A new year means a fresh start, and if you’re like a lot of people, you’re probably coming up with a list of goals to hit over the next 12 months. Increasing your emergency fund, paying off debt, or getting healthier might top your list. But as you brainstorm big changes to make this year, don’t forget to include a few home goals.
Need a little inspiration? Here’s a list of five resolutions every homeowner should make.
1. Make an Extra Mortgage Payment
Did you know that making just one extra principal mortgage payment a year could reduce your home loan term by five to seven years? This not only gets rid of the mortgage sooner, it also saves a ton in interest.
For this year—and every year thereafter—make a goal to make at least one extra mortgage payment. Keep in mind, though, it must be a “principal only” payment. If you pay by check, you’ll need to send two checks. One for your normal mortgage payment, and one for the principal only payment.
Use money from a tax refund, a work bonus, or other windfall to make this extra payment. To make it easier, you can also divide your current mortgage payment by 12, and then add this amount to each monthly payment. But again, make it clear that you want extra funds applied to your “principal” only.
2. Cut Down Energy Use
Try this year to reduce your family’s energy consumption. Simple adjustments can make a big difference financially, improving your bottom line. For example:
• Switch to energy-efficient LED bulbs
• Unplug idle electronics
• Turn off lights
• Get a programmable thermostat
• Use smart power strips
• Winterize your house
• Clean and replace air filters
These measures might seem insignificant, but they can pay off. Purchasing a programmable thermostat and turning back the temperature 7° to 10° for eight hours a day can reduce your heating and cooling costs by as much as 10% a year, according to Energy.gov. Similarly, unplugging small appliances after using can reduce your electricity bill by 5% to 10%.
Years of accumulating stuff can make your house feel cluttered and small. Some people move once they’ve outgrown their space. But rather than transition into a bigger home—which will likely have bigger expenses—go through your home and get rid of anything you’re not using.
This includes toys, clothes, furniture, electronics, and other items to free up square footage. If you like, make a little money in the process and sell these items. Plan a yard sale or use online marketplaces to sell your belongings.
4. Check Your Credit
Every consumer is entitled to one free credit report each year from all three of the major credit bureaus.
If you haven’t checked your credit report within the past 12 months, order your free copies from Annualcreditreport.com.
Knowing where you stand credit-wise is important, especially if you’re thinking about buying a new home in the near future, or if you’re thinking about refinancing or getting a home equity loan. A high credit score makes it easier to get approved, plus you’ll qualify for the best rates.
5. Create a Sinking Funds Account
Homeownership has financial benefits like the ability to earn equity. But buying a home is also costly since you’re responsible for maintenance and repairs.
Some people use their emergency fund or a credit card for unexpected expenses. Another option, though, is to create a sinking funds account for household maintenance.
This is an account that’s separate from your emergency fund and used specifically to cover home repairs. This way, you keep your emergency fund intact for other events—such as a job loss.
Add a little money to your sinking funds account every month and watch it grow.
Setting goals for your home not only helps to protect it, it can also make it more enjoyable both now and in the years to come.