Tag Archives: apartment

Saturday Sneak-Peak: StretchyDollar.com

Welcome to the first edition of Saturday Sneak-Peak! Every Saturday, I will be exploring a personal finance blog and giving a brief review. My major intent of this new adventure is to expose everyone to new and/or obscure blogs. Up this week is StretchyDollar.com. Jeff has been a frequent commenter on YMR and I greatly appreciate it.

Jeff is a twenty-something blogger who started StretchyDollar as an outlet for his ideas and as a place to interact with other people in similar situations. Although Jeff has only been blogging for three months, there are plenty of great articles over there to check out. Here are a few of my favorites:

10 Financial Commandments for Your 20s

Get (Real) Rewards for Searching the Internet

I also asked Jeff a few questions to help you get to know him. Here they are:

What have you liked most about blogging so far?

I enjoy blogging for two main reasons:

1. Meeting and networking with awesome people who have interests similar to you who can teach you a lot. It’s fun to connect with people and share a part of you with them.
2. To learn through ‘teaching’. I enjoy researching and learning something, and then trying to present it in an interesting and understandable way.

What have you disliked most about blogging so far?

It’s not a dislike, per say, but the hardest thing for me so far has been coming up with a great idea for a post and then seeing it executed better somewhere else. I’ve had a couple ideas that I thought would be cool, and then I see someone else do a great job writing about that topic and I feel like I shouldn’t do it because I wouldn’t do it justice, or they would just think I was copying them. It’s difficult sometimes to come up with ideas that I think people would be interested in actually reading.

What has been your worst financial decision so far and how did you learn from it?

Due to a landlord problem, my wife and I were backed into a corner and due to a lack of time had to rent an apartment we couldn’t really afford. We made it work for a couple of months off of gifts from our reception (it was right after we got married) and extra money that my wife had, but in the end we had to move. It wrecked us financially, and we were on the ropes for a bit, using credit card advances just to get by. It took us months to really fully recover from it, and we missed out on some great financial opportunities because the money wasn’t there. It was really the thing that got me interested in learning about personal finance. The main concept that I learned from that experience was to plan ahead and do my research, and to live well within my means. Just because I think I can afford something doesn’t mean I really can.

Which of your posts did you have the most fun writing?

That’s a tough question – I’ve enjoyed writing each post for different reasons. I’d have to say the most fun was maybe one of the first I posted on StretchyDollar.com – ‘The Value of a Vision.’ It talks about having an overall plan/dream about what you want your finances to be, and then working towards it. Most people really don’t want to be financially strong, because they aren’t willing to put in the hard work and make the sacrifices to make it happen. If you can decide, have a goal, and works towards it, anything is possible.

I want to send out a big thanks to Jeff for letting me interview him. Head over there today and be sure to check out his posts and comment on ones that connect with you.

Do you know of a blog that you would like to see on Saturday Sneak-Peak? Head over to my contact page and submit the name/URL of the blog. You can submit your own blog if you like.

10 Ways to Go Green and Save More Than $500 Per Year

I typically get very random emails throughout the day. I really have no idea where they come from or how they got my email address. However, every once in a while one comes along that has some good blogging material in it. Today I received an email from Humana (a health insurance company) about 10 ways to go green and save more than $500 per year. Ironically, only one of the tips have anything to do with health insurance. In order to save you some clicking, I will list the 10 ways here.

1. Clean Up Your Indoor Air

This is another health savings tip, because indoor air pollution can affect you physically. Learn about where that pollution comes from and how to treat it, including mold, natural gas, and pesticides that you can track into the house.

2. Change Heating and Cooling Filters When You Pay Your Electric Bill

It may sound pretty extreme, but if you have it makes sense. It also saves money – your heating and air units will act more efficiently, and you can save more money by buying filters in bulk. Changing your furnace filters on a monthly basis can save as much as 5 percent on your heating bills – as much as $100 a year.

Our apartment complex automatically changes our filter every 3 months or so. I have seen the old one after a change and believe me, you might want to change yours too!

