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Apartment Living Frugality

Last post Tue, Sep 29 2009 1:41 PM by babs. 24 replies.
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  • Thu, Jul 31 2008 3:27 PM

    Apartment Living Frugality

    Living in an apartment has it's own unique advantages (usually lower utility bills, paid water, etc.) and disadvantages (can't really grow your own anything, little room for stocking up, can't replace inefficient appliances, etc.). Every apartment, like every home, is different and will have different opportunities and limitations, of course; but, I'd love to hear from some other apartment-dwellers on how theymeet the frugal challenges!

    Here are some of mine (we do all the "normal" stuff, such as cooking at home, menu planning, staying in for entertainment, etc., of course):

    -Deep freeze. We moved this darn thing up 3 flights of stairs, but it's honestly been the biggest money saver of all, I think. We freeze lots of fruits in season, sauces, etc. We have a white board above the freezer for a list of what we have (otherwise, we just forget it's there unless it's on top).

    -Put in a pantry. I gave up what would be a breakfast nook for a wire-shelved open pantry. This lets me stock up on items, and also see what I have. 

    -Stay clean. I hate cooking in a dirty kitchen, especially since the kitchen is a bit small anyway. It's not horribly cramped, but it's tinier than I'd like, with less counter space. If this gets clogged with dishes, the tempation to go out and eat is much stronger; so, we do dishes right after dinner every night. It's easier to have people over instead of going out if the place is clean, or to want to stay in and read, watch a movie, etc.

    -Turn AC to 80 degrees during the day and use fans. I live in VA, and it gets pretty warm. I work from home most days, so I do need some AC, especially as we're on the third floor. If I have to use AC, I set it higher during the day and wear loose clothes, wet my wrists and forehead, etc.  We turn it down to 75 to sleep at night, and even that is often too warm as DH is a furnace (nice in winter, but ugh...SO HOT in summer). Keeping it higher in the daytime cuts our bills down. Our apartment doesn't have ceiling fans, which I miss from our other house, so we use fans to help circulate the AC and keep the bills down.

    -Winterize/summerize.Our apartment is historic, and unfortunately so are the windows. We lose a ton of heat and cold through them if we're not careful, and last year we noticed a drop of almost half in our bill when we winterized. Why'd we wait so long? No place around us carried Visqueen (or however you spell that). It was all the really thick, heavy plastic intended more for tarping that would've entailed nails in our woodwork. We finally ordered it online, and will be doing the same this year. too. We don't seal our windows in the summer, because we often get wonderful breezes that mean no AC is needed; but, we do put "snakes" in front of our three outside-accessible doors (front, back, balcony), keep the shades drawn, and keep lights off during the day. In the winter, we plastic & caulk most of the windows, leaving one window each in the kitchen, living room, and dining area accessible for opening in case of fire (or in case I burn holiday cookies).

    -Installed shelving. We've put up shelving units in our spare room, as well as in the kitchen (in addition to the pantry) to store things. This meant we didn't have to rent a storage unit, and have access to things all year long.

    -Creative decorating for small spaces. I didn't want to get rid of some of our antiques and other miscellaneous items, but their was no room for them in their traditional uses. Our backpacks have become decor in our back enterance, arranged on hooks with gear around it. Keeps out packs out of the way, and actually looks interesting. An old mirror frame (from one of the cabinets I'll mention below) is now doing duty as a collage picture frame on our mantle. A small (inexpensive) chain and tiny black binder clips serve as an interesting display for our photographs that we wouldn't have room to display easily any other way. A rescued old 6-pane window hangs in our kitchen on the small wall that has no cabinets, and we use crayola glass-decorating markers to write grocery lists, meal plans, notes, etc. Antique pickle barrels (ceramic) in three different sizes, a gift from my grandparents, became a wine rack that fits against the same wall that houses a cabinet that was my great-grandmothers (which now serves as a bar and storage place for nice dishes and linens). The matching dresser/cabinets is in our kitchen, giving us a bit of extra counter space, and much-needed storage for dish towels, silverware, and a few small appliances (our cupboard space in this place leaves a lot to be desired).

