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Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 6/23/2017

Renting a studio apartment is a great way to save for a down payment on a new house. Studio apartment living has additional benefits that you might want to take advantage of. But, first you may have to get accustomed to living in a smaller space.

Making the shift

If you’re transitioning from living in a college dorm to a studio apartment, the size adjustment should be simple. In fact, you may hardly notice the change. Moving into a studio apartment from a full size house is another story.

The average size of a studio apartment depends on where the apartment is located. In New York, the average size of a studio apartment is about 550 square feet. In Chicago, a studio apartment runs between 400 to 500 square feet. A studio apartment can be less than 400 square feet in other cities. Location also has a significant impact on the monthly rent that you’d pay for a studio apartment.

Ways that you can save by living in a studio apartment

Using New York as an example, you could pay more than $2,300 for a 550 square foot studio apartment in a hot spot like Manhattan. Shop around. Don’t assume that because the unit is small that the rent will also be small. Wherever you rent, you should pay less than you would pay for a standard one or two bedroom apartment.

Although a studio apartment is small, there’s enough room to fit a sofa bed, one tall dresser, a television stand and a television and a stereo. The apartment probably won’t have a kitchen. Pay attention to the layout. You’ll get more for your money if the layout is completely open except for the bathroom. More ways to save while renting a studio apartment include:

  • Buy food that doesn’t require cooking.Fortunately, a lot of healthy foods do not have to be cooked, so this could motivate you to develop a more healthy diet. Avoid eating out to save on food expenses.
  • Wear clothes that are a part of your current wardrobe. To save on space, you won’t be able to buy lots of clothes and shoes,another motive to save money for a down payment on a new house.
  • Get outdoors. Hang out with family and friends at great outdoor spots like free outdoor concerts, sports competitions and outdoor festivals and cultural events. Being outdoors can keep you from feeling like you’re confined to a small space.
  • Take advantage of living in a smaller space to focus on your career. You could use the time that you spend at your studio apartment, to start a business. Put a portion of these earnings toward your down payment.
  • Get exercise. Instead of taking the bus or train to work, if you live close enough, bike or walk to and from work. Deposit the money that you save on transportation toward your down payment.

Starting small could yield big results, especially as it relates to buying a house. If you rent a studio apartment at a reasonable price, you could use the money that you save on the difference in the rent versus what you would pay for a one or two bedroom apartment or a condo as a down payment on a new house. Rent a studio apartment and you could also adjust to living on your own for the first time, especially if you’re a recent high school or college graduate.




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Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 6/16/2017

Cleaning a medium sized house single-handedly could take three hours. It only gets worse if you clean up after a spouse and two or more children. Forget trying to clean the way your mother or grandmother cleaned when you were a kid. Your life is probably different from your mother's and grandmother's. You might be juggling a job,homeschooling your children or managing your own business.

Here's what a housekeeper can take off your shoulders

Whether you work in or outside your home, it wouldn't be a surprise if you put in more than 40 hours a week. The last thing you need at the end of a grueling workweek is to have to clean the house. Over time, the added chore of housecleaning could cause you to feel overwhelmed. Help could come in the form of a housekeeper.

Depending on the agreement that you make with a housekeeper, the professional who cleans your house can do several things. Among the tasks that a housekeeper could perform for you are:

  • Cleaning carpet and hard wood floors (Don't expect a housekeeper to buff hardwood floors. If you want the housekeeper to perform this type of work, state that upfront before you and the housekeeper enter into an agreement.)
  • Dusting and cleaning furniture
  • Washing clothes and bed linen
  • Cleaning bathrooms and kitchens, including mopping floors
  • Washing windows (This is another item that you may have to clearly state that you want completed before the housekeeper starts working for you.)
  • Folding laundry and ironing clothes

Getting more from a housekeeper

To get more work completed by a housekeeper, you may need to hire a live-in housekeeper. Alive-in housekeeper might watch your children for you, in addition to cleaning your home. A live-in housekeeper also might prepare meals. Be prepared to pay more for a live-in housekeeper. Also, have a designated living and sleeping space for the housekeeper.

Should your elderly parents or grandparents live with you, let your housekeeper clean your parents' or grandparents' living space. Purpose of hiring a housekeeper is to relieve you of work, to free you up to do other things.

If you love to entertain, ask your housekeeper if he would be willing to clean the area that you are going to entertain in, both before and after the event. Don't assume that your housekeeper will be available to clean for you after his regular work hours. Respect your housekeeper's personal time. If you value your housekeeper and show it, you could develop a true friendship with this person.

Go with a housekeeper you trust. Do a background check on prospects before you hire a housekeeper. Ask friends, relatives and colleagues to suggest a housekeeper for you. Make sure that the housekeeper is good with children if you have kids. The housekeeper won't babysit, but will need to be patient with kids to make the working relationship rewarding. If your housekeeper is good but is afraid of cats or large dogs, let your pets go outside or into the basement while your house is being cleaned.





Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 6/9/2017

You recently listed your home on the real estate market, and now, you've received your first offer. However, you only have a short period of time to review the proposal and accept, reject or counter it. Determining how to handle an offer on your home can be challenging. Fortunately, we're happy to help you fully evaluate an offer so you can make an informed decision. There are numerous factors to consider as you review an offer on your house, including: 1. Price In some cases, homebuyers may submit a "lowball" offer in the hopes of getting a seller to jump at a quick sale. If a home seller accepts this offer, a homebuyer is able to purchase a terrific home at a bargain price. Conversely, if a home seller rejects or counters the offer, a homebuyer may have an opportunity to reconsider his or her options. As a home seller, you should consider how much you are willing to accept for your residence before you add it to the real estate market. By doing so, you can list your home for a fair price and act quickly and effectively as you receive offers. Also, flexibility is paramount for home sellers. And even though you may list your home for a particular price, you may want to consider accepting an offer below your initial asking price if you're looking for a quick sale. 2. Sale of a Buyer's Home Although a homebuyer may submit an offer that is at or above your initial asking price, the proposal may have strings attached that could slow down the home selling process. For instance, a homebuyer could make an offer that is contingent upon him or her selling a residence within a set period of time. But if this homebuyer is unable to sell his or her house, your home sale could fall through, which could cost you both time and money. In this scenario, consider your options carefully. If you believe you can receive other offers from homebuyers who don't require this contingency, you may be better off rejecting or countering the proposal. 3. Your Timeline If you've already secured a new home and need to sell your current residence as quickly as possible, you may want to consider accepting an offer even if it is below your initial asking price. On the other hand, if you are able to afford two mortgages for an extended period of time, you may be better equipped to wait out a slow real estate market. When it comes to determining whether to accept an offer on your residence, consulting with your real estate agent usually is a great idea. This professional can offer expert resources you might struggle to find elsewhere and empower you with the insights you need to make the best decision possible. Consider the aforementioned factors as you evaluate an offer on your home, and you should be able to accept, reject or counter a proposal with confidence.





Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 6/2/2017

Whether you have a free-standing pantry, or a dedicated room for storing your kitchen essentials, there’s certain things that you should do to make sure your pantry is organized and that you have easy access to all of your items. Here’s some tips for good organization in your kitchen pantry: Be Careful With Stacking Canned Goods If you stack large items with other smaller items, such as different sized canned goods, it can pose a problem. An alternative to this storage dilemma is that of using risers. If you don’t want to put risers in because you feel that they’ll take up too much space, remember that these storage tools are giving you space in a different sense. However you choose to stack your canned goods, remember that the shortest item should be in the front. Organizing your canned goods by height can help to save you time and space. Store Open Items In Airtight Containers Items that have been opened should be stored in an airtight container with a lid. This can save you money by keeping items fresh. Also, you and your family will know what food items have been opened and need to be finished up before new items are ripped open. Keep cereals, crackers, cookies and even pet food fresh with the use of this simple tactic. Stacking Bins Save Space If you’re like most of America, your town probably recycles. Consider getting stacking bins for the pantry or kitchen area to place recyclables in. Make sure these bins aren’t too large. This way, you’ll be on top of taking the recycling outside to where it needs to be. This organizing tip helps to keep your kitchen clean. Also, be sure that these containers are easy to open for your convenience. Categorize Your Snack Foods Your kitchen pantry area will stay much more organized if you keep things in categories. Cookies and other sweet snacks should stay on one shelf in one area. Snacks for the kids should be easy to grab for little hands (that is of course if the kids have free reign over the kitchen!) Savory and salty snacks are a different category that will be on a completely different shelf and area. Baskets can be a great accessory for single-serve items. Boxes that snack items come in often take up a lot of space that could be better used. Bags of chips and other items are the same way. These bagged items can be transferred to sealable containers. Baskets are also easy to carry around if you’re offering a choice of snacks. Be sure you have clips to close bags and packages to keep snack items fresh. How Deep Is Your Shelf? Be mindful when it comes to shelving items like bottles that are all the same size. This can make things hard to find. These types of items are often best stored on a lazy Susan, or other type of turn-style storage that easily spins and allows you to see what’s available for your cooking use. This way, you’ll never have to move a bunch of things to find what you’re looking for! These kitchen pantry storage tips will help you to stay organized and save time both cooking and cleaning.




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Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 5/26/2017

Water is one of those utilities that you cannot live without. This could be why people treat water as if it's free and let water run even when they don't really need it. The cost of water usage could go unnoticed in areas where water and sewage bills are only required to be paid every quarter, especially if the two utility bills are combined.

Easy tricks to lower your water bills

You may not think it's the water usage at your house that's driving your monthly expenses up $200 a quarter. Yet, if you drop your water usage, you could get back enough money to catch a live stage play, concert or several hit movies. That money savings could also be spent put eating out once a week within easy reach.

So, how do you get to lower water bills? How do you stop paying more for this necessary utility than you need to? See how many of these tricks you can easily fit into your daily routines:

  • Turn off water while you brush your teeth. Run water in a rinsing cup to rinse your teeth clean of toothpaste at the end of brushings. If you lived in an apartment, you'd really appreciate this simple step, as excessive water usage can drive up monthly apartment utility bills.
  • Wash laundry once a week or twice a month. If you live alone, you might be able to wash clothes twice a month.
  • After you relieve yourself first thing in the morning and flush the toilet, wait to flush the toilet a second time until you're ready to leave home for the day or start working out of your home office. This trick helps you avoid using your toilet as a garbage disposal.
  • Take your vehicles to the car wash when you wash them.
  • Place dishes in the dishwasher as they are. Don't rinse or wash your dishes off before you run them through the dishwasher. It's a great way to test your dishwasher. If your dishwasher is working properly, your dishes should be clean when you take them out of the dishwasher.
  • Keep a gallon of clean, drinking water in the refrigerator. This trick can keep you from running water in the faucet until the water turns cold.
  • Avoid shaving while you're in the shower.

Lower water bills gives you more money to spend on fun things

Habits that lead to weaker personal finances start with simple things. At home, something as simple as running water for too long or using water based equipment for the wrong reasons could lead to high water bills. This money takes away from money you might spend on entertainment, hobbies, travel and socializing.

If you form bad water usage habits, you could also be weakening your personal savings. It doesn't take much to imagine what an additional $100 a quarter in savings or an investment account would build to in a few years You don't even have to implement all of the tricks to lower your water bills to start yielding savings.




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