Category Archives: Personal Finance

The AHS Top 10: Best Money-Saving Apps for Budgeting

Who doesn’t like to save money?  Check out these Apps and see which ones might work for you!

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Budget apps

Whether you’re saving money for the upcoming holiday season or following up on that long-ago resolution to pay off all of your debts, these money-saving apps can help you stay on track.

1. PocketGuard (Android, iOS)

Want to know how to stay in the clear and out of the red zone on your accounts? PocketGuard can take care of that. The app securely accesses your accounts while simultaneously factoring in your spending habits to let you know how much you can afford to spend each day.

2. Wally (Android, iOS)

For added convenience and flexibility when it comes to expense tracking, Wally lets you manually enter your spending or take photos of your receipts. To save you a step, it can even identify your location. And all along the way, the app will adapt to your spending habits and help you achieve your savings goals.

3. Personal Capital (Android, iOS)

If you want to focus more on planning for the future and your investments, Personal Capital is the money-tracking app for you. In fact, thanks to its dedicated advisors, you’ll know if you’re paying too much in fees in addition to being able to get help with your asset allocations.

4. Spendee (Android, iOS)

Spendee not only lets you see a breakdown of your spending over time; it goes even further to show what specific items and categories you’re spending your money on. The best part? You can simply snap photos of your bills and receipts for easy organization.

5. Mint (Android, iOS)

Want to see your entire financial picture in one place? Mint can handle that. It not only tracks your expenses across all your different credit, checking, savings and investment accounts; you can even add in assets, such as cars or houses, to get a better sense of your net worth.

6. Mvelopes (Android, iOS)

Sure, you may have heard that the envelope system is the only way to truly ensure success when it comes to budgeting. But why bother with the physical paper when you can utilize the same system on your phone? The best part is that, when you charge something on a credit card, Mvelopes automatically moves that amount of money out of your “spending” envelope and puts it into an envelope set aside for paying your credit card bill. Genius, huh?

7. Digit (Android, iOS)

Using the Digit app is possibly the easiest, no-brainer way to save a few extra bucks without even trying. In fact, when it comes to putting money in your savings account, Digit handles it all. Every few days, the app uses its spending tracker and moves a small amount of money — whatever you can safely afford — over to a savings account. And, don’t worry, you’re never going to go into overdraft mode. The creators of the app guarantee it.

8. GoodBudget (Android, iOS)

GoodBudget is similar to Mvelopes; however, it’s designed to be synced across all of your devices and the web so you can share the progress with your family members. This app is great if money management is a team effort in your household.

9. Albert (iOS)

Want a personal financial advisor without paying for a personal financial advisor? Albert’s your man (or app, rather). Teaming up with various financial institutions to get accurate advice, Albert can help you make a plan and stick to it. What’s more, you can save and withdraw money straight from the app free of charge.

10. You Need a Budget (Android, iOS)

When it comes to apps that help you save money, You Need a Budget (YNAB) goes over and beyond. More than just an app that observes and analyzes your spending habits, YNAB actually tries to improve those habits — resulting in an entire lifestyle change.

Want to see more of our tech favorites? Check out our top ten security apps, our top ten home renovation apps and our top ten voice-controlled devices.

Originally Published by American Home Shield

Do You Need to Adjust Your Thermostat When the Weather Changes?

“Now that the temperatures outside are finally starting to fall, it’s time to think about how to control the temperature inside, along with costs.  It’s not always as simple as you might think.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Turn on the heater or turn off the A/C? As summer becomes fall, temperatures fluctuate from hot to cold. Use these tips to keep heating and cooling costs in check!

Temperature changes outside

Whether you choose to describe it as being “up and down” or as “running hot and cold,” as a homeowner, you know that autumn weather can be unpredictable. Autumn temperatures that veer between extremes can make keeping your home comfortable a real challenge. As the season’s warm days turn into cool nights, how do you avoid running back and forth to adjust your thermostat — or even switching back and forth between your air conditioning and heating systems? Here are some tips to help when switching from cooling to heating as the seasons change.

