Being a homeowner is harder than most first-time buyers could’ve ever imagined. Every choice you make for your home matters because it has a price affixed to it, from the paint you use, to the appliances you choose, to the way you water your lawn. So, how do you make the right decisions financially for your house? Read on to learn how to bring down your spending at home with these expert-backed tips.
1. You’re not inspecting your roof frequently.
Your roof is as fundamental to your home as your foundation is, so you should never go too long without inspecting it. After all, if it withers away so much that it needs replacing, that could cost you anywhere from $5,000 to $10,500, according to Home Guide. So be sure to check your roof out annually (at the very least).
“One thing a homeowner can look for when inspecting their roof is any water pooling [which] can [cause] significant damage to your home if it’s not dealt with in time,” says Kershan Bulsara, manager of Roofmaster in Ottawa, Ontario. “Another roof maintenance issue homeowners can look for is snow or ice damage. After you believe all the snow and ice has melted, get on the roof and make sure of it. If that melted snow were to stay on the roof and seep under any of the tiles, it could then re-freeze and push your shingles upwards. This problem would then create even bigger gaps for water to leak into.”
2. You’re not maintaining your driveway.
When it comes to maintaining your home, your driveway may be the last thing on your mind. However, that’s exactly why you should worry about it. Neglecting your driveway’s structural integrity can cause serious financial issues down the road.
“Your driveway is a core part of your home’s curb appeal, and if you don’t take care of it, it will deteriorate over time and cost you,” says Michael Colacci, chief operating officer for power-washing company H2Go Mobile Wash. “Driveways can be damaged from oil or gasoline stains, as well as any de-icing chemicals when melting snow on your driveway during the winter.” He suggests that you “clean your driveway when you first notice signs of stains, and perhaps avoid de-icing chemicals altogether or at least use it sparingly.”
3. You’re cutting costs when it comes to appliances.
Appliances are expensive. So it might seem like a cash-saving no-brainer to pick up a cheaper version. But over time, investing in a lower quality washing machine, fridge, dishwasher, or oven will only run up your bills. If you’re buying cheap or preowned appliances, they’re more likely to break down at a faster rate.
For instance, according the National Association of Home Builders, a typical washing machine has about a decade of use. However, if you buy a cheaper model that is already five years old, you’ll have to buy a new one five years down the line.
4. You’re ignoring cracks in your foundation.
Cracks in your home’s foundation aren’t always obvious. And that’s exactly why they’re detrimental and can become an extremely costly problem.
“During the long months of fall and winter, there is a lot of heavy precipitation that will leak into your home if you don’t repair these cracks,” says Alex Berezowski, owner of The Foundation Experts in Ottawa, Ontario. “Signs for foundation issues can include mold that has grown on the outside of your house, strange smells, or even an insect infestation in your basement. … If you don’t take care of your home’s foundation problems when these signs first occur, it will cost you a lot of money.”
5. You’re not fixing your leaky faucet.
The incessant drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet may drive you mad, but annoyance isn’t the only problem it can cause you. According to the United States Geological Survey, just one faucet in the home that leaks one drip per minute wastes nearly 34 gallons of water per year. And this wasted water equals extra dollars on your water bill. So, while it may seem like a fix-up job you can put off until later, it’s better to get it fixed as soon as you notice it rather than letting the cost and problem build up.
6. You’re paying full-price for all your furniture.
Buying furniture is like buying clothing: If you pay full price, you’re getting ripped off. “My husband and I were looking for a matching couch for our living room, and we found the exact couch we needed on Craigslist for less than half of the retail price,” says Lauren Mochizuki, a décor and finance blogger at Casa Mochi. “I would check Craigslist, eBay, and Offerup first.”
7. You’re using brand-name paint.
Looking for a new paint color? Sounds great! Just don’t use brand-name paint. Some, like the decadently luxe Sherwin-Williams Emerald Exterior line, can run you around $85 per gallon! (For comparison’s sake, a gallon of a generic brand, like Walmart’s ColorPlace, will cost just $20.) And if you have to buy multiple gallons for your project, the costs just keep adding up.
