Energy Saving Tips That Won’t Force You to Sacrifice Comfort

Now is the time start thinking about your energy consumption because the weather is getting warmer. The heat of summer will arrive before you know it, which means turning up the air conditioner in your apartment. Whether you’re trying to beat the heat or illuminate your place, you use energy.

Energy Saving Tips That Won't Force You to Sacrifice Comfort

Fortunately, decreasing your carbon footprint doesn’t have to mean sacrificing comfort. Check out these energy saving tips to reduce your environmental impact and prevent your air conditioner from over working:

Install and Use Ceiling Fans

Using ceiling fans allows you to decrease the temperature in your home or apartment by 4 degrees Fahrenheit without losing any comfort. Though it may not sound like much, those 4 degrees can add up when it comes time to pay the bills.

Ceiling fans circulate air, preventing heat from hanging near the ceiling. They also promote ventilation by pushing air out of the window and pulling in cool breezes. If your apartment does not have a ceiling fan, ask your landlord to install one or ask if you can purchase one yourself.

Many apartments already have ceiling fans installed, so make the most of your fan by using it. This spring, dust the blades and be sure the fan works. Then you can turn it on and decrease the air conditioning energy you consume come summer.

Hang Light Curtains

Some energy saving tips don’t require as much planning as others, and curtains are one of the easy alterations you can make. Warm sunlight can heat your apartment as it streams in through your windows, but hanging curtains will reduce that greenhouse effect.

Energy Saving Tips That Won't Force You to Sacrifice Comfort- Hang Light Curtains

You can still enjoy the comfort of natural light by choosing window treatments made of sheer fabric. They help diffuse sunlight while promoting illumination. Keep the curtains closed during the day and increase the temperature on your thermostat to go green. You’ll still feel cool because the sun won’t be heating your apartment.

Prevent Heat Gain

Many apartments have wall- or window-mounted air conditioning units. While these devices do help cool the apartment, it’s easy to seal them improperly. If the unit isn’t airtight, you could be letting hot air into the apartment (which forces your air conditioner to work harder to reduce indoor temperatures). Use caulk to seal the edges around your air conditioning unit, which will prevent heat from outdoors entering the room.

You’ll notice that the room stays cooler longer and that you can turn the thermostat up a few degrees without feeling uncomfortable. Every degree counts!

Lighten Up

Believe it or not, the color of your decor can make your apartment hotter or colder. Dark colors absorb light and bright ones reflect it (a phenomenon known as albedo). Decorate your apartment with bright shades to prevent heat gain as a result of absorption.

Energy Saving Tips That Won't Force You to Sacrifice Comfort - Lighten Up

It’s the same principle as not wearing black in the summer. You’ll feel more comfortable and cool with light colors in your apartment. Pick white, beige and pastels for your warm-weather palette. Cooling your place naturally may help save energy costs because your air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard.

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Energy Saving Tips That Won't Force You to Sacrifice Comfort!

Photo Credit: Domiziana S.Wayfair, Marius Kallhardt

Think Outside the Shoebox with These Organization Ideas

So you’ve found the perfect apartment, but you aren’t sure how to make the space work for you. For many renters, the relief that comes after finding a budget-friendly apartment is swiftly followed by the feeling that there is a lack of storage space.

Think Outside the Shoebox with These Organization IdeasIf you feel a little cramped in your small apartment, don’t despair. Check out these effective organization ideas that can help you settle into your apartment more comfortably. All you need are some shoeboxes!

Organize Those Deep, Dark Drawers

Drawers are one of the saving graces of a small apartment—especially when they are extra-long! The problem is, if you have a set of dark, long drawers under the bed or in the closet, it’s tough to find what you’re looking for inside.

The solution? Transparent shoe boxes! Organize the contents of your drawers into different types of items; then put those into clear shoeboxes to make finding everything much simpler.

Think Outside the Shoe Box - Drawer Organization

Pens, papers and crayons might take up one box, electronic devices another. It all depends what you need to store! Just make sure that each shoebox is filled with similar items so that you don’t need to search through more than one when the time comes.

Clean up the Closet

If your socks are falling out of the shelves or dresser drawers, you aren’t alone. Underwear not staying where it should? Again, this is a common problem.