3. Switch the Light Off

Many people use light during the day. Many times, it’s needed. But instead of leaving the light on when you’re not in the room, just switch it off. Even better, use a energy-saving bulbs: for every five you change, you can save an average of $27 a year. Common sense can go a long way and pay off over time.

We are working on changing all of our light bulbs to compact florescent. We are kind of bad about switching off lights though!

4. Drive More Efficiently

Take simple and safe precautions . Make sure your tires are inflated properly. Take off your roof rack to cut down on drag. Boost mileage by getting regular tune-ups . Try walking or biking for short trips to help the environment – and yourself.

I have always been very cautious about the way I drive. That means I use my brakes infrequently and start slow. It’s hard to keep up with these habits in Maryland with all of the bad drivers! One way to make sure you drive better is join a program like Progressive’s MyRate. It tracks your driving in order to help reduce your rates (or increase them if you drive bad). It keeps me in line in the car knowing that it’s there!

5. Reuse What You Can

Get reusable water bottles instead of buying bottled water: if you consumed the suggested daily amount of water – eight 8-ounce glasses – the cost would be 5 cents per day. The annual cost would be only $18.25. With the cost of a 12-ounce bottle of water at $1, the daily cost would be $5.33 and the annual cost would total $1945.45. While this number is extreme, it’s easy to spend more than $500 annually on bottled drinks including water, juice, tea, and soda.

This is a hard one for me to break. I am completely addicted to soda and I buy a 20oz bottle every few days. I know it’s bad for me and the environment but I just cannot break the habit! Anyone have some tips?

6. Wash Clothes Only When You Have a Full Load

Two socks or a full load require the same amount of energy to wash. ‘Youll save money on your water bill when you wash clothes less often. Front-loading washers also can save you money: anywhere between $28 and $137 annually. To be safe, we’ll say you save $50.

I have talked about this before in my post on saving money and energy on your laundry.

7. Use Cold Water Whenever Possible

Home laundering can account for as much as 36 percent of your total household hot water use. You can save 90 percent of the energy you use to wash clothes when you switch to a cold wash. A switch to a cold-water detergent may cost a little more per load, but it evens out with larger loads. Also, reduce your water heater temperature to 120° F. It makes no sense to cool water that’s too hot to use. To put in perspective, washing your clothes in hot instead of cold for a year, uses more electricity than leaving the refrigerator door open for a year.

Personally, we wash all of our laundry in cold water expect for whites where we use warm water.

8. Bundle Up

In cold conditions, evaporation can quickly suck away warmth, especially if you’ve been active and then are stationary, leaving your skin exposed. Make sure to wrap yourself in insulating layers. Wear dark colors to absorb outside light and heat energy.

9. Strip Down

Heat-loss through evaporation is needed to regulate your body temperature in hot weather. Wear more clothes in fabrics like cotton and linen that allow your body to release evaporation. Wear white or light colors to reflect light and heat energy.

10. Camp Out Inside

You can dramatically decrease heating costs when you turn down your thermostat at night in the winter. Some people even turn off the thermostat, because they’ve learned how to sleep with several blankets and wear a cap. Even if you don’t go to those extremes, you can save $45 a year by adjusting your thermostat two degrees down in the winter and two degrees up during the summer.

We turn our heat down about 10 degrees each night. When my fiancee gets up in the morning, she turns up the heat. It’s an easy habit to learn and it will save you a bunch of money.

How to Get Out of an Apartment Lease

In a past post, I talked about my inability to negotiate with an apartment complex. In that circumstance, my lease expired and I was trying to stay there at the same price for the remaining 3 months I was going to be there. Unfortunately, they said that there was nothing they could do and I paid the 17% increase for those 3 months. But what if you need to terminate your lease BEFORE it expires? Resonably priced apartments can become very unaffordable when you lose a job. If you break a lease, many times you lose your deposit, you must pay next months rent, or you may have to pay a percentage of the amount remaining on your lease. Sometimes this can be a substaintial amount. In our personal situation, we would have to pay 25% of the remaining rent on our lease if we were to move out. Given that we have 6 months left, we would owe them over $1500 just to move out. That’s quite a wallet emptier! Here are some ways to work around some of these leases. Many may not be applicable to you, so it’s best that you check your lease document or talk to the apartment manager.

