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Top 9 Money-Saving Dorm Room Essentials


studentdormFour blank walls, small closets, communal bathrooms and a stranger sleeping in an identical bed three feet from you. Yep, your first dorm room can feel more like prison than an awesome college experience. That’s why it’s essential to transform your dorm room into a nurturing and organized living space where your mind can thrive. Here’s how to invest wisely in dorm room luxuries that will save you money in the long run.

1. Coffee Maker

Kick your brain into high gear with premium coffee made fresh from your dorm room at a fraction of the coffee shop price. Get a capsule espresso maker and automated milk frother that will automatically create delicious espresso and microfoam. This will save you massive amounts if it helps you forgo visits to the coffee shop.

2. Storage Furniture

Furniture that doubles as storage will help you stay organized and comfortable. Storage cubes from Ikea are great for corralling everything from textbooks to clothes to hair products. Knowing where all your stuff is will discourage you from wasting money on duplicate items, and it may even lower your stress level.

3. Clothesline

Air-drying your clothes will save you quarters at the laundromat and reduce wear and tear on your clothes over time, saving you money on replacements. Invest in a foldable clothes drying rack or a portable clothesline from The Container Store that doubles as a cool display for photos, cards or artwork.

4. Refrigerator

Having a mini-fridge is handy for saving leftovers from dinners out. Plus, you are more likely to keep staples like yogurt and milk on hand for quick breakfasts rather than splurging at the corner bakery on your way to class.

5. Rice Cooker

Beside making rice quickly and easily, a rice cooker can be used to make oatmeal, soup, steamed vegetables, and a ton of other things. At just $1-3 per serving for a filling and nutritious meal compared with $10 or more at Chipotle, a rice cooker will save you money on eating out. It can also be a great way to heat up leftovers, and can be stowed away in a closet when not in use.

6. Lapdesk

Extend the life of your laptop by keeping your laptop’s battery cool as you study. Rather than propping your laptop up on a pillow or blanket, stay comfy and cool with a lap desk. Check out Pottery Barn’s selection that includes an internal storage compartment starting at $59.

7. Printer

The long line at the library printer won’t be an impressive excuse to your composition instructor when you turn your paper in late. Avoid stress and save money on printing costs by buying a wireless color printer/scanner/copier like the Canon PIXMA MG3520 or HP Envy 4520.

8. Alarm Clock

Avoid the harmful blue light from your cell phone late at night and early in the morning by opting for an alarm clock that gently wakes you with a simulated sunrise like Philips Wake-Up Light. Research indicates that waking up naturally to sunlight increases alertness, cognitive performance, and reaction times, meaning you could earn better grades, scholarships or work promotions. Say goodbye to that second senior year!

9. Water Filter

Filling a reusable water bottle with water from your dorm room will save you from buying disposable water bottles from the vending machine. In fact, you could save a ton, since some estimates state that people spend 10,000 times more on bottled water than on tap water. For better tasting and cleaner water than regular tap water, opt for an attractive filter like the compact Soma Water Filter ($29) or a portable water purifier like the Sport Berkey ($29).

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Creative Dorm Room Decorating Ideas For College


dormdecoratingLet’s face it, dorm rooms can be a very dull place. Cinder block walls, a plastic twin mattress and florescent light bulbs don’t scream cool or hip or have any of your creative flair. Consider the ideas and tips below to spruce-up this no-frills space into the room of your college dreams.

Hide the Floors

Add your personality from the floor up using decorative rugs, carpet squares or floor cushions. They can be eye-catching and bring texture and warmth to a white-washed bedroom. Just be sure to leave enough clearance for door swings and make sure you can navigate around the room safely. You’ll also need to purchase a small hand-held vacuum, especially for allergy victims. The last thing you want are allergens and dust mites building up!

