A Simple Guide to Budgeting for Home Maintenance Expenses

Homeownership comes with a lot of excitement but also with a lot of responsibility. Now that you own a home, you have to take care of it. Gone are the days of landlord maintenance. Budgeting for home maintenance expenses can feel overwhelming and confusing. But it doesn’t have to be! I’ve got your simple guide on how to create a realistic budget for home maintenance as well as some great ideas to get you started on an emergency fund for those unexpected repairs.

The Numbers

A general rule of thumb for home maintenance costs is to save one to three percent of your home’s value. For instance, if you bought your home for $350,000 you should be saving $3,500 to $7,000 annually for home maintenance. While this gives you a solid number to start from, your costs may be higher or lower depending on the current condition of your home as well as what the weather in your area is like. An extremely wet and cold winter could make yearly maintenance costs higher, while mild weather could make yearly maintenance costs lower. No matter the weather or your home’s current condition, it’s important to save for maintenance in a way that is realistic for you.

Look Ahead

Get to know your home inside and out. The more you are aware of the current condition of all the elements of your home, the better you’ll be able to plan for future costs and current upkeep. Some important things to keep an eye on are:

  • Roof
  • Water Heater
  • Furnace/AC unit
  • Plumbing
  • Exterior and interior paint, siding, and other finishes
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Windows
  • Flooring

Each of these items has a general lifespan. Check out this guide to life expectancy of home components to get an idea of how long to expect things to last. Of course, some things, like flooring, may not last as long. Some things may exceed their life expectancy if you take especially good care of them.

Play the role of home inspector and take note of how long you’ve had each of these items in or on your home and how far off you may be from having to replace them. You’ll be able to look ahead and plan for large expenses coming up.

Instead of setting aside a certain amount for home maintenance each month, a smarter idea is to reevaluate every few months as to what may need to be repaired, serviced, or replaced and set money aside as necessary. This is also a great method for saving for small renovation projects. Look ahead and plan accordingly.

Baby Steps

One of the most effective ways to budget for home maintenance is to tackle one project at a time. If you look at the big picture of home maintenance, there will always be something to repair or replace, and the total cost will be overwhelming, setting you up for failure.

Prioritize what needs the most attention. For example, if you want to replace your flooring because it has some wear and tear and feels a little outdated, but you know your water heater is on its last leg, the priority is pretty clear. I’d much rather have a hot shower and buy a rug to freshen up my flooring.

If there are no other large expenses in the foreseeable future, save for new flooring over the next few months. If you know that you have multiple expenses coming up, try to tackle one at a time and think about cutting back in your budget somewhere else. Maybe go from two coffees a day to one—baby steps!

A Proactive Approach

Saving for home maintenance is less painful if you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it. One way to do this is to take care of what you already have. Cleaning out your gutters frequently doesn’t cost a dime, but it will save you from back-ups during heavy storms that could lead to roof damage. That could cost thousands to repair!

Be proactive and take care of things in your house Here are some other maintenance items that will save you money in the future.

  • Get the carpet professionally cleaned once a year
  • Replace damaged roof shingles, tiles, and flashing as soon as you are aware of a problem
  • Touch up interior and exterior paint as damage occurs
  • Regularly clean and replace filters on your dishwasher, oven, refrigerator, washer, and dryer
  • Replace worn caulking around windows, doors, showers, sinks, and toilets
  • Change air filters for heating and cooling units monthly
  • Clean out gutters regularly
  • Trim trees and shrubs that may cause damage to the exterior of your home

If you stay on top of the small stuff, you’ll be saving a lot of money in the long run. A good idea is to put that savings into an emergency fund for a rainy day (and a flooded basement).

Save For Emergencies

Unfortunately, basements flood, appliances break, and baseballs sometimes fly through windows. It’s important to set up an emergency fund for things that just can’t wait. Make sure that your fund is in a separate account that is not easily accessible for everyday spending. If your budget is already stretched thin, this can seem really hard. Here are a few easy tips to make building up an emergency fund a little less painful.

  • Declutter and Sell: There are a lot more ways than yard sales to earn some cash and clear out stuff collecting dust in storage. Try OfferUp, an online app that’s similar to Craigslist and eBay. Take the money you make and put it in your home emergency fund. You’ll be happy that you have a clutter-free home, and you’ll be happy to have some extra funds in case of emergency. Try clearing out your home twice a year; you’ll be amazed at how quickly clutter accumulates!
  • Save Your Pennies: Spare change can add up quickly, and it’s a savings method that’s pretty painless. Acorns is a savings program that will round up your transactions and invest the change. Here’s a great review about how it works. If you have a Bank of America account, their Keep the Change program will also help you start saving for an emergency, a little at a time.
  • Snowball: Have you heard of Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball method? You can apply the same principal to building an emergency reserve. Look for extra money in your current budget. If you currently have a car payment in your budget, when you pay the car off, put some of the money you would have spent on the payment toward your emergency fund. If your utility bills are less than you budgeted for, add the savings to the fund. Soon, all of these savings will add up to a healthy emergency fund that you’ll be happy to have should disaster strike.

Give one of these savings methods a try, and your emergency maintenance fund will grow quickly. Combine all three and you’ll feel ready to face unexpected home maintenance costs in no time!

Be Comfortable and Confident in Your Home

Budgeting may sound like a restrictive, ugly word, but a realistic budget can bring a lot of freedom and peace of mind. Setting aside money for home maintenance doesn’t have to be hard. Become an expert on your home’s condition, prioritize, be proactive, save for emergencies, and you’ll keep your home in excellent condition. And isn’t knowing that you are able to take care of your home a wonderful, freeing feeling?

I hope I was able to help you feel confident that budgeting for home maintenance is within your reach, and I hope you have some new ideas to revamp your savings!

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