Being a first-time homeowner can be an exciting, but daunting experience.
My husband and I got our first home last February. Being newlyweds who could not wait to fly the coop, we moved in immediately, and spent the first few weeks sleeping and eating our meals on the floor as our furniture had not arrived yet.
The initial euphoria of having our own nest quickly wore off when we realised the bills and other unexpected costs we had been saddled with as new homeowners. We had to do some budgeting — fast.
Here are five cost-saving hacks that helped us keep our household budget in check:
1. Eat out less
While it may be tempting to order takeout all the time, cooking meals at home can help you save a ton of money — it is also often healthier.
Plan a weekly menu and prepare your ingredients in advance so you can whip up dinners quickly after returning home from work.
I especially love one-pot pastas, as they are wholesome and oh-so quick to prepare. You can also pack leftovers to microwave for lunch at work the next day.
Bonus ways to save on groceries: Check out weekly supermarket advertisements and circulars to find the best deals; join store loyalty programmes to accumulate points and rebates; and buy some food items such as whole salmon in bulk and freeze them to store for future use.
2. Ditch designer furnishings
When decorating your first home, it can be easy to get carried away with buying only the best designer furnishings. After all, you want them to last forever, right?
But the truth is that tastes change, and home furnishings get worn down, especially after the kids arrive. Imagine how heartbroken you will be when Junior leaves crayon marks all over your beautiful leather sofa.
For good-quality furnishings that are built to last and won’t break the bank, consider buying from second-hand, antique furniture shops.
You may also chance upon beautiful pieces at unbelievable prices at furniture warehouses. Online marketplaces are great places to find good deals — just be sure to peruse sellers’ reviews carefully and only purchase from reputable ones.
3. Refinance your home loan
If you have entered the fourth year of your home loan or after, consider switching to another bank for a lower interest rate.
Banks typically increase the interest rates of their home loan packages after three years when the interest rate is likely to rise.
Changes in the Singapore Interbank Offered Rate (SIBOR) and Swap Offer Rate (SOR) rates due to global economic circumstances could also affect interest rates on some bank loans.
If you predict an increase in rates, switch to a lower interest rate loan, and you could save quite a bit in the long run.
Try not to jump ship during your bank’s lock-in period however — you could be charged a penalty fee.
Since refinancing our home loan in Jan 2017, my husband and I have saved an estimated $4,800.
4. Purchase home insurance
Spending on home insurance as a cost-saving hack may seem counter-intuitive.
After forking out serious cash on purchasing the perfect home, and renovating and furnishing it, you may be tempted to give home insurance a miss.
However, it makes sense to at least ensure some basic coverage for the most valuable physical asset you have. You want to be protected and compensated in the unfortunate event of a mishap (such as a fire, theft by forcible entry, explosion, or natural disaster).
And while Housing Board flat dwellers are already protected under the Housing & Development Board’s Fire Insurance scheme, it may be inadequate as it only covers damages to the flat’s physical structure.
You will still need to purchase home insurance to cover renovation work and the cost of home furnishings.
5. Save on the utilities
As new homeowners, we realised that little actions around the house — such as leaving the lights or water heater switched on for extended periods of time — added up and resulted in higher than expected utility bills.
It turns out that saving on your utility bill can be a cinch with some tricks.
These include increasing your air-conditioning temperature (or better yet, use ceiling fans to keep cool instead), installing energy-efficient lighting and switching them off when not in use, doing your laundry only when you have a full load for the washing machine, keeping your freezer full, and adjusting your water heater down to your desired temperature.
DBS/POSB customers can also save up to $300 a year off their electricity bills simply by switching electricity providers on DBS’ newly launched Electricity Marketplace.
Forget complicated registration processes — all it takes is three simple steps: select, login and switch.
Click here for more details.