. Rather, if you receive an estimate or not, do not agree to use the services of a moving company without signing a contract with an agreed upon price.

  1. Deposit Required before Moving

Lastly, unscrupulous moving companies might require a deposit before showing up to move your stuff. Never do this. This is the sure sign of a scam. Scammers will just take your deposit money and never show up. Then you’ll be out of both movers and out of money.

Signing a contract is the best way to avoid the scams listed above. But there is also more you can do to protect yourself. First of all, never give a deposit. The only time this might be necessary is if you move on a holiday, but otherwise virtually no reputable moving company will require one of you. Another thing you can do is ensure the moving company is licensed by the Department of Transportation. Simply visit their website and do some research on your movers. Additionally, the Department provides a checklist brochure so you’ll never be in the dark about whether your movers are legitimate or not. Lastly, you can always check online reviews. Chances are, if they’re scammers, other people have already reported them.

A new study, as reported by Consumer Reports, draws a correlation between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk. This is the first study to connect ultra-processed foods to cancer, although these foods have already been connected to obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

“In the new study published Wednesday in the medical journal The BMJ [British Medical Journal], participants were followed for eight years. They kept 24-hour food diaries, indicating which types of food they ate. Researchers then measured what proportion of each individual’s diet was ultra-processed.

The researchers’ analysis showed that for every 10 percent of a respondent’s diet that was made up of ultra-processed foods, there was a 12 percent increase in overall cancer risk (and an 11 percent increase in breast cancer risk).”

So what are processed foods? CNN reports, “ultra-processed foods occupy a growing part of the world’s diet. A 2016 study found that 60% of the calories in the average American diet come from this kind of food. A 2017 study found that they make up 50% of the Canadian diet, and they make up more than 50% of the UK diet. And more of the developing world is starting to eat this way.

According to The Guardian, “Ultra-processed food is a definition created by a group of scientists led by Prof Carlos Monteiro in Brazil, a country which also has national dietary guidelines urging they be eaten as little as possible. The classification system, called Nova, puts foods into four groups – raw or minimally processed foods including seeds, fruit, eggs and milk; processed culinary ingredients such as oils and butter; processed foods including bottled vegetables and canned fish and cheeses; and ultra-processed, which are ‘formulations made mostly or entirely from substances derived from foods and additives’.”

BBC produces a general list of foods that count as ultra-processed:

What counts as ultra-processed

  • Mass-produced packaged breads and buns
  • Sweet or savoury packaged snacks including crisps
  • Chocolate bars and sweets
  • Sodas and sweetened drinks
  • Meatballs, poultry and fish nuggets
  • Instant noodles and soups
  • Frozen or shelf-life ready meals
  • Foods made mostly or entirely from sugar, oils and fats

In general, ultra-processed foods include anything canned, sealed, or frozen, but especially if the sugar content accounts for about 20% or more of the calorie count.

Although the news appears diresome, researchers warn not to worry. A well balanced diet should be sought, in any case, which will include consuming whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Most perishable food items will not be ultra-processed, although in the case of breads it is more difficult to judge.

To show the ramifications more specifically, the BBC reports:

  • On average, 18% of people’s diet was ultra-processed
  • On average, there were 79 cancers per 10,000 people each year
  • Upping the proportion of processed food by 10% would lead to nine extra cancers per 10,000 people per year

So although this may be a call to be more conscious of your diet, there is still much more research to be done to determine the exact mechanisms that propel this increase in cancer risk.

The trope of new neighbors typically brings to mind movie scenes involving casserole dishes. In our day and age expectations of neighborly courtesy have certainly changed. Traditional gifts like food dishes become less and less appealing when you think about the possible allergies any dish, even by accidental ingredient inclusion, might agitate. We are required to be mindful of food allergies. There are alternative gifts that are perhaps even better than the food dish.

Gift Cards & Local Places

One of the best ways to connect with new neighbors is by introducing them to places around town. Just pick up a gift card next time you dine at your favorite restaurant and acquaint the new neighbors to one of the best spots in town. Likewise, you can pick up a gift card for a Netflix subscription, HBO, and other streaming services! In this day and age, who wouldn’t appreciate a free month of streaming?

Favorite Gifts

Have a favorite recipe that you’d like to share but don’t want to agitate allergies? Give a gift basket that includes all the ingredients, a nicely printed recipe, and maybe a spatula. This can work with favorite foods or even favorite movies, television series, or books.

Utility Gifts

This can be a rather unusual and quirky option, but sometimes the best gift is a set of basic tools. Who couldn’t use a basic hammer or screwdriver set? Anyway, if your new neighbor already owns these, they can regift them!

It’s time to get creative. Use this article as a launching pad to think of new ways to welcome new neighbors and let us know what you did in the comments below!

Prevent Bugs and Pests in Your Apartment

Yes, it is a harrowing thought that one day when you get home from work it is possible that the beloved family dog will have eaten half of the living room carpet the leasing office just installed. But there is nothing worse than cooking dinner and, upon reaching for the cup of flour you poured a few minutes ago, your hand grazes the hard skeleton of an energetic cockroach. Pests in the apartment are the worst. The good news is you can prevent these uninvited guests by maintaining a few best practices for apartment cleaning.

The place with all the food is the best place to begin: the kitchen. Food crumbs from dinner are not the only culprit here, week-old pet food outlining the exterior of pet food bowls is an attractant to cockroaches particularly. Either be sure to clean up any grounded food whenever you feed your pets, or give more restricted portions to limit the amount of misplaced pet food. Another thing to watch out for is standing water, either in the sink, on the counter tops underneath dish racks, or on the floor. Standing water anywhere in your kitchen attracts bugs and pests in your apartment. Wipe counters dry after you clean dishes, and do not leave standing water in pots or pans for longer than a few hours.

Likewise, if you have a carpet, vacuum at least twice a week, and more if you have pets, to reduce dandruff, dead skin, and stray hair on the floor. These things will inevitably be there, so removing them as often as possible will remove food sources and breeding grounds for pests.

These few tips will prevent a large majority of pests from making your apartment their new home. Just be consistent with your cleaning, remove food and water from surfaces, sweep hardwood floors and vacuum often, and you won’t have to worry about the vast majority of pests and bugs entering your apartment.

Tips for Moving with PetsWith all the boxes, fragiles, and furniture you’ll pack into the moving truck, it’s easy to lump your pet’s belongings with everything else. But your pet’s belongings are key to comforting your pet during this time of change. As you think about moving, don’t forget your pet. Below are two important pieces to making the move with your pet as smooth as possible.

The Vet

Before you move, you’ll want to make sure you have your pet’s vaccination records, especially if you’re moving to an apartment. If you schedule a check-up with your pet you can get any records your missing and, more importantly, you can check the state of your pet’s health to ensure it can handle the stress of moving, especially if the move covers a long distance. Some vets will even provide a sedative. If you haven’t yet, be sure to schedule a vet checkup before your move, so that you will have all the relevant information on your pet, including its current state of health, and any extra tools that might make the move easier.

Your Pet’s Belongings

Moving day can be as stressful for your pet as it is for you. In the rush to move everything, you might be tempted to just throw all your pet’s toys and beds into a box and move them out with everything else. This will only exacerbate your pet’s anxiety. Your pet’s belongings have its scent, and this scent is an important signal to your pet that they are in a familiar place. When things get stressful, your pet will look for familiar things and places to comfort it. Taking your pet’s belongings away at the beginning of the move will make a bad situation worse, as it will leave your pet without the comfort of familiarity. Confine most of your pet’s things to a room and leave your pet with them while you move everything. This will help ease the transition to the new place.

While comforting your pet in a time of change, your pet’s belongings will also play an important role in introducing it to its new home. Introduce your pet to its new home by furnishing a room with its belongings, which already contains it scent, so that the new environment will already contain elements of familiarity. This will reduce the shock of transition and create a welcoming environment in a new space.

The Best Time To Rent A New ApartmentPeople move for many reasons: their apartment wasn’t what they expected, annual rate increases, or newfound desires to change scenery. Yet there are some who anticipate the move, and rent a new apartment at the optimal time. Notwithstanding the specials that come and go at every apartment community in any given season, there are actually two such times each year when it is best to look for new apartments.

According to Rent.com, the best time to look for a new apartment, if you want the most options, is from May to September. This is the time span in which most people move. Thus, more availabilities at more apartment communities. But if you’re looking to save money, the best time to rent a new apartment is from October to April. This is the time when most people are not moving, and, as a result. some apartment complexes may have more vacancies than they anticipated, and therefore rates will likely be lower to account for the deadened demand.

The best time to rent a new apartment depends in large part on the kind of apartment you want. If you’re looking for the most options, the mid-year is the best time to rent. But for those who want to save money, they’ll be wise to look in the offseason.

Improvements in technology haven’t really solved the old, eternal dilemma: where to put the spare key. Hiding it is imperative, but keeping it accessible, and in a memorable spot, is difficult. We recommend 3 easy, accessible places to hide your key in plain sight.

Car floor mat

As long as you don’t lose your car keys, your car floor mat is a great place to keep your spare key. It’s so great because, presumably, your car will be wherever you are.

Wind Chime

It may be unorthodox to hide your spare key in plain sight, but it’s perhaps a most effective method, given certain constraints. Attaching your key to a wind chime gives you accessibility and also an alarm. If anyone is attempting to take your key, you’ll hear it. On the other hand, every time your wind chime rings you might be tempted to peek outside. It’s a worthy sport for consideration, though.

Pet or Pet House

This may not just be unorthodox, but downright heresy. So long as you have the spare key on a keychain loop, you can attach it to almost anything. Consider placing the key either on the collar of a pet or in an outside pet house. That way, the spare key has a guard, and it’ll come to you when called.

Wherever you hide your spare keys, just make sure you don’t forget where they are, and keep them in accessible locations. That way, next time you get locked out, getting back into your apartment or home won’t be a nightmare.

Cats have taken over in some apartment communities. This is no accident. As independent, and somewhat aloof creatures, cats basically take care of themselves, given enough food and water. People who like to travel find this autonomy of cats convenient. Left alone too much, however, cats tend to become rambunctious.

Many have found even cats can be destructive to property. This kind of destruction seems inversely related to physical activity. When the yarn ball unfurls, or the toy mouse doesn’t zig-zag on the floor, your cat is going to need some attention. Whether you play with your cat or not, it needs to burn energy somehow.

This may translate into plucked couches or torn curtains. Take some time out of your day, maybe five or ten minutes, to keep your cat entertained, and let it burn some energy to indulge its instinctual drives. To reduce destructive behavior get a scratch post for them to use. Sometimes it is best to have a scratch post for each room. Anti-scratch tape, generally furniture friendly, also does the trick. Cats abhor the adhesive texture. And, if nothing else, during commercial breaks use a laser to imitate the prey-predator hunt.

Cats are independent, but they’ve also adapted to rely on play for exerting energy and satiating intense instinctual drives. Give your cat a little bit of time each day, and you’ll find its levels of destructive behavior will decrease dramatically.

Are You Ready to Sign the Lease?As you’ve counted down the days until your lease expires, the time lost to looking at new apartments on Apartments.com or Trulia has made your friends very worried. Why don’t you put that phone down and binge watch Netflix with them? It used to be your favorite thing to do. It’s like nobody knows you anymore. The season is only ten hours long!

So you schedule a tour, and you plan to put all the planning behind you.

It’s not easy, as a matter of adventure and commotion, to keep a level head when touring a new apartment community. The future always looks brighter when it offers new opportunities and remains somewhat unpredictable, especially when the present and past have been less than ideal. Expectations of what can be easily cloud good judgment. But it’s important to not dismiss the mundane things, the things that are forgotten in the fantasies of new life. Nothing is perfect. A level approach to the novelty of a new apartment is the best approach. Put yourself in the best position by considering the following elements before you sign the lease.

Pet Policy

Of course if you have a pet you’ll ask the property manager about the pet policy: whether pets are allowed. More specifically, ask about breed restrictions, or whether the pet has to be house-trained, below a certain weight, or declawed. Learning the specifics of the policy can save you from fines or, worse, eviction.

Parking

Ask whether residents or units are allocated a specific number of parking spots, and whether there is visitor parking that is separate from resident parking. If there is no separation, you might want to ask residents, via social media, what parking typically looks like after a day of work or on the weekend. Is it difficult to get a space? Ask also about the towing policy and how strictly it’s enforced. A strictly enforced towing policy can be a very good thing for residents, especially if they follow the rules. Towing policies are intended to benefit residents and are enforced to ensure residents have parking places.

Typical Utilities Cost

You can call up the utilities company you will be using and ask how much utilities typically cost for the unit you expect to lease. This will give you a good idea of how much you’ll spend each month, besides rent, to cover electricity, water, and the like.

Extra Expenses

Some properties have extra expenses that aren’t discussed with the price of rent. These may include water line hook-up, metering, and trash pickup. These expenses can sometimes be at least $25. Make sure you’re aware of any extra expenses you’ll encounter while living at the property so you don’t overextend your budget.

