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Living in Your First Apartment

By Julie Hamel

Living in Your First Apartment

The decision to rent your first apartment or house is a big one! Parents, RAs, or housemothers have taken care of many things that are now your own responsibility. Living in an apartment is a great step for learning how to manage your own household, and here are some tips that may make it easier for you!

Being Safe in Your Living Space

K-State's Office of Student Life reminds you that safety for you and your roommates should be a primary concern. Clarify with everyone in the apartment what safety precautions you will all take.

Does your apartment pass the security test? Here are some easy ways to make your life safer:

Don't rely on security chains. They won't keep out criminals, so demand deadbolt locks on solid-core doors.

Use a sturdy piece of wood or metal to block the track of your sliding glass door. Sliding doors are easy to break into.

Because standard window locks are easy to pop loose, ask your landlord to strengthen them with bolts.

Find out when the locks on your apartment were last changed.

Hang curtains, blinds, or shades and close them at night.

Put only your apartment number and your last name on your mailbox.

Use a timer to turn on lights every evening when you're away for a long period of time.

Post emergency numbers and your address on your telephones. Many people forget their addresses during emergencies.

Managing the Finances of Living On Your Own

This is probably the first time you and your friends have been totally responsible for paying utility bills, managing energy use, or even making sure the garbage is collected for weekly pickup! Here are a few suggestions about making ends meet and living inexpensively.
Make a list of your monthly bills and the approximate amounts and be sure to include this in your monthly budget! You and your roommates should work out a system of how to share the payments and whose responsibility it is to get them paid on time. Posting a list of who owes what on the fridge can be a helpful tool, so that everyone knows the amounts and the due dates. This can work with other responsibilities around the apartment as well. You may want to divide up cleaning or trash chores by week as well.

No one wants to spend more than they have to on utility bills! There are some things you can do to keep your bills to a manageable level, and help the environment as well.

Turn off the lights whenever you are leaving a room for an extended period. If you're going in an out in a matter of minutes, it may cost more to shut the lights off and on, but if you're leaving for an hour or for the day, be sure all unnecessary lights are turned off. You should also look into replacing standard light bulbs with the more energy efficient ones available now.

Look around for other devices that are using lots of electricity. When you leave the apartment, turn off the fans, TV, radios, etc. They may not use much electricity, but over days and months, it does add up.

Try to find a comfortable temperature that everyone can agree on for both warm and cold weather! Your heating and cooling will probably be the biggest monthly bills you pay, so think about keeping the temperature a little cooler in the winter, and a little warmer in the summer. If you're all leaving for the weekend, or a long break, don't turn the air conditioner or heater off completely, as it could cause damage in the apartment! Do, however, adjust it so that it isn't running so much when no one is at home.

You may be able to lower your bills by managing your windows and the amount of cold or heat they let in. Check with your local home improvement stores about covering the windows with a plastic film that will allow light in, but will keep the heat from coming through so much in the summer months, and the cold from going OUT in the winter. There may also be leaks that let cold air through in the winter. Look for ways to block off cold drafts that let in the winter chill and keep your heating bills high.

Don't let the water run unnecessarily! You will pay for the amount of water you use each month, so look for ways to be less wasteful with your water. Take shorter showers, soak your dishes first so you won't have to scrub them under the running water, and turn the water off while you brush your teeth! You'll be saving water and money.

Know Your Rights

Landlords should be available to fix most of the things that go wrong. If you have landlord problems or need help interpreting the legal speak of apartment codes, contact K-State's Consumer and Tenant Affairs at 532-6541.

Living on your own can be an exciting and important part of becoming an adult. Staying safe in your new living space, and learning how to make it work financially will make it a positive experience for you!

© All staff articles are used by permission of the respective author(s). Copyright belongs to the University Life Café. No part of this may be used without authorization.

Living in Your First Apartment (pdf)