Reader Question: How Do YOU Save on Home Ownership Costs?

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Check out this reader question from Hip2Save reader, Molly…

My family and I recently became first time homeowners. As exciting as this is, we know that home ownership can come with new (or higher) expenses. My question is, what tips do other readers have in trying to keep costs down?

Please share any tips you have below and let’s help Molly and other readers who are trying to save on home costs!

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Comments 140

  1. jodi p

    Wait a year before you get into decorating and buying a lot of accessories and wall things. You need to live in the house long enough to realize what needs to be repaired and replaced. That will cost money. After you fix those things, by that time you will have a good idea of what kinds of furniture and decorating you’d really like.

    • Sue

      Garage sales are our friends, I buy all my house accessories there, if they are not perfect things can be altered with paint and things. I never give my kids money for books at school. I just buy them for .25 to $1.00 at garage sales. In fact I need to go get ready to go shopping at a few. It is Thursday, I drive by a few on my way home from taking my kids to school.

  2. jodi p

    Be friendly, but not pushy, with your neighbors. Throw a cookout or two and invite them. you don’t have to become best friends, but if neighbors know each other it makes the neighborhood safer for everyone, including children.

    • Terry Yarbrough

      Good idea! Thinking ahead!

  3. Koehler

    Always look into updating existing items rather then replacing and paint can do wonders. Our house needed some serious curb appeal we painted the front door and garage access door, screen door garage doors and even the exterior lights. We also hated our builder grade oak bathroom vanities a fresh coat of paint and new handles and they look amazing.

  4. Ro

    My husband is an auto technician and has traded his services many times for our home maintenance and repairs. If you have a special skill, barter.

    • Rita

      Was about to say the same exact thing! My hubby used to be an auto tech but is handy in so many ways. We’ve bartered with neighbors and friends who are plumbers, heating and air techs, electricians, carpenters…etc…They help because my hubby is always there to help them!

      F.Y.I there are also bartering organizations out there as well!

      • Darcia

        You can also barter with babysitting, driving children to school, making meals, etc.

  5. Rita

    One way to pay down your mortgage quicker is to set up bi-weekly mortgage payments I don’t remember the why of it but it pays down your mortgage quicker. You can and should if you can afford it also apply a little extra that goes right towards the principal

    Right now we are paying $100 a month extra towards the principal you can change that amount to go higher or lower if/when you need to or can. Not every bank will have a way to do this but you can also work with an outside company for a small fee to make the payments for you…we use a company called Equity Accelerator if I remember correctly.

    • Meghan

      Don’t pay to make an extra payment, that’s just money for the bank. Simply make another payment and state “Principal” and it’s the same thing.

    • Melanie

      Rita, you in no way need to work with a company to make extra payments on your mortgage. Bi-weekly payments work because you’re essentially paying one entire extra payment a year.

    • Sara

      This sounds like a good idea but check with your bank before you do this. My bank would NOT accept any payment other than what was due. I tried doing the bi-weekly plan before I knew this and they returned my payments via paper check and charged me late fees.

      • Pat

        I just write a check for my mortgage amount and then a separate check for whatever I can pay to the principal. They have to accept the payment to the principal as long as you pay the mortgage amount.

      • Darcia

        That’s a good reminder to make sure when buying a home, that there are no prepayment penalties.

  6. Meghan

    Also, another idea would be to buy house items in bulk with a Lowes or Home Depot coupon. For example: we buy several air filters for our HVAC with a $10 off of $50 coupon. Every little bit helps! Also, get on a budget plan for your heat, etc.

  7. HBee

    An idea for keeping homeowner costs down that comes to mind is just keeping up with maintenance and cleaning. Keeping your home neat and clean can do wonders for your peace of mind, and that of your family. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on it, either. The porch needs paint, paint it (yourself, preferably). The lock needs fixing, fix it right away. The walls are dingy, wipe them down. Keep up on appliance maintenance too, clean your dishwasher regularly (yes, that’s a thing), wipe down the seal is you have a front loader washer. All of these tips, I’m sure have a utube video or a post on pinterest.

