Hidden Costs of Owning a Home

Our friends at Zillow recently published an article on their blog revealing some shocking numbers about the actual costs of owning a home. Denver, Phoenix, Atlanta, Orlando and Charlotte are cities featured in this study and all have additional home costs averaging $9,000 per year!

Living in an apartment home eliminates many of these hidden costs with lower utility bills and nearly non-existent maintenance expenses, still allowing renters to live in prime locations. To save yourself some serious dough, end your search for a new place to live at a Camden Community near you! Read more from Zillow’s study here.

You Could Spend More Than $9,000 Per Year in Hidden Costs & Maintenance Expenses | Zillow Blog

It’s a common problem: First-time home buyers often focus solely on the sticker price of a house when deciding how much they can afford, and then are shocked by all of the other costs associated with homeownership. However, these extra or hidden costs are often the most stressful part about owning a home.To help buyers better prepare, Zillow and Thumbtack identified a variety of common home expenses — both unavoidable and optional — that often get overlooked during initial budgeting, and calculated what homeowners could spend each year to cover these costs in their area. While these extra expenses might seem small, they quickly add up, costing the average U.S. homeowner more than $9,000 per year.

Beyond principal and interest

Let’s start with the unavoidable. A mortgage calculator can help you estimate your monthly mortgage payment, but if you’re only calculating principal and interest, then you could be underestimating the actual cost of homeownership. That’s because property taxes and homeowners insurance are added to the monthly payment as well. Additionally, while you pay utilities as a renter, if you’re moving into a bigger house, your heat and electric bills will likely increase.

Maintenance costs

Home maintenance is another common expense many buyers overlook. Using Thumbtack data, we identified costs for five popular home maintenance projects: housecleaning, pressure washing, yard care, carpet cleaning and gutter cleaning. It’s helpful to know how much these types of projects typically cost in your area so you can plan accordingly, even if you, like many homeowners, prefer a DIY approach for these projects (and if that’s the case, remember to budget for trips to the hardware store to buy a lawn mower or other tools).

Location, location, location

As with all things real estate, these extra costs can vary significantly by region. In Boston, homeowners can pay nearly $14,000 annually for these combined hidden costs and maintenance expenses — the highest in the markets analyzed. Compare that to Phoenix, where homeowners pay almost half ($7,550) for the same costs.

Curious how other areas stack up? Check out the graphic below for a breakdown of the 15 metros analyzed in the report.

Hidden Costs

Easy and Inexpensive Lunch Hack for a Busy Work Week

Are you trying to be health conscious? Spending too much money on lunch? Have you ever thought of meal prepping? If so, I am here to help guide you in the right direction on how to meal prep to make your life easier, save money and overall, be a healthier you!

We all know how the typical lunch time goes. It comes way too soon, you can’t decide what you want or where from and it never lasts long enough. I have always tried to prepare my meals ahead of time by usually making dinner the night before and having leftovers the following day, but what happens if you don’t want to cook ever other night and eat the same thing over and over? Usually you end up spending money out and eating unhealthy because you’re making such a hasty decision on the spot.

Let’s think about it for a minute-

An average lunch costs about $10, right?


Now, let’s say you are eating out 4 times a week.

You end up spending an average of $160 a month!

And most likely not eating the healthiest and/or best thing for you. What if I told you that you could meal prep and be healthy for about $15 per week? Do you think I’m crazy? I’m not, I promise.

Here is how I meal prep for about $15 per week:

  1. Make a list

This is crucial to make sure you get the items you need. I typically shop at a few different places to get these items. I make sure my list is categorized by the way my grocery store is laid out to make my trip more efficient. *Tip: If you want to eat clean, stay on the outside isles of the grocery store. (IE. Produce, Dairy, and Meats)

  1. Don’t get too crazy fancy, Stick with what you know

MealPrepMondayFoodBoneless Skinless Chicken Breasts – I buy mine from Sam’s Club at $1.88 a pound (Yes, I know it’s an amazing price!). I end up purchasing about 6 pounds of chicken for roughly $11.30. Mind you, I am one person and typically 6 pounds of chicken would last me about roughly a week and a half.

