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.

Is Relief in Sight? Top Tips to Manage Your Student Loan Debt

By Chris Gates.

Total student loan debt in the United States was $1.2 trillion last May, before the 2013-14 school year even began, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Institute for College Access and Success reports that the class of 2012 carried an average debt load of $29,400, nearly $3,000 more than the class of 2011.

Congress attempted to throw current college students a lifeline this past summer, passing the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013. The bill, signed into law by President Obama on Aug. 9, lowers interest rates on nearly all new student loans taken out after July 1, 2013. Some in Congress believe more needs to be doneā€”for example, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wants students to get the same 0.75 percent rate on loans that the Federal Reserve gives to big banks. While Congress tries to figure out a solution, borrowers need to address their individual situations. A few ideas to get you started:

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