Decorating and maintaining a home is expensive, but there are things you can do to cut the cost. Lately it seems that every time I turn on the news, there’s a story about the mortgage crisis or an impending recession. The cost of living is going up, and oftentimes salaries aren’t going up to meet those costs. In response to the money crunch, ordinary people like you and me need to cut costs to make ends meet. I have a lot of experience living on a shoestring, and I’ve put together a list of tips I’ve either heard of or used myself to maintain and decorate my home on a budget. Hopefully these tips are as useful to you as they’ve been to me.
Saving Money on Electricity
1. Set the thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer. Use a programmable thermostat to set the temperatures at less comfortable levels when you’re not home or sleeping.
2. Use heavy drapes over your windows. In the winter, it will keep the warm air in, and in the summer it will keep the hot air out.
3. Caulk and weatherstrip the cracks in your house. Our landlord added some weatherstripping around our back door, and it’s made a world of difference!
4. Use ceiling fans. If you get the reversible kind, you can use them to push the warm air down to people level in the winter.
5. Line dry your laundry.
6. Unplug appliances you’re not using. Even if an appliance is turned off, it still uses a small amount of energy, if it’s plugged in. This is especially effective if you’re going out of town.
7. Close the heater vents in rooms you aren’t using.
8. Insulate, insulate, insulate! Our landlord says he went overboard on the insulation in our house, but with heating bills under $80 during the winter, I’m not complaining. You can even make sure your garage door is insulated to save more money.
9. Don’t use the air conditioner in the summer. It’s not real comfortable, but people survived for years without a/c, before it became standard in homes.
10. Switch to CFL bulbs. If you look hard enough, you can find good sales on them. I picked up most of our CFL bulbs on sale for 99 cents a bulb.
11. Wash your clothes less often. I’m not talking about being disgusting here, but many people throw clothing in the laundry after each use, whether it’s dirty or not. If you wear a dress for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning, you can probably forgo washing until after the next time you wear it.
12. Along the same lines, reuse your bath towels before washing them.
13. Have an energy audit performed on your home. Many electric companies offer energy audits free. You can call and have someone come out to your house and tell you about changes you could make to make your home more energy efficient.
14. Install energy saving appliances. I’m not advising that you run out and buy new appliances, but if your refrigerator stops working, look for an energy efficient model to replace it.
15. If you have older windows, make sure you put up the storm windows in the winter.
16. Weather proof your windows with that plastic stuff. Not pretty, but it saves energy.
17. Use small appliances like your crockpot and toaster oven for cooking, rather than heating the entire oven.
18. Keep your freezer full. It uses less electricity that way. If you have extra space, fill it with plastic water bottles.
19. If you do use the oven, cook multiple things at once. Make use of every inch of space in there.
Saving Money on Water
20. Shorten your showers.
21. Put a half gallon water jug in your toilet tank.
22. Let your lawn brown out during the summer. Don’t worry. It will come back during the winter.
23. If you can’t stand the thought of letting your lawn brown out, get a timer for your sprinkler to make sure you never forget to turn it off.
24. Reuse rinse water from hand washing dishes to water plants.
25. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth.
Saving Money on Cleaning and Maintenance
26. Make your own cleaning products. It’s a lot cheaper, and better for the environment, too.
27. Reuse dryer sheets to dust electronics like the TV and computer screen. The anti-static in the dryer sheets will repel dust from your appliances.
28. Do your own house repairs. If you have a good reference book, you’d be surprised at what you can fix yourself.
29. If you can’t learn from a book, consider taking a class at your local community college. It’s still cheaper than hiring a professional, and the knowledge you gain will be useful for the rest of your life.
30. To unclog a drain, pour a cup of baking soda in the drain and follow with a cup of vinegar. Wait an hour and follow with boiling water. I even unclogged a garbage disposal with this method once. Or you could do what my friend’s plumber husband says. Pour bleach down your drains every week. That will keep them unclogged, too.
31. Let your faucets drip just a little bit if you expect the weather to be cold enough to freeze the pipes. Paying for the minute amount of extra water is cheaper than paying for a burst water pipe.
32. Check your local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for home improvement/repair materials.
33. To clean mini-blinds, put an old sock on your hand, dip it in rubbing alcohol, and run your sock-covered hand over the blinds. Works like a charm!
34. To remove lime deposits from a showerhead, pour vinegar into a plastic bag and tie the bag to the showerhead, so it is submerged. Wait an hour, and you should be good to go.
35. Before attacking a remodeling project, talk to people who are knowledgeable about remodeling. Never attempt a project without the knowledge you need to do it right.
36. If your locks are sticking, consider trying cooking oil to fix them. Rubbing pencil lead across your key and inserting it works well too.