“Find your favorite brand-name paint color, and have a less expensive, and reputable company color-swatch that color,” says Mochizuki. “We picked many brand-name paint colors for our remodel and we had Dunn-Edwards color match ours for a fraction of the retail price of the other name brand.”
8. You’re not paying your mortgage off ASAP.
It’s all too easy to let mortgage payments fall by the wayside. But, according to John Bodrozic, co-founder of digital home management company HomeZada, taking time to understand your mortgage and pay it off sooner rather than later will save you money in the long run.
“Most people ever really see how much total interest their mortgage is going to cost them over the life of their loan, which for most people is 30 years,” he says. “As a result, consumers don’t really pay attention to the ways to pay down their mortgage sooner, which can save them a lot of money in interest over the long term.”
9. You don’t have a financial budget for remodeling projects.
Remodeling projects are going to typically cost you a pretty penny, but you’re doing even more of a disservice to yourself and your bank account if you don’t accurately plan things out first with a budget.
“Most people don’t list out all the materials, appliances, equipment, and more required for their projects,” says Bodrozic. “They don’t research different brands and product types with different price points.” If you don’t plan out a remodel beforehand, you might end up purchasing too many supplies, purchasing the wrong supplies, or paying more for supplies you could get for less—thus making an expensive endeavor even more costly.
10. Or you’re making constant changes to your remodeling project.
When you sit down to hammer out your budget, you’d best do it correctly—and that means getting in the weeds and being extremely specific.
“We have found throughout extensive research that people don’t know the real costs of the materials they like. They want high-end finishes, and contractors [estimate] Home Depot pricing in order not to shock the customer and lose the deal,” says Raf Howery, founder of the home remodeling service Kukun. “Homeowners need to make sure they know what they like, and the price for each… Starting a project knowing exactly what is desired will reduce on-the-fly decisions and changes in the plan. Every time a homeowner changes the plan during a renovation or remodeling, that decision results in added expenses and delays.”
11. You’re using a professional for everything.
While it’s good to have a professional for some of the harder home projects you decide to take on, using an expert for even the tiniest tasks just adds extra costs. There are many home projects you can do yourself through the aide of online tutorials. For instance, House Logic estimates that the materials to fix an out-of-alignment door might only cost you as little as $5, but hiring a professional to do the job can run you anywhere from $35 to $355.
12. Or you’re using the first professional you meet.
Whether or not you want to hire a professional is up to you, but if you’re signing on the dotted line right after you meet your first contractor, you’re doing things wrong. When it comes to contractors—just like anything else—the best practice is making sure you shop around to get the best deal.
“By using the right tools to understand what a specific project should cost in the homeowner’s geographic region, they are empowered to better negotiate and shop for what they need to complete any project in the home,” Howery says. “[It] can save them thousands of dollars.”
13. You’re only measuring once when you remodel.
When it comes time to remodel, measuring a measurement just once isn’t going to cut it. Incorrect measuring is one of the biggest money blunders homeowners make. “People buy kitchen cabinets, have them installed, then realize their fridge doesn’t fit,” Jonathan Scott, of Property Brothers fame, told HGTV Magazine. “We always say, ‘Measure 10 times and cut once.’ Print out specs for the appliances you’re using and compare them to the plans for the cabinets with the cabinet installer.”
14. You’re not using blackout curtains.
Blackout curtains aren’t just a smart move for those who want to reduce sunlight in the morning. They can actually help folks save money, too. “Not getting blackout curtains can be a huge cost mistake,” says Stacy Caprio with Deals Scoop, a site that helps consumers save money. She notes that especially people in hot climates “rack up large AC bills when the sun is streaming inside of windows, raising temperatures.”
15. You’re overwatering your lawn.
Not only can overwatering your lawn be bad for your grass and plants, it’s also bad for your wallet. According to Today’s Homeowner, the cost of watering your lawn depends on three key variables: how much water you’re using, how large your yard is, and where you’re living. For a home in Mobile, Alabama, that gets watered every week during the summer, a fair cost estimate is around $50 per month if there’s a separate meter and $156 per month if not. And, while, to be fair, that’s not the most expensive line item in owning a home, it sure adds up.
