Owning a home will likely be the biggest expense you ever have. If you’re saving up to buy your first place, then the upfront cost can seem unattainable, but that’s just the beginning. The ongoing maintenance costs will continue racking up year over year, and it’s so important you’re prepared for that with a fully-funded emergency fund and insurance.
We bought our first home just over nine years ago and celebrated our first anniversary in our second home last week. Over that time there have been times where I’ve cursed our decision to buy (damn you leaking roof!) but also moments of pure joy (like when our DIY bathroom turned out super fab!) We’ve also learned a lot. Sometimes the hard way. And I wanted to share some of the money saving tips for homeowners that have saved us big bucks over the past almost decade.
1. Learn to be Handy
Even if you buy a brand new house, you’re eventually going to have to tackle a home improvement project. Whether it’s a leaky faucet or a squeaky stair, being able to fix it yourself will save you a lot of money. The good news, a lot of projects are more accessible than you think. And the internet is full of helpful tutorials to walk you through any project. With a little Googling, you should be able to find a YouTube video with the exact fix you need.
Don’t get too cocky though! Certain things are best left up to the pros. If you’re feeling at all unsure about something, then it’s better to hire it out than to make an even bigger mess.
2. Install a Programmable Thermostat
One of the easiest ways to decrease your heating or cooling bill is to install a programmable thermostat. And actually program it. A few years back our electricity provider ran a promotion to get a free NEST thermostat, and I love it so much. Not only are we able to have it run on a schedule, it also connects to WiFi so you can control it from your phone. I can be upstairs watching TV and turn the furnace on without getting off the couch #GOALS
We have ours set to drop the temperature when we go to bed and during the day when we’re at work.
3. Paint is a Cheap Fix
Sure, building home equity is great, but having the ability to renovate and put your own stamp on your place is the real perk of owning. Change comes with a price tag though, and if you’re a new homeowner, then renovating might not be in the budget.
Paint is a fantastic way to make a room feel brand new and is relatively cheap compared to other renovations. It’s also an easy DIY to build up your confidence.
4. Thrift Store Finds
I love thrifting. At least half my wardrobe has been thrifted, and I’ve also filled my home with a lot of items I’ve scored at thrift or vintage stores.
Many thrift stores have large sections for furniture and household goods, and the stuff is cheap! When you move out for the first time you’ll have to buy things like pots, pans, dishes, cutlery, etc. and you can find all those things second hand.
5. Make Friends with Neighbours
I’ll be honest, making new friends is not my favourite thing in the world. I’m an introvert, and striking up conversations with strangers is stressful. However, building relationships with your neighbours can be advantageous. Not only will you make new friends, but you’ll also have a network of people nearby who can all help each other out. Pet sitting, lawn mowing, snow shovelling, babysitting, etc. These are all things easily exchange with neighbours that will save you from having to pay someone else.
When you move into a new home, you will undoubtedly have a long to-do list of things you want to buy or change. My advice? Don’t go crazy. Live in the house for a few months to get a better handle on your priorities.
You might initially think that the bright yellow walls are the top priority, but after sharing a pedestal sink with NO STORAGE with the bf for a month, you’ll realize that needs to be fixed first.
This also goes for wants vs. needs. You might have your eye on a new couch, but if your roof is leaking, then that needs to take priority.
7. Splurge when it Matters
There are times when buying the cheapest option makes sense, but there are also times when splurging for quality is the right call. This is especially true when it comes to big-ticket items for your home. You’ll often save money in the long run by spending more on energy-efficient appliances, high-quality windows, solid wood furniture, etc.
If you plan to live in a house for a long time, then it’s worth saving up to buy quality.
8. Rotate Streaming Services
We still pay for cable because we haven’t found a good option to stream live sports. And we watch a lot of sports. Instead, we save money by rotating our streaming services. There are so many options, and we can only watch so much TV. To cut costs we will pay for Netflix for a few months, cancel it and switch to Crave for a few months, and on and on and on. We really only watch one or two TV shows at a time and the odd movie, so I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by only having one service at a time.
9. Negotiate Bills
This one is non-negotiable 😉
Seriously though, making that annual phone call to service providers to negotiate your rates can save you thousands of dollars. Set a reminder in your phone to call your cable, internet, cell phone, and home and auto insurance providers to see if you can get your bill lowered. You can even call your credit card companies and ask for annual fees to be waived or for interest rates to be decreased.
