First off, congratulations, new homeowners! You’re no longer handing money over to a landlord each month, and you feel like you’re finally nailing this whole “adult” thing.
Sure feels good!
But before we get too carried away, it’s important to understand how being a homeowner will affect your finances. Sure, you’re no longer paying rent, but you did just fund a down payment, paid all those closing fees and now face another set of expenses: homeowners insurance, taxes, repairs… the list goes on.
No, no. Don’t panic! Just make these moves to get your finances back in tip-top shape, and you’ll be good to go.
1. Update Your Budget
You know what they say: New home, new budget.
However, updating your budget after purchasing your first home isn’t as simple as replacing your “rent” category with a “mortgage” category. You’ll need to account for other expenses, including property taxes, homeowners insurance, HOA fees and utilities.
You might have to cut back elsewhere, at least at first, but having a budget will help keep you feeling good about your money situation.
And if you don’t already have a budget? We like the 50/20/30 budgeting method. It’s super simple. Here’s how you’ll allot your income:
- 50% goes toward essentials — that’s anything that has to do with your new home.
- 20% goes toward financial goals — you can’t let these slip!
- 30% goes toward personal spending — this is basically your catch-all category.
2. Don’t Let Your Retirement Slip Away
You’re facing some new expenses now, and that can be overwhelming, but don’t forget to take care of your other goals, like retiring some day.
If you’ve already got a 401(k), you’re on the right track. Now, you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. But tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.
There’s a robo-adviser for that. Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm, will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.
It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.
After that, the tool is $10 a month to use to continue to monitor your retirement account. Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and it can help you get there by investing more and less aggressively.
3. See How Your Credit Score Is Holding up
We say credit score, and your eyes immediately glaze over. You know what it is and why it’s important — after all, you just took out a mortgage — but why does it matter now?
These three little numbers affect more than just your home-buying power. They also control what kind of car you can afford, what kind of credit card you can open and if you can eventually refinance your mortgage for a better rate.
Peep you credit score. The good news is you can get it for free from a website called Credit Sesame.
Chances are, it took a dip after you applied for a mortgage. That’s OK, though, because Credit Sesame will show you steps you can take to improve it. If your score is going strong, it’ll show you how to make it even stronger (anyone in the 800 club?) and how to maintain it.
James Cooper, of Atlanta, used Credit Sesame to raise his credit score nearly 300 points in six months.
Getting your free credit score takes about 90 seconds. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert in credit scores.
Never thought you’d earn that title, huh?
Like Cooper, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.
Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.
4. Find Ways to Save Money on Your New Gigantic Electric Bill
If you were renting an apartment before buying your new home, you know how nice it is to have your own space. You no longer have to listen to your rowdy neighbors, and you probably have a yard. Heck, your space is probably larger, too.
You know what that means… more room for activities! But also probably an increase in your electric bill.
Did you know you can shop around for a better deal, though? An energy-saving company called Arcadia Power will work to find you a better deal on your electric bill.
Financial services worker Rebecca Rindler signed up for Arcadia Power. “Basically, I did nothing,” she says. She estimates she saved $120 on her electric bill in a year.
Just link up your utility bill to Arcadia Power by giving your name, email address, ZIP code and power company information. (This is all confidential and safe!)
And get this: Arcadia Power will give you a $25 Target gift card when you give it a try! That’s the perfect excuse to scout out more home decor inspo.
5. Turn Your Receipts Into Free Gift Cards for Home Essentials
Whenever you move, it’s nearly impossible to avoid buying a few things to spruce up your new space… even if you already have the furniture you need. So why not stock up on some gift cards to make your new home perfect without busting your budget?
A free app called Fetch Rewards will turn your receipts into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Walmart, Target and dozens of other retailers.
And it’s perfect for those of us who don’t want to put a ton of work into this. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers — and you can use it with any grocery receipt.
When you download the app, use the code PENNY to automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt — you’ll be well on your way to your first gift card.
Watch those useless receipts add up to a new lamp!
6. Get a Better Rate on Your Car Insurance
Did you know being a homeowner can lower your car insurance rates? Yup! It helps show you’re financially responsible, and car insurance companies like that.
Luckily, shopping around for the best deal is easy, thanks to a free website called The Zebra. It will do the shopping for you — in just two minutes.
All you have to do is enter basic information about your car and driving history, then The Zebra compares prices from more than 100 companies to find you the best price.
The Zebra says it saves its users up to $670 a year.
If you find a policy you like, you can sign up online instantly.
7. Plan for Your New Financial Goal
You just crossed off a huge bucket list item by buying a home. Congrats! But now what?
When you feel your bank account getting used to this change, start thinking about how you want to achieve your next financial goal — we’re thinking you probably have a home improvement project or two in mind.
Once you set your goal, automate your savings plan with Dobot, a free financial app that helps you visualize your goals and makes it easy for you to save for the things that you care about (new kitchen cabinets anyone?).
Get started by downloading the app, then connect your checking account. The app goes to work and will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.
Bonus: Get a free $5 bonus toward your goals once you complete your first transfer.
Now all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy your new home.
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s jealous you own a home.