Add Spice to Your Mattress

Make your standard dorm bed more luxurious with a headboard crafted from an old sheet or fabric and a sturdy piece of cardboard. It will add some punch to your all-white abode and can travel easily if you need to move rooms. When it comes to sheets, first check to confirm if your bed is standard or extra-long. Once you’ve determined the appropriate size, look for textured fabrics, which not only disguises any dirt or stains but also add interest to the room.

Be BFFs With Washi Tape

Washi tape, a colored paper tape, is an absolute essential when it comes to dorm room decor. Like painters tape, it can be removed without residue, meaning its a great temporary fix. Use it to line your shelves, to create make-shift frames for your poster collection, to add a geometric pattern to the back of your door or to customize storage boxes. If you really want to go washi crazy, A Night Owl has 100 ways to use washi.

Decorate Your Walls

You have nearly endless options when it comes to giving your dorm room walls a makeover. Accessories are typically reserved as gorgeous accents for your wardrobe, but consider displaying them in your room. Buy a few sticky hooks or a cheap bamboo ladder to add scarves, jewelry and head pieces. If you prefer to dress up your windows, add drapes or shades to bring pattern and color into your new space. Just use curtain rings and a decorative tension rod to stay within dorm room rules. Lastly, try removable peel-and-stick wallpaper in a bright, geometric pattern behind your bed or to line the sides of your standard-issue furniture.

Add Your Own Lighting

There’s nothing worse than those florescent fixtures. Eliminate the need for such harsh, overhead lighting with desk lamps or other task lighting. They will lend a softer glow to the room and reduce eyestrain, glare and mental fatigue, none of which are good for those late night study sessions. If you attend school in a city with a long, cold winter, consider adding a mood elevator light, which mimics natural sunshine. Lastly, for those night owls, respect your roomie and snag a compact LED lamp or focused reading light.

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How To Stay One Step Ahead Of Your Landlord


ForRentSignWhen you are a college student, it may be the first time you have an apartment of your own. This adult privilege carries adult responsibilities. When you make a point of not getting into trouble with your landlord, it can be a wonderful experience.

Read And Understand Your Lease

An apartment lease is not meant to be complicated. However, it is your responsibility to thoroughly read the lease, and understand the terms, before you sign your name. Do not make the mistake of glancing at the lease and signing it before you know its contents.

Everything you need to know about your rights and obligations should be clearly stated in the lease. If there is anything you do not understand, ask the landlord to explain.

Be Prepared To Abide By The Terms Of Your Lease

As a college student, never try to get away with violating the terms of your lease. Show your landlord college students are responsible adults by abiding by its terms. If it states you cannot have pets, do not hide a new pet in your apartment. If there is a specific time that renters and their guests are required to be quiet, do not have all-night parties.

When you follow the lease terms, you will avoid unnecessary difficulties with your landlord. You will also avoid eviction over a lease violation.

Always Pay Your Rent On Time

If there is one problem many college students experience, it is occasionally being short of cash. Paying your rent must be your priority. Landlords do not like tenants who make excuses, even if tenants feel the excuses are valid.

Whether you are working or receiving student aid, make sure to have cash in your bank account to cover your rent each month. You will avoid late fees, and not need to deal with your landlord.

Address The Subject Of Roommates

Some college students enjoy having roommates, while others prefer to live alone. Regardless of your preference, it is something you must decide before you sign a lease.

Landlords generally specify how many people can live in an apartment. If you intend to have one, your landlord must agree to this arrangement. Do not sneak a friend in, thinking the landlord will not notice.

Some roommate arrangements work better than others. If you decide you want a roommate, choose someone who is appropriate. The roommate should be as responsible as you are, and easy to get along with on a daily basis.

Do Your Part To Be A Good Tenant

When you attend college, you are ready to become a good tenant. Whether your apartment is near the college or you need to travel a short distance, the time you spend in your new apartment can be a pleasant experience.

Keep your apartment neat and clean, and avoid activities that disturb your neighbors. Do not leave your personal property in outdoor areas. Always lock your doors and windows when you leave your apartment. If you can be on friendly terms with your new neighbors, everyone will benefit. Your neighbors will like you, and so will your landlord.