Broccoli – I also buy at Sam’s Club, broccoli florets all ready to go in a 2 pound bag for $3.98. I steam the broccoli in my microwavable steamer basket in batches until the entire bag is cooked. If you want to switch up your method of preparation, you can also sauté your broccoli in a pan with garlic and olive oil.

Sweet Potatoes – Luckily, my favorite grocery store carries George Foods-Petite Sweet Potatoes 1.5 pounds in a steam bag for about $4.99. And who said meal prep was hard?

Raspberries and Strawberries – Any type of berry is a great low calorie and low sugar snack. Luckily, my local grocery store had a BOGO sale and I was able to get a container of both for $5!

*To make the above even cheaper, you can always switch sweet potatoes for a bulk of brown rice or Quinoa. Personally, I just love sweet potatoes!*

RubbermaidTakeAlongsTupperware/Plastic Containers – They don’t call me the container queen for nothing! Luckily, I have enough containers to last a lifetime but if you are just getting into prepping and are in need of containers, I recommend Rubbermaid TakeAlongs. They are microwave safe, dishwasher safe and reusable. I was lucky enough to find a value pack of 62 pieces at Sam’s Club for $19.98!






3.  Prepare and shake things up with some spices!

Now that you have what you need, let’s spice things up! Don’t be afraid to try new and different spices from the grocery store. Some of my favorites for chicken are McCormick’s- Grill Mates Marinade packets in Mojito Lime, Baja Citrus, Backyard Brew, Garlic, Herb & Wine and Zesty Herb, just to name a few. I typically will divide my chicken up and marinade each bunch with a different flavor. You can also play around with different vinegar and oils along with salad dressings.

Make sure to cook all your food in one session. Place an equal amount of each item into the containers. I typically cut my chicken up into pieces before marinating. Once cooked, I add the following to each container:

1-cup of cooked chicken

½ cup of sweet potato

1-1 ½ cups of broccoli

You can also even it all out and eyeball it. It is a little time consuming but totally worth it. It usually takes me a total of two hours but in the end, the results are astonishing! *Don’t hesitate to freeze meals for the following week!

As you can see below, I was able to make 10 lunches in two hours!


I can grab my lunch in the morning on my way to work at Camden Westchase Park, save money and eat healthy throughout the week!

For further reading about food prep,check out this Simply Camden blog post!


DIY Personalized Stationary

Snail mail may not be the most popular form of communication nowadays, but there is something still exciting and almost romantic about getting a handmade card in the mail! Even better when you send out your thank-you notes and such on your very own handmade stationary! Plus, a personalized stationary set is a very simple and affordable gift to make for newlyweds, birthdays, you name it. The example I used in this personalized stationary post is for a wedding.

All the crafting essentials! And besides the cards- all can be used for another project!

All the crafting essentials! Besides the cards, everything can be used for other projects!

Here’s all you need: Tip: Any of these supplies can be found at your local craft store. I buy frequently from Paper Source, but I can’t ignore a $1 stamp bin at Michael’s either. This is a bit of an investment, but if you enjoy doing this, everything except the paper can be used again!

  • Cardstock- I prefer folded cards so something can be decorative on the outside and sentiments can be written inside. For this example I used Sage Green to match the bride’s colors in size A2.
  • Matching envelopes in size, but color doesn’t have to match; it can also be an accent or complimentary color!
  • Paper for lining; I chose a heavy weighted fine paper but it could be anything from plain card stock to patterned wrapping paper to the Sunday newspaper comics- think creatively! For this example I used paper with green leaves and silver birds- just the right pop of color and pattern.
  • Stamp for décor- flowers, a cute “hello” or just “thank you”! For this example I used a bird stamp- sense a theme? The bride loves birds!
  • Initial stamp. For this example I used a W.
  • Envelope liner templates
  • Embossing powder
  • Versamark ink pad– a clear water mark ink
  • Heat tool– no not a hair dryer!
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Tape runner or double sided tape
Ready to stamp?

