The Best Places to Live in California in 2021

Believe us when we say there is a city for you on the Golden Coast.

Whether you are moving for better job opportunities, a switch of scenery or a change of pace, you’ll find the best places to live in California scattered up and down the Golden State.

Here are our picks for the best cities in California:

Bakersfield, CA.

  • Population: 371,323
  • Average age: 36.8
  • Median household income: $63,139
  • Average commute: 27.9 minutes
  • Walk score: 43
  • Studio average rent: $900
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,189
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $974

Bakersfield is often the butt of jokes about California, but this city is actually not a bad place to live. The area is centrally located and is well known for its agriculture and energy production.

Los Angeles is only about two hours south, and San Francisco is about four hours north. If you crave culture and city life, you have options for a weekend getaway in either direction.

If you have children, you can take advantage of a handful of good schools. In fact, Bakersfield’s average Great Schools rating of 4.7 is higher compared to Los Angeles.

Long Beach, CA, one of the best places to live in california

  • Population: 470,267
  • Average age: 39.5
  • Median household income: $63,017
  • Average commute: 37.8 minutes
  • Walk score: 84
  • Studio average rent: $2,136
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,089
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,587

A port city just 24 miles south of Los Angeles, Long Beach offers waterfront attractions, bike-friendly roads and trails, amazing Southern California weather and diverse cultural festivals. It’s also a great place to raise a family with plenty of activities for all ages.

Visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, the legendary (and haunted) Queen Mary, the iconic Lions Lighthouse for Sight or relaxing Signal Hill Park. Consider living here if you value an active lifestyle because the walk score is an impressive 84.

Long Beach also has the highest school-rating score (6.5) on this list and is home to California State University, Long Beach.

Los Angeles, CA.

  • Population: 3,950,004
  • Average age: 40.6
  • Median household income: $62,142
  • Average commute: 38.6 minutes
  • Walk score: 79
  • Studio average rent: $2,387
  • One-bedroom average rent: $3,099
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $4,557

Los Angeles is the most populous city in California for many reasons. Rounding out the list are perfect year-round weather, great hiking spots, multiple professional sports teams, plentiful jobs and business opportunities, top-notch universities such as the University of California Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, delicious eats and beautiful beaches aplenty.

Don’t forget that Los Angeles is a melting pot of diverse cultures, too.

The average commute is 38.6 minutes, so prepare to listen to your favorite podcasts or playlists. Luckily though, in Los Angeles, you don’t need to own a vehicle to get around, as reliable public transportation can get you to most places.

Oakland, CA, one of the best places to live in california

  • Population: 417,522
  • Average age: 41.7
  • Median household income: $92,876
  • Average commute: 39.9 minutes
  • Walk score: 83
  • Studio average rent: $2,807
  • One-bedroom average rent: $3,293
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $4,264

A hipster enclave just a short drive over the bridge from San Francisco, Oakland offers residents an urban-suburban mix feel.

There are many bars, restaurants, coffee shops and parks for you to enjoy on your days off work.

With year-round weather hovering around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s no wonder locals choose to take to the outdoors. Check out Lake Merritt, located in the heart of the city, where you can bike, kayak and much more.

Oakland is also home to Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics, and you’ll see plenty of the team’s green, gold and white colors on proud display.

Oceanside, CA.

  • Population: 175,448
  • Average age: 42.4
  • Median household income: $72,697
  • Average commute: 34.9 minutes
  • Walk score: 50
  • Studio average rent: $2,417
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,257
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $2,523

Nestled on the coast of North San Diego County, Oceanside is the least populous city on this list. As such, it’s an ideal place to get away from the hustle-bustle of San Diego, but it’s still close enough — just a hop on Interstate 5 South.

Oceanside offers three miles of shoreline and stunning beaches for runners, walkers and water sports enthusiasts.

The city is also home to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, so don’t be surprised if you encounter men and women in uniform along the way. You might also recognize a few locations in town from the movie “Top Gun,” filmed here in 1986.

Riverside, CA, one of the best places to live in california

  • Population: 320,715
  • Average age: 38
  • Median household income: $69,045
  • Average commute: 38 minutes
  • Walk score: 54
  • Studio average rent: $1,416
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,685
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,987

The quiet and relaxing Inland Empire city of Riverside sits southeast of Los Angeles, offering more affordable housing than coastal towns. The University of California Riverside adds diversity and gives the city a thriving bar and club nightlife.

If you’re a fan of hot weather, then Riverside is the place for you. Since there is no sea breeze, the summer months mean Riverside is 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the coast.

Grab the family, swimsuits and a fishing boat and day-trip to Lake Hemet for some fun in the sun. Or head over to California Citrus State Historic Park, which preserves the cultural landscape of the citrus industry and shares the story of its role in the development of Southern California.

Sacramento, CA.

  • Population: 488,974
  • Average age: 40.2
  • Median household income: $62,335
  • Average commute: 30.8 minutes
  • Walk score: 60
  • Studio average rent: $1,940
  • One-bedroom average rent: $1,802
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $1,959

Sacramento is not only the state capital but is also known as the City of Trees. It’s additionally known for the beautiful historical architecture of the government buildings around the downtown area.

Spend a fun weekend strolling Old Sacramento’s cobblestone streets, hitting the shops downtown, walking the Tower Bridge or visiting the Sacramento Zoo.

One of the greatest advantages to living in Sacramento is its proximity to some of Northern California’s most visited destinations. While the ocean is just a couple of hours to the west, Sacramento is a short drive from Napa Valley, national forests and mountains.

San Diego, CA, one of the best places to live in california

  • Population: 1,392,264
  • Average age: 40.5
  • Median household income: $79,673
  • Average commute: 29 minutes
  • Walk score: 71
  • Studio average rent: $2,215
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,372
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $3,068

Whether you are looking for a place to retire, coming here for work, looking for a place to raise a family or attending a university for higher education, there’s a place for you in San Diego. Best of all, there’s always something to do.

Catch a Padres game at Petco Park, hit the hiking trails, try a new brunch spot or head to the beach. The city scores high when it comes to restaurant offerings, especially in North Park, Old Town and Little Italy.

San Diego ranks second on this list for high-quality education with a Great Schools average rating of 6.3, and there are many exceptional university options to choose from.

San Francisco, CA.

  • Population: 864,263
  • Average age: 44.7
  • Median household income: $112,449
  • Average commute: 40.9 minutes
  • Walk score: 93
  • Studio average rent: $3,163
  • One-bedroom average rent: $3,981
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $5,187

If you’re looking for a career opportunity in tech, then head on over to San Francisco, where the industry is growing at a rapid pace. Granted, the living expenses are the highest here, but the income average is also the highest in California to help offset those costs. Plus, there are plenty of things to do.