37. Turn an unused coat closet into a pantry by adding cheap shelves. I’ve done this twice, and I’m not real handy. If I can do it, anyone can!
Saving Money on the Telephone, Internet, and Cable
38. Drop your land line and use your cell phone.
39. Cut out unnecessary services like call waiting and caller ID.
40. Use email or instant messaging instead of calling long distance.
41. Try a digital phone service like Vonage.
42. Use a dial around number for long distance. I used to use One Suite, and I never had any problems. And at 2.5 cents a minute, the rate is hard to beat.
43. Use a free 411 service instead of paying. One to try is 1-800-GOOG-411.
44. See if you can get bundled savings for your phone, internet, cell phone, and satellite services. Our phone company offers a few different bundles, and it’s a lot cheaper than paying for each service separately.
45. Threaten to drop your cable service. It’s amazing what companies will do to keep you as a customer. Of course you should only try doing this if you are actually willing to drop your service. This works well with cell phone companies and XM radio, too.
46. Actually drop your cable service, and any other services that aren’t absolutely necessary.
47. If you don’t have cable or satellite, and you have an older TV, request a coupon for the converter box you will need to keep receiving a signal after February 17, 2009. The $40 coupon will bring the cost of the converter box down to $10.
Saving Money on Decorating
48. Buy cheap furniture from eBay, Craigslist, thrift stores, or other places that sell inexpensive items.
49. Use sheets to make window coverings. Emily even made a valance out of a $2 tablecloth from the thrift store!
50. You can also use sheets or cloth napkins to make throw pillows.
51. Sheets also make nice cloth napkins.
52. Use family photos for decorating. It’s cheap, and it adds a homey feel to your house. I enlarged a bunch of our wedding photos for our bedroom. It adds a romantic touch.
53. Use your children’s artwork for decorating. One family I know frames a piece of each child’s art, and rotates the art throughout the year. It’s good for your child’s self-esteem as well as your budget.
54. To change the look of a room, paint. There are lots of different paint effects that you can use. Check out a how-to book from the library.
55. For painting small areas, check paint stores for returned custom color paints. They’ll often sell them at a steep discount.
56. If your sofa is in good structural condition, but the look just needs updating, use slipcovers to add a new look.
57. To update the look of a wood dresser, paint and add new hardware. Add a little decorative stamping, if you’re brave.
58. Check carpet stores for remnants if you need an area rug. My mom did this when I was little, and you never would have guessed that our area rug was just a remnant.
59. Use bedsheets in the next size up to make a pretty duvet, if you want to change the look in your bedroom.
60. Use decorative boxes, baskets, or pots to organize things.
61. Only use white sheets, towels, and washcloths. They look better longer, because you can bleach them when they get dingy.
62. Use fresh cut flowers from your garden to add a touch of spring or summer to your house.
63. For cheap, but attractive office organization, cover boxes and bulletin boards with fabric you buy on clearance.
64. Embrace minimalism. Less stuff = Less maintenance = Less money.
Saving Money on Landscaping
65. If your county offers free or low cost mulch, use it! The county where we used to live offered free mulch from the landfill, and we could get as many truckloads as we needed without paying a penny! You can’t beat that!
66. Decorate old containers and use them for planters. You can pick up all kinds of cool containers at garage sales!
67. Use a weedpopper for weeding. It’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly than chemicals.
68. Check freecycle for free plants. I find them all the time. I have a whole row of strawberry plants that I picked up free last year.
69. Ask good friends for cuttings from their plants. Most good friends won’t mind.
70. Grow plants from seed, rather than spending the extra money for starts.
Saving Money in Other Areas
71. Recycle. Most cities have free recycling programs. And throwing less stuff in the trash will cut down on your garbage bill. If you’re really interested in going green, there are a lot of other frugal things you can do, too.
72. Compost. It saves money on both your garbage bill and fertilizing your plants. It’s good for the environment, too.
73. Don’t upgrade your appliances and furniture unless they wear out. The cost per use is negligible if you use something until it dies.
74. If your water heater is old, consider replacing it before it completely dies and something bursts and causes damage to your house. Of course, if you are going to replace your hot water heater, replace it with an energy efficient model.
75. If you feel that your property value was assessed at higher than the actual value of your home, have it reassessed, so your property taxes are lowered.
Do you have any additional frugal home tips? Please share in the comments!
