Many of us are struggling to find the time and energy to face it, but it is coming: spring cleaning. The thought of saving money can help if you need some extra motivation to get started on your spring cleaning to-do list.
Here are some areas you might usually overlook in your spring cleaning efforts that could actually offer some surprising ways to save money.
Six Ways Spring Cleaning Can Grow Your Savings Account
1. Get Better Gas Mileage
Over the months of driving, a vehicle has a way of accumulating stuff, especially for those who spend a lot of time in their car. Whether you’re a parent wrestling a tide of sippy cups and soccer cleats or a commuter hauling around a gym bag that includes a complete set of weights, you could be driving around a lot of unneeded junk.
According to Fueleconomy.gov, every 100 pounds of extra weight in a vehicle can reduce its gas efficiency and lower its MPG by up to 2 percent. Take the time to clean out your vehicle, reassessing which items to keep and removing the ones you don’t use at least once a week.
Removing roof racks or bike racks when they’re not in use will also make a car more fuel-efficient, as it both lowers the weight and makes the car more aerodynamic. These efforts can go a long way toward saving money, especially with gas prices rising.
2. Find Forgotten Cash and Gift Cards
There’s the old cliche of scrounging under couch cushions for loose change, and almost everyone’s experienced the joy of finding a forgotten $20 in a jacket they haven’t worn in a while. But keep an eye out for unused gift cards, too — they might provide a greater windfall than nickels and dimes, and you’re as likely to run across them; 20 percent of gift card recipients surveyed by Consumer Reports had one or more unused gift cards that they’d had for a year or more.
With a thorough spring cleaning of your home, check under couch cushions and furniture; in drawers, jackets and purses; and glove compartments. You could easily scrape up enough in change or cash to fund your next trip to the laundromat, or get a free trip to your favorite coffeehouse with a long-lost gift card.
If you find an old gift card that you are pretty sure you used, you can still double-check the balance on most merchants’ sites to see if there’s a bit of money left on it. Lastly, check your digital accounts and inboxes to see if there are any online gift certificates, promotions or Groupon online deals you never got around to redeeming.
3. Stop Paying for a Storage Unit
There’s no doubt storage units are costly. Depending on the size of the unit and the market price of your area, storage unit prices can range from $480 to $3,000 a year, and all you’re getting is somewhere to put your stuff. Chances are, if you don’t need that stuff enough to keep it in your home, you probably don’t use it enough to justify owning it, anyway.
Take the time to head to your storage unit and go through everything that’s in it, and ask yourself, “Which is greater — the value of this item or the cost of storing it?” Sure, you might use that box of as-seen-on-TV kitchen utensils again someday, but chances are it would be more economical to get rid of it for now and replace it later when you have the space.
Decide what to keep, what to trash and what to sell, whether it’s online or by hosting a successful yard sale. And in the process of spring cleaning your home or apartment, make space for whatever you choose to keep.
4. Get Organized and Stop Buying Duplicates
An organized and decluttered home can make all the difference in saving money and time. Toni Anderson of TheHappyHousewife.com learned this lesson when, in the process of decluttering her garage, she found eight different hammers. “I guess when you can’t find a hammer, you buy a new one!” Anderson joked.
By cleaning out and organizing your home, your closets or your garage, she said, “You save money by knowing where your tools are so you don’t have to buy a new one every time you need one.”
5. Make Appliances More Energy-Efficient
Behind the fridge, under the stove, or in the air conditioner lurks a layer of filth that would make even the most stout-hearted housekeeper tremble. But grab some rubber gloves and be brave: Your household appliances need you. With the dust, dirt and grime that build up over time, appliances often lose their ability to function optimally.
Cleaning them up can restore them to their highest level of energy efficiency and save money on utilities, according to Turn.org. The site’s guide to improving your home’s energy efficiency by spring cleaning says, “Cleaning dust off the coils in the back of the refrigerator will make it run much more efficiently and save both energy and money.” Other energy-saving tasks to add to your spring cleaning regimen include replacing air conditioner filters, cleaning the inside of the dishwasher, and dusting off light bulbs and light fixtures.
6. Enjoy a Clean Home
When my apartment is a mess, it’s the last place I want to be, especially when I’m in the mood relax and unwind. Sometimes I’ll find myself dragging my husband to the movie theater when we’d planned to watch a flick at home, simply to avoid the mess. A night that would’ve cost maybe $2 between the RedBox rental and microwave popcorn quickly adds up to $30 or more for movie tickets, gas and snacks.
With an environment that’s clean and organized, you’ll want to spend more time in your home, saving money on all kinds of potential costs — gas, parking, dining out, entertainment, tips and more. You get the perfect spring-cleaned setting to plan your next get-together on the cheap, whether it be a romantic dinner date or a game night with booze and buddies. A clean home or apartment will allow you to invite people over without feeling self-conscious.
Spring cleaning is a lot like saving money: Start small and do what you can, and soon enough you’ll see results. By spending a little time getting your living spaces in order, you can add to your savings account and improve your mindset.
Photo credit: Dave Crosby via Flickr Creative Commons