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Hey everyone!

I wanted to start a forum where people can ask questions about various topics related to adulthood, especially for those that didn't have to worry about it much until now.  So, feel free to ask questions about:

  • Health care and health insurance
  • Budgeting
  • Having a pet
  • Owning a car
  • Renting and renter's insurance
  • Finding an apartment
  • How to files taxes
  • Having children
  • Moving and its costs
  • Vacationing
  • And else you can think of

FYI, I am nowhere near an expert. I created this to get a discussion going.

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Thanks for starting this thread! I'm curious what advice people have regarding renting? I'm unsure where I'm going in the fall, but my husband and I would like to rent a home or townhome. He'll be searching for work in the area too, so budget is of course up in the air. We'd like to avoid apartment living if at all possible (mostly due to the noise factor). 

I've read up on some articles detailing what to look for when renting a house, and I got the sense that it's not a whole lot more complicated than apartment searching. We've just never done this before. 

Are there things to watch out for? Can a realtor show you both townhomes AND houses for rent, or do you have to go to two different sources for those? If anyone has done this before, what did you wish you knew when you started looking? 

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21 hours ago, ringoandme said:

Thanks for starting this thread! I'm curious what advice people have regarding renting? I'm unsure where I'm going in the fall, but my husband and I would like to rent a home or townhome. He'll be searching for work in the area too, so budget is of course up in the air. We'd like to avoid apartment living if at all possible (mostly due to the noise factor). 

I've read up on some articles detailing what to look for when renting a house, and I got the sense that it's not a whole lot more complicated than apartment searching. We've just never done this before. 

Are there things to watch out for? Can a realtor show you both townhomes AND houses for rent, or do you have to go to two different sources for those? If anyone has done this before, what did you wish you knew when you started looking? 

I haven't rented a townhouse or a house before, but I feel like a realtor can show you both. There are also many online sources/phone apps you can use to find places to rent, and the school you are going to attend might have its own online resource for finding off-campus housing.

When renting a house or townhouse, you might just have a landlord instead of management. You want to ask them about their rules, if utilities are included, if they will cover the maintenance of the house, etc.

Good luck!

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Hello! This looks really helpful; thank you to the OP for creating it!

As far as housing - not sure where you're looking, but in my experience almost everyone I know who's renting found their place themselves looking online on Apartments.com and the like. I don't think you need to go through a realtor when you're renting; the management or owner can give you a tour. Depending on how expensive the place is and how complex the lease agreement is, it miiiiiiiiiiiight be worth it to have an attorney look over it, but that's not usually necessary in my experience.

 

Good luck! :)

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Dating. 

For the vast majority of my undergrad life, I was focused solely on trying to get into a PhD program in Chemistry. Now that I have achieved that goal, I would like to begin the next stage of my life, which would encompass earning the PhD and finding a long-term (if not life-long) SO. How difficult is it to manage a dating/romantic life while pursuing a full time PhD? 

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12 hours ago, Segnaposto said:

Dating. 

For the vast majority of my undergrad life, I was focused solely on trying to get into a PhD program in Chemistry. Now that I have achieved that goal, I would like to begin the next stage of my life, which would encompass earning the PhD and finding a long-term (if not life-long) SO. How difficult is it to manage a dating/romantic life while pursuing a full time PhD? 

I so relate to this. 

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One thing to consider if you are renting a house is who will do yard work. For most of the houses I've rented, the tenant was responsible for yard maintenance, so that requires paying someone to do it or owning your own mower and if applicable snow removal equipment. 

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On 4/5/2019 at 11:01 PM, Segnaposto said:

Dating. 

For the vast majority of my undergrad life, I was focused solely on trying to get into a PhD program in Chemistry. Now that I have achieved that goal, I would like to begin the next stage of my life, which would encompass earning the PhD and finding a long-term (if not life-long) SO. How difficult is it to manage a dating/romantic life while pursuing a full time PhD? 

That's a good one. I don't know about dating while doing a PhD because I am about to enter a PhD myself, but I do know dating while doing undergrad. From what I got from my experience, it was hard to find the balance between my social life, my studies, my health, and my boyfriend (ex now :/). My boyfriend and my social life were combined sometimes, but we also had to figure out when we could spend time with just the two of us. I will say that it also being my first relationship was overwhelming because I overthought a lot, I tried to spend as much time with him as I could (I actually spent too much time with him and eventually stopped hanging out with my friends, which is a big fat no-no), and in the end figured out that he was very toxic for me.

