Everybody wants to save money when it comes to living expenses. Many people are trying to live a greener life with common sense ideas and actions such as turning off unused lights and buying energy efficient appliances and light bulbs. There are many more DIY ways to save money at home, and many have to do with your home’s infrastructure. You may not have considered these tips from ThisOldHouse.com.
1. Pay your January mortgage bill in December to take the interest and property tax deductions in the current tax year.
Cost: Freeing up cash flow to mail your check early. (Make sure the bank processes it before the end of December.)
Savings: About $500 on taxes. Also, if you can make a 13th mortgage payment a year you will save thousands of interest dollars over the course of your mortgage, and finish paying it off 2-3 years sooner.
BONUS: Lowering your taxable income may qualify you for child tax credits, Roth IRA contributions, or other benefits that phase out at higher incomes.
2. Pay your property taxes yourself instead of having your mortgage lender do it. If you have good credit, ask your lender if you can set up your own escrow cushion in an FDIC-insured savings account. These earn around 3 percent interest.
Savings: A check for $500 or more from the mortgage company, which is probably holding two months' worth of tax payments in escrow—plus you'll earn better interest in your own escrow account than what your lender credits you.
Bonus: Paying your taxes every six months (or every three, depending on the town) instead of with your monthly mortgage, gives you more cash-flow flexibility.
3. Buy a new furnace or water heater. The 2008 federal economic bailout package includes tax credits for energy-saving upgrades made in 2009.
Cost: Between $500 and $3,000, including installation, heavily offset by the money you'll save on fuel.
Savings: As much as $500 in federal credits, which come right off your tax bill.
Bonus: You may also qualify for state credits as well as rebates from your local utility company. Find out at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.
4. Get free mulch and compost at your town's yard-waste recycling center.
Cost: $30 for pickup truck rental.
Savings: $300 for all the amendments you'll need to fortify and cover your raised beds and foundation plantings, per ¼ acre.
Bonus: Unlike bagged products from the home center, compost comes from leaves collected by your neighbors and the mulch from town tree pruning, so there's little risk of introducing non-native pests or weeds.
5. Replace worn-out air-conditioning equipment (or install a new system) in the winter, when HVAC guys offer discounts to drum up jobs.
Cost: You'll have to keep an eye on the calendar—spring may be closer than you think.
Savings: Perhaps $500.
Bonus: Air-conditioning makers typically provide off-season rebates on the equipment.
6. Appeal your property tax assessment yourself. One in three homeowners who do so are successful in getting their fees reduced, according to the National Taxpayers Union.
Cost: $7 for a How to Fight Property Taxes brochure at National Taxpayers Union.
Savings: As much as $400 per year off your tax bill.
Bonus: The tax reduction will last for many years to come.
7. Schedule a furnace or boiler tune-up every year to boost its efficiency.
Cost: $100 to $150.
Savings: $200 per year in energy costs.
Bonus: Tune-ups remove scale, soot, and corrosion, postponing repairs and extending the life of your heating plant.
8. Get the contractor discount on home- improvement products. Many local dealers offer a 5, 10, or even 15 percent discount to tradespeople. So, for example, drop the name of your plumber when buying new bath fixtures. Don't have a pro? Explain that you're contracting the job, and ask if they'll extend the discount.Cost: Occasionally you may have to do a bit of sweet talking.Savings: Easily $250 for a new tub, sink, and toilet suite.Bonus: Once you get in the seller's computer as having received the discount, you likely won't have to ask again. Also, ask for other discounts such as senior citizen (for dad’s house), AAA, veteran, etc.
9. Raise the deductible on your homeowner's insurance from $250 to $1,000.
Cost: Potentially $750, but only if you make a claim.
Savings: $200 per year or more if yours is a high-value home.
Bonus: You won't be tempted to make a nitpicky $400 claim, which could lead to a rate hike.
10. . Buy firewood in the spring when it’s cheap. Logs will dry out and be ready to burn by the time snowflakes fall.
Cost: Time stacking wood in a dry spot outdoors so that it can season in the open air.
Savings: Up to $100 per cord.
Bonus: In the off-season, you won’t run into any shortages of your favorite hardwood.
11. Get your fall yard-cleanup crew to clear your gutters instead of having a gutter guy make a special trip.
Cost: $100 for your lawn crew.
Savings: $200 or more that you're not paying the gutter guy.
Bonus: There's no risk of gutter gunk being dumped onto your lawn after all the leaves have been blown and bagged.
Click here for lots more tips on home energy and money saving ideas.
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