How to Succeed with Unruly Roommates:

When roommates clash, a bombogenesis threatens the balance between friend and parent that governs this delicate relationship. Frustration brews when you have to remind your roomie that dirty dishes should not remain in the sink for weeks. The world is hectic enough without life at home being insufferable and stressful. There are ways to improve every situation and establish the tranquil, sanctuary that every home should be. Here are some tips to create an HGTV renovation on your roommate relationships:

  1. Be a desirable roommate yourself.
    • When you are the one with the spare pen, Pinterest worthy dishes, and printer access, your roommate will find value in keeping you happy. So long as you make it clear that they need to ask before using they will sweeten you up before borrowing your belongings.
  2. When your roommate asks you for something reasonable, help them with a positive attitude while casually hinting that is what good roommates do.
    • It can be frustrating to be the better person, but it can also pay off.
  3. When your roommate is grateful for your help, take advantage of it by reminding them of some things you would like from them.
    • “I owe you big time.” – Great can you do your chores for me?
  4. Always set the example for how you want them to perform.
    • The Golden Rule has reigned over centuries of civilizations because it works. Besides showing your roommate and your guests how you like to live, it can support your cause if you get in a disagreement later.
  5. Ideally you would select your roommates ahead of time based on merits you value, such as cleanliness, respect for property, and common activities or beliefs.
    • Although history is not an omnipotent representation of future behavior, it is the best we have. I chose my current roommate for her morals, as well as she was the ideal roommate when I knew her living with former friends. I thought it was a positive sign that she became so frustrated with her old roommate leaving dishes in the sink, that she put the dirty dishes in her bed. If someone was willing to go that far, she must care about cleanliness, or so I thought. Sometimes it takes the right circumstances to change their behavior. My advice is to anticipate your candidate to decrescendo rather than to improve in their domestic attributes. If they are already at a point unacceptable to you, try going a different route. When desperate times call for undesirable choices, make your expectations clear before they accept and put them on trial at first.

While there can be greater differences, usually outside of your control, between you and your roommate it is best to keep an open mind and take everything as a learning experience. This might sound cheesy, but when well implemented, you will not regret it afterwards. Being aware of distinctions in yourself and others can lessen the frustration when differences in opinion seem inexplainable. Understanding can be a solution.

  1. International Roommates.
    • Often times if you study abroad in college, or are open to a roommate from a different culture than your own, you will find many challenges the both of you will have to work through. Hopefully, if you find yourself with an international roommate (or if you are the international roommate) then you willingly imposed this situation upon yourself and are eager for the culture shock. Be prepared for Europeans to complain about American food portions, Asians to keep their shoes by the door, and Hispanics to be late. Everyone has room for improvement, including you. Before I studied abroad in Austria I had not met an Austrian and worried about my roommate situation. Fortunately, I was paired with a Texan who is now my best friend. Texas, I came to learn, while still in America is more a country of its own than I could have known. She opened me up to new ideas, foods, lifestyle, so that when I returned to Georgia, everyone I knew noticed a positive difference in me, that I had not noticed myself.
  2. Interests.
    • So you like classical music and your roommate rocks out to Slipknot, that’s okay, you can still be friends. A poor roommate pair-up can often be improved through establishing the different interest and embracing them. Either learn to appreciate the art of punk or internally plan the disastrous downfall of the other person living with you. The last thing you want to do is bottle up your frustrations. Confrontation can be stressful, but the biggest regret you can have later is not saying something sooner. My freshmen roommate in college dreaded telling me that something I did bothered her, but I had absolutely no clue. You have to communicate when the time is right. And no, this isn’t the week before you move out. After you have established a trend and you are certain this behavior is not going to change, then ACT! Set up a time to meet just the two of you and talk through any issues you have, but also allow the other person to voice their concerns and problems with you. Be receptive and apologize no matter what the issue is. Try to find the best solutions for both of you. If your roommate continues to be obstinate or does not really solve the problem, seek advice or arbitration from friends who have been in similar situations, approach them again when the activity occurs (i.e. while they are leaving the dishes in the sink), or take the objects and hide them if they are common property. But try to avoid sounding too critical and nit-picky.
  3. Valuation of property.
    • This is probably the biggest issue with roommates in some way and more so when they are friends. Going back to setting rules upfront for borrowing personal items (e.g. clothes, scissors, money), make sure strict usage guidelines are established upfront and enforced. You will struggle through greater problems later if your roommate borrows your things without asking or telling, especially when those items need replacing (e.g. tape, food, etc). It is surprising how differently two people can value another’s property. For some, usually those on a budget

Everyone is different, no one is perfect, but friends can be challenging roommates just as strangers can become best friends. There is a special bond created when spending intimate time with another person, even just when sharing living quarters. Set aside time to build your friendship and to have fun. When you have common ground and familiarity, respect blossoms.

