Bring Back the Piggy Bank!

piggy bank

In all seriousness, for this money saving technique you may want to grab a piggy bank. I’m all about pinching pennies here and there, but I definitely do my fair share of impulse buying too. Here’s how you can easily do both and not feel as guilty at the end of the day.

The method works like this: If you ever have cash (if you don’t usually, we’ll get to you next), put ALL the coin change you’re given back from purchases into a piggy bank and only keep the paper bills in your wallet or purse. It’s as simple as that. So when you buy something for $1.09 and pay with $2.00, the 91 cents goes toward your savings. If you do that every time you spend cash, you will quickly amass a savings jar, which you can take to your local bank and deposit in your savings account or spend on something special.

Now if you don’t normally have cash, you may have a very similar, but less tangible option: Your bank may have a program where every time you use a debit card to make a purchase, it is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference is moved into your savings account. This is a quick and painless way to trick yourself into saving money!

…If you want to have more fun putting your coins into your bank, try this hilarious Japanese cat coin bank

 

 

(photo credit: stuffyoushouldhave.tumblr.com)

To Chair or Not to Chair?

chair

When I first moved to my current apartment, there were a grand total of three chairs in tow: one normal sized, wooden, half broken chair, and two plastic 1970’s kindergarten chairs. While I have no qualms about sitting in a little orange kindergarten chair, apparently most people do. So I found myself with a little bit of a dilemma: the few times I had people over, there was nowhere to sit! I’m not much of a believer in couches unless they’re one of those $3000 midcentury mod numbers, so there was never much of a possibility of a couch in the picture.

Living in an apartment without chairs never really bothered me, but after several embarrassing chairless experiences while having guests over, I eventually started my search for seating. I found the lovely armless armchair I’m currently sitting on at a Habitat for Humanity thrift store and it has been a great comfortable reading/working/lounging chair since. I also purchased two white wooden folding chairs at IKEA for $15 each, which are awesome because they can be easily packed up when they’re not needed. They also have a very clever circular hole drilled through the back so you can hang them on the wall if you really need to free up space! Finally, I ended up inheriting a small dining room set, complete with four chairs. They’re not the loungey sort, but they work.

Here’s the crazy thing: I liked not having chairs. I enjoyed sitting on the floor at the low coffee table eating meals or having tea with friends. This is why I wanted to offer some chair alternative solutions.

floor cusion

Zabuton – These Japanese floor cushions are an aesthetically pleasing alternative to chairs and go especially well with a low coffee table.

bean bag

Love Sac – The name sounds silly, but these high end “bean bag chairs” are comfortable and versatile. They offer a wide variety of amorphous furniture to fit a cozy lifestyle.

pouf

Poufs – There are tons of poufs out there right now. Basically, they are overstuffed ottomans to sit on.

dog bed

Dog Beds – don’t judge. There are some comfortable dog beds out there! This one has memory foam. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it… and if you don’t want to buy one, you could always make this super cute little number here.

 

 

(photo credit: oomaiga.tumblr.com)

Plants to the Rescue!

plant

 

The average person spends the majority of their time indoors. Most of us are guilty of not throwing open the windows and letting in fresh air as much as we should, which helps cleanse the air and disperse harmful and toxic pollutants. Air pollutants build up over time in our apartments; they keep us from breathing easy and can even cause illnesses.

Thankfully, one of the simplest solutions to help combat nasty little particulates in your air, is house plants! Our little green buddies take in carbon dioxide (and inadvertently some of those particulates) and filter the air, producing cleaner oxygen for us to breathe. Pretty spectacular. A while back, NASA did a study to find the most helpful air-purifying plants and put together a long list to help people breathe more easily.

If this all sounds wonderful, but you’re sighing right now because you’re not particularly good with plants, have no fear!

The following plants are the most difficult to kill from NASA’s list of air purifying plants:

  1. Garden Mum
  2. Spider Plant
  3. Dracaena
  4. Ficus
  5. Peace Lily
  6. Boston Fern
  7. Snake Plant
  8. Bamboo Palm
  9. Aloe Vera

 

For more information on NASA’s study and to see the full list of air purifying plants, click here!

 

 

(photo credit: supremeinteriors.tumblr.com)

Keeping Your Sleep Sanity

sleep

Are you one of those could-pass-out-anywhere-in-the-middle-of-anything types of people? I most certainly am not. It has to be dark, quiet, tranquil, a pleasant temperature, my neck has to be in the right place, my back in the right place, my knees not rubbing together, the stars in the correct alignment, and somewhere a wizard has to clap his hands three times before I can sleep properly. I’m positive I’m not the only persnickety sleeper out there – admit it!