Noise Level

In the rush to get a new, larger, and nicer apartment, you may forget to consider what a typical day will bring. Look around the community: are the roads busy, what kind of neighborhoods surround it, how much traffic goes through the parking lot? This will be a good time to utilize social media again. Ask past or current residents. Are the walls paper-thin? Is there an airport next door?

It’s a great feeling to know you’re moving to a better apartment. But it’s terrible to realize after a month, that you didn’t think about the day-to-day expenses and hassles. Put yourself in the best position, and don’t let the possibilities of the future make you blind to the realities of the present.

Not much is more frustrating than trying to use a cell phone with 1x reception. From broken sentences to incomplete words, the conversation is pretty much incomprehensible. You try everything to improve the signal. The most obvious thing to do is keep your phone charged because a full battery guarantees the best hardware performance. But what next? Aside from finding the sweet spot in your apartment, there are a few things you can do to improve your cell phone service.

Wi-Fi Calling

Most phones now have a Wi-Fi assistance option. This basically allows your phone to borrow from the Wi-Fi signal when the cell signal is too low. This is certainly the future of voice calling, and it’s free. All you need is an internet connection. And if your phone doesn’t have a Wi-Fi assisted option, you can simply forego your phone’s default voice calling by downloading any of the number of free Wi-Fi calling apps available on app stores. You can also get free texts through these apps also. Then you can call anyone from Wi-Fi whenever you want, and you’ll never have to worry about cell phone signal again.

Purchase a Femtocell

A femtocell is a powered base station that connects to your internet service. Its purpose is to amplify your cell phone signal. It’s basically an in-house cell tower. Through the Wi-Fi, a femtocell bridges the gap between the cell phone tower signal and obstructions (such as your house, its walls, and objects inside the house). It also reduces the number of cell phones using the cell tower directly, thus improving your signal.

It’s a fairly inexpensive solution to what might be a long-term problem. Before you go out and purchase one, research which femtocell might be best for you.

Signal Booster

Another option is acquiring a signal booster through your wireless carrier. This device basically boosts signals from anywhere in your house. For instance, if you can get two bars when you stand nearby the microwave by the back door, placing a signal booster in that area will spread the signal throughout the house, and in many cases will improve upon it.

Basically one of the only free options for improving your cell signal is to connect your phone to Wi-Fi (if the option is available). No matter what you choose, be sure to research to determine the best option to fit your needs.

These Cities Cost Student Loan Borrowers MostStudent debt is one of our country’s most pressing problems. As of this year, the total amount of student loan debt has reached $1.44 trillion. Paying back the average $37,000-plus loan will be a challenge for millions of students for decades to come. And for some more than others. This means that loan borrowers will have to focus less on investing and more on repayment, less on contributing to the economy and more on simply balancing budgets.

To be responsible and to flourish do not always coincide. Larger cities with higher housing costs will drain more income from a person than smaller towns, while yet offering unique opportunities and venues that attract younger crowds. It’s a classic catch-22. More, perhaps higher-paying, jobs are in the cities, and so are, quite likely, friends and opportunities. Should a young person, with their whole life ahead of them, forgo the city to repay steep student debt, while in the long-term stifling their social life and career?

Credible.com has helped us answer this question in some form: by compiling a list of “Cities where student loan borrowers struggle with debt the most.” Maybe the answer isn’t to forsake the city in general, but only certain cities that have the unfortunate characteristic of demanding higher housing costs without proportionately offering higher wages.

To compile their list, the team at Credible reviewed data submitted by 8,981 applicants from America’s 23 largest cities. The city that makes it most difficult to repay a student loan is San Jose, California, seizing on average 31.47% of a person’s monthly income in housing and student loan costs. This percentage doesn’t include other expenses like food, transportation, or taxes.  What might come as a surprise to many, Dallas, Texas, ranked least expensive among the top 23 cities, nabbing 26.24% of income.

The full list may be found here. Perhaps the question isn’t whether to move to a city, but in which city one might sustainably live. As student loans are one of the few forms of debt that are essentially impossible to dissolve by bankruptcy, they are here to stay. The road that leads directly to a good life, debt free, full of friends and possibilities, isn’t clear to student loan borrowers at this point. However, thanks to the new study by Credible.com, it’s easier to discern which steps one may take to begin the journey.

FORBES SportsMoney Index: Ranking Money in SportsHave you ever wondered who the highest paid athletes in all of sports are? Or the most valuable teams? The most influential brands? To answer these pressing questions of our time, Forbes compiled a unique index to track and rank money in sports.

Forbes describes the new index: “To create the SMI, we’ve combined all of FORBES’ SportsMoney annual valuations lists (sports teams, brands, athletes, agencies) and proprietary financial data into a single ranking that reflects their monetary success and how their values affect one another. This is the first time that a cross-category ranking of sports business influence has ever been compiled.”

The main factor that makes FORBES SportsMoney Index uniquely comprehensive is its mapping of all connections between brands, agencies, athletes, and teams. This is how the aforementioned cross-category ranking is determined. As a result, the financial world may now study how wealth is truly generated and established in the domain of sports.

Admittedly, for us the benefit is a bit less academic, though nonetheless interesting. When it comes to sports, comparing statistics is one of the most satisfying activities of speculation. Below you’ll find the top 3 brands in sports and the top 3 teams and athletes in soccer, basketball, baseball, and football. And for the fans of other sports, below the top 3 we’ve included the most valuable athletes and teams of every other sport ranked in the order they appear. We have not included the number of connections to other brands each brand, team, or athlete has. For that, and more, view Forbes’ fantastic, complete list here.


Top 3 Brands:

1 (#1) Nike

SMI Connections 9 Value: 27.5 B Revenue: $30 B

2 (#4) Pepsi

SMI Connections 4 Value: 19.4B Revenue: 11.8B

3 (#13) Budweiser

SMI Connections 14 Value: 23.4B Revenue: 10.9B


Top 3 Teams:

1 (#2)Real Madrid (Soccer)

Value: 3.6 B

Revenue: 694 B

Operating Income: 162 M

2 (#3) Barcelona (Soccer)

Value: 3.5 B

Revenue: 675 M

Operating Income: 108M

3 (#6) NYY (Baseball)

Value: 3.4B

Revenue: 516M

Operating Income: 13M

Top Teams in Other Sports:

(#10) New York Giants (Football)

Value: 3.1B

Revenue: 444M

Operating Income: 133M

(#11) New York Knicks (Basketball)

Value: 3B

Revenue: 307M

Operating Income: 109M

(#115) Chicago Blackhawks (Hockey)

Value: 925M

Revenue: 173M

Operating Income: 34.4M

(#144) Ferrari (Auto Racing)

Value: 1.3B

Revenue: 455 M

Operating Income: 7M


Top 3 Athletes:

1 (#5) LeBron James (Basketball Cavaliers)

LeBron James is the only top ranked athlete in the index that doesn’t play for one of the top 3 most valuable teams. The Cavs are the 5th most valuable team in basketball and sit as the 38th most valuable team in all of sports.

Just the 3rd player in NBA history to make at least $30 million in salary (joins Jordan and Bryant) Added Intel and Verizon last year, joining Nike, Coca-Cola (Sprite), Beats By Dre, and Kia Motor.

Total Earnings: 86 M

Endorsements: 55 M

Salary: 31 M

2 (#7) Cristiano Ronaldo (Soccer Real Madrid)

Worlds most popular athlete (200 Million social media followers) Nike, Tag Heuer, Sacoor Brothers suits, and Monster Headphones endorsements. 3-time FIFA best player in the world, made at least 50 goals in over six seasons in a row for Real Madrid.

Total Earnings: 88M

Endorsements: 32M

Salary 55M

3 (#9) Lionel Messi (Soccer Barcelona)

Won FIFA’s play of the year award 5 times.

Total Earnings: 81.4M

Endorsements: 28M

Salaray: 53.4M

Top Athletes in Other Sports:

(#19) Eli Manning (Football Giants)

Total Earnings: 45M

Endorsements: 8M

Salary: 37M

(#58) Jacoby Ellsbury (Baseball NYY)

Total Earnings 21.8 M

Endorsements: 600K

Salary: 21.2 M

(#73) Jordan Spieth (Golf)

Total Earnings: 52.8M

Endorsements: 32M

Salary: 20.8M

(#87) Roger Federer (Tennis)

Total Earnings: 67.8M

Endorsements: 60M

Salary: 7.8M

(#126) Denny Hammlin (Auto Racing – Nascar)

Total Earnings: 15.2M

Endorsements: 1.8M

Salary: 13.4M

(#134) Alex Ovechkin (Hockey )

Total Earnings: 12M

Endorsements: 3M

Salary: 10M

#191 Floyd Mayweather (Boxing)

Total Earngings: 44M

Endorsements: 12M

Salary: 32M

Why Smart People Rent--On the Benefits of RentingTrying to decide between renting or buying a home? Of course, buying a home gives the stability of a mortgage. And renting a house or apartment allows for tremendous flexibility of location. But there must be more, right? Is flexibility the only reason to rent?

The Khan Academy has published a video on the difference, mathematically, between renting and buying. They challenge the notion that “buying is always better than renting.” Many people have also challenged the claim. If you haven’t heard, renting is on the up-and-up. According to Appfolio.Com, “2 million new renter-occupied households were added in 2014, while the number of owner-occupied households decreased by more than 350,000.”

Amenities are an often overlooked but important aspect of renting a unit in an apartment complex. If you buy a house, not many conveniences are included. Gyms typically require a $30-$50 per month membership plan. You may have to drive to a far location to play tennis or basketball, or to swim. And, almost certainly, your home will not come with a playground. Imagine all these expenses as monthly fees in addition to your mortgage. However, many apartment complexes include such amenities and more.

Many pro-and-con lists are created for this type of decision. Realtor.Com has a convincing video for the pros of renting. For example, if you rent, you may have access to amenities that, as a homeowner, would not typically be within your reach. Similarly, renters often do not make home repairs. Rather, property managers and landlords take care of them. Many apartment complexes have onsite maintenance and even 24/7 emergency maintenance. Everyday maintenance issues are taken care of by property owners or landlords. Furthermore, you may wake up to an upgraded wifi network, new central air unit, or a newly carpeted hallway.

What renters lack in ownership they gain in freedom. If you don’t like your neighborhood, feel an itch to move, or want to explore the world, renting is a good option for flexible people. Leases aren’t mortgages. With renting, you aren’t locked in for 30 years.

The decision to rent or buy is one of the more important decisions you’ll have to make. The worst thing to do would be to listen to cliches. As we have seen, renting isn’t just for people who want flexible living arrangements. There are reasons to rent long-term.  It is not accidental that rental properties are thriving: the numbers don’t lie.

Renting has many appeals, from communal living to practically maintenance-free living. And renters don’t need to acquire realtors. Many apartment complexes now have their own websites. Utilizing the tool ApartmentsForUs.Com proves that finding the perfect apartment in this day and age is a breeze thanks to the rise of digital marketing.

Conquer the Toxic Dust Hidden in Your HomeMany of us don’t need a substantial push to swap harmful cleaning chemicals for less intrusive alternatives. Who likes dry, bleach-stained calloused hands anyway? As the dangers of indoor dust are well known, it’s becoming apparent the invisible, long term effects of our daily cleaning habits, and lack thereof, can amount to terrifying heights of harm. A recent study that “…analysed 26 peer-reviewed papers, as well as one unpublished dataset, from 1999 onwards to examine the chemical make-up of indoor dust…” found nearly 90% of dust samples contained particles linked to cancer and infertility, as reported by The Guardian. These findings were due in no part to small sample size: “The studies covered a wide range of indoor environments, from homes to schools and gymnasiums across 14 states.”

With the satisfactory appearance of Clorox’s clean glaze over countertops and the refreshing scent of Febreze floating like a lazy cloud from one room to the next, just when our homes seem cleanest, we may actually be most vulnerable. Altering what you buy, from harsh chemical cleaners to safer alternatives, isn’t the only thing you can do to curb indoor pollution, and doesn’t account for much of the problem. Your clean home houses hidden hazards.

The problem of indoor pollutants may appear at first glance counterintuitive. How could vanquishing bacteria, viruses, and who-knows-what-else from dirty floors and countertops, bathrooms and kitchens, ultimately harm us? Your everyday cleaners aren’t particularly handy for the real problem. The issue is that some chemicals in our couches and mattresses, our vinyl flooring and carpeting, contain flame retardants, known to cause cancer, affecting the reproductive and nervous systems, and phthalates, found in personal care products and food packaging, which “have been linked to developmental problems in babies, hormone disruption, and are also thought to affect the reproductive system.”

These chemicals, especially when imprisoned in a house on lock-down for the winter, can accumulate and mingle with dust in your home. “The researchers highlighted 45 toxic chemicals in indoor dust, 10 of which were present in 90% or more of the dust samples – these included flame retardants, fragrances and phenols.” As The Guardian points out, these chemicals, though banned in some products, like bottles and diapers, may not be banned in others, like walls and flooring.