Walk around Golden Gate Park, eat delicious food at the Fisherman’s Wharf or Chinatown, stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge, ride a trolley up the famous big hills or visit the museums to learn something new.

Don’t forget to invest in a good pair of walking shoes; this city is extremely pedestrian-friendly, with the highest walk score on this list. It just about makes up for the 40.9-minute average commute.

San Jose, CA, one of the best places to live in california

  • Population: 1,023,224
  • Average age: 40.8
  • Median household income: $109,593
  • Average commute: 36.2 minutes
  • Walk score: 62
  • Studio average rent: $2,304
  • One-bedroom average rent: $2,823
  • Two-bedroom average rent: $3,459

The capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose is known for its fantastic weather, incredible hiking trails and safe suburban neighborhoods for young families.

Thanks to the technology industry boom, the cost of living has shot up compared to other California cities. Still, it’s more affordable than San Francisco.

A great advantage of living in San Jose is its proximity to other popular destinations. You can easily take a day trip to San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley or wine country. The city is also a quick drive to local beaches and is only 3.5 hours from Yosemite National Park. During hockey season, stay put and cheer on National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks.

Find your own best place to live in California.

Ready to find your next apartment in one of the best cities in California? Let us help you find the perfect place to call home.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments in March 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
Other demographic data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.


Fire Prevention Tips: 14 Ways to Avoid Setting Your Apartment on Fire

Everyone wants to turn up the heat and stay warm in their apartment during the frigid days of winter, the early mornings of spring or the cold fall evenings. While the toasty heat feels great, it’s essential to stay safe and avoid a fire in your apartment.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, how we heat our living spaces is largely to blame for the many fires that take place each year. In 2018, there were 86,500 fires in apartment buildings alone in the United States.

Heating your small space is a must, but the right safety precautions have to be in place to avoid a potentially life-threatening catastrophe. Below, we outline a room-by-room guide stating the main causes of apartment fires and how you can prevent one from setting your humble abode ablaze. We’ll also talk about landlord and renter rights and responsibilities when it comes to fire safety.

Fire safety guide

Within minutes, a small fire can spread and grow into a deadly fire. But with a few steps, you can protect yourself, your family, your apartment and your belongings.

First, closely inspect your home to eliminate potential hazards.

Then, use these fire prevention tips and strategies to safeguard your home.

family with firefamily with fire

Overall fire safety tips

  • Protect your appliances and your home by using surge protectors
  • Don’t overload circuits or extension cords
  • Check electrical cords for appliances. Cords that are frayed or cracked are potential fire hazards. Unplug the cord immediately and replace it.
  • Don’t run cords underneath rugs or between rooms
  • Never place portable space heaters near flammable materials, such as drapery or bedding
  • Turn off space heaters when leaving the room or going to bed
  • Don’t smoke in bed or leave burning cigarettes unattended
  • Keep lighters and matches out of reach of children
  • Don’t leave candles or incense unattended, and place these items away from drapes, curtains or other flammable materials
  • Don’t store flammable materials, such as gasoline cans or a propane tank, in your apartment

Kitchen safety

Lots of cooking and baking takes place during the cold winter months when the desire for warm, home-cooked meals is at its peak. Don’t deny yourself a hearty feast, just be mindful of how you go about it.

  • Remember to never leave food unattended on a stove
  • Keep potholders and towels away from the cooking area
  • Avoid wearing loose-fitting sleeves when cooking
  • Always set a reminder to turn the stove and oven off when you’re finished cooking
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of an accidental cooking fire

Laundry room safety

If your laundry room is located in your own apartment, follow these safety guidelines. If your laundry room is a communal space, check with your landlord to ensure proper safety measures are in place.

  • If possible, have your dryer installed and serviced by a professional
  • Avoid using a dryer without a lint filter
  • Clean the lint filter before or after each load of laundry, and remove lint that has collected around the drum of your dryer
  • Check to make sure the right plug and outlet are used, and make sure the machine is connected properly
  • If you leave home or go to bed, turn the dryer off

While a fire can start in any room in your apartment, these are the most common areas for household fires to start. By following these guidelines, you’re helping to decrease the chance of starting a fire in your home.

firefighter with firefirefighter with fire

Taking additional safety measures

In addition to practicing safe habits in each room, you’ll want to ensure you have the proper safety precautions in place. These safety measures can help reduce the risk of a fire and keep everyone safe.

1. Install smoke alarms

Make sure there’s a properly functioning smoke alarm installed in your apartment. To be extra cautious, install a smoke alarm outside of each sleeping area. These alarms can be battery-operated or electrically hardwired in your home.

For renters who have hearing problems, use alarms that include flashing strobe lights and vibration. Test smoke alarms once a month, and replace batteries once a year. An easy reminder is to change the batteries when the clocks spring forward.

2. Place heaters strategically

Fire-related home incidents caused by heating mechanisms largely take place during the winter. As long as you’re using extra measures to heat your apartment, you’re at risk. When using a portable space heater, keep these tips in mind.

  • Anything that can melt or burn should be at least three feet away from the heater
  • Never leave these small heaters on all day or night, even when you go to sleep
  • Children and pets should not be allowed in the same area where portable space heaters are in use
  • Follow your space heater’s directions exactly if you’re unsure of its proper operation

3. Be careful with candles

Although they’re not the most effective heating choice, candles are often used to set a soothing atmosphere. They also come in handy when power has been lost. But they’re also known to start fires, particularly when left unattended.

  • Blow out candles before going to sleep and any time you leave your apartment
  • Keep candles at least one foot away from any other objects
  • Always use candle holders and make sure that the surface is flat and away from an edge where it may tip over
  • Never use candles if an oxygen tank is in use
  • Opt for flashlights instead of candles in case of a power outage

4. Plan an escape route

Though your apartment may be prepared, accidents do occur. Plan an escape route, and if you have roommates, plan for a safe place to meet outside. Have at least two escape routes planned in case one is blocked. If you live in a high-rise or on an upper-level floor, consider purchasing an escape ladder in case the stairs and entryways are blocked.

fire escape routefire escape route

Additional fire prevention tips

In general, you should be prepared for a fire emergency at all times. It may not happen in your unit, but it could take place right next door. It’s also smart to know what responsibilities and obligations are on the landlord and the renter. We’ve outlined some general information below:

Know the landlord’s responsibilities

In most cases, the landlord should make sure the rental property is in a habitable condition (fit to live and free from hazards) and provide for the necessary maintenance and repairs. Federal and local laws mention the following landlord responsibilities:

  • Complying with federal, state and local building codes
  • Repairing structural components like the fireplace, chimney, electrical cables and the plumbing system
  • Providing defect-free heating and cooling facilities
  • Promptly responding to repair and maintenance requests
  • Conducting regular fire safety checks

Remember, landlords have the legal duty to adhere to fire safety regulations or risk being penalized by the housing authorities. Knowing the landlord’s safety obligations towards keeping your rented home safe will help protect you from fatal fire accidents.

