What Have You Done to Reduce Your Housing Cost?

There’s the obvious, moving to a cheaper rent or mortgage, but that’s not what I’m asking about. Nor am I asking about paying off the mortgage.

Assuming you’re stuck with a mortgage or rent or lease for the moment, how have you then reduced the expense?

What we did a couple of years ago, first impacted us this year: claimed our $500 Vet town tax exemption. Didn’t know it existed.

Have info about the senior exemption, another $500 but our income level is too high to claim that now.

I knew a woman who managed a 10 unit apartment building in L.A. She worked as a presser/sewer at a dry cleaner. Her rent was free and she collected rents, scheduled maintenance, etc. Probably took her about 10 hours a week. I’d love to have 40 hours a month = 1 month of housing! That was, when I was a girl, what we were taught your housing should cost, 25% of your take home pay… We’ve never managed that.


We’re going through the process of having our home re appraised so we can drop PMI. Not the biggest change on earth, but it’s nearly $100 a month, so not nothing either

(Also we moved cities lol)


I should look into this as well! We live in an HCOLA and housing prices have gone WAY up since we bought in 2019. We’ve thought about moving to a cheaper area (back where I grew up) so we can have more space for the new family members, but the existing children are getting to an age where they really don’t wanna, so I don’t know that we will pull the trigger.


We pay less on our monthly utilities by having a smaller trash can size. It’s a fixed cost every month, they don’t care how much we fill it so we went down one size and it’s mostly (I can count on one hand in over a decade) been sufficient.


When our lease was up and they asked us if we wanted to sign on for another year at a slightly higher rate. I countered with a two year lease at the current rate and the leasing company immediately agreed!


We’re also about ready to get re-appraised to lose our PMI. We bought eight months ago and put 10% down at the time, we’re in a totally normal housing market :upside_down_face:

Side note, as a policy-minded person, I love the idea of means-testing senior exemptions. In the Bay Area, millennials pay the vast majority of property taxes (can cite if people are skeptical), and you get cases like my very affluent family members who pay MUCH lower property taxes than their neighbors, just by virtue of having been able to buy a house in the 1980s. Obviously senior exemptions wouldn’t be the main reason that happens, but it is a consideration.


I’d forgotten about trash. I had a rental house in my college town. A friend lived in the country nearby. She allowed me to add my 1 bag a week to her farm’s worth of garbage! I paid her about 1/2 of what I’d have paid otherwise. She got a little more $, I paid less and it didn’t impact me as I was at her place all the time anyway.


Interesting. In IL, there is the senior exemption, which everyone gets as long as they’re 65 or older. Then there is the senior freeze, which is income-based, I believe the cutoff is somewhere in the mid $50ks/year household income.

You have to apply for senior freeze every year. Makes sense, income can change. A while back, they changed it so that you also need to apply for senior exemption every year. Which in my opinion is stupid, once you’ve proven you’re 65, it’s not like you’re going to get younger in the future.

Seems to me this was simply because they thought elderly folks might forget to reapply and therefore would lose the exemption and be tricked into paying more. This actually did happen to FIL, who is 81, apparently he forgot to file it and their property taxes nearly tripled. That seems crappy.


We live in an area where the school tax at one point was 2x as much for the poorest town in the district as the richest one per $1000 of evaluation. Reason? The richer town did a new appraisal, the market was down and their tax base went with it.

This resulted in years of haggling.

My husband and I got told at one meeting if we wanted less school tax to have less kids (we didn’t have any).

The poorer towns did what they could do, they packed the meetings and voted down every change to the school tax for about 3 years. Eventually, the district “got” that the only way they would be able to pass the new bond issues to upgrade the buildings everywhere in the district was to pass tax equity first. (They’d tried it after the bonds the year before and all the bond issues were voted down.)

The funding had been based on population in the poorer towns and property value in the richer ones. Now it’s a mixture district-wide. The bond issues passed and the buildings were upgraded.


Fascinating! Thanks for sharing. I used to do research related to exactly this kind of thing: now that it’s distributed equitably district-wide, are people basically happy with the status quo? Or is it still a big point of tension (beyond the fact that of course, there will always be people upset about any tax)?

Sorry to take us off topic!


The smaller, poor towns don’t have petitions any more that I know of to drop out of the district. The last ho-rah about this was as far as I know about home schooling. The district charged essentially the full tax rate to families for testing their home-schooled kids each semester. That got adjusted somehow, but I don’t know how.

