Amp Up Your Optimism

Inflation is high.  Covid is still around.  Trouble abounds.  Sometimes it’s hard to stay optimistic amongst all the bad news.  But you can change that, here’s how:

  1. Turn off the bad news. This could be the news feed on your phone, the nightly television broadcast or the daily newspaper.  But if there’s a regular source of bad new that’s causing you anxiety, shut it off.
  2. Turn off the bad friends. Dump the Debbie Downers.  If you have a friend that’s inclined to pessimism, put some distance between you and them.  If that’s not possible, try changing the subject when they start down bad memory lane.  At the very least, prep yourself before you’re around them – you know what to expect.
  3. Savor the good. Create a mental inventory of the times you knocked it out of the park or even just had a good time to be the thing you reflect on.  You can’t merely stop thinking bad thoughts – you have to substitute better thoughts.
  4. Rethink the negative. Just miss your flight?  Maybe it gives you another day in town to connect with an old friend.  Seek to change lemons into lemonade.
  5. Reframe expectations. Certain relatives, friends or bosses are how they are.  They’re not going to change.  Stop getting upset about it.
  6. Write it down. Still anxious?  Get out a piece of paper and write down the things provoking your anxiety.  This is a world beater.  Sometimes you can feel anxious and not even know why.  Writing down the cause(s) of your trouble(s) makes the next step obvious and easy.
  7. Write down what has to happen in number six for that problem to go away. Then get busy.
  8. Learn to accept what cannot be changed. Stop beating your head against walls that are bigger than you.  This goes right along with reframing expectations.
  9. Stop comparing yourself to others. There will always be someone seemingly richer, skinnier, more charming and better looking than you.  Stop looking for/at these folks.  This is where social media can be such a disaster.  Someone snaps a pic of themselves on their best moment ever and then uploads that like it’s just another day.  And the operative word here is seemingly.  You don’t know what you don’t know about how these people’s lives might be completely screwed up in ways that you can’t see.  Turn this junk off.
  10. Be grateful. Born in the USA?  Congratulations!  Despite all our troubles, this is the best place and time to live in all recorded history.  If you woke up on the right side of the grass, it’s another day the sun can shine on you.  Make your own list of stuff to be grateful for – your health, spouse, kids, house, friends, job.  90% of the world’s population would do just about anything to trade places with you.

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Rent is More Affordable than a Starter Home

According to Bloomberg and thanks to higher interest rates, home ownership has become less affordable than apartment living.  In addition to the higher costs of home ownership, single family homes remain in historically short supply in terms of listings available for sale.  Single family new construction is likewise extraordinarily expensive, taking away this solution to alleviating the affordability spiral.

You can read the entire Bloomberg article here.

Costs like this:

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But all you get is this:

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Inflation Busting Budgeting Strategies

OK, this is out of control.  Inflation as high as we’ve seen in 40 years.  And wages aren’t keeping pace.  How do you get your budget back in line?  Here are some ideas.

  1. Think priorities. Rent payments, utilities and food come first.  You’ve got to have a place to live.  Transportation needs come second.  You’ve got to have a way to get to work. Next come the items with consequences attached like taxes, child support and insurance.  Finally, try to keep up at least the minimum payments on credit cards to preserve access.
  2. Think support. There are a host of aid programs that weren’t out there before that are available now due to Covid.  We’ve dedicated one of our team members to helping our residents navigate what’s available and how to apply.  If you don’t live with Decker Properties, try calling 211 or visit 211.org to find available assistance.
  3. Think call. Lenders, credit card agencies, insurance companies and other creditors might be willing to work with you if you call them up and tell them you’re having a problem.  This is way better than just ignoring the matter and becoming delinquent.
  4. Think family. Hopefully, you remembered Mom on Mother’s Day because you could use her help now.  It can be awkward to ask family and friends for help, but better that then the consequences of default.
  5. Think Extra Cash. Now would be a good time to sign up for some overtime or look for a second job.  Or you might be in a good position to ask for a raise at work.  We covered how to do that a previous post that you can access here.  Finally, maybe you can change jobs entirely for more pay.

