Tips for First-Time Homeowners

My husband and I are in escrow right now and just signed final loan documents. Lord willing, we will be receiving our key on Monday, 3/2. We have never been homeowners before. We are in our mid-late twenties with an elementary age child. Although we are excited about this new chapter in our lives, we are nervous about the responsibility that comes with homeownership. Any suggestions, tips, and advice for being wise and frugal "adults"?

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We already own our vehicles, so the only debt we have is a credit card bill for $1800, a student loan for $4500 which doesn't have to be paid back until I graduate, and basics such as cell phones, cable and internet. I understand these may not be considered basics to others, but if it came down to surviving off of one income, these are the first things that would go. I think our biggest problem now is eating out, we must learn how to cook! Thanks in advance for your help.

Crystal from Los Angeles, CA

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February 25, 20090 found this helpful

Start a three month emergency fund. Pay off your home! No matter what happens you'll have a roof over your head. Cook at home. Don't go crazy on clothing expenses. Use low cost entertainment. Read Thrifty fund daily to help keep expenses down!

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February 25, 20090 found this helpful

You are so right about learning to cook,it will save you a lot of money,if you have space to have a garden that will also save you lot of money,go to " gardening" on this site,you can lean how to make a garden without removing grass,remember to be all you can be by pinching pennies,I've done this all of my life & very proud of every dime I saved. If you can sew make all the families clothes & etc. Do everything you can to save until you all retire then you can relax a little, if some one calls you stingy just smile. This happened to me then later in life that same person were asking,"How did you all get some much done in such a short time"? Life is what you make it! Good luck.

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February 25, 20090 found this helpful

Congratulations on your BIG step! Thriftyfun will definitely have a lot of good advice for you. You can go back for years and read all the tips. Another good site is www.miserlymoms.com. They also have a lot of good, easy, frugal ideas for cooking at home. We are to the point where we'd rather eat at home because honestly the food tastes better and is better for us, and is so much cheaper!

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February 25, 20090 found this helpful

Congratulations! I bought my first home 3 years ago and have learned a LOT since then.

One thing I would strongly recommend, particularly if you have an older home, is to consider a homeowner's warranty. Mine costs about $600/yr. and has saved me around $2500 since I moved in (the former owners paid for the first year as a condition of my offer). I have a $50 deductible for repairs but have found it worthwhile, especially since I'm still in school as well and paying for major repairs would take a huge bite out of my savings.

Want to pay off your home quicker than your loan terms? First make sure there is NO PREPAYMENT PENALTY attached to your loan for paying off early. If there isn't, making just one extra mortgage payment per year will take years off the life of your loan. Just take the amount of your payment, divide that by 12 and add that amount to your monthly payment. I've already shaved more than 3 years off my loan!

That said, PAY OFF YOUR CREDIT CARD ASAP first. The interest rate is likely much higher than your mortgage loan rate. Also make sure to establish an emergency fund as well. Set up automatic withdrawals from checking that are put straight into a savings account. Chances are that once you start, you'll never miss that money.

Do the maintenance. This means staying on top of things like termite inspections, gutter cleaning, having your heating/A.C. unit inspected each year, calling a chimney sweep for your fireplace, etc. etc.

Inspect your home thoroughly each year, starting from the lowest level and working your way up to the attic. (You should also inspect after a major weather event.) Check for leaks, bare wires, loose shingles, foundation cracks, etc. Repairs are often a lot less expensive when you take care of them right away.

Weatherize wherever possible. Some cities offer free energy audits that will tell you where you should focus your efforts. If your city doesn't offer them there is a lot of information available on the internet that can guide you through the process of determining what your home might need. Also, check to see if your utility companies offer a level payment plan. You will pay a fixed amount each month based on your home's historical energy usage. Pay attention to the bill when it comes to make sure you aren't spending more than what your level payment is so you don't get bitten at the end of the year.

Look for other ways to save energy - landscaping, window coverings, power strips, timers for lights, use appliances early in the morning or late at night, buy a programmable thermostat, etc.

