Tag Archives: Apartment Tips

Making Your Apartment the Entertainment HQ

If you’re anything like me, you’ve always been the guy who doesn’t have it all. In fact, you typically have lived right next door to the guy who literally does have it all. Of course, this makes it easy on game days. You never have to prep your place for the masses or worry about buying excessive amounts of processed goodness, but sometimes you want to be the the guy who preps his place for the masses and buys excessive amounts of processed goodness. The true dilemma is that the other guy always has the sweet setup. He’s got the 3,000 inch flat screen on one wall, and the projector on the other. He’s got surround sound that always seems to be perfectly balanced to the noise created by the party-goers. He has the world’s largest bean bag that just happens to be the most comfortable thing on the planet. He has a steady attendance for Halo Night, and to top it all off, he’s probably trying to steal your girlfriend.

Today I want you to come with me on a journey to find the awesome. We’re going to create an addicting living room design that will make your apartment the entertainment hub of the neighborhood. Buckle up.



Wouldn’t it be great to have an entire wall dedicated to an entertainment center? This one is massive and it keeps the messy cubbies and shelves behind closed doors. It also is big enough to store all of your various game consoles and their unsightly power cords and cables. At $660, however, it might be a bit out of range.


I really like the idea of this entertainment center setup. You get space and style for just over $200. Besides, it can hold movies, games, and consoles.


Take advantage of the boxes of junk you likely have stowed away. Get a couple of these, move your stuff into those drawers, cover it with a solid color table cloth or curtain, and put your TV on top. You’ll have to be careful with this one though, as these stands can only hold so much. Try finding a board you can lay across the top, which will provide the central support you’ll need. You also might want to stack some boxes or other sturdy objects behind and around it just to keep it secure, and to give you a bit more real estate on top.



Nothing says audio like Bose. I doubt I’ll ever understand how they get so much boom out of such small space. So if I got to pick my own dream surround sound setup, it would likely be this. You’ll also notice that it’s got a little adapter to plug in your mobile iDevice and jam to your new favorite Kanye beat in full surround. Oh sweet goodness. Too bad I’m sooner to actually go to Narnia than afford this fancy fellow.


Getting a surround sound system will still put you back a modest chunk of change no matter what. This Sony 5.1 Channel Blu-Ray System might be a great mid-range option. And at $350, it’s much more in the realm of possibility, no Narnia trips necessary.


In this land of Cheapy Cheaperton, the phrase “factory refurbished” will likely become your best friend. If it’s factory refurbished, it should have some sort of guarantee from the factory itself that it won’t implode three days after you install it. Take this RCA setup for example. You will still get a significant boost of audio, but you don’t have to spend a silly amount of cash on it.



Xbox 360. with Kinect. Playstation 3. Wii. All three will give you a wide variety of entertainment. You can use your PS3 as your blu-ray player, your Xbox as your media center, and your Wii (and Kinect) as your party fun, outside of the regular Call of Duty and Halo usage you will normally have. Xbox: $300, w/ Kinect $450. PS3: $300. Wii: $150 (includes Mario Kart Wii w/ steering wheel) Total: $900 w/ no games or extra controllers.


1) Skip the Wii and get the Xbox 360 with Kinect. They’ve got some great games that are also fun for groups. $450 before games and controllers. 2) Get a PS3 for some great game titles and a blu-ray player. Then add Playstation Move for the social experience. $400 before games and controllers.


The great benefit to the Wii right now is that the original console is only $150. There’s still a whole lot of fun to be had with an original console, and it’s cheaper. It also has Netflix built in, so you can enjoy that as well. $150 before games and multiple controllers.



Sharp AQUOS 60 inch flat screen. $2069. In my dreams.


LG 42 inch. $800. Looks pretty.


RCA 46 inch. $500. Not a bad price for such a large tele.

If you’re curious, follow this link to do your own TV comparison at Bestbuy.com.
So here you have some college apartment ideas for your best home entertainment setup. Dive into these things and in no time your apartment will be the center of all-things-awesome.

Need Help Finding an Apartment?

Any basic search will show that most people are very frustrated with their apartment-hunting experience. It’s difficult to find the right place, and it just feels so tedious and inconvenient much of the time. We at Vacancy would like to help ease your pain. Below are some thoughts that will help you find an apartment and lose the headache.

1. Be Prepared BEFORE You Start Your Search.

You need to know what you’re looking for before you begin your search. This will actually take some sit-down time with a pen and paper. You might think you’ll “just know” what you want when you are searching for an apartment, but you’ll surprise yourself once you start listing your needs and wants on paper.

2. Proximity to What You Want

Think about things that you would like that aren’t necessarily going to show up in search results, such as proximity to schools, parks, recreation centers, shopping malls, etc. Decide which of these things is most important to you, and write it down. This may require an extra search and a little extra time, but you’ll be able to narrow your search much more efficiently if you remember to include the uncommon criteria on your list.
Another thing that might not be immediately known is public transportation. If you are moving out to go to school, there’s a possibility that you won’t have a car, or you won’t want to drive a car if you’re going to the big city. You’ll need to do some extra searching and discover where the public transportation would pick you up, and how much it would be for a pass to ride the system. There is a strong likelihood that you can get a special student rate on a bus/train pass.

