What to Expect in Apartment Living in 2020

As the Bob Dylan song goes, the times, they are a-changin’, and that couldn’t be truer than for apartment living.

Renting used to be a lower rung on the ladder as you climb toward the American dream — owning a single-family home in the suburbs. But as homes increase in cost and competition, renting is on the rise.

According to Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing Studies 2017 rental-market report, the number of high-income households (earning at least $100,000) renting their homes rose by 6 percent from 2005 to 2016. As a result of this increase, apartment complexes have added more amenities to appeal to the influx of renters. The same study found that in 2016, 89 percent of new apartments offered in-unit laundry and 86 percent provided swimming pool access.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Today’s apartment complexes are not what they used to be, and apartment living is significantly nicer and more desirable than it was just 10 years ago. Here’s what you can expect for modern apartment living in 2020.

1. High-end amenities

indoor pool

Forget the bare-bones coin-operated laundry room and trash dumpster in the back parking lot or basement. According to NMCH’s 2018 Consumer Housing Insights Survey, 83 percent of adult and millennial renters said it was important to have an apartment that offered convenience and flexibility. Additionally, fast internet access, technology, and green initiatives are now considered must-haves for modern apartments.

To keep up with the competitive rental market, apartment complexes are upping the ante when it comes to amenities. In-unit laundry and pool access are quickly becoming par for the course, while many luxury complexes offer trash collection and recycling programs, high-speed internet, fitness centers, eco-friendly rooftop gardens and communal spaces, such as BBQs and theater rooms. These amenities make it easier to enjoy life at home and to entertain friends and family, just as one would if they owned a single-family home.

2. Online communication with apartment management

Speaking of convenience, flexibility and technology, many modern apartment complexes simplify the tasks that were previously pain points of renting — namely, rent payments, maintenance requests and apartment management communication. A number of complexes are capitalizing on technology to streamline these tasks.

For example, rather than having to mail a check each month, platforms like RentPay allow renters to automate their rent payments and pay via credit card or electronic check. Even if a landlord doesn’t accept electronic payments, RentPay prints a physical check and mails it directly to the landlord each month.

Additionally, it’s becoming more common for larger apartment complexes to offer an online portal or website for easier communication with apartment management, from submitting maintenance requests and asking questions to renew leases and sign contracts. This saves renters significant time and money.

3. More emphasis on safety and security

keypad

In the past, one of the downsides of renting was security. With people constantly going in and out of the building or complex, it seemed as if anyone could walk in. With so many technology advances this past decade, in terms of access and price, it’s easier for complexes and renters to invest in security.

Many of today’s complexes offer gated access to the parking lot, codes for elevator access and security key fobs to all points of entrance. Some even offer enhanced security within the individual units, like video doorbells and camera security systems.

If your building doesn’t offer in-unit security features, there are multiple home security options available that are non-intrusive, as far as security deposits and installation are concerned. Simply plug in the device and monitor your apartment from your smartphone. Many systems are easy to pair with indoor security cameras and other alarms for additional safety.

4. Smaller space

While apartments are getting smaller in square footage due to space constraints and population growth, architects are getting smarter with layout designs to maximize every inch of a room. For instance, micro homes, the tiny house equivalent in apartment form, are as small as 350 square feet but make use of movable and folding furniture so it can serve as an entertaining space by day and bedroom by night.

Open floor plans are still popular and, while they can at first seem daunting to decorate, they offer the most options for room layouts. And thanks to more furniture companies starting to specialize in small home living, it’s much easier to find compact couches and dual-purpose furnishings that go beyond the futon.

Popular home stores like Pottery Barn, CB2 and IKEA offer couches, tables and other items designed specifically for small spaces. While it’s becoming harder to find spacious apartments, complexes are making up for it with communal spaces for entertaining.

Apartment living has changed for the better

If you’re looking for a place to call home, apartment living may be the perfect solution. The evolution of apartments in the past decade means they’re a favorable housing option for a variety of lifestyles — in both urban and suburban settings.

Lush amenities, online communication, security measures and optimized floorplans have helped renting become a more comparable alternative to buying. You can enjoy the in-unit laundry, entertainment amenities and peace of mind without worrying about the costs or inconvenience of maintenance tasks.

The post What to Expect in Apartment Living in 2020 appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

7 Things to Know Before Taking a Work From Home Tax Deduction

If you’re one of the millions of workers whose home is now doubling as office space due to COVID-19, you may be wondering whether that means a sweet deduction at tax time. Hold up, though: The IRS has strict rules about taking the home office deduction — and they changed drastically under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which passed in late 2017.