So, my advice to you is this:

1. If your first relationship will be in grad school, don't get swept up in it.  It is really easy to do, especially if it's your first one. There will be a honeymoon phase where you can't get enough of each other, but you have to remember that you have other things and other people in your life. Don't neglect your schoolwork nor the other relationships you have in your life.

2. Set boundaries with your significant others. Set up times weekly when you will get to see other, like a movie or date night. Don't spend every waking hour with them when you aren't in the lab or class. Of course, spend time with them, but this connects to number 1.

3. Make sure you have similar priorities. Is your partner also super focused on school? Are they okay with not seeing you in person everyday? Is your relationship causal or serious? Do they want it to become serious at some point? Are they okay with moving for a job or do they want to stay put? Etc. You don't have to talk about these things on your first date, but when things start getting serious, talking about these early on could save major heartbreak later.

4. Try not to date another grad student in your department. I have never technically never done this. I had a short fling with someone in the same graduating class and same department my senior year, and it wasn't fun when things ended. We still talked, but it did suck seeming them around. I have also gotten advice about this from other people, so I guess it's a common thing. I say TRY instead of DON'T because life happens. You can't really control who you develop a crush on.

5. Be there for each other, but don't become too dependent on them. This may sound weird because you do want to rely on your partner. However, don't become co-dependent. This will end up badly for the both of you.

6. You will probably get your heart broken during this process. I have dated two people already, and it was hard when they each came to an end. You can learn a lot from these experiences, and you want to use this knowledge to become a better partner and person. However, after break-ups or just even flings ending, it can be hard to do schoolwork and focus on things you need to get done.

I think, though, if you have a healthy relationship, each of you have talked about your goals (academic, professional, romantic, and personal), and have a general idea of when you will get to see each other while also having a life outside of your relationship, balancing a relationship with a PhD won't be extremely difficult. Sometimes it will be hard to find time to be with them, but if they are understanding about it, then I would think it would be okay.

I hope this helps!

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Housing arrangements!

This will be my first time adulting, and living by myself, so I have several questions:

  1. What should I be aware of when looking for apartments? When I go to visit, what should get my attention the most?
  2. Is a 9 month or 12 month lease better?
  3. Is living on campus something you would recommend?
  4. How can you manage feelings of loneliness when living alone? (My partner is going to join me after a year, but a year is a long time)

 

 

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17 hours ago, pacogri said:

Housing arrangements!

This will be my first time adulting, and living by myself, so I have several questions:

  1. What should I be aware of when looking for apartments? When I go to visit, what should get my attention the most?
  2. Is a 9 month or 12 month lease better?
  3. Is living on campus something you would recommend?
  4. How can you manage feelings of loneliness when living alone? (My partner is going to join me after a year, but a year is a long time)

 

 

I'm just starting my PhD this fall too, but I've been renting for a couple years now!

Before you go apartment hunting, look up projected living expenses & utilities in your city, and figure out a rough budget. Doesn't have to be exact, just an estimate. Pick a range of what you're willing to spend on rent, and stick to it. Think about transportation too -- are you willing to pay a little more in rent if it means you won't have to buy gas/bus passes? (etc, etc)

Living on campus can be good if you've never been on your own before, because typically utilities and maybe wifi are included, and of course its right where you need to be. You can always live on campus for a year and then decide to move somewhere with less tailgating after you get a better idea of the area.

When you visit apartments, pay attention to the condition of the appliances and the bathroom especially. Find the nearest grocery store, hospital, laundromat, bus stop, etc. Some questions to ask:

  • Is the heat gas or electric?
  • Is insurance required?
  • Are there laundry facilities in the building?
  • Are you responsible for repairs or is the landlord/super?
  • What are the rules for having people stay over?
  • Is it mostly students in the area or are there a lot of families and retirees?

Always look up the landlord or agency and do some thorough vetting -- you really don't want to get ripped off out of your security deposit or have somebody walking in unannounced to inspect you! Look out for red flags on review sites, beyond the normal complaints of loud neighbors.

Good luck!

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7 minutes ago, palyndrone said:

 

  • Is the heat gas or electric?
  • Are there laundry facilities in the building?