  • Change your filters regularly. Your air conditioning system has gotten you through the worst of the summer, but September and early October can still be torrid. Don’t tax it any more than you have to. To keep your HVAC system running efficiently, change its filters regularly. Consider these general guidelines for filter changes.
    • If your home is occupied by multiple people and pets, change your filters every 30 to 45 days.
    • If your home is occupied by multiple people and only one pet, change your filters every 60 days.
    • If your home is occupied by multiple people but no pets, change your filters every 90 days.
  • Get an automatic or programmable thermostat. If you don’t already own a programmable thermostat, hire a professional to install one. Set the baseline temperature within your home to ensure your preferred level of comfort, then back off that temperature setting by a few degrees, especially for those hours of the day when you aren’t actually at home. According to the United States Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10 percent a year in energy usage (and on your utility bills) by making smart adjustments to your thermostat.
  • Pile on the cozy bedding.This may seem low-tech, but that’s just another way of saying it’s a tried-and-true solution. If your house feels a little too cool at night, snuggle up under an extra blanket or two until it’s time to turn on the heater full-time.
  • Have your heating system serviced.Before completely switching from cooling to heating, have a professional HVAC technician make sure your heating system is operating properly before the full blast of winter arrives. During this inspection, have the technician check for any signs of carbon monoxide leakage. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is potentially deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every year nearly 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning, and more than 4,000 Americans are hospitalized due to carbon monoxide exposure.
  • Make sure your home is sealed.Check around your windows and doors for drafts. If you feel air moving or a disparity in temperature in these areas, use caulk or weather stripping to block the exchange of air between the interior and exterior of your home. Improperly sealed homes can easily cause your energy bill to increase by as much as 10 to 15 percent.
  • Lower the temperature on your water heaterYou can save between 3 and 5 percent in energy costs for every 10 degrees you lower the high-temperature setting on your water heater. Keep your hot water simmering at about 120 degrees and insulate your water heater and its exposed pipes to reduce heat loss.
  • Change out your light bulbs.As the days grow shorter and nights longer, replace standard incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED bulbs that use less energy and have a longer lifespan. Non-incandescent bulbs also give off less heat, meaning cooler temperatures inside a well-lit home during those days when winter still seems a long way off.

Of course, you can help protect your budget from home repair and replacement costs with an American Home Shield® Home Warranty Plan. We have options for every budget, and you can even choose from several flexible plans.

Originally Published by American Home Shield

5 Money-Saving Gadgets That Make Life Easier

“Who doesn’t love gadgets, especially those that can save you money!”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

5 Money-Saving Gadgets That Make Life Easier

Who doesn’t love products that can save us money and time? Here are five of our favorite money-saving gadgets:

Fruit freshness extender
(Source)

1. Battery Charger

It seems like battery chargers were big when they first came out but, over time, it seems the energy died down and everyone stopped talking about them. Not us. We think they’re incredibly convenient, and they can potentially save you a lot of cash — especially if you find yourself constantly changing out the batteries in your kids’ favorite toys and devices. In fact, one user wrote about saving more than $75 each year with rechargeable batteries! Besides, who wants to make additional trips to the store for replacements when you can renew the batteries that you already have at home for free?

2. Self-Cleaning Electric Shaver

When it comes to money-saving health gadgets, you can’t go wrong with a self-cleaning electric shaver, especially if you’re a regular groomer. Although the initial investment may end up setting you back a couple hundred dollars, it should only take you about eight months to break even and start seeing the savings. Likewise, the thought of not having to buy disposable razors and shaving cream on a weekly basis anymore — and you still get a fresh shave — should make you a true believer.

3. Motion-Sensing Light Switch

Want to save money but consider yourself too lazy to even turn the lights off when you leave the room? No problem. Just install motion-sensing light switches. They’re some of the greatest energy-saving products because you literally don’t have to lift a finger to use them (after the initial installation, that is). They sense when you come in and go out of the room, turning the lights on and off for you, and typically reducing your energy consumption by 35–45 percent. Never worry about tripping over furniture in a dark room again!

 

4. Food Freshness Extender

We know how it feels. You’re so proud of yourself for going to the grocery store and picking out all those fresh fruits and vegetables. Then, you “accidentally” let them sit in the fridge a little longer than you intended and they’re suddenly wilted and rotten after only a few days. Cut down on the wasted food and money — up to $600 for a family of four! — by simply tossing a freshness extender ball in your crisper drawer. It works by absorbing the ethylene gases in your fridge, which tell the produce to continue ripening. And it lasts for up to three months, keeping your produce fresher longer.

