Should You Schedule a Pest and Termite Inspection for the Home You’re Buying?

Whether you’re an aspiring first-time homebuyer and about to make your first offer or you have just purchased your second or third home, you’re probably excited to enjoy your new space. But wait, is that a little critter by the backdoor? Maybe it’s just an ant… nothing to worry about, right? Just to be sure there aren’t any other pests lurking about your new house, you might want to consider getting a pest and termite inspection. Here are five reasons you should schedule a termite and pest inspection before any unwanted visitors wreak havoc on your dream home.

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Why should you get a pest and termite inspection?

As a new homeowner, it’s always a good idea to cover all your bases and have a pest and termite inspection performed. Homes in more humid climates – think homes in Miami, FL or houses in Houston, TX – are more susceptible to termite infestations due to the increased moisture in the surrounding environment. If you’ve seen any signs of a termite infestation, it might be a good idea to have a termite inspection. These signs can include buckling floorboards, creaky floors, or damaged wood.

For those still in the homebuying process, if you see signs of termite damage in the house, you should consider adding a termite contingency when making an offer on a home. A termite contingency may give you the option to back out of the sale if there’s been significant damage found. Otherwise, you can try to negotiate with the seller to pay for the repairs. 

What if you’re planning on just getting a regular home inspection? Your home inspector likely won’t look for specific types of pest or termite damage. However, if your home inspector does find damage, contacting a pest or termite inspector should be your next step. A pest or termite control specialist can help you determine what the best course of action is, likely scheduling an inspection to determine the extent of the damage.

Is a pest and termite inspection required before closing on a home?

If you’ve already purchased your home, then you didn’t miss out on any required inspections. For most homebuyers, termite and pest inspections are not required before closing on a home. However, certain types of loans such as FHA and VA loans may require you to pay for a pest inspection before your mortgage approval, so it’s best to check with your mortgage lender or real estate agent. Your real estate agent will also know if your particular state or county requires a pest inspection before purchasing a home.

patio-pest-inspection

5 benefits of having a termite or pest inspection

There are several benefits of having your home inspected for termites or pests.

1) Negotiating power. If the home you’re looking to buy ends up having damage from termites or pests, you’ll likely have better negotiating power. Your real estate agent can help you decide what negotiations to make. These negotiations may include asking the seller to reduce the price so you can pay for pest control services or asking the seller to pay for any repairs or fumigation services before you close on the home.

2) Peace of mind. These inspections will be able to tell you if there’s any structural damage from pests or termites. Your inspector will disclose any issues they find. Then you’ll have an idea of what kind of maintenance you might need as the home’s future owner. 

3) Save money. Moving into a new home can feel like the dream, but it’s always a good idea to know what you’re getting yourself into. Without a pest or termite inspection, you may be foregoing a critical type of home inspection that may end up costing you more money down the road if a problem is left untreated.

4) Prepare for future expenses. If your pest or termite inspector finds certain types of pests in the home you’ll have a better idea of what to look out for as a homeowner. That way, you will know if your new home or the area you’ve moved to is susceptible to specific pests. It will also help you to plan ahead for any costs associated with keeping these pests away.

5) Find a local pest control company. Say your home is more susceptible to termites because you’re buying a house in a more humid area, or that spiders or mice are more common in your county. The good news is you’ve found a local pest control company to help you schedule regular maintenance. You’ll know just who to call for help if any critters start appearing in your house.

What to expect during a pest inspection

The inspection will take roughly 30 minutes but can vary based on the size of the home and whether there’s a basement, crawl space, or any extra areas. The inspector will examine the interior and exterior of the home for any signs of damage, infestation, or specific areas that might be more susceptible to pests. They’ll check for any signs of moisture. Damaged wood or buckled paint indicate the presence of wood-destroying insects like termites. They are more likely to be found in these areas vulnerable areas.

The inspector will check for a variety of different bugs such as carpenter ants, fleas, mosquitos, and moths, among others. Where you are located may also play a role in the types of pests your inspector will look for. Some pests are more likely to be found in certain areas or are local to your region. If these types of local pests are found during the inspection, your pest inspector may recommend regular pest control to keep these critters at bay. 