    -Grow what we can. We grow a bunch of herbs, some edible flowers, and a couple of tomatoes on our balcony. The herbs come in during the winter to provide flavor and scent the rest of the year. The tomatoes are in upside-down pots, because our balcony is small and floor pots would mean no room for our table and chairs.

    I'm probably forgetting some. I can't wait to hear what other folks do to help mitigate some of the difficulties of apartment frugality! 

     

    "This isn't life in the fast lane, it's life in oncomming traffic." -Terry Pratchett

    Blog: www.shwankie.net
    Twitter: EclecticEdibles
  • Thu, Jul 31 2008 3:36 PM In reply to

    • Dawnie
    • Top 500 Contributor
      Female
    • Joined on Thu, Jun 26 2008
    • Cincinnati OH
    • Posts 34

    Re: Apartment Living Frugality

    We just bought a house in Feb but i know what you mean on some of the things about apts.  This spring we got to plant a garden.  I didnt realize how much we will save on food.  My cousin gave us her old Deep Freezer a couple months ago so that will come in handy for freezing.  I can't believe you took one up to the third floor.  I know how hard that must have been, we were on the 3rd fl also.  I like your idea of the list over the freezer.  I always forget what i have in there and then have to dig to find something and then it not even been in there.   Is there anyway to organize a deep freezer?

  • Thu, Jul 31 2008 4:07 PM In reply to

    Re: Apartment Living Frugality

    Congrats on the new house! That's wonderful!! We'd love to buy a house, but right now is just not a good time. We'll be moving at least twice, possibly three times, in the next five years because of his school :-(  I'd love to hear about your garden--I can live vicariously through your harvest! ;-) I miss my garden...*sigh*

    I've never found a good way to organize the deep freeze, and I've tried it all: bags, crates, boxes, slidy-metal-bin-things... It all just goes to heck about two days later, hence the white board idea (finally). We list items by category (beef, pork, poultry, veggies, fruit, etc.), and how much of each we have. I do this in different colors of marker, but that's not strictly necessary. The white board makes it easy to add or take off items. I kind of try to keep things in a general area of the freezer, but even that is only moderately successful.  With the white board, at least we know it's in there somewhere.

    "This isn't life in the fast lane, it's life in oncomming traffic." -Terry Pratchett

    Blog: www.shwankie.net
    Twitter: EclecticEdibles
  • Thu, Jul 31 2008 4:10 PM In reply to

    Re: Apartment Living Frugality

    Your apartment sounds lovely!  I have a house now, but I had one apartment that I really loved.  Two BR, very tiny kitchen with only a 20" apartment gas stove, windows over the sink, like you, not alot of either counter space or cabinets.  I installed a Grayline (coated wire) ironing board holder under one side of my sink, along the side where the one cupboard met, and stored my rolling pins and pastry sheet there, also installed Rubbermaid holders on the inside doors of the sink cupboard for storing cleaners, and helper shelves and turntables wherever I could.  (I think Helper Shelves new cost $1.11 at KMart at the time.)  My Kitchenaid mixer sat in the corner of the counter because it was the only place it fit; next to it sat my red oak spice shelf.  At that time I did not own a microwave or bread machine, and there was no space for a dishwasher or freezer.  I used all the tips I could find in magazines that were applicable to my surroundings. 

    I bought a beautiful small mahogany hutch which I put in my dining area, just off the kitchen, and put my table up against the outer wall, a small but tall corner shelf held a few pieces I liked, and I had various small tables in the home.  The unit was carpeted DR, LR & hall, but hardwood in both BR & tile in kitchen and bath.  There were insulated drapes in the LR DR areas.  In that apartment kitchen, everything was so compact that a step in any direction could get you to the ingredient you wanted.  What I loved about this place was there was a covered porch, at least double the size of a regular balcony, and I had a grill out there, table and some lawn chairs, certainly not a patio set! 

    Another beautiful thing was the master BR had built-in shelves all along the long side of the wall!  Boy, those were put to good use!  I had books by categories, pictures, games, just about anything you could imagine on those shelves!  The extra BR was really my storage area where I had some things in boxes.  I know I had a coat closet right inside the door, and a narrow linen closet in the hall, and the usual 3' closets one expects in a very old-fashioned building.