Know your duties as a renter

Though it’s the landlord’s duty to provide for the tenant’s safety and property maintenance, you’re required to act responsibly when residing in the apartment. The landlord is not responsible for damage caused due to the negligence of you, your family, guests or pets.

If you identify any potential fire hazard, it’s your duty to inform the landlord, enabling them to take timely action. Remember, your landlord can only repair something if they know what’s broken or defective. For instance, though landlords are liable to fit smoke alarms in the apartment, it’s your duty to inspect them on a weekly basis.

The National Fire Alarm Code (NFPA 72) requires smoke alarms to be replaced at least once every 10 years. Be aware of the expiration date of the smoke alarms installed in your apartment and talk to your landlord to get the expired ones replaced. Check for missing or disconnected alarms, dead batteries or low-battery chirps and replace them immediately.

Similarly, fireplaces and chimneys require regular maintenance. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, chimney fires are life-threatening and can severely damage the building structure. Make sure your landlord gets the apartment’s chimney and fireplace cleaned and repaired on a regular basis by hiring a reputed chimney cleaning service provider. Also, installing carbon monoxide detectors is a must for rooms with a wood fire.

Finally, when the landlord sends workers to fix the issue, it’s your duty to be responsive and flexible in allowing access to the maintenance staff.

Report all issues in writing

As a tenant, it’s your responsibility to report damages and defects to the landlord in writing or through email. When requesting repairs or maintenance, it’s a good idea to include a brief summary and an image of the problem.

For instance, if your grievance is about the mounting creosote deposits in your chimney flue, include an image showing this in your email, enabling your landlord to hire a chimney cleaning service immediately.

Further, keep records of all the formal complaints you make in this regard. These include documents, such as photographs of the damage, copies of the letters and emails, receipts of repairs undertaken by you, testimonials from professionals who you have hired for repair services, bills of lodging you had to shift into due to the property being uninhabitable and the apartment’s inventory report.

The above-mentioned details will prove to be useful evidence in case of a court proceeding against your landlord.

Be prepared for the worst-case scenario

Although the Landlord and Tenant Act governs the rental agreements for residential properties, each U.S. state has its own landlord-tenant laws with many of the statutes being similar. All landlords are required to comply with federal and state landlord-tenant laws.

If your landlord refuses to make the necessary home repairs and maintenance for fire safety or the problem violates the state’s building and health codes, contact your local housing authority to learn about your state laws and report the issue.

For instance, if your landlord refuses to install a smoke alarm in the rental property, you can ask the local housing authority to take a look at your apartment’s fire safety. The authority will assess the situation and issue a notice to the landlord to install a smoke alarm. If the landlord fails to fix the problem even after receiving the notice, they’ll be penalized by the authorities. Meanwhile, you can make the necessary repairs and deduct the amount from the rent check.

You can also withhold the rent until the corrective measures are taken. Housing authorities in a few states encourage tenants to transfer the rent to an escrow account that will be released once the landlord undertakes the repair and maintenance.

Lastly, if the problem is preventing you from living comfortably in the apartment, you may move out and cancel the rental agreement. You’ll need to present evidence that the property was uninhabitable due to the landlord’s negligence and you vacated the premises in a reasonable time.

Keeping the community safe

Given the high incidences of home fires in the U.S., tenants and landlords should work hand-in-hand to reduce the risk of fire hazards in rented apartments. If you’re planning to shift into or are already living in a rented property, you should be aware of your safety rights and the landlord’s responsibilities. The information shared in this post will serve as an effective guide towards protecting you from fire accidents in your newly-rented apartment.




10 Ways to Save on Your Apartment Heating Bill

Cooler weather means sweater weather, hot drinks and shorter days. It also means you’ll have to turn on your heater. But staying cozy doesn’t always mean high apartment heating bills. On average, an American home spends around $112.59 on their energy bill every month.

Whether you’re looking to save some money or even just help the environment, there are small changes around your apartment you can do to lower your heat bill.

And none of them include wrap yourself in a blanket so you don’t turn into an ice cube, we promise.

Keep on reading to find out how you can stay warm this winter and not end up broke.

1. Seal up those windows and doors

window seals apartment heatingwindow seals apartment heating

If you live in a charming old home or apartment with older windows, you’d be surprised at how much heat escapes through your windows and doors. Heat gain and loss through those unsealed spots account for up to 30 percent of heating and cooling energy use.

Consult with your landlord before moving forward as they may offer to do it or replace the windows. Once you get the go-ahead, you can seal up those spots and leaks around your rental with weather stripping and clay rope caulking to winterize the apartment. Double-check that the window itself closes all the way.

You can also pick up a window insulation kit or magnetic window insulation that are easy to install to insulate the area. It’s a quick weekend project that will pay off in the long run.

2. Purchase a smart thermostat

smart thermostatsmart thermostat

It’s hard to remember when and what temperature it should remain on to save on heating costs during the winter. The solution? A smart thermostat. You can take it with you when you move out or have your landlord reimburse you upon purchase.

During winter, you’ll want to keep the thermostat set to 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and then 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night. So you don’t forget, set your thermostat to remember when to switch off as it learns your daily patterns.

3. Add beautiful rugs to your living spaces

apartment rugs apartment heatingapartment rugs apartment heating

Sure, blankets and chunky socks are great to stay warm, but have you thought about rugs? A beautiful area rug can enhance your living spaces with patterns and vibrant colors and bring it all together. But it can also work like insulation and keep your feet warm.

In older units, especially those with hardwood floors, a large rug in the living room can help keep the heat in place and insulate the area, so there are no leaks. Smaller rugs in the bathroom or by your bed will make the space even cozier and help protect the area further.

4. Double check your current furniture layout

floor ventfloor vent

If you moved quickly, you probably didn’t pay attention to all the vents on the floor and along the walls. Go around your apartment and double-check that none of the furniture, including couches, side tables, beds and credenzas aren’t blocking any of the vents.

This will help your apartment heating unit work a little less as the room will get warmer, faster. This is a great time, too, to reevaluate your winter bedding to keep even warmer.

