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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.

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.

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.

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

How to Maintain a Clean CarWe 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.

unhealthy holiday habitsThe 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.