Congrats! You've signed your names on the dotted line and are officially living in your new, shared space. While owning a home is a major milestone, the cash outflow doesn't end when you close the sale. On top of your mortgage payment, you'll need to shell out for basic household operating costs and regular maintenance (not to mention unexpected repairs)—all of which can create a serious dent in your budget. But that doesn't mean you're doomed to a life filled with ramen noodle dinners in order to stay on track. Instead, follow this list of smart household habits that can help you save big, no scrimping required.
1. Keep Up With Routine Maintenance
It might seem like a nuisance at first, but proper upkeep around the house is one of the most important ways to cut unnecessary costs. After all, if you leave filters, gutters, water heaters and refrigerator coils unattended, you may end up shelling out thousands of dollars for repairs. Changing (or cleaning) AC and heating filters each month lowers your energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent, not to mention helps you breathe easier. Cleaning coils on the back of your refrigerator with a vacuum helps the compressor save energy, and can even increase the life span of your fridge. And at least once a year, you should clean the debris from the gutters and flush the water heater to remove built-up sediment. Even if these tasks require small costs up front, they'll definitely pay off in the long run.
2. Increase Energy Efficiency
In addition to regular maintenance, you should look into getting a home energy audit. The in-home assessment typically takes two to three hours, and the report gives suggestions that can help you save up to 30 percent on energy costs, whether through small steps like switching to LED light bulbs and installing ceiling fans, or bigger projects like improving insulation or installing a programmable thermostat. These changes can add up to big savings on your energy bills for years to come and as a bonus, many states provide a list of companies that will complete the process for free or at a reduced cost.
3. Maximize Appliance Usage
If you're in the market for new appliances, look for ones with the Energy Star label, which means they've been independently certified to be more efficient and cost less to operate. But even if you have older models at home, you can put these smart strategies to use to save cash on your monthly bill. Run washers, dryers and dishwashers late in the evening when you can to avoid peak hours, which come with higher energy rates. Keeping your refrigerator and freezer full helps them maintain a steady, low temperature (and use less energy). But the most effective thing you can do with any small appliance is avoid vampire energy, aka leaving appliances plugged in when they're not actually in use. Use power strips that make it more convenient to flip those gadgets on and off as needed, and save up to 10 percent on your monthly utility bill.
4. Choose Low-Cost Landscaping
Keeping your yard beautiful doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. If a lush green lawn or garden is a must for you, invest in a drip irrigation system instead of a traditional sprinkler system to save water—it'll nurture plants directly at their roots instead of wasting water in surrounding areas and walkways. Open to a less traditional-looking lawn? Growing regionally appropriate, low-water shrubs and perennials is another way to decrease water usage (and increase energy savings). Not only will you save time with landscaping upkeep, but these plants are easier to keep alive (even if your thumb is less than green), saving you from having to shell out for new greenery.
5. Save on Your Mortgage Payments
When it comes to your mortgage, it's important to choose the one that best fits your lifestyle. A key tip anyone can follow, however, is to send your January mortgage payment in December. By paying early, homeowners can receive an additional tax deduction for the interest paid, as long as you allow a few days for processing time before the new year. And if you've owned your home for a few years, it's worth talking to your bank about refinancing your mortgage. Your mortgage payments could be lowered significantly if the national interest rate has gone down, your home has increased in value, or your credit score has improved. Just make sure to talk to a mortgage refinancing expert who can explain every side of the process so you make the right decision.
The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank. Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender
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