5. Turn down your water heater

water heaterwater heater

How high is your water heater right now? Yes, that contraption inside your utility closet. Check the temperature of your water heater and lower it by 10 degrees. If you need help figuring it out, ask your landlord to help you change it.

Turning it down to about 110 degrees will save you money month over month on your heating bill, and you’ll still stay warm while in the shower.

6. Keep the humidity high

humidifier apartment heatinghumidifier apartment heating

Every winter, it’s almost like someone sucked all humidity out of your apartment, and your skin starts to dry up. Dry air can affect both you and your plants around the home. Pick up a humidifier for your bedroom and the living room as higher humidity helps keep the apartment feeling warm. It’s a win-win for your skin and your heating bill.

7. Close doors to unused rooms

closing doorclosing door

Your apartment heating unit will attempt to warm up every nook and cranny in your home. But why is the laundry room getting warm if you’re not there? As soon as the temperature shifts outside, get in the habit of closing doors for unused rooms.

Close the doors to the bathroom, the closets, the guest room and the laundry room to allow the heating unit to concentrate on heating your living spaces and the bedroom. If possible, close the vents in there. It’s a simple trick that’s often overlooked but works like a charm.

8. Warm up (carefully!) with a small space heater

space heater apartment heatingspace heater apartment heating

First, a disclaimer. Space heaters can be hazardous if not used correctly. Before purchasing one, check with your landlord to make sure they allow them. The leading factor that puts you in danger is leaving them too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing or mattresses, according to the NFPA.

Never leave your small heater unattended, don’t plug it into an extension cord, make sure that it’s kept a safe distance away from flammables and only use them in walled-in rooms like your bedroom and turn it off before going to sleep.

9. Consider thermal curtains for your windows


Energy-efficient thermal curtains can quickly help heat up your apartment as they have layers that act as insulation and keep heat in and cold out. In some instances, according to, heat loss can be reduced by 40 percent or more with thermal curtains, that’s about 20 percent in energy savings. In the summer, they’ll keep your apartment cool as well.

These curtains are available as a set of two panels for one window, hovering around $30-$40 each.

10. Use your ceiling fan

apartment heatingapartment heating

You would think a fan would be counterproductive in keeping your space warm, but that’s actually far from the truth. The better the circulation and airflow, the more energy-efficient your home will be.

Having your fan spinning clockwise on the lowest setting will trap heat inside to keep rooms in your apartment warmer, making a world of difference!

Let’s winterize your apartment

Every single of these tips will help reduce your apartment heating bill over the next few cold months and keep your wallet happy. If a window or a patio door isn’t closing correctly, have the landlord fix it as soon as possible.

Start small and then increase measures as you see results month over month. Those pennies will add up. You’ll stay cozy through the winter and have some fun money once the weather warms up.




The 4 Best Sites to Sell Gift Cards Online

Gift cards lay on a flat surface. Gift cards are from Target, Home Depot, Macy's, TJ Max, etc.

You can sell any gift card for store credit — new or partially used. Most cards sell within 24 hours, and Raise takes 15% of the selling price.

Maybe your boss gave you a Starbucks gift card, but you aren’t a coffee drinker.
Ebay has always been a popular place for buying and selling things online — but it might be the worst way to sell gift cards.
To get a quote on your gift card, all you need to do is input the brand and balance. On most of these sites, there’s an option to enter the gift card number to sell it and receive payment electronically — no need to mail anything.
Suddenly, your 0 gift card is only worth .

Tips to Sell Gift Cards Online

Whether it’s a birthday, graduation or holiday, it’s likely that you’ll get a stack of gift cards for any celebration. Also likely: you’ll end up with a few you can’t use or don’t want.
On top of that, you may be responsible for eBay’s insertion fees, a final value fee and a performance fee if your eBay seller account isn’t in good shape. Then, if you’re using Paypal for payment, expect an additional 2.9% fee. Yuck!

Consider Ways to Get Paid

If you do decide to sell a gift card, shop around and find the best offer. Check with two or three companies before handing over your gift card.
Dana Sitar is a former branded content editor at The Penny Hoarder. Adam Hardy is a former staff writer.
What’s better? Online gift card exchange sites. They’ll purchase your gift card for 90% or more of its value and resell it for you.
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Don’t Sell Gift Cards on eBay

Rates will vary depending on the service and the brand, so I thought it would be fun to see which would offer me the best price for my gift cards.
The gift card exchange site Raise has always been one of my favorite places to sell my unwanted gift cards because I get to set the price. However, as with eBay, you don’t get paid until the gift card sells.
And remember, you can buy discount gift cards on all these sites, too. Keep them in mind when you need a gift.
Depending on the service you choose, when you sell a gift card you can receive a check in the mail, a Paypal payment or a more useful gift card.
Paypal might be a quick form of payment, but keep those pesky fees in mind if you want to maximize your payout. Checks may take a little longer, but they’re as good as cold, hard cash. And depending on your spending habits, another gift card might be the best choice, as the conversion rate is going to be the highest.

4 Best Websites to Sell Gift Cards

As with any product, the more demand, the more you can ask for it. Gift cards for major retailers — Walmart, Target, Best Buy — tend to sell on the marketplace for 95% of their value.
First, an eBay buyer isn’t likely to buy your gift card for more than 80% to 90% of its value. For a 0 gift card, you can count on a loss of between and .
I picked three leading online gift card buyers and asked for quotes on a Walmart gift card. Here are the results:

Gift Cards Still Need a Home? Auction Them Off on Raise

Still, on Raise you can list a card without paying up-front fees, so there’s no risk.
Here’s what to keep in mind as you find a buyer for that unwanted present.
There are plenty of websites to sell your gift cards, and each is a little different. Some will let users bid on your gift card, while others will purchase it from you and then sell it themselves. You also maintain control over your listing. If your card doesn’t sell in the first couple of days, you can always adjust the price to attract more buyers. Or you can unlist it if you change your mind.
There is no reason for this well-intentioned gift to go to waste. You can sell gift cards online for cash.

Here are the top sites that put the most money in your pocket.
There is, however, one notable exception that you probably should avoid when it comes to gift cards: eBay.
Each selection has its own perks, so choose whichever best fits your needs.

Or your Aunt Rita gave you a gift card to a steakhouse, but you’re a vegetarian.

How to Shop Online for Car Insurance

  • Car Insurance

You can buy everything online these days and car insurance is no exception. In fact, if you know what you’re doing and have a few moments spare, buying an insurance policy online is one of the quickest, easiest, and cheapest ways to get the coverage you need.

Find your best rate on Car Insurance!