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What to Look For in an Eco-Friendly Rental

These days, more people than ever are trying to do their part to help our environment. In addition to turning off lights and recycling, being smart about where you rent your future home can also make a major difference. Today, Decker Properties has some great tips on what to look for on your next rental to live as sustainably as possible.

Sustainable Add-Ons

There are many challenges that come with moving – especially if you’re relocating to another state. However, there are many changes that you can make to your rental to save energy and reduce your utility bills, and potentially the most significant of these changes involves installing solar panels. This is easier to do if you are renting out your own home, but by adding panels, you will greatly reduce the utility bills, and over the years, the panels pay for themselves. Solar panels use the power of the sun so you are using very little energy from the power grid.

You don’t necessarily need to break the bank when it comes to eco-friendly add-ons. You can reduce water waste by installing low-flow showerheads in the bathrooms. You can also save water by testing your toilets to ensure that they are working efficiently when you flush.

It is also important to have a rental that utilizes LED bulbs within all light fixtures. LEDs are typically brighter and more vivid and they also cost less to buy and use.

Smart Appliances

Landlords who are renting out their properties would be smart to install smart appliances wherever they can because renters will be looking for them as they look to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.

Start with a smart thermostat that will manage the temperature of the home all day and night. The US Department of Energy recommends setting the thermostat at 78-degrees during the summer when you are at home and up to 83-degrees while you are at work to save the most energy. This is all good in theory, but it can be easy to forget to change temperatures all the time, so a smart thermostat can remember for you and change the temperature automatically.

EcoMENA notes that the kitchen can also be modified with a number of smart appliances. Smart washing machines can cut down on water waste. Smart refrigerators use less energy overall while still keeping your food cold and fresh. Even a smart coffee maker uses less water and a reusable filter to avoid waste.

Driving Distance and Eco-Friendly Movers

As an environmentally conscious renter, it is not only about what is inside a potential rental but where it is located. Vehicle emissions are still as dangerous to the environment as ever so if you can find a property that is closer to your job, friends, and family, then you can drive less and help the environment in that way as well.

You can start this change from day one as you try to find a local furniture mover that also cares about the environment. Even if you are moving to a place far away, you can research online for long distance movers and in addition to obtaining quotes and reading customer reviews, you can ask them about their sustainable practices, such as if they make it a point to drive efficient routes. Before meeting with a moving company to get a quote and discuss your needs, you can evaluate companies by reading reviews online.

If you’re moving to an apartment, you have the advantage of having a range of choices as it pertains to driving distances to shopping and the workplace. Reach out to Decker Properties, who has apartments for rent throughout southeast Wisconsin.

If you watch the news, you know how important it is for us to protect our planet. We all have to do our part. So do yours by looking for a rental that prioritizes sustainability, which you’ll know by whether they have eco-friendly add-ons, smart appliances, and they advertise short commutes to shopping centers and other attractions.

Decker Properties owns and manages hundreds of apartments throughout southeastern Wisconsin. Contact us today for more information! 262-785-0840

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Maintaining Your Sobriety When You Travel

This time, we’re going to boldly go where no apartment blog has ever gone before.  We’re going to talk about how to maintain your sobriety when travelling.

We’re not talking 12 steps program here.  If that’s your problem, that’s way beyond the scope of this blog.  But how about if you’re on the road and you’re trying to lose weight or you’ve decided for any other good reason to limit or even cut out the booze?  And what if your destination is New Orleans, Las Vegas or any other place or situation that goes hand in hand with a few drinks or even more than a few drinks?