But this isn’t a matter to just throw up our hands over, declaring all proactivity hopeless and ineffective. Singla, from the Environmental Science and Technology journal, writes there are steps we can take to reduce exposure to this toxic dust. One key is, when you are performing regular cleaning duties like wiping off the counters or sweeping, don’t tackle these tasks with dry brooms or paper towels. Use damp mops and cloths to reduce levels of dust. Whereas merely dry materials might kick the dust back in the air, damp materials will cause the dust to clump and aggregate. Also, vacuum regularly, as the suction disposes of the toxic dust in its container. And, of course, activism, to demand accountability, is the surest way to reduce exposure to these chemicals.

Although the problem of indoor pollution is extremely concerning, it’s in your power to reduce exposure. Besides changing the way you clean your home, you can also purchase plants, which help reduce indoor pollution by cleaning the air you breathe. And don’t be afraid to open up your windows when the days are brilliant, and the soft breeze of spring warmly soothes the plants and animals, blooming and bustling outside, stirred by the chance to enter your home like an old, visiting friend.

Tips for Storing BooksIf this is your first time storing books, you might think the process will be as easy as storing anything else: pack them up in boxes and throw them on a shelf. But that’s not exactly the case here. Books are delicate, sensitive to changes in their environments. Store your books with the confidence that they won’t diminish in value.

Preparation

Clean. You might not think dust is a big problem, but it can cause covers to fade, lose texture, and damage their surfaces after books set for too long. Inspect all your books for dust and dirt.

After you clean, you may want to wrap any books with dust jackets in Mylar book covers. This thin, plastic material is actually sturdy enough to prevent most damages to book covers. Plus, in the future, if you spill something in the vicinity of your book, it won’t necessarily ruin its cover.

Storage

The first thing you’ll want to consider is the kind of storage unit you want your books in. Climate-controlled storage is best, since you will be able to not only monitor the temperature of the unit but also the humidity levels. Aside from that, you probably shouldn’t store books in a unit without, at least, temperature-control, which makes the unit immune to major temperature changes (these units typically guarantee a range of temperatures for your storage: a range in Fahrenheit from about 50 degrees to 90 degrees).

Next, boxes, bags, or totes? If you use boxes, don’t use secondhand boxes, especially if they contained items that typically emit an odor (food, leather, etc.). These odors will settle in books after a period of exposure.

Don’t store in plastic bags. Not only can these produce gases after some time (which will settle in your books), but they also can trap humidity and water, forming a layer of condensation around your books. Bags can basically create the same environment as a humid basement.

Totes are usually okay for a few reasons. If the outside of the tote gets wet, the moisture won’t sink through the tote to the books (like it would a box). Secondly, there is usually extra space in the tote, which would allow for some air circulation for your books. And, thirdly, you won’t have to worry about the acid that some boxes contain yellowing the pages of your books.

Whatever you choose to do, now you have the information to store your books like a pro. Happy packing!

Mottos of the OrganizedDon’t let your stuff own you

It’s easier said than done. Some people collect so much stuff throughout their lives, they have no idea what to do with it. So they keep it. Then have to pay for space to store it. And the problem just perpetuates itself. When you make financial decisions about where to live, because you have a bunch of stuff that you don’t use but need to bring with you, then your stuff owns you. Don’t let that happen.

When it’s not fun, you’re done

Two questions to ask yourself about the things you own: Are you using it and is it fun? If the objects sitting around your home are never used, why do you keep them? Consider this: clutter in your home contributes to, or may reflect, mental clutter. It may both cause and reflect anxiety. Clear up the things you don’t use, the things that no longer contribute to your life, and notice how it affects your day-to-day mentality.

Free space is worth more than occupied space

When all kinds of objects just occupy space and have no other use, you basically pay for the objects to sit there. It’s like renting out space. And every time you want something new, you’ll have to find a new place for it. This is the cycle that owning too many things all too often becomes.

To get out of this rut, consider the value of free space. Free space is possibility. You can do anything with it.

The past should remain in the past

If you want a change in your lifestyle, consider the objects you surround yourself with. Are they just things of the past, no longer contributing anything to your lifestyle or the lifestyle you want? Are they things that remind you of what you were but don’t want to be? Let everything that holds you back stay in the past. Try surrounding yourself with things that inspire you, things that hold you to a certain level of living.

Getting organized can be very difficult. Disorganization is a habit, and breaking habits is difficult. Remembering these mottos will make it easier to break the chains of habit.

How to Talk about Clutter with Your RoommateIf you’re living independently for the first time, with a roommate or significant other, you’ll encounter a universal problem: people organize their lives differently. What seems to be clutter to one person will be organized chaos to another. This problem may appear irresolvable to some. If your roommate or significant other doesn’t think about what counts as clutter in the same way you do, how can you change their mind? Luckily, you don’t have to.

Organizing a shared space isn’t about changing anybody’s idea of what is a mess and what isn’t. Actually, it’s just a matter of communication, like most other things, and respect. You live in a common space: you have common goals. Talk about them.

Shared Interests

If you talk about clutter only when you’re annoyed about it, the way you communicate with your roommate or significant other may take the form of blame. You might say, “Why haven’t you picked up your laundry?” Or, “Why is this room still not clean?” This doesn’t do anyone any good.

You live with someone. If you haven’t explicitly decided on what kind of organization you both would like to see for each room, then you cannot appeal to an agreed upon goal. The sentence, “Why is this room still not clean?” appears to be grounded in an agreed upon norm. And that’s why it’s so disorienting and, sometimes, maddening, when people talk this way without establishing, beforehand, what this agreed upon goal is.

Talk about your shared interests, what each of you hope to get from your home, and make compromises. But certainly do not wait until you are aggravated, annoyed, or irritable to bring up how your shared space should be organized.

State how you both want to use the room and accommodate each other’s visions. If your visions contradict, maybe split the space, or try to allocate different spaces for your separate visions.

Agree upon the appropriate items for the space. Then talk about how you’d like to see them stored when not in use.

Conclusion

Most of all be reasonable about your vision. You share space with another person. Sometimes you can’t get everything you want. No matter what you decide about organization, having a discussion about your goals, interests, and expectations is always healthy. And it’s certainly the best way to talk about clutter with your roommate or significant other.

Begin Exercising at Your ApartmentThe best deals are those that involve getting the same product or service for a lower price. This is why exercising at home is best. No more gym rats. No more sweat-infused-axe-spray nausea. No more machine hogs.

Think about how much less effort you’ll have to put into preparation for the gym. Let’s talk about getting your apartment ready for exercising.

Goals

Obviously, if your goals aren’t similar to the outcomes desired by body builders, then you won’t need as much equipment as a typical gym. You just want to do cardio? Maybe, then, all you’ll need is a space for a yoga mat. Want to get really buff? The nice thing is, your apartment most likely has a fitness center that already includes some equipment. You’ll only have to make space for what the fitness center doesn’t have.

And don’t just brush off using the fitness center all at once. Research has shown it’s actually easier to form habits, like going to the gym, if you begin with small goals first. Maybe your first time lifting weights shouldn’t be at LA Fitness. Not only might you get discouraged, but missing a few days can turn into a few weeks and then you’ll be back at square one again.

If you want to build muscle, just begin with the basics: a quick ten-minute warm-up, followed by a period of strength training (pushups, pullups, squats), followed by a ten-minute cool down period. As simple as it is, beginning with this kind of routine will prepare your tendons and joints for heavier loads. And it has the added bonus of pushing you to form new habits.

Organization

The only other thing you’ll have to think about is how to store what you need. If you’re just getting a jump rope, you won’t have much of a problem. But if you need a bench press, for instance, you might have to get a little creative if you’re living in an apartment. Pick a space to use your equipment in. But this space doesn’t necessarily have to be used to store your equipment.

Another thing you can do is think about ways in which the storage space for your equipment can be used for other things. For instance, maybe your bench press can hold your plants. Maybe your bars can double as a coat hanger. There’s really no limit on what kind of uses you can put these things to.

Conclusion

If you want to begin exercising, just start at your apartment. Maybe use the fitness center, if your apartment has one. But if not, no big deal. Form the habit of exercising before you make lofty goals for yourself. That way, when the time comes to lift big weights, not only will your tendons be ready, but your mind will be ready too.

Why Renting is the Better Choice for MillennialsYou’ve probably heard: student debt is over $1.3 trillion. And, according to a report by CNBC, it’s “growing faster than the average salaries for recent graduates.”

For a borrower aged 20-30, the average monthly student loan payment is $351. That’s quite a bit, especially when the median income for millennials remains relatively low. As reported by BusinessInsider.com, “In 2013, the median annual earnings for millennial women working full-time, year-round were $30,000,” states the report, “compared with $35,000 for their male counterparts.” A $351 payment can seem steep, since it accounts for about 12% of income for males and 14% of income for women.

Coupled with other expenses, from car loans to credit card debt, from housing costs to food, student loans are a heavy burden for many millennials trying to scrape by.

So, if you’re a millennial with a lot of debt, listen up. The following are things to consider before you buy a house. Like many others, you might find renting the better path.

Stability

Houses are sought for their stability. Even as markets change, a locked-in mortgage rate won’t. But the stability of a mortgage requires stability in life. Before you house-hunt, begin at step one. Think seriously about how stable your job is, your relationships, and career path. Are you expecting a promotion, or a change of scenery? Do you see yourself in the same job or relationship in five years? If not, a house probably isn’t your best bet.

Especially if you don’t plan to stay in a house long term, you should consider the payoff of picking up and relocating that an apartment provides. The assumption of many homeowners is they’ll be able to sell whenever they want. That, tops, it’ll take maybe a few months to close a deal. But as many learned during the housing crisis of ’08, when interest rates skyrocket, the equity of your house diminishes. The stability of a mortgage is a double-edged sword. There’s nothing to protect your home from future devaluation by the market. This isn’t a decision you should rush into.

Cost

Unexpected losses aren’t just restricted to market change. Other costs to home owning can also set you back significantly. The best thing to do is create a hypothetical budget. As HousingWire.com suggests, “Aim to keep total rent or mortgage payments plus utilities to less than 25% to 30% of your gross monthly income.”

To place the costs of owning in further perspective, imagine that, after you budget, you have $500 every pay period left over. One day you notice your refrigerator isn’t working. You have to buy a new one. You get the new refrigerator and it turns out that the issue is with the electrical wiring going to the refrigerator. You have to pay an electrician to come out, and it turns out your entire kitchen was poorly wired and needs updated. If you don’t have deep savings or a friend who happens to be an electrician, your bills can become, very quickly, too large for a budget with little room for error.

Conclusion

When it comes to renting, however, apartment complexes take care of all major maintenance issues, and many minor issues as well. And, though rent prices might be higher than mortgage prices in some areas, apartment complexes provide amenities that you’d usually have to pay for if you own a house: pools, weight rooms, clubhouses, etc.

If you’ve acquired large amounts of student or credit card debt, it might be a wiser choice to rent an apartment for a few years while you climb out of debt, and stash away some money in savings in the meantime. That way, if you get a house, you’ll be ready for unexpected issues and they won’t break your budget.

How Millennials are Happy and Productive in the Workplace“67% of millennials are likely to share personal details [at work]…while only one-third of baby boomers do the same,” found a 2014 study by LinkedIn.

The work/life balance is an unspoken rule among working people. What happens at home shouldn’t be brought to work, and vice versa. This has long been the idea undergirding “professionalism.” But millennials have challenged this distinction in a very simple but powerful way.

It goes without saying: there are many reasons to keep the work/life distinction afloat. The workplace is not home. And a certain level of professionalism is required to maintain an efficient organization. This is true without qualification.

But what millennials have done, writes Sarah Landrum of Forbes, is widened their investment in the workplace. Work isn’t just an investment of time for them; it’s also an emotional investment. And this isn’t a bad thing. The attempt to roadblock the emotional aspect is not only a misunderstanding of science (the brain is interconnected in unimaginably complex ways), but a recipe for unproductive habits.

How Work + Happiness = Productivity

Many of you, like myself, may think making friends at work would impede upon productivity. But friendships at work aren’t like friendships at home. They don’t involve hanging out, but are held together and formed by self-disclosures in conversations. What does this mean? Simply put: it’s talking about how you feel about what you do, about how the weather is, about your weekend, more than about what you do, Landrum points out.

In Psych 101 you might have learned the simple difference between an acquaintance and a friend. Acquaintances talk about facts. They say to each other, “It’s sunny out. It’s a nice day. I have work to do.” But they don’t go further by disclosing any information about themselves like, “It’s sunny out, I think I’ll go to the park after work because there’s a good area to fish.”

Just to understand this from a millennial’s perspective, think about it this way: If you’re not self-disclosing sometimes to people you talk with every day, you’re basically working with acquaintances. And that means you never learn more about anyone, even after 20 years of work.