Attention: Still Open During the Financial Crisis…

Tip: Act now to see if you qualify for lower rates!

Compare free personalized quotes from the nation’s top providers.

Benefits of Getting Car Insurance Coverage Online

Auto insurance policies are typically purchased over the phone or online. With the former option, you have the benefit of talking directly with the company and discussing your options. If you have a question about the process, ask them; if you’re not sure about something, get clarification. 

When you buy online, you can’t really get those benefits, but it is much easier to compare multiple auto insurance companies. Instead of phoning many companies and giving them the same information each time, you can use comparison sites that will send the same information to multiple insurers. What’s more, you can do it at a time that suits you, whether that be 7 in the morning or 11 at night.

It’s a much quicker and simpler process all round, and that’s why the majority of customers choose to buy online car insurance.

Buy the Best Car Insurance Online

Buying car insurance online might not be a good fit for you, but you should at least consider it. Even if you prefer speaking with insurance companies and insurance agents directly, you can still use online comparison sites to perform an initial review and determine which insurance providers you should focus on.

Just follow these simple steps to get the best auto insurance rates online:

1. Prepare in Advance

Insurers will request some basic personal information from you when applying for car insurance. To hasten the process, make sure you have all this information to hand:

  • The driver’s license number of anyone who will be added to the insurance policy.
  • The Vehicle Identification Number.
  • The make and model of the vehicle(s) being insured.
  • Your annual mileage.
  • Your registration.
  • Details of accidents you have been involved in or traffic violations you have received.

As tempting as it might be to tell a few white lies and save yourself a few bucks, this is never a good idea and could lead to your policy being voided when the lie is discovered.

2. Check Your Credit Report

Many insurers will pull your credit report before offering you an auto policy. The higher your credit score is, the more likely you are to be offered the best rates.

Although you’re not applying for a credit card or loan, insurance companies still want to know if you’re responsible or not and credit scores can give them this information. A bad credit driver could be charged up to $1,000 more than a good credit driver, so don’t underestimate the power of your credit report and do everything you can to increase it, including:

  • Increase your credit limits
  • Payoff as much debt as you can
  • Clear substantial sums from maxed-out credit cards
  • Become an authorized user
  • Sign up for a secured credit card

3. Your Current Policy

How much does your current car insurance policy cost, does it include collision coverage and comprehensive coverage? You need this information to compare your future policy with your past one and determine whether you’re getting a good deal or not. 

If it’s your first policy, you won’t have this info, but can still do a bit of research on average policy costs to determine when you’re being oversold and when you’re being offered a golden opportunity.

4. Calculate What Types of Coverage You Need

The first step to determining how much coverage you need is to check the minimum coverage limits for your state. These will typically cover bodily injury liability and property damage liability, but may also include underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage, medical payments, and personal injury protection (PIP).

Once you cover all state minimums, you can start focusing on additional coverage options, including:

  • Collision Coverage: Will cover your vehicle in an accident, whether that accident involves another vehicle, a tree or a wall.
  • Comprehensive Coverage: Will cover you for losses associated with weather damage, vandalism, theft, and animal collisions.

Skipping these additional coverage options will save you money on your insurance premiums, but at what cost? If you have a $20,000 car that’s destroyed in an accident with an animal or falls victim to a flood, only comprehensive coverage can save you. Without it, you can wave goodbye to that $20,000 investment and say hello to a huge financial headache.

You may also want to consider additional liability insurance. Many states insist on a minimum ratio of 25/50/25, which means $25,000 for bodily injury per person, $50,000 per accident, and $25,000 property damage per accident. But these are only the minimums and you can get more cover if you need it.

5. Look for Discounts

Car insurance discounts should never be overlooked, as they could save you up to 90% on a full coverage policy. These discounts vary considerably, and include all of the following:

  • Good student discounts: Offered to students who achieve and maintain at least a B average.
  • Senior discounts: Offered to older applicants and AARP members.
  • Military discounts: Veterans and active duty personnel can save big, especially if they use insurers like USAA.
  • Safe driver discounts: If you have a clean driving history and can prove it, you’ll be offered big discounts.
  • Policy discounts: Paying for your policy upfront or agreeing to an autopay could net you some big savings.
  • Anti-theft devices: Having a new car with a host of anti-theft devices (anti-lock brakes, airbags) can give you some impressive discounts.

6. Start Comparison Shopping

Now that you’re prepared with some basic information, it’s time to take the leap, visit the comparison shopping websites, and start looking for the best providers for you. These sites will scour the biggest insurance companies out there, including Geico, State Farm, Allstate, Progressive, and Nationwide, aiming to find the best quotes based on your preferences and personal information.

Bottom Line: Getting Cheap Auto Insurance Quotes

Car insurance is a complicated business and underwriters take many things into consideration when setting your insurance premiums.

In addition to the discounts mentioned above, underwriters will also look at your age, gender, location, driving record, whether you are a renter or a homeowner, whether you are married or single, and much more.

All this information can be used to paint a picture of probability, telling them how likely you are to have an accident and make a claim. If they deem you to be a high risk, they will set your car insurance rates accordingly, and, in most cases, there isn’t much you can do to counter them (unless you plan on buying a home or getting married just to save a few bucks).

However, by shopping smartly, taking your time to find the right policy and using all available discounts, you can get the cheapest possible car insurance rates for someone in your demographic and with your record.


8 Unique Ways to Display Fine Art in Your Home | Apartminty

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Having art on the walls of your home can help you feel settled, whether it’s a temporary rental or your forever home. There are many different methods to displaying fine art in your home. The traditional way of a hammer and a nail will get you pretty far, but you can elevate your design by incorporating some of the following ideas. 

Buying fine art is just the beginning of the process. How you display your new art can make or break the impact it can have on your space.

Every person has a different taste in art, and it doesn’t matter if you are interested in impressionists or contemporary abstracts; there is a place for your art in your home. Artwork is meant to be enjoyed daily. It can bring together the theme of a cozy beach house or give a nursery an adorable feature for your baby to look at. 

Here are eight unique and fun ways to display fine art in your home:

Gallery Walls up the Staircase:

If you have a set of stairs in your home, you likely trudge up and down them multiple times per day. It can be a fun reminder of good memories every time you march up to bed or come down for coffee first thing in the morning. Stairs are an excellent place to hang small prints that would look out of place in other rooms. Gather them together to make a feature wall.

Often, a gallery wall on the stairs contains family portraits that continue to grow as your family does. You can choose this method for a more conservative look or make it more interesting by using brightly colored frames and cataloging your vacations and everyday memories. 