The post Should You Schedule a Pest and Termite Inspection for the Home You’re Buying? appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.

Source: redfin.com

5 Tips Every Renter and Homeowner Should Know About Insurance

This week, I had to evacuate because of Hurricane Dorian. If you’ve ever experienced a natural disaster or had to evacuate your home, you know that insurance is a top concern. No matter where you live, there are common threats—such as California earthquakes, Oklahoma tornados, and Texas floods—that affect renters and homeowners.

Let's review five essential insurance tips that every renter and homeowner should know. You’ll learn the variety of protections you get from basic renters and home policies, mistakes to avoid when buying a policy, and ways to save money on premiums.

5 Tips Every Renter or Homeowner Should Know About Insurance

  1. Not every type of damage is covered
  2. Certain belongings have low coverage limits
  3. Know the difference between cash value and replacement cost
  4. There are special types of deductibles
  5. Don’t leave discounts on the table

Here’s more information about each insurance tip.

1. Not every kind of damage is covered

A basic homeowners policy pays for claims when a natural disaster—such as a fire, tornado, hail, or windstorm—damages your property. Personal belongings like your furniture, electronics, and clothing are generally covered up to specific limits for damage and theft.

Home insurance includes liability, which protects you from legal issues that could arise if someone is hurt on your property.

Homeowners coverage also pays "additional living expenses." That might include things like some amount of hotel and meal expenses if you can't stay in your home after a covered disaster.

If you’re a renter, you also need insurance, because your landlord is not required to cover you. Renters insurance gives the same protections as a homeowners policy. You get coverage for your personal belongings, liability, and additional living expenses. But it doesn’t cover damage to rental property because that’s your landlord’s responsibility.

Unfortunately, about half of renters don’t have renters insurance. Many mistakenly believe that their landlord would pay to repair or replace their damaged or stolen personal belongings. Or they mistakenly think a renters policy is too expensive. The good news is that a typical renters policy is quite affordable, costing just $185 per year on average across the U.S.

The good news is that a typical renters policy is quite affordable, costing just $185 per year on average across the US.

But what surprises many people is that a standard home or renters policy doesn't cover some natural disasters. These include earthquakes and flooding from groundwater.

If you live in an earthquake-prone area, you can typically add earthquake coverage to a home or renters policy. But flooding is a different category of insurance that must be purchased separately. Flooding is handled differently than other types of disasters because it’s the nation’s most common and expensive disaster. Floods can happen anywhere, and they don’t even have to be catastrophic to cause significant damage.

If your town or community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, you can buy a policy for your rental or your home. And if you buy a home in a designated flood zone, mortgage lenders typically require you to have flood insurance.

Most flood policies have a 30-day waiting period, so you can’t wait until a storm is bearing down on you to sign up. You'd be too late.

Even though the federal government backs flood insurance, it’s brokered by regular insurance companies or agents. You can learn more at floodsmart.gov.

Most flood policies have a 30-day waiting period, so you can’t wait until a storm is bearing down on you to sign up.

Remember that water damage from rain, high winds, or a tree that fell on your roof are covered by a standard home or renters insurance policy. But damages to your home or personal belongings that occur due to rising groundwater are never covered, except when you have flood insurance.

Also note that if you have a home-based business with inventory, specialized equipment, or customers who enter your property, you typically need a commercial policy. Likewise, if you turn your home into a rental, Airbnb, or a vacation property, you generally need additional coverage or a landlord insurance policy.

2. Certain belongings have low coverage limits

Just like not every disaster is covered, not every type of personal belonging is fully covered under a home or renters policy. Some belongings, such as cash, aren’t coved at all. Many others have coverage caps.

For instance, jewelry, watches, furs, silverware, electronics, and firearms are typically limited to one or two thousand dollars of coverage. If you have jewelry that’s worth $10,000 and it’s lost or stolen, you’d come up very short with just $2,000 of coverage.

