By Anne Miller
Homes cost money.
Aside from careful money management, how can you reduce your daily home expenses?
Your biggest regular expense is likely your mortgage. You may be able to shrink it, with and without the bank’s help.
- Refinance to take advantage of low interest rates
- Cut the time left on your mortgage. Consider taking on a 15-year option. You’ll save on interest over the long term.
- Pay half of your monthly mortgage every two weeks. Doing so will also help you save on interest.
- Reduce your private mortgage insurance. If you made only a small down payment, you may be able to drop some (or all) of the insurance after you pay down your mortgage to about 80% of the principal, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Save on utilities
Your parents might have nagged you to turn off the lights when you weren’t using them. Now that you’re paying the bills, you get it. You don’t have to replace every appliance in your home to cut the bill, though—a few simple steps can help.
- Keep the thermostat level, and make sure it works properly. If your house feels cold but you’ve jacked up the thermostat, you’ll want to figure out why quickly.
- Set the thermostat no higher than 68 degrees in winter and no lower than 78 in summer.
- Consider high-tech solutions. Some thermostats can be programmed to lower during times when no one is home. Set your lights on timers.
- Close blinds in summer, and weatherproof windows in winter.
- Monitor your fridge—keep your freezer full and clean the appliance’s coils regularly.
- Run loads back-to-back in your clothes dryer so that the dryer will remain warm from the previous cycle.
Save on water
- Bathroom: Fix any leaking toilets or faucets and install flow-restricting showerheads.
- Kitchen: Run full loads in your dishwasher and let the dishes air-dry.
- Laundry: Wash full loads as they use less water than multiple small loads.
Elsewhere, lower the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees. While most are factory-set to 140 degrees, you could lower the setting on yours and save up to 5% on your electricity bill.
Learn to DIY
Many large hardware stores, including chains such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, offer free home improvement courses such as repairing drywall or updating a dimmer switch—projects that would typically cost $50 an hour if done by a pro.
Some other projects you could learn to do yourself:
- Curtains: They’re simple to sew if their design involves straight lines.
- Cabinets: If you aren’t looking to replace your cabinets but want a simple update, try refinishing or repainting them yourself.
- Gutters: If your gutters are easy to reach, it takes only a small amount of time to clear them of debris. Do this regularly, and you could spare yourself a significant headache down the road.
When times become flush for you, you could hire professionals to tackle these chores. But if your priority is keeping costs down, investing a little time now can pay off in the long run.
Updated from an earlier version by Ben Apple