Hang Art From the Ceiling:

These days, nearly everyone hangs a frame from a nail in a wall or with sticky strips that don’t damage the walls. Add interest to your space by putting a hook in the ceiling and dangling your artwork from above. This can add depth to your room and draw attention to a unique ceiling feature, such as a reclaimed wood ceiling or a decorative chandelier. 

Be sure to hand these frames close to a wall so they do not become a hazard when walking by, and use a strong string to prevent your art from being damaged. If you can’t drill holes in the ceiling, consider a gallery rod or a piece of picture rail molding to dangle your artwork. 

Use Three Dimensions:

Framed art is often two dimensional, and while it adds interest to the space, you can make your display stand out even more by adding three-dimensional objects to your collection. You can combine these two to create a one of a kind art feature in your home. 

Relate these objects to the painting or print to not distract from the original piece. A photo of a beach or the ocean can be combined with shells or sea glass mosaics to bring more life to the artwork. 

Use a Bookshelf:


If your walls are full or you just don’t have any space to hang a frame on the wall, use your bookshelves to incorporate a few frames. These can be standard freestanding bookshelves, floating shelves, or you can lean the frame on top of your desk or dresser. Set your beautifully painted image of a garden next to your vintage copy of The Secret Garden.

Using frames, books, and objects will create interest and allow you to view your collections simultaneously. This method is also easily changed if you are the type of person that likes to mix up your decor now and then. 

Color Coordinate:

A bright-colored chair in a room or rug can add intrigue to the room. Multiply this by creating a small gallery featuring the same color as this object. It will help bring the room together and make it seem more cohesive. Use abstracts or simple pieces to draw the color into space. 

Be sure not to overdo it and use moderation when using bright colors in a room. They can seem busy or hurtful to look at if there are too many. If the accent color in the room is blue, use different shades of blue to provide your eyes something easy to look at. 

Offset Frames:

There is no law stating that your frames must be in line with each other and never be out of place. You are free to do what speaks to you by clustering small frames together or using one larger piece to keep it simple. 

If you feel a little daring, offset your frames on the wall so they are not centered, drawing attention to a piece of furniture or a feature of your home. Eyes are drawn toward offset patterns, and it can create drama in the room. 

Don’t Use Frames:

If you are unsure about the pieces, you have or are interested in a more casual display, skip the frames altogether and go with bare images. Without frames, a print can be more fragile, so it may be recommended to attach the paper to a stiff piece of cardboard. Otherwise, your prints will be blowing in every breeze and could be harmed. 

Frames can also be expensive, and if you want to hang a large number of prints, it is cost-effective to go without them. Leaving your art without frames creates a bohemian atmosphere and can enhance your overall decor. 

Use a Gallery Light:

You can highlight a single piece or collection of works by installing a gallery light over the artwork. These lights are relatively inexpensive but will increase the drama of the art. The lighting in our homes changes throughout the day, and you might not always be able to see your artwork. 

There is a reason that artwork in museums is always adequately lit so you, the viewer, can experience it the way it was intended to be seen. If you have more than one piece, consider track lighting on the ceiling. 

No Wrong Way:


In the end, it is your decision on how you want to display the artwork you have collected over time. You can use one or all of these ideas in a single home, but be sure not to overwhelm yourself and your guests with too many things to look at. Have space where the eye can rest, such as a wall with only one piece of artwork or an open space on the floor. 

Before choosing where you want to place your artwork, ensure that it is the proper size for the wall or shelf, you are placing it on. If it is too small or too large, it can draw unwanted attention and distract from its intended purpose. 

Make your home a place where you enjoy spending time and allow yourself to enjoy the small luxuries of getting that piece of artwork you’ve meant to put out on display.

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It doesn’t matter if you are interested in impressionists or contemporary abstracts; there is a place for your art in your home! Explore eight unique ways to display art in your home.
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Top Holiday Pet Hazards: How to Keep Your Pet Safe

The holiday season is a festive time to share with friends and family, but it can also pose a number of hazards for other members of your family—your beloved pets.


We only want the best for our furry friends, and taking a few preventive measures can ensure your dog or cat doesn’t get sick.

Winter Plants

Poinsettias are beautiful, festive plants used to decorate your home during the holidays. Although poinsettias are usually hyped as a poisonous plant, they are mildly toxic to animals. The following holiday plants are the ones you really need to watch for.

  • Christmas tree needles: Vacuum any fallen needles around your tree. Christmas tree needles aren’t digestible and could potentially puncture your pet’s gastrointestinal tract.
  • Holly: Holly is another plant commonly found in your home during the holidays. Ingesting either the leaves or berries could cause Fido to have digestive tract issues as they both contain soap-like chemicals called glycosides.
  • Mistletoe: Mistletoe is usually hung in a doorway to steal a smooch from your sweetheart. Make sure mistletoe is secured safely out of the reach of your pooch. This plant and its berries can also cause gastrointestinal or cardiovascular effects.
  • Lilies: All members of the Lilum genus are extremely toxic, especially for cats. It may not be a common winter plant, but lilies are commonly found in many floral bouquets. Ingesting just a small amount of petals or pollen can cause debilitating and possibly fatal acute kidney failure.

Festive Food

Holiday gatherings usually mean eating a lot of tasty food. It can be tempting to give little treats to your animal. However, many holiday treats, such as chocolate and candy, can be deadly. Chocolate contains substances called methylxanthines, which can be toxic to pets if ingested.

Other toxic foods and drinks to avoid include onions, garlic, milk, nuts (almonds, macadamia, walnuts), raisins, and xylitol (a sweetener found in gum, candy and baked goods). Are you still not sure which foods are safe? Try feeding your furry friend some healthy homemade treats and avoid feeding them any of these human foods.

Holiday Decorations

Top Holiday Pet Hazards KittenTop Holiday Pet Hazards Kitten

Holiday decorations may not appear to be hazardous, but some mischievous animals are attracted to shiny ornaments, tinsel, ribbons, and lights. If your pet is a chewer, keep all decorations and electrical cords far from their reach. Prevent your cat or dog from ingesting any ribbons or tinsel, as it can be a choking hazard and even twist in their intestines, posing the need for emergency surgery.

If you have a live Christmas tree in your home, the water located at the base of the tree could also be harmful to your cat or dog. It can contain fertilizers and bacteria, which can upset their stomach if ingested.

The key to keeping your four-legged family members safe is prevention. Keep any hazardous food or decorations in a separate room. If you are away from home, keep your animal confined to a room or crate.