Ready to stamp?

It’s Embossing time!

Don’t be intimidated by heat embossing! It’s super easy, fun, faster than you think and creates a lovely raised and shiny image.

  • Start off stamping your décor stamp in the Versamark ink, being sure to cover it completely with the ink.
  • Stamp straight down applying pressure to the front of the folded card.
  • Pop off the stamp, and you should see a faint, watermark image of your stamp on the card.


Sparkle baby! (But note: this isn’t glitter it’s embossing powder!)

Sparkle baby! (But note: this isn’t glitter it’s embossing powder!)

  • Place the card in your tidy tray or on a piece of scratch paper and sprinkle the embossing powder over the image liberally, and then tap off the excess.
    Tip: If loose powder is still on the card where it shouldn’t be, lightly flick the back of the card. You can then put the leftover powder back into your embossing container so there’s no waste!

Tip: Keep your stamps clean and all your supplies will last you- I have had this ink pad and powder for over a year and have used them on several projects!


Be careful it’s hot hot hot!

Be careful it’s hot hot hot!

  • Turn on your heat tool and hover about an inch from the card. Once you start to see it become melted, raised and shiny, keep it moving until the entire image has just lost its gritty powder look. Tip: it IS possible to burn paper so watch as you emboss!
YAY mass production!

YAY mass production!

Now, form an assembly line! Stamp and apply powder to several cards or envelopes, line them up (carefully not to smudge!) and then heat emboss in a row.

I heat embossed all the birds onto the cards as well as the “W”s on the back flaps on the envelopes.




So stressful! NOT!

So stressful! NOT!

Now onto the liners!

  • Grab your envelope liner template (I’m using the A2 for these), and this is the secret: you trace it… Yup, that’s it! Trace with a pencil, then cut it out with scissors!
  • Now, either use your double sided tape or tape runner and apply on the top flap- in an upside “V” if you will.


Like so! With much talent and precision of course!

Like so! With much talent and precision of course!

  • Tuck your liner into the envelope all the way matching up the point of the flap with point of the liner (making sure the sticky line on the envelope is still exposed!). Apply pressure to make sure it all sticks together nice!






Wow! Doesn’t that just add a special pop of pattern and color to an otherwise boring envelope? This is a fine paper, but again- there are SO many possibilities of things you can line envelopes with: comics, your artwork, your kids’ artwork, newspapers, stamped paper…I could go on.



Here it is all together! If these are a gift, just stack up the cards and envelopes, and add a final touch with a bow!

Happy crafting!- <3 Jessica.

Follow me on Instagram @craftykiddoll!

For more creative things to do with paper, take a look at Simply Camden’s post: Wrap it Up!

Our happy little Camden family.

Welcome Home to Camden

Did you know that Austin has landed the title of Forbes’ Number 1 fastest growing cities in America for 4 years in a row? With that being said, on average 110 people move to Austin every day according to Austin Business Journal! I have the great pleasure of growing in this industry as a Camden employee. The best part of my job is getting to greet the 110 people daily and introduce them to an amazing style of living that we call living excellence. When you are planning such an exciting move to Austin, from North Austin to South Austin, or one mile closer to work to avoid 30 minutes of traffic, moving expenses consume your budget! On what seemed like the hottest day of the summer, July 31st with a high of 100 degrees, I moved into my very first Camden apartment. Here’s what I learned from my move!

First, friends are super important! I could not have moved without the help of my closest friends and their

I love my new kitchen!

I love my new kitchen!

trucks. In order to make moving faster, have your stuff ready to go and ready to throw in a truck. I decided to have just a few boxes and clothing baskets that I would fill up with the small miscellaneous items. This made my move super easy. I would quickly load up the baskets then unload in the new place and repeat.

What keeps everyone moving in 100 degree weather? Lots and lots of water! I kept a 32 pack of water in the fridge to keep everyone super hydrated. I also found that eating a heavy lunch made everyone tired! I decided to make a yummy lunch for a motivation to keep going. Maybe make that your ending goal.