5. Learning Thermostat

Perhaps one of the top energy-saving devices around, learning thermostats go beyond your typical temperature programming. They learn your habits after only a few days of adjusting the temperature yourself and then take the reins, adjusting the temperature accordingly for you. Don’t worry; you still have full control over the units. It’s just incredibly convenient not having to worry about adjusting the thermostat all the time — and saving between $131 and $145 a year, on average, while you’re at it. In fact, learning thermostats actually go beyond merely keeping your house comfortable. They can sense when no one is home (thus, refraining from heating or cooling the air for no reason) and determine how you can use your heating and air conditioning units more efficiently, as well.

Originally Published by American Home Sheild

Are You Getting the Home Tax Deductions You’re Entitled To?

“Do you know all the deductions you can get with your home? You might be surprised at some of the ways you can use your home to save on your taxes.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.

Copyright 2017 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Light up Your House for the Holidays, Not Your Energy Bill

“When it’s time to decorate, or replace some of your old lights, consider these for your new lighting ideas.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

These energy-conscious lighting tips will help you save some money on your energy bill this holiday season, leaving you with more funds to spend on loved ones.

The holidays are a fun, but often expensive, time of year. It’s easy to blow budgets on gifts for loved ones and on electric bills by making the season bright. Fortunately, saving money during the holiday season can be just as simple with a few energy-conscious lighting tips.

Look on the bright side

Substituting new LED holiday lights for run-of-the-mill incandescent holiday lights can give you big savings and make a big statement. LED (or light emitting diode) lights are brighter than traditional lights, and they last longer while using far less energy. In fact, LED light strings can use 90% less energy than regular incandescent lights and last about ten times longer. When you shop, just make sure you’re getting what you pay for. Look for government and industry-approved energy-saving logos.

No matter what you choose, buying holiday lights can be expensive. So keep your eye out for manufacturer rebates and coupons, and be sure to check with your local utility provider to see if they offer any special rebates for LED decorations.

Besides being energy efficient, LED holiday lights offer other important advantages. They’re cooler than incandescent lights (which can help reduce fires), have no filament or glass to break and can help prevent overloading sockets when you string them end-to-end. And believe it or not, using energy-efficient holiday lights like these can even help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Remember, you don’t have to limit your energy savings to just around the holidays. Using LED bulbs is a smart, energy efficient choice any time of the year for lighting inside and outside your home.

Christmas Decorations

Timing is everything

You can further reduce your holiday electric bill by limiting your light display to “primetime” hours. Extension cords with built-in timers can easily be found in most hardware stores. Make sure they’re suitable for outdoor use. Then, simply plug in your lights and set timers to turn on when it gets dark and switch off at bedtime. No sense lighting your home when few people are around to enjoy it. The same holds true at other times of the year with your standard outdoor lights. Instead of a timer, you can even use a motion sensor. That way, your outdoor lights will only go on when triggered.

Christmas Decorations

Consider solar

Depending on how much sun exposure you get, solar-powered lights can be a great energy-saving solution. Even in winter, these lights can soak up enough sun to light up an outdoor tree without relying on electricity.

Christmas Decorations

Get more bang for your buck

Here’s a smart tip to pump up the light without bursting your electric bill: Strategically place reflective ornaments or tinsel to bounce light in multiple directions. This will create a dazzling shimmery effect that tricks the eye into seeing more lights than are actually there.

Colored Christmas Lights

A little can go a long way

Here’s another efficient way to create lots of visual drama without having to add tons of additional lighting. Simply, use colored flood light bulbs in place of standard outdoor floods. You can find a variety of festive colors such as red, green and blue. Then, position the lights so they bathe your home’s exterior in a warm, cheery glow.

You can achieve a lot with dramatic up-lighting. Focus them on your home or seasonal planters positioned along a walkway. Try flanking your front door for an added effect.

If that’s a little too much for your taste, just substitute colored light bulbs in a few of your exterior fixtures, such as on your porch, above your front door or outside your garage. You’ll get pops of festive color with a more subtle effect.

Paper bag outdoor lights

Light the night with luminarias

During the holidays, you’ll often see these glowing lanterns in rows along a sidewalk or leading up a walkway to a front door. Luminarias are often made from brown paper bags that are weighted down with sand and lit from within by candles. A safer energy-efficient solution would be battery-powered LED luminarias. They’ll still create a classic, warm and welcoming feel, just in a modern and eco-friendly way.

Lights in window

Create a warm glow

Speaking of battery-powered candles or candlesticks, using them in your front windows can also add light with limited energy use and cost. Look for scented varieties to add another layer of cheer. Create a warm glow throughout your home with holiday-themed votive holders illuminated with actual votive or battery-operated tea-lights. Many of these flameless options are made to mimic the flickering of a real candle, so you can enjoy all the atmosphere without any of the worry that comes with a real flame.