7 Essential Rules for Claiming a Work From Home Tax Deduction

Thinking about claiming a home office deduction on your tax return? Follow these tips to avoid raising any eyebrows at the IRS.

1. You can’t claim it if you’re a regular employee, even if your company is requiring you to work from home due to COVID-19.

If you’re employed by a company and you work from home, you can’t deduct home office space from your taxes. This applies whether you’re a permanent remote worker or if your office is temporarily closed because of the pandemic. The rule of thumb is that if you’re a W-2 employee, you’re not eligible.

This wasn’t always the case, though. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspended the deduction for miscellaneous unreimbursed employee business expenses, which allowed you to claim a home office if you worked from home for the convenience of your employer, provided that you itemized your tax deductions. The law nearly doubled the standard deduction. As a result, many people who once saved money by itemizing now have a lower tax bill when they take the standard deduction.

2. If you have a regular job but you also have self-employment income, you can qualify.

If you’re self-employed — whether you own a business or you’re a freelancer, gig worker or independent contractor — you probably can take the deduction, even if you’re also a full-time employee of a company you don’t own. It doesn’t matter if you work from home at that full-time job or work from an office, as long as you meet the other criteria that we’ll discuss shortly.

You’re only allowed to deduct the gross income you earn from self-employment, though. That means if you earned $1,000 from your side hustle plus a $50,000 salary from your regular job that you do remotely, $1,000 is the most you can deduct.

3. It needs to be a separate space that you use exclusively for business.

The IRS requires that you have a space that you use “exclusively and regularly” for business purposes. If you have an extra bedroom and you use it solely as your office space, you’re allowed to deduct the space — and that space alone. So if your house is 1,000 square feet and the home office is 200 square feet, you’re allowed to deduct 20% of your home expenses.

But if that home office also doubles as a guest bedroom, it wouldn’t qualify. Same goes for if you’re using that space to do your day job. The IRS takes the word “exclusively” pretty seriously here when it says you need to use the space exclusively for your business purposes.

To avoid running afoul of the rules, be cautious about what you keep in your home office. Photos, posters and other decorations are fine. But if you move your gaming console, exercise equipment or a TV into your office, that’s probably not. Even mixing professional books with personal books could technically cross the line.

4. You don’t need a separate room.

There needs to be a clear division between your home office space and your personal space. That doesn’t mean you have to have an entire room that you use as an office to take the deduction, though. Suppose you have a desk area in that extra bedroom. You can still claim a portion of the room as long as there’s a marker between your office space and the rest of the room.

Pro Tip

An easy way to separate your home office from your personal space, courtesy of TurboTax Intuit: Mark it with duct tape.

5. The space needs to be your principal place of business.

To deduct your home office, it needs to be your principal place of business. But that doesn’t mean you have to conduct all your business activities in the space. If you’re a handyman and you get paid to fix things at other people’s houses, but you handle the bulk of your paperwork, billing and phone calls in your home office, that’s allowed.

There are some exceptions if you operate a day care center or you store inventory. If either of these scenarios apply, check out the IRS rules.

6. Mortgage and rent aren’t the only expenses you can deduct. 

If you use 20% of your home as an office, you can deduct 20% of your mortgage or rent. But that’s not all you can deduct. You’re also allowed to deduct expenses like real estate taxes, homeowner insurance and utilities, though in this example, you’d only be allowed to deduct 20% of any of these expenses.

Be careful here, though. You can only deduct expenses for the part of the home you use for business purposes. So using the example above, if you pay someone to mow your lawn or you’re painting your kitchen, you don’t get to deduct 20% of the expenses.

You’ll also need to account for depreciation if you own the home. That can get complicated. Consider consulting with a tax professional in this situation. If you sell your home for a profit, you’ll owe capital gains taxes on the depreciation. Whenever you’re claiming deductions, it’s essential to keep good records so you can provide them to the IRS if necessary.

If you don’t want to deal with extensive record-keeping or deducting depreciation, the IRS offers a simplified option: You can take a deduction of $5 per square foot, up to a maximum of 300 square feet. This method will probably result in a smaller deduction, but it’s less complicated than the regular method.

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7. Relax. You probably won’t get audited if you follow the rules.

The home office deduction has a notorious reputation as an audit trigger, but it’s mostly undeserved. Deducting your home office expenses is perfectly legal, provided that you follow the IRS guidelines. A more likely audit trigger: You deduct a huge amount of expenses relative to the income you report, regardless of whether they’re related to a home office.