Check with your local Extension office to see if they offer classes for homeowners. Most states have housing specialists that offer this sort of programming. You can learn a lot from them for little or no money!

Yes - cook at home. Buy a crockpot and learn how to use it. It's energy efficient, simplifies meals, and recipes can be super healthy. Consider doing vegetable gardening in a small part of your yard or in raised beds or containers. Take full advantage of farmers markets and local meat. Plan weekly menus around whatever is on sale at your local grocery store.

Have fun and enjoy making memories in your new home!

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February 27, 20090 found this helpful

Congratulations! My husband and I also purchased a home a year ago last Oct. There are a lot of good tips listed here. I read the newsletters from thrifty fun every day and I generally always find something that I can find to do easier and or cheaper.

One other thing to help save money on food costs is Angel Food Ministries. Go online to see if you have one in your area. They have food for $30 that would run you around 50-60 at the store.

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February 27, 20090 found this helpful

I always believe that if you know how to read...you can cook. There are a lot of great recipes people have submitted on this site and well as tons of other sites.

Buy meats in bulk especially when on sale and freeze extra.

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February 27, 20090 found this helpful

If you don't want to use a home warranty or even if you do: Find ourt the average useful life of the appliances (including roof, HVAC, etc.) you have. Take a good guess on what grade of appliance you will replace them with. Figure out how much you need to put away each month to buy the next appliance. Put it in a savings account (preferably one you can't access easily) until it's needed. You'd be surprised how little a new refrigerator or roof costs each month as compared to a quickie search for cash when it finally goes.

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February 28, 20090 found this helpful

Congrats on your new home!

If you're truly interested in learning to cook, I'd recommend www.allrecipes.com. Their search tool is easy to use, as is the category feature.

As far as home and yard maintenance is concerned, I would say invest in quality tools. Often you can find excellent-quality used items at salvage stores, if you have any in your area. (A place called Habitat Restore opened in my town recently; there we found like-new items for very little. Since Habitat is run by Habitat for Humanity, buying there also supports a very worthy organization.) For budget-minded folks, used works just as well at as little as half the cost of new, if not less. Buying used can also save items from the landfills.

Speaking of saving items from the landfills... If there's a chapter in your area, I would also recommend FreeCycle. People in this organization give away items they can't use anymore, but are still usable. Free is even better than half-price!

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February 28, 20090 found this helpful

Congrats - scarey, huh? One thing I find helpful - new homeowner or not - is averaging my utility bills. Our gas bill runs over a hundred each winter month but our average is just $66 a month. don't know about summer yet - new to the area and house. Our electric bill can run as high as $250 a month in the summer, but our average - EVERY month - is around $100-110. I bundled our computer, home phone, and cell phone and got about $5-8 dollar a month less on that bill. Call your utilities -- it may take a few months to get to your "real" average, but it will be lots less than your actual bill.

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February 28, 20090 found this helpful

Wow. I am in awe and complete gratefulness to every single one of your posts. I have discussed some ideas with my husband and there are definitely things we had not thought of before. Thank you so much for all your help. We greatly, greatly appreciate it. :)

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February 28, 20090 found this helpful

Just thought of something...maybe the correct word is 'gratitude...' lol. Either way. We are thankful!

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March 1, 20090 found this helpful

First thing, great that you are thinking ahead!

Second in Spring you will start to see

GARAGE Sales. I used to think

"eww used stuff" not anymore, the deals are

out there. I went to this open house Garage Sale

and everything was on sale Fri&Sat and on

Sat at 4pm everything was FREE, I went at 3pm

and found some great stuff. A table for FREE

and other things. All garage sales are fun to

go to, free and you will be surprised what you find.

I found new unread books for 25cents each.

so try those and if you have time you can learn

to clip coupons and save a huge amount of

your grocery bills.

Buy clothes that will last and that you can

mix and match easy.

enjoy your new home!!!

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