I do know that when we were going to the meetings, DH was making about $50K a year, a decent salary at the time, Our bills weren’t insane, and we were contemplating having to file bankruptcy if they raised the school taxes any more. It was all of 1 paycheck (of 2) except $200. So we were living on 1/2 his takehome + $200.

Since I can't ruin parties anymore by talking about tax policy when no one asked, I am now here doing it on threads, I'm so sorry

That stinks for your father-in-law! I’m glad that issue was caught and hopefully could be fixed. If I had to guess, my money would also be on your theory that they’re trying to do what “worked” to get so many people off welfare in the 90s: have people reapply, make it cumbersome, and people who are eligible will just fall off because the administrative burden is too high.

I’d also be curious if 1. bureaucracies gonna bureau, and someone just decided to make it more complicated for a boring reason that doesn’t matter to anyone; or 2. they’ve had issues with people claiming it and then renting out their properties, and they’d like to minimize that. #2 was a big issue in the school district where I used to work, but that also might be another weird outcome of CA’s tax policy choices.


That sounds like a really hard situation! If you don’t mind me asking, what state or general part of the US was this?

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NH, no sales tax, no state income tax either. One of the smallest tax rates in the country. We weren’t part of it, but if you google “NH Claremont Decision” you’ll get buckets of discussion. Claremont was I think even poorer than the poorest town in our district. And I think their district also includes one of the richest towns, Bow. Although I’m not sure of that.

Anyway, this is the kind of nonsense which comes in when people pledge to not raise taxes no matter what, and things change. In our case, it was special education costs.


Thanks for all this context, I am a weirdo who is genuinely fascinated by this stuff, so I will absolutely go down that rabbit hole.

I totally hear you on this! That was a big issue when I was doing education finance stuff in CA too.

Thank you for humoring my digression :slight_smile:

  • once the mortgage is paid off, tell insurance and they’ll probably drop your rate.
  • in Ontario there is a thing with rental hot water heaters. They are a bad deal, and we finally bought out our contract. A one time fee that saves a ton after a couple of years. But most people either don’t think about it or don’t want to pay the one time because it isn’t worth it if you aren’t sticking around for a while
  • insulation is another one time cost that should save us over time
  • stay in one spot for a very long time (no moving costs, realtor fees, holding to the original dollars and avoiding inflation)
  • ditto on smaller garbage containers saving us money

Insulation! That’s one that’s on my “eventually” list for sure. I’d also love to get solar panels, but don’t know much about how the numbers work out here.


It’s not for everyone, but we bought empty land for cheap on a farm loan, then built a house on it ourselves, doing everything DIY from design to roofing (with a couple of exceptions like the poured concrete foundation and walls). That let us have enough to pay off the loan while cash streaming the building supplies on two teachers salaries. We ended up with the house and 25 acres owned free and clear with just over $80,000 total invested.


Insulation is our next thing, then solar. One of the ideas behind my retirement planning is to get myself as “insulated” as possible against other people needing more $ than before. So, electric heat/wood heat instead of propane. We can generate electricity and there are trees on the lot…

When we were debating about a cheap, temporary furnance or a higher-end wood stove, I lobbied for the stove as “we can grow wood and can’t grow propane.”

Last major upgrade we did was the electric heat (heat pump), before that it was upgrading the woodstove/chimney. Next is the insulation. Then possible limited solar.

The first idea is to pump water with our own power and have backup in case of an outage. After we get used to the solar a bit, then maybe we’ll do more. But to go off grid here, we’d have to cut down almost all the trees on the lot and we’re not sure we actually want to do that. We have .9 acre.


Home maintenance is one that I would add. With being home more I have gotten into taking better care of things. Cleaning and washing the house down outside, and touching up or repainting everything all in due time of course. Paint lasts a long time so a new can doesn’t need to be purchased each time. Repainting all the trim outside really brightened everything up, taking more care with cleaning the windows and doors, repainting urns, etc. it all goes a long way and saves on costs of buying new things when the old things just needed some TLC.

Planting more perennials also helps with reduced costs for gardening. Also, going in with a gardening plan. When I used a garden plan to redo a garden everything looked right in its place the first time.

And since I have used a good contractor, I would recommend finding one. They give you a lot to think about with projects that can save pain and hassle down the road, which would be a huge cost savings (or planned expense).