If you have items worth more than the coverage caps, you can add an insurance rider for more coverage. This addition is known as “scheduling” your personal property. It costs more, but it gives your most expensive items separate coverage so they could be replaced.

Another often-overlooked protection you get with renters and home insurance is that your belongings are covered outside of your home.

Another often-overlooked protection you get with renters and home insurance is that your belongings are covered outside of your home. If your vacation luggage gets stolen, you lose valuable jewelry, or your laptop gets stolen from your car, your homeowners or renters policy covers it.

So, pay close attention to the insurance limits for possessions inside and outside of your home and consider adding a rider or property schedule to beef up coverage when needed for valuable items.

3. Know the difference between actual cash value and replacement cost.

It can be a little confusing to know exactly how much money you’d receive from a renters or home insurance claim. So be sure you understand the different types of policies you can buy.

Actual cash value coverage pays to repair or replace your property or possessions up to the policy limits, minus a deduction for depreciation. The calculation can vary from insurer to insurer. But what you need to know is that a cash value policy only pays a percentage of what it would cost you to go out and buy a new item.

Cash value coverage is the least expensive option. However, it means that if you experience a severe disaster, you probably won't receive enough to rebuild your home or fully replace personal belongings.

Replacement cost coverage pays to repair or replace your property and possessions up to the policy limits, without a deduction for depreciation. That means you would receive enough money to rebuild a home with materials of similar quality. Or buy new items to replace your damaged belongings.

Yes, replacement coverage costs more than cash value. But it would allow you to replace what you lost.

There are also guaranteed or extended replacement cost policies which give you even more protection. They pay to replace your home as it was before a disaster, even if costs more than your policy limit.

Remember that a home insurance policy is based on the cost to rebuild your home and any outbuildings, not the amount you paid for the property or its appraised value.

Remember that a home insurance policy is based on the cost to rebuild your home and any outbuildings, not the amount you paid for the property or its appraised value. You never include the value of your land in your home insurance. Depending on the age, location, and style of your home, the insured value could be much higher or lower than its market value.

4. There are special types of deductibles.

A deductible is an amount you’re responsible for paying for an insured loss. The higher your deductible, the more you can save on premiums. So be sure to get quotes for different deductible amounts when shopping for renters and home insurance.

As I previously mentioned, disasters such as windstorms, hailstorms, and hurricanes, are typically covered by standard renters and home insurance. However, in some high-risk areas, you may have separate deductibles for damage caused by these disasters.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, nineteen states and the District of Columbia have hurricane deductibles: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington D.C.

These special deductibles are additional and separate from the regular deductible for all other types of claims, such as fire or theft. A hurricane deductible applies only to damage from hurricanes, and windstorm or wind/hail deductibles would apply to any wind damage.

Hurricane and wind deductibles are typically given as a percentage that may vary from 1% to 5% of a home's insured value but can be even higher in some coastal areas. The amount you must pay depends on your insured value and the "trigger" event.

For instance, if you have a 3% hurricane deductible and your home is insured for $200,000, you’d be responsible for the first $6,000 ($200,000 x 3%) in repair costs. That’s much more expensive than paying a standard $500 or $1,000 home deductible.

In some states, the triggering event for hurricane deductibles to apply is when a Category 1 storm causes damage whether it made landfall or not. Other states allow Category 2 to be the threshold. In others, a hurricane deductible applies from the moment a hurricane watch or warning gets issued until 72 hours after it ends.

A hurricane deductible can only be applied once each hurricane season, from June to November.

