Congratulations! If you are reading this blog, then you are most likely a new homeowner! Buying a home is an exciting accomplishment, and you should be able to celebrate it for as long as possible. Tonight you will be sleeping in a new space and you will have many hours to reflect and think about the life you want to create for yourself and for your family! I hope that your time in your new home is filled with love, joy, health and happiness!
If you are not a new homeowner, you can still find many tips and tricks that will help you save money, and improve your experience with home ownership!
When I bought my first home, I had very little guidance. I had to figure out all of the challenges that came with independence and homeownership on my own. When you don’t have the right supports, then you can expect a lot of your learning to come from making mistakes.
However, unlike when you were dependent on someone else’s finances, making mistakes as a homeowner can be extremely costly to your budget!
So, my hope is to provide you with some “essentials,” to make your transition to independence as happy and exciting as your move-in day!
Step 2: Learn The Basics
The worst part about being a new homeowner is learning about all of the bills that you need to manage. However, managing your bills appropriately will allow you to keep your credit score high while you also build financial security for yourself.
Organize Your Bills
The first thing you need to do as a new homeowner is to organize your bills. For example you will more than likely need to pay for the following:
- Water & Sewer
- Internet, Cable, Phone
- Home Insurance
All of your billing sources should have an online payment system where you can check bills and pay them on time. I recommend that you create a spreadsheet with each bill, the date that they are due, and the dates that you paid them.
If your utility company has an auto-pay system, then it is highly recommended that you set it up with a bank account or card under your name.
Successful and timely payments of your bills ensures that you get to enjoy being a new homeowner without worrying about losing it!
Update Mailing Address
After you have set up all of your payment plans, for all of your bills, you should now update your mailing address. If you recently moved from another house or apartment, you can have your mail forwarded to your new address through USPS. The great thing about USPS mail forwarding is that you can keep track of all the companies/people who are still mailing to your old address, and you can call and update them with your new address.
Some additional tips for new homeowners include: changing your address on your credit cards, updating your shipping address on online places you tend to buy (Amazon, Target, Chewy, Pharmacy, Etc), and on your resume!
Set Your Water Heater Up for Success
There are many tips for new homeowners that can save you money, which you can find in great detail under Step 3. However, your water heater is a basic hardware, that if given some extra love can save money while it takes care of your house!
After moving in, set your water heater to 120 degrees. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends a water heater to be set at 120 degrees to prevent scalding.
However, it is also important to note: There is no benefit from a water heater being set any hotter than 120 degrees.
Instead, many new homeowners do not realize that their water heaters are set way higher, and that they are using up unnecessary energy to heat their water tanks.
Another house hack is to use a water heater blanket, which can help your water heater retain its heat naturally, without using any additional energy. Note: DO NOT put any ordinary blanket over your water heater. An insulation blanket is a specific item usually made of foil, aluminum, or denim, and is made for your water heater.
Change Your Locks
You will never know how many copies of a key were made for a specific lock. A previous homeowner could have shared their key with a variety of people. Therefore, it is super important for all new homeowners to update all of their locks. Your family, safety, and well-being should always be your #1 priority!
Step 3: Save Money
There are many tips for new homeowners that can save you a lot of money. I am sure you have heard the saying “you have to spend money to make money,” but as a homeowner part of saving money is making sure you are also improving your home. You can save money if you make these initial investments:
Change All of your Lightbulbs
Your electricity bill will thank you for changing all of your lightbulbs to LED. It costs roughly $30 to power an LED for 30,000 hours! A single incandescent lightbulb would cost roughly $200 to run for the same length of time. Therefore, updating your lightbulbs will save money every month, and you will be helping the planet by conserving energy.
Update your Thermostat
Heating and cooling costs are some of the most difficult expenses for a new homeowner. Depending on where you live, you will be using an air conditioning system during the summers and a heating system during the winters. Sometimes, a new homeowner sets their thermostat to a certain temperature, and forgets to turn it off. When a heating/cooling system is not properly optimized, it can either run longer than it should, or use up more energy than it needs to.
Replacing a heating/cooling system is also not cheap, so ensuring that your system is programmed appropriately can save you a LOT of money. For example, a high-efficiency thermostat like the Nest, averages around a 10-12% savings on heating, and a 15% savings on cooling. Essentially, you can save more than the cost of a Nest in one year, and every following year is like pocketing additional money!
Insulate Your Home
Out of all of the tips for new homeowners, insulating your home is probably one of the most costly. If you had a home inspection prior to purchasing your house, then you should have an idea of how well insulated your space is. The most important areas of your home that should be insulated are:
- Crawl Spaces
- Basement Rim Joists
By properly insulating a home, you will be able to contain all of your heat indoors. If you are living in a colder climate, then an improperly insulated home could be the reason why your heating bills is always so high!
The EPA estimates that insulating your home can save you roughly 15% on heating and cooling costs. While home insulation can be pricy, there are many programs, incentives, and tax-cuts that can bring the cost down substantially.
If you have National Grid, sometimes you can get up to $5K taken off of an insulation project through various incentives and rebates! In my last house, I paid $300 for a project that had materials and labor priced at over 5K because of incentives/credits.
