When I was a gangly seven year old with braids that were too tight and freckles that looked better on a cheetah, I used to dislike the spring. In my Latino family, spring meant two things: 1) my mom would dress us in flamenco dresses to go to the fair and 2) I would have to participate in spring cleaning.
My Spanish mother and my Abuela would put on their work clothes, tie their hair in a scarf and attack the house with a vengeance that would make the mighty 300 run in sheer panic all the way back to Sparta. Never get between a Latina woman and her spring cleaning. I was conscripted into forced servitude while all my freckleless girlfriends got to go play kick the can in our street circle.
Now that I’m an adult, every spring, I engage in a different type of practice that gets our finances in tip top shape. Instead of a broom, I use a smart phone. Instead of a vacuum cleaner, I have a computer. I like to engage in spring savings. The bonus for this formerly freckled girl is that I usually save more than enough money to hire someone else to do my spring cleaning. Here are some ways that you can get out of spring cleaning and into spring savings:
Property Tax Challenge – As many as 30% of homeowners may be overtaxed, according to the National Taxpayers Union. First, study your property card for errors in your home’s specs. Next, compare your home’s value and taxes with other nearby homes (go to Valueappeal.com). Third, go to ntu.org/tax-basics to learn how to build your case before the tax assessor. Fourth, challenge the amount and win and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars!
Prepare for Warm Weather – Invest in a thermal leak detector to find and fix drafts around windows, outlets and walls to save as much as 20% on cooling bills. Also invest in a programmable thermostat to adjust your home about 10 degrees while you’re at work and at night to save another 15%.
Pull the Plug on Entertainment – There’s no need to pay for pricey cable or satellite when you have less expensive options. Before we had Apple TV, we invested in a streaming player called Roku that cost about $100 and connected the internet to our TV. We currently use Netflix ($8/month) for movies and TV shows and then Hulu Plus ($8/month) for new TV episodes that we can watch right after they’ve aired. Plus, I’m a Prime member on Amazon, so I get to watch scores of shows for free on Amazon Instant Video. I’ve discovered all kinds of Downton-like British TV shows that are delightful (I’m currently hooked on Lark Rise to Candleford). These options save $750 a year over cable.
Put off the Oil Change – My girlfriend Audrey has a fairly new Lincoln and the dealership told her to only go 3000 miles between oil changes. But her car light comes on at 7800 miles, so she listens to the car instead. Actually, the newest studies indicate that my girlfriend is right! The quality of oil has improved dramatically over the last 25 years. Follow the owners manual and the car’s oil-life-monitoring system instead of the dealer who wants that extra service fee. I change the oil in my car once a year!
Put it on Ice – To save on food and spoilage, freeze hard cheeses, most fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, bread and other baked goods. You can use ice trays to freeze baby food, sauce or stock, and chopped fresh herbs in water. Not only will you never have to dig a moldy hunk of something you don’t recognize out of the back of the fridge, you’ll also find dinner prep is quicker and easier by using these kinds of frozen items.
Once you’ve finished your spring savings, then sit back, pour a cool glass of tea (with mint infused ice cubes) and watch Lark Rise to Candleford—you deserve the rest!
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)