Banks have sold the idea of homeownership as being an integral part of the American Dream. And, why not – having a piece of land and an abode to call our own is alluring. No more fighting with landlords and inconsiderate neighbours. No more questionable neighbourhoods and badly-maintained rentals.
Shortly after moving in, though, the honeymoon ends. From the first big maintenance bill to the cost of heating in winter, there’s no doubt about it – owning a home ain’t cheap.
(1) Make your home energy-efficient
All it takes is a cold snap or a heat wave to understand how pricey heating/cooling can be. To avoid paying hundreds more per month than necessary, start by searching for drafts.
Most often, you’ll find these leaks around windows and doors. However, you’ll also find them in attics, basements, and even around electrical fixtures. Run a lit candle around suspect areas – if it flickers, you found a draft.
Once you find problem areas, seal them up. Apply weather stripping or caulking to windows. Install a door sweep on problem doors, or replace it with a storm door. If the attic/basement is the culprit, install or upgrade insulation. Finally, if you find a draft around an electrical outlet, replace the current gaskets with one that is draft-proof.
After tightening up these leaks, turn your attention to your household’s electricity use. Replace all incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs) or LEDs. The initial cost of both is higher, but they will quickly pay dividends. CFLs use a third the energy of an incandescent, but last 8 to 15 times longer. LEDs are even better, as they use less than a fifth the power of incandescents, and boast a lifespan 20 times as long.
(2) Install a programmable thermostat
All the weather stripping in the world won’t save you if you keep forgetting to turn the heat down. Take your faulty memory out of the equation by installing a programmable thermostat.
As the name suggests, this thermostat allows you to automate changes in the climate control. This feature turns down the heat/air con at set times, like before you leave for work. Likewise, you can have it turn on 30-60 minutes before you arrive home.
By streamlining this aspect of your life, you’ll save both time and money. According to energy.gov, turning down your thermostat 7-10°F can save you 10% annually on your climate control bills. Not a bad return for such a simple step!
(3) Get a home warranty
In 2011, a white paper released by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that builders constructed 44% of the nation’s houses before 1970. Today, that number is almost certainly higher. With roughly half the population living in houses nearly 50 years old, maintenance costs have become a serious concern.
If you live in one of these homes, its systems and appliances are more prone to breakdowns. According to ReviewHomeWarranties.com, those in 20-year-old homes can expect to spend an average of $1,732/year on maintenance. In a 50-year-old house, that number jumps to $2,165.
If you find yourself in this situation, consider getting a home warranty. Penny-pinchers needn’t worry, as you can find contracts as cheap as $200/year. Factoring in a higher-than-normal service fee of $120/visit, five repairs per year means your bill would come to $800. That’s a significant savings over going it alone!
(4) Keep your deep freezer full
Buying in bulk has its advantages. Not only can you get a lower price per unit on the food you already eat, but it can save energy. How, exactly? Let us explain – when you put food in your deep freeze, it freezes solid (duh). When you open the door, super-chilled air leaks out.
In a half-empty freezer, it has to work harder to restore its default temperature (usually 0°F). However, when your freezer is full, the frozen food helps maintain the default internal temperature. This fact reduces the work the compressor needs to go, saving energy.
(5) Fix leaky faucets ASAP
The constant drumming of a leaky faucet can be annoying enough to keep an insomniac up all night. Even if this doesn’t describe you, though, you should still take action as soon as you spot them.
Depending on the nature of the leak, it could cost you $10-$50 per month. To fix this on your own, find out the type of faucet you have first. No matter the part, you can get a replacement at a plumbing supply store for less than $20. Remember to shut off the water supply to the sink before beginning work.
Are you intimidated by the process? Hire a professional to do it for you. If you have a home warranty, call your firm, and they’ll send a qualified plumber to get the job done.
(6) Kill your cable subscription
We all grew up watching stations like Nickelodeon, ESPN, and CNN. However, with cable company packages offering less value than ever before, more people are cutting the cord.
A new Nielsen survey revealed that cord-cutting has grown by 48% in the past eight years. In that period, 16 million Americans dropped their cable/satellite subscription.
Why pay $85 per month for cable when you only watch a fraction of the offered channels? Despite recent premium increases, Netflix only costs $12.99 per month. You can access sports through league OTT services, or DAZN for $19.99 per month.
There’s little reason to remain on cable these days.
(7) Shop around for better auto/home insurance deals
When you first bought your home, everything was a blur. Somewhere between paying the closing costs and receiving the keys, you signed your home insurance papers. But how great a deal was it?
If you got yours through your mortgage broker, it was likely an arrangement of convenience. Chances are you can find a better deal. When the terms of your original contract are set to expire, start shopping for a new policy.
Outline your coverage needs, then find insurers that meet them. Get quotes from all companies, then compare each not just on price, but customer service and reputation.
After picking the winner, start the policy before the end of the old one to avoid lapses in coverage. Also, notify your lender to direct funds in escrow to your new plan.
(8) Dry your clothes on the line
Your dryer is one of the most energy-hungry appliances in your home. According to analysis done by TheSpruce.com, the average family spends a little over $100/month drying clothes. That doesn’t sound like much, but it is just one component of the entire household.
By line drying your clothes, not only will you dramatically lower this expense, but you’ll get fresher smelling clothes.
(9) Learn basic home repair/maintenance skills
Why spend money when you could take matters into your own hands? If you’re handy, take time to learn some basic DIY home repair skills. YouTube and other tutorial sites are a great place to start, but we also recommend attending how-to clinics put on by major hardware store chains.
Cement these skills by volunteering with charities like Habitat for Humanity. Soon, things, like fixing toilets and replacing baseboard, will become second nature, saving you hundreds per service call.
(10) Buy second-hand whenever possible
Our society is awash in stuff. Despite this fact, we still flock to the malls each weekend to shop for new housewares. Meanwhile, second-hand stores like Goodwill are stuffed full of gently-used items that cost a fraction of their modern equivalents.
Not only will you save money, but it can also give your home a retro feel your friends will love.