20 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Your Household Budget



These days, it seems like everyone’s looking for ways to cut costs and stretch their income further. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your household expenses without making radical changes to your standard of living. When combined, these small adjustments can add up to significant savings each month.


Here are 20 things you can start doing today to lower your bills, secure better deals, and begin working toward your financial goals.


  1. Refinance Your Mortgage - For prime borrowers, mortgage rates are at or near historic lows. Depending on your current mortgage rate and the terms you choose, refinancing could save you a sizable amount on your monthly payments. There are fees and closing costs associated with refinancing, so you’ll need to talk to your lender to find out if refinancing is a good option for you.


  1. Evaluate Your Insurance Policies - If it’s been a while since you priced home or auto insurance, it may be worthwhile to do some comparison shopping. Get quotes from at least three insurers or independent agents. Try bundling your policies to see if there’s a discount. And inquire about raising your deductible, which should lower your premium.1


  1. Bundle Cable, Phone, and Internet - You can also save money by bundling your cable, phone, and internet services together. Shop around to see who is willing to give you the best deal. If switching is too much of a hassle, ask your current provider to match or beat their competitor’s offer.


  1. Better Yet, Cut the Cord on Cable - In many cases, you can save even more if you cancel your cable subscription altogether. An antenna should give you access to the major stations, and many of your favorite shows are probably available on-demand through a less expensive streaming service subscription.


  1. Revisit Your Wireless Plan - You can often save by switching from a big brand to an independent, low-cost carrier. If that’s not feasible, ask your current provider for a better deal or consider downgrading to a cheaper plan.


  1. Adjust Your Thermostat - Turning your thermostat up or down a few degrees can have a noticeable impact on your monthly heating and cooling costs. To maximize efficiency, change your filters regularly, and make sure your windows and doors are well insulated.


  1. Use Less Hot Water - After heating and cooling, hot water accounts for the second-largest energy expense in most homes.2 To cut back, repair any leaks or dripping faucets, install low-flow fixtures, only run your dishwasher when full, and wash clothes in cold water when possible.


  1. Lower Overall Water Consumption - To decrease your water usage, take shorter showers, and turn off the sink while you brush your teeth and wash your hands. If you don’t have a low-flow toilet, retrofit your current one with a toilet tank bank or fill cycle diverter. Irrigate your lawn in the morning or evening to minimize evaporation.3


  1. Conserve Electricity - Save electricity by shutting off your computer at night and installing energy-efficient LED light bulbs. You can minimize standby or “vampire” power drain by utilizing power strips and unplugging idle appliances.4


  1. Purchase a Home Warranty - While there is an upfront cost, a home warranty can provide some protection and peace of mind when it comes to unexpected home repair costs. Most plans provide coverage for major systems (like electrical, plumbing, and HVAC) and appliances (such as your dishwasher, stove, or refrigerator).


  1. Outsource Less - From lawn care to grocery shopping to minor home repairs, we pay people to do a lot of things our parents and grandparents did themselves. To save money, try cutting back on the frequency of these services or taking some of them on yourself.


  1. Prepare Your Own Meals - It costs nearly five times more to have a meal delivered than it does to cook it at home.5 And home cooking doesn’t just save money; it’s healthier, cuts down on calorie consumption, and can offer a fun activity for families to do together.


  1. Plan Your Menu in Advance - Meal planning is deciding before you shop what you and your family will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It can help you lower your overall food bill, eliminate waste, and minimize impulse purchases. When possible, buy produce that is in season, and utilize nutrient-rich but inexpensive protein sources like eggs, beans, ground turkey, and canned tuna.


  1. Plant a Garden - You can save even more on produce by growing it yourself. If you have space in your yard, start-up costs are relatively minimal. Gardening can be a rewarding and enjoyable (not to mention delicious) hobby for the whole family. And it could save you around $600 per year at the grocery store!6


  1. Review Memberships and Subscriptions - Are you paying for services and subscriptions you no longer need, want, or can utilize? Determine if there are any that you should suspend or cancel.


  1. Give Homemade Gifts - Who wouldn’t appreciate a scratch birthday cake or tin of cookies? And if you enjoy crafting, Pinterest and Instagram are full of inspiring ideas. Show your recipient how much you care with a homemade gift from the heart.


  1. Minimize Your Debt Payments - The best way to reduce a debt payment is to pay down the balance. But if that’s not an option right now, try to negotiate a better interest rate. If you have a good credit score, you may be able to qualify for a balance transfer to a 0% or low-interest rate credit card. Keep in mind, the rate may expire after a certain period—so be sure to read the fine print.


  1. Get a Cash-back Credit Card - If you regularly pay your credit card balance in full, a cash-back credit card can be a good way to earn a little money back each month. However, they often come with high-interest rates and fees if you carry a balance. Commit to only using it for purchases you can afford.


  1. Ask for Deals and Discounts - It may feel awkward at first, but becoming a master haggler can save you a lot of money. Many companies are willing to negotiate under the right circumstances. Always inquire about special promotions or incentives. See if they are able to price match (or beat) their competitors. And if an item is slightly defective or nearing its expiration date, ask for a discount.