College can be the best time of your life. While you are gaining an education and making new friends, it is also your first step toward independence. You can stay one step ahead of your landlord by being the kind of tenant he will appreciate.

College only happens once in a lifetime. This is also true for your first apartment. When you take your responsibilities seriously, you can avoid unnecessary problems. Attending college and renting your first apartment can be an experience you will always remember.

About The Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Joshua Turner. He is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to business. In this article, he offers real estate advice to students and aims to encourage further study with a real estate degree from Marylhurst University Online.

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5 Things You Need to Know When Moving Off-Campus


Young men moving houseYou just survived a long day of classes and your part-time job. You feel like collapsing, but there’s a pile of homework the size of Mount Kilimanjaro in your backpack, and you haven’t eaten supper. The last thing you want to do right now is walk back through the door of the dorm room you’re sharing with your randomly-chosen roommate and eight of his or her closest friends, who may or may not be having a jam session all evening. Steel guitar, anyone?

Moving off-campus definitely has its advantages: privacy and peace among the most valuable. But it can also be a bigger hassle and an extra load of responsibility. If you’re looking into moving out of the dorms and into your own digs this semester or next, here’s what you need to know.

1. There’s more to an apartment than meets the eye (or the price tag)

The price may be right, but if you’re renting an apartment in an older building, you might find out the hard way that it was insulated poorly and costs an arm and a leg to heat and cool. Research the cost of utility bills in the area before you sign a lease. You can do this by asking the owner or other residents who live in the same building or in similar units.

2. Research the parking situation

If you’re using a car to get from your new home to campus and back, you’ll want to make sure there’s adequate parking for your car. This might seem like a given, but not all apartments in college towns come with free, guaranteed parking. If you’re going to have to buy a parking pass or park on a long, narrow, crowded driveway, now is the time to find out.

3. Learn to cook

Up to this point, you’ve probably relied more on the cafeteria’s cooking than your own culinary abilities. But if you’re not much of a cook, now is the time to learn some basics — along with how to buy groceries effectively (and inexpensively). If you end up eating out all the time because it’s more convenient than buying your own food, you could end up breaking your monthly budget before the first 2 weeks are up.

4. Research the monthly bills you’ll have to pay

In the dorms, Wi-Fi was a given. So was heating and cooling, and maybe even cable in the student lounge. When you live on your own, though, you’ve got to handle all these details yourself — from paying for water and power to paying for Internet and cable TV. To lower the cost of your utilities, you can take steps to use them as wisely as possible. To ensure an affordable Internet connection and TV, compare cable and satellite providers to dig out the best deals in your neighborhood.

5. Dealing with Landlords 101

It might not be on your schedule of classes this year, but it’s something you need to learn: how to deal with your landlord about the property you’re leasing from them. The first step here is making sure you understand your lease. Read it, and ask questions. Get in touch with your landlord immediately if there’s a problem with the apartment like a broken plumbing line or another problem only an expert can repair.

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Staging The Graceful Exodus Of Your College Rental


animalhouseHave you ever tried to take a poster off of a wall, only to discover the pushpins left dozens of teeny holes all around? In hindsight, that probably wasn’t the best way to decorate your temporary space – but you longed to make it reflect your personality, even as a short-term home during college.

Recent statistics show that more people than ever are choosing to rent homes, particularly in well-populated cities. If you are one of them, you’ve probably questioned just how much effort to put into home decor, or how much you can get away with. A rental home deserves your attention and deserves to reflect your tastes just as much as a home you own. But how can you make that happen without possibly getting fined when you finally move out? Actually, there are plenty of ways to decorate a rental and leave it just the way it was – or better – when it’s time to leave for summer break.

