Turn the Christmas Spending Blues to Green

Posted by Kelly Parker Huffor on Sunday, December 26th, 2010 at 3:26pm.

Christmas Spending Blues and Empty WalletAfter we’ve dashed through the malls and stretched our wallets in the name of gift-giving merriment, a little post-holiday financial restraint is usually in order.  If you have a little cash left over, though, or have a home improvement fund to tap into, now can be a great time to make an investment in your home - and save money in the process.  Deals are plentiful this time of year, but for most you’ll have to move quickly to take advantage of them.

Think Energy Efficiency

The much-hyped federal energy tax credits - which offer a 30% credit on energy-efficiency home improvements up to $1500 - are coming to an end December 31.  While it might be a little late to try and get a new HVAC unit installed by year-end, there are other projects which you might be able to squeeze in.  Installing insulation in the attic, caulking windows and applying weather stripping all qualify for the tax credit, with some stipulations.  If you’re up for more of a challenge, use your leftover holiday vacation to install an energy-efficient door, windows, or a tankless water heater.  Check the Energy Star website for details.

Hit the Sales

Post Holiday Shopping SaleMany stores try to lure customers in the door again with “white sales” this time of year, where essentials such as towels, sheets, and even home furnishings go on sale.  If you don’t have much to spend, but want to spruce up the home a bit, this might be a great route to take.  Yes, many stores will be simply trying to clear out holiday- or winter-themed items, but not everything will be splashed with snowmen and Rudolph.  And new towels or a few new throw pillows are great way to freshen up a room without spending a lot of money.

Upgrade the Appliances

Old Refrigerator to upgrade with Energy Tax Credit or Appliance Rebate ProgramDoes the refrigerator freeze the lettuce but thaw the popsicles?  Are your whites coming out of the wash gray?  Or are you just looking for energy and water savings?  It might be time to upgrade.  In addition to the federal tax credits, Texas is offering its appliance rebate program again.  Originally offered in the spring, this program offers rebates from $40 to $1000 for qualifying appliance purchases, including dishwashers, refrigerators and clothes washers.  Unlike the spring program, there are no coupons to “reserve” funds; simply make the purchase and submit a form to claim your rebate.  The program started December 20, and there’s no deadline, but the refunds are first-come first-served until all the funds are distributed.

Consider Refinancing

OK, not technically a home improvement - but it certainly could improve your pocketbook.  It’s no secret that mortgage rates have hovered at historic lows for much of this year, and 30-year fixed rate mortgages are still averaging around 4.81%, according to the BankRate.com.  As the economy appears to be picking up steam, though, Treasury yields have increased - which mortgage interest rates usually track.  Many economists predict an increase in rates for the new year, so if you’ve been putting it off, now might be your last chance to lock in at an historically low rate.

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This guest post was contributed by Kelly Parker Huffor, a freelance writer covering an array of real estate topics. Kelly is a native Houstonian who permanently transplanted to Austin after earning a degree from the University of Texas. She is a former corporate trainer who now spends her time managing Camp Huffor, wrangling two young children, and enthusiastically supports the Texas Longhorns.

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