When Sarah and I bought our first house, the previous owners left it in pretty good shape. The equipment was relatively new and the house had been well looked after during the time the previous owners lived there and they had taken some steps to get the house ready for sale.
As first time homeowners, we weren’t sure how to maintain a home. We picked up a few home maintenance guides from the bookstore and did our best to follow them. We learned how to do a lot of simple DIY tasks like sealing windows and repairing toilets, and we developed a monthly home maintenance checklist.
This list has served us well, but over time everything begins to show wear and tear, and even the best-cared for items will eventually break down. We got to a point where some things were worn out, which took more effort to keep them going and higher costs for minor repairs and repairs. In short, our house maintenance costs went up significantly, and the only way we could bring them back down was to replace several things, which meant even more costs.
This can be a real financial burden, especially for homeowners on a tight budget. In this situation, what can you do to prevent costs from escalating?
Steps you can take before maintenance costs skyrocket
If you are a homeowner, periods of high maintenance and repair costs become happen. Here’s what you can do to prepare for it.
Know when it’s coming
Maintenance, repair and replacement costs increase at a time when a large number of devices and elements in your home are reaching or exceeding the end of their expected life cycle. You can find out periods of time when this will happen by going through the key interchangeable elements of your home like windows, roof and main appliances and figuring out when they should reach the end of their expected life cycle.
Suppose you need to repair or replace the item at some point, starting at the short end of the expected lifestyle. At a time when many items overlap in terms of replacement needs, you can rest assured that your maintenance and replacement costs will increase significantly.
For example, a dishwasher typically lasts 6 to 10 years. If you bought one two years ago, start by entering a time frame when there may be replacements on the table four years from now. A washing machine usually lasts 7 to 13 years. If you bought this last year, you’ll be looking for a replacement starting in about six years. Air conditioners typically have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. So if you bought one five years ago, you probably have a decade before it might need to be replaced.
In such a situation, in six years you will have two main units approaching the exchange point and shortly after that you will add the air conditioner. It is to be expected that considerable costs will be incurred from this point onwards.
You can easily create such a list yourself. Just make a list of all the essential devices and all the interchangeable parts in your home. Check when you bought this item and the expected lifespan of this item. Then determine when each element is at the short end of its expected life as well as the long end. There is usually a point where many items suddenly reach the short or long end of their useful life, and at that point the cost of maintenance, repair, and replacement for homeowners often skyrockets.
Keep a strict maintenance schedule for everything
The safest way to extend the life of elements in your home is to take good care of them. Stick to a strict home maintenance schedule. This serves two important purposes.
First, by maintaining your most important appliances and elements in your home, you can directly maximize their lifespan. They make sure they keep going for as long as possible. This means fewer major repairs and longer periods between expensive replacement parts.
Second, take care of this device during regular maintenance so that you can identify small problems (which you may be able to fix yourself or with a small repair invoice) before they lead to major failures at a critical moment.
Put money aside now
When you know that there will be a slew of repairs and replacements facing you in a few years, save up for it now. To do this, put $ 50 or $ 100 a month in an equipment and home repairs fund. A good way to do this is to make the savings automatic.
One approach is to replace equipment, roofs, and windows, and major repairs as part of a larger emergency fund. However, when using this approach, you should be consistently investing money in your emergency fund, possibly on a weekly basis.
If you are a homeowner and don’t have one yet, the best thing to do as soon as possible is to set up an emergency fund and automatically top it up with cash from your checking account. This is especially true if you want to use it to pay for major repairs and equipment replacements.
First, aim at items with high usage
Once you’ve made a list of the most important pieces of equipment and parts in your home that need to be serviced and possibly replaced, it’s time to consider which of them are most likely to cause major problems if they fail. For example, a damaged roof can cause significant property damage, while a broken TV only means you can go without a TV for a while. Decide which elements to replace and which are less important in moments when you are not affected by emotion and urgency.
Why is that important? It’s helpful to realize that if multiple items need major repair or replacement, then don’t do this to have to repair or replace them immediately.
For example, our television had significant problems a few years ago. A large blue streak developed on the left side of the screen and turned off spontaneously at unexpected times. We could have replaced it immediately, but we didn’t need to replace it immediately. Instead, we deliberately saved up slowly for our replacement TV without affecting our daily lives, and then replaced it with a beautiful device.
Steps You Can Take While the Cost is High
What if you find yourself in a situation where a lot of things need to be fixed or replaced soon and you don’t have an emergency fund? Here are some strategies you can use.
Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
You do not do that need a dishwasher or a television or an oven for everyday use, at least for a while. They may be inconvenient, but you can eat without them. Instead, put your money and efforts on things that have a high impact. If you live in an area with an extreme climate, repairing or replacing a stove or air conditioner is a top priority as it can affect the viability of your home and have serious health consequences. Repairing a damaged roof can also be vital, especially if it starts to leak, as it can cause permanent damage to your home.
Use stopgap solutions
A defective device is impractical, but does not need to be replaced immediately. For example, when our dishwasher failed some time ago, we literally used our broken one as a clothes horse and washed the dishes by hand for a while before we could buy a replacement.
If a television goes down, co-opt a computer monitor or an old laptop for your viewing needs for a while. When our oven queue broke down and it was difficult to find a replacement, we relied on the stove and slow cooker a lot for a few weeks.
These types of changes may be impractical, but they can turn a crisis that can lead to high debt into something worth living for a while, until you have the funds to actually fix the problem permanently.
Avoid debt unless it is important
While it might be tempting to use a credit card or payment plan to solve a home maintenance problem, you end up paying a lot in interest. Make sure the purchase you are making is essential. Do you need this article immediately? Is there a workaround you can take while saving money instead? Simply hand washing the dishes for a couple of months or using space heating on the coolest spring days means you can’t go into debt.
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