The Homeowner’s New Year’s Resolution List

When most people think about New Year’s Resolutions, they think about self-improvement, like losing weight or saving more money. But the new year is also a good time to change some things about the way you treat your home. This time next year, you’ll be glad you did.

Whether it’s paying closer attention to your energy bill or changing your HVAC filters, a few little things can add up to a big year for your home.

Making an Extra Mortgage Payment

Have you ever looked at an amortization schedule? Like, really looked at it. If you have, you’re already well aware how much of a difference making one extra mortgage payment a year can make on your total expenditure over the life of your loan. In fact, it doesn’t need to be an entire mortgage payment. Any amount, even a dollar, goes a lot further when it’s extra. Most people’s mortgage payments mostly to go paying off interest, with a small portion going against the principal balance. But this is not so when you’re paying extra. Anything paid above your regular mortgage payment goes directly toward paying off the principal balance, which means that extra $10, $100, $1,000 is money that isn’t gaining interest against you over the course of a 30-year mortgage.

Plugging Leaks

Most houses have some drafty spots in them, where little bits of air escape. When you’re heating or cooling a house, little bits of air add up to little bits of money. The frames around windows and exterior doors are common culprits, as are attic doors. It’s easy to ignore these little drafts, because you can’t feel them, can’t see them, and hardly ever have a reason to think about them. Which is what makes this a good New Year’s resolution. Take care of it now, and go back to not worrying about it.

Keep Changing Filters

You know that paper filter that goes into your wall and keeps your HVAC system from sucking dirt through it all year? Please tell us you know what we’re talking about. Because you should be changing that thing a lot. Like, once a month. OK, two months. Fine, every time the seasons change. Seriously, keep an eye on that thing, especially during the summer. It helps make the air in your home better to breathe, and it helps your heater and air conditioner last longer.

Put Batteries (Back) in Your Smoke Detectors

We know what you did. Oh, we know. You decided to cook some burgers on your cast-iron skillet, didn’t you? And it made a whole bunch of smoke, didn’t it? And the smoke alarms went off, and the dog was going crazy, and so you grabbed a step stool and pulled that thing right off the wall, didn’t you? And you removed the batteries, and decided you’d put them back in after the smoke cleared, but you never did.

Does this sound familiar?

Put those batteries back in. It could save your home and even your life. And maybe consider grilling the burgers next time.

Build that Deck

Don’t talk about it, be about it.

Throw Away/Donate Stuff

There, right there in that drawer, is a charger for a Palm Pilot. What on earth are you ever going to do with that thing at this point? Toss it. Same goes for that extra mounting hardware that came with your blinds. You didn’t need it then, and you don’t need it now. And your DVD player … honestly, how many times did you use your DVD player in the last year? And don’t even get us started on the junk you’ve got sitting in your garage.

Cut the Cord

Just look at how much you’re paying for cable television every month. Fortunately, this is 2016, and you have a lot of options for avoiding that. One is to just cut cable altogether, and, like, take up painting or something, but you can still watch TV — good TV, even! — without paying $100 a month for it. Most cable providers offer a stripped-down package for $20-30 a month, and if you supplement that with a Netflix or Hulu account, you might realize you don’t miss having all those channels. And if you do, just bump your service back up to normal again. With most providers, this is quick and painless and you can do it online without even having to talk to anyone.

Paint a Room

If you’re like most people, there is that one room in your house you’ve always thought about doing something different with, but you’ve never quite figured out what. Well, a coat of paint is a risk-free and inexpensive way to get started. It’ll change the whole vibe in your room, even if you don’t change anything else. And if you don’t like it, you can always change it again.

What are your New Year’s resolutions? We’d love to hear them.