10. Use Things Until Death
Just because something is old doesn’t mean it needs to be replaced.
I am currently struggling with this in regards to our furnace. It’s old and makes a high pitched noise when starting up, but it still heats the house. It’s not going to win any prizes for efficiency, but it’s more wasteful to add it to the landfill than to keep it running for another year. My real concern is that it’s going to bite the dust on Christmas Day, which will, of course, be minus a thousand, and we’ll have a house full of people.
11. Hang Your Laundry
Hanging your clothes instead of using the dryer will not only lower your power bill, but it will also help your clothes last longer. All that heat and tumbling is hard on fabric. Elastics stretch out, colours fade, and materials can warp, and all those result in clothes looking older than they are.
12. Banish Drafts
Our house is over one hundred years old, so I know a thing or two about drafts. The original windows and doors may look great, but they leak hot air like a sieve. At this point we’re not ready to replace everything, but that doesn’t mean we can’t seal every gap with weatherstripping and spray foam.
We’ve gone through our whole house with caulking and weatherstripping to help reduce the cost to heat this old house. It’s not perfect, but it helps. And yes, there are a few windows that have those gorgeous plastic sheets over them.
13. Maintain, Maintain, Maintain
You’ve heard how preventative care is key to your health, but it’s the same when it comes to your home. Staying on top of regular maintenance will extend the life of the things you own.
Replace air filters, get your furnace cleaned and serviced, clean your eaves of debris, fill cracks in your foundation, rake leaves and degunk showerheads. Check out this seasonal schedule to help you stay on top of routine home maintenance.
14. Grow your own Food
If you have a yard or a balcony then make use of the space to plant edibles. I am far from a pro gardener, but I’ve had enough success growing vegetables to make it worth the effort. Do a little research to find out what will grow best in your region and stick to those. I’ve found that staples like potatoes, carrots, green beans, and tomatoes are easy enough to grow and will reduce your grocery expenses during the summer harvest season.
15. Invest in a Rain Barrel
Make more raindrops count by installing a rain barrel to help water your newly planted garden. Watering your garden can cost you and also be wasteful, but a rain barrel can ease that pain. We just installed two rain barrels that we bought for half price during an end of season sale, and I can’t wait to put them to good use next year.
16. Don’t Dismiss the Dollar Store
Have you been to a dollar store lately? They are kind of amazing! Thrift stores will always be my first stop, but if I can’t find a specific home item then the dollar store can come in handy. Years ago we had to host our first big family Thanksgiving and didn’t have enough plates for everyone. We picked up a set of white plates from the dollar store and still use them today.
Things we buy at the dollar store include dishes, glasses, cleaning supplies, holiday decor, and gift wrap and bags.
17. Fill Walls with Cheap Art
Having a house filled with unique art is the dream, but it can cost a lot, but it doesn’t have to. Seek out local artists that are just getting started for original pieces that fit any budget or turn to the internet. There are numerous sites you can visit to download free or cheap art that you can print.
We have a gallery wall up our staircase and many of the pieces were printed or found in thrift stores. Framing can also be pricey, but if you print standard sizes, then you can often find cheap frames, again at thrift stores, or the dollar store. Check out this post I wrote for more details.
18. Sell Your Unused Stuff
I’m sure every single one of us has a closet, basement, or garage that is cluttered with things you don’t use. Instead of wasting space, why not clean them up and sell them. Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, or neighbourhood buy/sell groups are an easy way to offload stuff and make a few bucks in the process.
As long as items still have some life left in them, you’re almost sure to find a buyer. You can even post items for free if you just want it out of the way.
19. Pay Your Mortgage Off Faster
Paying your mortgage monthly is good, but paying it bi-weekly is better. You’ll end up paying slightly more each year, which will help you pay it off faster and save you money on interest.
You can also make lump-sum payments to speed up the process further. If you tend to get an annual bonus or a significant tax return, then put that towards your mortgage every year. Since the money isn’t tied up already, then you won’t even miss it.
20. Check for Annual Payment Discounts
Paying for services monthly is often the default, but it is worth asking if you can get a discount by paying annually. Some insurance companies or your property tax collector will let you pay a lump sum at a lower rate than if you paid on a monthly basis.
Only do this if you have the funds to spare. Going into debt will defeat the discount because there’s a good chance you’ll pay more in interest.
Do you have other money saving tips for homeowners that you would add to the list? Share in the comments so we can all decrease our spending!