Most importantly what I learned while moving is that coming home to a Camden apartment means coming home to perfection. I have lived in many apartments and I can honestly say I have never felt so at peace then I do with my apartment home. The maintenance team works around the clock to create a new home each time someone moves out and you move in. The accent colors are inviting and the kitchen appliances are high quality. The leasing staff was welcoming and eager to give me my keys. The best part of my new home is getting to share it with my Camden family, and that’s what I call living excellence!

Our happy little Camden family.

Our happy little Camden family.

My Experience with the Bikini Body Mommy Challenge

My badge of honor! This photo is for everyone to display proudly if they complete the challenge.

My badge of honor! This photo is for everyone to display proudly if they complete the challenge.

I just worked out for 90 days in a row! This is a miracle!! As far as working out, I have never been able to stick to anything for more than just a few days and I just finished my 1st 90 day Bikini Body Mommy challenge!

“Hi, Bikini Body Mommies” is the way Briana Christine, founder of Bikini Body Mommy (BBM), starts every workout routine.  Briana is a mother of three and lost over 100 pounds in a year after her 3rd child was born.  She began BBM to help motivate and inspire others to help to transform their bodies and live a healthier lifestyle.

On May 4th, Briana started her 4th FREE Bikini Body Mommy 90 day Challenge. The premise of the challenge is very simple:

  • It is FREE!!! All videos can be accessed via her website: bikinibodymommy.com or her YouTube Channel
  • All workouts are under 20 minutes! (Who can’t spare 20 minutes a day?)
  • Strength Training – Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • Cardio Workout – Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
  • Rest Day – Sunday!
  • Pictures and Measurements are taken every 15 days to see your progress
  • All you need is a heavy set of weights (I used 5 lbs, then upped them to 10 lbs later in the challenge), a timer and an exercise mat
  • Extra ab, maintenance and stretch routines are available for a small fee ($1.99 a month!)

Overall, the Bikini Body Mommy Challenge and healthy, clean, portion control eating helped me lose 20 pounds and 16 inches in 90 days. I feel healthier, stronger and more energetic!

I think I need to go shopping for some new clothes!

I think I need to go shopping for some new clothes!

Join me for the next Bikini Body Mommy Challenge on September 4th. In the meantime check out these Camden blogs to help you jump start your health: 30 Day Water Challenge and Jazzercise Ain’t Your Momma’s Workout!

For the Bookworms: Overdrive Library App

I am, to put it mildly, a voracious reader. I like anything from classics to NY Times Bestsellers to trashy vampire romances. The Kindle, and e-readers like it, has been a life changer for me, allowing me to purchase a new book literally the moment I finish another. What’s not to love? Well, I don’t love how much of my money goes to the Amazon Kindle Store every month. Isn’t there some magical place that would allow me to borrow books for a set period of time for free?

Over a million e-books to choose from! Screenshot from my Overdrive app.

Over a million e-books to choose from! Screenshot from my Overdrive app.

Enter the OverDrive Library App. If the Kindle was a life changer for me, this app is a life saver. It is exactly like it sounds: an app that plugs into over 30,000 libraries in 40+ countries, allowing members to login to their local library with their library card number (the only thing you need to use this app!) and borrow up to 5 e-books at a time for a two week lending period. There are over 1 million e-books to choose from! But, not just books: depending on your library’s chosen digital stock, this library app also has audiobooks and videos for you to download or stream.

Easily borrow books! Screenshot from my Overdrive app.

Easily borrow books! Screenshot from my Overdrive app.

The best part is, you can download books within the OverDrive app and read your e-books on any device, like your smart phone, tablet or even desktop, and it will remember your place. OR you can download OverDrive library e-books to your Kindle and read on a Kindle device or in a Kindle app. At the end of your two week lending period, you have the option to renew or return your e-book- just like the real library. It’s so simple! And it has saved me time and money without having to sacrifice my thirst for reading.

But don’t just take my word for it. Download the OverDrive Library App, set up your account and start reading!

Camden loves blogging about app recommendations. Read more about the iMovie App and the Top 3 Apps you Need Now!


