It’s that point in the semester where students begin planning their next living situation; for many, this means moving out of dorms and into their first house or apartment. There’s an indescribable excitement that comes with choosing your roommates (or choosing to live alone), cooking what you want, when you want, in your kitchen and having your own room. While these simple acts don’t seem like a big deal, they’re game changers.
When I moved from the dorms into my first apartment, I was eager for the tasks and possibilities that came with it, but mostly, I was excited because I was about to take the next big step into “adulting.” Sure, moving to college was a huge step, but in the dorms, you have access to a cafeteria, so you don’t have to cook or go grocery shopping. You share a room with at least one other student, and, if you have a community bathroom, someone else cleans it. It’s one step up from living at home, which means moving into an apartment is the next level. You have to learn to cook for yourself, grocery shop, keep your home clean and budget. It’s a lot harder than you think.
So, here are four housekeeping tips that I wish I had known before jumping feet first into the adult life everyone was talking about.
1. Budget, Budget, Budget
It may seem like a no-brainer, but what you don’t know is that it’s easy to create a budget, but it’s strenuous to stick to. I often catch myself trying to move money around just to get that milkshake at In-n-Out, even when I know I shouldn’t spend the money.
There are various ways to budget your money. Personally, I do it the old-fashioned way, with a check register and pen, or, during the lazy weeks, I track my spending with my bank app.
The reason my check register works so well is because I can visually see the amount of money I’m spending and how much I have left. With a quick glance at an app, you don’t get a full sense of how much money is going in and out of your account.
If the old-fashioned way isn’t for you, though, according to GottaBe Mobile, the top three free budgeting apps are Mint Budgeting, PocketGuard Budget and You Need a Budget. Budgeting apps help you create and stick to a personal budget in a visual way that is user friendly.
2. Don’t Refreeze That!
Costco is your best friend, sometimes. You can buy in bulk, use what you need and freeze the rest, which is all fine and dandy. But, that bag of frozen fruit you left on the counter all day after making your morning smoothie now looks questionably slimy. Don’t refreeze that.
I have been guilty of pulling something out of the freezer, letting it thaw and refreezing it, but there are some things that shouldn’t be thawed and refrozen, ever. For example, any meats, ranging from beef to fish, cannot be completely thawed and refrozen; it’s like a bacteria heaven.
If you’re like me and have a bad habit of thawing and refreezing things because you didn’t use them, Foodsafety.gov has a cheat sheet for you. It explains what can be thawed and refrozen and what can’t be, while telling you what to look for before refreezing.
Remember, if you’re buying in bulk with the intent of freezing and using what you need later, you should freeze in small portions.
Instead of putting the entire package of chicken in the freezer, put each piece of chicken in its own sandwich bag, join them together in a gallon bag and freeze. That way, when you make your next recipe, you can pull out what you need without thawing all of it.
3. Cleaning Supplies Are Friends
Cleaning supplies are a pain to buy because once you look at the price, you cringe. Let’s be honest, who wants to break their wallet to buy Ajax? I know I don’t.
This is where I learned that Costco and other buy-in-bulk stores are your best friends. Buying dish and laundry soap in bulk can hurt your wallet at first, but it’s beneficial in the long run because you won’t have to break your wallet again for a while.
In the first year I spent living in my apartment, I bought a 90-ounce bottle of Dawn dish soap, which lasted over a year. By purchasing cleaning supplies in bulk, spending a little more one time saves you money in the long run.
You don’t want to be cheap about cleaning supplies either, because they’re the ones killing the germs from the cold that your roommate has had for a week now.
4. Cut Your Recipes in Half
This one took me awhile to learn because, when I moved into my first apartment, I thought my roommates and I would go grocery shopping then make weekly meals together, which led me to pin recipes on Pinterest that would serve up to five people.
I quickly realized that cooking and shopping with roommates doesn’t really happen, unless schedules match up in a well-ordered manner. This doesn’t mean you can’t cook the recipe you pinned; it just means you have to cut the recipe in half, and even then, you may end up with leftovers.
The best way to portion your meal size is to start before you buy the ingredients. Make your grocery list based off of the recipe, after you’ve cut the portions. So, if the recipe calls for sixteen ounces of heavy whipping cream, put eight ounces on your list. Remember, if the serving size is four, cut it in half, but if it’s eight or more, consider cutting it by a third. And if you’re not good at math, Google will be your best friend because they have charts that show what a third of a tablespoon is, and so forth.
I learned these life hacks the hard way, but now that I know, they have been helpful. They continue to benefit my lifestyle as I enter my third year outside of the dorms. If you’re moving out of the dorms and into your first place, take these four tips and run with them; see what help they bring you.