7 Surprising Money Pits in Your Home—and How to Avoid Them
Many folks are aware of the hidden costs of buying a home—things like closing costs, homeowner’s association (HOA) fees, and property taxes. That’s not all you have to watch out for, though. There are other, even more hidden costs associated with owning a home. Let’s take a look at some of the less commonly discussed money pits that could be hiding in your home right now—and what you can do about them.
Most of us probably take our fridge for granted — after all, it just always seems to be there, stocked with food. It can be an incredible money pit, though, if you don’t keep a close eye on it. The average American household loses an annual amount of $1,350 to $2,275 in food waste.
One main culprit of food waste is misplacing food in your refrigerator. Make sure perishables are kept in plain sight, instead of letting them hide in produce drawers or at the back of the shelf. Also, plan your meals so you don’t end up buying extra amounts of ingredients you don’t need.
Another way to lower costs associated with your fridge is to keep it cleaned and well maintained. Keeping the unit dust-free and the coils clean can easily lower its power consumption, and the results can be noticeable.
We’ve all heard our parents say not to leave the lights on (and probably rolled our eyes), but there actually is a good reason to keep them off. Traditional incandescent lightbulbs are extremely inefficient and use only 10% of their electricity to produce light. The rest is given off as heat, warming up a room. Not only are they wasting electricity but they are also forcing your air conditioner to work that much harder to maintain the temperature.
One solution, of course, is to just keep the lights off when you’re not in a room, but a better option is to switch to energy-efficient LED smartbulbs. While they do cost more up front, they tend to last a lot longer, and the energy savings can really add up. Energy.gov says replacing five frequently used bulbs with more energy-efficient ones can save you $75 a year. Plus, smartbulbs add a whole new convenience factor. You can set up motion sensors and timers so you never worry about the lights being left on when you aren’t in a room.
3. Landline Phones
Landline phones — where to begin? With 95% of American adults owning a cellphone, most of us just don’t need a landline anymore. There can be some fringe cases, mostly during emergencies, where a landline is good to have — they typically work even when the power is out, for example. You can also sometimes get landline service tacked onto your cable or internet bill for a very low price. If you live in a disaster-prone area, or have a cheap bundle, it might make sense to keep the service. For the rest of us, though, this service is likely a complete waste of money — up to $30 a month in some cases.
4. Air Conditioners
Heating and cooling represent some of the biggest monthly costs for most homeowners, and Americans collectively spend almost $30 billion every year on air conditioners. It makes sense that if we’re looking to reduce costs in the home, we look at the old AC.
To help avoid costly repairs and keep things running efficiently, you’ll want to make sure you replace your filters regularly and keep the vents free of debris and shrubs. Have professional maintenance done every year (the start of summer is probably best) to ensure that everything is running well.
5. Always-On Appliances
Devices that are always on and plugged in are sometimes known as “energy vampires.” Video game consoles, TVs, coffee makers, space heaters – all these devices continue to use energy even when they’re off. Unplugging them can add up to some considerable savings on your electricity bills over the course of the year. Of course, nobody wants to go around and unplug all their appliances when they’re done using them, but a power strip with an on-off switch is a perfect solution.
6. Unwatched Cable
Examine your TV-viewing habits closely, and you may discover that your $100+ cable package isn’t a great value after all—especially if you also subscribe to Netflix and other streaming services. You aren’t alone. Even with more and more cable channels available, the average American viewer tunes in to just seventeen channels on average.
Consider switching to a streaming-only model. Premium Netflix and Hulu subscriptions each come in at around $12 per month, while DIRECTV NOW packages—similar to satellite TV—start at $35 a month with no contract. You can even get your fill of NFL football without a cable subscription. Of course, you’ll still have to pay for internet service, but paring down by even $10 each month will add up over the course of a year.
7. Long Showers
If you aren’t careful, long showers can waste high amounts of water. Spending five minutes less in the shower each day can save as much as 4,500 gallons of water annually. That is a lot of water. For people prone to taking really long showers, there’s room for even more savings: about $2 for every 1,000 gallons of water saved each year.
These tips should give you a good idea of the type of money traps to look out for. Keep an eye out for other possible money pits, and see how much you can save this year.