It’s essential to be ready in case you are audited, though. Make sure you can provide a copy of your mortgage or lease, insurance policies, tax records, utility bills, etc., so you can prove your deductions were warranted. You’ll also want to take pictures and be prepared to provide a diagram of your setup to the IRS if necessary.

As always, consult with a tax adviser if you’re not sure whether the expense you’re deducting is allowable. It’s best to shell out a little extra money now to avoid the headache of an audit later.

The Penny Hoarder Shop is always stocked with great deals, including technology, subscriptions, courses, kitchenware and more. Check it out today!

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Best Tips for Shopping at the Grocery Store on a Budget

It’s no secret that you can be healthy on a budget, but the real secret lies in how you can stay healthy and on budget.  Just like adapting to a new diet, staying on budget is all about behavior change.  In my previous article, I shared tips on eating healthy on a budget, and this time around, I’m digging a little deeper into how to stay on budget on a shopping trip.  Since I get groceries at least once per week, both for work projects and for my personal family shopping, I consider myself an expert in saving money at the grocery store.  Here are my top 10 tips for shopping at the grocery store on a budget, and don’t be surprised- some of these tips start even BEFORE you hit the store!

1. Check mail for coupons and ads

Cutting coupons may seem like a blast from the past, but if cutting out little pieces of paper can save $5 for my future, then I’ll be clipping away!  Each week, your mail includes ads from local grocery stores and coupons from major brands, so tossing that mail out is like throwing away money. Instead, look through that mail to find deals on your frequently used items, and anything special coming up.  Shopping ads especially help me to plan food for holidays, like for this budget-friendly spread for Fourth of July.

2. Make a grocery list.

I suggest planning out weekly meals and making a grocery list for it. This not only saves a lot of money, but will also save time in the grocery store and help reduce food waste (which is basically wasted money).  Going into the store with a list makes me feel more prepared and in control of what I spend. It’s pretty easy to say no to those extra treats in the cart if they’re not on my list.

3. Shop where you bag your own groceries.

If you have a grocery store in town where you bag your own groceries, chances are that store has the best prices since the savings on staff can be reflected on your receipt.  Plus, I like to bag my own groceries, as it gives me a final run-through of my purchase to make sure I didn’t forget anything, and I get to bag them exactly how I want.

4. Eat before to avoid impulse and unhealthy buys.

The biggest mistake in overspending at the grocery store is going shopping when your stomach’s growling.  That extra bag of chips gets half-way eaten before check-out at the register, and guess what?!?! It wasn’t on your grocery list, in your budget, OR on your meal plan.  Prevent that mistake by eating before a trip to the grocery store and it will be easier to stick to your plan.

5. Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables.

There are so many reasons why eating seasonally is better- less impact on the environment, more nutrients, and better taste- but buying produce in season is actually a great way to save money and eat healthy.  You don’t have to spend extra on foods that are imported from different regions when it’s growing in season in your area.  When produce is in season, it’s in abundance so farmers are able to give a better deal.

6. Buy frozen veggies.

While I stress that fresh is best, there are some times when it just makes sense to buy frozen veggies.  One reason would be because of cost. If there is a good sale on organic frozen peas, I’ll go ahead and purchase some ahead of time since I can store it in my freezer.  Another reason to buy frozen is because of seasonality. There is plenty of fresh and juicy corn available in the summer, but when it comes to winter months, I like to pull corn straight from my freezer.

7. Buy deli meat and cheese at the deli.

There is so much emphasis on how pre-packaged foods are more convenient, but these foods are not convenient on my wallet or my diet. When you buy foods that are already packaged, you’re paying for that extra packaging and all the costs that go along with that (from advertising, to transportation, to even stocking it on the shelves).  On top of that, buying food already packaged up can mean you end up wasting some of that food if you don’t use it.

That being said, I am all for soliciting the various departments of the grocery store and getting exactly how much I need, which means I pay for only that.  I get my sandwich meat and cheese from the deli and what I love is that I can tell them how much to slice, how many slices, and even how thick to make my slices.  Gone are the days of moldy cheese because I ran out of bread- now I know to shop for exactly what I need.

8. Buy bread and baked goods in the bakery. 

Speaking of bread, I also buy baked goods at the bakery.  Not only are these items usually made fresh in stores, they also skip all the fancy packaging and trickle all those savings to you.  If you’re seriously on a budget, some bakeries even sell day-old goods for a fraction of the cost.