  1. Track Your Household Budget - One of the most effective ways to reduce household expenses is to set a budget—and stick to it. A budget can help you see where your money is going and identify areas where you can cut back. By setting reasonable limits, you’ll be able to reach your financial goals faster.



Want more help getting a handle on your finances? Use the budget worksheet below to track income and expenses—and start working towards your financial goals today! Please reach out to me for a downloadable version.

 

HOUSEHOLD BUDGET WORKSHEET

 

Expected

Actual

Difference

HOUSING

Mortgage/taxes/insurance or Rent




Utilities (electricity, water, gas, trash)




Phone, internet, cable




Home maintenance and repairs




FOOD

Groceries




Restaurants




TRANSPORTATION

Car payment/insurance




Gas, maintenance, repairs




OTHER

Health insurance




Clothing and personal care




Childcare




Entertainment




Gifts and charitable contributions




Savings, retirement, college fund




INCOME

Salary/wages




Tips and other




MONTHLY TOTALS

Total Actual Income


Total Actual Expenses


ADDITIONAL SAVINGS




WE’RE HERE TO HELP

We would love to help you meet your financial goals. Whether you want to refinance your mortgage, save up for a down payment, or simply find lower-cost alternatives for home repairs, maintenance, or utilities, we are happy to provide our insights and referrals. And if you have plans to buy or sell a home this year, we can discuss the steps you should be taking to financially prepare. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation! (250) 704-6970

 

 

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.



Sources:


  1. Insurance Information Institute -
    https://www.iii.org/article/twelve-ways-to-lower-your-homeowners-insurance-costs
  2. Department of Energy -
    https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/water-heating/reduce-hot-water-use-energy-savings
  3. Money Crashers -
    https://www.moneycrashers.com/ways-conserve-water/
  4. Harvard University -
    https://green.harvard.edu/tools-resources/poster/top-5-steps-reduce-your-energy-consumption
  5. Forbes -
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/priceonomics/2018/07/10/heres-how-much-money-do-you-save-by-cooking-at-home/#2c53b2f35e54
  6. Money -
    https://money.com/gardening-grocery-savings/
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Top 5 Home Design Trends for a New Decade



Whether you’re planning a simple refresh or a full-scale renovation, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends in home design. Sellers who make tasteful updates can generate increased buyer interest and, in some cases, a premium selling price. And buyers should consider which features of a home will need updating immediately (or in the near future) so they can factor renovation costs into their overall budget.


Even if you have no immediate plans to buy or sell, we advise our clients to be thoughtful about the colors, materials, and finishes they select when planning a remodel or even redecorating. Choosing over-personalized or unpopular options could hurt a home’s value when it does come time to list your property. And selecting out-of-style or overly-trendy elements could cause your home to feel dated quickly.


To help, we’ve rounded up five of the hottest home design trends for 2020. Keep in mind, not all of these will work well in every house. If you plan to buy, list, or renovate your property, give us a call. We can help you realize your vision and maximize the impact of your investment.




1. IN: Sustainability / OUT: Fast Furniture


Consumers have become increasingly eco-conscious. Many are shunning the mass-produced, “fast furniture” popularized by retailers like IKEA, opting instead for higher-quality pieces that are built to last. And the availability of non-toxic, environmentally-friendly furniture and decor options are set to grow in 2020 and beyond.


At the same time, there’s been a noticeable shift toward individuality in today’s interior design. Instead of following the latest fad, more homeowners are opting to embrace their personal style and invest in items they believe will “spark joy” (à la Marie Kondo) for years to come.

 

Want to know more about Marie Kondo’s famous organization method and how it can increase your home’s value? Contact us for a free copy of our recent report, “Top 6 Home Organization Upgrades That ‘Spark Joy’ for Buyers.”


To incorporate this trend, designers recommend layering old and new pieces for a curated look that you can build over time. Instead of purchasing a matching furniture set from a big-box retailer, buy one or two sustainably-sourced pieces that complement what you already own. Try searching estate sales and Craigslist for vintage classics or well-built furniture that can be refinished. And to accessorize your room, mix sentimental items with newer finds to create a truly personalized space.




2. IN: Cozy / OUT: Cold


Designers are moving away from cool grays, industrial finishes, and stark modernism. In 2020, there’s a big emphasis on creating warm and cozy spaces through color, texture, and shape.


Gray has dominated the color palette for the past decade. This year, expect to see a move toward warmer neutrals, earth tones, and nature-inspired shades of blue and green. Warm metals, like gold and brass, will also continue to trend. And hardwood floors are heating up, as cool gray and whitewashed finishes fade in popularity. Expect to see a rise in classic choices like walnut, mahogany, and oak in richer and darker tones.


Furniture will also get cozier—and curvier—in 2020. From rounded sofas and curved-back chairs to oval dining tables, softened-angles are dominating the furniture scene right now. And designers expect softly-textured fabrics—like velvet, shearling, and mohair—to be big this year, as homeowners strive to add a touch of “hygge” (the Danish concept of calming comfort).