If your pet is injured or poisoned, contact your veterinarian immediately or call poison control for emergency assistance:

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center – 888-426-4435 ($65 consultation fee)

Pet Poison Hotline – 800-213-6680 ($39 per incident fee)

More Pet Links

Top 5 Apps for Pet Owners

Help Fluffy or Fido Stay Healthy with Homemade Pet Treats

Appreciation of Man’s Best and Oldest Friend (Infographic)

How to Find a Veterinarian

Get Your Apartment Ready to Bring Home a Kitten

Photo Credit: Cristina Cheatwood; Shutterstock / Sue McDonald




How Much Do Utilities Cost in a Studio Apartment?

For someone looking for a cheap and easy living situation, studio apartments are a great alternative. If you don’t spend a lot of time at home and don’t have a lot of stuff, studio apartments offer a reasonable place to live at a reasonable price to crash, eat simple meals and get ready in the morning, especially for singles and students.

Aside from the lower rent, studio apartments can be more affordable with lower utility costs, as well. But how much do you actually save? How much is electricity for a studio apartment? How much is heating and cooling? What’s the difference in other utilities?

While studio apartments are technically any apartment with a single room (plus bathroom and kitchenette), they can vary from the smallest of living spaces to convertible studios to giant loft apartments. For our purposes, a studio apartment is the standard plan type, which in the U.S. averages between about 500 and 600 square feet.


If your apartment has building-wide radiator heating, consider yourself lucky. In most circumstances, your cost for this will be zero as it will be part of your rent.

If you have forced-air heating from an electric furnace or hot water boiler, that will be a big chunk of your electric bill during winter months if you live in a colder climate.

Fortunately, it won’t take as much to heat your small space. Depending on how cold it is outside and how well insulated your apartment is, in a space this small, an average of about $50 per month of your electricity bill will come from winter heating.

Not many studio apartments are heated by gas heat, even if your cook top is. While gas heat can be more efficient, the savings at this scale are negligible. You’ll still pay about $50 per winter month for heating, it will just come from a different bill.

Air Conditioning

In most of the U.S., air conditioning is only used between three and five months a year. And even then, with the exception of major heat waves, you can choose to not use AC at all and move the air in your apartment with a fan. In a studio apartment, you can really cool down your entire place with one oscillating table fan.

But if you do choose to use your air conditioning, it’s either coming from a forced-air unit (central air) or a window unit. Both use electricity to run. The average cost of running an air conditioner in a typical house is about about $120 a month. For the size of a studio, imagine about a third or fourth of that, say around $30-40 per month added to your electric bill during the summer with central forced air.

Window and wall AC units make a lot of noise and blow a lot of air, both of which take a lot of electricity (and often isn’t well insulated). When it all shakes out, a window unit will cost close to the same as central air. For your room size, figure about $30-40 per month in the summer, as well.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a ceiling fan in your studio, your cooling costs will go way, way down. And for those in a warm climate, your savings in heating will probably be offset by your cost in cooling.


Aside from the costs of heating and cooling, you’ll also probably use less electricity in a studio apartment simply due to having fewer electronic items in use. You have fewer lights, most likely only one television and smaller appliances in an efficiency kitchen.

Depending on your personal use, how energy efficient your lights and appliances are and how careful you are about turning them off when not in use, your electricity bill can vary, but not too widely. Some estimates of a typical apartment average (without heating and cooling) around $65. With the smaller footprint of a studio, it may be even cheaper.

Internet, cable, water and more

For nearly all other utilities, you’re going to pay the same amount regardless of how big or small your apartment.

Whether you’re in a spacey two-bedroom or in your studio, you’ll probably have one shower, one bathroom sink and one kitchen sink. Depending how long you take in the shower and if you have a dishwasher, an average monthly apartment water bill is around $40.

Similarly, you’ll have one internet provider and one television requiring cable service (and possibly one landline connection). Depending on if you have basic cable and an average internet speed or all the premium channels and high-speed internet packages, the average cable and internet bundle bill can come in around $100-$150 per month.

Even if you’ve cut the cable cord, the cost of internet plus Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now are going to run you about the same (unless you’re borrowing all the passwords from friends).

There are also several other utilities that contribute to your overall monthly budget. Cooking gas, if you have it, can be around $10 a month. Trash and recycling, if you pay for it, can run around $10 monthly. And depending on your building, items like sewer and parking can add to your final tab.

Varied costs by geography

The total cost of utilities for an apartment can vary widely by what you have and what you use. Heating and cooling can fluctuate depending on your latitude. Your cable and internet can differ greatly depending on how much TV you want to watch. A simple thing like switching out incandescent bulbs for LEDs can lower your electric bill. Electricity has different costs in different states, and there are tricks you can do to save on your utilities anywhere.

And of course, a major factor is cost of living in different cities. The average utility bill for any sized apartment in Dallas is $139.29, while in Philly it’s $150.06, so the best thing to do is research in your area.

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10 Things to Know About Living in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is a great place to live with more than 130 distinct neighborhoods, excellent dining and entertainment venues and one of the most diverse population’s in the nation. Many people think that everyone in D.C. is a lobbyist or a bureaucrat. While politics is a prevailing part of the culture, Washington is more than just a government town.

Recognized for its top-notch colleges, non-profit associations, high-tech and biotech companies and healthcare facilities, Washington D.C. offers opportunities and impressive cultural experiences.

1. One of the nation’s strongest job markets

As the capital city, Washington has historically ranked as one of the strongest job markets in the U.S. D.C. area residents typically work for the federal and state governments, universities and hospitals, government and private contractors, information technology companies, law firms, business and finance companies, non-profit organizations, hotels and tourist attractions.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, long-term projections predict that the job market will stabilize and continue to grow in the coming years.

2. It is pricey to live here

The cost of living in Washington D.C. is higher than the U.S. average, especially high housing costs. On average, you’ll find a one-bedroom apartment for about $2,400 and a two-bedroom apartment in D.C. for around $3,200 a month depending on the neighborhood. Both of these prices are considerably higher than the national average.

Living in the city is more costly than in the suburbs. When making a decision of where to live, it’s important to consider the stress of commuting and the cost of public transportation. D.C. has a good transit system, but the Metro is one of the most expensive subway systems in the country with prices ranging from $2.25 to $6 for a one-way ride. D.C. sales tax is relatively low at six percent. A beer at a bar will cost $8 while a meal at a sit-down restaurant will set you back $35-50, on average.

Evening traffic overview in Washington D.C. Evening traffic overview in Washington D.C.

3. D.C. has some of the worst traffic in the nation

Traffic has to be one of the more frustrating things about living in Washington D.C. Rush hour lasts for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. There are too many tourists who don’t know the roads. There are traffic circles that are confusing. But there are also plenty of public transportation options.