Here is the complete list of participants in the series Home Finance: Mortgages and the Real Cost of Home Ownership:
- My Thoughts On This Whole Mortgage Crisis And Why I Don’t Feel That Bad at My Two Dollars
- Why renting is right for us right now at Mrs. Micah
- Why We Have an Adjustable Rate Mortgage at My Dollar Plan
- Debt-To-Income Ratio and Why It Matters at Moolanomy
- Catch a Falling Knife – Buying the Housing Slump at Millionaire Money Habits
- Can we afford the Payments at PaidTwice
- So You Want to Buy a Fixer Upper at Remodeling This Life
- Frugal Hacks For Your Home at Being Frugal
- American Subprime Crisis—Should We Care at Plonkee Money
- Mortgage escrow accounts Explained at Cash Money Life
- Don’t Use Your House to Pay for Your Life at Rocket Finance
- Why the Sub-Prime Crises has not Affected Canada Yet at Money Smarts Blog
- That Damned Rent vs. Buy Question at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity
- After Foreclosure Guide to Housing: It Ain’t Easy at DebtKid
- Homeowners – Avoid Foreclosure by Thinking Like Investors at Two Wise Acres
- The Real Cost of Home Ownership at Single Guy Money
The following post is part of a group writing project on Home Finance: Mortgages and the Real Cost of Home Ownership. For a complete wrap-up of the project, head to Rocket Finance on Friday, February 1.
Some of these hacks can be considered frugal, but most of them are just smart ideas to have a little extra money in the wallet at the end of the day. I love it. My wife and I do many of these “hacks”. Not only can these ideas save you money on your electricity bill, but they can help avoid any appliance repair costs you may have by cutting down on the natural wear and tear that everyday use has and extending the overall life of them. Good stuff!
> Pour bleach down your drains every week. That will keep them unclogged, too.
DON’T do this if you have a septic tank! you can kill all the microorganisms needed to keep everything in good order!
These are some nice, simple but effective tips. I will be sure to start doing them giving the cold weather I am getting now.
I like to save money very much and I’ve added a lot of things in my house to cut out a lot of my costs. I’ve installed solar energy panels on the roof of my house and with it I’m able to cut the cost by at least 20% to 30%. My biggest cost is the internet bill so I talked to my neighbor and he agreed to share my internet bill. I’m still trying to find more ways that I can save more money.
Great reminder on the drapes – I definitely need to make sure I do that this winter.
For tip #11 – I recently started doing this with work pants. I average every 3 wearings now before washing.
Tip #45 is great as well – I’ve saved a ton of money this way.
insulation and draft proofing can save you a small fortune in energy bills
Most of that was great except the white towel/sheet thing. White things dont survive in my house. Bleach eventually damages cloth, and it wont get out all stains. We choose black, or very dark blue. Nothing stains black. A dirty black sock just gets blacker. Anyway, i get nosebleeds when the air is too dry or ive been around people who were smoking. Blood is no match for a black shirt. The black shirt laughs at the bloods attempt to stain it.
Awesome, there is so much here I never even thought about thank you. Also you can use Borax laundry booster for a natural ant killer.
I just want to say thanks for this interesting thread about Frugal Home Tips! Regards, Alexa Beratung
I love simple, easy and frankly, common sense approach to being green. It’s the easy things that last the longest.
A lot of good ideas, but #9 is not practical in swampy, excessively hot Houston.
One more – if 3 or less people eat in the house, consider preparing food in large amounts (things like soup or mixture for hamburgers),dividing into small portions in plastic boxes or zip bags and freezing. If you have a large freezer you can have different kinds of food, and each day defreeze enough for a meal – preparing and/or cooking in bulk saves on ingredients and energy, as well as time, and of course is much cheaper than buying prepared foods. Also try hamburger recepies that combine meat and vegetables – some of them are awesome!
I live alone. Because I do, I can do a lot of things that other people can’t. I used to buy washcloths in 12-pack bundles for $1.99. I have probably dozen right now. PREPARE yourself, because I don’t want to gross anyone out, but I use them as toilet paper. Not if I do #2, just if I do #1. I throw them in the wash with everything else. I do a 2nd rinse because I’m on a well and don’t pay for my water. Since they are all cotton, I can also throw in a cup of bleach, just for good measure. Nothing infuriates me more than going to the store and paying $10 for a pack of “double roll” toilet paper. One other thing I have trained myself to do: I go to the bathroom immediately before I leave work.
BTW I’ve been doing this for 10 years and never get sick. And, I’ve never gotten a flu shot.
Love this article! :)
I second the idea of fixing your own appliances or plumbing around the home. This website tells how to repair and find parts.
Often we will take a broken part with us to the plumbing supply place and they will tell us how to repair it. We have saved TONS this way.
One other item for insulating is to use window & door “snakes”. My wife made these things that are just 1″ tubes the width of the windows. We filled them with cotton balls and fish-tank rocks (new, not fishy:-). We put these on the sills & joints of the old windows & at the base of the doors all winter long – a very noticeable drop in drafts!
i think the thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer is key to saving alot of money