In 2014 Censuswide and LinkedIn joined to conduct a survey on 11,500 working professional that spanned 14 countries. They found that “57% of respondents indicated having friends at work made them more productive.”

Conclusion

Millennials get the most out of work by relating to those around them. This doesn’t keep them from being productive. In fact, it makes them more productive. And one reason just might be because they don’t feel like they are working in a world of acquaintances. The emotional investment is a powerful piece to the overall work experience. And it might be the key to productivity in a world where everyone is more and more alienated by technology.

And there’s another benefit. Apparently friendships at the workplace make companies more valuable to employees. As Landrum reports, “When asked whether they’d swap camaraderie for a larger paycheck at a different employer, 58% of men indicated they wouldn’t make the trade. A whopping 74% of female professionals concurred.”

The work/life distinction has a valuable place in a professional setting. But it doesn’t necessarily deny the possibility of self-disclosure. And self-disclosure just may be the key to happiness and productivity in the workplace.

How to Break Old Habits and Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

Now the holidays are over, and the New Year’s resolutions are kicking in, it’s time to think about sustainability. Whether you are resolved to eat healthier this year, exercise, or even learn a new instrument, you’ll have to think long and hard about how you’ll accomplish your by-the-end-of-the-year goals. The good thing is you’re not alone. Gaining traction on your New Year’s resolution is a matter of forming a new habit. So it’s important to understand how habits work.

Habits are like Cycles

In an interview with NPR, Charles Duhigg discusses his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business. Everything we’ve made into a routine, from exercising to cooking, from brushing teeth to cleaning laundry, begins with the same “psychological pattern.” This is called a “habit loop.” It’s really simple, actually: every habit begins with a cue, proceeds by routine, and ends with a reward. That’s it!

Let’s look a little closer. A habit begins with “a cue, or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behavior unfold.” Then the routine occurs, which is the behavior itself, or the habit. Lastly, the reward is “something that your brain likes that helps it remember the ‘habit loop’ in the future.”

The interesting thing is habits are formed in the part of the brain that has a major influence on “emotions, memories and pattern recognition.” It’s called the basal ganglia. Why is this interesting? Because it’s a separate from the region of the brain responsible for decision making – the prefrontal cortex. And, as a result, when automation kicks in, when habit loops initiate, the prefrontal cortex goes into hibernation.

This is readily available knowledge, at least by quick reference to experience. Think about how difficult the very basics of reading and math once were. We learned by rote memory, by memorizing the alphabet and times tables, and this period of learning required intense concentration. But after a while these things became second nature. It’s because, like any other habit, our focus, determination, and persistence eventually formed habit loops.

Lessons from in the Loop

Because all habits begin with a cue and end with a reward, it’s important, especially if you have big plans for your health this year – to exercise three or four times a week, to cut out sugar from your diet, etc. – to figure out some sort of consistent pattern to follow when you eat, go to the gym, or whatever you may do.

Maybe before a trip to the gym you listen to music you really like as you prepare, and afterwards you treat yourself to some yogurt. When some people crave a sweet snack, they cut up some apples and eat those as substitutes instead.

With new habits, especially healthy habits, old habits are broken. And this means the power of the reward system established by the old habit loop becomes more and more powerless. As you exercise more, your desire to lay around all day will weaken. And as you stay away from sugar, your cravings will diminish.

For more information on habits and the science behind them, you might also be interested in Scientific American’s podcast episode where Dr. Art Markman discusses things like “How to know you have a habit,” “How to work in league with your psychology to from new habits,” and “How we are more likely to succeed when we view failure as part of the process.”

Conclusion

But, most importantly, remember that habits are like cycles: as you reinforce them, they eventually become as automatic and predictable as the sunrise in the morning. Don’t be discouraged by failure. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to change, and an opportunity to become better at what you are trying to do.

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Prepare Clothes for Storage

It’s time to put those summer clothes away for the season. Here are some tips to help prepare your clothes for storage.

Clean

You probably don’t want to pack away clothes with bad odors. But don’t forget your clothes might be stained too. And those stains will become permanent if you let them sit for half a year. Just be sure, wash all the clothes you plan to put in storage.

Pack

Everyone has boxes of some sort lying around. You’ll be tempted to use them. But purchase some plastic containers to store your clothes in. These containers secure your clothes from insects and rodents. And if you have clothes from the drycleaner, don’t just leave them in the drycleaner plastic. They could get water damaged.

If you use a storage facility, like Infinite Self Storage, you can purchase wardrobe boxes to hang up your clothes while they’re in storage. Then you won’t have to worry about creases or folds.

Label

You might think you can just throw everything together. And that’s fine, if you are just going to get everything out once spring arrives. But if you have a more variegated clothing selection, you’ll want to label your items by season or, even, activity. Then you can keep your harvest season clothes in storage while it’s planting season.

Store

Sure, it’s reasonable to think plastic bins will protect your clothes from temperature changes. But they won’t. In fact, they could compound the effects condensation has on your clothes. If you have an expensive wardrobe, invest in a temperature controlled storage unit to protect your clothes from condensation.

If you have any more questions about storing clothes, we encourage you to contact one of our professional storage team members. At Infinite Self Storage, we have solutions to all your storage problems.

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Winterize Your Apartment

If this is the first year you’ve lived in your apartment, you don’t yet know how winter conditions might change your electricity bills or room temperature levels. Maybe things won’t change at all. Here are some tips in case they do.

Windows

The very first thing you’ll want to do is seal your windows. Even if they are new, it can only help. Purchase some plastic to put over the glass, buy insulating curtains, and get a door sweep. Even if your windows are old, the plastic and curtains together will reduce winter’s effects on your apartment significantly.

But don’t become a hermit. When the sun is out, make sure your curtains are open. It’s not only good for your skin to get some sunlight, but it’s a free source of heat.

Vent Filter

You’ll want to replace your vent filter as well. Ever wonder why spring cleaning is a huge deal? Why it has it’s own name? Why winter cleaning isn’t a thing? It’s because your home gets dirtiest during the winter months. This is due to a lot of factors. But the main reason is because people keep their windows closed when it’s cold outside. This traps in dirt, dust, and everything else in your home, for months.

Beginning the winter with a clean filter is a good idea. Not only will it filter out dirty air coming into your apartment, it’ll increase air flow from your vent.

Rugs

Lastly, rugs are great insulators. Get large rugs. Not only will it help liven up your living space, it’ll trap in some heat, especially if you have hardwood floors. It’ll be nice to not have to walk on cold floors during the coldest months of the year.

Space Heater

If you’ve done everything here and still are cold, don’t hesitate to purchase a small space heater. It’s not a bad investment, because it’s usually cheaper to run a space heater than it is to hike up the thermostat and keep the furnace running.

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How to Maintain a Clean Car

We all know this experience. You go to the car wash. You pay for a nice shine. You vacuum the seats and floors. And after a month, not only has the shine faded, but it looks like a dump on the inside. Follow these tips to maintain a clean interior throughout the winter.

Trash Cans

This idea might seem unappealing at first. Who wants a trash container to take up legroom in the car? And won’t it smell? But, especially if you don’t want to clean out your car every time you drive it, a secondary benefit of a trash can is to get you in the habit of cleaning out your car. Even if it means just taking out the trash once a month.

But obviously the primary benefit of having a trash can in your car is it eliminates the garbage. And it won’t take up too much space. Buy a small 3 or 5 gallon trash can with a lid. Once you get in the habit of taking the trash out of the car, you can get rid of the trash can.

Organizers

Invest in a good car organizer. Then purchase some car wipes to keep the interior shiny and clean. Also stock up on some baby wipes for any messy passengers. Place these cleaners and any objects or tools in the organizer.

With the trashcan and organizer, what else can be in your car? Once you get organized, cleaning will be the easiest part of owning a car. Even if you have a family, an organizing box will hold toys, crayons, books, and anything else you’ll need.

Now that the floor is clean and the dashboard wiped, the interior of your car will stay as clean as it came out of the factory.

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unhealthy holiday habits

The holidays are just around the corner. What, with all the food temptations, warm, chocolate drinks, and electric blankets, how can you blame anyone for lounging around? The snow is great—when you’re not covered in it. And besides, the best time for a nap is when it’s cold outside, and the fireplace is going, right?

But some habits are developed during the winter months that are best left undeveloped. Here are some habits to avoid this winter season.

Hot Shower

After you’ve built a snowman and won a snowball fight, what can be better than taking a long, hot shower? Well, in terms of your skin, one thing better than taking a hot shower is not taking a hot shower. A hot shower can dry out your skin. And in the winter months, you don’t want to look like a snowman, do you? Prevent skin irritation and flaking by taking a cooler shower.

Diet

Is there such a thing as a “cheat month?” The fact is, your body doesn’t think so. It doesn’t matter how warm that hot chocolate is. Don’t let your diet die this winter. Be sure to include vegetables. And don’t just drink hot chocolate 24/7.

Exercise

Of course, dieting and exercise are on every healthy-habits list. But in the winter months exercise is especially important. In the warmer months, you’re outside more on average than you are in the winter months. Think about the times you’ve walked to the store, jogged on trails, or relaxed with friends at the park or at that outside restaurant. But in colder weather, it’s really easy for all that extra movement in your day to completely cease. Keep up on your exercise: it might be the only significant movement you get most days.

The holiday season is just around the corner. Don’t let your health take a holiday! Avoid these three holiday slumps to stay in shape this winter.

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improve cell phone signal in apartment

Not much is more frustrating than trying to talk on the phone when your cellular reception is low. From broken sentences to incomplete words, the conversation is pretty much incomprehensible. The most obvious thing to do is keep your phone charged. A full battery guarantees the best hardware performance. But aside from finding the sweet spot in your apartment, there are a few things you can do to improve your cell phone service.

Wi-Fi Calling

Most phones now have a Wi-Fi assistance option. This is certainly the future of voice calling, and it’s free. All you need is an internet connection. And if your phone doesn’t have a Wi-Fi assisted option, you can simply forego your phone’s default voice calling by downloading any of the number of free Wi-Fi calling apps available on app stores. You can also get free texts through these apps also.

Purchase a Femtocell

A femtocell is a powered base station that connects to your internet service in order to amplify your cell phone signal. It’s basically an in-house cell tower. Through the Wi-Fi, a femtocell bridges the gap between the cell phone tower signal and obstructions (such as your house, its walls, and objects inside the house). It also reduces the number of cell phones using the cell tower directly, thus improving your signal.

It’s a fairly inexpensive solution to what might be a long-term problem. Before you go out and purchase one, research which femtocell might be best for you.

Signal Booster

Another option is acquiring a signal booster through your wireless carrier. This device basically boosts signals from anywhere in your house. For instance, if you can get two bars when you stand nearby the microwave by the back door, placing a signal booster in that area will spread the signal throughout the house, and in many cases will improve upon it.

Basically one of the only free options for improving your cell signal is to connect your phone to Wi-Fi (if the option is available). No matter what you choose, be sure to research to determine the best option to fit your needs.

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prepare car for winter

Sometimes breaking down in the summer and spring months isn’t too much of a hassle: especially if the weather is nice. But breaking down in sub-zero temperatures is another story. Prepare your car this winter by following these tips.

Check Your Battery

According to TheAA, the most common cause of breakdown is battery related. And battery related issues are exacerbated in winter months. Because of the cold weather, batteries have lower outputs levels, accept charges at lesser levels, and carry increased loads (lights, heat, wipers, etc.).

To avoid issues in the winter months, TheAA recommends replacing your battery if it is five years or older, especially if your car has trouble starting up. An easy preventative maintenance step you can take to decrease the load on your battery at startup is to turn everything electrical off for the first few seconds when you start your car. Avoid a breakdown this winter by taking care of your battery.

Wipers

Do you remember the last time you bought windshield wipers? If not, it’s probably time to get a new set. You can find wipers made specifically for the winter at your local auto store. These wear down less from ice accumulation and remove ice from your windshield easier than non-winter wipers.

Tires Lose 1 Pound of Pressure per Every 10 Degree Drop

Well, according to TireRack.com, the actual equation is 2% per every 10-degree Fahrenheit drop. But for the average car tire requiring 30-50 psi for adequate inflation, the difference between the summer and winter temperature could lose you at least 5 psi in tire inflation. That difference could end up making your car slide on the snow. Be sure to check your psi periodically in the winter months to ensure your tires are up to the car manual’s specifications.

Car Wash

This might sound strange, but car washes are imperative in the winter months if you drive on roads that are constantly plowed and salted. The salt can cause rust on your car’s frame and break and gas lines. Car washes will keep your car untouched by the dangers of winter-related rusting.

The winter months don’t only call for a change in attire. But they also demand certain preparations be made to your car. Get your car ready for the winter by following these tips.

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working from home

Working from home can be a huge blessing for some people: you can drink as much coffee as you want! For others, it can be a death sentence. From childcare and errands to cleaning the house and Sportscenter, some distractions you’ll find at home don’t exist at the workplace. But distractions don’t have to ruin the experience for you. These tips will help you make the most of working from home.