Here are some solutions:

  1. Plan ahead. Know where the pitfalls are likely to be.  If you’re in Vegas and you decide to go to the Hoover Dam, that’s a different set of temptations than sitting in a casino.
  2. Plan ahead Part 2. Have a partner.  Have a predetermined system for knowing when things are fine, getting close to not fine and let’s get out of here now!
  3. Plan an escape route. Think of how you are going to gracefully exit situations before you enter them.  Think of how to excuse yourself from the cocktail party early before things get wiggy.  Keep your own key to the place you are staying so that you’re not depending or having to wait on anyone else when it’s time to go.
  4. Plan a substitute. Think snacks or non-alcoholic beverages instead.
  5. Plan to just say no. About 45% of people do not drink at all.  Of those that do drink, plenty only drink on special occasions.  Not drinking is completely normal, don’t be pressured into anything.

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Bust Down Your Student Debt

College can be the best years of your life.  Should be that way, since it can seem like the most expensive years of your life!  Congratulations on your graduation, now let’s figure out how to get you out of debt:

  1. Make a list of all your loans. 90% of student loans are federal loans that can be tracked through the US Department of education website at studentaid.gov. Private loans would appear on your credit report.  You can get a copy of your credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com .
  2. Make sure you stay in contact. Chances are, you’ve moved.  Even your email may have changed.  You don’t want to lose track of your loans, fail to make payments and have it ruin your credit.  Go back to studentaid.gov and make sure your contact details are up to date.
  3. Develop a payment strategy. Federal loans at studentaid.gov have myriad payment options.  Right now, federal loans have to interest being assessed.  That might make it a great time to concentrate on paying back any private loans.  If you refinance federal loans to a private loan, you may lose benefits.  Federal loans include the opportunity to qualify for partial loan forgiveness and temporary payment suspension during layoff.  Private loans will probably not include such benefits.  Keep in mind that the faster you pay any loan back, the less interest you will incur.
  4. Consider an income driven plan. Again, this usually applies to just federal loans.  There is the opportunity to qualify for loan forgiveness, but only after at least 10 years of payments or even 25 years of payments.    There are also graduated payment plans that automatically increase your payments over time in anticipation of higher earnings over time.
  5. Check other forgiveness options. With federal loans, teachers, doctors, nurses and others working for certain nonprofits are eligible for loan forgiveness after 10 years of service in some instances.
  6. Apply traditional debt retirement strategies. Entire books have been written on this topic.  Consider applying any wage increases, inheritances or other windfalls to your student debt.  But the key thing is to have a plan and stick to it.  A large student debt can seem intimidating.  Big problems can be solved by small actions made consistently.  You may surprise yourself.

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How to Negotiate a Pay Increase in a New Job Offer or in Your Current Job

Hey, who can’t use a little more cash and never has the job market been tipped more in favor of the worker.  Time to make sure you get your share of the good times.  Here are five tips to negotiate a pay increase.

  1. Think creatively. There are lots of compensation other than salary.  What about the bonus schedule, PTO (paid time off), employer reimbursements (phones, mileage, home office) and tuition reimbursements are just a few.
  2. Think timing. Don’t bring up compensation early in the interview process.  Set the hook first.  Let them get to the point where they want you, then start negotiating pay.  If you’re at an existing job, wait until you’ve just done something great for the company to ask for more money.  But even then, temper your enthusiasm with the reality that if the company is losing money or having a difficult time, the timing is not right to ask for an increase.
  3. Think turn around. What if an employer asks you how much you’re making now?  Turn this question around by stating that, “you’d like to postpone the conversation until you understand more about the position because there are many components to compensation. But let’s not waste each other’s time – what is the range of pay that you’ve budgeted for this position?”
  4. Think game plan. If you present your case to your present employer and get vague promises or a tepid response, try breaking the increase into two parts with the second adjustment predicated on meeting objective performance metrics.  Follow up any such agreements with an email just to make sure that you understood your employer correctly and to insure against future foggy memories.
  5. Think negotiation. Just because you got an offer to go elsewhere doesn’t mean you should just immediately jump ship.  What about going to your current employer and expressing how much you love the company and love your job but you just got this offer that you can’t ignore?  Inquire about your future with the company and what promotions or pay increases might be looming in the near future.  Give your current employer a chance to beat the offer if you really do like your current job.