Replace Your Air Filters
As a new homeowner I had no idea that I had to replace my air filter. I was looking at ways to save money, and decided to check out my HVAC system, and that is when I noticed an old air filter located in my system. When I took the air filter out I realized that it was absolutely filthy. I’ve never owned an HVAC system before, so I never realized that an air filter was a “thing that I needed to replace.”
If you do not regularly change your air filter, it forces your cooling system to work harder, and therefore, more inefficiently. An inefficient HVAC system ends up costing you a lot more money month to month.
Air filters costs roughly $10-20, and should be replaced every 3 months. That means that you would spend around $40-80 per year. However, you would be saving yourself around $350 a year! I was so thankful when I changed my air filter because I could tell that my system was working a lot faster, and expending way less energy!
Get an Energy Assessment
Many states offer Free Energy Assessments or Energy Audits for your home. In my state, the free energy assessment also comes with new energy efficient lightbulbs for every room. Most of these energy assessments are funded by local electric companies, who save money when you use less electricity (so it is a win-win for everyone).
As a new homeowner you will be able to learn a lot about where/how you use energy and how you can naturally save money. In the process, you will also learn which one of your appliances are energy efficient and which ones are not.
You won’t (or should not) have to spend any money on an energy audit. However, I recommend making the appropriate changes needed to conserve energy. For example, certain suggestions like slowly converting appliances to energy-efficient alternatives is a worthwhile investment. If you plan on living in your home for awhile, your energy-efficient appliances will pay themselves back over time.
One of the most important money saving trick is to fix all leaks. While it might be obvious to fix leaks, many new homeowners may not actually know if they have a leak or not. Therefore, check your inspection report, or bring in a plumber to make sure your home has appropriate water flow.
A leaky faucet uses up 20 gallons of water a day, and a leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons a day! Another tip to know if you have a leak is to check your water bill. If your bill spiked or is inconsistent, then you more than likely have a leak. Finding the source of a leak is a worth-while game that will end up saving you a lot of money.
Hardware & Investments
If you have the ability to upgrade your appliances or hardwares, you should! I would recommend these long-term money saving investments :
1) Dual-Flush or Low-Flow Toilet
Did you know that your toilet accounts for about 30% of your water usage? Older toilets use around 6 gallons of water per flush. However, newer EPA water-sense certified toilets use only 1 to 1.8 gallons per flush! The less water usage overall means the more money you save!
2) WaterSense-Certified Shower Head
By replacing an old shower head, you can conserve roughly half a gallon per minute. Many high-efficiency shower heads also don’t reduce your water pressure, and can give you great savings and a high-quality shower!
3) Capture Rain Water!
Mother nature can help you save money, if you remember to collect her free offerings! A 55-Gallon drum can help you catch rain water, while also help you water your garden!
4) Air Seal Your Home
Properly sealing your home can save you a lot of money. If you have air leakage in your home, then your heating/cooling system will need to work extra hard to keep your house at an optimal and comfortable temperature. The US Government has a great tool to help you properly seal your home, and to save money!
Step 4: Ensure Security
Now that your bills are managed, and your amenities are optimized, you can now properly protect your investments. We can never be too sure when an emergency will strike. However, if an emergency does happen, you should be prepared and ready to protect your assets and family.
In my last house I had to unfortunately take a neighbor to court, and while I would never want that experience on anyone, I was thankful to be prepared with video and audio evidence. Home security is a blessing that many take for granted, but if you are investing in a home, then it is also important to keep everything safe and secure!
Here are some highly-recommend safety resources and investments:
1) Blink Camera System
These portable cameras are battery operated, and can be placed outdoor and indoor to provide you with 27/7 video and audio recording. The Blink cameras are also weather proof, provide night-vision, motion detection and are Amazon Alexa compatible. I have four of these camera on the exterior of my home. With Blink, I feel a lot more security and comfort.
2) Ring Doorbell
The Ring Doorbell 3 is a saving grace for my household. Not only do I get motion detection coverage of my front door, but I never have to worry about package thefts. If I ever hear a strange noise or am away from my home, I can access the live video from my phone. Another great perk of the ring doorbell is the online community. On the app, you can see any reported crimes or neighbor complaints within your area.
3) Outdoor Lighting
A very affordable way to increase your home security is by adding motion sensor lights to your front yard or back yard. You can also add path-lights or DIY solar-powered mason jar lights to increase night-time lighting which naturally deters break-ins.
Step 5: Have Peace of Mind
Depending on where you live, it is general good practice to make sure your house is safe from illness causing materials. Therefore you should always:
- Get a Lead Test done on your home
- Get a Water test to check for impurities
- Check and immediately remediate mold problems
- Fix any/all leaks
- Check for asbestos
- Install a carbon monoxide detector
- Have a fire extinguisher accessible at every level of your home
By taking these small one-time tests, you can save yourself a lot of trouble in terms of health and well-being. Your home is your place of safety and security! With all of these tips, I hope you get to enjoy your house without having to stress about what can go wrong!
If you have any other suggestions or tips for new homeowners, comment below and share your expertise!