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Winter-proof your home finances

Find out how to take the worry out of winter

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January 16th, 2015
Leo and Elaine Thomas moved from a condo in Basking Ridge, N.J., to Cedar Crest, in Pompton Plains, where they can save for yearly travel thanks to predictable monthly costs.
Leo and Elaine Thomas moved from a condo in Baskin

During the first cold snap this fall, Chris and Matt Fleming discovered their furnace was finished. They had just spent nearly $20,000 on new windows for the whole house. They weren’t prepared to buy a new furnace, but what choice did they have? By October, they had put a $30,000 dent in their savings account and canceled summer vacation.

Home ownership comes with upkeep and expenses that can skyrocket with the weather. One major unexpected expense like a mammoth propane bill or broken furnace can wipe out your travel plans or simply make life a lot more stressful, especially for anyone on a fixed budget.

Predictable expenses

Leo and Elaine Thomas like to travel and take at least one major trip each year. They began saving for their trips by setting a predictable monthly budget each month—something that was almost impossible when they lived in their condo in Basking Ridge, N.J. Like the Flemings, they always had some unexpected expense pop up.

But since moving to Crest, EricksonLiving’s continuing care retirement community in Pompton Plains, N.J., in 2012, they’ve been able to keep their travel plans and enjoy maintenance-free winters.

Leo says he and Elaine compared the costs of living at Cedar Crest to the expenses of living in their condo. “We felt the costs were comparable and slightly more attractive than living in our condo,” he says. “Because of that and the upkeep costs we’d be saving, we felt it was a positive move.”

At Cedar Crest, a predictable monthly service fee includes all home maintenance, professional landscaping, 24/7 security, utilities, a flexible meal plan, and use of all amenities like the indoor pool and fitness center. In winter, this includes snow clearing services and year-round transportation to and from local destinations like the grocery store and doctors’ offices. 

“Expenses are more predictable. It gives us an opportunity to plan for potential trips we like to take,” Leo says. 

He says he doesn’t have to worry about the hot water heater or furnace breaking because those costs are covered, sparing the couple from surprise costs. 

Lawn, landscaping included

Aside from home maintenance costs, Leo says he appreciates saving money on landscaping. “It’s a real plus that Cedar Crest is kept attractive on a regular basis. That upkeep can get quite costly, and it’s nice to know that I don’t have that expense,” he says. 

Cedar Crest’s grounds crew keeps the campus landscaped with perennials and annuals year-round. Residents who enjoy gardening may opt to care for a personal garden space in the resident gardens area. But those who’d rather shed that task can still enjoy beautifully manicured grounds. 

“I appreciate the effort to keep our costs affordable while keeping the property attractive,” Leo adds.  

During the snow season, grounds crews plow the campus loop and shovel and salt sidewalks. Free shuttle transportation between the three clubhouses provides an easy and safe way to get around campus, whether to dinner at one of the restaurants, to the medical center, to a group fitness class, or to a club meeting. 

Property tax relief

Another huge expense Cedar Crest residents worry less about is their property tax bill. 

New Jersey and neighboring New York claim the top two property tax rates in the nation. In 2013, New Jersey averaged more than $8,000 per household compared to a national average of just $1,000.

At Cedar Crest, the monthly service package also includes each apartment home’s portion of property tax, which is divided among all residents based on apartment size and days of occupancy. 

This way, the tax is spread out over the entire year instead of three large quarterly payments. And because residents are choosing a more manageable living space, their bill will be significantly smaller in most cases than if they still lived in a large house. 

“Our residents will be paying property taxes only on their apartment home, but they can take advantage of all the amenities at Cedar Crest, like the fitness center, indoor pool, restaurants, and activity rooms,” says Sales Counselor Ruth Phillips.

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