According to recent research, only 30% of Americans feel their current income and budgeting skills have allowed them to create an adequate financial plan. For homeowners, creating and maintaining a feasible budget is necessary—but it isn’t always easy when there’s always work to be done on a house.
Assuming you’re actually able to devise a detailed budget, you’ll always want to have some kind of contingency for situations you can’t anticipate. But what about preventable expenses? Making smart purchasing decisions and prioritizing household maintenance can help you to avoid being stuck with a surprise bill. Here are just a few ways you can keep those kinds of home expenses at bay.
Schedule annual maintenance and repair services
HomeAdvisor’s 2018 True Cost Report found that the average household spent $6,649 on home improvements during 2017. But even if you aren’t planning to remodel the kitchen or gut the bathroom, you’ll still need to put money into your house.
One of the surest ways to extend the lifespan of your home’s core operations—such as your HVAC system—is to prioritize yearly maintenance. As much as half the energy you use in your home goes towards heating and cooling, but without regular maintenance and necessary repairs, your energy use (and costs) could be even higher. Getting a yearly tune-up can allow you to catch small problems before they translate into big expenses.
The same goes for your home’s roofing system. Residential roofs are built to last and there are advanced systems like Everdrain™ that can provide additional protection. But that doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore the state of your roof. Yearly inspections will keep your roof in tip-top shape and can prevent the need for major repairs.
If you keep up with DIY maintenance tasks (like changing your HVAC filters and cleaning out your gutters) and remember to schedule your maintenance appointments every year, you should be able to avoid a homeowner’s most dreaded expenses. Although your roof or your furnace may need to be replaced eventually, they will last far longer if you take good care of them.
Invest in higher-quality products
Americans tend to go after items that are fast, convenient, and affordable. But when we buy things that are cheap up front, we often fail to realize that they may cost us far more time and money in the end.
Each year, US families spend around $1,700 on new clothes. Although that represents only 3.5% of all household expenses in a given year, that’s still more than we need to be spending. Not only do we buy clothes in excess, but we tend to purchase items that wear out and fall out of favor more quickly. If Americans were to initially invest a bit more in versatile, higher quality apparel, our clothes would last longer. That would allow us to have more breathing room in our budgets.
Of course, fashion emergencies don’t typically cost an arm and a leg, but for substantial expenses like transportation, we may want to put some more thought into what we purchase. Transportation represents one of the top three expenses for Americans, with the average American spending just over $9,000 per year on getting from point A to point B. Americans are also spending more on cars and trucks now than they have in the past several years.
That doesn’t always mean that these purchases are smart ones, however. Buying a cheap used car might seem like an amazing deal at first, until you realize that your jalopy is going to require thousands of dollars in repairs. But if you buy the best SUV in the world, for example, you’ll have peace of mind that your car will be dependable no matter the conditions outside. Even if you have to spend a bit more due to gas milage, it’ll typically pay off in the end simply because it’s a more reliable vehicle that’ll last.
Embrace better habits
Your habits could end up costing you—literally. Failing to prioritize more energy efficient routines can increase your financial burden on a monthly basis. This can make it even harder to balance your budget and can actually make it more likely for the systems you rely upon to let you down.
For example: installing a programmable thermostat can keep you from wasting energy and spending too much on your monthly bills. It can also keep your system running more efficiently and increase its lifespan. Switching to LED lights will be a small change, but they can reduce your energy waste and will last far longer than regular light bulbs. Those savings may not mean much to you now, but over time, they can provide you with some budgetary breathing room. That way, even if unexpected damages do occur, you won’t be send into a tail spin.
The truth is that you can’t prevent every big expense. That’s simply part of owning a home. But if you can mitigate the circumstances so that those major household systems won’t be as likely to leave you in the lurch, you should be able to gain valuable financial literacy without draining your bank account.
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