Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, the natural tendency is to make the place you call home an attractive and cozy spot to live in. But as you have no doubt discovered, this can become a very pricy proposition. If you continually find yourself with more month than money when it comes to looking after your home, try these simple tips and save.
DIY – within reason. Small household fixes, like caulking cracks, are simple and cheap to do yourself. (They will also save you money on your home heating bills.) Be sure to spend smart on supplies. For example, high quality paintbrushes will give you better coverage with fewer ugly streaks, and good, low- to no-VOC paint not only lasts longer -- meaning an extended period before you need to invest time and money on your next touchup -- it also results in better indoor air quality. Know your limit, though; for larger projects like painting the whole house, it may actually make better financial sense to shop for a reasonably priced pro.
Stay warm and spend less. We’ve said it before but it’s well worth repeating: insulate, insulate, insulate. You pay good money to run your HVAC system, so keep the heat (or cool) inside where you want it. Insulate and seal the areas of your home that allow warmed air to escape, such as your crawl space, attic, and ductwork for your heating and cooling system. The cost in materials will be modest, and the potential energy (and cash) savings substantial.
Shop with a list – or at least a mental game plan. Random impulse purchases for your house – including everything from grocery items to home decoration -- frequently end up in the compost bin or giveaway pile. When you head out to the supermarket, home improvement warehouse, or even the corner dollar store, decide on your shopping guidelines ahead of time, whether these may be menus for the upcoming week or a color scheme for your decor. Set yourself a spending limit too, while you’re at it. Whenever feasible, shop your closet and garage -- or neighborhood yard sales -- for accessories and furniture.
Remember “more is more” when it comes to kitchen appliances. Your trusty refrigerator will actually function more efficiently when it is full. If you don’t keep a lot of perishables on hand, fill up your fridge and freezer shelves with containers of water to optimize effectiveness. By the same token, avoid running partial loads in your dishwasher. Most models use the same quantity of water whether they’re fully loaded or contain just a couple of plates and a handful of forks. Maximize your oven by planning ahead; for example, when you’re about to bake a casserole for dinner tonight, add a pan of bell pepper slices to roast for tomorrow's lunchbox salad.
Ventilate. Run your bathroom exhaust fan every time you shower. (Best practice: turn it on before you step under the spray and keep it going for a few minutes after you’re done.) Ditto for your range hood. Ventilating your bath and kitchen will get rid of excessive moisture in the air, which is otherwise very likely to damage key components such as your tile grout, cabinets, walls, and flooring, and also encourage the growth of mold and mildew … all costly problems to remedy.
Get a little help from your utility company. You are probably used to a one-way relationship with your local electricity or gas company, where you are the one writing the checks (or these days, making the bank transfers) to them. However, many utility providers offer a money-saving basket of goodies to their customers such as free home energy audits and incentives or rebates on your purchase of energy-efficient appliances. Check it out.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.