With so many wonderful options available today, you can be energy-conscious AND festive without having to compromise. Follow these energy conservation tips this holiday and, perhaps, you’ll be able to splurge on an extra gift just for yourself.

Originally published by American Homeshield

5 Ways to Cut Your Heating Costs

“The colder weather is starting to show up and it’s time to consider how you will control your heating bills.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Winter doesn’t have to mean higher heating bills. Here are a few simple home improvement tips you can use to help keep your house warm and your bills under control.

home mattersPhoto by: iStock

Following these easy tips and tricks can help keep your bill from skyrocketing as temperatures plummet.

1. It’s the mantra of dads worldwide – don’t turn up the heat, put on a sweater. By maintaining a steady air temperature and changing your body temperature, you’ll nix bill spikes. For every degree you lower your heat in the 60 – 70 degree range, you can save up to 5% on heating costs.

2. Installing plastic film over your windows is an extremely affordable do-it-yourself project. Cutting down on the drafts from windows can save you about 14% on your monthly bill.

3. Another source of drafts is your front door. A simple door sweep will keep the heat in and cold out while likely costing you less than $10 at a home or hardware store.

4. Opening shades on west- and south-facing windows will allow sunlight in during the day. Conversely, closing these shades at night will help keep your heat in.

5. Make sure that you don’t have furniture blocking your heating vents. If you have a bed or sofa in front of a vent, your HVAC will work harder than necessary to maintain your desired room temperature.

These five tips should be a simple way to help out with your heating costs.

Originally appearing on AmericanHomeShield.com

Shave Up to 15% Off Your Heating Bill with This Simple Tip

Thermostat

“So you think you know how to save money on your heating and cooling bills?  Not everything we’ve been taught is correct.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Originally published on Houselogic

By: Deirdre Sullivan

Think you’re saving on your heating bill by keeping it at a constant 68 degrees? You’re not, and here’s why.

It’s easy to imagine your energy bill going sky-high when you hear your furnace fire up.  That’s the reason so many people believe keeping a steady temperature of 68 degrees is the key to energy savings. But that’s a myth.

In fact, the lower the temperature, the slower your house loses the heat, according to energy.gov. And that keeps your hard-earned money from floating out the door.

So if you truly want to see your heating bill drop, you need to turn down the temperature another 10 or 15 degrees for eight-hour stretches on a regular basis — like when you’re at work, sleeping, or out of town.

When you return, turn it back up to 68 degrees. Or better yet, take advantage of what a programmable thermostat can do.

In the summer, just flip the strategy:

  • Set your AC to 78 degrees when you’re home.
  • When you leave, turn the AC off or set your thermostat to a much warmer temperature.

Here are some other misconceptions about and tips for reducing your heating and cooling costs.

Resist the Urge to Crank Up the Thermostat

Turning up the thermostat past your desired setting won’t speed heating. Your furnace works at the same pace regardless of temperature settings. That also applies to your AC; setting the thermostat to its coolest temperature won’t chill your home any faster.

A Programmable Thermostat Doesn’t Automatically Reduce Energy Use

Installing a programmable thermostat with factory settings isn’t going to do you much good. You can only reduce the amount of power your home consumes if you create a personalized heating and cooling program that makes the most of your own energy-saving opportunities.

Programmable thermostats come in four different pre-set schedule styles, so it’s important to pick one that’s in sync with your household’s scheduling needs:

  • 7-day programming offers the most flexibility. It allows you to set a different heating and cooling schedule for each day of the week.
  • 5-1-1 programming is a good choice if you have a predictable weekday schedule. It lets you set an identical heating and cooling plan Monday through Friday, and a different plan for Saturday and Sunday.
  • 5-2 programming is similar to the 5-1-1 programming, except you can only program one heating and cooling schedule for both Saturday and Sunday.
  • 1-week programming is a good choice if you stick to the same schedule every day of the week. It allows you to create a single heating and cooling plan that repeats daily.

Bonus tip: When daylight savings comes around, remember to adjust your settings so your heating and cooling program isn’t off by an hour.

Some Smart Thermostats are a Lot Smarter Than Others; Choose Wisely

Smart thermostats aren’t all the same. Sure, all offer Internet connectivity for remote management using your mobile device. But each thermostat brand uses a different proprietary self-programming technology.