9. Buy meat in bulk, cut and freeze.

While you’re visiting the different departments of the grocery store, don’t forget to make a stop to the butcher.  I like to buy meat in bulk and cut it to freeze for later. It’s so much cheaper to buy meat like this, and I love the convenience of having options to use in my freezer.  My biggest tip is if you’re going to make chicken, get the whole chicken because that’s considerably cheaper than one that’s cut. Aside from using just the meat, you can also make a delicious chicken broth with the carcass, which is a great way to use the whole animal and also save money even more!

10. Buy Bulk Bin items.

You know those bulk bins at the grocery store?  That section is like gold to me since every time I visit it, I’m saving money!  Since I’m usually developing recipes, it’s just easier to purchase the exact quantity of something, that way I know exactly how much something costs.  What’s even better is that I only have the amount needed for the recipe, and that leaves me with less food to waste each month. I absolutely dread throwing away food, because it’s like throwing away money, so by buying some ingredients in bulk, I know I’m using up what I need.

Using ingredients from bulk bins, I’m going to make aebleskiver, or Danish Pancakes.  Ever since I got a special pan, I’ve been obsessed with making these fun-size pancakes.  I usually don’t purchase separate pans for specialty foods, but I really got my money’s worth for this pan since I use it a few times each month.  Yes, I could buy these ingredients packaged up ahead of time, but it’s happened where I think I have enough flour for a recipe (usually after I already mixed up the other ingredients), but I don’t have enough so I have to waste my time with an emergency trip to the store.  But ever since I started using bulk bins, I know I have enough for my recipes every time, and when it comes to eating healthy on a budget, everything adds up!

 

The post Best Tips for Shopping at the Grocery Store on a Budget appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Apple Card temporarily offering $50 sign-up bonus for Exxon Mobil purchases

Many rewards credit cards offer the opportunity to earn a sign-up bonus. Even some no-annual-fee credit cards offer them, allowing consumers to maximize cash back or points without paying every year for simply having the card.

The Apple Card only started offering a sign-up bonus in June, when Apple cardholders could earn $50 in Daily Cash after spending $50 at Walgreens. This was followed by offers in September, October and November, most recently including a $75 sign-up bonus after spending $75 at Nike in-store and online via Apple Pay.

And now through Jan. 31, new Apple Card holders can score a slightly lower sign-up bonus. You’ll get $50 in Daily Cash after you spend $50 or more on purchases with Exxon or Mobil.

See related: Apple Card: One year later

How to get the Apple Card sign-up bonus

New Apple Card holders who open an account between Jan. 8 and Jan. 31, 2021 can earn $50 in Apple’s Daily Cash when they spend $50 using Apple Card with Apple Pay (where available) at Exxon and Mobil stations at the pump or at attached convenience stores in the U.S., within 30 days of the account opening. To pay at the pump with Apple Pay, you can use either the Exxon Mobil Rewards+ mobile app or contactless payment.

This month’s sign-up bonus from Apple is lower than its previous offer from Nike, but on par with the older offers from Walgreens and Panera Bread, both of which got you just $50 in Daily Cash back after a matching spend.

You can apply for the Apple Card from the Wallet app on your iPhone.

Should you apply for the Apple Card now?

If you have been considering applying for the Apple Card, it might be a good idea to do so this month, especially if you commute or drive often enough to spend $50 at gas stations in a month. While the card doesn’t always come with a sign-up bonus, new cardholders currently have a great chance to earn one.

Besides that, the Apple Card offers 3% cash back on Apple purchases, as well as 3% cash back when you use Apple Pay for Walgreens, Nike and Uber and Uber Eats purchases and at T-Mobile stores. Other Apple Pay purchases will earn you 2% in cash back. When you use the physical card, the cash back rate goes down to 1%.

However, the Apple Card might not make sense for everyone. The earning rate is good on Apple purchases, but if you’re looking for a primary cash back card to add to your wallet, there might be better options.

For example, with the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express you can earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) and 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. All other purchases will get you 1% in cash back.

Another alternative is the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, which earns you unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase and doesn’t have an annual fee. Plus, you only need to spend $500 in the first three months with the card to earn its $200 sign-up bonus.

There are quite a few other cards to look into. Shop around before you decide to take advantage of Apple’s offer. The sign-up bonus alone shouldn’t tempt you into signing up for a card that doesn’t align with your spending.

See related: Apple card credit score requirements and reasons for denial

Final thoughts

If you’re an Apple enthusiast and have been looking into the Apple Card for some time, now might be a good time to apply. The new limited-time sign-up offer gives you an opportunity to earn an easy sign-up bonus – something the card doesn’t normally have.

Source: creditcards.com