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Budgeting Basics for Homeowners

A new home often means making significant adjustments to how people spend their money. Expenses such as mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance add up quickly and can easily throw the best of financial intentions out of whack. Creating and following a budget is a great way to stay on track while cutting down on financial stress at the same time.

Having a budget gives homeowners a roadmap for their financial needs and goals. Yes, their monthly home-related expenses need to be met, but they’ll also need to consider much more: food, clothing, education, healthcare, transportation, and savings for both retirement and emergency expenses.

Homeowners will definitely have unexpected costs that arise at inconvenient times – the water heater needs replacing, or the roof needs repair right away. Having a way to cover these expenses is critical not only to the home but for peace of mind.

Homeowners should start budget planning by examining their household income against expenses. First, list the monthly income – take-home pay if they get a paycheck, self-employment income, and any other outside sources of income. This amount will form the basis of the budget.

Next, make a list of the monthly fixed expenses. These include the mortgage payment, car payments, phone and internet service, trash collection, etc. For expenses that are typically billed less frequently, such as property taxes, home insurance, and school tuition, divide the total yearly amount by 12. Fluctuating costs such as gas and electric bills can be averaged to a monthly total and added to this list as well. If there are carried balances on credit cards, those payments will need to be factored in, too. Importantly, savings should be considered fixed expenses – making this commitment to the future will pay off, literally, in the years to come.

Next, list the variable expenses. These are expenses over which homeowners have some control: food, clothing, cable or satellite TV, online subscriptions, gasoline, entertainment, gym memberships, and even haircuts are some typical examples. Track these expenses for a few months to arrive at accurate numbers to work with. It’s very important to be realistic about what is currently being spent, because once the overall expense budget is developed, they may need to look for reductions in these variable items.

Add the fixed and variable expenses together and compare them to the total monthly net income. If the income is enough to cover everything, homeowners can still look for ways to budget in their favor. Reducing some variable expenses and shifting the difference into savings, for example, is a great way to boost one’s financial situation without making major changes.

And if expenses exceed income?  If an increase in income isn’t on the horizon, they’ll need to reduce expenses so that they’re in line with what they can actually afford. First, go to the list of variable expenses and closely consider each line item. Is that upper-tier cable TV package really necessary? Can more meals be prepared at home? Go to the movies less often? Reducing expenses in these categories can really add up on a monthly basis.

If reducing the variable costs still isn’t enough, they’ll need to look at the fixed expenses. Consider trading down to a car with affordable payments and raising the deductibles on home and auto insurance. Check into cheaper plans for mobile devices. The differences can be significant over the course of a year.

No matter how careful the budget planning, it won’t work if the budget isn’t followed. Personal finance software can be helpful in tracking cashflow, and adjustments can continue to be made over time. By keeping to a budget, homeowners will come out ahead and sleep better at night, too.

Top Tips for a Summer-Ready Home

 

With summer just around the corner, now is a great time to get your home in top shape for the months ahead. Whatever your weather, caring for your home now will help to ensure a worry-free, comfortable summer. Follow a few of these tips each week and enjoy the rest of the season knowing that your home is in good shape.

INDOORS     

  • Vacuum or brush off refrigerator coils to help maintain energy efficiency. Depending on your model, the coils will be located either on the bottom or on the back of the appliance.
  • Empty dehumidifier pans and clean the hoses according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • If possible, take area rugs outside and hang them over a deck or porch rail to air out.
  • Adjust ceiling fans for proper balance and change the rotation to the summer setting. While you’re at it, give the unit a good dusting to avoid blowing dust around the room.
  • Switch out heavy bedding for lightweight summer fabrics. Have the winter bedding cleaned before storing it away for the season.
  • Close the chimney flue to prevent insects from entering and to help keep cool air in during the months ahead.
  • Repot houseplants to give their roots a fresh start for the summer.
  • Check door and cabinet hinges and lubricate any that stick or squeak.
  • Open windows even on cooler days to get fresh air flowing throughout the home.

OUTDOORS

  • Inspect siding for cracks or other damage and make any needed repairs.
  • If paint is peeling, cracking, or chipped, repair and repaint now to limit damage to the underlying materials.
  • Remove window screens and clean them with a soft brush and soapy water. Rinse well and allow them to dry in the sun. Repair any holes or tears, or replace the screen material before reinstalling. It’s a fairly easy DIY job to replace the screening, or you can check to see if your local hardware store offers this service.
  • Have the air conditioning unit serviced to ensure good operation. Promote good air intake by keeping shrubs and plants around the unit trimmed.
  • Clear dirt and debris from gutters and eaves.
  • Seal cracks in the driveway and keep walkways clear of debris and overgrown plants.
  • Test irrigation and sprinkler systems and replace any broken sprinkler heads or emitters. Check for proper water coverage and adjust if necessary.
  • Power wash decks and patios and seal surfaces as appropriate.

From all of us at Pillar To Post, here’s wishing you and your home a wonderful summer!