For example, Google’s Nest relies on sensors and a learning algorithm to manage your heating and cooling preferences. Honeywell’s Lyric uses GPS technology to trigger heating and cooling automatically via your smartphone.

But here’s the kicker: Just like manual or programmable thermostats, it’s up to the user to set preferences that enable energy savings. And for those of you who still believe a smart thermostat can shave 30% of your utility bills, here’s a reality check: A study conducted by Nest revealed its users can only save up to 12% on heating costs.

Don’t assume every smart thermostat is user friendly.  A recent study on thermostat usability by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District revealed that the ballyhooed Nest thermostat isn’t all that user friendly. The Nest was tested against a mix of 11 smart and programmable thermostats for ease of use without using a manual. It received the second-worst rating.

Which thermostat came out on top? One by a company with a century of cooling experience: the Carrier ComfortChoice Touch. The study participants also selected it as their preferred choice for purchase out of the models they tested.

Bonus tip: Avoid those wireless apps that let you control the thermostat remotely. A study on Wi-Fi enabled thermostats says that using them remotely can boost energy use. This is because they allow users to crank up the heat or AC remotely before they return home.

Related: The Warm and Cozy Home Guide

Read more: http://members.houselogic.com/articles/ways-to-save-money-on-bills/preview/#ixzz3liLjQX61
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The Perils of Retirement at 65

65 Candles

“When to retire?  It’s a question we ask ourselves, and have probably come up with several different answers over the years.   Here are some things to think about when making that decision.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Age 65 is the year we traditionally associate with retirement, but this age is declining in significance. Only one major retirement benefit still kicks in at this age, and plenty of people aspire to retire at both earlier and younger ages. Here’s a look at why age 65 no longer resonates as a target retirement age:

[See: 10 Numbers Everyone Should Know About Social Security.]

You won’t qualify for full Social Security benefits. While you can begin Social Security payments as early as age 62, you won’t get the full amount you have earned unless you sign up at your full retirement age. The full retirement age used to be 65 for people born in 1937 or earlier, but has since been increased to 66 for most baby boomers and 67 for everyone born in 1960 or later. If you claim your Social Security benefit at age 65 you will get a reduced monthly payment compared to waiting until your full retirement age. For example, a worker born in 1965 will get 13.3 percent smaller monthly payments if he signs up at age 65 instead of waiting until his full retirement age of 67. Spousal benefits are also reduced if you claim them at age 65. While spouses are entitled to 50 percent of the higher earner’s benefit payment if it’s more than they can get based on their own work record, if you begin receiving spousal payments at age 65 you will get only 41.7 percent of the higher earner’s payments.

You have a small window in which to sign up for Medicare. Perhaps the most compelling reason to retire at age 65 is Medicare eligibility. Once you turn 65 you no longer need to hold on to a job for the health insurance coverage. You can sign up for Medicare beginning three months before your 65th birthday and start coverage the month you turn 65. It’s important to sign up during the seven-month window around your 65th birthday, because your Medicare Part B and D premiums can be increased if you enroll later. Beginning the month you turn 65 there is also a six-month Medigap enrollment period during which you can buy any Medigap policy sold in your state. If you don’t sign up then you could potentially be charged significantly higher premiums or even denied coverage. If you are still working at age 65 and have a group health plan through your or a spouse’s job, you should sign up for Medicare within eight months of leaving the position or health plan to avoid the higher premiums.

[See: 10 Ways to Make the Most of Medicare.]

You can start retirement account withdrawals, but aren’t forced too. At age 65 you are old enough to avoid the early withdrawal penalty on 401(k) and IRA distributions. The 10 percent penalty is typically no longer applied to retirement account withdrawals once you turn age 59 1/2. However, you will have to pay income tax on your withdrawals from traditional 401(k)s and IRAs. But 65-year-olds are not yet required to withdraw money from their traditional retirement accounts. They can continue to defer income tax on their savings and let the money grow for another five years. Distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s become required after age 70 1/2, and a 50 percent penalty is applied to missed distributions.

The length of retirement. If you retire at age 65 and live until 90, you will be retired for 25 years. It can be incredibly difficult to save up enough to pay for over two decades of leisure time. You will also need to manage your money so that it will last throughout that entire period of time, which could include inflation, stock market volatility and health problems or other emergencies that require you to dip into the principal. Working even a year or two past age 65 gives you more time to save, your investments more time to grow, increases your monthly Social Security benefits due to delayed claiming and shortens the period of retirement you need to pay for.