    One bad thing was there was a master thermostat in the first apartment, no individual heat controls in each apartment.  Heat was hot water through radiators, and sometimes the lines in the two apartments (mine and the one above) had no heat at all!  That part was bad, although it was a small building with nice neighbors and there was no fear about leaving the door open to the hall for warmth until the heat was fixed. 

    I could walk to work if I had to or walk to evening classes on campus nearby, walk to what was then a corner market. 

    But while I lived there, I bought furniture, china, and other things that to this day are used in my current house.  I used tension rods to hang curtains where I needed to furnish my own so I didn't need to spackle alot of holes when I did finally move out.  But I did hang my pictures and samplers, so I wasn't afraid to make holes in the walls, lol!

    The backdrop of paint/carpet/drapes was all pretty neutral, but an addition of furnishings certainly enables a place to bring out its special personality!

    Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane!

     

    Lynnea the Dogmom
  • Thu, Jul 31 2008 5:24 PM In reply to

    • Dawnie
    • Top 500 Contributor
      Female
    • Joined on Thu, Jun 26 2008
    • Cincinnati OH
    • Posts 34

    Re: Apartment Living Frugality

     When we lived in the apartment i had a wipe off board hanging by my desk.  Now in the house it is leaning against a wall in the basement because i have no where to put it.  Now i do.  Right over the freezer.  hehe    Next year i hope that we can make the garden bigger.  We didnt get to plant everything that i wanted.  I really wanted to plant green beans but we ran out of room.  Does anyone know about freezing corn on the cob?  

  • Thu, Jul 31 2008 7:24 PM In reply to

    Re: Apartment Living Frugality

    I'm an apartment dweller -- 1000 sq ft with DH, DD and 2 cats!  It's always crowded around here!  Right now we're just kinda makin' due.  When DH and I got married he brought some big furniture pieces with him.  I had the same stuff, but in the smaller versions and that meant there was room to spare!  So, we got rid of duplicate stuff or found ways to reuse it.  But, really, it's a tight fit.  Too tight.  Annoyingly tight.  LOL  Anways....

    ~~  I am looking into winterizing the bedroom windows this winter; possibly the front windows, too, but undecided still.  I have a patio out back, but I'm in the "handicap" apartment, so the patio has a ramp on it making it useless.  Plus we're not allowed to do container gardening on it, so it's just this useless space.  I don't think I should winterize the doors -- the front or the patio.

    ~~  Our kitchen is small, but it does a good job holding my stuff.  I have three lower cabinets -- one for bakeware and accessories; one for pots and pans (and potatoes!); and under the sink for misc. plus cleaning stuff like vinegar, trashbags, etc.  There is space between the upper cabinets and ceiling which I use for storage of various stocked food items -- cereal, pasta, baking stuff, etc.  I also keep our medications up there just to make sure DD doesn't have access.  I did find these great shelving things from Target that I use in the kitchen.  One is above my stove and it's supposed to be for knick-nacks, but it houses spices now!  The other has a shelf with 4 hooks under it to hold jackets; I use the shelf to hold a few small kitchen accessories and the hooks are for my dishgloves, dishscrubber, and potholders.  Both were about $5 in the clearance section a few years back.

    ~~  I have two bookshelves in my living room; one is for books and the other is for DVDs, pictures, old VHS tapes (I won't replace them unless the DVD is $5), and stuff to donate when the shelf is full.  I wish I had two more bookshelves.  I love them.  Where the two couches meet at the corner it's too big a space for an end table, so we made it a craft corner instead.  I have all my crafty and crafty-baking supplies in a couple of drawer units.  Under the coffee table is a magazine holder, 3 shoeboxes covered in really cute contact paper, and my cross-stitching basket.

    ~~  We've been fortunate to live in an apartment with lots of closets -- storage closet (where the Christmas tree lives next to DH's china), coat/shoe closet, linen closet (linens plus extra HBA, t.p., cat supplies), 1 closet in DD's bedroom, 2 large double-closets in master (1 used for clothes and 1 used for tools and DH's extra computer stuff), and the utility closet which holds DH's wheelchair and the big tub of cat litter.

    ~~  We don't pay for water, sanitation or sewage, or waste disposal.  We pay gas for heat, hot water, cooking.  I use cold water for as much as possible since it's "free."  I live on the first floor and heat rises -- this is great in the summer and not so great in the winter.