5. Don’t leave discounts on the table.

When it comes to the price of renters and home insurance, there are some factors you can control and some you can’t. Here are some ways to save and typical discounts to ask for:

  • Bundling insurance is when you purchase different types of policies, such as renters or home and auto, from the same insurance company. Buying two or more policies can help reduce your total cost. Just make sure that the combined price from one insurer is less than buying policies separately from different insurers.
  • Shopping around may seem obvious, but many people don’t do it. Prices can vary considerably from insurer to insurer. Be sure to compare the same coverage and deductibles to get the best deal possible.
  • Installing safety features in your home or rental, such as smoke detectors, alarm systems, deadbolts, storm shutters, shatterproof windows, or roofing, may allow you to qualify for discounts. Even being a non-smoker or being retired reduces the risk for insurers, so be sure to let them know any factors that could work in your favor.
  • Raising your deductible is an easy way to cut the cost of premiums. Just make sure that you could afford to pay it in the event of a claim. Also, the savings vary depending on where you live and your insurer, so get quotes with multiple scenarios.
  • Maintaining good credit is vital for many aspects of your financial life, including the rates you pay for home, renters, and auto insurance. Depending on where you live, having poor credit can cause you to pay double the premium compared to having excellent credit! The only states that currently prohibit home insurers from using credit when setting rates are California, Maryland, and Massachusetts
  • Being a loyal customer can pay off with a discount. However, don’t let that keep you from periodically shopping around to make sure you’re still getting a good deal.

No one enjoys paying for home or renters policy, but when disaster strikes, you’re the victim of theft, or you get involved in a lawsuit, having insurance can be a financial lifesaver.

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Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Top Pet Products Not to Skimp On

Check out this list of top pet products you should not skimp out on.I first adopted my dog Molly, I was so excited. She was the first dog in the first kennel at the SPCA, and the only dog in the group not barking. My fiance and I were instantly drawn to her.

We continued down the row of kennels, looking into the cages and seeing dogs of all different shapes, sizes and energy levels, but none of them got our attention like the little black and white dog in the first kennel.

After walking her around outside of her kennel for a few minutes, it became even more clear that this was the pup for us. She wasn’t spayed, and the shelter wouldn’t release her until she was, so we shut her back into her cage, and put our name down for her with the office staff. She’d be ready to pick up in a few days, but in the mean time, we were off to get her supplies.

That was six months ago, and since then, I’ve learned a lot about the huge industry that is pet products. For every genuinely useful or essential product, there are ten poorly constructed or downright pointless products sitting right next to it on your shelf or screen. So, today I’m going to go through some of the pet products I think are completely worth spending money on, and, just for fun, some that aren’t a good investment.

A Strong Collar

Our first stop when picking up Molly’s supplies was to Walmart, where I picked up a typical collar with a plastic buckle. Within one week, the flimsy buckle was snapping loose. So back we went, to replace the cheap-o collar with one with a strong metal clasp.

Tartar Busting Bones

Poor dental hygiene can lead to costly teeth cleanings and other nasty diseases if left untreated. To combat this, invest in some tartar busting bones. The rough surfaces naturally clean a dog’s teeth when chewed on, and keeping tartar at bay early on means cheaper long term dental care (better breath too).

High Quality Dog Food

Now, I’m not saying you need to go out and buy the $30 bag of organic, free range, human grade dog food. But in the arena of nutrition, dogs aren’t that different from people. Poor quality food contributes to poor quality health, and an unhealthy dog is an expensive dog. High quality food also contributes to better breath, a shinier and softer coat, and less…erm…waste.

A Dremel Nail Grinder

Unless you want your floors, couches and skin all scratched to hell, you need to clip your dog’s nails. With some care and positive training, nail clipping can easily be done at home, without any need for a trip to the groomer. I bought a pair of cheap nail clippers, and their dull edges means I have proceed with nail clipping very carefully in order not to hurt Molly’s little paws. To make the project easier yet still save hundreds at the groomer, consider investing in a Dremel Nail Grinder instead.

The Furminator

Pets shed. A ton. I have a long haired cat and a short haired dog in four hundred square feet of living space. To cut down on the crazy amount of hair that can accumulate ridiculously quickly, good quality brushes are a must. The furminator is great for that.

Things That Aren’t a Good Investment

This, this, this, oh and this (although that one is kinda cute).

