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Apartment Hacks: A Guide to Saving Money and Time

It’s week six now. If this is your first year in your new apartment, you’ve had at least two monthly rent due dates pass, as well as the majority of your midterms. On top of this, you’ve had to do all the other things you’ve always had to do: homework, reading, extracurricular activities, volunteering, hanging out with friends and most importantly, watching Netflix. There’s also the very real possibility you don’t even have a couch yet.

Apartment life is harsh. It can be cruel. The relentless churn of monthly bills and rent payments, the never-ending mess (made worse by your messy roommate’s existence), the relative social isolation compared to the Hill. What’s an apartment-dweller to do? Here at Mojo, we understand your struggle. Money is tight. Extra time is nonexistent. Here is a handy-dandy guide with some apartment hacks to make your life a little easier.

Groceries and other basic purchases

  • Check out the Smart & Final weekly circular. It offers deals on basic groceries such as meat and produce.
  • Invest in a Costco membership card, either by yourself or with your friends and roommates, assuming at least one person has a car. Costco is great for bulk items like paper towels, toilet paper and groceries you use a lot of. (Emphasis is on “a lot.”)
  • Use Google Shopping Express. (It only offers dry goods; no fresh dairy, meat or produce.) There is a three-month trial with free delivery, and it generally delivers to your door within about 24 hours. This is especially efficient for heavier things, such as bags of rice or flour – both a time- and money-saver. Google Shopping Express offers many different items from different stores, including Costco and Smart & Final. It’s also useful for other items, though its selection may be limited.
  • If you only want to stay in Westwood and shop at Trader Joe’s, Ralphs or Target, be sure to keep a general idea of where to go between the three stores for specific items at their cheapest price. In other works, check and compare prices between Trader Joe’s, Ralphs and Target because these stores are so close to each other! Trader Joe’s, for example, has cheaper bags of lemons than Ralphs – last time I checked, Trader Joe’s had a pound of lemons for a dollar and cents and Ralph’s was selling lemons for $4. Pro tip: Go with some friends who also need to do some grocery shopping and just split it up. Once you have a general idea of what’s cheapest where, you’ll always know you’ll be saving the most money on what you need. 
  • If you’re looking for specialty or ethnic foods, Ralphs is almost always a rip-off. Try looking for stores further away or online to get your box of Japanese curry, kimchi or whatever. Nijiya Market on Sawtelle Boulevard is much cheaper for curry boxes, for example, and Korean red chili paste can be bought off Amazon.
  • Make a monthly grocery budget. Save your receipts for a month and figure out how much you’re spending on groceries so you can figure out what’s necessary and what you can do without. You’ll be amazed by the final number.

Cooking

  • Make an off-day a “bulk cooking” day. Whenever you have an uninterrupted two hours, make bulk foods like stir-fry and pasta salads so you can survive the rest of your busy week/month/life (until it runs out, I guess). You can also experiment with freezing bulk portions of foods, so buying freezer bags or Tupperware is a great add-on to this bulk-cooking technique.
  • Separate frozen meats into single portions, cut onions and other vegetables in bulk and refrigerate ahead of time. This speaks to the usual evening when you’re exhausted but still need to cook dinner, and you haven’t even defrosted your chicken breasts that are stuck in a hunk of other chicken breasts.
  • Cook “one-pot dinners” or similar dish-efficient meals. Plenty of recipes online are targeted at busy people who don’t like cooking food that results in 1,093,230,982 dirty dishes, not counting the final plate and silverware you’re eating off. Try making these, and figure out the best way to minimize the dishes you need to do.

Cleaning

  • If you live with other people (which you most likely do), you’ve probably figured out an efficient way to delegate cleaning responsibilities to everyone. While cleaning may be a drag, figure out the best, quickest way to complete your chores. Once you do that, buy appropriate cleaning supplies in bulk, and your chores will be a lot quicker and easier.
  • Invest in all-purpose cleaning supplies to cut down on the number of cleaning supplies you need to buy. This can range from Lysol wipes to general all-purpose cleaner. You can also make your own, for a variety of purposes. (Hint: This involves a lot of baking soda and vinegar – a good idea to buy in bulk from Costco.)
  • If you have a cleaning schedule that changes weekly or biweekly, try to negotiate with your roommates to have your midterm/heavy weeks off cleaning. A little bit of coordination and organization can go a long way, and it prevents your apartment from going entirely to the dogs.
  • Keep emergency cleaning supplies on hand. In other words, have a game plan for apartment cleaning emergencies, such as:
    - Your drunk friend vomits all over everything after you throw a party
    - Major spills on carpet or furniture, of any type (wine, food, etc.)
    - Other major disasters
    A lot can be fixed with around-the-house products, but you may need to invest in some heavy-duty cleaner to keep around for those disaster situations.

General

  • Keep a list of numbers for plumbers and repairmen on hand for all those things your lease doesn’t cover or your apartment manager refuses to fix.
  • Set reminders on your phone for bills and rent payments, even if your roommates are in charge of those.

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