24 Simple Home Hacks to Save Money
Spend smart, spend less and save more. Save over $500 a year with these simple ways to save money around the house.
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Change Furnace Filter and Save up to $60 a Year
Keeping your furnace (gas or electric) tuned up has two big benefits: It makes the furnace run efficiently and it prolongs the furnace’s life span. And you can perform the annual tune-up yourself in about three hours (see Do It Yourself Furnace Maintenance Will Save A Repair Bill).Change the filter every month of the heating season (or year-round if the filter is also used for A/C). Be sure you insert the new one so it faces the right way. The filter protects the blower and its motor; a clogged filter makes the motor work harder and use more power.
Use Every Last Drop of Leftover Paint
Don't throw your leftover paint away! Mix it up and save it for a primer later. I have several rental properties that seem like they’re always in need of repainting. Instead of throwing out leftover paint, only having to buy more later, I put it to use. I take multiple cans of interior latex, partially used paint and primer, any sheen, any color, and mix them all together. It doesn’t matter how much junk or debris is in the paint. Just pour it all in. I use a power mixer to blend them, and then dump all of the mixture into a bigger container. I did 20 gallons of paint once using a big round plastic tub.
After all the assorted paints are in the vat are mixed, it usually ends up an off-white or antique white. The sheen is usually an eggshell to satin. If the color is too loud, I tone it down by adding a can of white paint. Now, I pour the paint into 5-gallon buckets with strainer bags inside. Lift out the strainer bags to remove any debris and pop on a lid to keep the paint fresh. This is a great way to use up leftovers when you do a lot of painting. — Tom Dvorak Plus: These are the best-kept secrets of professional painters.
Wash in Warm, Rinse in Cold
Here’s a tip that could save you $50 to $100 a year. If you’re washing and rinsing your clothes in hot water, you’re wasting a chunk of change heating all that water. The juice needed to power the machine motor doesn’t cost much—the big expense is heating all that water.
Detergents are designed to perform in temps of 65 to 85 degrees F. And cold water is just as effective for rinsing as warm or hot. So dial back those temperature settings! Check the water temperature in the tub right after it fills. You just might find that even the cold setting on the washing cycle is above 65 degrees and no hot water is even needed.
Clean Carpet for Cheap!
I used to think dropping a loaded paintbrush on the carpet meant replacing the carpet, until a former foreman told me this little tip. Pour some denatured alcohol onto a rag and scrub away the paint. Use a rag that is as close in color to the carpet, as the alcohol can transfer some of the rag’s color to the carpet. – Tom Gerdowsky
Kill Energy Vampires
Seventy-five percent of the electrical use by home electronics occurs when they’re turned off, according to the Department of Energy. These “energy vampires” suck electricity all day long—costing you an extra $100 each year. So if you’d like to keep that Ben Franklin in your wallet, unplug your electronics or plug them into a power strip, then turn off the strip.
Don’t worry about losing the settings on new computers and TVs. They have a memory chip that resets everything when you power back up. If you have devices that flash when the power goes out, keep it plugged in. Some power strips, like the BITS Smart Strip shown, have a few outlets that always have power even when you flip off the switch. This type of strip has a main outlet for the computer. When you turn off the computer, the strip also shuts down other devices, such as your scanner, printer or modem.
Rent Versus Purchase
Many DIY projects such as tile removal require a special tool—a jackhammer—that can be quite expensive to purchase. You can rent a tool far cheaper than you can purchase it. Common tools you can rent by the hour or day include pressure washers, jackhammers, hammer drills and carpet cleaners. Chances are good that your local tool rental center will carry the tool you need for your project.
Stay-Fresh Wood Putty Trick
Wood putty is often a one-time use product for me. Before I even think about using it a second time, it’s dried out. The trick I found was to fill an empty paint can with water and store all my putty jars submerged so no air can get in. Now I can finally say that I have seen the bottom of a putty container. – Kim Boley
Growing Your Own Vegetables
Growing vegetables at home can be a great activity that is fun for the entire family. You don’t have to rent a plow and tractor to grow a few tomatoes in your backyard. Many vegetables—tomatoes, squash, radishes, etc.—are easy to grow in containers. This garden practice utilizes containers such as a simple wooden box or even 5-gallon buckets for planting vessels. Aside from the fun you will have growing your own vegetables, the next time you need a tomato, you will save time, money and gas when you can just pick it from your own garden.
Extend the Life of Your Shop Vac
Now that I have started wood turning, my shop vacuum gets a lot of work. I stopped using filter bags since they quickly fill with the large volume of chips and other wood debris, and instead I use a pleated filter. However, the filter can get plugged, reducing efficiency of the vacuum. I solved this problem by placing a large sheet of window screen fabric between the tank and the top part, which includes the filter. Now, dust and chips enter below the screen and won’t clog the filter. — Bill Wells
Find the best ways to use your shop vacuum as a dust collector by checking out these tips.
Basic Car Maintenance
You can perform routine maintenance on your automobile to cut the costs of repair and upkeep. All that is required is some basic knowledge, some common hand tools and a little elbow grease. It is not that difficult to change your oil, change an air filter, replace wiper blades or swap out a burnt turning-signal bulb. Folks who are just not mechanically inclined can take advantage of free services offered by many auto parts dealers. Many retailers will install wiper blades, batteries and even air filters for free if you purchase the items directly from their store.
Plant-in-a-Pot Landscaping Design
Ever wish you could save loads of money and reorganize your garden after seeing how the mature plants look? Here’s a clever way to do it.
You’ll need a bunch of landscape pots of the same size, so they’ll nest in each other. Put your plants in doubled landscape pots, and then bury them at ground level. Whenever you want a change, lift out the top pot and put in a different one. This is also really slick for bringing plants indoors over the winter. This method is great for quickly changing out seasonal plants, and allows for easy experimentation with color and placement of plants and flowers.
