Money Matters

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Cutting the costs of home ownership

Owning a home is a dream for many people. But even the most affordable homes can be a considerable expense, which is why many homeowners are on constant lookout for ways to cut the costs of home ownership.

Men and women who have owned their homes for years may already know of various ways they can save money each month. But first-time homeowners may not be so savvy, which can leave them scrambling for ways to save each month. Fortunately, homeowners can reduce the cost of owning their homes in a variety of ways.

• Refinance your mortgage. The average homeowner would point to his or her mortgage payment as his or her biggest monthly expense. First-time homeowners may assume they have no leeway with regard to lowering that payment, but that's not necessarily true. Interest rates fluctuate every day, and homeowners might be able to take advantage of that fluctuation by refinancing their mortgages to earn lower interest rates. Depending on the amount of the loan, a homeowner might be able to save hundreds of dollars per month and tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan after refinancing his or her mortgage. Research current interest rates to determine if refinancing is in your best interest.

• Reexamine your insurance policy. When borrowing money to buy a home, borrowers need to have homeowner's insurance. It's easy to forget these policies and simply pay the premium each month. But homeowners looking to save money should periodically reexamine their policies and compare these existing policies to those they might be able to get from other providers. Comparison shopping can save homeowners substantial amounts of money. Homeowners willing to purchase their homeowners and auto insurance policies from the same provider also can save a considerable amount of money, sometimes as much as 15 percent depending on the provider.

• Make safety upgrades. Another way to cut the cost of home ownership is to upgrade your home's safety features. Many insurance companies offer discounts to homeowners who install alarm systems, sprinklers or storm shutters in their homes. But homeowners should confirm their eligibility for such discounts before making any upgrades, as policies may differ depending on the provider.

• Purchase eco-friendly appliances for your home. The appliances in your home at the time of purchase will inevitably wear down, and replacing such items can be expensive. But replacing older appliances with more eco-friendly alternatives can save you money on your monthly utility bills, as more and more appliances are now made with energy savings in mind. Cutting your energy consumption leads to lower utility bills, and you may even be eligible for government rebates when buying products that meet certain energy-saving standards.

The cost of home ownership is on the rise, but homeowners can take several steps to alleviate those costs.