  8. Faith

    When looking for items for your house see if you local habitat for humanity has a resale store. We get stuff like all house doors, kitchen cabinets, tile, paint, to furniture, and appliances. They have amazing stuff and some is straight from places like Lowes and Home Depot. You can’t pass up the price difference.

  9. visitor3

    PMI insurance will keep costing you unless you pay attention and cancel it once you meet the threshhold, probably 20% paid off or whatever is in your contract. Read the fine print and mark your calendar.

    • Pat

      My PMI insurance automatically fell off for some reason when it came time.

      • K

        It falls off after a certain amount of time but it’s always after you’ve reached the 20% threshold. You can request them to remove it at 20% but if you don’t they will keep taking it out until you’ve reached time they’ve set for it to be removed. If you are paying extra principle it can be quite a bit sooner than if they did it for you.

      • Abby S

        Automatically drops off when you have 22% equity (if I remember my lender’s advice correctly)

  10. visitor3

    Property taxes. Find out how the assessments are calculated in your jurisdiction and when it happens. Plan outside improvements strategically so they are not right before the county is scheduled to reasses (ie, increase) your taxes. Figure out if there is a homestead credit (ie, you have just one home, not a vacation/rental property too) and register fot it asap. If your home is reassessed higher, fight it! Use the appeal process and go to the committee meeting to show the comps the government proposed are somehow inapplicable — no two properties are identical. Don’t miss the initial deadline, which could be even 60 days after closing.

    • anna

      For anyone buying a home call and asked when the last time the INSIDE of the home was assessed. Two owners before us had done unpermitted work so it was never re-assessed. The next owner wasn’t home and/or choose not to allow the city in to assess the value, because permits hadn’t been pulled they didn’t know that some major work had been done .When we moved in and were contacted by the city we set up an appointment for them to walk through as the letter made it sound like it was required. It was actually about a year later (due to the delay in when they apply the new assessment) that we got a letter indicating our property taxes were going up. I discussed with the city and researched contesting it but it was pretty useless.

      Long story short don’t just look at the last time the home was assessed for tax purposes CALL and find out when the last inside assessment was done adn if you suspect any work was done (permitted or not) since then then question the tax value and maybe see if you can have it reassesed prior to closing so you know what you are getting into.

  11. Kim Car

    A few things that work to keep my home on budget:

    Unplug everything you can during the day – TV, Cable boxes, Coffee Maker ect. – My light bill in the summer was $225 before I started this and it got down to $124 with this simple step.

    Make a principle payment on your mortgage once a year that is equal to your house payment or higher – we use tax return money for this. One extra payment can shave 7.5 years off of your mortgage.

    Angies List, Groupon and Living Social deals are awesome from home maintenance needs AND home maintenance saves you in the long run – yearly get your AC checked, windows checked, water heater and roof. It’s a couple hundred a year but it’s a LOT cheaper than an unplanned expense.

    Build in a month without bills – Once you get a gauge of how much all of your bills are going to run you average them out over 11 months instead of 12 so you can, essentially, build in a cushion month each year in case of an emergency. Example – If your light bill averages $100.00 per month instead of paying $100 pay $110. This is a REALLY EASY way to free up funds for months you KNOW are going to be tight or in case of unexpected expenses. When I went to Italy for 3 weeks a few years back I didn’t go over budget or rack up CC debt because I just used all of my “Bill Money” for that month because all accounts had a credit on it.

    And of course, if you have the space stock pile! Try to keep an even food budget by stocking up on the things you’ll need for the year in the months they are on sale. November – Chicken Broth and other canned goods and Soups. December – baking supplies. January – Hot cereals August (Back to School) – Cold Cereal. (You get the drift!)

    Happy New Home and good luck!

    • Pat

      I agree. We turn off everything during the day including the heat and air unless it is below freezing of course. I use ceiling fans instead of heat and air for as long as I can. As long as we are not miserable we don’t use it. Once it gets to hot (usually 90, as my house is cool and dark due to all the trees (some over 100 years old) we turn on the air of course. My family rule is if we don’t need it, don’t use it. LOL Saves us a lot of money. I tried the unplugging thing but it only saved us $3 from what I could tell so we don’t do it all the time now.

