By Marcie Geffner - LendingTree.com
Housing costs make up a large chunk of most people's household budget. That's one reason why housing costs can be a prime target if you're looking for some good ways to save money this year.
Here are six ways you can cut the amount of money you spend each month on your home:
1. Refinance. A new mortgage at a lower interest rate may be the best way to save the most money on your housing costs. And that may be true even if you have to spend some money upfront to lock in a lower interest rate. Refinancing can pay off month after month, and the longer you continue to own your home, the more you'll save.
2. Downsize. If your home is too large for your current needs, now may be a good time to consider moving to a less costly residence to save money on your monthly housing costs. Now that home prices and mortgage interest rates have declined, you may be able to find a home that suits your needs at an affordable price. A smaller home also could mean big savings on utilities, maintenance and repairs.
3. Relocate. If you live in an area that has relatively high housing costs, you might be able to save a bundle by moving to an area where housing is more affordable. This option may make the most sense for retirees or those with flexible jobs. The differences can be dramatic, and you may be able to save hundreds or thousands of dollars each month without skimping on the size or comfort of your home.
4. Reassess. If your home has declined in value since your last property tax assessment, you may be able to save on your taxes by challenging the assessor's latest valuation of your property. Many communities have a formal process that allows homeowners to present information they believe will demonstrate a lower value of their home for property tax purposes. The tax savings can be a substantial cut to your housing costs for minimal effort.
5. Research. How much you pay for homeowner's insurance can vary widely among insurers. Do some research, shop around and compare rates, and you might find that you can save a lot of money and still get the same amount of coverage. Ask for a multiple-policy discount if you insure your home and car with the same company.
6. Reduce. Utilities are another good way to save money on your housing costs. Weatherproof your home to reduce small air leaks. Plant shady trees to keep your home cooler in the summertime. Install water conservation devices. Turn down the setting on your hot water heater. Turn off lights, computers, television sets and other electronic devices when they're not in use. Consider energy-efficient appliances that can pay for themselves in just a few years.
© 2009 LendingTree, LLC. This story, "6 Ways To Cut Your Housing Costs" is reprinted by the author with written permission of LendingTree, LLC.