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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 April 3, 2019

How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

How to Nix Your Credit Card Debt in Less Than 3 Years

Debt is never a fun thing to be in. But, there are many actions that you can take that will help you rid yourself of the burden of debt once and for all.

By coming up with a set plan, eliminating your debt can feel much easier than constantly thinking about it.

This post will provide some tips on how you can do this to help you nix your credit card debt in less than 3 years.

Hint: there are ways that are easier than you think.

1. Consider Consolidating Multiple Credit Cards If Possible

This may not be applicable to you, but if you have multiple cards – it is something to consider. Keeping up with multiple bills is time consuming.

It will depend on the balance you have on each. Consolidate ones you can but do not do it to the point that you get too close to the maximum limit. Also, it is ideal to pick the card with the lower interest rate.

Consider if there are any fees or alternatively, rewards, with transferring a balance to another card. Watch out for fees. Note that some cards offer rewards for transferring a balance to them. This is extra cash that can help go towards paying off your debt.

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Having one or two cards can make nixing your debt much simpler than keeping up with the balance of a bunch of cards. Keeping track of paying the minimum towards a bunch of cards is time consuming. Spend the time to consolidate instead to make the overall process simpler going forward.

My tip: Have one main credit card. Have a second one that you use for necessities – such as groceries or gas – that offers rewards for those purchases (a lot of cards do) and set the second one on auto-pay. You should be able to pay off a smaller amount on auto-pay if it is a necessity. If you think you cannot, then you may need to cut down a lot on expenses.

Why do I suggest doing this? Having one thing set to auto-pay is one less thing to think about. One less thing to waste time on. Same idea with consolidating to one main card. Tracking down too many is a hassle.

2. Try to Pay the Full Balance You Spent Each Month at the Very Least

You need to pay off the amount you are spending each month when that bill comes in. This is the amount you spent THAT month.

Do not let the debt keep accruing while you work on paying any unpaid debt that has accrued. It will become a never-ending battle. Try as best as you can to be current on paying for each month’s expenses when that month’s bill comes out.

If this is a strain, consider why. You may need to cut expenses. Or you may need to consider other cards. Or look at where this money is going.

3. Pay Extra When You Can – Every Small Amount Counts

This cannot be emphasized enough. If you are looking at a lot of credit card debt, it can look daunting, but each extra amount that you can put towards the debt will really add up – no matter how small it is.

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It does not just reduce the principal amount that you have left to pay off, but it reduces the amount that is collecting interest. You will always save money with that reduced interest.

4. Create a Plan on How to Pay Extra

Back to the main point, having this plan is giving you one less thing to think about.

This plan should be a plan that works for you. If it does not work for you, your spending habits, and your views on debt, then it will not be an effective plan.

For instance, if a set plan of an extra $50 (or another amount that you know you can afford) works for you, then do that. Set that aside every month and pay that extra amount. Treat it like a bill. Choose an amount that works for you and pay it like clockwork as though it was a bill you had to pay each month.

Little amounts will not nix it entirely, but they will help tackle it and having a set plan can make it less of a chore. Creating a new plan of how much to put towards it each month is an unnecessary added stress.

5. Cut out Costs for Services You Do Not Use

If you are signed up for subscriptions that you do not use because of some free trial or for some other reason, cut it out. Your overall financial position will look better.

In turn, that will make cutting your credit card debt easier. Look at your statements to find these expenses. If you do not use them, you may forget you are paying some unnecessary amount each month. Cutting it out can really add up in savings that you can put towards other needed expenses.

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6. Get Aggressive About It

Consider these points:

Depending on the interest and the level of debt, you may need to give up a few indulgences. For example, instead of ordering delivery or going out to eat, cook at home. Everything adds up.

Other things may be more of a sacrifice. It may be a trip you wanted to go on, or a daily latte habit you’ve picked up. In these instances, consider how important it is to you and if it’s worth the sacrifice. And if it is a costly expense, think whether you can wait to indulge.

Cutting an extravagant expense can really help make a dent in your overall debt. Try not to add to debt when you are trying to pay it off. It will be a never-ending battle. Make it less of a battle with these tips and it will feel easier.

Bottom line: Do what you can to make this process easier for you. Implement steps that do this. It takes time now, but will help overall. Also, keep track of your spending and paying down of your debts. Which is the next point.

7. Reevaluate Your Progress at Set Intervals

Doing a regular check-in can help you see your efforts pay off or maybe indicate that you need to give this a bit more effort. If you check every 3-6 months, it will not feel so much like a chore or feel so daunting.

By doing this, you will be able to better understand your progress and perhaps readjust your plan. Bonus: if you see it pay off, it will feel great to do this check-in. You will get there.

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Finally (and most importantly)…

8. Keep Trying

Do not get discouraged. Pushing it off will make it worse. Just keep trying.

Once your debt becomes lower, each monthly payment will reduce the balance more. Why? You are paying less towards interest. It will be a snowball effect eventually and it will become much easier to manage. Just get to that point. And know once you do, it will feel easier and motivating.

Start Knocking out Your Debt Today

The best way to eliminate debt is to get started right away. Begin by implementing the above steps and watch your debt just melt away. Try out some of the above strategies and see what works best for you. Soon you’ll be on your way to a debt free life.

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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