There once was a woman who found the apartment of her dreams. It was the right price, closer to friends and family, and a huge upgrade from the apartment she currently lived in. But there was a catch: Her lease wasn't up for another few months and the thought of breaking it was making her break out in hives.

If you're one of the 100 million Americans who rent, you're probably familiar with signing a lease—but you might not be as familiar with the clauses in the contract you actually agreed to.

Leases vary by state and property, so if you're looking to get out of one, the first thing to do is reexamine your contract. The next step is to consider the consequences of breaking it. Landlords can sue you for missed rent you've agreed to pay, which can mean additional legal costs, and a dent in your credit score if the outcome isn't in your favor. A landlord-tenant dispute can also make it harder to get approved for a new place when you're ready to move.

But before you completely give up on getting out early, there are a few options worth exploring.

Dig out that lease and check for the following:

  • A subletting clause

Some leases allow for subletters, which means if you can find a suitable person to rent your space from you for the same price—and potentially take over your lease when it expires, you're golden. The next step is to talk to your landlord about what they require and/or need to approve a sublease in order for you to start searching for someone to take over your place.

  • A 30-day notice clause

You may think you have a yearly lease, but if you read the fine print, it might be a month-to-month rental that only requires thirty days notice to move out. If this is the case, contact your landlord in writing with your 30-day notice (you should also check to see if the notice must be accordance with the first or last day of the month).

  • An early termination clause

Sometimes, landlords include a clause that lets you out of your lease early in cases of unexpected hardship. As Moneycrashers notes, this can include anything from losing your job to medical emergencies.

Have a conversation with your landlord:

Feel out your landlord by explaining your situation in soft terms (you're thinking of relocating and you're curious how flexible they are when it comes to an earlier lease expiration date). Ask whether they would be open to it, what kind of advance notice would be optimal for them, or if they'd be willing to consider an "out" if you found a suitable tenant to rent the apartment. They may welcome the chance to rent the apartment out earlier than expected, depending on when you're looking to move out. If they seem amenable, follow up in writing with your proposed dates.

Find a suitable tenant:

If your landlord agrees to let you out of your lease on the condition you find someone to replace you, you still have some work to do. It's time to do some glamour shots of your place, create a landlord approved listing and spread the word on social media. Be sure to include any stipulations your landlord will require—from credit checks to security deposits—so your prospective replacement comes prepared and ready to impress.

Check for breaches of contract:

Maybe you're ready to move because your apartment is unlivable. On your lease, you should find the clause wherein the landlord agrees to provide a "warranty of habitability"—or a safe, habitable environment that doesn't negotiate your well-being. Breaches of such an agreement may range from repeated infestations, mold issues, lack of heat or plumbing problems. You need to have proof that you've previously complained about the issue and that your landlord has been remiss in his or her duty to rectify the situation. Take pictures, make sure your complaints or requests are in writing. You may need to call on this evidence if your landlord does take you to court over your broken lease. For more on your rights as a renter and landlord requirements, check out this detailed breakdown.

If you're still out of luck, make your landlord an offer:

If breaking your lease isn't looking promising, prepare to fork over some cash—but hopefully not as much as you think. Depending on your relationship with your landlord, you still might have a shot at negotiating a deal. You could offer your security deposit or a set sum that benefits your landlord and gets you out of paying rent for the next several months on a place you're not prepared to live in. You could also see if your landlord is open to a long-term payment plan that would allow you to cover the lost rent in smaller deposits.

Ultimately, when it comes to breaking a lease, you have to weigh your options and how much you're willing to risk and spend. As for the woman who found her dream home (ahem, this writer), she ended up making a deal with her landlord and forfeiting her security deposit plus a month's rent in order to resolve her old lease. It was a financial hit in the short-term but now that she's settled into her new place she has zero regrets.

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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.