Want to warm up your home decor? Try one of the top paint colors for 2020: Benjamin Moore’s First Light (soft pink), Sherwin Williams’s Naval (rich blue), or Behr’s Back to Nature (light green).




3. IN: Bold / OUT: Boring


Bold is back! After years of neutral overload, vivid colors and prints will take center stage in 2020. Expect to see geometric designs, color blocking, and floral and botanical patterns on everything from pillows to rugs to wallpaper.


The hottest trend in interior paint right now is bold trim and ceilings. Monochromatic rooms (e.g., walls, ceilings, and millwork painted the same color) will be big this year, as well as high-contrast pairings, like white walls with black trim. Color is coming back to kitchens, too, and two-toned color schemes continue to gain steam. In 2019, 40% of remodelers chose a contrasting color for their kitchen island.1 While white was still the top choice for cabinets, blue and gray are increasingly popular alternatives.


If you’re ready to “go bold,” separated spaces like laundry and powder rooms are great places to start. It’s easier to incorporate busy wallpaper or bright wall color in an enclosed area because it doesn’t have to flow with the rest of your decor.


Of course, clients always want to know how design choices could impact their home’s value. The reality is, neutral finishes are still the safest bet for resale. If you’re prepping your home to go on the market, stick with non-permanent fixtures—like artwork and accessories—to brighten your space.




4. IN: Nature / OUT: Industrial


Biophilic design has been big in the past few seasons, and it isn’t going anywhere in 2020. It centers around the health and wellness benefits of connecting with nature, even while indoors, and it’s impacted the latest trends in color, prints, and materials.


As we mentioned previously, floral and botanical patterns are hot right now, along with nature-inspired hues, like blues, greens, and earth tones. We’re also seeing a heightened use of organic shapes and sustainable materials in furniture and furnishings, including wood, wicker, rattan, and jute. This infusion of nature coincides with a decline in the popularity of urban-industrial fixtures. Designers predict that concrete floors and Edison light bulbs are on the way out.


Want to bring in elements of biophilic design on a budget? Houseplants are a great place to start. But you can also enhance your home’s natural light and create a visual sightline to the outdoors by removing heavy curtains and blinds. And when the weather is nice, open your windows and enjoy the breeze, sounds, and smells of nature. These simple acts are scientifically proven to help reduce stress, boost cognitive performance, and enhance mood!2



5. IN: Functional / OUT: Fussy


In 2020, homeowners want design that’s beautiful, but also liveable. With the rise in remote workplaces, online shopping, and virtual exercise classes, many of us are spending more time at home than ever before. Cue the growing appeal of multi-functional spaces, like a combination kitchen/office or gym/playroom. Real-life—and rising housing prices—necessitates the creative use of limited space.


Durable, low-maintenance materials will also surge in popularity this year. Engineered quartz—which is more stain, heat, and chip-resistant than natural stone—is now the #1 choice for kitchen countertops.1 Waterproof, wood-look luxury vinyl is the fastest-growing segment in the flooring industry.3 And improvements to water and stain-resistant performance fabric has made it a mainstream option for both indoor and outdoor upholstery.


Now that functional is hot, what’s not? Designers say that mirrored furniture, open shelving, and all-white kitchens are too impractical for today’s busy families.


So how can you start enjoying the time and energy-saving benefits of this design trend? Begin by structuring each room so that it best suits your needs. And when purchasing furniture or fixtures, choose options that are durable and easy-to-clean. The truth is, design fads come and go. But a comfortable and relaxed home (that you don’t spend every spare minute maintaining!) can help create memories to last a lifetime.


 

DESIGNED TO SELL

 

Are you contemplating a remodel? Want to find out how upgrades could impact the value of your home? Buyer preferences vary greatly by neighborhood and price range. We can share our insights and offer tips on how to maximize the return on your investment. And if you’re in the market to sell, we can run a Comparative Market Analysis on your home to find out how it compares to others in the area. Contact us to schedule a free consultation!



Sources:

  1. Houzz -
    https://www.houzz.com/magazine/2020-us-houzz-kitchen-trends-study-stsetivw-vs~129594531
  2. Terrapin Bright Green - https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/reports/14-patterns/
  3. Remodeling Magazine -
    https://www.remodeling.hw.net/products/vinyl-ceramic-and-hardwood-oh-my-todays-popular-flooring-trends_o
  4. Elle Decor -
    https://www.elledecor.com/design-decorate/trends/g29859422/design-trends-2020/?slide=1
  5. Forbes - https://www.forbes.com/sites/amandalauren/2019/12/23/twelve-interior-design-trends-well-see-in-2020/#43f81f044a5f
  6. Wall Street Journal -
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-top-6-interior-design-trends-for-2020-11577460357
  7. Good Housekeeping -
    https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/decorating-ideas/g29849170/home-decor-trends-2020/
  8. Architectural Digest -
    https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/top-design-trends-of-2020
  9. Los Angeles Times -
    https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2020-01-11/2020-home-design-trends




 

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