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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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.
Entering your 20s means you'll quickly need to learn how to navigate the world of personal finances, much of which you probably didn't learn in college or high school courses.
Without any previous lessons on finances, it can be challenging to know where to start. Follow this guide as we outline the financial decisions you'll need to make in your 20s.
Setting a Budget
The first step to being a fiscally responsible young adult is setting a budget. Your budget will determine many future financial decisions, from where you can live to what splurges you can make. Look at the expenses you currently owe every month and your projected income to determine how much you should be spending on bills, daily expenses, etc.
Getting rid of your debt as early as possible is a critical step for newly independent 20-year-olds. However, some may not be able to get rid of debt as soon as they hope. Once again, look at your budget, then decide if you'd like to put more toward tackling debt now or pay your loans as they come.
While you may be able to hold onto your parents' insurance until 26, you'll have to choose your own plans sooner or later. From health insurance to renter's and car insurance, you shouldn't skip an opportunity to cover yourself in the case of an accident. Find a provider and plan you're comfortable with, and get your coverage as soon as possible.
Saving for a Rainy Day
Navigating how to save is another critical financial decision you'll have to make in your 20s. Living paycheck to paycheck is not a sustainable course of action. Even putting a small portion of your wages into a savings account can make a big difference—especially if an emergency you didn't prepare for occurs.
Starting To Invest
Investing is a scary topic for young adults, but it's a great way to build wealth. Starting to invest as a young adult will set you up for success on your long-term financial plan. However, be sure to conduct research before jumping into the market to decide when, where, and how much you'd like to invest.
Your 20s are an optimal time to learn and grow. One area of life you'll undoubtedly learn a lot about is managing finances. Use this guide to help you get started on the path to becoming a fiscally responsible adult.
Tax deductions can be tricky to understand if you're new to the finance world.
One of the biggest sources of confusion is knowing what you can and can't deduct from your taxes. Deductions can be a massive financial boon for a lot of people, yet not everyone files for them correctly. This causes people to miss out on money that should be theirs. We'll go over some of the most common tax deductions that are overlooked, so you don't get shortchanged when Tax Day comes.
When you start regularly giving to charity, even if the donations are small, you'll want to start getting itemized receipts for your donations. These receipts will help you write off these charitable contributions on your taxes. You can even write off supplies that you bought for use in a charitable cause or any miles you drove on your car while in service to a charity. Make those donations to the Purple Heart Pickup with an open heart, but make sure you get your deduction on top of that.
Student Loan Interest Payments
Student loans take up a significant amount of a lot of people's money. If you're one of these people, make sure that you get a deduction on the amount of interest you paid off in the last year. What's important to remember is that even if you aren't someone's dependent, you can write off the money someone else gave you to pay for said student loans. If someone else helped you pay off part of your loan, don't think that means you can't still get a deduction on that sum.
Child and Dependent Care Credit
If you have a reimbursement account through your job that pays for child or dependent care, you might be forgiven for forgetting about this particular tax credit. However, you can use these funds for a tax credit if you file for them correctly. This is hugely important because this is an opportunity to receive a full tax credit, not just a deduction. You're losing money you could be directly receiving if you don't file for this credit.
Jury Pay Given to Your Employer
A lesser-known tax deduction that often gets overlooked is the money you can deduct from jury pay you gave to your employer. It may not be the most exciting thing to come out of jury duty, especially after handing over any money you receive to your employer, but you do get to deduct however much money your employer made you hand over after you finished jury duty.
Credit for Saving
While this credit is more for people that are working part-time or for those that have a retired spouse, you can get a tax credit for contributing to a 401(k) or another retirement savings plan. This is also a great incentive for those that are just starting out in their careers and need another reason to start saving for the future.