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Negotiate Your Remaining Lease

Although I have had lots of bad luck with negotiation, you may fair better. Speak to your landlord and tell them your unique situation. Let them know that you have every intention on staying but since your circumstances have changed, you may not be able to make the whole payment. You may be surprised to see that the landlord will be willing to agree on a slight reduction in your rent. Sometimes it’s more cost efficient for them to reduce your rent rather than pay to evict you and search for a new tenant. This may be easier in an area that has slow growth rather than rapid growth. If the landlord has 10 people in line waiting to get your apartment for a higher rent, they will evict you in no time. If they do decide to negotiate with you, make sure you get it in writing!

Find Someone to Take Over the Apartment

There are two ways for this to happen: you can either sublease or have the new tenant assume the lease. A sublease allows you to rent the apartment to another person. They basically replace you in the apartment and begin making the required rent payments. With a sublease, you are still obligated to pay the rent if your subtenant fails to pay. These types of agreements are hard to come by. In the two complexes I have lived in, neither have this clause in the lease. If allowed, the landlord will more than likely have to approve the new tenant.

When a new tenant assumes your old lease, you are free from it for good. They basically just sign a new lease from the landlord for the remaining time that was on your lease. If the neglect to pay, the landlord will not look to you to pay. In my opinion, this seems like the more logical choice, especially for the landlord. They will be able to get a new tenant to replace you and they have the opportunity to choose the person.

If All Else Fails

If none of those options worked, you may just have to break the lease. You should first evaluate the financial consequences for such a move. For example, let’s say you have 6 months left on your lease and you are having trouble paying the $600 rent (you can only afford $500). In order to move out of this apartment and into a more affordable one, you must pay $1000 in additional rent to break the lease. That does not make financial sense because you are paying $1000 to get out of $600 in additional rent ($100 x 6 months). You should stay in the apartment and just find additional ways to pay the rent, even if it means putting the additional $100 a month on a credit card (just the $100!).

Also, be sure to give the landlord an appropriate amount of time to find a new tenant or they may slap more fees on you. You also want to make sure the landlord is trying to rent the property. If you told them that you need to move out and they are not actively searching for a new tenant or allowing you to sublease, you may a defense if the landlord tries to collect additional rent (fees) from you.

5 Tips For Saving Money and Energy on Your Laundry

Believe it or not, I like to do the laundry in our household. My fiance does the cooking and I do the wash. It’s kind of a compromise. Some people would call that weird but I just call it helpful. I will admit though, that I am kind of weird about my laundry. I have a set way of doing things and I do not trust anyone else to do it. Anyway, now that we are living in our own place, we have to think about saving money and energy. Here are some tips that we use in order to cut down on those two items:

1. Brrrrrr….That’s Cold!

Yep, you know what I mean. Washing in cold water saves quite a bit of money and energy. You don’t have to waste energy and money heating up the water. We wash all of our laundry in cold water. Use a pretreatment product for your tough stains instead of hot water.

2. Less is More

I’ve heard that using less detergent still gets your clothes clean. I have been going off of that philosophy for a few years now and my clothes are always clean. So, my advice to you is to use half of the recommended amount of detergent when washing. There is such a thing as over washing your clothes! This will help save you plenty of money. Just think, you will only have to buy detergent half as much now!

3. Concentrate on the Next Tip

Buying highly concentrated detergent can save you a bundle. While it costs a little more up front, it can help you make less trips to the store. We use All Small and Mighty concentrated detergent. It is 3x more concentrated than regular detergent and comes in a small bottle. If you but it at Amazon, you can get 8 bottles for a lot less than buying 8 bottles at the store. Combine this tip with the previous one and save some money!