Living in an apartment is not always conducive to perfect sleep for those of us who require high maintenance at bedtime. It never fails- when you want to go to bed, the bumbling buffoons who live above you will start dropping things, stomping around, or worse…crack open a case and start the party. Or maybe you live in a part of the city where you have those lovely bright city lights filtering in through your blinds like the blinding ones at a football stadium. Possibly your neighbors act like they’re hard of hearing and throw the TV volume up past 11. Need I go on?

Here’s how I keep my sanity and make it through the night:

Sleep Mask

I’m ultra sensitive to light when I’m trying to sleep, especially that horrible blue toned light electronic devices emit, which inevitably gives me a raging headache. So if your other half insists on watching Netflix in bed while you’re trying to sleep, get yourself a good sleep mask and you’ll thank me later. Make sure you get a good one- my first mask’s band that fits around the head was too thick and uncomfortable. Do your research before you buy! Some masks even have lavender inside to help you relax.

plaid dye mask

Plaid Eye Mask, $11

kitty

Kitty Sleep Mask, $16.50

tempur

Tempur-Pedic Sleep Mask, $29

 

Sound Machine

My other go-to is a white noise machine, which instantly calms me and helps me drift off. It filters out all the other annoying little neighbor noises for peaceful sleep. I already have such a Pavlovian response to it that as soon as it’s on (no matter what time of day) I instantly feel sleepy.

This is the sound machine I have and love (as seen on TV!). It’s adjustable with a nice range of pitch and volume-

sleep easy

Sleep Easy Sound Conditioner, $26

Now go catch some zzz’s!

 

 

title photo credit: agirlwastestime.tumblr.com)

 

Best of Trader Joe’s

trader joes

Yes, I am one of those people- a shameless Trader Joe’s crusader, always asking, “What? You’ve never been to Trader Joe’s?”. No, I’m not being paid by Trader Joe’s to write this. Dear reader, there are reasons I’m such a die hard fan of TJ’s, and not just because a family member worked there or because I enjoy the alternatives to what’s in the mainstream. We do go way back, but Trader Joe’s has never ceased to amaze.

It is consistently a healthier, more affordable grocery store with just the right amount of products and creates a pleasant shopping experience every time. Hand-written signs, silly cartoons, and friendly faces make this place head and shoulders above your average grocery store experience. I loathe going to most grocery stores because there are too many choices of brands, the stores are enormous, OR you end up in a small specialty grocery store with prices through the roof and you leave with a big bill and nothing in the bag. By having their own brand of almost every product in the store, Trader Joe’s keeps prices low and somehow also manages to consistently have products with good ingredients, too. This ensures customers get the best of both worlds. I haven’t even gotten to the frozen foods part… Ok I’ll stop, but seriously people of Gainesville, especially if you are a student on a budget (or anyone on a budget) you have a Trader Joe’s, so go!

Here are my favorite things to get from TJ’s:

 

Habanero Lime Tortillas

These tortillas have a real kick! Spicy, with a little bit of tangy, pulls your tortilla based meals together perfectly every time.

$2.99 a pack

 

Aloo Chaat Kati Pouches

These are basically Indian Hot Pockets and they’re surprisingly good. Most of the time, foods of this realm fall short because they’re bland, but these little vegetarian turnovers are packed with flavor.

$2.29 for a pack of 2

 

Soy Chorizo

Another superbly seasoned vegetarian favorite, this soy chorizo adds flavor to anything you mix it with. It’s perfect for Mexican inspired meals as well as great with eggs for breakfast.

$1.99 each

 

Cashew Butter

I am completely incapable of eating peanut butter now (it suddenly tastes like dirt in comparison) thanks to this cashew butter, which is beyond delicious! Just ignore the calories on this one.

$7.99 each

 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The staple of all my cooking, TJ’s olive oil is good quality and so much less expensive than what you find elsewhere!

$3.99 – $14.99 for regular and infused oils

 

Speculoos Cookies

These are some of my favorite cookies to go with tea or coffee- they’re spiced Belgian cookies, crisp and caramelized to perfection. They are also the magical main ingredient of the ever popular Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, which I strategically don’t keep in the house (but if I did, I have a feeling I’d keep it with a giant spoon handy).

$1.99 a box

 

Charles Shaw Wine

The BEST inexpensive wine you can get – buy a case while you’re at it. They have a multitude of varieties in the Charles Shaw section, so stock up!

$2.99 a bottle

 

 

Get a second opinion! Here are their 2015 customer choice award winners!