16. You’re allowing your sprinkler heads to spray against your home.
If you have a sprinkler system to water your yard, make sure you’re paying attention to its positioning. Allowing sprinkler heads to spray against your home can lead to rotted walls, paint removal, and—in extreme cases—foundation movement. As home inspector Garth Haslem wrote for NBC affiliate KSL, you should place your sprinkler heads at least two feet away from your home and only spray away from the house to avoid having to pay for damages.
17. You’re using your dishwasher to dry your dishes.
It might seem like no big deal for you to keep your dishes drying in the dishwasher; after all, it’s designed to do exactly that. However, it’s a tiny thing that you may not realize is unnecessarily racking up costs. “The heating function on your dishwasher uses a tremendous amount of energy, and it’s a cost you don’t need to pay,” says Allen Michael of Saws Hub, a site dedicated to homeowner project tips. “Turn off the dry feature and let your dishes air dry overnight. This will save you valuable electricity and money.”
18. You’re not cleaning your air ducts.
A simple cleaning of your air ducts can go a long way when it comes to reducing home costs. Most people run their air conditioning in the summer and heater in the winter, allowing dirt and debris to build up. “Typically, it builds up the most in your vents, which restricts the amount of air that can get through,” says Michael. “This causes your units to work harder and operate less efficiently, costing you more money each month, while also lowering the lifespan of these expensive appliances.”
19. You’re not changing your air filters.
If you’ve lived in your home for several years and haven’t touched your air filters, it’s time to get on that. The pros at Home Depot say that fiberglass filters should be replaced every month, and pleated air filters, every three to six months. And, according to the Department of Energy, replacing a dirty filter with a clean one can actually lower energy consumption by 15 percent—shaving a good portion off of your monthly energy bill.
20. You’re not adjusting your vents.
Adjusting your vents may seem like a task that’s so simple, it’s unnecessary, but, if you’re not doing it regularly, you could actually be paying way more than you should be. Central Heating & Air Conditioning’s Stewart Unsdorfer calls this “air balancing,” which just means you’re taking advantage of your existing HVAC system by making sure all your air is evenly distributed around your home. Adjusting your vents to improve air flow can stop you from blasting your AC even more during the summer or your heater in the winter—saving you money in the long run.
21. You’re turning the water heater up too high.
While a nice, hot shower may feel amazing, it can have an adverse effect on your bank account. Per the pros at Lozier Heating & Cooling, most water heaters run at a default of 140º Fahrenheit. To set things right, they recommend lowering that setting to 120º: Reducing the temperature just 20 degrees can actually reduce energy consumption by a whole 10 percent!
22. You’re using too much laundry detergent.
It’s logical to think that, the more detergent you add, the cleaner your clothes will be. But that’s not necessarily the case. As Tide points out, you could actually be using too much detergent, which not only costs you more over time as you continue to purchase the product itself, but it could also damage your washing machine because it can’t handle all the foam and bubbles generated from the detergent.
23. You’re not switching up your ceiling fan.
Turns out, your ceiling fan is a seasonal item. As Matthias Alleckna, an energy analyst at Energy Rates.ca, previously told Best Life, ceiling fans “have an ideal direction for summer and another one for winter which can make your home colder or warmer, depending on your preferences.” Alleckna notes that your ceiling fan should run counterclockwise during the summer, and clockwise in the winter—and switching things up so that it runs the right way each season will help lower your HVAC costs.
24. You’re leaving all your devices plugged in.
Even if you diligently turn off every appliance the minute you’re done with it, you could still be running up electricity costs thanks to a little thing called “idle energy.” According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, this refers to energy consumption by “appliances and equipment off or in ‘standby’ mode but still drawing power,” as well as devices “in ‘sleep mode’ ready to power up quickly.” Keeping all your devices plugged in can draw this idle energy, which accounts for nearly 23 percent of the power consumption in an average household. Just like that: roughly a quarter of your electricity bill, down the drain.