Save Your Loose Pair of Glasses
Got screws that won’t stay put? Paint a thin coat of nail polish on screws to keep them from coming loose. Remove the screw, paint it with the nail polish and screw it back in. Nail polish will hold those pesky screws forever in place. The nail polish keeps it in place as it gets in all the cracks and spaces. Note: This is perfect for tiny eyeglass screws! Check out 45 of the most clever gluing tips and tricks from our editors.
Make Your Own Household Cleaners
You can help the environment and save a few bucks by making your own household cleaners. For instance, instead of using store-bought glass cleaner, mix 2 cups of water with a 1/2 cup of vinegar to create your own. Another easy formula for all-purpose cleaning is mixing 4 tablespoons of baking soda with 1 quart of warm water. Check out a complete list of homemade cleaners you can do.
Make Your Old Shoes Look Like New
All you need is an old toothbrush and a little toothpaste to learn how to clean sneakers and get your old sneakers looking like new! Non-gel white toothpaste works great for cleaning white-soled sneakers (colored toothpaste may stain rather than clean sneakers).
Apply toothpaste to an old toothbrush and then work the paste into the dirty spots. Leave the toothpaste on the shoes for about ten minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp towel. Repeat the process if necessary. Toothpaste will keep your smile in great shape but it’s also pretty handy in cleaning up around the house. Check out these 50 things you never knew you could do with toothpaste.
Zip-Tie to the Rescue
When my bathroom sink gets clogged, I don’t reach for expensive chemicals as a bathroom sink cleaner. Instead, I use an inexpensive long zip tie. I cut several notches on the zip-tie’s end. It’ll hook the hair clog, allowing you to pull it out. Problem solved. The size of the eye of the zip tie prevented me from inadvertently pushing the tie past the stopper. — Rick Holmen
Every homeowner should have a stash of these tiny, versatile straps on hand. Zip ties can help you conquer clutter, work hands-free and even see in the dark. Check out these zip-tie hacks that make DIYing a cinch.
Buy Energy Star Appliances
When you shop for appliances, look for the Energy Star label. It means the appliance meets certain energy-efficiency guidelines. The average household spends $2,000 each year on energy bills. Energy Star says that appliances bearing its label can cut those bills by 30 percent, for an annual savings of about $600. But you don’t have to replace everything to see a savings. Just replacing an eight-year-old refrigerator with a new Energy Star model can save $110 a year or more in electricity.
Save Yourself a Call to the Carpet Cleaners
You won't need to call carpet cleaners with this hack. When gum freezes, it gets brittle and easily breaks apart. So, if you have gum stuck in your carpet, freeze it to remove it quickly and neatly.
- Place a sandwich bag filled with ice cubes on top of the gum and wait about a half hour.
- When the gum is frozen, break it apart and pull it out of the carpet. No trace left behind.
Plus, we’ve rounded up 14 common annoying sights and come up with the best DIY fixes to make them right with little effort and minimal cost.
Install a Clothes Line
A simple clothesline allows you to dry your clothes for free using the power of the sun instead of expensive electricity. Electric clothes dryers can really put a dent in your pocketbook (up to $85 a year in electricity costs), especially if you have a large household. While a clothesline does require a bit of manual labor to hang the clothes, you will enjoy a fresh, natural smell in your laundry as well as a reduced utility bill.
Repurpose Old Clothing
Purchasing cotton rags for painting, cleaning or dusting projects can get expensive. Make your own rags for free using old T-shirts and other unused garments. A few minutes with a pair of scissors or utility knife set up like this is all it takes to convert unwanted clothing into useful rags.
Make Old Sweaters Look Like New
Save yourself some money and make your old sweaters look like new. To get rid of pilling on sweaters, try shaving it with an electric razor. Even a non-electric razor works! All you have to do is gently run the razor back and forth across the pills. And be careful not to snag your sweater. This hack will also work on your wife’s favorite fuzzy sweaters and socks, too. — Jerry Ervin
Plus, find out how to store seasonal clothes with these 15 tips for keeping your garments fresh, pest-free and out of the way until you need them.
Keep Old Seeds Fresh
If you don’t use up all of your seed packets, store them in an airtight container with silica packets to keep them fresh for next year. The silica packets prevent the seeds from germinating or getting moldy. Plus, check out these 10 seriously useful gardening tips every beginner needs to know.
Clean Furnace and Air Conditioning Filters Regularly
Cut down on energy costs by maintaining your HVAC system. A dirty filter can really drag down the efficiency of your heating and cooling system as well as shorten its life expectancy. Replacing the filter every couple of months will suffice for most folks, but it really depends on your household. Pet owners, for instance, might need to change or clean the filter more often due to dander and pet hair.
Fix Wood Scratches with Walnuts
Furniture gets beat up over time, but you don’t have to live with the unsightly scratches. In fact, you can remove years of damage with a simple snack food: walnuts.
Simply rub a walnut over a scratch in wood several times. Then, with your fingers rub the scratched area. This will help the wood absorb the oil from the nut. Lastly, use a soft cloth to buff the area. Now the scratch is sealed and gone! This handy hint works on light scratches and not deep gauges in wood, however, we do have a solution for this issue as well!
Switch to CFLs
Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) is one of the quickest, easiest ways to save money—and a place everyone can start. CFLs use about 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. This can save you up to $35 in electric costs over the lifetime of each bulb.
Switching to CFLs in the five most frequently used fixtures in your house will save about $60 per year, according to Energy Star. Choose CFLs with the Energy Star label to get the greatest savings. Energy Star products have to meet energy-efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and the Department of Energy. When you shop, keep in mind that light fixtures with dimmers require special CFLs; read the label.