Aside from safety, noise, and getting as much stuff included in rent as possible, these are probably my two most important factors in a place. Avoid oil heat like the plague: if you live in a cold climate, it'll cost you a fortune. Hundreds of dollars per fill up, multiple fill ups a year unless you keep it like a fridge all winter. Never again!

And not having laundry in the building royally sucks. I procrastinate doing laundry as much as possible because it's such a chore going to the laundromat. It's also a huge time sink because the wash cycle isn't long enough to go do anything. Then for the dry cycle you have time to drive home for a half hour and then drive back again. Never again!

Noise level is also very important to me. I would hate to have one of those apartments with thin walls where you can hear everything. Living in a house with one apartment per floor isn't that bad as far as noise goes, especially if you're on the top floor.

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21 hours ago, pacogri said:

Housing arrangements!

This will be my first time adulting, and living by myself, so I have several questions:

  1. What should I be aware of when looking for apartments? When I go to visit, what should get my attention the most?
  2. Is a 9 month or 12 month lease better?
  3. Is living on campus something you would recommend?
  4. How can you manage feelings of loneliness when living alone? (My partner is going to join me after a year, but a year is a long time)

 

 

@palyndrone@bibliophile222

1. I think the above two users did a good job of this. One thing I will point out is that if you are looking at apartment complexes, the leasing office will show you their best place. It will be like a showroom sort of thing. So, whenever you move, don't expect it to be that pristine, clean, and put together like the place they showed you. Also, ask what utilities (gas, electricity, wifi, heat, water, sewer, trash, recycling, cable, etc) are included and excluded in the rent?

2. 9 months would only be better if you are unsure about the place, but then that means you have to move earlier. So, it's up to you really. Be aware that the rent might be more expensive if you do a 9 moths lease.

3. and 4. It might be more expensive to live on campus, but if you are worried about loneliness, then this might be the best option. Living on campus connects you to the university and you can easily go to public places filled with students and go to school events.

I hope this helps!

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I agree with everything the above posters said. I just want to add:

1. Always try to see the physical unit you are renting. If they refuse, I would be hesitant as to why they can only show me a model and not the actual, available unit. 

2. Living on campus may be a good idea if you don't know anything about the city. It gives you a year to figure out where the good neighborhoods are, where to avoid, etc. It may also allow you time to meet potential roommates in your program. 

3. Reach out to your program director and ask if anyone is looking for a roommate. This is relatively common, and they should be able to connect you with someone who may have a room available. 

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In the strongest of possible terms, I respectfully recommend that if you're going to rent that you first obtain a copy of your credit report and then use tools that allow you to lock your credit scores and unlock them on a case by case basis.

I recommend that one ask for copies of rental agreements/contracts first, taking the time to read the documents closely, and then develop a list of questions.

Agreements typically have specific language that defines the agreement as the printed word, and not what is said by either party. Additionally, agreements will have a clause on severability. If you are renting space in a condo, you will need to see a copy of the HOA agreement.

I also recommend that one go a municipal website and look for webpages dealing with renters' rights.

In regards to the duration of a lease, I recommend that you ask for language that sets the agreement as month to month after the initial term.

Insofar as what to look for in the apartment, signs of mold/mildew vermin/insects arguably should top your list. Open up all the taps and flush the toilet and listen.

You want to see smoke detectors and fire sprinklers. You want to understand how often the garbage is picked up. 

You may want to check the strength of your cellular service in every room of an apartment as well as on the nearby streets.

If an apartment building has podium parking (parking at ground level with the apartment on top), please understand that the lowest level of apartments is going to be significantly cooler sometimes. If you're in an area with colder winters, you may feel like you're walking on ice.

IRT on line reviews, I recommend taking reviews with a grain of salt. Residents don't always have realistic expectations of the level of service for which they're paying.

If online resources allow, look at the crime statistics for your neighborhood. Understand your comfort level with the street conditions under different scenarios. Everything is an adventure in the summer before graduate school. When you're knee deep in your studies, your perception of what is quaint and tolerance level may both differ.

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11 minutes ago, Sigaba said:

In the strongest of possible terms, I respectfully recommend that if you're going to rent that you first obtain a copy of your credit report and then use tools that allow you to lock your credit scores and unlock them on a case by case basis.

I don't know much about adulting--what would locking/unlocking do? 

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3 hours ago, Nothingtown said:

I don't know much about adulting--what would locking/unlocking do? 