Color Now, Chameleon Later

So, you don’t want white walls that look like a hospital room? Frankly, we don’t blame you. But remember that blood-red walls, floral wallpaper and psychedelic stripes won’t work, either. Instead, choose neutrals and lighter shades that are easier to paint over later – or even leave on the walls if your landlord likes it! Here are some shade suggestions:

  • Light blue
  • Eggshell or beige
  • Yellow
  • Light green

Keep in mind that the more neutral you go, the more likely it is that you can leave the walls painted (If you do a good job) upon your exit.

Accents Matter

Let’s say you aren’t going to paint the walls but you crave a splash of color in your rental. Don’t let white walls slow you down – get to work adding color with furniture, pillows, throws and other home accessories. In truth, your visitor’s eyes will be drawn to whatever you intend for your focal point of the room to be – and it does not need to be a wall. Here are some ideas regarding home furniture and furnishings.

  • Solid colored sofas and chairs – Pick a color palate for the sofas, chairs ottomans or other main furniture in your home. Whether they are brightly colored or more muted, remember that colors will offset the plain walls and give you a canvas to work with.
  • Patterns for pillows – Once you have your “canvas,” you can add patterns with area rugs, decorative pillows and cozy throws.
  • Other knickknacks – In addition to the furnishings of your home, try adding character to the room with colorful houseplants, books, candles and other fun accessories. They are easy to pack up when you leave and they can make a rental house feel more like a home.

Hang Time

So, you can’t make holes in the walls. What now? There are alternatives that don’t leave your walls looking like a slab of Swiss cheese.

  • Poster Putty – This sticky stuff is a fine alternative for hanging lightweight artwork, including posters (of course), unframed photos and small canvases.
  • Mounting tape – Most brands of mounting tape work fine to hold up art, and won’t damage the walls when you peel it off.

A Graceful Exit

When the time comes for you to move from your rental property, ensure that you will receive your deposit money back in full by leaving the home the way you found it, or even better. Here are a few things to take care of before you hand the keys in.

Clean the baseboards.
Have you ever looked down at the baseboards in someone else’s house and noticed how grubby and dusty they were? Well, imagine how much more the baseboards stand out when you remove your furniture and they are in plain sight. Dust and clean the baseboards before you leave the rental, and the whole place will look cleaner.

Plaster any holes.
Oops – you’ve got a hole in the wall. Luckily, you can fix it with a tube of spackling and some sandpaper. Simply fill the hole and sand it down. A little dab or two of paint and the wall will look like new.

Repaint if necessary.
If you painted the walls, make sure to find out whether you will need to restore them to their original color before you move out. Regardless of your landlord’s feelings about it, you may need a fresh coat anyway if the walls are marked and scuffed up.

Rental properties have plenty of potential when it comes to decorating – you simply have to be creative and willing to cover your tracks at the end.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Chris Long. He is a Home Depot store associate and has been helping renters, homeowners, and other property owners in the Chicago area since 2000. Chris also contributes advice on furniture decor for Home Depot’s Home Decorators.com website. His interests range from providing tips on living room furniture to information on closet storage, room dividers and end tables.

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6 Things You’ll Need for Your College Dorm Room


DormRoomGoing to college is an exciting time in anyone’s life. It’s a time of new opportunities and individual experiences. However, no matter how individual the experience, the dorm rooms always start exactly the same. Once you see what is already in your dorm room, it’s time to decorate it. Here are some great ideas on what everyone should have in their dorm rooms.

Bedding

The bed will take up the most space in the room, so you want to ensure it’s attractive. Great bedding can give the room that cozy feel.  Also, you want to buy many decorative and practical pillows. This way, you can use your bed as a daybed sofa by lining pillows up against the back. Comforters and pillows are also an excellent way to add pop to an otherwise drab room.

TV

These days, more students are deciding not to bring a TV to the dorms. However, the right TV can also double as second monitor while taking up very little additional space. Choosing a TV that can plugged into the laptop allows the student to enjoy all that the modern world has to offer, whether it’s typing a report on a bigger screen or just watching movies online.

