Monday, January 2, 2012

25 Ways to Reduce Your Housing Costs

After I met up with my friends yesterday, I took them to our place so they could see where we were living.  They were lamenting the apartment they rented--sight unseen--over CraigsList and the word "uninhabitable" came up a few times, so now they are looking for somewhere else to live ASAP (unfortunately they can't stay with us because they have a couple of dogs that must be in the house and hubby is pretty allergic to anything with fur).  I totally sounded like the un-Martha Stewart as I rattled off a bunch of things that we have learned so far about reducing our housing costs:
  1. Buy or rent the SMALLEST place you can be comfortable in.  It will be cheaper to heat, air condition, furnish, etc.
  2. Look at alternative places to live (in an RV, rent someone's basement or attic, etc).
  3. If you have a place that is too big for you consider renting out the basement, attic, or extra rooms; use the money to help cover your rent/mortgage payment.
  4. Check into any discounts/special rentals you may be entitled to (ie: senior housing, disabled housing, discounts for veterans, etc).
  5. If you are flat broke, unemployed and/or disabled/have small kids, sign up for welfare and get on the Section 8 housing list (this will give you a place at greatly reduced rent; unfortunately in most cities this waiting list is incredibly LONG).
  6. Reconsider whether you need cable TV.  We bought a digital antenna to catch over the air TV signals and are pretty please with it.
  7. Reconsider whether you need a house phone.  Our cell phones work perfectly where we live so we don't even need a house phone.
  8. On another phone note, if you are low income or disabled, look into low income phone service (some companies will offer steeply discounted cell and/or home phone service to people in these groups).
  9. Reconsider whether you need internet at home.  We rarely use internet at home as I do most of my online stuff at the library each day plus I have internet on my phone so we have skipped internet and now use an "iffy" signal that is free at the condo complex if needed.
  10. Use space heaters, blankets, and other "old fashioned" ways to keep warm instead of turning on the furnace and heating your entire house.
  11. Ditto for air conditioning.  Keep the curtains pulled to keep the sun out, use window fans to move the air, and consider looking into single room air conditioners to keep only the room you are in cool instead of cooling the entire house.
  12. Check into what kind of garbage plans are available where you live.  In rentals, garbage is often included but when you are buying a house you usually have to pay your own garbage bill.  We were able to reduce our garbage bill from two big cans weekly when everyone was living at home to one small can every other week when it was just the hubby and I.
  13. Conserve water.  Last week, I Googled around for free low flow shower heads in our area and found that the water district was providing an entire water-use reduction kit for free just for asking (we will get free low flow shower heads, kitchen and bathroom sink aerators, and some brochures in a packet they will be mailing out today).
  14. Conserve electricity.  Besides using fluorescent light bulbs and using space heaters only when necessary, we really try to keep our electricity use as low as possible by doing everything from turning off lights when not in use, to keeping things that use electricity (DVD player that we don't use much, etc) unplugged unless we are using them.
  15. On another electricity note, our friends here in Las Vegas all seem to be on the electric company's "budget plan" which averages out their bills each month so they don't have super low bills in the winter and super high bills in the summer.
  16. We also try to conserve natural gas in the same way--by being aware of when and how we are using it and reducing our usage as much as possible.
  17. Get homeowners/renters insurance!  While this will be an added cost each month, it will be well worth it if anything happens to your home like a break-in or a fire.
  18. We always keep a running list of things we need for our home.  When we first moved in it was long and included everything from ziploc bags to pillows.  Now it isn't so long.  This keeps us from buying tings we don't need and also keeps us from making multiple trips to the store because we forgot something.
  19. My friends called to see where the nearest department store was so they cold buy housewares.  I told them the best way to get stuff for your house is to start with your list at the Dollar Store, then hit up thrift stores and garage sales, then go to Walmart, then try Ross or TJ Maxx, then make your final stop at the department store (and hopefully by then you will have bought everything on your list and have saved a considerable amount of money).
  20. We learned to put our "house" money towards items we use every day (a good pan set, a good knife set) and spend as little as possible on things like home decor (when we sold all of our stuff before we traveled last year, home decor items had very little resale value!).
  21. Look at bartering.  I have known a few people who have been able to "barter" their way to free housing.  This included taking care of an elderly person and getting free room and board and bartering work on a farm for the free use of a guest house for a family of four.
  22. A few other people I know have received free housing (usually an apartment) by being managers of apartments or storage unit companies (with an on-site apartment for the caretaker/manager).
  23. Minimize your stuff, not only will you make some money on the sale of your stuff, you will be able to clear out the storage unit you are paying extra for each month and/or clean out some spare rooms that could possibly be used for rentals.  At the least, you will have less stuff to maintain, insure, and keep track of.
  24. If you are flat broke and low income/disabled/a veteran/a senior check into other discounts you are entitled to (ie: some counties have programs that allow seniors to pay less in property tax for their homes; many communities have programs that pay for a month or two of utilities for people who are low income, etc).
  25. Don't try to impress others.  Whether it is buying the huge house so you can make a prosperous impression on your friends and relatives or buying only name-brand items for your home (when a cheaper item from the Dollar Store or Walmart would serve the purpose just as well); the desire to impress can lead to financial ruin so check your ego and go frugal--you'll save a lot of money and most people will applaud you for your creativity and have no idea that you got everything to decorate your living room at the Goodwill! 


  1. Great tips! #25 is my favorite. I think it's easier now in these tough times to scale back without being put down. Frugality is in!