Moving Day Tips You May Not Have Thought Of


I am moving. After the initial excitement of moving to a new community, (of course, it is a Camden) and a huge apartment home, came the dread of packing. This will be my fifth move since 2011. Between moving from a roommate situation, to being by myself, to moving in with my fiancé, I have acquired a lot of stuff. Our main focus for moving this time around is to purge as much as possible before going into a huge new space.

Continue reading

Glass of Water

30 Day Water Challenge: Are You Ready For It?

Summer season is officially here and with it comes the HEAT! The weather temperatures across the US are on the rise and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of relieve from this summer heat. With temperatures reaching in the upper 90’s and even the 100’s in some parts of the region, this is the time of year when water
consumption is most crucial. I can probably think of at least 10 other things that I would rather pick up and drink other than water, but water consumption is so important in extreme heat.

As we all know, water is so important for our health in so many ways. Water makes up about 2/3 of our bodies and we wouldn’t be able to survive without it. Each and every day our body loses water due to natural processes by our bodies so we must replenish the water loss by in taking water every day. This means we need to be drinking water even when we are not thirsty. Since I tend to gravitate towards anything other than water, I have challenged myself to a water challenge in order to ensure that I am drinking enough fluids throughout the day. I will admit, this looks a bit scary to me but I love the idea and concept behind it! We all need a little motivation to drink our daily water! So everyone grab their jug and let’s get it ready for our daily water challenge!

The water challenge is very simple. You challenge yourself to drink a gallon of water every day for the next 30 days. No sweetened or carbonated drinks are allowed. Zero alcohol is allowed. Come up with a drinking plan to get all of your water drank within the day. You don’t want to drink all of your water all at once, so divide your day up with the amount of water you will drink by designated times. That is why this jug is an awesome tool to gage your consumption throughout the day. You can mark your jug with goals and time frames from top to bottom so you can stay on track with your goal. Add a few fun motivational statements on your jug to keep you going as you work through the gallon!

water jug

Now you may be asking, what is the benefit to me drinking a gallon of water every day? Answer: Because it is healthy for you!

I understand that you are probably looking for a little more than that. We all realize that drinking water is the healthy choice but why should you give up the sweet tea, cokes, or alcohol? It is not easy and I am certainly not saying that it is or it will be, however, I do feel like the benefits of the water challenge are worth trying out! Most things that are new to us require adjustments, but then we get used to it and it becomes part of our routine.

1. Your bathroom sessions will be more pleasant. You will eliminate toxins from your body by frequent urination but you will also cleanse your colon with a perfect poop every morning.

2. Your skin will look and feel healthier. Ladies the wrinkles will begin to disappear and become less noticeable!

3. Weight loss! Who doesn’t love to lose a few pounds? It will not be any extreme weight loss; however, you will lose a few pounds during this challenge. Some people lose up to 10lbs within the 30 days.

4. Your body will thank you! Your body will feel better, look better, and function better!

5. If you look and feel better then you will certainly want to live better! You can live in excellence at one of our many Camden Apartment homes that are located across the country.


Summer is here and let’s face it… It is hot outside! Nothing is better than water on these hot summer days! So now is the perfect time to start and master this water challenge! Join me as we tackle this challenge together! Together we CAN do it! Are you up for the challenge?


Easy DIY Wall Collages Using Photos

I mentioned in a Wear + When post I previously wrote that I tend to have hard time figuring out how to decorate large wall spaces in my home. My last post was a DIY post on how to create large decorative fabric boards. One of my other go-to secrets? Wall collages.

I use these everywhere in my house. I love framed black and white photography, so that makes it easy to do. Of course, I have a huge collage of framed black and white wedding pictures that takes up a large wall in my dining/living area.photo collage

I probably invested the most time and money into creating this particular collage, since it is intended to highlight our wedding day. The frames pictured here are from Pottery Barn, and again, were a bit more of an investment. I was very specific about how I wanted these photos laid out, so I was very selective about which size and shape frames I purchased.

