Whether you're shelling out for rent or paying off a hefty mortgage, the cost of living doesn't come cheap. And that's not even factoring in all the other monthly bills you're covering just to keep the lights on and the heat humming.
The average American household spends about $2,200 a year on energy bills alone. Meanwhile, the cost of running water spiked by 41 percent in recent years, resulting in annual bills as high as $600 or more. Even if you cut off your cable TV (which can run you between $120-$240 a month), and choose the absolute slowest, most excruciating WiFi plan, you can't exactly live without light, heat or running water.
One cost-cutting solution is to invest a fortune in solar panels; another is to live off the grid. And then, there's the third option: buying a few low-cost household products that will significantly cut down your utilities and other household bills. It's true—there is a slew of everyday items that are simple to use and built with your budget in mind. Here are seven must-haves if you want to start saving ASAP.
Draft Stopper ($9.99, Bed, Bath and Beyond)
Behold, the $10 solution to the sky-high cost of warming your house in the winter. Seal off cold air that seeps in from door-cracks and windowsills with this simple sand-filled wedge, and discover how much cozier your home can be without ever turning up the thermostat.
Water Filtration System ($19.99, Home Depot)
A water filtration system filters fresh, clean water into your home, reducing the need for bottled water (good for the environment, good for your grocery budget.) It also cuts down on sediment and rust, extending the life of your pipes—and cutting down on pricey plumbing emergencies.
Energy-Saving Power Strip ($22.97, Amazon)
Surge protectors are essential if you have more than two electrical appliances in your home, and, hey, we know you do. We also assume you don't unplug your lamps and laptops every time they're not in use. That's where those hidden fees add up unless you have one of these power strips specifically designed to reduce standby idle energy use. Spend around $20, save a fortune in the long run.
Energy-Efficient Bulbs ($15.48, Lowes)
If you have to make one change to reduce your energy bill, switch out your light-bulbs. Energy star-approved bulbs use up to 80 percent less energy than regular bulbs. According to the US Department of Energy, swapping out your conventional bulbs for LEDs, CFLs or Halogen Incandescents can save you upwards of $75 on your annual energy bill. Plus, these babies last longer—which means you spend less time and money replacing them.
Water-Efficient Showerhead ($11, Amazon)
If you want to cut down on your water usage, consider switching to a more efficient showerhead, which reduces water usage by up to five gallons a minute without skimping on the water pressure. So go ahead and take nice, long guilt-free shower without sweating about your next bill. Look for a showerhead with the EPA-approved Water Sense label, and you might even qualify for rebates and vouchers in your area.
Air Purifying Plant ($19, The Sill)
If you want to reduce the number of allergens, pet dander, and germs that float through your home daily, you could spend anywhere from $200 to $600 on a clunky air purifier that also runs up your electricity bill. Or, better yet, you could spend significantly less on a gorgeous houseplant. "I am a fan of attempting to get an indoor clean air boost with various NASA-studied plants that have been found to potentially scrub and purify indoor air of common pollutants," Dr. Clifford Bassett, founder and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York, tells Today.com. ZZ plants, Peace Lily and English Ivy are all durable, year-round plants that naturally cleanse your home of toxins the old-fashioned way and cost a fraction of the man-made versions.
Space Heater ($20.10, Home Depot)
The more square footage you have, the costlier it is to heat your home. But you don't need to crank up the thermostat and heat every room in the house if you're only hunkering down in one area. In fact, you could save a bundle by throwing down a twenty for a portable space heater. Bring it with you from room to room and warm up without running up your heating bill on empty rooms in your home.
The next time you're feeling like your household bills are out of control, consider making a few small changes and investing in everyday items that will save you bundles in the long run.
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Between buying a new home and transporting yourself and your belongings to it, moving can be an expensive process. One often underrecognized cost of moving occurs before one's original house has even been sold, and that's staging the house. Homeowners often spend hundreds of dollars making a home appealing to potential buyers. To ease the financial burden of moving, here are several tips for staging your home on a budget.
Downsize Instead of Storing
The goal of staging a home is to create a blank canvas that potential buyers can imagine their own lives painted upon. To accomplish this, homeowners should depersonalize the home as much as possible, removing items that are specific to their family and eliminating clutter. This is where homeowners often incur their first costs as they rush to put as many older things in storage as possible.
To cut costs, focus on downsizing rather than storing items. Look for items that you can sell, donate, or give away. For remaining items, look for alternative places to store them, such as a friend or relative's house. This will also reduce the cost of moving your belongings when it is time to go to the new house.
DIY What You Can
There are times when homeowners should bring in a professional to manage home renovations and decorating, such as when a task requires specialized skills. These types of jobs, when done incorrectly, will incur even greater costs if attempted on your own. However, many of the home improvement tasks that go into staging a home are simple enough that the homeowner can DIY them, such as painting, installing a backsplash, or refinishing the deck. Doing these tasks yourself will save you a significant amount of money.