3. Dealbreakers

Another aspect of being prepared BEFORE you start is knowing what you absolutely will not do. Some will call those “dealbreakers.” Make sure you are absolutely clear in your own mind about what you will not do. Write it down. Then, if you see it, you can move past it knowing that it’s a dealbreaker. Of course, as you list your dealbreakers, you’ll need to identify why a certain thing is a dealbreaker and if it really should be. If you’re just being persnickety, you may want to take it off your dealbreaker list.

4. Go Beyond the Apartment Finder Website.

Using an apartment finder is a great idea. It can help you find apartments quickly. However, when it comes time to narrow your options, you’ll want to go beyond the search engine. Dig up some facts about the area you are considering. The internet is a wonderful resource; Don’t limit yourself to one simple search. Search multiple sites, then go find out more about the place. If you are looking at an apartment complex, you may be able to find some reviews on a Google or Google Maps search. That will give you more insight into the location you’re exploring. One big discovery you might be able to make is if people feel safe where they are. If there are no comments, take it as a good sign. People tend to get more passionate about things they disapprove of. They’ll make more of a point to share their piece if they’ve had a bad experience.

5. Go See the Apartment!

If at all possible, take a drive out to the neighborhood. Just cruise for a bit and get a feel for the place. Your gut will tell you more than a search engine ever could. Park by your potential place and walk around a bit. Don’t be a creeper, just take a brief stroll in the open. Trying to look inconspicuous has a funny way of making one look… conspicuous. If you can, meet up with the landlord or the management. Ask them a few questions. You don’t have to save that until you know that you want the place. They don’t like vacant apartments, so they’ll be extra nice to you. And maybe they have one of those “might-be-from-last-halloween” bowls of candy on their desk. Could be your Lucky Day.

You might also want to check out our other post, 3 Things to Know Before Signing an Apartment Contract.”
So, if you needed help finding apartments, these tips should help. And, as always, if you’ve got some other methods that have helped you in the past, post them in the comments below.

Your Outdoor and Indoor Apartment Garden

Apartment living is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. Finding ways to make everything work just right for you is a unique and fun challenge. When we’re talking about apartment gardens, there’s an even greater potential for ingenuity. We’ll use today’s post as a chance to examine some of the best options you’ll have for creating some great gardens at your apartment.

Let’s start with compost. (How’s that for an attention-getter?) Planet Green has a list of 75 things you can compost, and you probably didn’t know it. The list they’ve compiled is amazing. Print that off and hang it up somewhere near the sink and/or garbage can. We’ve started collecting many of these things at home and I’ve learned that it gets easier to remember over time. So be patient, because soon enough you’ll be thinking about compost more than you ever wanted to. Having plenty of compost will be quite helpful in raising good apartment plants. It’s pretty amazing, all of the things you can hang onto. Just think of it as a coin collection, only gross.

Another important item to think about with apartment plants is what kind of space you have and how to best use it. If you’ve got a small yard area attached to your apartment, you might want to consider building a raised garden bed, which would be completely independent from your rental property.

The image on the right (from instructables.com) shows a raised garden bed on legs. This may be your best option. You can avoid a number of problems by having a raised bed garden on legs. No critters will be able to burrow into your strawberries, your back pain will be significantly lessened, and it will be quite a bit easier to handle when it comes time to move. You have all the benefits of a garden without the threat of permanent changes to your property that may end up coming out of your deposit.

The materials are listed through the above link. Make sure you use sturdy lumber, as your gardens will be subject to whatever your particular climate has to offer. The entire project should cost you less than $200, but will be well worth it if you can yield some hard-earned fruits (and veggies). Check out EarthEasy.com for more tips on your apartment garden.

What about all of you who don’t have any yard space to work with? Do not worry my friends, there is still hope for your little garden. The catch on this is that you won’t be able to have the same type of harvest that you might if you had some outdoor space.

The first thing to do is find the right location in your apartment for some plant life. It will need to be a spot that gets plenty of sunlight, and somewhere that gets regular foot traffic so you won’t forget to nourish the vulnerable little sprouts.

When it comes time to decide which seeds to get, you’ll want to consult the resident know-it-all (the internet) on what plants will be best suited for you. We’ll include some links to help you find what you’re looking for. You also may want to consult with the professionals at the garden shop.

Planet Green has a simple little intro to this process that should be helpful.
iVillage has also posted their top 10 indoor plants. And don’t worry if you can’t pronounce some of those names. Just jot down a few that you’re interested in and take the paper with you to the shop. It will be easier on you and the employee.

How Stuff Works from Discovery has posted a very convenient and useful “Vegetable Spacing Guide” so you can keep your greens out of each other’s personal bubble.

These tips and links should help you get your feet wet (and a bit dirty) as you begin this process of gardening in your apartment. And, as always, please share your insights below. We don’t pretend to know everything, and we know that many of you already have been doing things like this, so please, share what has worked for you.

Also, be a pal and use any of the several social media buttons here to share this goodness with your friends.

