July 4, 2023

By: FaithFi, Rob West & Carolyn Calupca

From hats in the hall closet to bats in the belfry, you can save money with a few common-sense strategies for three of the basics — clothing, utilities, and home maintenance.

Managing your money wisely doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple spending plan can help you keep track of what comes in and what goes out, but what about the necessary things, like clothes, energy, and shelter? If you feel like these expenses are out of control, these ideas will help.

Let’s start with clothing. In this category, the temptation is to buy whenever there’s a sale, to chase after the latest styles or both. When you have kids, and especially teenagers, you have the added problem of sizes changing all the time, not to mention another set of opinions on what’s cool! Well, here’s how to keep your family’s wardrobe looking sharp for less.

First, you don’t have to buy new. Instead, visit local thrift stores where you’ll find deals on current styles as well as wardrobe basics. If you have kids, this is where you’ll save. Teenagers might push back on this, but give them a budget and challenge them to find something they like. They’ll enjoy having a bit of freedom in the matter, and seeing how far their money can go. If you do shop retail, use coupons and loyalty programs to get discounts.

Consider consignment stores, too. You’ll find stylish clothing there and when you’re done with your gently-used items, you can trade them in for cash or a discount. That’s money back in your clothing budget.

Next, try rethinking your closet. What I mean is, instead of filling it with clothes and shoes that you’ll wear only once or twice, think multi-purpose. A good pair of slacks can take you to work or church. A neutral skirt can work for an interview or an evening out. The goal is to have a few high-quality basics that can do double-duty in your wardrobe. Focus your spending on that core wardrobe, and then let your accessories and thrift store add-ons provide color and variety.

Our next category for saving is utilities. The first strategy is to buy energy-efficient appliances. You certainly can’t replace all your existing appliances at once, but when it’s time to put in a new washing machine, choose one that costs less to run. While you’re at it, you may be able to find a deal on a “scratch and dent” appliance.

Another way to save on energy costs is by using LED lighting. When you need to replace a bulb, it’s worth the extra cost upfront to buy LEDs. They’ll pay for themselves over time with longer life and more energy efficiency.

Next, check with your utility company about rebates for installing energy-efficient systems in your home. You might get money back for installing an electric hybrid water heater, for instance, or putting in a smart thermostat. Your power company will have details about rebates on its website.

A simple way to reduce your energy bill is by unplugging appliances, turning off electronics, and adjusting your thermostat, especially when you’re not at home.

Our last money-saving category is home maintenance. If you own a home, you can’t just assume all is well. Like a car, your home needs regular attention, just to keep it functioning smoothly. Ignoring this might not cause a breakdown on the highway, but it can result in very expensive repair or replacement costs. For instance, dirty filters can make your heating and air conditioning system work much harder, which makes it wear out sooner. For plumbing, be aware of possible pipe leaks, or dripping faucets. Avoid overflow problems by having your septic tank pumped out regularly, if you have one.

Heating and air conditioning are one of your home’s most important systems, so don’t ignore that, either. Have your HVAC system checked at least once a year to make sure it’s operating at maximum efficiency when you need it most— in summer and winter.

Second, do an annual check of the caulking around your windows, doors, and light fixtures. Install new weather stripping around doors and windows if necessary.

If your home feels too warm in the summer and too cold in the winter, even after you’ve sealed the air leaks, you may need more insulation. Again, check with your power company about rebates for that.

Related to home maintenance and insulation, when was the last time you checked under your roof? If you have unused attic space, make sure it’s not becoming a home for critters, like squirrels, mice, or bats. It’s not unusual to find rodent nests in attic insulation if the soffits and air vents aren’t sealed properly. If you’ve got wildlife guests in the attic, it may take a professional to get them out and seal the space but don’t put it off. Aside from the sanitation issues, rodents can chew on electrical wiring, creating a fire hazard.

Making a few smart changes to your spending can really save money in the long run. Start taking advantage of them today!

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