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Time for a Mental Health Day

You’ve been juggling those job offers, amping up your side hustle, setting up a home office or just slogging it out in the daily understaffed grind and wow, you could use a little time off to recover your sanity.  So let’s do this.  Here are five tips on how to plan a mental health day.

  1. Think plan. Try to know your pace.  Don’t wait until you are at the verge of a mental breakdown before you schedule some down time.
  2. Think discipline. Make an appointment with yourself for this day off.  This appointment is just as important as anything else on your schedule.  Know in advance that something is going to come up that will seem easy to address if you just dump your mental health day (MHD).  Don’t do it.
  3. Think private. Don’t tell anyone you’re taking an MHD.  Do tell your associates that you will be out, “attending to personal business” or some other vague plan but just exactly what you are doing on your days off is no one’s business.  If you tell your coworkers that you’re taking an MHD, someone is going to say, “I can’t believe _______ took a mental health day when everything is on fire around here.”  Of course things are on fire.  They will be tomorrow too.  And the next day, and the next.
  4. Think Zen. Your MHD is not supposed to be crammed with errands, binge watching TV or surfing the internet all day.  Get a massage, read a book, go for a walk, reconnect with an old friend but otherwise slow down for a day and set aside some quality time.
  5. Think Outside. Fresh air and sunshine can be just the right medicine.

If you don’t take a break sometimes, you break down.  Plan a mental health day instead.

 

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Juggling Job Offers

We’ve been talking about how to Amp Up Your Side Hustle and how to Set Up a Home Office.   But now with the pandemic receding, maybe it’s time to strategize about conventional work.  What if you’re in the enviable position of having multiple job offers?  Here’s some ideas about how to sort thru that.

  1. Think Research. Know all you can about the companies making the offers.  Understand the entire compensation package.  Remember the interview when the employers were asking all the questions?  Now it’s time for you to ask a few of your own.  Even how your questions are treated gives you a clue about the future.  Are your questions welcomed and answered promptly or does your future employer seem annoyed?
  2. Think Pros and Cons. Consider getting out a piece of paper and writing out the advantages and disadvantages of each offer.  Sometimes seeing everything organized in one place lends clarity.
  3. Think Ask. Maybe none of the opportunities are ideal.  Maybe if one of the opportunities was tweaked in some way, that would make the difference for you.  You don’t get if you don’t ask.
  4. Think Before You Leap. Sometimes you commit to one job and then the dream job offer comes in after you’ve committed to something else.  Do you graciously exit the commitment you just made to move on to the dream job?  Some experts are saying you should.  I can’t make that kind of decision for you.  Obviously, you risk burning a bridge and going back on your work is never a good thing.  Maybe it’s time to get that sheet of paper out again to weigh the pros and cons.

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Setting Up a Home Office

With the Pandemic, more people are working from home than ever.  And between you Amping Up Your Side Hustle (see blog post from February 2, 2022) and quitting your job (see blog post from February 22, 2022), you’re going to need your own home office. Here’s a few tips to make setting that up easier.

  1. Consider a fold down desk. The example below folds up entirely out of the way when done.  And when open, there’s all kinds of storage cubbies.  There’s plenty of clever alternatives available like this for not much money.
  2. Repurpose the guest room. You’re probably not going to have many guests during Covid anyway.  Time to make better use of the space.
  3. Consider trading up to a larger apartment. Maybe your studio or one bedroom is too small to  accommodate even the folding desk idea.  What about a two bedroom where the second bedroom serves as an office?
  4. Get a good chair. You might be in that chair eight hours per day.  Make sure you’re comfortable.
  5. Take advantage of the view. Does your apartment have a great view?  That’s where your office goes.  No doubt, you’re paying good money for that view.  Now is the time to make the most of it.

Organize the cords.  Remember, you still live here the rest of the day too and you don’t need you or your other housemates to be tripping over unsightly cords.  There are plenty of cord organizing devices to consider from the simple twist tie to entire kits.

 

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