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By Charlestien Harris

May is a great time to find deep discounts on materials for home maintenance or home improvement projects you plan to tackle this summer. I know that June is when we will celebrate National Homeownership Month, but having a plan can help reduce costs and decide which projects are affordable. Whether you want to install a new deck or update the siding on your home, you’ll save money if you make these purchases now rather than in the middle of the summer. Certain projects, such as replacing your deck or repairing your roof, are major and may require hiring labor, which can drive up the cost of your project. Saving money on the materials your project requires can go a long way toward stretching your budget. Even if you aren’t quite ready to get to work, you can still measure how much roofing or decking you’ll need so that you can take advantage of the great sales this month, especially around Memorial Day. Here are five quick money-saving do-it-yourself projects you can finish before it’s time to get out the grill and enjoy the summer season.

  1. Inspect your air conditioner(s). Clean out or change all the filters in your air conditioner units. Then clean the vents, both on the unit itself and in your home. Inspect the central air conditioner’s condenser unit, typically located outdoors. If leaves and other debris have collected inside, consult your owner’s manual for cleaning instructions or call a professional for assistance. Cut and remove any weeds or vines that may obstruct airflow through the condenser unit. This should be done as soon as possible, especially if the unit has not been in operation for a while. My unit was not functioning properly, so I had a professional come to inspect it. He found a snake that had crawled into the unit and died. The unit fan had sliced it into pieces, but the body appeared to be whole.
  2. Clean refrigerators and freezers. This can be a chore if you don’t throw away food that has been in there for a long period. Make sure you wipe down interior surfaces of all refrigerators and freezers (especially that outdoor kitchen fridge you ignored over the winter). Also, remember to pull the refrigerator from the wall and vacuum the condenser coils on the back or bottom to clear out the dust and gunk. Those coils are critical to pushing heat out, so removing the dust and dirt will make it more efficient at keeping the inside of the refrigerator cold. Check the water filter and water lines for mold and mildew. This can become a costly major health hazard.
  3. Clean dryer vent. The vent on a clothes dryer can become clogged with lint over time, causing the dryer to dry less efficiently and resulting in dangerous house fires. Having to repair or rebuild a house or a portion of a house because of a fire is quite a bit more expensive. To clean your dryer vent, remove the outside cover on the vent and use a special lint brush with an extendable handle to thoroughly clean the inside of the pipe. Be sure to clean your lint screen after each dryer cycle, as this will reduce the chances of creating a buildup.
  4. Check smoke detector and carbon monoxide batteries. Check and replace batteries as needed. Then mark your calendar to check all devices again on Labor Day weekend to keep you and your family safe. These devices can be a lifesaver for your family if they are maintained properly. Check around; you should be able to find them all at reasonable prices. Another type of detector you might want to think about purchasing is a radon detector. Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is naturally released into the environment as a decay byproduct of radium. When radon gas decays, it forms radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs once inhaled, causing cancer. Keeping the batteries replaced will help keep your family safe from those dangerous fumes and quite possibly save you from a huge medical catastrophe.
  5. Test doors and windows. Wipe (or hose) off exterior doors and check for leaks through which cool air may escape – and then caulk or weatherstrip the gaps. Do the same for windows before cleaning the glass both inside and out. Just like you want to keep the heat in during the winter, you want to keep the cool air indoors. When you caulk or insulate your windows inside and out, you create an energy-saving seal that can save you money over the long run when it comes to reducing your energy usage.

As you can see, you don’t have to tackle big-money projects; you can do small things that will help you make your home more energy-efficient and have a positive effect on your budget. As with all aspects of a DIY project, no matter how large or small, planning is key to saving money. Finally, list all the projects you would like to tackle and lay them on the table (so to speak) from the very start. Knowing what you can spend before you spend it is the smartest way to ensure your home maintenance or home improvement projects don’t get out of hand before they even start.

For additional information on this and other financial topics, visit our blog at, email me at, or call me at 662-624-5776.

Until next week – stay financially fit!