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19 Things New Homeowners Should Do Immediately To Save Money

19 Things New Homeowners Should Do Immediately To Save Money

Congratulations on your new home! Home ownership is one of the great milestones in life. It shows you’ve made it. You’ve got stability and security. You’re dependable. Nice going!

Now, all you have to do is move in and begin enjoying that unique and wonderful lifestyle…

But with the circus comes the monkeys. Before you lose that dewy-eyed wonder at your good fortune, take a hard-headed look at your new domicile to make sure it’s going to be a Shangri-La and not a money pit. As wise old Ben Franklin said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Here are 19 hacks that can save you money upfront with your new home:

1. Check Your Attic Insulation

An unfinished attic needs at least six inches of insulation between the beams. And if you live up north in places like Minnesota or Maine, you should have more than that.

If your insulation is insufficient or looks damaged, don’t wait to repair and replace it. Quite a number of northern states offer incentives such as refunds to motivate new homeowners to upgrade the insulation in their homes.

2. Set Your Hot Water Heater Thermostat

Check out the setting on your hot water heater. If it’s set any higher than 120 degrees, you should immediately lower it. Anything above that is going to have the potential to scald you. Who needs that? A lower thermostat always means a lower utility bill.

3. Insulate Your Hot Water Heater

You can buy an inexpensive insulating blanket at any hardware store that fits around your heater. Why pay to heat the air around your hot water heater? Besides, if the power (or gas) ever goes out, you’ll keep your water hot (or at least warm) for several hours.

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DON’T cover the top or bottom of your heater, or near the pilot light.

4. Install Ceiling Fans

Besides giving your house that elegant Casablanca look, ceiling fans are an economical way to keep your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter — they circulate the air so it doesn’t become layered. The key is to have the air blowing down on you in the summer and sucked up from you in the winter.

5. Wrap The Water Pipes

Wrapping exposed pipes will preserve the heat of your hot water so it arrives at your faucet at just about the same temperature as when it left the heater. With immediate hot water gurgling out of the faucet, you won’t be tempted to let it run for a minute or two, which can save you a pretty penny over the years. You can buy good inexpensive pipe wrapping at any hardware store, and if you can do papier mache, you can do the wrapping yourself.

6. Get An Automatic House Thermostat

Programmable thermostats are standard issue in newly constructed houses, but if you’ve purchased an older house, you’d better check to see what kind of thermostat you have.

With an automated thermostat, you can schedule ahead for days, weeks, even months to control when you want the most heat and chill. That way, you can be gone all day to work, or all week on vacation, and not have to worry about a monstrous fuel bill.

The new programmable thermostats are easy to install. All you need is a screwdriver and a pair of needlenose pliers.

7. Check Those Furnace Filters

Your HVAC uses air filters, and they probably have not been changed while your house was on the market — which could be anywhere from several months to a year. One of the first things you should do when you move in is go down to the basement/HVAC unit and find the filter(s). Write down the measurements on the side and go down to your local hardware store and buy several of them so you can replace them frequently. They are lightweight and you normally need no tools to replace them. It’s best to handle them with gloves because the filter fibers can be a bit prickly on your bare hands. Leaving the old filters in reduces the effectiveness of your furnace/air conditioner and gives your air a hint of staleness.

8. Check The Vents

While you’ve still got that “new house momentum” going, take a moment to check all the vents in the house to see how much dust and gunk buildup there is. If you can see those little dust bunnies peeking out at you, unscrew the vent screens and get cleaning. All that dust and gunk is nothing but a hotbed for bad odors and particles that can trigger allergies.

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9. Don’t Let Your House Crack Up!

Many houses have small cracks in the basement/foundation from settling. As long as these are not growing, you don’t have to worry about them. Just plug them with some putty from the hardware store to keep out the bugs and forget about ‘em.

To find out if your little cracks have ambitions to become bigger cracks (which can spell major foundation repairs down the road), cover both ends of the crack with some masking tape and then date it. Check every few weeks to see if the cracks are extending beyond the tape. If they are, you’ll have to call in an expert to avert a Walls of Jericho scenario. The earlier you catch it, the less expensive and extensive it should be.