Don't Redo, Update
Homeowners are often eager to make their houses look as appealing to buyers as possible. However, recall that the point of staging is depersonalization, making a home presentable so buyers can mentally impose their own style onto it. When staging a home on a budget, focus less on completely transforming the space and more on making what is there look presentable. For instance, if you wanted to give your bedroom a facelift, trying to replace the furniture and flooring would be pointless unless it was damaged or unkempt. Simply organizing the space and replacing the bed's comforter would be sufficient.
Another way to update the space without entirely redoing it is to rearrange it to maximize the space that is already there. For instance, pulling the furniture away from the walls will make a room appear bigger and allows more space for those touring the house. Using window trimmings that maximize natural light and incorporating wall mirrors can also make a room seem more spacious.
Raising a larger family than most means that your lifestyle is going to change. Costs will continue to multiply as your family grows larger. However, just because your family is large doesn't mean your quality of life needs to suffer. It just means you need to make a few adjustments to help things work smoother and more efficiently. We've compiled a couple of money-saving tips for larger families to help you get the most out of your dollars.
Always Buy in Bulk
The benefit of having a larger family is that things you buy in bulk rarely ever go to waste. Smaller families can benefit from buying in bulk, of course, but your large family will see the most use out of shopping in large quantities. You'll want to avoid going to smaller stores for necessities such as groceries and clothes, as these places generally have higher markups on their items.
Buy Wholesale Items Online
If you want to take buying in bulk to the next level, one of the best money-saving tips for large families is to buy online from wholesalers. Buying online comes with a number of benefits that you won't get when you go to a physical store:
- You don't have to drag your kids to the store with you
- You have a lower probability of making impulse purchases
- You can search for exactly what you need
- Wholesalers sell in very large quantities for a lower price per item
Never Throw Away Something Useful
When you have to buy things for multiple children, your costs to replace items will be much higher. That's why it's so important to keep everything you can. Clothing is a big part of this. Hand-me-downs can prevent you from needing to replace entire closets every year. Try to repair or upcycle any clothes that may have damage, as this is usually much cheaper than buying brand-new items.
Stick to a Budget
When you support a large family, expenses can sometimes get away from you. Proper budgeting helps to keep the extra purchases that add up to a minimum. Budgeting correctly can save you a lot of heartache in the long run. It's up to you how much control you want to take; you can make your budget weekly or monthly, depending on how tight a ship you need to run. What's important to remember is that making the budget is only the first step—sticking to it is where you'll really need to enact some willpower.
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Sometimes there is no choice—a home needs to be sold in the winter.
Spring may be the most popular time to put your house on the market, but homes do sell in the colder months. With fewer houses available, your home may be someone's only choice when house hunting in your neighborhood. As your neighbors hold out until spring, you'll already be done and ready to shop for your next house!
Here are a few tips for selling a home in the winter to get you on the right track.
Keep Paths Safe and Landscaping Fresh
Landscaping is the last thing on a homeowner's mind in the winter. Everything was cut back in the fall and may now be covered in snow. Still, take a walk around the house and yard to check everything out. Branches may have fallen from heavy snow, leaving a mess in the yard. Keep everything neat and tidy.
The last thing you need is a potential buyer slipping on the ice-covered walk in front of your house. Buyers often consider those moments bad omens, and this can affect their decisions. Shovel, snow blow, spread salt—do whatever you have to do to keep the driveway and walking paths clear, and don't forget the porch and deck.
Make the Inside Warm and Cozy
In cold weather, buyers won't spend a lot of time examining a home's exterior. Instead, impress them with the inside by creating an atmosphere which causes them to want to move in.
When there's time, leave wintery types of snacks and drinks, such as hot cocoa and cookies, available on a table during showings. This gives your home a welcoming feel to buyers.
Light the fireplace (if you have one) for a lovely ambience and set your thermostat to a comfortable setting. A warm home in the winter is much more appealing than a chilly one.
Make Your Home Less Personal
Understandably, this can be a tough thought for homeowners. After all, you've spent years creating memories in your home. To buyers, though, they need to picture it as their own. Too much personality makes that difficult.
It's always important to stage your home in a way that makes it look clean, comfortable, and move-in ready. Don't feel offended by the idea of taking family pictures down and replacing them with generic décor. This will help your home sell faster by helping buyers envision their own things there.
Cleanliness and Maintenance
Clean, clean, and clean some more. Make appliances, counters, and floors shine. No matter how old your home is, it needs to feel like new to potential buyers. If you aren't into dusting, now is the time to try. Don't forget window coverings that might need washing.
Be prepared ahead of time for home inspections by taking care of maintenance now. HVAC systems, plumbing, and electrical should all be up to code and running smoothly.
Use these tips for selling a home in the winter, exercise patience during the slower months, and your home will sell before you know it.