Saturday, March 19, 2011

Moving Out and Moving On

So lately you’ve been thinking about moving out on your own. Maybe you’re a post-grad and have been living at home with your parents/relatives; maybe you’re looking to make a big career move that requires relocation. No matter what your circumstances may be, learning how to set yourself up financially is the best move you can make before you actually move. Here are some tips to help you along the way!

1.     Make a list and check it twice
We all have amenities that we want when we live on our own. Make a list to determine the most important features to your new place as it’s very likely all of your wants won’t be satisfied. Here are some of the most common amenities that people consider when moving:
a.     Access to subways, buses, and commuter rails – this is usually first on the list for people looking to live in big cities (i.e. New York City)
b.    Neighborhood safety – especially in these days and times, it’s important for ladies to stay safe. If you like to go out at night, you don’t want to have to worry about being constantly met with danger. When looking for a place, scout the neighborhood to see what it’s like before you sign that lease.
c.     Pets allowed in the unit – some landlords don’t want animals in their building, so make sure that you’re allowed to have a pet. Landlords will usually state this in the lease; however, some landlords will allow pets (sometimes there is a weight limit).
d.    Laundry room – unless you like lugging a bag full of dirty clothes every week to the laundromat and dealing with long waits and annoying people hogging the big load washing machine, building laundry facilities may be a high priority. Just note that having a laundry room in your building doesn’t mean you do your laundry for free so keep quarters handy!
e.     Parking – depending on where you’re looking to live, parking spaces can be slim to none, especially in NYC. If you have a car, see if your building provides on-site parking; just keep in mind that it’ll cost you extra. If the building doesn’t have parking, invest in a good car alarm system and The Club (for those that don’t know or remember what The Club is, it’s a steering wheel lock...and yes, I have one.)

2.     How much are you willing to spend?
That loft you’ve been eying complete with modern kitchen appliances, deep soaking tub, and walk-in closet may be your perfect apartment, but may be out of your financial league. To avoid living above your means, it would be best to create a budget when searching for a new place. As I mentioned in “Resolve to be Fiscally Fit in 2011,” no more than 30% of your income should go towards rent. The easiest way to figure out whether you need to scale back your budget or up your income is to solve this equation:
(Annual salary x 30%) ÷ 12 = Maximum monthly rent you should be paying

In addition to figuring out appropriate rent, also keep in mind that the process of moving in itself is costly. You’ll need about 2-3 months of rent (1 month for the security deposit, first month’s rent, and last month’s rent) when you’re ready to move in addition to moving costs, furniture, etc.

3.     Choose your living arrangement…wisely
Be honest with yourself: would you prefer living by yourself or do you think that you can handle living with a roommate? If you’re looking to lower your rent, a solution may be to have a roommate, but you must choose wisely. Living with another person means living with another person’s habits. If you are going to have a roommate, discuss important things like housing expenses, cleaning responsibilities, what to do when company comes over, and other house rules. Also, do your homework on your roommate especially if you don’t know them.

4.     Diversify your searching methods
When apartment hunting, there are plenty of ways you can find apartments. There are plenty of websites with apartment listings such as Craigslist, HotPads, Trulia Real Estate Search, etc. You can also search the old fashioned way by combing through newspaper ads. While you may not be able to see pictures of the potential place, you’ll get basic information such as rent, contact info, whether the unit is furnished, etc. If those methods take up too much of your time, you can hire someone who does have the time. Of course, this service is not free. Usually a broker will charge you a percentage of the rent. You can find brokers in classifieds, Yellow Pages, etc.

5.     Visit potential places
You won’t just be living in a new apartment, you’ll be living in a new neighborhood and it’s important to get to know the area. Spend a day and night driving around. Look for shops and restaurants, check out the school district (especially if you have kids or are planning to have some soon), and get to know the many ways to get around the neighborhood.

6.     Get it in writing!
No matter what anybody says, always make sure you get a lease in writing and with any contract, you should read the fine print. Don’t assume anything because we all know what that does. If there are any provisions in the lease, see if you and the landlord can come to some sort of compromise. It would be helpful for you to come up with any questions beforehand. Below is a list of common concerns.
·         What utilities are included in the rent?
·         How is security handled throughout the building?
·         How is the trash handled? (If you dispose of trash at the wrong location or time, you may be fined.)
·         How much notice do I need to give when leaving?
·         Are there any routine maintenance performed throughout the building (i.e. extermination)?
·         Are pets allowed?

7.     Don’t just pay attention to State Farm for their commercials, make use of them.
As much as those State Farm commercials are fun to watch, they (along with other insurance companies) provide renter’s insurance. Should you ever have a burglary, fire, or any unfortunate event where your possessions are damaged or stolen, you need to be protected. To get started, take an inventory of your belongings (and yes, that includes clothes) and estimate the replacement cost, not the actual cash value as clothes, jewelry, electronics, and other possessions usually depreciate in value over time.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What's in a Name? (When Girls Call Each Other Wifey)

Wifey. Fiance. Lover. You think that these titles would be designated to women in romantic relationships but over the years, I've come to notice that they are used in female friendships. The dynamics of female friendships have always been complex, but this recent occurrence has me perplexed. Has the closeness between two girls become a little too close or has female friendships taken a step in the right direction?

When you think of the various terms of endearment, they hold some sort of weight. A wifey, fiance, or lover is usually seen as a person that will be there for you no matter what; the closeness between the two of you is unmatched. The time that the both of you spend developing and growing together in that relationship takes time equivalent to a marriage. In female friendships, that level of closeness should be celebrated. Many times we see women tearing each other down, especially women of color. We get inundated with images on the television screen with women calling each other names, scheming, plotting, backbiting, and fighting. When  you think about it, for a second, the appointed title of wifey and the like seem like a nice change of pace or a playful way of showing love. 

On the flip side, how is that level of closeness perceived by others? I found out some people's thoughts on the topic and the common response was that this level of closeness is only a substitute for the lack of a romantic partner, male or female (we don't discriminate over here!). When one (or both) girls have no significant other, it's easier to turn to that close female friend and label her your wifey. Hey, if you can't be wifey to a significant other, the next best thing would be a close friend. Perhaps it's the title, perhaps it's the level of the closeness, but whatever it is, some find that it crosses the familiar lines of friendship and reaches a whole new level that some say is strange, annoying, and even immature. 

What we can all take away from the issue is this: anytime we can celebrate women being close with each other, it's a good thing. Female friendships, close ones without the drama a la reality show friendships, can sometimes be tough to find or maintain so when you have it, treasure it. However, a friendship is just that, a friendship. It's not a marriage or an intense romantic relationship as those have different dynamics. If it is treated as such, boundaries get crossed. Enjoy the friendship for what it is, nothing more, nothing less. 

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