Locking one's credit scores can help deter identity theft if the practice compliments other tactics to protect one's "digital footprint."

 https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs#what

Some statistics offered FWIW.

https://www.ftc.gov/policy/reports/policy-reports/commission-staff-reports/consumer-sentinel-network-data-book-2017/frauds-losses-age-percentage

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22 hours ago, Sigaba said:

Insofar as what to look for in the apartment, signs of mold/mildew vermin/insects arguably should top your list. Open up all the taps and flush the toilet and listen.

You want to see smoke detectors and fire sprinklers. You want to understand how often the garbage is picked up. 

 

Seconded! If you're viewing the actual unit, you have got to check for smoke detectors. My first apartment (as a sophomore fresh out of dorms) had absolutely no smoke detectors or alarms anywhere, just grey plastic circles in the ceiling. Bad idea!

Look at the walls near the floor, the shower sealing in the bathroom, and around doors and windows for wear, holes, and mold spots. Sometimes you can see small damp patches on painted walls, or peeling paint, which is a bad sign even if theres no mold visible.

If its somewhere cold, check for double paned windows: these are a huge plus for conserving heat and cash. 

Depending on climate and location, I'd also definitely recommend looking for slug slime trails. Seriously. 

 

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Thank you all so much! Awesome advice, and some stuff I didn't even think about. I really appreciate it. 

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Oh my goodness I love this thread! I will be living on my own for the first time in August and I'm super nervous about it. 

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Posted (edited)

So I have another account on here that was created in 2016. However, I cannot remember my password 😛 My original username is szabo if you all ever wanted to look up that account.

Anyway, sharing some thoughts in this thread: adulthood is whimsical and I sorta kinda jumped in head first. I began dating my now husband during my last year as an undergraduate and we got engaged my first semester of graduate school. During my second & final year of grad school, we wedded. He just graduated with his bachelor's degree, so we were doing long distance for quite some time (hard times). Five months after we were married, he went to another state for a summer job...so even more hard times 😪 but the amount of money he was making helped us financially because my stipend ended in July. The money he made over the summer helped us a lot from summer to winter. Thankfully, he picked up work in December in the town we currently reside in. Also, I graduated that month. However, I became terribly ill in the winter season and didn't immediately pick up work. After 6 months of recovering, I finally got a job.

 

So far, things have been steady for us. I work a part time job in a lab and he's in the hospital full time as a nutrition assistant (great benefits & decent pay). We're currently making plans and trying to figure out our next steps, but that may be delayed because we are assisting a few family members here and there. I thought heavily about a PhD but that's on the back burner for now. Just trying to enjoy this moment of being a working adult instead. I am however working on a manuscript with my former advisor. The previous one I worked on was published without too much hassle but this new one is daunting 🙁

 

I know I am leaving out a lot of details about my transition from undergraduate to graduate school because that was really a pain in the rear. I may come back into this thread to share more of that experience.

 

Edited by szabo2

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On 5/10/2019 at 11:49 AM, palyndrone said:

If its somewhere cold, check for double paned windows: these are a huge plus for conserving heat and cash. 

If you're going to live in an area that is humid, double paned windows may also help to prevent the spread of mold/mildew in your residence.

IRT utilities, I recommend trying to get a sense of the costs assuming residency by calendar year rather than academic year. It's easy enough to say "I'll just open a window when it's hot and put on extra layers when it's cold" on a nice day. However, when you're going through the day to day perpetually soul crushing grind, er, always enriching experience of graduate school, it can become ever easier to say "When I get home, I'm going to relax like it's the summer/winter of 74."

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Just to further expand on SIgaba's great advice about housing and renting. I built homes in my teen years with my family and cannot emphasize the importance of checking pipes, electric outlets, and signs for termites/ants/insects. These three problems caused me the most headaches because the issue could be a one day fix or several weeks to month-long fix.

If you have a piping issue, it could be something as simple as opening the trap and removing a bunch of hair from it (I'm looking at the women and super hairy men here) or it could be something as severe as a cracked pipe buried deep in the guts, which could force you to leave the unit for months. If you open the pipes and hear a rattling sound, immediately ask the landlord how long the water was shut off to the apartment. 9 times out of 10, the sound is merely air being forced out of the pipes, but it could also be a much worse/hidden problem. If you live in the Northern US, make sure to ask the landlord if the pipes ever froze shut. Today, most homes never experience their pipes freezing, but it can happen frequently to older homes, which may lead to problems down the road.

