The Move-In Checklist: How to Transition From Dorm to Apartment

By Brian Wilkins

Graduating from college means getting your first real job, buying your own medical insurance and, of course, getting your first real home. Whether you choose to live in an apartment or rent a house, you can prevent any major hurdles with the proper planning. These three tips will ensure the smoothest transition possible.

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Credit Report

Your payment history and amounts owed on any credit cards and other revolving accounts make up 65 percent of your aggregate FICO score, according to myFICO. If you currently owe on your credit cards, you should prioritize paying them down, particularly if they are close to being maxed out. You also should consider getting a secured card because these types of accounts will minimize the hit your FICO score takes for opening new credit and protect you from potential default.

You need at least six months of on-time payment history to be considered “established” by the credit bureaus and most landlords. Keep in mind, move-in expenses can get pricey, particularly for places that require first and last month’s rent and a deposit. Therefore, now is the time to start saving.

Scouting Report

Just like pictures of restaurant burgers always look better than the actual product, photos of apartments and homes advertised for rent look better than the actual property.

Don’t move into a place based solely on pictures. When visiting potential new homes, check for cracks in the floors walls, and inside kitchen cupboards. These are sure signs of pests like cockroaches or mice. Ask about the neighbors above you and next to you. The longer they’ve lived there, the better. Especially if you want a quiet place, avoid moving into a place with upstairs neighbors with kids or who have had noise violations. You also may want to request a unit on the top floor to avoid some of the noise.

Know your rights as a tenant. Every state has a tenant rights handbook that spells out the limits of landlord access to your place and their handling of maintenance issues.

Moving Checklist

Once you find and visit your new place and sign the papers, it’s time to prepare to move in. Call the local utility company to ensure power is on the day you move in. You also should call your Internet and cable provider ahead of time if you don’t want a delay in service.

Since this is your first place, you probably will need to build up your furniture over time. To start, determine the overall style you want your place to have. Smaller apartments can feel extremely cramped if you buy bulky furniture meant for a house, so you may want to take the floor plan or dimensions with you when buying furniture.

Pierre Josselin, a designer for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, told fashion website Divine Caroline that first-time renters should splurge on one piece of furniture they love to be the staple of their new place. Whether this is a couch, armoire or something else, this centerpiece can then be complimented with less expensive furniture. A throw rug and new drapes may provide that touch of home and posh feel. Furthermore, think about adding a couple of indoor plants to add a little life to your new place.

The move to a first apartment doesn’t have to be stressful. Keep it simple, stay organized and everything else will take care of itself.

Brian Wilkins is an Arizona State University journalism grad who has worked as a radio broadcaster and banking industry professional. He is an independent journalist, blogger and small business owner who loves life. He lives off-the-grid and has not owned a TV in more than six years.

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3 Car Buying Tips For Recent College Graduates

By Brian Wilkins

A report by The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) found that nearly 70 percent of 2013 college graduates had student loan debt averaging $28,400, up 2 percent from the 2012 average. Student loan payments are just one of the realities for college graduates entering the real world and trying to figure out the whole budgeting-your-life thing. Leader in the business of all-things personal finance, Intuit shares that transportation should account for no more than 10 percent of your net income, which might not seem like much (especially if you’re just out of college and making a not-so impressive salary), but you can still have a nice and reliable car if you exercise due diligence in the decision-making process.

The following tips will help guide you.

college students and cars

Buy vs. Lease

We all know car commercials; the best ones are those that advertise brand new sports cars with reasonable monthly payments you can actually afford. But after reading (or hearing) the fine print, you learn that the low payments are to lease the vehicle, not buy it. Well then, should you just lease?

Monthly payments are typically lower when leasing and the advantages don’t stop there if you’re the type of person who likes the idea of a new car every three years. This sounds great, especially since new vehicles depreciate in value as soon as you leave the lot (by 9 percent according to Edmunds). Then after one year of owning the vehicle, its market value drops to 81 percent. Thus buying a new car is a bad investment on the surface, right? Well, not in the long-run.

Owning a vehicle means no monthly payments and lower insurance premiums if you decide to switch from full coverage to liability. Modern cars, particularly Honda and Toyota models, are known to last well into the 250k mile range and even higher with proper maintenance. Leased vehicles also have mileage limits and, upon the end of the lease, you are responsible for any damage deemed excessive to normal wear-and-tear by the dealer.

New vs. Used

The 2015 Auto Financing Report by personal finance social network WalletHub found that interest rates on both new and used cars are lower than they’ve been in several years. But not all loans and interest rates are created equal.