25. You’re not using LED bulbs.
One of the biggest money mistakes people make in their homes is not switching out their light bulbs. “Many people know that LED bulbs cost less to operate, but most won’t replace them until they finally die. That’s a big mistake. A single incandescent bulb can cost up to $180 per year while a single LED bulb costs around $40 a year to operate,” says Derek Hales, editor of Modern Castle, a platform dedicated to helping homeowners get the most out of their homes.
26. You’re not using a smart thermostat.
Upgrading to a smart thermostat will save you hundreds because they automatically adjust to energy-saving temperatures when no one is home. “Smart thermostats like Nest and Ecobee seem like an unnecessary luxury. But the technology within allows them to help better monitor and control your HVAC,” Hales says. “The resultant savings can be huge. Nest and Ecobee estimate that they save consumers around 15 percent off their power bill, which can be around $300 to $400 per year in savings.”
27. You’re buying bottled water.
Not only is buying packs of bottled water bad for the environment, it’s also an unnecessary cost. You may have a notion inside your head that water filters are a luxury, but, in reality, a simple, permanent water filter for your sink could cost you around $100. While it is a larger upfront cost, paying the one cost one time rather than continuously buying bottled water will end up saving you tons of money over time.
28. You’re throwing food out unnecessarily.
Of course, you should toss expired food, but “sell by” and “best by” dates don’t necessarily indicate when the food goes bad. “Many consumers think that the ‘best by’ date is actually an ‘expires’ date. This isn’t true,” says Hales. “‘Best by’ dates are arbitrary and designed by product makers to encourage you to throw away food that in actuality is perfectly safe and fine to eat.” In fact, even the United States Department of Agriculture notes that “best if used by” dates on packages only indicate when they will be of “best flavor or quality,” not a “purchase or safety date.”
29. You’re not negotiating the prices for various services.
Just as you should compare prices when it comes to contractors, you should also be negotiating the prices you pay for services like cable and internet. Over time, you may realize these bills have gone up, and you’re often paying way more than what you did when you first signed up. Broadband Now suggests calling your service providers and negotiating a better deal for yourself. In fact, many companies will offer specials or lower your subscription rate just to stop you from canceling your service.
30. You’re making unnecessary, duplicate purchases.
When you live in a space for a while, you accumulate a ton of stuff. And, over the years, you’re also bound to accumulate a bunch of duplicates.
“When your home is disorganized and cluttered, you can’t find what you are looking for and you are not productive,” says professional organizer Ben Soreff of House to Home Organizing, which serves parts of Connecticut and New York. “Paper towels and laundry detergent aren’t that big of a deal because, in theory, you will use it all eventually. But flashlights, entertaining supplies, decorations, and even bins… If you live in your space for many years, the annual cost of repurchasing items adds up.”
31. You’re tearing down walls without knowing what’s behind them.
While knocking down a wall or two may seem like an easy way to open up a space and bring tons of light and airiness into your home, not preparing properly can end up costing you big time. Any time you want to tear down a wall, make sure you know what’s behind it. If you have to alter structural elements, relocate pipes, or move electrical utilities, you’re going to end up paying a ton of money to do so.
32. You’re not checking your neighborhood guidelines.
When it comes to wanting to spice up your home with some renovations, if you have a homeowners association (HOA) in your community, make sure you know your rights before doing so. According to Home Advisor, many HOAs have neighborhood regulations when it comes to repairing or renovating your home. And if you don’t approve your plans with them beforehand, they can force you to remove your work, causing you to waste the money you already spent. Oh, and they can also slam you with a hefty fine.
33. You don’t know where your property boundaries are.
Even if you don’t have an HOA, you need to still be aware of your limits when it comes to remodeling your home… or it could cost you. One of the biggest ways people rack up fines is by not realizing where their property lines are. If you go over those boundaries, you can easily cause problems with your neighbors. And not only may you be forced to remove anything at your own cost, they can also take you to court for any work you’ve done on their property. And if you want to make your home look amazing from the street, steal these 40 Simple Tricks for Boosting Your Home’s Curb Appeal.