As for electric outlets, make sure they are flush to the wall, secured in the wall (or to the wall, depends on the type of outlet), and the cover is not damaged. If the cover is damaged, ask to see the outlet itself to ensure that it is only a broken cover and not a broken outlet. Broken outlets can easily start fires for any reason, a simple surge could spark the carpeting, wooden framing, or the drywall. The last thing you need to know, this might be more of a post-move-in thing, is the layout of the house and the location of breakers according to the rooms. Overloading and causing a breaker to trip is normal and not a problem, but can become one if you do it on a regular basis.

Termites/ants/insects are the worst problem, in my opinion. Here are the signs of termites. If there are any insects, leave immediately. You do not know if the insects just arrived or have been there for several years. If they have been around for years, then you can bet there is structural damage to some parts of the area they are in, mainly doors, windows, and wooden framing. Sure, you can fix the problem, but remember, you are renting, not rent-to-own or owning.

I don't mean to scare anyone into not renting, but you need to be informed when renting. The rights of renters vary greatly across the US and you need to know everything about a potential space before signing your name. The absolute last thing someone needs in the middle of graduate school is a major problem with their home and no means of recourse because you did not point it out to the landlord before signing the contract.

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I want to pipe in and say that despite having to pay attention to these issues, renting is not super difficult or scary. I've rented apartments and/or houses all of my adult life (and actually, my family and I have lived in rentals almost all of my life period) and have yet to have any significant problems with maintenance, things falling apart, landlords, etc. You do need to do your research, but I also don't want anyone to read all this advice and feel super overwhelmed!

One of the most important things to ask for when renting is about maintenance and upkeep: namely, who does it? If you go with an apartment or townhouse that is professionally managed by a rental company, usually they have a full-time maintenance person (or persons!) who are responsible for repairing things that go wrong. At some places, the maintenance staff even does routine stuff like changing your light bulbs in hard-to-reach places. One of the reasons I love renting is because I don't have to call any plumbers or anything like that: if it breaks, I report it and they send someone to fix it! When you rent a house, this can be more variable; some houses are still professionally managed and have similar systems. But with some house rentals (especially if the owner is renting it themselves) they may ask you to find and pay for a repair yourself and then reimburse you later. Personally, I would not want any kind of arrangement like that (I wouldn't want to get into an argument with a landlord about whether or not I broke it...) but it works for many people.

I definitely didn't open/check any pipes when renting, haha. But I do check for electrical outlets flush to the wall and wiring issues - one, because well-maintained outlets (or lack thereof) can be a good indicator of how well-maintained a property is; and two, because I grew up in a house with electrical wiring issues and it's a drag. Insects are also an issue - termites are the worst, of course, but you also don't want a fire ant colony under your apartment (learned that the hard way. How did they get to the third floor???) or, bizarrely, an entire clan of ladybugs (my family home had that growing up. UGH.) In large cities there are also rodents to think about; most people in NYC will have a mouse once or twice, but it's the persistence that's a problem.

Laundry in the unit is the ultimate dream of summer, but in some locales that's not possible or feasible on a graduate student salary. In NYC, for example, having laundry in the building itself may be pretty unlikely. However, wash & fold services in NYC are a dime a dozen and cheaper than they would be in other cities, so I'd think about that as an alternative and whether it makes living in a unit without laundry in the build doable. If you can't afford either, look to see where the closest laundromat is. Lugging a bunch of laundry 10 blocks is the worst, but pushing it in a little cart 2 blocks away? That's not so bad. (I also do not go home during the dry cycle. I'd bring some reading. Waiting for your clothes to finish is a great time to catch up on reading!)

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Posted (edited)
43 minutes ago, juilletmercredi said:

But I do check for electrical outlets flush to the wall and wiring issues - one, because well-maintained outlets (or lack thereof) can be a good indicator of how well-maintained a property is; and two, because I grew up in a house with electrical wiring issues and it's a drag.

This reminds me of another helpful tip regarding outlets: check out how many outlets are in each room and determine whether that is enough for your needs! If you have a newer apartment it most likely won't be an issue, but having rented exclusively in old New England houses, there are often only two outlets per room (and maybe none in the bathroom), which means that you have to plan your furniture setup very carefully and/or have wires running all over the floor!

Edited by bibliophile222

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