Always wishing your home a happy one,

~Alycaria

 

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How to Adult: Credit Cards

Within the past 5 or so years I have been forced to learn how to ‘adult’. Unfortunately, I am learning that the generations I have looked up to for guidance and support are also still endeavoring to be full-fledged adults themselves. In this “How to Adult” series I will attempt to shed some light on topics that young adults struggle with the most.

Thanks to my somewhat money-savvy parents I had a head start on my friends when it came to savings accounts, investing in securities, and credit cards. Finances are a struggle that teenagers, families, politicians, countries and movie stars alike all face. Everyone has different methods of dealing with this issue: ignoring (or being purposefully ignorant of) the responsibility is probably the most popular solution, there are investment accounts, CDs (Certificate of Deposit-a low risk option),  keeping it simple by spending what is in the bank, opting for a homestead option like the Kilcher family, going in debt to live a preferred lifestyle, or penny-pinching like Scrooge.

Let’s get to it.

What does a credit card do exactly? What is the difference between a credit and a debit card?

debit card is issued through a bank and functions like a check does, only you slide it through a machine rather than giving it to someone to turn into cash. It is electric cash, if you will, with no paper involved. When you use your debit card, it withdraws the money directly from your checking (or if you have it set up through your savings) account. A credit card on the other hand when used, at a store for example, withdraws the money from a third party’s pocket. When you sign the receipt you are agreeing to pay that third party back that money which they paid the store for you.  A credit card offers a line of credit (a set amount that a third party agrees you can borrow from them) that you can use however you like so long as you pay them back the amount you borrowed at an agreed upon date. Usually you are allowed 30 days to pay that money back.

Why should I get a credit card when I have a debit card?

A couple of my friends argued that the debit card is better for them because they can only spend what is in their account that way, and not go in debt. That is true, you aren’t allowed a line of credit to draw from therefore you cannot spend more than you have. However, a credit card, if used wisely, can offer rewards to make your everyday spending increase the amount in  your bank account. Seriously!

Firstly, credit cards offer security. A debit card withdraws money directly from your personal checking account. Once it is gone, you cannot get it back (for the most part). It is safer to use a credit card in place of a debit card because the charge doesn’t have direct access to your personal checking account information. That third party offers a barrier between you and a potential fraud. Within the past couple of years there have been a few scandals in the news where hackers have infiltrated the customer financial information from retailers such as Target. With this information they can make fraudulent charges, steal your identity, or disrupt your life in various other ways. As the PRC explains, if you had used a debit card at such a store and your information was confiscated, the perpetrator can wipe your bank clean without you being the wiser. Contrariwise, if you use a credit card instead you will most likely receive a letter or phone call from your credit institution explaining what happened and you will be allowed to dispute any charges on your card that you were not responsible for. Often times they will automatically send you a new card with a different number to prevent any possible theft.

Read more about the privacy a credit card can offer you on the PRC website: https://www.privacyrights.org/how-to-deal-security-breach.

Second of all, credit cards offer rewards. Ever heard the phrase “cash back rewards”? Well it is a real thing. It was through the rewards program my credit card offers me that I was able to purchase a good portion of my Christmas presents this year. To stay competitive, almost all, if not all, major credit cards offer some kind of incentive to get you to use their card. There are airline rewards programs, stores offer discounts when you use their card, and many do a quarterly rewards program. Here’s how it works. You apply for a credit card, receive it in the mail, call the activation number to verify that you are the intended recipient, then head over to the pizza joint with some buddies for dinner. The eight of you decide to share 3 large pizzas and you offer to pay for the meal with your card to go easy on the waiter, if everyone will give you the cash. When the bill comes around for $41.73 you mentally remind yourself how much cash is in your checking account and how much your line of credit is for your brand new credit card. Everyone pays you the cash, and a couple of them even rounded up to make it easier. Then you remember that you signed up for 5% cash back rewards for this quarter and it happened to be for restaurants. Usually a credit card will offer 1% or 1.5% cash back for each dollar you spend. Then some will additionally offer 5% cash back for select categories certain times of the year. Thankfully for you, this quarter’s category is restaurants (next quarter could be gas stations, or online shopping, etc). It is great, because the categories are somewhere you will most likely make purchases at. So, while everyone at your table is paying you their portion, you are making an additional $2.04 through your credit card rewards. Now, you are probably thinking that $2 won’t even cover the gas it took you to get to the restaurant, but if you use the credit card for all your purchases, it will add up over time. Regardless of how much it totals to, it is money you did not have before, for making the same purchases you would have done anyway.