Create a Workspace

This is one of the easiest ways to remove distractions. Create a workspace you’ll enjoy seeing and working in. Make it extremely personal. You can do this: you have the freedom of your home. But whatever you do, leave that television in the living room. And never bring your phone or phone charger to the workspace. You’ll probably want a coffee pot though, right?

Dress like You’re Working

I know, it’s very tempting to stay in your pajamas all day. But it might also encourage you to take a nap, watch TV, or check your Instagram. This is because you’re basically dressed to lounge around. Continue with your normal morning routine when you work from home, but instead of going in to work, you’ll be able to just go to a different room in your apartment. You’ll feel more energetic and ready to work if you don’t make working from home like a day-off.

Take a Walk

When you’re feeling drowsy or uninspired, simply take a break. But don’t just watch TV or check your phone. Get outside the apartment. Take a walk around the neighbor or exercise for half an hour. Make sure you’re off the clock. But getting your mind off work every once in a while might actually boost productivity and energy.

Working from home can be extremely rewarding. Follow these tips and you’ll be just as productive, if not more so, than when you drive to the office.

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Apartment Storage Ideas

Ever notice how densely populated areas have tall buildings? It’s because when you run out of horizontal space, you have to think vertically. If you lived in a dorm room during college, you’ll understand this principle. Most dorm room roommates position their beds over their desks and dressers. It’s efficient, and it opens the rest of the room for other things (like a table tennis table).

This means lack of closet and storage space doesn’t have to be the last word on your storage capabilities. Here are some hacks for making the most of your apartment space.

Use the Walls

Get some command strips. Hang everything. From your hats and hair ties to your shoes (the trick is to tie them together) and backpacks. You can probably think of more things to hang. You can also buy bags just for the purpose of placing things in them to hang on your wall.

Bed Lifts

If your bed doesn’t sit high off the ground, take a tip from dorm rooms: raise it. You’ll be able to fit a lot more things under there than you might expect: dressers, book shelves, desks. The possibilities are endless. You could even purchase a portable clothes rack and hang your clothes underneath.

Bookshelf Storage

This one is kind of obvious if you keep your bookshelf vertical. But try placing it on its side. Then you can purchase linen baskets and place anything inside of it (like charging cables, papers, extra blankets, and sheets, etc.) without making your room appear cluttered. Using linen baskets to create storage blocks in your bookshelf gives you the advantage of storage space without the messy appearance.

Don’t Hang Clothes

You read that right. Instead, go the military way and roll your clothes in their drawers. If rolled correctly, they won’t wrinkle. And you won’t have to dig through your drawers to find the perfect outfit.

If you feel like you don’t have enough space in your apartment, you may not be using the space efficiently. Use these hacks to maximize your apartment space.

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Guide to Eating Healthy Post Image

Remember the food pyramid? That’s out. The United States Department of Agriculture created a new visualization for the healthiest way to eat. It’s called MyPlate.

Many reasons are cited for this change. One is the pyramid itself doesn’t exactly tell you what a typical plate conducive to a healthy lifestyle might look like. That’s really where MyPlate comes from. It shows you healthy portions in relation to a plate: thus the name.

Offered, also, are suggestions for a healthier lifestyle. We’ve listed some highlights for you.

All Choices Are Important

Your focus, when selecting foods and making dinner, should be to select healthy choices within each food category: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. This means, first of all, to include each group in your food choices. Next, it means to be selective about choosing what to get from each group. For instance, whole grain bread is better for you than enriched bread. Most of all, remember what you eat and drink matters, every time you eat and drink.

Lower Saturated Fats, Sodium, and Added Sugars

One of the easiest ways to improve your diet is to not fill that table salt shaker. Salt is an essential part of making food: for its taste. But don’t overdo it. Don’t add more than recommended in the recipe and don’t sprinkle salt on that steak right before you eat it.

The same is true of sugar. Just leave it in the jar. After you wean yourself off both, your taste buds will adjust. And pretty soon you’ll have an aversion to added salt and sugar. It’ll be worth it in the long run.

Set Small Goals

Setting up big, nearly unreachable goals from the beginning is just setting yourself up to fail. It’s discouraging to not reach a goal. And having a huge goal at the outset may prevent you from eating healthy in the first place. Avoid this by setting small goals: maybe don’t reach for the table salt one day a week, then two, and so on.

It’s fun to set goals. And, once it becomes part of your lifestyle, it’s easy to eat well. Share your tips for eating healthy below!

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tips when searching for apartments

Think about What You Can’t Change

The most important thing to remember before signing a lease is you can’t change some things. This just means that some things you should be certain that you’ll be okay with before you sign the lease. If not, you may end up upset, with eight months left on your lease. Put yourself in the best situation by remembering the following things when exploring your rental options.

Property Manager

You cannot change your property manager. Of course, your property manager might change while you’re a resident, especially if you are a long-term resident. But you need be sure that your personality will mesh with your property manager’s personality and communication style. That’s not to say you’ll have to be the same person or you’ll need to be friends, but just that you can understand where they’re coming from.

Neighbors

Your neighbors will change. But some neighbors may stay at the apartment property longer than you. Before you sign the lease, it’s a good idea to attend a community event the apartment community is involved in. Or, even, hold one yourself. Have a cookout, or set one up with the property management staff, for the community.

Seasons

Like most people, you’ll probably visit different apartment communities during the spring and summer seasons. But a good air conditioner in the summer doesn’t equal a good furnace in the winter. Ask neighbors about how the apartments change with the seasons.

Lease

You must read your lease. You can’t change it once you sign it. It’ll tell you the responsibilities of your property manager and your own obligations while you’re a resident. This will be your guide for certain policies as well. Most of all, if you find something unacceptable in your lease, talk with the property manager about it. You might get it changed.

Think as if Your Apartment is Permanent

The best thing to do when looking at apartments is to pretend you’ll be living at the apartments permanently. This may open up your eyes to things you may not focus on. For instance, you might think to ask about how old the water heater is. You might think about the water pressure, and how much utilities generally cost.

Pretending your apartment will be permanent is a good way to come up with questions to understand your move-in situation better. Then there’ll be no surprises. Remember, if you have any questions about the apartment you’re visiting, don’t leave it unanswered. Ask the property manager and do your own research.

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when to contact your property manager

Property managers are like community organizers. They plan visits, fill vacancies, submit and follow-up on maintenance issues, resolve tenant complaints, and much more. They work to ensure their apartment community works like it should. Contacting your property manager shouldn’t be your number one option for settling certain issues. On the other hand, you definitely shouldn’t hesitate if one of the following occurs.

Emergency

If your air conditioning goes out in the middle of summer, it’s reason to contact your property manager. Do so quickly, so maintenance can put you on their task list (because they probably have a list of jobs to do). Priority is obviously given to emergencies, so the sooner you report your issue to the property manager the sooner your home will be back to normal.

But if you contact your manager for an emergency, make sure it’s an emergency. For instance, an inoperative cabinet door may seem like an emergency when you’re hosting a dinner party. But you should simply submit a repair request to the property staff instead of the manager in that situation (and others like it).

But, to be safe, if you don’t know if your issue is an emergency or could be considered one, submit it straight to the property manager. They’ll know how to classify your request.

Concerns

If you have questions or concerns regarding property rules you should contact your property manager. From parking issues to pool policies, the rules are in place for reasons your property manager can give to you for clarification.

Safety concerns should be brought up with your property manager as well. When common area doors are either jammed or broken, it’s important to get those fixed. If there is broken glass in the parking lot, for instance, it’s in the interest of the community to get it cleaned up.

Living in an apartment community is different from living at home by yourself. General and emergency maintenance is taken care of for you. And property managers are there to make your stay as comfortable and smooth as possible. Don’t be afraid to communicate when you have issues.

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renting is greener than owning

When you think about it, the average apartment unit size per family size is probably smaller than the average house size per family size. This, at the outset, gives an advantage to renters: with a smaller area, you’ll use less energy to provide heating or cooling to satisfy the same amount of people. But some statistics, provided by the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario in 2012, may surprise you. It turns out that renting is significantly greener than owning.

Statistics[i]

APARTMENTS ARE GREENER THAN SINGLE FAMILY HOMES

  • 65% less energy use per household
  • 40% less water per capita
  • 60% less waste 10 km shorter commute distance to work

RENTERS ARE GREENER THAN OWNERS

  • 50% less energy used per household 8.4 km shorter commute each day
  • 32% less likely to use a car
  • 150% more likely to take transit
  • 175% more likely to walk

This is good news. Not only is the rental market booming in the United States, but other green initiatives are combing to create a market climate better for the environment and better for our wallets.

Could there be a better time to rent?


[i]Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario. (2012, February 08). Apartment Living Is Green. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from frpo.org, http://web.archive.org/web/20140208064830/http://www.frpo.org/documents/2012%20Apartment%20Living%20is%20Green.pdf

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get fit

The summer is the perfect time to get in shape. Trips to the beach, vacations, and yard work in the hot sun call for sleeveless tees and beach attire. If you live in an apartment community, now you won’t have to leave your home, or break your budget, to get in shape.

Gym

Want to run in air conditioning? Most apartments with gyms have treadmills if nothing else. And for casual strength trainers, do a few cable-based exercises to compliment the run. Apartments with gyms are fantastic for procrastinators because all the excuses for skipping—the drive, the cost—are eliminated. And you most likely won’t need a spotter for your lifts, because most apartments will have cable-based equipment only.

Pool

Swimming in the pool is a great way to burn calories and relax at the same time. When you run, you’ll sweat. Do you ever remember sweating while swimming? Also, who doesn’t like floating? Buy a small pool hoop and basketball to compliment the swim. Work on your dunk game while exercising. You can also swim laps and see how close you can get to a Michael Phelps time (given, you probably won’t have an Olympic size pool). The pool is a great way to exercise while also enjoying yourself.

Bark Park

Have an energetic dog? Maybe it doesn’t get enough exercise. Jog with your pet to the dog park, then teach it some tricks. Many bark parks have agility training equipment. With a bag of treats in hand and some determination, you’ll be surprised how much discipline a dog can acquire with a few weeks training. And if there is no equipment, at least you’ll have some open room to play fetch with your dog.

Attaining your fitness goals can be a breeze when you live in an apartment community. Those amenities aren’t for nothing. Take advantage of all your community offers!

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The beginnings of Labor Day: The Pullman Strike

Labor Day is here. For most of us, that means a day off work, the beginning of school, or a bid adieu to summer. But how did the first Monday of every September become a holiday? From its murky origins to its present day vacation placeholder, the history of Labor Day is a long one.

George Pullman and the Railroad Sleeping Car Company

Outside the melting pot of 1880s urban Chicago, businessman George Pullman founded a “worker’s paradise.” Visionary in its ideals, the company town of Pullman, Illinois, was the largest and earliest of its kind. Some 6,000 company employees bought from company-owned markets, lived in company-owned rentals, and learned and dined at company-owned churches, libraries, and entertainment venues.[i]

This idea of a company town was not new. It was a common practice among mining companies to establish these towns to minimize payout to employees. With upcharges for everything, a miner’s take-home check diminished to the point of nonexistence, and at times a miner could owe debts to their companies. Some executies established company towns to maximize profits.

But Pullman’s idea was radical. Outside the lure of a frenetic Chicago, a town of peace, order, and prosperity would exist on the foundation of labor rights. According to Pullman, a company-owned town could be good for workers because the company controls value of goods. And since the company also determines paychecks, the worker, in theory, would require less compensation for a high-quality life.

The company town would provide a prosperity to its workers unattainable in other towns.

The Pullman Strike[ii]

During the Pullman Strike of 1894, the first meat Train leaving Chicago Stock Yards was escorted by United States Cavalry, July 10, 1894.

For about 14 years the town instituted Pullman’s ideas, and they worked. Then the economic panic of 1893 befell the nation. Demand for Pullman cars plummeted. And on May 11, 1894, nearly 4,000 factory employees went on strike.[iii]

The reasons for the Pullman Strike were many: Pullman disallowed any employee from buying or renting a house outside the company town; Pullman had a “paternalistic” governing style, forbidding any democratic initiatives to influence governance; and, as profits and paychecks declined with the demand for Pullman cars, rent remained unmoved.

As the strike gained attention, the American Railways Union (ARU) joined the cause, led by Eugene V. Debs. The ARU called for a nationwide boycott of Pullman cars. Union and non-union members eventually rioted, burning railcars and obstructing railroads.

President Glover Cleveland, under pressure by stifled mail trains and anxious railroad executives, declared the strike a federal crime. 12,000 troops deployed to Illinois to discontinue protests. A story of ensuing violence is told by the Huffington Post.[iv] The clashes between troops and protesters signified an end to the strike. It concluded on August 3, 1894, at peak involving some 250,000 rail employees in over 27 states[v]

When the Pullman Strike ends, the ARU disbands, Debs finds himself in prison for six months, and Pullman employees sign pledges stating they’d never unionize again. The outfall stultified union growth and development across the nation until the Great Depression.