Not everything that is put out by the pet industry is a worthwhile investment, or even remotely useful. In fact, most of it is probably crap just released because pet crazy people love to spoil their animals. To make your dollar go further, make sure to invest in high quality items that will keep your pet healthy, and help you save money over the long term.

What’s your number one indispensable pet item? I want to know!

The post Top Pet Products Not to Skimp On appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

6 Reasons to Try the FIRE Movement

The idea behind FIRE is if you can earn more money, live on less, and save and invest the rest, you can cut years — or even decades — off of your working career. Of course, the FIRE movement has its problems. 

Not everyone can save 50% or more of their income to work toward FIRE. And most who retire early continue working in some capacity to avoid running out of money early. Also, achieving FIRE is considerably easier during times of economic prosperity — no matter what anyone says, it would’ve been a lot harder to get excited about FIRE in 2008 when the Dow dropped by 33.84%!

Achieving FIRE and retiring early sounds good in theory, but it’s actually very hard to execute in a real-world sense. But here’s why you should try anyway.

6 Reasons FIRE Still Works

But, you know what? I would argue that anyone who can, should at least try to pursue FIRE anyway. As I’ve become more interested in financial independence, I’ve learned that there are side benefits to cutting expenses and learning to save money and invest more. Some advantages to FIRE don’t even have anything to do with money at all.

If you’re on the fence about FIRE, here are some of the reasons you might want to change your way of thinking and get on board.

1. Encourages Living With Intention

After reading Michael Hyatt’s book, Living Forward, its concept of “drifting” stuck with me. Drifting occurs any time you’re going through the motions in life, but living without any concrete plans or goals. 

Maybe you’re going to work every day, taking care of your kids, and keeping up with bills. But in these day-to-day tasks, you’re not actively achieving anything in particular. 

You’re just waking up and getting by.

With the FIRE movement though, you learn to live with intentionality because you’re forced to focus on your spending, and the specific goals necessary to reach financial independence. 

As you pursue FIRE, you can’t simply drift through life in hopes that the numbers work out in your favor. To have enough money to retire early, you need a plan. You have no choice but to set goals, and the act of doing so forces you to get real about how you’re living and what you really want in life. 

Are you saving to buy a house? Are you saving to pay for college? Are you saving to retire early? Whatever your goals are, FIRE forces you to reverse engineer your long-term plan so it’s actionable and intentional today.

2. Feels More Financially Secure

Here’s another potential side benefit of pursuing FIRE — you get the opportunity to feel more secure and sleep better at night. This is something I personally experienced when I started becoming FIRE-minded, but it’s also backed up by research. 

In fact, a 2019 survey from Schwab showed that 63% of people with a written financial plan said they felt financially stable, compared to only 28% of those without a financial plan. Further, 56% of people with a financial plan said they felt “very confident” about reaching their financial goals.

If you’ve ever felt helpless about your finances before, then this probably makes total sense. Having a plan provides some comfort — even if you are far away from your goal. At least you’re working toward something, and that provides peace of mind. 

3. Forces You to Take Control

I don’t always agree with everything Dave Ramsey says, but I do love some of his best quotes. One example is:

“You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you.” — Dave Ramsey

The point I’m making is that, if you don’t ask yourself important, uncomfortable questions, you might never get control of your finances — or your life. 

Think about it this way. If you’re drifting through life and spending money without really saving for a goal, you’re at the mercy of your job and outside factors that affect your income and savings. But if you learn to take control of your spending, you’ll also learn to take control of your future finances in ways you probably never realized before.

When most people start pursuing FIRE, they realize right away that the biggest part that’s in their control is their spending. The other side of that coin is, of course, how much you’re able to save.

A recent survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows the average American set aside 5% to 8% of their income in savings. In contrast, those who pursue FIRE, frequently save 50% to 70% of their incomes toward their goals. 

When you find a way to save a large percentage of your income, this means you’ve taken control of the reins. You have goals and you have a purpose, and your money is no longer controlling your future. You are.

4. Empowers You with Information

According to a joint study from PwC US and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) at the George Washington University, only 24% of millennials demonstrate basic financial literacy. And, even with minimal knowledge of their own, only 27% had sought out professional financial advice. 