4. Fill It to the Brim

This is probably one that most people know and follow. Don’t do a load of laundry until you can do a full load. This one is probably the hardest one for me to keep up with. I guess it’s because I don’t have that many clothes (or ones I still wear) and I need them washed more frequently. This can also be a problem for people who need a certain outfit for work. When I used to work at Sears in high school, I needed to wear a black shirt and tan pants. I did not have that many items that worked and instead of buying more clothes, I did the wash more frequently.

5. Get it While it’s Hot!

I am very weird about getting the laundry out of the dryer the second that it is done. I even set an alarm on my phone! The reason? I hate ironing! Taking the clothes out of the drying as soon as it’s done makes sure that wrinkles do not have time to form. My fiance thinks that I am weird for doing this, but I feel great not having to iron. That means less electricity for the iron!

These are just a few tips that we use. I know that there are many other ways to cut costs, but living in an apartment complex, they are just not available to us. Anyone have anymore unique cost cutting ideas?

The Age of No Negotiation: Credit Card Edition

As many of you may know, I have ranted before about how you cannot negotiate many things these days. I have had trouble negotiating for a bike at a big box store. After that, I had trouble negotiating my lease at my apartment complex. I am just so tired of businesses not wanting my business. The other day I ran into this problem again with my credit card company (Citi). As many of you may already know, Citi (as well as many other credit card companies) have begun to increase interest rates on all of their cards. Even for those who have been great customers like myself (I made them a lot of money). My rate with them was about 6% and they wanted to increase it to 16%. Now that’s what you call an increase!

So, I got a letter in the mail from them stating that they would increase my rate to 16% if I did not contact them by a certain date. The letter also said I had the option to keep my current rate but there was a catch. In order to keep my current rate, I had to have the card paid off in full by the expiration of my card (June 2009) and then they would close the account for good. I have quite a bit on the card so an increase in the rate by 10% would increase my cost of credit immensely so I figured I would call them and try to work something out. The lady on the other line was very friendly but she said there was nothing that they could do. You had to chose one or the other. I asked to speak to a manager and she said that they would not be able to do anything for me either. She already had several other people requesting a manager for the same thing. I then told her that they were going to lose a customer from all of this and she just did not seem to care that I was leaving them! I told her I would have it paid off by June and to close my account.

I just do not understand what companies are thinking these days. I know the credit market is bad right now, but do you really want to lose a great customer like me? If I were Citi, I would rather keep a good customer and earn a slightly lower interest rate then lose them all together. Especially a customer like myself. I have been with them for about 5 years and have never missed a payment. The went from making some money from me to none at all. I just do not understand!

Has anyone had the same problem with a credit card company? I have always had good luck with them in the past but not now!

Make sure you comment or submit this post to PFBuzz.com for entries into the contest!

The Age of No Negotiation: Apartment Edition

In my recent post, The Age of No Negotiation, I talked about my experience dealing with a big box department store. Of course, they were out of stock of the advertised item that I wanted. Being the person that I am, I asked them to extend the sale discount on another more expensive model. They said NO very fast and I left the store without giving them my money. The same sort of thing happened to me today at my apartment complex.

After returning to Texas from my trip home to Pennsylvania, I had a note hanging on my apartment door. The note stated that my lease will expire on October 31, 2008. They offered me to extend my lease for 12-14 months for the same price that I pay now ($495). However, I graduate in December of this year so that is not possible. If I do not extend my lease, they ‘allow’ me to remain on a month-to-month lease for $580 a month, an increase of 17%.

Once again, being the person that I am, I went over to the office to explain my situation. I told them that I wanted to stay until December for the same price that I am paying now. They immediately stated that they could not do that. I even reminded them that I have always paid on time, never had a check bounce, have no complaints against me, and I would continue to live there until December. They said that none of that matters because that it is their policy. I even reminded them that the apartment would be empty and at least with me, they would receive some sort of money. Once again, they said there is nothing that they can do as it is in their policy. I was even talking to the manager! I really do not understand what some people/companies are thinking! WHY DON’T THEY WANT MY MONEY!?!

I’m not really sure what I am going to do. I could bite my tongue and pay the increase but it would reduce the amount that I use to pay down debt. I also have some friends that would probably let me live with them on the cheap for the two months. What do you do if you were in my position?