Think Outside the Shoe Box - Closet Organization

To keep everything in your closet neatly in place, try designating 2 or 3 shoe boxes into your dresser drawers or closet space. Once paired, throw your clean socks into 1 one the boxes; underwear into another; bras into the third. Are you a swimsuit hoarder? Toss those suits into their very own shoebox and keep them from mixing into the rest of the clothing.

This way, you won’t have to search through an entire drawer full of undergarments to find what you’re looking for. Keeping small clothing items in shoeboxes will also stop them from migrating into other parts of your wardrobe. This kind of organizational system gives you an ideal place to toss popped buttons, zippers and other clothing items for later repair.

De-Clutter the Kitchen Cabinets

There are so many tiny items floating around in most people’s kitchen cabinets, some only get found before moving house. Between loose tea bags, packets of juice crystals and gravy, stock cubes and the odd Hershey’s Kiss, the kitchen cabinets can become littered with stray items.

For those non-perishable cupboard dwelling packets, introduce a couple of clear or color-coded shoeboxes. Keep it simple, but not too strict: 1 box for savory; 1 box for sweets. Another for all those tricky little bits and pieces that get used only a couple of times a year, say for cake decorating.

Your spice collection can also benefit from the use of a spare plastic shoebox, preferably one that has a solid color. Dried herbs and spices do get stale over time, so it’s best to keep them stored carefully in a dark, cool place.

Think Outside the Shoe Box - Spices

Depending on the climate where you live, the ideal place for a shoebox full of herbs and spices may be the corner of your pantry, a top shelf in the cabinet or even inside the refrigerator. Make sure that the lids of each bottle are tightly closed to ensure the longevity of their contents.

Get Creative with Shoeboxes

Nearly anything is possible in a rental apartment, no matter what the size—especially when shoeboxes are plentiful! If you’re worried that plain shoeboxes aren’t going to fit into your decor scheme, why not fancy them up a bit?

All it takes is a bit of measuring, glue, and some wallpaper or gift paper that you like. Wrap the boxes up neatly in the paper, and you’ve got an attractive theme piece that can be added to every room in the apartment!

Think Outside the Shoe Box - Get Creative

Once you’ve prettied-up your shoebox collection, you can use some boxes to hold useful daily items that have no real home elsewhere. Batteries, spare remote controllers, unmatched socks or gaming controllers can all sit comfortably in their own shoebox, completely anonymous until you need them. It’s a great way to conceal unattractive items within a cute, decorative box!

How do you make the most out of your apartment space? Are shoeboxes a regular part of your routine? Share your ideas with us on Twitter!

Photo Credit: Scorpions and Centaurs, Bill Abbott, Real Simple, Rachel, Angela Mabray

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Think Outside the Shoebox with These Organization Tips

How to Save Money When You’re Short on Time

From cutting coupons to searching out the best deals online, getting creative allows you to save money in almost every area of your life—but when you’re busy juggling work, family and a social life, the task can seem daunting. Who has time to sift through newspapers to save a few cents on peanut butter?How to Save Money When You're Short on Time

Fortunately, there are ways to save money when you’re short on time. We’ve assembled some quick and easy tips for cutting costs that are simple to implement and won’t occupy much of your day.

Rewards Programs

Rewards programs are a treasure trove of savings, from grocery store rewards cards to frequent purchaser cards. When in doubt, if you are offered access to a free rewards program, agree to join. Among money-saving tips, this is about as easy as it gets.
Most rewards programs are tracked via a physical card or your phone number. Whether you save money immediately at the point of purchase or build up to a single reward, rewards programs are simple because the store does the tracking for you while you reap the benefits.

Automatic Bill Payments

Many people don’t realize that agreeing to automatic bill payments can amount to significant monthly savings. For starters, having funds automatically deducted from your checking account means you will never accrue late fees or additional interest because you forgot to initiate a payment. Some lenders or organizations also grant a discount to customers who are signed up for automatic payments.
From your student loans to your electric bill, you may be eligible for a percentage off of your interest rate or monthly dues simply by having your payments taken out on a regular schedule. That makes automatic bill payments a responsible way to keep on top of payments and one of our favorite money-saving tips.