This is one area where even studying FIRE can leave you dramatically ahead. After all, pursuing FIRE or even reading about it forces empowers you with information about saving and investing for the long haul. 

For example, through FIRE you’ll randomly learn personal finance lessons like the 4% rule for retirement and how to create a budget. These are cornerstone concepts of the FIRE movement. 

You’re also forced to think about your income and your financial situation in a brand new way. This includes questions, like “How much are you actually earning?” and “How much interest are you paying toward debt every month?”

As a financial advisor, I can tell you for sure that a lot of people don’t know the answer to any of these questions because they’ve never thought about it before. You wind up learning so much that can help you along the way toward your goal.

5. Learn How to Budget and Question Yourself

I remember back in the day when my wife and I first started getting serious about budgeting. We’d sit down to look over our bills, and were shocked by some of our ongoing expenses and subscriptions. 

These budgeting “meetings” made a big difference in how we worked together to achieve our financial goals. When we sat down to look over our expenses, our income, and where we were headed, we found ways to spend less without affecting our quality of life.

Now, I hate budgeting, but I do think it’s an important part of pursuing FIRE — especially at first. After all, you can’t really work toward major financial goals if you have no idea where your money is going every month. 

And, the thing is, you can’t really argue anything when you start budgeting and tracking your expenses. You get the chance to see where your money went, in black and white, and you get the opportunity to act accordingly. This may sound like a huge buzzkill, but I’ve found that taking control and budgeting is actually really empowering. 

Crazily enough, not enough people have any idea how they spend the income they work so hard to earn. In fact, a recent survey from the budgeting app Mint found that 65% of respondents had no idea how much they spent last month. 

When you ask someone pursuing FIRE how much they save each month, these people know. In fact, they often know their savings amount down to the penny. 

6. FIRE Helps You Be Grateful

Finally, there’s one more major benefit of FIRE that goes largely ignored. I’m going to call it the “contentment factor”. It’s the ability to be content with what you have. 

Everything involved with FIRE — tracking your spending, cutting things you don’t care about, creating long-term goals — can really put your life in perspective for you. It also makes you realize you might have more power over your life than you realized. That’s a pretty amazing lesson. 

And of course, learning contentment leads to learning how to feel grateful. How amazing is it that, in this broken world we live in, you can earn a living, care for your family, and set aside something for the future? How amazing is it that you have the chance to work hard and retire early, and then spend decades doing whatever it is you love?

This brings me to a quote I love from Oprah:

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” ―

Oprah Winfrey

This is what I love about FIRE; it really encourages you to be grateful and teaches you to be content with what you have. After all, there is no way you could ever save 50% or even 30% of your income without these lessons. 

Pursuing FIRE teaches you that you don’t need the hottest pair of sneakers, and that you might not need that cable television package you pay for each month. It teaches you that a huge car payment isn’t worth it, and that any “friend” who judges your car probably isn’t a good one. 

Learning about FIRE makes you ask yourself all of these questions, and sometimes, that’s all it takes to realize how good you have it.

Garth Brooks once said that “you aren’t wealthy until you have something money can’t buy.” 

And perhaps that’s the greatest benefit of pursuing FIRE. You learn that happiness and true contentment comes from within. And that, my friends, is priceless.

The post 6 Reasons to Try the FIRE Movement appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Tips to Help You Fund (and Keep) Your Emergency Fund

Everyone who’s ever had an emergency will tell you money is key to making good decisions. We make bad financial decisions when we’re broke and desperate. That’s why having an emergency fund is vital to starting any personal finance journey.…

The post Tips to Help You Fund (and Keep) Your Emergency Fund appeared first on Modern Frugality.

Source: modernfrugality.com

9 Simple Steps: How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck for Good

Well, that was fast! I just got my check and it’s all going to bills! Sound familiar? If so, you’re might be living paycheck to paycheck. If you’re struggling to make ends meet with your income, you’re not alone.  In fact, 74% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck according to a survey from the […]

The post 9 Simple Steps: How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck for Good appeared first on Incomist.

