Penny Saver

Penny Saver

We’re back after our December break and are rested up for a new year of fun.

After all the frivolity of the holiday season, you may be feeling a financial pinch and wondering about ways to tighten your belt (figuratively) so you can still get a start on buying that house or fixing the one you already have. Here are some ways to help you get started on saving money around your home.

Realtor.com posted a short article about ways to save money for a down payment. They suggest that once you know how much you are able and willing to spend on a house, figure out what your down payment will be. Create a budget so you can see where your money is going and how to make adjustments (should you need to) in your spending habits. They also suggest creating an automatic savings plan in which part of your paycheck goes directly into a savings account. When my husband and I wanted to start saving to help with our mortgage payments, we started to going out less, bringing in coffee from home, and brown-bagging it more and more. We were paying for cable, but we realized we were only watching a few channels, and so decided we could cancel it. We started an automatic draft on our bank accounts. The money goes into a joint account that covers our household expenses—mortgage, electricity, phone, etc—with a little left over for emergencies. We also got a piggybank (no joke). The bank knows what coins are going in and keeps a tally of how much money is in there. We find it very reinforcing. We collected $100 of pocket change in about 9 months—easiest $100 we ever made.

His favorite food is nickels

Once you’re in your home, there are all sorts of easy ways to save a little here and there. The Daily Green has a list of methods you can save by going green. We’ve all heard about switching to energy efficient lights and using a clothesline, but how many of us would think about using a rain barrel to water our garden? Instead of buying tools, how about renting, borrowing, or finding them on Freecycle? Because, really, do you need to buy a stud finder when your friend has one? It’s a tool you use about twice and then are done with forever. Pass it on. Bankrate.com also lists ways to save on utility bills—simple things like checking to make sure everything is off before you go to bed or turning your hot water heater down or off when you go on vacation.

Finally, what if you were planning on some home improvements this year? This Old House and How Stuff Works both have great suggestions for staying within budget (seriously, check them out). Get multiple estimates and go over the project line by line with your contractor so you know what you’re paying for. Clean up after the crew each day instead of paying them to do it. Think about using the space you have more efficiently instead of knocking out a wall or building an addition (saves on construction costs plus heating/cooling costs later down the road) and try not to move the toilet or sink if possible (plumbing is expensive). Do your own demolition and buy building supplies at auctions. Most important, know your limitations. Paying someone to fix your mistakes can be more expensive than having them do the job in the first place.

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully they help start the juices flowing of how you can save some money around the house. If you have any real estate questions, ask your friends at Pall Spera.