Automatic Savings Transfers

Some banks make it easy to put money into a savings account by instituting “keep the change” programs. These initiatives work by rounding up every purchase to the next full dollar and putting the extra cash into your savings account.
For example, a purchase of $7.50 with your checking account would be rounded up to $8; the actual purchase price is deducted from your checking account to pay the vendor, and in this case, an additional 50 cents would be transferred from your checking account into a savings account.

An automatic transfer program is a reliable, slow-paced way to store away some money that will come in handy on a rainy day. Best of all, you don’t have to take even a moment from your day to manually transfer money into a savings account.

Buy in Bulk

Buying non-perishable items, such as canned goods or shampoo, in bulk stands to result in major savings. Generally speaking, items that are bundled into groups are sold at a cheaper price than those sold alone. If you have extra storage space, there is really no good reason to purchase items piecemeal that could be picked up in bulk.

Stores like Sam’s Club or Costco make it easy to buy items en masse, since they deal pretty much exclusively in bulk products. These stores, however, do charge a membership fee. To avoid the cost of membership and still save money, look to other major retailers for the “family size” of groceries and toiletries. If you don’t have a family to share with, consider splitting a bulk purchase with a friend or neighbor.

Saving money doesn’t have to be a time consuming endeavor. These tips can give your wallet a break without hindering your daily schedule. Always remember that saving just a few cents here and there can really add up over time. Even if the savings you’re offered seem insignificant, you will thank yourself later if you take advantage now.

What are your tips for saving money without spending a lot of time? Tell us in the comments or on Twitter!

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How to Save Money When You're Short on Time

Creating Your Holiday Gift Budget

With the holidays looming, you might find that your holiday gift budget is a little more stretched than usual. Read on to discover a few common sense tips that will help you save for this special time of the year.

Creating Your Holiday Gift Budget

A Little Preparation Goes A Long Way

By being a smart shopper every day, you will have more to spend when the holidays come around. Here are some easy steps to more savings.

  • When it’s time to go grocery shopping, make a list. Get into the habit of only shopping for the items on your list and leave impulse purchases at the door.
  • Do your online research in advance of a big shopping trip. When you know where the bargains are, you will save yourself a whole heap of time, effort and frustration.
  • Make shopping rewarding. Use store coupons and rewards cards and sign up for email campaigns that will send advance details of sales.
  • Pay yourself first! Grant yourself a weekly allowance and shop for necessary items guilt free. By paying yourself a weekly or monthly allowance you will avoid the very real temptation of a retail therapy blowout.

Basic Steps To Big Savings

There are many small measures you can take to reduce your bills and help you save for the holidays. When you leave your apartment for the day, remember to unplug all electrical items making sure that you don’t spend anymore on your electrical bill than you have to. This tiny step goes a long way to reducing your electric bill over the course of a year.

When you go to work, adopt a “cash free” day where you go about your day-to-day business without spending a single penny. This is easier than it sounds with a modicum of forward planning: plan your lunches around what’s already in the pantry or the fridge, and take a (reusable) bottle of water with you. Then make sure to put away the equivalent money you would have spent into a savings account.

Now that you have adopted basic budget saving tips into your day-to-day life, you will have a clearer idea of how much you have to spend on your holiday gift budget.

Holiday Shopping Tips

When it’s time to go shopping for your chosen gifts, take cash only. This important step will prevent you from being tempted to use credit to make your purchases. Adopt a stealth-like approach to your shopping trip, planning in advance the stores you intend to visit. Don’t be distracted from your mission; instead, make the purchases you have decided upon in advance. If necessary, you can always go back later and buy that impulse present if there is enough left over in your budget.

Use the envelope system for shopping trips. Make out a new envelope for each person on your list and place in the exact amount needed for their chosen present. Then if the product is further discounted at the cash register, you can put the extra money into a contingency fund.

If you choose to do your holiday shopping online from the comfort of your own apartment, keep an eye open for useful promotions such as free shipping codes or buy-one-get-one-free offers.

Finally, if you are forced to put your holiday shopping onto a credit card, it’s always a good idea to put it on one that will benefit you and your wallet. Use cards that offer cash back with every purchase.

