How to make your apartment 'smarter' without breaking the bank

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How to make your apartment 'smarter' without breaking the bank

These days, it feels like inanimate objects are getting “smarter” by the minute, with the very homes we live in being no exception. While being a renter on a budget can limit the extent of intelligence you can add to your home, there are a few things you can do to hack together the futuristic and homey feel your apartment deserves.

Stay focused

To make sure everything works together, it’s important to try to keep all of your smart home purchases within the same operating system and realm of compatibility. For example, before you decide between Google Home and Amazon Alexa, make sure there are compatible devices to cover all the needs you’d like to address with your technology.

Search for alternatives

The first thing your smart home needs is the thing that ties it all together: your smart assistant. If you’re looking for a smart assistant but not ready to shell out $100 or more for the full package, you have other options.

For example, the Echo Dot is the “Uber X” version of the Amazon Echo. It costs half the price, and has almost all of the same functionalities. The biggest difference is that the Echo comes attached to a speaker, and the Dot doesn’t. You can either hook it up to speakers you already have, or use the small speaker that comes inside. Once it’s set up, you can use the Echo Dot to play music, make calls, set alarms and timers, check the weather or your favorite sports scores, all with simple voice commands. Plus, almost all of the devices that are compatible with Alexa work with the Echo Dot as well.

On another note, I’ve always thought that the day I had a robot vacuum would be the day I knew I had made it. Frankly, I still haven’t made it to a place where I’m ready and able to drop hundreds of dollars on a Roomba, though. I did some research and learned that this doesn’t mean I can’t get a robot vacuum friend of my very own.

As it turns out, there are actually a few budget-friendly alternatives to the Roomba that get the job done while saving a bunch of money up front and a bunch of time moving forward.

Start small

When you’re on a budget, try to remember that you’re just starting out and sometimes it’s okay to start slowly. As you make your way up to the smart home of your dreams, you can start by tweaking the little things around your place.

You might want to try a smoke alarm battery that you can use in your existing smoke alarm to get a notification if the alarm goes off or runs out of battery, or a smart plug that saves electricity. Not ready for a smart TV just yet? Try a smart TV stick, like the Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire, first.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

The best part about smart home devices is that you can always add new ones to the mix to change things up or add more functionalities. Don’t think that you have to make all of your purchases at once in order to make your apartment into a smart home.

You can start with a smart assistant and one or two integrated devices for it, or just with a smart TV stick. See how you like these upgrades, how they fit into your routine, what other things you could see yourself using in conjunction with the updates you've made and go from there. Who knows? In a few years you might just have created the perfect smart apartment.

Ally Greer is an expert in — and perpetual student of — renter’s rights, city living and other things young professionals should know. Outside of that, she's trying to figure out adulthood in the tech capital of the world while still finding time for comedy, baseball and calling her mom.

Image: Zinkevych