Wall Art

Wall art gives your student a chance to express themselves. Gone are the posters of yesteryear. Thanks to the invention of sticky back putty, there are easy ways to hang up real pictures or artistic elements without the need to drill into the wooden or brick walls. This ‘museum putty’, as it’s sometimes called, is clear and leaves no residue once removed.

A Small Comfy Chair

Sometimes, a student doesn’t want to sit on the bed or in one of the hard student chairs. A small comfy chair is recommended, however, it shouldn’t be a furniture type chair. Instead, opt for a camp chair, beanbag chair or gaming chair. These chairs have a very small footprint, and can be moved around easily.

Rug

Rugs serve double duty; not only do they allow your student to express themselves, they also hide what is usually a very unattractive floor. If the dorm room has a hard floor, a rug also saves the student from walking on a cold floor at 3am. There are many different types of rugs, from giant area rugs all the way to little throw rugs. Since you’re not limited to only one rug in a room, there’s lots of fun to be had decorating with rugs.

Window Coverings

Draperies that block light are very important for dorm rooms. Getting enough sleep is important to doing well in college. Light blocking shades are a real benefit when you were up all night studying or having fun with friends. Fortunately, the Shade Store has many window treatments heavy enough to block light while still being unobtrusive enough to make the room seem open.

Though all dorm rooms start out the same, there’s no reason for them to stay that way. For the next 4 years, this will be your student’s home away from home as they transition to adulthood. Helping them outfit it well is the first step on their college career.

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5 Tips On How To Be A Good Roommate Next Semester


collegeroommatesjpgCollege life will have its ups and downs, but relationships are what define the experience. They motivate you to push through a difficult class or distract you when you’re studying for midterms. Just like any partnership, healthy roommate relationships take work. Common sense and a few simple tricks can help you and your roommate coexist peacefully under the same roof.

Maintain Your Own Space

It is all about boundaries and you and your roommate need some. Maintain your own space and define what your boundaries are up front. Don’t expect your roommate to read your mind — if late night TV is going to interfere with your beauty sleep, now is the time to say so. Make this a bonding ritual that helps clear the air right from the start. Things to discuss include:

  • Smoking
  • Visitors
  • Study time
  • Noise control
  • Pets
  • Food
  • Sharing

It is hard to come up with a complete list of things you love or hate all at once, so leave this line of communication open. Some issues may develop over time and the boundaries will change.

Hang Out at Least Once a Week

With any luck, you are building a friendship, not just saving on the rent, and that takes commitment. Set aside time for you and your roommate to do things together. Whether it is movie night or shooting hoops every Thursday after class, spending together time is a proactive way to nurture the relationship.

Expect Conflict

It is bound to happen – if you put two or more people under one roof, they will eventually disagree at some point. Go into the partnership knowing that problems will happen. Dealing with them right away keeps them from smoldering. Find ways to talk out the issues as they arise.

Timing matters. Be smart about approaching your roommate if you do have a problem. If it’s a bad day, put it off. Be aware of your own mood, also. If you are already cranky or irritable, what starts out as a discussion will end up as a battle.

Come Up With a System that Works

This is about organization. There are bills to pay, chores to do and personal space to consider. Plan it out to avoid procrastinating on necessary tasks:

  • Create a schedule for study time.
  • Make a list of who is responsible for paying the utilities.
  • Develop a “to do” list for cleaning.
  • Discuss how to get the best amenities for the house. For example, Direct2TV.com can hook you up with rocking TV service for just $29.95 per month. Research what else is available in the area to get the most for your combined buck.

Don’t leave anything to the imagination, but it is okay to leave some tasks open ended. If you have a minute to clean the refrigerator, by all means, knock yourself out.

A Little Communication Goes a Long Way

Communication, or lack of it, is a deal breaker. Finding ways to communicate puts out fires before they happen. You know the old sock on the doorknob trick? That actually works. Have a system that signals you need some privacy. Not everything in life is planned, so you had better have a way of silently dealing with those little unexpected surprises.