A National Holiday

1894 was an election year. And Cleveland’s tactics for ending the Pullman strike was looked upon as ignominious. Picking up on sentiment from union workers in New York City, who in September of 1892 took unpaid time off to protest for a national labor holiday, Cleveland sought to appease working voters.

Six days after troops toppled the Pullman strike, a national labor holiday bill appeared on Cleveland’s desk, after passing through Congress with unanimous favorable votes in both houses. Thus Labor Day was born.

A description of Labor Day, found in the PBS archive,[v] is given by Samuel Gompers, then head of the American Federation of Labor, calling it:

“the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed…that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it.”

Labor Day Today

Though a century displaced, the spirit of the labor holiday movement can be seen in eight hour work days, overtime pay, vacation days, and many other modern labor laws.

But the intention of Labor Day seems all but lost. According to “Labor Unions in the United States,” only about 11.3% of United States workers belong to unions, down from some 35% at peak membership in 1954.[VI] Seen as vital around the turn of the 20th century, and following massive organizing efforts after WWII, reflections on labor and work seems to have dwindled with union politics.

For many people, Labor Day weekend signifies the unofficial end of summer. And for most, it is enough to spend time with family and friends, with a day off from work.


[i] Company town (2016). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_town#Pullman_lesson

[ii] The origins of labor day. (1996). Retrieved September 1, 2016, from News Desk, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/business-july-dec01-labor_day_9-2/

[iii] Pullman strike (2016). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pullman_Strike

[iv] Delaney, A. (2014, September 1). The bloody origin of labor day. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/01/labor-day-2014_n_5738262.html

[v] Ibid.

[VI] Labor unions in the United States (2016). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_unions_in_the_United_States#Post-World_War_II

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how to save money

Money in the future isn’t a matter of relying on every paycheck coming in exactly as expected. If you save up, the future looks a lot different. You can plan trips and large purchases ahead of time. It’ll take all the stress out of spending, and it’ll take a lot of stress out of living. Here are some tips to get you started.

Establish Goals

Why do you make money? To pay bills? What else? Do you want to fund a hobby, go on a trip, plan for a future child’s schooling? If you create goals, you’ll be able to reach them with financial plans—estimate how much you need, how much you make, and how much time you’ll have, then the rest is easy. These considerations are the foundations for any budget.

Basic Budgeting

Some people hate this word. But budgeting is the only way to get your money to work for you. Of course, you work to earn money, but have you thought about the ways in which you can, now, become more independent from your earnings? That’s what making your money work for you means.

When you’re hanging out with friends, or that new video game is released, it’s easy to blow the latest paycheck. In these situations, it can seem like your always chasing that next payday. Create an expense sheet. List all your monthly expenses—estimate if you need to, for your food and gas costs, for instance. Then add all your income per month together. Now subtract your expenses from your income. The money left over is free for you to save or assign to different goals or wants for the rest of the month. It’s a good policy, however, to try to save at least ten percent of what you make monthly in a savings account. And many people recommend only spending about 5% of your monthly budget for entertainment.

This is just an extremely basic budgeting strategy. But there are plenty of strategies available online. Whatever you do, plan ahead!

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living next to a loud neighbor

It’s a renter’s worst nightmare. Loud, thumping noises from the ceiling at night. Booming music from across the hall. What can be done? Chances are, you’ll be seeing your neighbors for a while, especially if you just signed a lease. Here are some tips for resolving noise issues with your neighbor in a courteous way.

The Right Place

The easiest way to deal with a loud neighbor is to avoid one altogether. When you visit your next apartment community, talk with the office staff about your schedule to determine with them the best place for you to stay. Are there sections of the apartment community that stay home all day? That leave for work early? Come up with some questions that’ll help you determine an area perfect for your own routine.

Securing an upper floor apartment is also an easy way to eliminate a possible source of noise: the ceiling. With an upper floor room, you won’t have to worry about running children, jumping pets, and falling objects.

Communication and Empathy

Some unexpected noise is to be expected when you live in a community. So it’s good to be understanding, especially if it’s a first offense or a holiday, maybe even a move-in day. When you haven’t heard loud noises from your neighbor before, trying to think about the situation from your neighbor’s point of view is helpful.

If occurrences are frequent, or even if they aren’t, talk with your neighbor. Maybe they don’t know how loud they are. Sometimes walls can seem thicker than they are. Or maybe they just haven’t lived in an apartment community before. Whatever it is, the noise can be an honest mistake.

But if talking with the offender doesn’t work, and giving them the benefit of the doubt doesn’t either, write a note, and give the same note to your property manager. Bringing the apartment manager into the conversation can be crucial. It’s also important to discuss the situation with other neighbors. Maybe your problem is theirs. And maybe you can talk with the neighbor as a group if needed.

Dealing with a noise problem is as simple as communicating with your neighbors and property manager. But the noise problem is also avoidable. Move to an apartment with a game plan to put your best foot forward.

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prevent mosquitoes

Mosquito bites shouldn’t ruin the summer for you. Open the windows and curtains and enjoy the weather from the inside of your home. Keep the mosquitoes away from your apartment this summer with these tips.

Screens

Most modern windows come with screens. But some don’t. You can purchase a low-cost screen to fit any window size at most hardware stores. Lighten things up with some sunshine. Enjoy the breeze and air out your apartment with a window screen.

Seal Windows and Doors

As time goes by, wood splits and houses settle. Basically what this means is sometimes your windows and doors allow a bit of air (and therefore bugs) to get by. Insects crawl through the smallest cracks. You can prevent most bugs from entering your home by purchasing door sweeps and weather strips. Either will take about five minutes or less to apply. It’s worth the peace of mind. Then you’ll also be prepared for winter!

Outdoor Water and Plants

If you have a patio or balcony attached to your apartment, be sure no standing water is sitting in plants, bowls, or chairs. Mosquitoes are notorious for breeding in standing water. Females prefer to lay eggs here. So it’ll also attract males.

If you don’t have plants on your patio, get some. Certain types of plants actually repel mosquitoes. You’ll also add to your balcony’s beauty. What’s the downside? With plants, you’ll get fresh air and, with certain types, a mosquito-free patio or balcony.

Repelling mosquitoes is actually pretty simple. Ensure they don’t ruin your summer by taking simple steps. And if all else fails, use mosquito repellent spray. Enjoy yourself this summer by preventing mosquito bites.

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how to recycle when apartment doesn't

Everyone knows the slogan: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” But not everywhere you go or everywhere you live will have established recycling practices. This can be tough for environmentally conscious people. But, in our day, it’s not the final word on whether you recycle. If you find yourself in an apartment community that doesn’t recycle, here are some tips for getting on track.

Website for Locating Recycling Centers Near You

The first step to recycling is finding a place to recycle. Earth911.Com lists recycling centers near you. You can even search for centers by material type. It’s one of North America’s largest recycling databases, containing over 350 materials and 100,000+ listings. You’re bound to find a recycling center near you.

Establish a Recycling System

It’s easiest to recycle when you purchase separate bins or trash cans for different material types. Unless you can find a recycling center that will take most, if not everything, you will recycle at your home, you’ll need more than one bin. Labeling bins will be helpful to your guests and will prevent mixing materials that can’t be recycled together.

Ask Your Neighbors

Your neighbors might be interested in joining your recycling endeavor. Ask around. Maybe you can set up a system that works for your neighbors too. This will definitely cut costs: purchase a community bin and carpool to the recycling center. Create a rotating schedule so that nobody has to take trips to the recycling center often.

Reduce and Reuse

Don’t forget the rest of the slogan. Recycling, though a very important part of going green, is only one step in the process. A more mindful approach involves reducing consumption and reusing what you can.

Plastic water bottles and gas station coffee cups are a few of the easiest products to reduce your consumption of. Simply buy a ten dollar water bottle, or a ten dollar coffee mug, and you’ll be set for thousands of refills. Think of all the landfill space you’ll save. You’ll also save quite a bit of money from not purchasing those 24 packs of water.

If you have hard water at your home, or if your faucet water doesn’t taste good to you, for the price of three 24 packs of water you can purchase a filter that will last months. A good water filter is another way to reduce consumption.

A few tricks can also put you in a place to reuse water. For instance, when ice melts, simply use it to give to your pets or water your plants. You can also water your plants with that water you drain from your pasta.

Conclusion

As the population continues to grow and technology improves, the need to recycle will become more and more urgent. Establishing recycling practices now will ensure that you’ll be ahead of the curve. But it will also mean that you have provided a better place for future generations to live. Everything you use is somewhere: things don’t disappear because they are put in the trash. Remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

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essential tools for apartment residents

Maybe you need to do simple maintenance. Maybe you want to tackle a small home project, like hanging a series of shelves. Whatever it is, you’ll probably need some tools. Here are the tools you’ll need to complete common projects and simple maintenance tasks at your apartment.

Screwdrivers and Hammer

Need to take something apart? Remove it from the wall? You’ll probably need a screwdriver or hammer. Whether electronic or manual, screwdrivers are a basic requirement for almost any project. Screws are used to hold most things together. Hammers are good for the same reasons: nails are everywhere.

Extras:

For those shelves you’ll be hanging, you’ll probably also need a drill. To hang on drywall you’ll need anchors. But if you’ll be hanging directly on wood, you’ll need a drill so the wood doesn’t split when you put screws in it.

Vise Grips

Vise grips are your all-in-one tool. They lock, so they can be used for clamps. They extend, so they can be used like wrenches. They also grip, so they can be used like pliers. Get a pair of vice grips, and you’re probably set for most projects or issues that’ll arise.

Utility Knife

We’ve covered tools you’ll need to put things together, hang things up, or take things apart. One last thing you’ll need: a tool to cut things. That’s where a utility knife comes in. Most utility knives will enable you to cleanly cut anything from cardboard to carpet, from plastic to drywall.

Extras:

Whenever you cut, you’ll probably need to glue. So keep some glue handy.

You don’t really need many tools when you live in an apartment. That’s because a perk of apartment living is having access to a maintenance team. They’ll take care of all major maintenance issues you might come across. But it’s good to have tools for simple maintenance and projects.

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save money

Summer is a great time to plan vacations, socialize with friends, and, most of all, go outside. Days are prolonged and hot. And, as a result, electricity and utility bills increase. The following are tips to save money this summer.

Fans

A/C units can drive up electricity bills significantly. Fans are an easy way to counteract that. If you must use an A/C, have a fan on at the same time to spread the cool air quickly. Then turn off the A/C unit when the house is cool. Even if you leave the fan on at this point, you’ll be using much less electricity with the A/C off.

Electricity Spikes

When you are using electricity—by running your A/C or dishwasher—think about what time of day it is. At peak use times, the cost of electricity is more than at low use times. Try running that dishwasher as you sleep, for instance, that way it’s not competing electricity at peak use time.

Go Outside

It’s a nice day. You’re hungry. Don’t turn on the oven. Fire up the grill! Save on gas or electricity by grilling during the summer. But you don’t have to fire up anything, really. When you’re hungry, eat in-season fruits or vegetables. Just fix a salad and enjoy! Most of all, enjoy the summer.

Power Strip

Your smart television uses electricity even when it’s off if it’s plugged in. So does your toaster, coffee maker, and iPhone when it has 100% battery! Get a few power strips and connect all irregular use items to it. That way you can switch them all off at once when they’re not in use.

Save money this summer by taking advantage of the season and taking steps to preserve electricity use. There are many more ways to save money. Let us know how you cut back this summer by telling us on Facebook!

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create a chore wheel

You know the type of situation. Your roommate’s garbage lines the countertop. The follow-up awkward conversation. Or your sister uses all the clean glasses in the house to drink the gallon of chocolate milk before you can get to it. And they sit in the sink.

You don’t want to be mean, although you might be annoyed. The best way tackle this type of situation is to plan for it. Of course, everyone is responsible for their own personal messes: laundry, bathroom, etc. But the problem comes when a public space needs cleaning. Who should clean it? You both use it. And you both, probably, don’t clean up after yourselves as much as you should.

A Chore Wheel

ApartmentGuide.com has a very good suggestion. Create a chore wheel. Add all the tasks you’ll need to complete to clean common areas. Have a vote to determine the two worst areas. Place those two areas at opposite ends of the wheel. That way one of you will always have one of the “bad” areas, while one of you will never have both “bad” areas.

Having a plan beforehand can prevent tension in the house. It can also make cleaning the common areas much easier: both of you are responsible for all of it, although individually you’ll only be responsible for half of it at any given time. That way, next time you forget to cover your bowl in the microwave, you might be more likely to clean the mess immediately, to save time later.