Thirdly, credit cards offer time. Although it is never advisable to spend money you do not have, sometimes you get yourself in a situation where drastic measures are called for. Today, the timing belt in your car, from the last century, has broken. You have it rushed over to your trusty mechanic and he tells you it will cost $900 for the parts and labor. There is no way you have that kind of cash to throw down on your car right now, seeing as you had just gone shopping for the holidays. These things love to sneak up at the worst times. After contemplating your options you remember that you will be paid on Friday and will have enough to cover the car expenses. You know that you are going to have to use your credit card to cover the bill until you can pay it off when your paycheck comes in in a week. If you were relying solely on the cash you have on hand, and you hadn’t planned for a car malfunction, then you would have been in a tough situation.

Fourth point, credit cards help you build up credit to invest in your future. In order to buy big important grown up things – like a house – the institutions who loan you money will most definitely look up your credit score. Now, in order to have a credit score that will secure you a mortgage, you have to build up credit. The easiest way to do that, is through obtaining a credit card, using it responsibly, and paying off your bill on time every month. There is actually a bit more that goes into it than that, but that is it put simply. While there are dealerships who will sell you a car with no credit, but with the disadvantage of an insanely high interest rate. If you have some credit established, or preferably excellent credit, then you can get a lower interest rate, at a better dealership, and possibly some other perks as well.

What kind of credit score do I want?

There are variances in what credit institutions specifically denote as poor, fair, good, and excellent credit scores. The FICO credit score makes up a majority of your overall credit score, so it is pretty important. The numeric scale starts with very poor at 300, and reaches a high of excellent at 850. A score of 745 could be typical for a newer card holder who spends their money responsibly.

Who should get one?

Like I have implied, if you are using a debit card to make every day purchases, you could benefit from obtaining a credit card.

However, it takes responsibility and remembering to pay off the card each month to justify going that route. If the idea makes you uncomfortable or unsure that this is something you can handle, then possibly it is not the best course. I would recommend talking to a financially savvy friend for more specific advice.

I would suggest, if you are ready for it, to look for the best offers in your senior year of high school and apply for one without an annual rate, which preferably has a grace period with no interest rate for a few months, and offers a rewards program that applies to you. If that does not suit you, try again in a few years, keeping in mind that even if you get a credit card, you are under no obligation to use it. Ever. Also, once you open a credit card, it will hurt your credit score to close the account. It will not effect your score when you close a banking account, however closing a credit card has a negative effect.

How does it work again?

Surely, you have received credit card offers in the mail. They all want your attention. Why is that? Other than that is how they do business and they want customers of course, they profit in part from your mistakes and mess ups and being able to charge you 19.99% interest on the bill you didn’t pay. So they try to get your attention through offering promotions and rewards programs.

You can take one of the offers you see in the mail and fill out the form and mail it back to them. Or you can go online and search for a better card company that suits your needs. Or you can go to your bank and talk to them about credit cards they offer. If you are a student it is always advisable to get a student card because they tend to offer a lower interest rate on penalties, even if the rewards are not as good it is a good starting place.

Once you are accepted they will send you a card in the mail, which you activate and can use immediately. I recommend it for online purchases as well, because those tend to feel less secure than going to the store. Then when the bill shows up on your account, you can go online, or through the card’s app and pay it from your checking account. Or you can set it up to automatically pay the minimum due if you don’t trust yourself not to slip up every now and then and forget. I think you will find it is must easier to keep up with than you expect. Set a day once a week where you focus on your finances and just check everything to make sure your charges are legitimate and all your bills are paid. You can do it during your lunch break,  right before bed, on the bus, or at your desk because it will only take a few minutes.

There is so much more I could say on this topic, however, this should be ample to get you started. Good luck, and wise spending.

Although I am still learning myself, I hope I answered at least one of your questions.

Yours,

Alycaria