Above all else, be considerate of your roommate. Ask before you borrow, don’t eat food you don’t own and be courteous about noise. Remember, this person is more than just a way to keep the rent down. You are half of a team working to get through school together.

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The Post-Graduation Move: Relocating into the Real World


graduationGraduation day. Classes are over, the degree is earned, and it’s time to take the next step out into the world.

Whether you’re staying close to your college town or setting off toward new horizons, chances are that your housing situation will change. For many students, the post-graduation move may be the first time that they live alone or move without the help of friends and parents.

The key to a seamless transition (and avoiding a throwing all your stuff on the curb at the last minute) is to plan ahead. Moving day will rarely be fun, but it doesn’t have to be awful. Here are some suggestions which may make it hurt less:

Be selective.

A friend’s roommate once told me her philosophy when moving. “If I don’t need something, and it isn’t pretty, it doesn’t come with me.” This is apt advice. Moving is a great opportunity to cleans ourselves of things we don’t need. If it isn’t essential or especially valuable to you, why bring it? Be selective. You’ll have less to load and fewer boxes to unpack in your new digs.

Have a game plan before you begin packing.

Knowing ahead of time where boxes and furniture will go in the new home will allow you to pack accordingly, and unload it more efficiently. If you’re using a rented truck, try dividing the space inside into quadrants and then assigning different rooms to those quadrants. For example, perhaps you decide to load all kitchen and living room articles into the back-right quadrant. This way, you’ll know where everything is during unloading, and you’ll be able to unload the truck one room at a time.

Use a floor plan of your new place.

This is especially helpful if you’re using movers, but it’s also helpful for friends and family helping you move. The floor plan will allow you to visualize how things will look in your new space, but can also serve as a road map for anyone helping you relocate. Tagging furniture with numbers of corresponding rooms on a prominently displayed floor plan means your help can see where everything goes. If you don’t need to bark directions for where every little thing goes, both you and your helpers can work more efficiently.

Be safe.

Everyone knows to bend at the knees when lifting, but here are a few other less obvious safety tips:

  • Pack heavy things in small boxes and light things in big boxes. If boxes are easier to hold in your arms, they are easier to carry and less likely to be dropped.
  • Drink water. Hydration is a necessity on moving day, not a luxury. Besides its obvious benefits, water is also crucial for the proper functioning of your spine, and your spine needs all the help it can get lifting that solid-wood antique dresser you just had to have.
  • Stack heavy boxes on the bottom and light ones on top. Gravity and weighty boxes can make for a very long day if they fall.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes. As tempting as it is to wear comfortable flip-flops or Crocs on sweltering moving days don’t do it. Protect your toes from falling boxes and dropped furniture or your feet may never look right in sandals again.

Help your friends help you.

There may not be a more selfless act of friendship than helping someone move into a new place. They’ve committed at least an entire day — maybe an entire weekend — to lugging your stuff to and from a moving truck, with no motivation other than their love for you, and the task would be impossible without their help. So take every effort to make it worth their while.

Buy their meals while they’re helping, provide them with a case of their favorite soda or beer during breaks, and above all, make sure to say thank you.

Also, give them ownership in the moving process. Most of us have relocated several times in our lives, especially during those school years when we’re moving in and out of dorms and apartments, so we all probably have best practices worth sharing. Allowing friends to make decisions can decrease both your level of stress and the chances that they feel they’re being bossed around.

Relax and Plan.

Believe it or not, your next move doesn’t have to be terrible. Loads of sweat and tired, sore muscles may be unavoidable, but with some deliberation and planning, you may be amazed how much more efficient a move can be. Just remember to think things through, drink water, and most importantly, say thanks to your help.

With your move completed and your degree in hand, settle in to your new home or apartment and look ahead to the rest of your life with excitement.

About the Author:

Today’s guest article comes from Jay Harris. He has been a Home Depot store associate since 2005 in the Chicago area. Jay writes tips on equipment rentals, including carpet cleaner rentals and truck rental tips.

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