A chore wheel can work for any living arrangement. Whether you live with a roommate, family member, or significant other, a chore wheel is a good way to divvy up work unbiasedly. View the ApartmentGuide.Com chore wheel below. Create a wheel that’ll work for all members of the house. Make sure it’s fair, balanced, and includes all the tasks to clean common areas in your home.

http://www.apartmentguide.com/blog/downloadable-free-chore-wheel/

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2 Budget Breaking Habits

Budgeting allows you to buy the things you need now while saving for the future. It’s important that the habits you develop on the go don’t break your budget. Identifying whether you have these habits may save your money and your budget.

Savings

If there is a single reason to budget, it’s probably to save for the future. Having a savings account is a crucial step in this process. And, with some banks, you can link your savings to your debit card to protect you from overdraft fees and charges.

But more importantly, the purpose of savings is to save your money. So transferring money from your savings too often is a budget breaking habit. One way to ditch this habit is to exclude the money in your savings from your monthly planning. Don’t even consider it as a backup, in case you need more money for the month. Just let it sit in savings, indefinitely, collecting interest.

Smaller Purchases

A Starbucks coffee. A lunch from that restaurant at work. A video game. Another coffee from Starbucks. A shirt. Dinner from Little Caesars. These purchases add up. Pretty soon you could spend $50 to $100 in a day without noticing.

Purchasing on the go without accounting for it in your budget is a budget breaking habit. When you’re creating your budget, apportion money, weekly or daily, for small, miscellaneous purchases. This should allow some wiggle room for coffees and, maybe once in a while, a pizza. But whatever you do, don’t buy something if you haven’t accounted for it in your budget. That way, you’ll always be safe.

Conclusion

Creating a budget is an important step toward creating a better future for yourself. It’s an easy way to plan ahead and save. It’s also a stress-free way of enjoying yourself in the present: because you know that bill a month from now will be paid off with the money you’ve set aside for it. But a budget won’t work if you develop bad habits. If you have them, break these two habits, or they will break your budget.

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Poolside Etiquette

A pool at the apartment complex is a huge luxury during hot summer days. But when the poolside is packed with people, after hour cleaning and maintenance can be difficult to keep up with. Do your part to keep the poolside as good as you found it by practicing good pool etiquette.

No Glass

Breakables, especially glass, should not be brought to the poolside. The poolside is one of the only public places people walk around without shoes. Broken glass at the poolside can close the pool for a few days for cleanup, and, worse, someone could get injured. Keep your fancy glassware inside when you go for a swim.

Clean Up

Sure, it’s nice to relax in the sun, eat some Cheetos, and take a quick swim. But you wouldn’t want to swim with that Cheetos bag floating in the water, would you? What about a somewhat empty McDonald’s shake? Probably not. Be sure you leave the poolside with everything you bring with you.

Limit Guests

It’s fun to swim with friends. But apartment pools are made specifically for the hundreds of residents that already live at the property. It’s okay to bring friends every once in a while, of course. But be courteous to your neighbors by limiting your guests.

Limit Noise

What do you think of when you think of relaxing at the poolside? You probably don’t think of people screaming “Marco!” “Polo!” in the pool. Or a loud country song that probably shouldn’t see the light of day in the first place. All this is to say, when you’re at the pool, try to limit your noise so people who are trying to relax in the open can do so.

Practicing good pool etiquette is an easy way to help keep the pool open all summer by limiting trash. It’s also a good way to connect with friends and neighbors without disturbing others. When you’re at the poolside this summer, be sure to practice good pool etiquette!

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wifi tips

Many apartments require tenants to use the property Wi-Fi provided service. Others let tenants choose their own service. Either way, many people have the capability of creating Wi-Fi hotspots with their mobile devices. Wi-Fi networks are virtually everywhere. A good Wi-Fi network name is an easy way to protect your network without spending money.

Many people will just connect to any Wi-Fi network that’s not password protected. Obviously, the first step in securing your network is requiring password authentication. This is standard on many routers already.

But one important step to deterring likely unwanted connections is to name your network something unappealing, intimidating, or unfamiliar. Variations of “Malware” and “Virus” are good choices, as they resemble the names of unwanted software typically used to hack computers.

Another way to go at this is to type a random string of characters as if the name is computer generated as in, “13d;j43fadoi.” This will give the appearance of a non-human element, making people think the network is a dubious one. “The Johnson Family” is way too nice of a name. It’ll attract attention and most people will think, “Oh, these people don’t really understand what they’re doing. I’ll just steal off their network.”

A sure-fire way to protect your network from strangers is to just make it “hidden.” That way, only people who actually know the name of the Wi-Fi network can find it. Whatever you do, take precautions. The cost of your Wi-Fi network is usually determined by how much you use it. And when you have strangers using your Wi-Fi, it can lead to many unwanted fees.

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Topics to Discuss with Potential Roommate

You don’t really know people until you live with them. These five topics will help you determine, beforehand, whether a potential roommate will be a good fit for you.

Cleaning

Many people are okay, and sometimes don’t even notice, living in a mess they’ve made themselves. Dishes could be stacked to the ceiling, the floors unswept for days. But you won’t notice at all if you’re never home or if you play video games constantly. Living with another person can really open your eyes to some of your messiest habits. Ask your potential roommate what he/she thinks a clean home looks like.

Allergies

Do you spread peanut butter all over your countertop by using it as a plate for your peanut butter sandwich? Do you have cats? Now is the time to understand if your potential roommate has allergies and what kinds of changes in lifestyle it might entail for you.

Typical Schedule

If you work early hours, you probably won’t enjoy the company of a roommate who parties all night with Call of Duty. You probably won’t like his nightly guitar practices, either. Ask about your potential roommate’s typical week and weekend. You might be surprised. And, if you’re not, so much the better.

Visitors

Whether you are introverted and remain aloof for large portions of the day, or extroverted and enjoy the company of many people, the type of people you enjoy hanging out with might not be the type of people your potential roommate socializes with. Ask your potential roommate how often guests will stop by.

Sharing

Will you split the food bill? Will your Ramen be his Ramen? These are things you should decide beforehand. If you don’t want to share your things with your roommate, let that be known. But don’t wait until move-in day. Set expectations at your initial meeting.

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questions to ask before signing the lease

When you’re apartment searching, don’t schedule visits without preparing some questions first. Here are five general questions to get you ready for your next visit.

Fees

Ask what costs are included in rent and what aren’t. Are utilities included? Water? What about a recycling option? It’s also useful to know how often rent increases and by what percentage. Some apartment complexes increase rent by a certain percentage every year. How will you access the internet? Does the property provide it or are there local options?

Guests

Is there a limitation to the amount of guests that can visit at once? Where can they park? Will they need parking permits? Friends and family are important. Get to know the policies so you won’t be in the dark when they visit.

Pets

What kind of pets are allowed? Are there limitations on breed or restrictions on weight? Must they be house trained before they’re allowed on the premises? Many properties won’t allow untrained pets. So it’s good to have an idea before you decide to go out and buy a puppy.

Repairs

How often are repairs taken care of? What is the normal procedure for submitting a repair request? How do you follow through on repair requests? Maybe once a year you might need to submit a repair request. You’ll rest easy knowing what that looks like.

Parking

You’ll have to park somewhere. Ask about whether the parking lot is generally full, when it’s the busiest, and if you’ll need a parking permit. That way, if the parking is scarce, you can plan ahead.

These questions should give you a general idea of whether the apartment is a good fit for you. But if any specific questions come to mind, don’t be afraid to ask. That’s what property managers are there for!

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move out tips

Everyone wants to get the most back from their deposit. That’s what making the most of Move-out Day means. It means cleaning those areas you usually wouldn’t and doing maintenance on spots you’d usually let go. The following will help you get the most back from your deposit.

Carpet

This is a huge part of preparing your apartment for move-out. If you’ve ever lived on a laminate or hardwood floor, you know how much dirt you can track around your house. But when you have carpets, sometimes the dirt is hidden, especially if the carpet is thick.

If you haven’t used a carpet cleaner on your carpet yet, now is the time. You might be surprised how much dirt your carpet hides.

Damage

Light switch covers, doors knobs, drawer handles, door stops, blinds: all are commonly used or commonly damaged items in your apartment. If you wouldn’t like the state any of these are in when you move into your new apartment, then it’s probably a good idea for you to replace or fix them.

Small holes

If you don’t use adhesive strips to hang your pictures and posters, chances are your apartment is riddled with small nail holes. But this is an easy fix. Simply purchase a putty knife and spackle or wall joint compound. Spread the spackle or wall joint compound over the hole(s). When it dries, sand it to match the depth of the wall. Repeat if necessary.

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dog proof your apartment

Preparing your apartment for a new dog is a lot like preparing it for a child. You’ll have to rethink how you organize, store, and use everyday products. Here are common ways people adjust their lifestyle for the new furry family member.

Locks

Lock all base cabinet doors: in the bathroom and the kitchen. Dogs are notorious for learning how to open cabinets. Everything you’d be horrified to see the new dog eat, expect it. It’s a good idea to put your trash in a closet or large pantry, according to the same reasoning. As long as it’s locked, you’ll have no need to worry.

Cords

Don’t be afraid to rearrange your furniture for the new family member. Placing couches and tables in front of outlets, at this point, isn’t a terrible idea. Although it’s less practical, it’s only temporary. Dogs can be anxious in new environments, causing them to do things they normally wouldn’t. Once you know your dog’s personality better, you’ll be able to move your things back how you like them. The most important thing, though, is giving your pet the chance to adjust to the new home.

Crates

The effectiveness of house training techniques varies from dog to dog. If you plan to use crates to train your dog, use it early and often. Most dogs respond better to training with crates when you begin immediately. Don’t let your dog sleep on the couch or bed and then use a crate. Then you’ll just irritate your dog. When used early, however, they are one of the best ways to deter dogs from using your lamp posts as fire hydrants.

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parties in small spaces

Who doesn’t like seeing old and new friends gathered in the same place? Sometimes, this gathering may seem impossible because your lawn isn’t large enough, or your living room seems fit only for three or four people: not seven or eight. But there are ways to get around this mental, and sometimes physical, barrier. Here are some tips for having a get-together without leaving your small space.

Arrangement

We place couches, televisions, and tables around the living room based on how we usually want to live. For instance, the couch might be placed in front and center of the TV, because we want all attention on that new Netflix series. And the coffee table is placed directly in front of the couch, to hold our food and phones. That pretty much fills most of the open area in the average living room.

But think of a get-together as operating by different rules. The arrangement of your living room furniture should be different as well. Instead of arranging it based on your daily routine, open up the space. Maybe move that old recliner to your bedroom to open up the area. Just move it back after the party. And place that coffee table along the wall. Then you can use it to create a small buffet area.

Use Windows

Any gathering of people can make a small space hot. A cheap way to lower the room temperature without breaking the bank is by opening the windows. The cross breeze can easily cool the room without using electricity. Also, the added sunlight can brighten the party naturally, without the use of a million different lighting fixtures.

Kitchen Sink Cooler

Will there be a variety of drinks? Don’t worry about shoving them in the fridge you haven’t cleaned since last year. Prepare ice ahead of time and, once the party comes around, throw it all in the sink. It’s a quick and easy way to fit and cool all the drinks without making space in or cleaning out your fridge.

Get-togethers are a great way to keep in touch and have fun with your friends. Don’t let a small space cramp your party. Comment and let us know how you use small spaces for big events!

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4th of July

When you think of the 4th, you think of fireworks. Firework explosions in the sky. A ridiculous amount of different colors. But you also think of the people you experience it with. Here are some ideas for having all the colors and lights, without the explosions.

Holiday Lights

Replace your sparklers and fireworks with holiday lights! This way, you’ll have all the colors without any of the noise. It also makes for a good setting to host people. And you won’t have to shout to talk.

Color-Coded Food

A fun way to bring in the red, white, and blue is to separate food offerings according to color. For instance, cut-up watermelons and strawberries are great for summer parties. And they look reddish. Marshmallows, sour cream and onion dip are white colored foods. Use blue tortilla chips and blueberries to represent blue. But there are plenty of other foods to use, at a low cost. Mix it up!

USA Clothing

That’s right. Wear the USA flag inspired T-shirt. And don’t forget the matching pants. Why not?

Invite Your Neighbors

This is a great way to get to know everyone! You don’t even have to throw the party in your apartment. Maybe there’s a grilling station, pergola, or community clubhouse your property managers might let the community use for this occasion.

Whatever you do, do it with other people. And celebrate!

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The Benefits of Renters Insurance

Renters insurance may seem like another unneeded expense. But it actually covers more than many people realize. And its benefits far outweigh its cost.

Cost

The average renter’s insurance is about $15-$30 a month. That’s as much as buying a Starbucks coffee four times a month. That’s it. It’s about a dollar per day or less.

Coverage

Your landlord’s insurance doesn’t cover everything, like your own possessions. Renter’s insurance typically covers your property when it’s stolen by thieves or damaged by disasters. Be sure to photograph your possessions and take inventory of everything you’d want replaced if the unexpected happened. This will speed up the process should anything occur. Plus it’ll give you peace of mind. In a time of misfortune, the last thing you’ll want to do is count up all the things you lost.

