Since I am in charge of maintaining and keeping the house clean, I thought I would share a few pointers on how we save money taking care of our place. I will also put some tips in that only homeowners would use, as we rent and do not take care of the outside of our house!
1. Be sure to buy cleaning products that can clean multiple surfaces. I know this seems like a no- brainer, but many people have 10 different products to clean the different rooms in their house: kitchen, bathroom, glass, floor, etc.. We have 2 different cleaning products in our house; a general all purpose cleaner and a glass cleaner. The all purpose cleaner works on everything in our house except for the glass, so it only costs us about $2.99 every couple of months to buy another bottle. We also only buy biodegradable cleaners, which reduces any health risks that can be associated with working with dangerous chemicals.
2. Instead of buying the very caustic Drano or the like, try to use vinegar and baking soda first. Most people have these items in their pantries anyway for other purposes, so that would save you some cash as well. Using vinegar, baking soda and boiling water will open up almost any drain clog in your house, and it is very safe to use.
3. Use a broom or mop to clean your floors. Running the vacuum every time you need to clean not only uses electricity, but also puts a lot of wear and tear on it and will shorten its life. I am not advocating getting rid of your vacuum, but there are a lot of surfaces you can quickly go over with a broom several times a week without dragging out the vacuum cleaner. Plus, if you have wood floors, a broom or mop does less damage to the finish than a vacuum.
4. Be sure to clean/change the air filters on your heaters and air conditioners. Checking them at least once a year will make them last longer and will increase the efficiency of the units. Dirty filters slow down the movement of air, forcing your units to work harder to accomplish their goal. Not only that, but the air in your house will be cleaner and better for your family. New heaters and air conditioners can cost upwards of a thousand dollars; why not maintain the one you have and make it last 30 years or so, like they are made to do!
5. Make sure your attic/doors/windows are well insulated. Doing so will make it easier for your house to maintain the temperature you want and will reduce the strain on your air conditioners and heaters. Why pay more on your electric or gas bill if you do not have to? A one time check and update of your insulation can save you a lot of money over the life of your home. A tube of caulk or a roll of insulation is a lot cheaper than higher monthly utility costs.
6. Have leaky faucets? You are throwing money down the drain. A slow leak in a bathroom tub could be costing you hundreds of dollars a year in extra water bills, never mind wasting a lot of water. Check all the faucets in your home for leaks, and if you find one, you probably do not need to hire a plumber. Normally it is just a corroded washer that you could replace yourself!
7. If you have a fireplace, be sure to keep both it and your chimney clean. If your chimney is lined with creosote, not only are you in danger of it catching fire but you also may be losing energy because your flu will not close completely. Heat likes to go up, so if it is escaping up your chimney, your heat bill will be going up too.
8. Sure its not home maintenance per se, but check your smoke and fire detectors every six months. Make sure the batteries work and everything is functioning correctly. Buying new batteries once a year is a lot cheaper than rebuilding your burnt down house.
9. Keep your gutters clean. A simple couple of hours after all the leaves fall in the fall can save thousands by preventing water from backing up and working its way into your house. The same goes for foundations; be sure to check for cracks and holes and get them fixed right away. Having a small crack patched when you discover it is a lot cheaper than having to have a new foundation put in or pumping water out of your basement. Believe me, it happened to my parents when I was young and it was not pretty. Or cheap.
10. Lastly, before picking up the phone to call a repair person, think if you could do the work yourself. A plumber costs upwards of $75-$100 per hour; do you really need him to come out to pull your hair out of the drain? There are hundreds if not thousands of home repair books available at the library for free to check out, and there are tons of online resources as well. I live in an apartment and do most of the maintenance inside because I enjoy it, not because I need to save money. But there is a certain satisfaction in knowing you could take care of any problems that crop up without having to shell out the big bucks to someone else.