New cars provide peace of mind: you are the only owner, so no secrets as to where it’s been and, should something happen, you have a warranty to cover most major mechanical issues. Auto loans underwritten by the manufacturers had interest rates 35 percent below the average and financing via credit unions had rates 25 percent below the average. National and regional banks offered rates at or well-above average in most cases.

Used cars are, of course, less expensive and have already endured the bulk of value depreciation, which happens in the first few years on the road. Financing a used car is also much easier in most cases and much like student loans have income-based repayment plans, there are financing companies like DriveTime that offer customizable payment plans for all budgets. Used cars typically have lower insurance premiums and you may even be able to negotiate a used car warranty if you know your options.

If possible, purchase a certified preowned car that has been thoroughly inspected by the manufacturer. Some used cars companies offer third-party extended warranties, but make certain you thoroughly understand the terms before paying extra for it.

Credit Fixes

A subprime auto loan, those underwritten for customers with FICO scores of 650 or lower, is something to avoid altogether. To put it in perspective, a $20,000 four-year auto loan with a 3 percent prime rate will cost you only $1,248 in total interest. That same loan at an 18 percent (subprime) rate will cost you $8,200 in interest .

Obtain a copy of your credit reports from the three major bureaus. Your payment history and amounts owed on open accounts make up 65 percent of the aggregate FICO score. Pay down credit cards that are at or near the limit to quickly improve your score. It’s best to pay down/off the oldest accounts first, as length of credit is also factored into your score. A minimum credit score of 700 should be the goal before considering an auto loan at all.

The test drives and haggling with salesmen are the fun parts of buying or leasing a vehicle. Just heed all the aforementioned to get the best deal and make the right decision for what you need and what you can afford.

Brian Wilkins is an Arizona State University journalism grad who has worked as a radio broadcaster and banking industry professional. He is an independent journalist, blogger and small business owner who loves life. He lives off-the-grid and has not owned a TV in more than six years


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The Basics About Financing Higher Education

By Mathew Jade

Education costs have grown rapidly over the years, and students are finding it increasingly difficult to manage their finances. Funding for education is a challenging task, particularly for high school students who want to attend top-notch universities and unemployed individuals who wish to pursue different lines of work. Instead of settling for mediocre alternatives, you can still aim big by paying for your education in the following ways:

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Education Grants

You may consider applying for financial grants for educational purposes. Students can acquire educational grants from the financial aid office of their universities. The best thing about grants is that you don’t have to pay them back. The only hurdle is qualifying — which isn’t necessarily easy.

Scholarships

Excellent high school students are frequently awarded merit-based scholarships, which also do not need to be repaid. The qualification for these scholarships varies, but often requires the student to have great grades and high scores on scholastic aptitude tests.

Work-Study Employment Plans

Some students work on a part-time basis to generate funds for their education. To this end, you may consider applying to your university to see if employment opportunities are available. The U.S. Government currently provides a 60 percent wage subsidy to employers of students engaged in work-study programs.

Internships and Trainings

On-the-job training opportunities and internships may allow you to to combine class attendance with full-time work. Although internships do not provide big financial compensation, they do allow students to gain practical experience, enabling them to decide about their major and possibly resulting in a job offer from the company they worked for.

Private Loans

By requesting private education loans from your friends and family, as well as from various other private sources, you may be able to cover hefty fees and pay them back in installments. Student loans can usually be arranged at either fixed or compound interest rates, which normally require a financially sound co-signer and a credit check if the loan provider is not satisfied with or unaware of your credit history. Many people believe that it is nearly impossible to repay students loans, but that’s not true; there are organizations that provide counseling for students to help them with their repayment structure.

Tax Breaks

Students may be able to get tax deductions in addition to credits towards tuition, costs, fees, and interest from student loans. However, these options are only available after paying tuition fees, and are more like rebates than discounted tuition. You can learn more about education tax breaks on the internet at government tax sites. Families can also qualify for tax breaks for their children’s education.

Mathew Jade is a passionate blogger who loves to write on Economics and finance-related topics. For further updates follow @Mathew_Jade

 


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Looking for Money for College? Check Out These Suggestions

By Ruth Ann Monti

Unless you never take your earbuds out, you’ve no doubt heard the horror stories about student loan debt. The average college graduate left school in 2012 with $29,400 in student loan debt, according to the Institute for College Access & Success. That’s a lot of debt for people just starting out. If you’re entering college or considering it, think about how you will pay for tuition without going into (much) debt. It is possible, but you need to research and plan.

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