The Very Best Music for Your Apartment Life


Nothing quite compares to the experiences had during apartment living. While at times some negative feelings are attached to this phase of life, we at Vacancy believe that there are some really great ways to have fun and positive experiences while living in your apartment. Music is a powerful catalyst for these great experiences. Allow us to suggest some great music and music sites for the many aspects of your apartment lifestyle. Enjoy!

Moving In or Out

Hauling boxes, packing and unpacking, organizing, cleaning, and delegating are all essential steps to the moving process. This can be stressful, boring, exhausting, exciting, frustrating, or any combination of them all. It can really help to have some quality tunes to improve the mood.

Stressed or Frustrated?

Try “Esp [Deep Relaxation Mix] Radio” on Pandora.com
Try Radiohead, Mum, or ISAN
Try Imogen Heap

Bored or Exhausted?

Try Kaiser Chiefs
Try “Daft Punk Radio” on Pandora
Try Star Trek: Music from the Motion Picture (or others, like the Bourne Series)

Noisy Roomies/Neighbors

If your roommates or neighbors are anything like mine were, you spend many nights trying to get to bed while others are determined to master the expert level drums of Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ on Rock Band. What’s a poor fellow to do?
Try Regina Spektor
Try Nickel Creek
Try Mum, Radiohead
Try Mat Kearney
Try The Postal Service (not USPS)

Sick and Tired of What You’ve Got

I am now at a point where at time I’ll opt for silence over listening to the same stuff I’ve had for years. I’d go buy more music, but who has extra money for that kind of thing anymore? Fortunately for all of us, we have ye old wise interwebs. There are plenty of places to find the very best music without piracy or paying. It’s true.
Try Pandora.com (great way to find new artists you’ll love)
Try Grooveshark.com (like Pandora, only you select every song you listen to, and you can listen to any song as many times as you would like)
Try Slacker.com
Try Playlist.com
Try iTunes Radio (you can actually select various radio stations from all over straight from iTunes. Nobody will charge you any money for it either.


Try “Daft Punk Radio” on Pandora.com
Try “Instrumental Hip Hop Radio” on Pandora.com
Try The Almost
Try 80s and 90s Songs. Seriously, any one will do.
Try Cake
Try Timbaland’s Shock Value album, Instrumental Version
Try Linkin Park

Public Transportation

Because some music was just made for headphones and travel.
Try Snow Patrol
Try The Postal Service
Try Death Cab for Cutie
Try Sufjan Stevens
Try The Notwist

This should be a plentiful offering of apartment music. What helps you? What kinds of music do you love to listen to in different situations? What helps you? Enlighten us in the comments below. And share the love by clicking the + Share button.


3 Things to Know Before Signing a Contract

3 Things to Know Before Signing a Contract


We’ve all been there before, right? You do something, say something, sign something, only to beat yourself up about it later. That’s regret.
Regret is never a good thing, but it can be further compounded based on its scope. Below I have listed 3 things I wish I would have known before signing my rental contracts. Hopefully you will learn from these apartment renting tips.

1 Internet Connections: Last year I made the false assumption that everyone has high-speed internet and that it is readily available to all tenants. Soon after my wife and I moved into a new little place that seemed absolutely perfect for us, we realized that the Owner (who was Managing her own property) worked at a school and had no need for internet at home. She had never even considered putting internet in her home.
After a grueling week of living off of the 3G from my iPhone, we finally were able to negotiate the terms of an internet plan. Don’t overlook this small detail!

2 Parking Regulations: Now, I don’t necessarily blame many places for how strict their parking regulations can be, but it’s still a really good thing to know beforehand. If you live in or are considering a complex, take into consideration that your parking has been very carefully determined by management. If you are feeling at ease because there are other complexes or plenty of curbside parking, you’d be wise to double check. In many instances, curbside parking is restricted during many parts of the day and other lots have reserved parking that is heavily enforced by a seemingly ruthless and always punctual towing company. It may seem like an afterthought, but parking regulations in your area could have a huge impact on your living experience.

3 Management: Management quite easily turned out to be the most influential factor in my ultimate feelings towards my renting experience. I have had good experiences and bad experiences. For some places, I would have looked elsewhere had I known my experience would end up the way it did.
I was married in early 2009 and my wife and I moved into a basement apartment that was managed by a company just down the road. Things were rough right from the start. For several months, we were not getting our utility bills. I contacted them over and over again to request our balances, and I was ignored. Skipping those payments was nice at the time, but I knew that eventually we would get one large past-due bill. Eventually we got our bill, but we owed a few hundred dollars by that time, and the management so graciously offered to split it into a few payments over the next three months.

One time we accidentally locked ourselves out. We were relieved to know that Management was only a few blocks away, so it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to get them to come over and unlock the door for us. I called them and found out that it would cost more than $30 for them to take the 10 minute total trip to help us out. We found our own way back in.

Talk to Management. Prepare some questions beforehand that will help you get a feel for who they are and how they might respond to your needs. Don’t be afraid to ask them details about how they operate.

So add this to your apartment hunting checklist, and as you take the extra time to find out more about internet connections, parking regulations, and management, you will find that you will feel much more confident in your selection of a new apartment.

Happy Hunting!

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