[See: 9 Important Ages for Retirement Planning.]

If you’re working primarily for the health insurance you get through your job, retiring at age 65 when Medicare eligibility kicks in can make sense. But if you’re interested in timing your retirement closer to the year you max out your Social Security benefit or are required to take retirement account withdrawals, you’ll probably need to pick an alternative retirement age.

By Emily Brandon, originally appearing in US News and World Report

New Homeowners – Don’t Spend Money Here

Moneydowndrain

“We love helping our buyers, but especially our first-time buyers.  We want to get them started on the right path so they get the most for their 1st big purchase. Here are some things to try and ‘NOT’ spend money on when you are a New Homeowner.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

 

You’ve just moved into your first home. For the first time in your life, it’s all yours – no more landlord, no more renting, no more leases.

It’s an exciting time, but it’s also a time filled with a lot of sneaky expenses new homeowners often aren’t prepared for. Add those new expenses to the expensive monthly cost of a mortgage, insurance, property taxes, homeowners association fees, and so on, and it’s not hard to see a budget pushed to the breaking point.

Here are six expenses new homeowners often face that can easily be reduced or eliminated with some smart choices.

Expensive home furnishings. Often, a person’s first home is much larger than the places they’ve lived in before. For example, my wife and I moved from a tiny two-bedroom apartment to a three-bedroom house with twice the square footage, and it seemed enormous.

That leaves a person with a lot of empty space and the tendency is to fill that space with new furnishings. Many homeowners follow their first day in a new home with a day at the local furniture store, often buying more new furniture than they can afford.

If you’re considering new furnishings, give it some time first. Buy low-end items if you really want to fill the space, and then gradually replace them as your savings allows. Don’t fill up your credit card with expenses from the local furniture store.

Private mortgage insurance. Many first-time homebuyers are saddled with this terrible expense that comes from buying a home without a 20 percent down payment. Often, this adds $100 or more to your monthly mortgage payment with nothing in return.

Get rid of this as soon as you can. The best possible time to make a few extra mortgage payments is in the first few years of the mortgage. You’ll not only get rid of that PMI early, you’ll also greatly reduce the lifetime interest you pay on your mortgage.

Appliance insurance. Many new homeowners are offered a “deal” on appliance insurance, in which they pay some insurance company a certain amount each month to “insure” their appliances against natural failure.

Why is this a bad deal? It’s far more expensive than just saving that same amount in a savings account. Rather than buying an unnecessary insurance policy, simply put an amount equal to the monthly premium into a savings account. Within a year, that savings account will cover any necessary appliance replacements.

Lawn care services. The idea of a lush lawn outside of your beautiful new house sounds appealing, and lawn care services know that. They’ll hit you hard right after you move in, showing you gorgeous images of what your lawn might look like.

In essence, they’re just charging you a lot for what you could easily do yourself with a bit of fertilizer, a bit of natural herbicide and a simple dispenser. It costs far less per year to care for your lawn yourself, and it doesn’t take much time, either.

You may decide later that you do want the service because it will serve your lawn better than what you can provide. That’s fine, but find out what you can actually do first. You’ll probably find you can handle it well on your own.

Energy inefficiency. Like it or not, energy inefficiency is a real expense for new homeowners, and it’s often one they overlook. Newly purchased homes often come with cheap, inefficient light bulbs in the sockets. They also often come with older windows and walls that offer poor insulation. On top of that, homes that aren’t air sealed allow warm air to escape in winter and cool air to escape in summer.

One of the most important things you can do to curb your future expenses as a new homeowner is to perform an energy audit on your home. There are many guides to performing do-it-yourself energy audits online, like this one from the Department of Energy. Finding areas where your home is energy inefficient, and fixing those issues sooner rather than later can save you a lot of cash.

Insurance. In the rush to buy a home, many homeowners fail to adequately shop around for homeowners insurance. Instead, they just get a policy from the group recommended by their real estate agent, who is often just helping an insurance salesperson who happens to be a friend.

As soon as you’re settled, take some time to shop around for homeowners insurance. If you spend that time effectively, you can usually knock as much as 30 percent off your insurance premium, which is a lot of cash back in your pocket.

Taking some smart steps when you first move into your home can cut your bills and minimize your expenses for the time you own that house. Make these smart moves now, and your wallet will be happy.

Originally published on Yahoo! by Trent Hamm