 

 

(photo credit: traderjoes.com)

Wait! Before You Sign…

sign

I love the apartment life, but I know as well as anyone that finding that perfect new abode can be a real chore. So many factors play an important role when deciding on a new place to rent (aka so many things to stress you out): rental rate, neighborhood, amenities, and so forth. It can take quite a while to find the one which fits your specified criteria and feels right for you. When you do find the one, your instincts tell you to, “go, go go!” and jump the gun on signing without potentially asking some important questions. Don’t forget about these crucial points when you’re ready to commit!

Don’t feel pressured to skip reading the lease thoroughly. You don’t want any surprises! Know your responsibilities, the rules, and be sure to know how many days’ notice you need to give if you decide to move.

Pets What’s the policy on pets? Do you have pets or are you considering getting one? Beyond knowing the policy and fees associated, ask about damages concerning pets and how they are handled.

Utilities This seems obvious, but ensure everything concerning the utilities is transparent and easily understood.

Renewal rates Ask if there is a standard percentage increase each year or if your rental rate will remain the same.

Fresh Paint Ask when the apartment was last painted. See if you can provide input on color choices if it has yet to be painted.

Talk to your neighbors or the previous tenants and find out the pros and cons of the property management. Nobody is perfect, meaning certain aspects of maintenance may be more neglected than others. Ask how quickly repairs are usually taken care of!

 

(photo credit: fanpop.com)

Moving Etiquette 101

box

If there’s an upcoming move in your future, you probably have more than enough to think about! When you’ve gotten all your pre-moving duties out of the way, you may still want to look over this list of tips on making sure you properly ingratiate yourself with your new neighbors. Moving can be a loud and messy experience and the neighbors have no choice but to put up with it. Hopefully they’ll be understanding because they have been there too, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little common courtesy, right?

First, make sure to introduce yourself to your neighbors when you see them. You don’t necessarily need to go knocking door to door with a cake in hand, but be friendly when you run into them and learn their names. Added bonus, it’s nice to know your neighbors!

Second, find the best place to leave your moving vehicle. Ask the property manager or your neighbors where the best location is to park the moving van. Otherwise you might inconvenience one of your neighbors trying to park their personal vehicle.

Third, learn where the moving trash goes. Know which trash receptacles are available at your disposal and take the time to really keep your moving tidy.

Fourth, schedule your activities so they are not too early in the morning or too late in the evening. Once you get your things moved in, it may be tempting to work all night putting your furniture back together, but the neighbors don’t want to hear that if they have to go to bed at a decent hour and wake up early. Just be conscientious!

Fifth, if you’re moving pets in don’t leave them there for too long right off the bat. Dogs especially may cry and be upset (possibly destructive) if they are unused to the new location and are left alone too long.

 

(photo credit: princesscheeto.tumblr.com)

#ApartmentGoals2016 (and Why Slowness is Key)

Quote

cloud

“O Snail

Climb Mount Fuji

But slowly, slowly!”

-Kobayashi Issa

This haiku by Issa is such a simple, but wonderful explanation of how the journey is more important than the destination. It’s easy to set a lengthy list of goals at the beginning of a new year, and equally as easy to forget about the journey towards them.

I think 2016 sounds like as good of a time as any to take a step back and embrace some slow living. The fact that “slow living” is even a term, much less an unorthodox way of living, is bizarre to me. But I know as well as anyone it’s easy to get swept up in everything going on around me, adding more and more to the to-do list, feeling expected to have this, that, or the other, so forth and so on, ad nauseam. So maybe, at least for January, slowing down will do us all some good.

It seems counter-intuitive to take a “slower” approach when the new semester is starting and many of you will have a plethora of new challenges and deadlines to meet. However, “slower” in this case may translate to “more realistic”, in which case piling on as many tasks as possible (which can be self-defeating) is less desirable than choosing fewer tasks with optimal importance. Classes are already chosen at this point, but extra curricular activities and organizations can still be adjusted. Remember to provide yourself time to decompress and unwind every day. Otherwise you may find yourself several months down the road, frazzled and completely worn down.

Your apartment is your home, your domain. No apartment is perfect and we will always want to improve this room or fix that closet, etc. Don’t let the pinterest boards get to you- the internet is a fabulous place to get ideas for improvements (which I love to post!), but don’t think you can’t have a happy and attractive space without going nuts overhauling the place with expensive changes. I personally prefer eclectic spaces with more character, which usually comes from a lived-in looking space full of photographs and well worn furniture. Embrace what you already have and feel comfortable in your apartment.

Take a deep breath and enjoy some slow living this year. You may find that with more time to do things like reading, observing, and reflecting, you’ll have a more fulfilling year. Here’s to 2016!

 

(photo credit: yama-bato.tumblr.com)