10. Clothesline = Lower Utility Bills

Your lovely new house has a dandy dryer, or if it doesn’t you’re already eyeballing the specials online and in the newspaper to see who’s offering the best deals on one.

But just wait and consider: home dryers are a major cause of home fires when they overheat, and they can eat up a huge amount of electricity or gas.

So, why not consider a clothesline in your laundry room and also outside? If you’re serious about shrinking your carbon footprint, this is a great way to do it while reducing your utility bills. Plus, nothing smells as good as clothes fresh off the clothesline.

Of course, there will be rainy and snowy days to contend with, so don’t throw out your existing dryer; keep it for a rainy day and for emergencies. A circular “merry-go-round” clothes pole is great for backyards with limited space.

11. Look For Leaks

Dripping pipes are one major cause of mold inside homes. You do not want to have to tell your insurance company that a leaky pipe in the basement has nurtured a fungus farm behind the wallboard. To prevent that, check all exposed pipes and under every sink and around every faucet. Look for signs of rust and water spots. Discovered leaks should immediately be fixed — a plumber working for a half hour is much less expensive and easier to find than a plumber working for several hours.

12. Use LED And CFL Light Bulbs

In some parts of the country, the zoning and residential laws already mandate the use of these instead of incandescent bulbs. But whatever the rules are where your house is, you should make the effort to install them, especially where lights tend to be left on for a long time, like the kitchen and living room, or where they are accidentally left on, like the garage or basement. They may be a little bit more expensive upfront, but they last longer than the old type of bulb, so you save money in the long run. And check your house insurance; some companies will give you a rebate or lower rates for using LED and CFL bulbs.

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13. Check The Energy Ratings On New Appliances

If your house came fully furnished, then skip this section. Otherwise, please shop carefully when buying appliances — even a toaster or microwave! Always check the energy rating that’s posted on the side of the box or item. As with LED lights, you may have to pay a bit more upfront, but in the long run you’re saving money with appliances that will use less electricity and last longer.

14. Be Smart With SmartStrips

You don’t need to be told to plug all your electronics into surge protectors. It would be idiotic not to take that simple precaution against an electrical surge that could fry thousands of dollars worth of electrical equipment in your house.

You should be just as smart about SmartStrips. A few of these installed around your new home will significantly impact your electric bill for the better. These handy-dandy items sense when an electronic device, like a TV, is on standby mode, not being used, and will cut the power to it until it is switched on again. In the long run, this saves you mucho dinero.

15. Plant Shade Trees Near Your House

Deciduous trees, prudently placed around your home, can provide a cooling canopy during the summer months — this will make a noticeable difference in your utility bill.

If you’re after some wildlife, then you can also plant fir trees, but much further away from the house. They not only attract birds and other critters, but that touch of green during a long bleak winter can be very comforting. And most pinecone seeds are edible — if you can get to them before the squirrels do. Mature trees also usually increase your property value.

Remember not to plant your shade trees too near to your home — you don’t want them warping a wall or choking your sewer pipes with roots.

16. Throw Out The Old Locks

You really have no idea who might have a key to your new house, no matter what kind of assurances you get from the people selling it or the realtor. To avoid a nighttime visit from the former owner’s crazy Aunt Matilda, you should immediately hire a reputable locksmith or home security company to have the front door, back door, and garage locks changed. Of course, if you’re handy with things, you can do all this yourself, since complete lock sets are available at any hardware store. But be aware that hardware stores don’t always stock the professional brands that can really stymie a burglar bent on getting into your home.

And while you’re at it, get a couple sets of spare keys for emergencies — and for your own crazy Aunt Matilda!

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17. Make It Airtight

Newer homes are fairly airtight, so there isn’t much you should have to do to them outside of checking the weatherstripping and replacing it if it’s worn or has gaps in it.

Older homes will need some work. Windows are the major culprit in heat loss during cold weather. Check your city and county weatherization programs to see how much, if any, of the cost of replacing old rattling windows they will reimburse you for. It might pleasantly surprise you how much you are eligible for.