If you look closely, the smaller pictures on the outer edges of the collage sort of mirror each other. For example, one side features the bride more, while the other features the groom, then I put photos of us together in the center. I will say, hanging these and figuring out the spacing on them was a challenge, due to the fact that all of the frames are different shapes and sizes. Lucky for me, my husband is a very patient man, and spent a long time getting this hung just right for me!

The next photo collage I have in my home is a little more affordable, because you build on it over time. Every time we have some sort of life event (think maternity pictures, newborn pictures, Christmas pictures, 1st birthdays, etc.), I try to hire a professional photographer to do a quick little shoot so I can have those pictures added to an ever-growing wall collage in my hallway. Of course, a lot of people are much better with a camera than I am, and can take their own photos, have them printed in black and white, and achieve this same look while saving a few bucks!

Our house is set up so that off of the living area, there is one long hallway where all of the bedrooms are off of. I hate not having anything on those walls so I thought this was the perfect place to start this collage. As of right now, it features pictures from our maternity shoot with my daughter (we will have another maternity shoot coming up in September!), her newborn photography session, as well as a few pictures from a family session we did for our Christmas cards last year. I also hired a photographer to shoot my daughter’s first birthday party, so I have those pictures to add as well, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. This is probably my favorite collage in my home because it sort of feels like a timeline of our family, and it is so fun to walk down the hall and look at the progression of pictures.

photo3 photo4

All of the frames for this collage were purchased from West Elm. I chose these because they are square with a 5×7 photo size. The fact that they are square makes it easy to select the photos you want, without having to worry about the orientation (portrait or landscape) of the photo. All of the frames line up perfectly and I am able to choose whichever photos I want!

My go-to photo printing place is Mpix. Mpix allows you to upload whatever photos you want printed into separate albums (similar to Walgreen’s), and select what you would like to have printed. They have a huge range of sizes, and the photo quality is really great.

I have different types of wall collages all over my house. These are just the ones I have done of photos. Stay tuned for the second part of this post, which will feature a couple of other ways to decorate large walls using different types of collages! To read my Large Wall Decor post, click here.

xo, Loren

About Loren: Loren is one of our Simply Camden guest bloggers! She is a fashion blogger with a keen eye for home decor. She lives in Houston, TX with her husband and daughter and her two fur babies. Read more of her Bio here.







Did you know, the French celebrate an Independence Day, and that it is in the month of July? Although the day is different, the concept, and reasons are the same; if you find this to be as interesting as it was to me, then maybe you could appreciate this story




Eiffel Tower Picture : Yann Caradec from
Paris, France/ 14 July 2011

Would this be considered a “Cultural Divide”? The U.S emphasis and “cultural” symbolism of Independence has always been a “4th of July” celebration. I now have a different appreciation and of course, a different perspective. Maybe I missed it in my World History class but, I have never heard of this “Bastille Day”. This conversation came about, when I went to the mailbox today. There were a couple of flyers from a few different businesses marketing their promotions, using “Happy Bastille Day” printed on the front. Curiosity got the best of me, and here I am. Again, I had never heard of this day so, I felt the need2nd Basstille Day to know more and share with you a little world history, as well as shed some light on my own perspective. Here’s a little, of what I gathered in my own words about Bastille Day, and why it is important to the French.

In the late 1700’s, France was ruled by King Louis XIV. There was a “fortress”, called Bastille used as a prison. On July 14, 1789, the people of France stormed this monarchy and succeeded in liberating themselves from what was considered a “constitutional monarchy”. To this day, that particular revolutionary uprising represents Reconciliation, Unity, and the Pursuit of Liberty. Doesn’t that sound the same as why we celebrate the 4th of July? Did you know there are over 50 cities in the U.S. that celebrate “Bastille Day” with military parades, French foods, music, and art.

                                                                                                                   Photo Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org


In fact, Camden has several properties located in some of these cities such as Houston, Baltimore, and Orlando, where if you are looking for something to do for a quick getaway vacation may be just the thing to celebrate. This celebration could last throughout the whole month of July depending on the city.