    ~~  My favorite aspect of apartment dwelling: never having to pay anything when something breaks!  Just a phone call and magically it's all better!  LOL

    Officially Recognized Stretchpert in the General forum
  • Fri, Aug 1 2008 12:26 AM In reply to

    • misscas
    • Top 200 Contributor
      Female
    • Joined on Mon, Jul 23 2007
    • Kansas
    • Posts 233

    Re: Apartment Living Frugality

    I lived in an apt for 5 years until I bought my home in 2001.  The apts were on the cheap side with somewhat seedy neighbors.  My last one was infested with baby mice.  The traps couldn't catch them, neither could my cat.  I unloaded my moving boxes on the lawn of my new house to avoid transfering any critters.  I was so happy to move to a house.  I can paint it any color I want, hang any pictures or shelves I want, have any pets I want, garden and make as much noise as I want.  The down sides are I have to pay water/sewer/trash and when things break, it's my problem.  DO NOT buy a house without an emergency fund or you will be deep in credit card debt.  I get three bedrooms, 1 bath, washer/dryer, carport, little back yard and larger kitchen for less than I was paying for a 1 bedroom apt.  Plus, this neighborhood has less crime than the area around my old apartment.  I am even closer to work. 

     What I can recommend to apt dwellers is:  put plastic over the windows in winter, put a box fan in the window during the spring/fall and cool the place down, only use the oven during the night and make sure you are cooking several things so it's full, get a small freezer to stock up on good buys at the store, plant a container garden on your balcony.   

    Christine
  • Fri, Aug 1 2008 6:19 AM In reply to

    • jcrmom
    • Top 100 Contributor
      Female
    • Joined on Tue, Jun 24 2008
    • Posts 904

    Re: Apartment Living Frugality

     Dawnie,

    When I was younger my Mom would blanch corn on the cob for about five minutes and then after it cooled she would freeze it in a large plastic ice cream bucket. It kept well this way. I think you can freeze it in a zipper type bag also. It is very easy to do.

    My husband and I lived in a couple of apartments before we moved to this house. It is nice not to have as many bills, but my son is so happy to have a yard to play in and be able to have pets. I think houses have their advantages and apartments have theirs too. 

  • Fri, Aug 1 2008 7:10 AM In reply to

    Re: Apartment Living Frugality

    misscas:

    only use the oven during the night and make sure you are cooking several things so it's full, get a small freezer to stock up on good buys at the store, plant a container garden on your balcony.

    I already do the part where I cook at least 2 things in the oven at one time.  But my complex will not let us have chest freezers (even small ones) nor will they let us container garden on our patios.  Seems kinda silly to me, b/c people could save a lot of money this way.  I think the container gardening rule is b/c there are a lot of kids in my complex and they worry that the kids would steel the produce and then what happens if the kid gets sick?  The kids shouldn't be in someone else's stuff to begin with....  *whatever*  Sad

    Officially Recognized Stretchpert in the General forum
  • Sat, Aug 2 2008 9:04 PM In reply to

    Re: Apartment Living Frugality

    Thanks so much for all the replies--it's so much fun to hear what others did/did, and how they felt about their apartments.  I"ve owned a house before, and in some ways miss it. In others, as noted by another poster, I don't: when something is broken, I just make a phone call. Big Smile. Sunshinetreva, do you guys rent in a place that has balconies on any levels? I know we're not allowed to do certain things because of appearance & city regulations (we can't have dish TV, for exampl), and we can't have over-the-railing flower boxes for liability reasons. If the box falls, the complex can be sued. Everything has to be kept inside the balcony perimeter. Could this be part of the reason? Some of the other rules in the complex were made after previous problems, such as no leaving shoes outside your door. Could your building maybe have had too many people let their garden get unweildy or something?

    Re: freezing sweet corn. We just stick it, husk on, in a large freezer bag (preferably vacuum-packed, but we've had just fine luck with regular freezing, too). Just thaw, and proceed as nornal. This has worked beautifully for us. No blanching, etc. 

    "This isn't life in the fast lane, it's life in oncomming traffic." -Terry Pratchett

    Blog: www.shwankie.net
    Twitter: EclecticEdibles
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