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The Single Dad Apartment Scavenger Hunt

The following is a post by Paco Vega. Paco is a single dad who writes about parenting issues and raising a family in the digital world. Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

singledadapartmenthunt

Maybe you've just become a single dad, or perhaps you've been going it alone for some time. Either way, if it's time to go apartment hunting, you need to think about some things you'd never consider if you were looking for an apartment for yourself. Here are some tips to get you started:

Establish a Budget

To be affordable, your rent shouldn't eat up more than 30 percent of your monthly income, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Obviously, places in San Francisco or New York City will cost considerably more than apartments for rent in Atlanta, GA, or Billings, MT, and salaries don't always keep up with the increased costs of living. Local rents will also vary depending on the neighborhood.

Contact a local rental property expert to discuss neighborhoods within your budget. Certain factors such as who pays the utilities will cause variation in the rent amount. Find out what utilities you have to pay and how much they typically run.

Check out the Neighborhood

Look for a neighborhood that's accessible to your work place. If you take public transportation, make sure a stop is nearby, and take commute times into consideration and how it will affect your ability to get the kids to school on time.

Does the neighborhood look family-oriented, so your children can make friends with other kids? Are there parks, playgrounds and safe areas for them to play in? Larger apartment complexes may be more likely to have designated play areas, and this will help your child meet other kids right in the apartment community.

Don't forget to call the local police department to find out about the neighborhood crime rate.

Check out Apartment Ratings

Read the reviews on apartment rating websites to learn what past and current tenants think of the complex's management and maintenance department.

What to Ask on the Tour

  • Who pays for utilities, and if tenants pay a portion, how much is that?
  • What type of heating and cooling systems are used?
  • Are pets allowed? Find out if there is a security deposit for a pet, if they charge extra for multiple pets and if you have to pay an extra monthly fee to have pets.
  • How much is the security deposit and what is the refund policy on the deposit?
  • What lease lengths are offered?
  • How far in advance do you have to give notice if you want to move out?
  • Is there on-site maintenance? Is the maintenance team available 24/7 for emergencies?
  • Are there communal laundry facilities, in-unit washers and dryers or hookups? If facilities are shared, find out how much it costs to do laundry and what the laundry center hours are.
  • Can you paint your children's bedrooms? What's the policy regarding painting when you move out?
  • Can you put up shelves to add storage to childrens' bedrooms?


Make a List of Your Must-Have Features

Talk to your kids about what they want in an apartment and the apartment community. If you can financially swing it, make their requests high on the priority list, since those features may ease their transition. 

Consider the features you think are most important. Storage for the kids' toys and such should be high on that priority list.

Finally, don't over-analyze things. It's the love inside the apartment that will make it your home.

What is one thing you consider when searching for a place to raise your child?


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Lessons Learned: Giving to Receive

One of the first Bible precepts that I learned in Sunday School as a small boy was that it is better to give than to receive. Now, as a little guy, I wasn’t a big fan of this concept, especially around my birthday and Christmas. In any case, a few days ago, I was thumbing through a recent copy of Forbes magazine and I came across an article by Michael Norton provocatively titled “Yes, Money Can Buy Happiness…If you give it away.”

Norton is a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and he has been researching how changes in income impact well-being. For example, he recently asked 315 Americans to rank their happiness on a 100 point scale and predict how happy they would be if they made ten different incomes, ranging from $5,000 up to $1,000,000. So, for example, he found that those who made $25,000 a year predicted that their happiness would double if they made $55,000. But when he measured their actual happiness, the change was about 7%. Moreover, he found that once people reached the US median income (about $60,000), the happiness return on additional income was very small.

Ironically, he did discover one way to “buy” more happiness with your money: Give it away. He hypothesized that although making more money helps us accumulate more material things, it does little to give us what the research shows makes us happier—quality relationships with others.

To test his theory, he and his team did a little experiment. They approached strangers on the street and gave them different sums of money ($5 or $20) and told them that they had to spend the money by the end of the day. But half were instructed to spend the money on themselves while the others were told to spend it on someone else. At the end of the day, Norton’s team learned that those who had to spend the money on themselves bought stuff like coffee and food. However, those who had to spend the money on others did things like donate to the homeless or buy a gift for a loved one.

So, who was happier? Yep, those who gave the money away. Interestingly, there was no difference in reported happiness between those who had to give $5 away verses those who gave $20 away. I guess when it comes to giving, it truly is the thought that counts.

So, why I am sharing all this? Maybe because it’s fundraising season and NFI needs you to give to us until you are in a state of joyous glee. Good guess, but nope. (Although, we certainly need the support and you can donate here. And, no gift is too large. :-))

Well, it is because I vividly recall that one of the early words that each of my kids uttered was “mine.” I seems that children are genetically wired to be self-focused and it’s a dads job to model and teach their children the joy that can be received from giving. And, you don’t need to wait until Sunday to start teaching. That is, if you can spare $5 bucks.

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