      • Vanessa

        We tried this, until our dog flew through the window falling about 4 feet down. Lol now we can only leave the windows open when someone is home. Though we learned how to fix the screens, so we ended on a high note 🙂

  12. haleslll

    In my case, I married an electrician…lol he has many other wonderful qualities, but in-house skilled labor is great! He’s just generally handy and mechanically-minded.

    My biggest thing is to have a line in your budget for house maintenance. Lightbulbs, air filters, garden hoses…those things cost money and they WILL come up, no doubt about it. Usually all at the same time.

    A Magic Eraser will do miracles on scuffs and smudges and stuff like that. It makes your house feel new and squeaky clean!

    Resist the temptation to fill up your new house with new things. It is better to spend more money on fewer high-quality, timeless pieces than to look around in a few years and realize nothing is actually your style or works in your home.

    And while this is only indirectly saving money on home ownership, evaluate the stuff you do have and if it really belongs in your new home. Decluttering has helped me to love my (small) house and love the things I do have.

    Also, don’t have kids. (just kidding!!) But seriously, so many spills and messes and bonks and footprints and smudges!! 😛

    • Pat

      I get a lot of home items on freecycle and yard sales and thrift stores. I even got a fountain from the 40’s on freecycle, bags of pretty white rocks, sod, plants and lots of other things on freecycle. I even got a hot water heater that was 2 years old because the family wanted to change from gas to electric. Win win for me. I’ll use it when mine goes out any time now as it is over 30 years old. LOL I am collecting wood and building supplies from freecycle for a play house for the kids right now. I started collecting bricks 10 years ago and now my brother is making a patio with them.

      • Alea

        Freecycle and Craiglist are also a great resource to get rid of stuff for free when updating a new home!! We bought a home with a big yard and there was a lot of junk at the back of the property – old patio bricks, cement blocks, broken cement pieces, old rusted tools, an old muffler system, etc – instead of paying for a hauler – we keep posting it on Craigslist and Freecycle and people have been interested in ALL of it! Win-win for everyone! ☺

  13. Paula Haataja

    First, congratulations! You are well ahead of many homeowners who are caught up in the moment and don’t plan ahead. All who have commented have given sound advice. The advice to deal with something as soon as you find it is very wise. A small problem can be kept small by dealing with it. If possible, set aside $500-$1000 for house repairs and emergencies so you aren’t caught off-guard. You didn’t state the age of your house but one big expense that has paid off for us was new windows. We save heat bills from having better fitting windows and air conditioning bills from having energy efficient glass. We have a large house and worked a deal with a local company. We would buy all our windows from them at their bid price, but we could buy them over a 2 year period and pay cash as we ordered. They installed as they had an available day in their schedule.

  14. visitor3

    Extra insulation in the attic and garage. Put it in before summer/winter. Plant small trees right away. They are free/cheap and will grow. Swap yard plants with neighbors, or offer to garden in exchange for keeping overgrown plaants you can move to your yard.

  15. visitor3

    Below ground basement toilets cannot handle flushed tampons because they get tangled in the pump and cost $1,000 to fix. How do I know this? Let’s just say I am posting obnoxiously blunt signs next time we host a party.

  16. visitor3

    Remember that so long as you have a mortgage, you own the debt, moreso than the land and house. Money you spend on improvements is enhancing the value of the place, but in the event you default, those invested funds ironically enough are not only gone, but go with the house so the bank can sell it to the next owner in a short sale. Which is to say: prioritize paying off the house before making optional improvements. It was a shame seeing our neighbors lose their homes like this. Build a big cushion in savings, as much as realistically you can manage. In the event of a job loss, having 6 more months of payments in your checking account may make all the difference.

  17. Terry Yarbrough

    My daughter and I search for coupons to match with on sale items, such as grocery items & diapers. That way a hit to those issues requiring a “professional” is not so darn high. I also make sure I leave positives on the company’s website when I get awesome service. Have learned the hard, expensive lesson…get it fixed ASAP using a professional, (I woke up today with the upstairs and downstairs toilets leaking… I put this off for months and now I have a huge bill!)

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