Protection

It may protect you if somebody gets hurt at your property. Accidents happen, especially in the winter months when ice accumulates. If you are legally responsible for a guest’s injury, renters insurance may help pay the bills.

But it doesn’t only cover injuries and possessions. A dead tree limb can significantly damage your roof. If your house is uninhabitable due to damage, renters insurance could pick up the bill for your living expenses during repair time. Make sure you’re covered.

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gift ideas

Not much is worse than living next to a neighbor you don’t want to socialize with. The typical neighborly gift is food. But many people have food allergies. Get off on the right foot with these gift ideas for new neighbors.

Introduce to Local Places

Your new neighbor may also be new to the community. Gift cards to local restaurants and coupons to local stores should warm them up. Sharing your favorite places in the community, and giving tips on where to shop for the best deals, is a good way to start the conversation on your interests.

Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning is a universal activity for renters and homeowners. Who doesn’t need more cleaning supplies? Gift your favorite brands, or create your favorite home-made cleaners, and put them in a ribbon-tied basket. It’ll save your new neighbor money and it’s a gift they can use. Show how pragmatic you are with a bundle of cleaning supplies.

Plants

Don’t overdo this one. Especially don’t buy a high-maintenance plant. There’s no need to make your neighbor do work they don’t have to. But everyone can appreciate cleaner air. And the plant could contribute to decorating the new apartment.

A gift for a new neighbor will show your friendly side. And, who knows, maybe you’ll find another person to talk to about Netflix.

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locked out of apartment

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you want to be prepared. Yes, even today, with all the gadgets you could ever want, you can still get locked out of your apartment. Here are 3 ideas for having your spare key handy when you need it most.

Car floor mat

A great place to store your spare apartment key is right in your car. Just place it under your floor mat and forget about it. And when that faithful day comes, you won’t have to worry about paying a locksmith or contacting your property manager. Simply open the door of your car. And it’ll go anywhere you go. That means you won’t have to worry about thieves finding it.

Phone case

Cell phones are a basic part of modern life. They are everywhere. What better place to store your spare key than with the phone you have in your pocket 24-7? Just slip it in the back of your cell phone case. Then you’ll always have the spare handy.

A friend

Another good option is to lend the key to a friend. But, as Seinfeld taught us, this is a big step in a friendship. Make sure you absolutely trust the person you are giving the key to. Remember, they will have access to your house anytime, any day.

Of course, you can always get back to your cat by contacting a property manager. But this could take some time. And storing your spare key at a strategic location or with a friend could be the difference between feeding Oliver on time and opening the door to a wrecked apartment from a hungry cat.

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moving tips

Moving is always an exciting experience. It can be stressful, however, if you don’t prepare. These three tips will help you put your best foot forward on move day.

Packing

Begin packing for your move a few weeks in advance. Pack clothes you won’t wear soon first, a few weeks ahead of the move. Then follow up with rare-use items. Those candles you haven’t lit since last year? Wrap them in your extra towels. Leave day-to-day stuff for the final week before the move. Preparing for your move early ensures a less stressful move-day experience.

Donate or Sell Unwanted Items

When you begin packing, you’ll notice some things you would rather leave behind. This is why it’s important to get a head start. Take all the unwanted stuff to Goodwill or make a few bucks hosting a yard sale. Whatever you do, it’s a good idea to lighten your load. Fewer boxes mean fewer things to move. And it also means more space for new stuff in your new home!

Label Boxes and Pair Items

As you look around at all the glassware you own, don’t worry about getting newspapers or bubble wrap to pack with. Use things you already have handy and need to store anyway. For instance, clean sheets, blankets, towels, and clothes work just as well to create layers of separation between glassware. There’s no need to get fancy.
And while you’re putting that all-purpose cleaner and dish detergent into boxes, be sure to label them appropriately. Then you won’t have your friends asking every few seconds, “Where does this go?” The less you need to explain when you get to your new home the less time it will take to setup your living room and watch Netflix.

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Saving energy can translate into big savings in your wallet. Here are 4 easy, cost-effective ways to save energy and money.

Use Power Strips

Yes, your phone charger does consume electricity, even if you aren’t using it. And your television. And your lamp. This “phantom load,” according to the EPA, can cost the average home about $100. Try to plug all these objects into the same power strip. Then you can just switch it on and off without unplugging any cords.

Change Lightbulbs

Lighting represents about 11% of your home’s energy bill. By replacing incandescent, old lightbulbs with CFLs or LEDs, you can save up to 75% on your annual lighting bill. You could save that money up for a new fuel efficient car.

Change Shower head

The typical shower head flow rate is about 4 gallons per minute (if your home is older than 1980, it could be above 5 gallons per minute). For a ten minute shower, that amounts to 40 gallons of water! However, by installing a low-flow shower head, the flow rate could drop from 2.5 gallons per minute to as low as .75 gallons. That’s about 25 gallons of water compared to 40 gallons per ten-minute shower.

Toilet Tank Hack

Toilets use anywhere from 3.6 gallons of water per flush to 1.6 gallons. A quick, cost-effective way to reduce toilet water consumption is by filling up an old 2-liter bottle, or one-gallon jug, with gravel or sand and placing it in the toilet tank. That’ll save you at least a gallon of water per flush. Think about how many times the toilet is flushed per day.

Saving energy doesn’t have to break your bank. In fact, it can put more money in your pocket. Try out these energy-saving tips and let us know other ways you save energy!

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tips for hiring movers

Moving can be tedious. It can also be fun: when someone else does all the work.

If you’re considering hiring movers, it is important to stay informed on their moving policies and practices. Are they liable if your box of fragile glassware arrives in pieces? It’s also important to know about the business itself. ApartmentHomeLiving.Com provides helpful questions that ensure you or your stuff won’t be left in the dark.

Staying informed can be a chore. An estimate from a professional moving business requires, at times, complicated variables. What must be considered, and what you should ask about, is how long it will take to move your possessions and how they will be handled. Ask about previous experience, and what sort of challenges come with each move.

Before you pack up your stuff, you may want to visualize how you will arrange your things before you arrive. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for your movers. If your new home is a thousand miles away, don’t expect a rush, next-day delivery. And if you do get that rush delivery, you may have moved too fast.

Photo credit: Thad Zajdowicz via Foter.com / CC BY

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apartment searching

The decision to search for a new apartment brings feelings of hope and, sometimes, stress. Of course, there are many factors that determine where you will end up. For example, an apartment’s website rank on Google could rule out otherwise viable options. Most people don’t search more than two or three-page results.

But an otherwise important element to apartment searching, yet often ignored, is timing. ApartmentHomeLiving.Com recommends that if you are looking for a new apartment, be aware of special deals for rental prices. Most deals are time-sensitive. It might not be such a bad idea to move in the winter, in the off-season of the apartment hunt. Some complexes may just need to fill one more vacancy to meet their goals. Alternatively, the summer may provide more apartments to choose from, as more people apartment search.

According to Rent.com, the best time to search for apartments, if you want the most options, is from May to September. This is the time span in which most people move. Thus, more vacancies. But if you’re looking to save money, the best time to search for apartments is from October to April. With fewer people on the move during this period, vacant units are in lower demand. This drives prices down.

If you are looking for a quick way to save on rent, the timing of your search may perhaps be the most underrated factor. If you know where you’d like to move, it’s better if you plan ahead of time. That way, you’ll enjoy more options and save more money.

Photo credit: GotCredit via Foter.com / CC BY

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the advantages of renting

Deciding between renting an apartment and buying a house? Of course, buying a home gives the stability of a mortgage. And renting a house or apartment allows for tremendous flexibility of location and residency duration. But there must be more, right? Is flexibility the only reason to rent?

Many pro-and-con lists are created for this type of decision. Realtor.Com has a convincing video for the pros of renting. For example, if you rent, you may have access to amenities that, as a homeowner, would not typically be in your reach. Similarly, renters often do not make home repairs. Rather, property managers and landlords take care of them. What renters lack in ownership they gain in freedom. If you don’t like your neighborhood, feel an itch to move, or want to explore the world, renting is a good option for flexible people. Leases aren’t mortgages. With renting, you aren’t locked in for 30 years.

The Khan Academy has published a video on the difference, mathematically, between renting and buying. They challenge the notion that “buying is always better than renting.” Many people have also challenged the claim. If you haven’t heard, renting is on the up-and-up. According to Appfolio.Com, “2 million new renter-occupied households were added in 2014, while the number of owner-occupied households decreased by more than 350,000.”

Renting has many appeals, from communal living to practically maintenance-free appliances. And renters don’t need to acquire realtors. Many apartment complexes have their own websites. If websites are the “For Rent” signs of the internet, you no longer need to drive milest Utilizing the tool ApartmentsForUs.Com proves the many advantages renters have over traditional home buyers because of the rise of digital marketing.

Amenities are an often overlooked but important aspect of renting a unit in an apartment complex. If you buy a house, not many conveniences are included. Gyms typically require a $30-$50 a month payment plan. You may have to drive to a far location to play tennis or basketball, or swim. And, almost certainly, your home will not come with a playground. Imagine all these expenses as monthly fees in addition to your mortgage. However, many apartment complexes include such amenities and more.

The last thing you want, after closing a house for hundreds of thousands of dollars, is to hear your water heater or roof leaks, and your foundation is shifting, etc. With renting, you have nothing to fear. Everyday maintenance issues are taken care of by property owners or landlords. Furthermore, you may wake up to an upgraded Wi-Fi network, new central air unit, or a renovated carpeted hallway.

The decision to rent or buy is one of the more important decisions you’ll have to make. The worst thing to do is listen to clichés. As we have seen, renting isn’t just for people who want flexible living arrangements. There are reasons to rent long-term. It is not accidental that rental properties are thriving.

Photo credit: frankieleon via Foter.com / CC BY

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types of rent

Not everything is black and white. Take newspapers for example. They get such a bad rap.

Renters, though, are of a more defined class. There are those that know what they want, know what they will miss if they don’t have it, and know what they can live without. And then there are those that don’t know a deductible from a deposit, let-alone the amount of stress added by a rental without dishwashers and in-unit laundry attachments. The first class of renter is the Grandmaster, whereas the second class is the Novice.

The Novice’s problem is simple. It is a problem of noticing how living arrangements determine the way you live. In every apartment visited, the Novice envisions ways of utilizing space and coming to terms with no-too-obvious flaws without much effort. It’s not until after move-in the Novice realizes that ways of living are determined by the tools one has at one’s disposal. The water pressure happened to be different, for instance, and the Novice didn’t think to ask about that. Amenities like air-conditioning were also ignored.

Don’t be a Novice. Know what you need to live the way you want. That’s how you’ll put your best foot forward when choosing a new home. That’s how to be a renting Grandmaster.

Photo credit: Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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How to Stop Cats from Scratching Furniture
Apartment Cats

Cat-lovers have taken over the Internet—aren’t they just toxoplasma zombies anyway? And many apartment units are feeling the love, allowing cats only: no dogs.

A common misconception is that cats keep to themselves, are generally low-maintenance. But many have found even cats can be destructive to property. When it comes to cats, let’s just say property destruction is inversely related to physical activity. When the yarn ball isn’t around, or the toy mouse doesn’t squirm around the floor, your cat is going to need some attention.

Whether you play with your cat or not, it needs to burn energy somehow. That may translate into plucked couches or torn curtains. This is an easy issue to fix. Consider purchasing a laser for it to chase. If your cat has claws, get a scratch post for them to use. Sometimes it is best to have a scratch post for each room. You can also purchase anti-scratch tape that cats dislike to touch. Whatever you do, make sure Oliver has an outlet for all that feline energy.

And don’t forget, give that cat a treat!

Photo credit: JamesCohen via Foter.com / CC BY

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Apartments for Rent

If you haven’t heard, renting is on the up-and-up. According to Appfolio.Com, “2 million new renter-occupied households were added in 2014, while the number of owner-occupied households decreased by more than 350,000.” But why?

The decision to rent or buy forces a common gridlock, “If I rent, I can move when the lease is over. But if I buy, then I can probably pay lower monthly payments.” Yet both renting and buying are more than monthly payments and lease dates.

For example, homeowners have the privilege of ownership. But with great privilege comes great responsibility. Maintenance is the homeowner’s duty, on top of home insurance, property taxes, and other home owner fees. Sure, the monthly mortgage payments are low, but you’ll have many unexpected and inbuilt fees.

On the other hand, if you rent, you may have access to amenities that, as a home owner, you would not. You could have access to a 24 hour gym, bark park, and pool. Similarly, you won’t have to repair leaky faucets or clogged drains. Apartment complexes take care of maintenance. Another key advantage to renting is location. Most large cities don’t have room for houses. An apartment building fits the same lot space but, with tall, multi-unit designs, houses more people.

Renting has many appeals, from communal living to basically maintenance-free living. It is not accidental that rental properties are thriving: the numbers don’t lie.

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