18. Take Advantage Of Energy Tax Credits And Other Government Goodies

There are all sorts of tax advantages to owning a home instead of renting. Hopefully, you’ve already gotten with an accountant to take full advantage of these. But you may not know about federal programs in your area that allow you to claim an energy tax credit; the same goes for your state, county, and city or township. They all have programs, usually federally mandated and funded, to help homeowners increase the energy efficiency of their homes. Some of these programs are based on your income, but some of them simply have gobs of grant money to shower on whoever shows up first to claim it. Solar power tax incentives are probably one of the most common and easy to get installed. Depending on your state, you will have the option of leasing the equipment or simply buying it outright.

19. Create A Checklist

Before you settle back and become a couch potato in your new home, compile a maintenance checklist for your home and swear by the unholy mortgage you are carrying that you will follow through with it on at least a monthly basis. Checking on things like air filters, foundation cracks, weatherstripping, etc., will help extend the viability of all the nuts and bolts that make up your home and hopefully save you from ever having to call in a contractor for major repairs.

Again, wise old Ben Franklin knew what he was talking about because he also said: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on July 4, 2019

25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless.

Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent free online education awaits on the following 25 sites.

1. Coursera

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    Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

    Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education, and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

    Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups.

    2. Khan Academy

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      Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

      Among the more well known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly useable, which may make it easier to keep learning goals.

      3. Open Culture Online Courses

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        If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos and podcasts from universities around the world. The site features a lot of material found only on universities private sites, all in easy to browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses, without having to visit and search each university’s own site.

        Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales and many state universities around the United States. A very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

        4. Udemy 

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          Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

          Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top quality content. This is another site however, that mixes free and paid content.

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          5. Academic Earth

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            Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources, and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

            Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

            6. edX

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              Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics.

              7. Alison

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                Unlike the previous sites on this lists, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

                It’s a great option if users need certification for their learning as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

                8. iTunesU Free Courses

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                  A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod, or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

                  Desktop users can access  iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

                  Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos, and paid content.

                  ITunesU does include courses on a pretty wide scope of topics, but does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

                  9. Stanford Online

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                    Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

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                    Stanford Online is a great site for high quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school.

                    10. Harvard Extension

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                      Like Stanford Online, Harvard Extension features free online education courses from Harvard only. This is another excellent source for top notch course material, though the course variety is less rich than multi-school sites.

                      Additionally, Harvard Extension allows you to search for courses by professional certificate. This makes it much easier if your online education goal includes certification.

                      11. Open Yale Courses

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                        Open Yale Courses echoes Harvard Extension and Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses, but learn better by watching than by reading.

                        12. UC Berkeley Class Central

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                          Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

                          13. MIT OpenCourseWare

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                            Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, plus includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

                            14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

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                              Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list, however, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics. But for the topics that are covered impressive, in-depth material is available.

                              15. Codecademy

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                                Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

                                The courses at Codecademy are well written and easy to follow and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, plus organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

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                                16. Code

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                                  Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

                                  In addition to kid friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics and Javascript.

                                  Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

                                  17. University of London Podcasts

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                                    The podcast page on the University of London website is another great source for free education. While the courses are limited to podcasts, the site features podcasts from it’s own campus, as well as eleven universities in and around London. This gives learners a wide base of topics and lectures, but still ensures in-depth material.

                                    18. University of Oxford Podcasts

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                                      Similar to the University of London, the University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

                                      The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. Another good site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

                                      19. BBC Podcasts

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                                        For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly, and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

                                        Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

                                        20. TED-Ed

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                                          Another great destination for more general learning is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all encompassing, motivational web series, comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

                                          Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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                                          21. LessonPaths

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                                            LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

                                            22. Memrise

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                                              Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

                                              Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

                                              23. National Geographic Kids

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                                                The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keeps kids interested on this site.

                                                National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

                                                24. Fun Brain

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                                                  Fun Brain is another good option for kids who want to learn online, but focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

                                                  Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

                                                  25. Whyville

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                                                    Similar to the sites for kids free online education is Whyville a destination for preteen online learning. The site includes a variety of social features, with a focus on learning materials geared for young teens.

                                                    Whyville also mixes in educational games, to make the site a well rounded option for kids too old for simple games, but too young for heavy reading based material.

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                                                    Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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