For more advice on money matters, follow Apartment Guide on Twitter.

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How to Create a Holiday Gift Budget

Photo Credit: Scott Miller

5 Apartment Essentials for $5

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Dorm rooms are filling up with eager students and young adults are moving into their very first apartments.

It’s pretty tempting to head straight to Target and fill up a cart (or two) with all the things you so desperately want need. But not so fast! You should adopt a habit of smart shopping, buying as many essentials as you can for just a buck at your local discount chain.

Allow us to demonstrate…

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Hidden Gems: America’s Most Affordable Cities (Infographic)

Click on the image to view the full infographic.

Click on the image to view the full infographic.

Big-city living isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Not only will you find plenty of small-town charm if you live in a less populated town; you’ll also save money. Apartment Guide found America’s most affordable cities — the top 10 cities with the least expensive median rent prices — and we dug up a few cool facts about these hidden gems as well.

1. FlorenceMuscle Shoals, AL

Median rent: $395

Named after the city in Italy, the northwestern Alabama town of Florence not only boasts the cheapest rent in the nation; it’s also the home of the University of North Alabama. Music lovers are in luck; artists from all over the country come to Florence each summer for the W.C. Handy Music Festival. It originally focused on blues and jazz, but now includes rock, gospel, country and more.

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Craigslist vs. eBay: Where Should You Sell Your Stuff?

There’s no way around it – you need extra cash. While selling blood plasma may have crossed your mind, there are easier ways to pad your bank account. Have you thought about selling stuff that you no longer want or need online?

ebay vs. craigslist

From furniture to textbooks and even the most random knick knacks, you’d be surprised what people are willing to pay for the stuff you’ve long neglected. The hard part may be determining the best vehicle for getting your stuff into a buyer’s hands. Craigslist and eBay are two notoriously popular options, but which one is right for you? Apartment Guide explains the good and the bad of each.

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New Year, New Budget! How to Stay Financially Fit in 2014 (Infographic)

Click the image to view the full infographic.

Click the image to view the full infographic!

It’s the kind of cliche that exists for a reason: are you already planning to do a better job following a budget in the New Year?

If your credit card bills are telling you that you overspent during the holidays, take a look at our tips for getting – and staying! – financially fit in 2014.

Apartment Guide has teamed up with LearnVest, an award-winning financial planning company, to share some useful budgeting tips on how to spend less and save more this year.

We’ve also dug through our data to find the top 10 most budget-friendly metros for affordable apartment living in 2014.

Our recent budget survey found that a majority of people who are moving opt to do the work themselves — without hiring a moving company – and they are spending less than $1,000 on the entire move. One in three renters plan to spend more on entertainment at home in their apartments this year, however. (Maybe that’s where the moving money is going?)

On that subject, LearnVest notes that the average American spends over $900 a year on cable. You might consider a less-expensive option to get access to your favorite shows, like HuluPlus or Netflix, instead.

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Sweep Away Bad Budgeting Habits With a Saving Plan

We won't claim that saving is fun, but here are a few tips that jsut might help make it a little less painful! Here's to saving in 2014!

We won’t claim that saving is fun, but here are a few tips that  might make it a little less painful. Here’s to saving in 2014!

It’s far too easy to blow your budget over the holiday season.

Between the presents, the parties and the travel, all of your merry-making can leave you seeing red in the new year.

But there’s good news: the start of a new year is also a great time to get your savings goals back on track.

Here are a few easy, fairly painless ways you can get a new saving plan started in 2014!

Lose the “latte factor”
Financial expert David Bach, author of the best-selling Finish Rich books, advises everyone to determine their “latte factor.” Your personal “latte factor” refers to the small, seemingly insignificant items you purchase on a regular basis, such as a daily coffee from Starbucks. These items may have small price tags, but when purchased periodically they really add up. You could buy café lattes five days at $3.50 a pop, or you could choose to save that money — which adds up to over $900 a year — in an interest-bearing account. Saving money is the same thing as making money, so it’s a good idea to look at where you’re bleeding extra cash — such as daily coffees, cigarettes, unused gym memberships, etc. — to consider what you might be able to cut out.

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