However, if you live in the city, it’s pretty easy to get around. Many areas are easily walkable.

4. Washington is bike-friendly

The nation’s capital is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S.

Capital Bikeshare was the first bike-share program in the country and allows people to use a bicycle to easily get around the busy urban areas. In recent years the city has expanded bike lanes across the city. With many parks and green spaces, D.C. residents enjoy bicycling for recreation as well as transportation.

Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

5. Many free things to do

Washington D.C.’s most famous landmarks are free to visitors. National memorials dedicated to the country’s founding fathers and war heroes are aplenty. The Smithsonian museums and many others exhibit a wide range of historic artifacts ranging from dinosaur fossils to early spacecraft to modern art and technology.

All branches of the armed forces offer free concerts throughout the summer and a variety of festivals are also held throughout the year. In addition, as home to 175 foreign embassies, D.C. has endless opportunities to celebrate cultures from around the world.

6. Diverse population

Washington is much more diverse than the average U.S. city. with a wide variety of people from different ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, religions and economic levels.

Many residents are transplants who moved to the nation’s capital to work for the government, a law firm or a non-profit organization. Most are highly educated and ambitious to get ahead in their field or to make a difference in the community. In recent years, the population has been growing with an influx of young people who enjoy the city lifestyle.

Row houses in Washington D.C. Row houses in Washington D.C.

7. Centrally located on the east coast

Washington D.C. is centrally located on the east coast within an easy drive to cities including Baltimore, Philadelphia and Richmond, the Chesapeake Bay or Atlantic coast or the mountains in western Maryland or Virginia. The region offers a wide range of places to visit and things to do. Getaways are endless.

8. Great live music and theatre

Washington D.C. attracts some of the nation’s top talent to perform at its venues. Theatergoers enjoy performances at the Kennedy Center, the National Theater, the Warner Theatre, Arena Stage, Fords Theatre and other theaters. The Capital One Arena, Constitution Hall, the 9:30 Club and other venues around town hold concerts throughout the year.

In summer, free concerts are held in various neighborhoods throughout the city. The Capitol grounds hosts its annual concerts for Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. The National Mall is periodically used for special events that include live music.

9. Washington loves its sports teams

D.C. sports fans are dedicated to their home teams. The Washington Nationals are a member of the Eastern Division of the MLB’s National League and have a state-of-the-art ballfield built in 2008. Washington Football plays at FedEx Field and has long had a strong following. The Capitals ice hockey and DC United soccer games are fun to watch at the Capital One Arena.

Washington D.C. Capital Hill at night.Washington D.C. Capital Hill at night.

10. Endless ways to volunteer

People flock to Washington D.C. to make a difference. There are hundreds of non-profit organizations that are in constant need of volunteers to help with fundraising events and the daily operations to help promote their cause.

You’ll find something to love about living in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is a great city with endless opportunities to learn new things and take in our nation’s history and culture. Whether you prefer a quiet residential area or a bustling urban community, you’ll find a neighborhood that fits your budget and lifestyle.




8 Simple Pool Rules for a Fun and Safe Summer

Summer is still officially one month away, but swimming pools everywhere will be opening this Memorial Day weekend. Sure, the summer is beach season, but at your apartment community pool, there’s no risk of painful jellyfish stings and hidden dangers lurking in the sand.

So to prepare you for the months ahead, here are eight pieces of advice to help you make the most of pool season before it’s too late!

As cliche as it may sound, we must remind you to keep safety first. Every pool has its own set of rules that need to be followed. They should be clearly posted in the pool area. You, your children and guests should become familiar with the rules to avoid being banned for silly things like splashing, diving or excessive cannonballing. Most importantly, never leave children in the pool unattended – not even for a quick run to the bathroom. Stay in the shallow end of the pool if you have to.

Read more: Practice Proper Pool Etiquette

Alta San Marcos Apartments in San Marcos, CAAlta San Marcos Apartments in San Marcos, CA
Alta San Marcos Apartments in San Marcos, CA

Come prepared

Life vests, towels, sunscreen, flip flops, sunglasses and a fully charged phone are a must. But bring some fun stuff, too. Foam noodles, inflatable floats and beach balls will all enhance your fun in the sun.

Waterford at Superstition Springs Apartments in Mesa, AZWaterford at Superstition Springs Apartments in Mesa, AZ
Waterford at Superstition Springs Apartments in Mesa, AZ

Be social

The pool is a common place for neighbors to chill out over the summer. So grab your beach towel and get your mingle on! Take a walk around the pool and finally introduce yourself to your neighbors. You never know who you might meet!

Read more:
How to Hang Out in Your Apartment CommunityMeet the Neighbors: Why It’s Smart to Make the Effort

Echo Apartments in Austin, TXEcho Apartments in Austin, TX
Echo Apartments in Austin, TX

Check if there’s a lifeguard

Some communities will schedule a dedicated person on-site while others will not. Whether or not there is someone on duty, you’ll need to keep an extra close eye on what’s going on around you. If you or or children don’t know how to swim, look into getting lessons this summer. And while you’re at it, see if you can find a free CPR training course in your area.

Laketown Wharf Apartments in Panama City Beach, FLLaketown Wharf Apartments in Panama City Beach, FL
Laketown Wharf Apartments in Panama City Beach, FL

Play water games

Tag, Marco Polo, volleyball and racing each other are all fun ways to enjoy yourself during pool time. Play fairly, and no cheating!

Encantada at Dove Mountain Apartments in Tucson, AZEncantada at Dove Mountain Apartments in Tucson, AZ
Encantada at Dove Mountain Apartments in Tucson, AZ

Note where drains, pipes and other openings are

Children should stay away from any parts of the pool that have suction features.

Towers at TPC Apartments in San Antonio, TXTowers at TPC Apartments in San Antonio, TX
Towers at TPC Apartments in San Antonio, TX

Clean up after yourself

Some pools are strict about no eating and drinking on the premises. If you happen to break this rule (which we do not encourage), at least pick up your trash and don’t leave anything behind. The pool area is a reflection of the residents and you don’t want to be the reason it looks unsightly. You know better.

Read more: Ways to Keep Your Neighborhood Beautiful

15777 Quorum Apartments in Addison, TX15777 Quorum Apartments in Addison, TX
15777 Quorum Apartments in Addison, TX

Use it or lose it

Unfortunately, pool season doesn’t last forever. In many communities, Labor Day weekend will be your last chance to take a dip until next May. If you ever find yourself bored, broke and looking for something to do, grab a towel and head down to the pool!

Happy swimming!