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Posted in: Homeowner tips

Budget better: 10 ways to lower your household expenses

Reduce household expenses

Key insights:

  • Cut back on entertainment expenses by nixing the cable TV and replacing it with a library card and streaming subscription.
  • Leverage free mobile apps and outdoor trails to get your exercise in without an expensive (and underutilized) gym membership.
  • Make DIY cleaning supplies with ingredients you already have to help cut household costs.

It’s time to stick to your budget and save more than ever before. Lowering your household expenses doesn’t mean you need to cut out everything, but you may want to cut back in certain areas. It’s possible to continue enjoying everything from books to TV to take-out dinners — while reducing your expenses — by following the tips below.

1. Cable and internet

If you’re on the fence and unsure whether or not your cable TV is worth the added expense, take an audit of the television shows you actually watch live. Then, calculate how many of them are truly necessary to watch as they air.

You can also research to see if there are packages available that allow for live-streaming of specific networks, rather than a bulk cable package. If you’re paying more than you should be, replace your cable or satellite package with other streaming options. Most offer a free trial period of the service. Some popular alternatives to cable include:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Premium content apps, such as HBO, Showtime and Disney+

2. Books and movies

Eliminate the added expense of entertainment by setting up a library membership. This card will be your single ticket to hundreds of books and movies, while supporting your community.

Be sure to set up an online account to accompany your library card. This allows you to easily add books and movies to your wish list online and pick them up once they come in as reserved. Also, download an app that connects with your local public library, like OverDrive. Here, you can enjoy ebooks and audiobooks via your library membership for free.

3. Heating and cooling

Agree with your family or housemates at the beginning of each season on what the average thermostat temperature should be in your home. Then, as painful as it may be when it hits subzero (or red-hot) temperatures, try to personally adjust before cranking the thermostat or air conditioning.

Sometimes, all it takes is some creative layering of clothes, and a solemn vow, to keep your utility costs down.

4. Dining out

Set a rule limiting yourself to “eat out” only 1-2 times per week. You can even trade off cooking homemade meals a few times a week for each other, so you’re still trying new things and saving time in the kitchen.

It also helps to plan ahead. Make a meal schedule for the week prior to grocery shopping. And if you’re really ambitious, you could prepare a couple of those meals in advance on the weekend and store them in the freezer to save time on those hectic work days.

5. Phone line

Get rid of your landline and send your contacts a notice of the best way to reach you moving forward. Be sure to update important contacts with your cell number who may have previously called your home, including:

  • Doctor or dentist
  • School office
  • Coaches or teachers

6. Fitness and gym memberships

Unless you’re a dedicated gym goer, consider switching to an in-home gym. Smartphone apps like 7-Minute Workout will help keep you in shape even from your makeshift living room gym.

During the warmer months, give the treadmill a rest and hit nearby outdoor trails for a free workout. Exercise around these Minnesota lakes for a great workout against a scenic backdrop.

7. Plan in advance, and buy in bulk when possible

Avoid last-minute purchases of anything, from meat to laundry soap, by taking stock of the items you are running low on before you go to the grocery store or big box store. By purchasing enough for a specific time period — anywhere from two to four weeks is pretty reasonable — you’ll save money and time in the long run.

If you have the space, you can also save a bit of dough by purchasing a membership to a bulk goods store, like Costco or Sam’s Club. You may also want to consider buying a stand-alone freezer that you can stock with meat, frozen vegetables, fruit and even bread products.

8. Fueling up

Never fill up on gas at the first gas station off the highway. These stations are usually higher priced by at least a few cents per gallon. Learn which fueling stations have the best prices, and fill up when you drive by rather than waiting for your tank to be empty. There are even smartphone apps that list fuel prices for nearby gas stations.

If you have a Sam’s Club or Costco membership, see if your local store has cheaper fueling stations onsite. Also, many gas stations have membership perks or partnerships to offer customers incentives and savings. Check with your neighborhood fuel station for any loyalty programs. Remember, gas prices are always fluctuating. Take advantage as much as you can when prices are low and use these tips to save when they go back up.

9. Water heater

Remember to service your large appliances throughout the year. Proper water heater maintenance will help keep costs down. For extra savings, insulate your hot water tank and set it to a maximum temperature of 120 degrees to keep costs down. That temp is still high enough for a hot shower, without being scalding.

10. Green your clean

Forget the expensive cleaning solutions that run you anywhere from $5-$15 per bottle. To keep costs down while greening your clean, consider creating these concoctions:

  • Glass cleaner: Combine 2 cups water, ½ cup white or cider vinegar, ¼ cup rubbing alcohol.
  • All-purpose cleaner for countertops and refrigerator: Mix 4 tablespoons baking soda and 1 quart warm water.
  • Toilet bowl cleaner: Combine ½ cup baking soda and 1 cup distilled white vinegar.
  • Disposal cleaner: Start by pouring a half cup of baking soda down the drain, then a cup of white vinegar. Let it sit as you boil a pot of water, then pour the boiling water down the drain. Last, add two cups of ice to the drain and turn on the disposal until it drains completely. To deodorize the drain, add a quartered lime or lemon to the disposal while it runs.

Don’t stop saving!

Tweaking your typical household expenses can help to create larger savings in the long run. Put away the extra cash you saved in a rainy day fund or reinvest it in home improvement projects that you’ve been meaning to take on.

For more homeowner tips, contact Edina Realty or one of our agents. We’ll provide real estate insights, tailored to you.

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