OK, we’ve said it time and again, but it bears repeating: Buying a home is a very big expense—and once you’ve kicked off all that spending, it’s easy to find yourself caught up in rampant lifestyle inflation. After all, you’ve got an enormous, shiny new house just waiting to be filled with all sorts of nice stuff, right?
Well, take some quick advice: Don’t keep spending.
Homeownership comes with its fair share of unique costs—property taxes and urgent repairs and energy bills, oh my. There’s no need to add to their cost by shelling out for unnecessary expenses. Here are six major cash outlays that buyers can avoid.
Too much house
This one requires some thought before you actually nail the deal: How much house do you really need? Just because you’re pre-approved for a hefty purchase price doesn’t mean you should go as big as you can.
Not sure where to trim? Consider having less closet space, buying fewer bedrooms, or—especially—eliminating a formal dining room.
“You don’t use the dining room nearly as often as you think,” says Noelle Hans-Daniels, a Sotheby's Realtor® in Indianapolis. “It’s kind of a wasted space.”
Fixing up your outdoor space ASAP
Once you close on your home and move in, you might be itching to host your first late-season barbecue. Or maybe you’ve been dreaming about a koi pond, like, forever. But hold on: Updating your outdoor space shouldn’t be your first priority, especially if you’re tight on cash. Unlike couches and beds, which are essential to a functioning house, landscaping and decor can be put on pause.
That goes double if you’re building new: According to Hans-Daniels, building your backyard at the same time as your home can cost “a lot more than if you did it after the fact.”
So exercise some caution before committing: Try pricing out your plans with a landscape contractor, and consider rolling them out in phases.
Old, outdated insurance
Still using the same company that offered you renters insurance seven years ago? It might be time for a change. Shop around.
“You may stay with the same company, but you may find something that’s a little better price for the same thing,” Gipner says. “Sometimes, people may not want to shop around or may be married to a particular company.”
Just because the same company had a good deal on auto or renters insurance doesn’t mean it’s the best fit to protect your home. Go through all your options with a fine-toothed comb, looking for a deal that won’t crush you financially but also leaves your house and its belongings secure.
After all, now it’s not just your stuff—it’s your roof, yard, and foundation you have to protect, too.
If you’re moving from an apartment, chances are good you’re astounded by how much space you have. There’s another bedroom and a dining room and … yet anotherbedroom!
Don’t feel like you have to fill it all at once. Give yourself—and your home—time for personality to emerge.
“A lot of people will go out and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to fill this space and buy stuff,’” Gipner says. “I’m not against possessions, but the way some people do it can be seriously detrimental to their finances.”
Instead of immediately stuffing the TV room with a generic, new couch and coffee table, wait it out. See what you really need and what you really like. In the meantime, stick the money you save into a renovation fund.
Many homes don’t come with appliances installed, so first-time homeowners might find themselves making large purchases (like a refrigerator).
Here’s a tip: You don’t need the extended warranty.
“I’m against them,” Gipner says. “What are the chances everything you own is going to break or not work anymore?”
Yes, something might break within the relatively slim service window—but the money you’ll spend fixing one thing will be far less than the extended warranties on all the things. Your average warranty costs about $123 for major appliances, according to Consumer Reports, and a single repair costs not much more (and might not even be covered). Just risk it—you’ll come out ahead in the long run.
Having your own yard is definitely exciting, and while it’s important to keep it healthy and watered, you don’t need to go overboard. Resist the pressure to hire additional help for your yard—even if you’ve lucked into an HOA that covers it.
“You can still be part of an HOA and cut your own grass,” Gipner says. “You don’t have to pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to come out and cut your grass.”
Don’t be tempted by the sales pitches you’ll inevitably receive after your purchase goes through. A gorgeous lawn is achievable—and it can be done all on your own. Really.
By Jamie Wiebe