Tips for Easy Living

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How homeowners can reduce their monthly expenses

Saving money is a priority for many people. But reducing monthly expenses is typically a bigger concern for homeowners, especially new homeowners adjusting to life with a mortgage, higher energy bills than they likely had while renting and other costs associated with owning their own homes.

Home ownership is a dream for many people, but the realization of just how expensive owning a home can be is often eye-opening once you get the keys and move in. Once the initial sticker shock has worn off, homeowners should know that the cost of home ownership need not be so steep. In fact, there are several ways homeowners can cut costs without drastically changing their lifestyle.

* Combine your insurance coverages. Many lenders mandate that borrowers carry homeowners insurance for their homes. The cost of coverage varies from company to company, and one of the ways homeowners can reduce the cost of their homeowners insurance is to bundle their homeowners coverage with their auto insurance. Some companies provide discounted premiums as high as 15 percent for policy holders who combine their homeowners and auto insurance coverage. Speak with your current provider to determine if combining your coverage could save you money. If the savings are not significant, shop around for an insurance company that can offer you the lower price you desire. Just be sure the company is accessible and reputable.

* Refinance your mortgage. Refinancing your mortgage is another great way homeowners can save a substantial amount of money. Even if you only recently purchased your home, your lender might be willing to refinance your mortgage with a lower interest rate. Depending on the amount of time and money left on your loan, reducing your interest rate by 2 percent can save you a substantial amount of money on your monthly mortgage payment, which can add up to considerable savings on the total interest you will pay over the life of the loan. If you think your interest rate is a tad too high, consult your lender and discuss refinancing at a lower rate.

* Bundle your services. More and more consumers have decided to bundle their Internet, phone and television packages. Consumer Reports found that bundling just two of those services instead of buying them from separate providers can save consumers between 40 to 60 percent depending on where they live. Rates for bundling packages often come with an expiration date, but a Consumer Reports survey found that even those packages come with some wiggle room. In their 2011 Annual Telecom Survey, Consumer Reports found that one-third of survey participants attempted to negotiate a lower rate for their bundled services, and 90 percent of those efforts were successful. When negotiating, discuss lower prices for bundling as well as extending the package beyond the current expiration date.It never hurts to ask, and one study has already shown that it actually helps to ask.

* Go green. Going green benefits the environment, and it's almost certain to benefit homeowners' wallets. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, toilets account for more water usage in the home than any other appliance or fixture. But the EPA also notes that a family of four can save thousands of dollars by switching to a high-efficiency toilet over that toilet's lifetime. And installing eco-friendly appliances or fixtures around your home might even make you eligible for certain tax breaks while also updating your home, something that will make the home more attractive to prospective buyers when you sell down the road. There are many ways to make a home more environmentally friendly, and nearly all of them can save you money over the long run.