All the number crunching I have been doing in preparation to buy a house has revealed that this proposition is going to be far more expensive than I initially thought.
As a result, I've been contemplating ways I can cut back what I think is already a bare-bones budget even further (granted, my idea of bare bones includes cable TV and Tivo). Here's what I've come up with to save money both now, while I'm still waiting to find the right house, and later, once I've found it and am living there.
Actions to take now
1. Don't run the air conditioner during the day (I like to be cold when I sleep, though). Wear shorts and use fans instead.
2. Turn off the computer while I sleep. Maybe there's a reason my dad has always done that.
3. See if I can find some compact fluorescent bulbs I don't hate once I've used up the light bulbs I already have. (I love my GE Reveal bulbs, which really do create natural-looking light. Regular light bulbs look so dingy and yellow in comparison. I swear I'm not being paid by them to write this. I wish there were a Reveal compact fluorescent bulb. GE, are you listening?)
4. Shower at night so my wet hair will keep me cool and allow me to set the thermostat higher (obviously, this one will only work in the summer).
5. Stop insisting on sleeping under heavy blankets during the summer (but they're so cozy!) so I don't have to set the thermostat to 74 all night.
6. Use up as much of the food currently in my fridge, freezer, and pantry as possible. Plan meals and future shopping trips around using up what I already have. (I can't believe how much junk food there is in my house--I could make cookies and cakes and brownies for months!) As an added bonus, the more of this food I use up, the less of it I'll have to move. I really hate moving food--it seems like something that can be avoided with proper planning.
7. Sell everything I don't use on eBay and save the money for my down payment, closing costs, and possible remodeling costs. (A move-in ready house in my price range is unlikely--filthy, pink carpet, anyone?) (Note: I'm rethinking this eBay thing--I've had three nonpaying bidders in the last five months, versus 0 in the 8 years before that, not to mention the various ways eBay is becoming less seller-friendly--what is happening to eBay?)
Actions to take as a homeowner
1. Minimize water usage indoors: As a homeowner, I will have the joy of paying a water bill for the first time. Ideas to reduce my water usage: shower every other day, take shorter showers, or turn off the water while I lather up. Or do all three. Use a low-flow shower head. Only do full loads of laundry. Learn how to do dishes in the sink without running the water the whole time.
2. Minimize landscaping and yard maintenance costs: Create a landscape suitable for my climate in the front yard to minimize lawn care costs and put in a large patio in the backyard so that my only outdoor water usage is for my garden (which should save me money on groceries, even after the water bill, or at least give me tastier food and cause me to eat more fresh vegetables).
3. Figure out how to avoid having a land line while still getting inexpensive Internet access. This is going to take some research (or some helpful tips from my readers!).
4. Install ceiling fans, if it can be done inexpensively, to minimize air conditioning use. I've read that ceiling fans can also help lower your heating bill by helping to recirculate the warm air that tends to rise to the ceiling. Also, tape shut the AC vents in the rooms I don't use as often (if I'm lucky enough to get a house with central air, that is!)
5. Do more of those frugal cooking things, like making extra food and freezing it and cooking from scratch instead of buying frozen food. My grocery budget stands at $350/mo. for two people, but I know it could be lower. At the same time, I've always considered food to be an affordable luxury--I may not have a new car or fancy gadgets, but if I want some $8 lavender honey and some $5 Greek yogurt, I'll allow myself those small pleasures. Of course, those things add up.
6. Line dry my clothes outside (something I've never been allowed to do in an apartment).
7. Work more. Since I am self-employed, my earning potential is not limited by a salary. (Heck, even if it were, I'd find a job to do on the side.) Getting an extra client, generating more assignments from existing clients, or selling a few freelance articles will give me more breathing room. I haven't maxed out my work hours or earning potential, so this is very doable. It's less a question of earning more and more a question of balancing work with continuing to enjoy my life (and leaving enough free time to engage in my other frugal plans, like cooking and gardening, which also happen to be things I find fun).
8. Try to avoid the temptation to go to Ikea, and spend several months searching for new (to me) furniture at garage sales and thrift stores instead. I am just dying to get new furniture. It's terrible. It's a classic first-time homeowner mistake--buy a new house and blow a bunch of extra money on new furniture to put in your new house. But there are all these furniture purchases I have been intentionally putting off until I get a house so I won't have to move the new furniture (which always results in it getting banged up or broken)--new bed, new couch, new desk . . .). I think I have watched too much HGTV and now my mind is poisoned by this vision of a beautifully designed interior that I cannot afford because I do not have the free labor from Designed To Sell.
I realize that many of you reading this blog probably do all these things already. Even though I am quite frugal in many respects, I will admit that I do have some wasteful habits. I may be a personal finance writer, but I am still human (if I weren't would you even listen to me?).
Photo by daryl_mitchell
First-Time Homebuyer Guide
Navigating Real Estate Listing Lingo
Why You Should Use A Buyer's Agent
Understanding Closing Costs
Housing and Net Worth