Source: incomist.com

Money-Saving Hacks to Implement Now

Redo your monthly budget (and stick to it)

You can do plenty of things to improve your budget, and it's not all about pain and suffering, as many would have you believe. Everyone has a few things they overspend on. The challenge lies in identifying those particular items and weeding them out. A good place to begin is with restaurant spending, grocery bills, and impulse buying. A wise general philosophy is to assign a destination for every dollar you earn and place that category on your budget. Try cutting restaurant expenditures in half, reducing impulse buys at convenience stores, and shopping for groceries just once each week to regulate what goes toward food items.

Refinance your education debt

If you have any education debt still hanging around after all these years, refinancing student loans through a private lender is a way to lessen your monthly expenses. Not only can you get a longer repayment period, but have the chance to snag a favorable interest rate. But the clincher for money-saving enthusiasts is that your monthly payments can instantly go way down. That means extra cash for whatever you want. Use the excess to fatten savings or IRA accounts, or pay off high-interest credit card debt.

Install a programmable thermostat

For less than $20, it's possible to chop at least three percent off your utility bills and perhaps much more than that. 

Programmable thermostats are easy to install. You don't need special tools or advanced skills. Be sensible about summer and winter settings and you'll see a difference in your electric bill almost immediately, especially during the hottest months of the year. Don't forget to program the device to go into low-use mode while you're away for long weekends or longer vacations.

Join a shopping club

Although shopping clubs come with annual membership fees, the savings on groceries, household items, and gasoline usually offset them within a month or two of actively using the membership. That leaves the other months of the year for you to save money on household necessities. 

For people who drive a lot, shopping clubs with on-site gas stations offer one of the best deals going. Not only do the clubs offer gasoline for about 10 cents off the regular price, but some also offer free car washes and coupons for repair work at participating shops. Although shopping clubs are a win for most anyone, a family of three or more can log thousands per year in savings.

Refinance your home or car

If you have owned your home or car long enough to ride the interest rate waves, you likely qualify for a refinancing agreement. This strategy is excellent for consumers who have better credit now than when they made the original purchase. 

Young couples are perfectly positioned to refinance a home after several years of making payments on it. Likewise, anyone who still owes on a vehicle and can get a lower interest rate should look into a car or truck refi. Not only can you get additional months to pay off the obligation, but with a lower rate, you stand to save a nice chunk of money.

Take bagged lunches to work

One of the oldest, more reliable ways to instantly cut personal expenses is to prepare and take your own lunch to work each day. Not only do you save money by not eating out or buying lunch in the company cafeteria, but you also have added control over what you eat. That means you're doing a favor for your wallet and your health at the same time. 

Don't fall into the rut of eating at your desk. Consider taking your bagged meal outside and enjoying the scenery, taking a walk after eating, or joining friends in the cafeteria to socialize. 

Use public transportation as often as possible

If you live on or near a bus or light-rail route, do the logistical planning necessary to travel to work at least a few times each week by public transit instead of by car. 

Unless you reside in a small town, chances are you have access to buses and trains for commuting purposes. Once you get into a habit of using the public transit system, consider buying a one-month or annual pass, which can represent a major discount on one-time fare prices. Public transportation can take a bit longer to get you to your destination, but it's easy enough to make use of the time reading, catching up on work, or just relaxing.

Use credit cards wisely

If you use credit cards to make purchases you can't afford, you're headed for trouble. But if you use your plastic wisely, you can reap real benefits.

If you have a good credit rating, you'll likely qualify for cashback cards that give a percentage of your money back on some or all of your purchases. You can use that cash to pay for a portion of your monthly credit card bill. You could also let your cashback savings accumulate and use it to pay for larger purchases in the future.

Just make sure not to outspend your monthly budget so you're able to pay your credit card balance off in full each month. Keeping a balance on your cards is counterproductive because you'll also be paying interest fees.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com