Whether you’re renting or owning a piece of property, you might have rules for guests and even members in your family.
We had our own rooms but also set house rules (i.e. cleaning schedule, temperature) that we agreed on and tried to follow.
Such rules were to manage our expectations and to prevent potential conflict due to our different lifestyles and preferences.
I had only one vote on what rules my roommates and I should adopt.
However, after Mr. FAF and I bought our first home, I found myself in a situation where I could set the rules for Mr. FAF, our guests, and myself.
I don’t really think much about such rules since they’re just something I do, sometimes subconsciously.
But one day I realized that the free house rules that I created can actually save us thousands of dollars a year.
(In writing this piece, I am not stating that our hour rules are any better than others’ rules. The habits below are what works for us, and I hope they will also work for you if you decide to adopt them.)
1. Having separate indoor and outdoor shoes
I think this is really an Asian thing. Our family have two separate sets of shoes: one for the indoors and the other for the outdoors.
After we walk through the main door, we will change into our indoor slippers which we wear only on the first floor.
Once we walk upstairs, we will take those slippers off and leave them on the side of the stairs to walk on the carpeted second floor barefoot.
Carpets are notorious for being difficult to clean, especially if there are stains. Dirt tends to get stuck in the carpet more easily and is harder to vacuum. Dirt can also leave lots of hard-to-wash stains in the carpet.
It can easily cost us $50 to rent a steam vacuum from Home Depot or more than $110 to buy one. Instead of dropping $100 on another piece of home appliance and spending the time to vacuum a stained carpet, we can leave our shoes at the stairs and walk barefoot on the carpet.
In the winter, we have a third set of warm slippers to wear on the second floor. I also thought about having a separate set of shoes for the bathrooms on the second floor, but it seems like too much work.
My in-laws got 7 pairs of slippers from China for less than $10. We also got free slippers from the hotels in Asia we’ve stayed at. The startup costs are low and can save hundreds of cleaning fees in the long run.
Money saved per year: $50
2. No dirty clothes on the bed
The rule is that once someone wears something to go outside of the house, they are not supposed to climb onto bed wearing such clothes. Examples are jeans and jackets that we wear to sit on the train, go grocery shopping or the mall, or just go for a walk outside.
I wash our bedding about once a month. Within that one month period, the only thing I’d like to get on the bed are ourselves and our clean pajamas. Mr. FAF and I follow this rule to keep our bedding fresh and clean for longer.
One of my pet peeves is when Mr. FAF throws his dirty jeans or backpack onto the newly washed bedding and pretends nothing happened. He’s gotten better after living in DC for a couple of months.
With this rule, I can wash our bedding once a month instead of every two weeks. I don’t mind the act of throwing all the sheets into the washer and drier. I usually run two loads of laundry for the bedding.
What is time-consuming is taking the bedding sheets and comforter covers off and putting them back on. It can take me up to 30 minutes.
Money saved per year: $44.64
Washer: $1.52*2 times/month*12 months = $36.48
Dryer: $0.34*2 times/month*12 months = $8.16
3. No food or drink in the bedroom
We don’t keep food or drinks in our bedroom or on the second floor. Our kitchen is on the first floor, and we store all of our food in the pantry and fridges.
Sometimes I do get hungry at night and bring some food upstairs to eat. But I always make sure to clean it up before going to bed. Mr. FAF, on the other hand, still needs some work in this department.
We try to avoid throwing food waste (i.e. banana peel, apple cores) in the trash bin on the second floor. Those trash bins are for non-food waste items such as scratch paper.
We also don’t eat on our bed whether it’s candy, cookies, rice, or popcorn. I don’t want the food crumbs to fall onto our bedding which I will have to sleep with at night without even noticing it.
The purpose of this rule is to prevent insects such as ants or cockroaches to invade our bedrooms, lay eggs, and multiply overnight. The solution to this problem can be a $5.19 insect spray for a mild infestation or$300-$550 for a professional treatment.
Without the insect problem, we won’t need to spend money on the solution, not to mention all the headache and anxiety that comes with it.
Money saved per year: $5.19 – $550
4. Put dirty clothes in the hamper
After we take a shower, everyone in the family is supposed to put their dirty clothes in the hamper, not on the floor or in the sink.
I usually give Baby FAF a shower, so I will clean up after he’s done. But Mr. FAF and everyone in the family will need to clean up after themselves out of respect for others.
If a piece of soiled clothing item is forgotten somewhere, it can invite insects and even rats, which in turn will call for a solution that needs money.
Money saved per year: $5.19 – $550
5. No leaving dishes in the sink overnight
It is our house rule that all the dishes need to be washed right after being used. There are times when one of us is in a rush and can’t do all the dishes.
But after we finish breakfast in the morning, I usually give all the dishes a quick wash before heading out to work. It gives me peace of mind knowing that no roach or rat will be eating the leftovers in the sink and then invite their whole extended family over to our kitchen for a feast.
Sometimes we do let a couple of dishes sit in the sink during the day. But it’s rare and definitely doesn’t happen overnight.
Money saved per year: $5.19 – $550
6. Always put something back where you found it
One of my biggest pet peeves is trying to find missing items. And this happens to Mr. FAF more often than I’d like to admit. Our rule is that we need to put things back where we found them whether it is a pen, a pair of scissors or nail clippers.
Knowing where things are can help us avoid spending hours looking for the missing items. It is particularly frustrating to me when I know that I can spend that time doing something more productive such as blogging, playing with Baby FAF, or doing housework.
Being organized and intentional with our organization is key to this rule. Mr. FAF typically spends at least an hour a week looking for a missing item. If his hourly rate is $100 (which is not the case), he’d waste $100 a week doing something he absolutely could have prevented in the first place.
Money saved a year: $4,800
$100*4 weeks*12 months = $4,800
7. Check the doors and windows before going to bed
Almost 30% of burglars break into a home through an unlocked door or window. 34% of burglars enter through the front door.
The danger of having our house being burgled is real. When I was renting a house with two other roommates in a reasonably priced yet sketchy area of DC, our house was broken into in a span of two weeks.
The police never caught the burglar, but we fortunately were unharmed and didn’t lose anything. We all moved out immediately after the third break-in and were scared for months after.
According to the FBI, the monetary loss due to burglaries in 2014 was $3.9 billion; the average loss of a burglary was $2,251. One of the best things we can do to prevent such huge financial loss and potential trauma is to protect our home.
I am usually the last person to go to bed in the FAF family, so I usually check all the doors and windows on the first floor to make sure that they are looked.
I am not sure what tools burglars have to break into homes. But given that one third of all burglaries start with unlocked doors, I will make sure that our house is locked late at night.
Money saved a year: $2,251
TOTAL saved each year: $7,161.21 – $8,795.64
$50 + $44.64 + ($5.19 to $550)*3 + $4,800 + $2,251 = $7,161.21 to $8,795.64
The rules above may seem overwhelming to you. But I can assure you that before writing this post, I had never even thought that we had such rules in place.
You can see that most of those rules apply mainly to Mr. FAF and me. When we have friends or family staying over at our house for a couple of days, we don’t give them a list of house rules to follow.
When they ask what they need to do, however, I will give them suggestions. We want our guests to feel at home at our house. And I’m sure they’d prefer that Mr. FAF and I kept our house in order and didn’t welcome them into a mess whether it’s financial or chores-related.
I believe that rules and principles are the foundation of any success, be it careers or finances. When we enforce our house rules on a regular basis, we feel happier knowing that things won’t get out of control and leave us bewildered as to how we should organize our life.
What house rulers have you enforced at home? I’d love to know your thoughts.