Smart Home Updates that Save You Money

Smart Home Updates that Save You Money--Miter Saws and Mary Janes

When it comes to smart  home updates, there are plenty of cool gadgets on the market. But which actually save you money? In this guide, I highlight smart products I’ve installed in my home, rental properties, and/or flips. Here are the best products I’ve found to upgrade your home in a smart way AND save money:

Smart Home Updates: Low-Flow Plumbing Fixtures

Low-flow plumbing fixtures are a double whammy: They save water and save you money. According to Energy Star, installing low-flow fixtures can save you over $140 per year.

I personally like to retrofit old fixtures with low-flow aerators if they don’t need to be replaced. My favorite aerator is the Niagara Conservation N3610CH Tri-Max 3 Flow Rate Dual Thread Needle Spray Aerator (try saying that fast even one time!) which costs less than $6.

When buying a new showerhead, I opt for Waterpik, gravitating between the RSD-133 Rain Head and the ASR-733 Drench Head. Both have superior pressure and hold up well to the abuse my tenants put them through.

For kitchen and bathroom faucets, I tend to stick with Moen for my rentals and flips because they have great customer service and warranty coverage. For flips, it can also include Kohler since that’s a recognized brand that appeals to buyers. The Moen Commerical M-Bition Widespread Faucet is in over 10 of my rentals. I always opt for separate hot & cold water levers as the integrated faucets seem to have more issues with repairs.

Programmable Thermostats

Hands down, the best programmable thermostat I’ve ever found is The Nest. I don’t install these in my rentals because I don’t pay the utilities (and I’d hate to see one of them mysteriously walk off). But I do have these in my own home. We have 2 because we have 2 separate heating systems. I love that I can link the two systems so they “talk” to each other.

Plus, operating The Nest from my smartphone allows me to control the temp even when I’m not home. There have been countless times when we’ve left for a trip and I’m setting the thermostats to the ‘Away’ setting while boarding my plane–it’s so easy!

According to the Real Savings website, Nest users save, on average, 10-12% on heating and 15% on cooling. While annual savings of upwards of $150, the device pays for itself in less than 2 years. If you’re interested in purchasing The Nest, contact your utility company to see if they’re offering rebates. My company was, I bought the device during a Black Friday sale for $199, and I received a $100 rebate in less than a month.

Smart Home Updates: Smart Doorbells

If your safety and security is important, you may want to consider installing a smart doorbell. After I had a few packages stolen from my front porch over the holidays, I opted to install one with a camera. It allows me to see what’s happening, communicate with others, and monitor package deliveries without opening my door.

The best smart doorbell I’ve been able to find is The Ring. The standard, WiFi-capable version is less than $150 or you can upgrade to the pro model for about $100 more. While this device won’t provide energy savings, it can help with staving off porch thieves and provide an alternative to some security system add-ons.

Motion Sensors and Power Timers

Motion sensors simply make sense if you’re trying to cut your electricity bill. Why pay for lights to run when you’re not in the room? Installing a motion sensor switch is a quick DIY project most anyone can figure out.

The key to motion sensor switches is installing the correct version. For older homes that may not have neutral wires, you will have to spend a few more dollars to purchase a switch that doesn’t require the neutral. A great option I’ve installed in my flips is the Lutron Maestro. At less than $25, it will certainly pay for itself many times over. Plus, it’s a selling feature most buyers will notice. For homes with newer wiring or where a neutral is present, a cheaper alternative is the TopGreener line I’ve found on Amazon.

As far as power timers, consider installing these on larger appliances such as hot tubs and attic exhaust fans. You can set the timer to kick on during optimal times (contact your utility provider for specific time ranges). This will save you hundreds of dollars over the life of the appliance.

Smart Home Updates: Sprinkler Controllers

If you have an outdoor sprinkler system, you need to have a smart sprinkler controller installed. Not only will this device save you money, it may also be able to alert you of pricey leaks in the system. My rental properties are in the South, so every house has a smart sprinkler controller installed.

Tenants are responsible for their own water bills, so it’s in their best interest to utilize the system I’ve provided. In the event I sell one of the properties, the sprinkler system is always a hit with buyers.

Smart sprinkler controllers come in a variety of price ranges depending upon their functionality. The best yet most expensive option I’ve found is the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller at $200. A more budget-friendly option is the RainMachine Hd-12 Smart WiFi Irrigation Controller for less than $60.

Smart Ceiling Fans

I once flipped a house that had a neon, Pepto Bismal-colored ceiling fan in one of the bedrooms. It also had the same pukey, pink color on the window trim, baseboard, and closets but that’s for another post. 🙂

When shopping for Pepto’s replacement, I fell down the rabbit hole of smart ceiling fans. It’s amazing what’s available these days, including extra-large fans, fans that connect to your phone, and even ones that connect to Alexa, Apple Homekit, etc. My advice is to purchase the largest fan that will fit in the room without being a safety hazard.

Additionally, consider a WiFi-capable fan for mobile control. If you have an older fan, you can update it simply by installing a smart switch such as those made my Haiku Fans. Just make sure what you’re spending on the fan and switches will be recouped in lower bills (about $50/year is average).


Do you have any smart updates in your home? What has saved you the most money?


**This post contains affiliate links but, as always, I only showcase products that I’ve personally tried, have liked, and feel comfortable recommending!**


11 Free Ways to Organize Your Kitchen

11 Free Ways to Organize Your Kitchen--Miter Saws and Mary JanesFor most people, the kitchen is Command Central.

More than a place for prepping meals, it serves as a gathering post for family and friends alike. Whether you have a large or small space, organization is key to keeping your kitchen feeling comfortable, welcoming, and clean. Having an organized kitchen helps keep the rest of your home in order and run smoother.

The following list highlights 11 FREE ways you can organize your kitchen.

Organize Your Kitchen for FREE

Relocate Items to Where You Use Them

Take a few moments to inventory your kitchen and how your belongings are currently set about. Are your cutting boards near the knives? Coffee mugs near the coffee maker? Do you have to walk across the kitchen with those wet colanders to get to the sink, leaving a trail of water behind you? Set aside some time to make your kitchen work for you by rearranging items according to where and how you use them. Not only will your organization system make more sense but you’ll save time and energy during your daily cooking and prep activities. It’s a win-win!

Group Items by Activity

Similar to relocating items to where you use them is the idea of grouping things according to activity. I made a point to create an area in my cabinets dedicated to all things baking. From flour to cupcake liners to cookie cutters, all of my baking supplies are in the same location. Not only do I save myself time when making my favorite Nutella-stuffed cookie recipe, but I save a lot of aggravation by not having to search for items in random locations!

Utilize Wall Space

Cabinets jammed full? Drawers exploding when you open them? We’ll get to that in a second. For now, focus your efforts on moving upwards. As in up the walls. Your kitchen walls are a treasure trove of extra space that can help reign in unruly gadgets, pots & pans, fresh herbs (bonus points for gorgeous, free decor!), and a host of other items. A simple rail and hook system is an inexpensive option but you can organize your kitchen for free by simply putting nails/screws in the wall (in a straight, evenly spaced line and using anchors if necessary of course). Chances are you have at least a few errant screws and nails lying around so put them to good use!

Corral Your Tools

Small baskets, metal mesh bins, and dollar store office supply organizers can work wonders for your overstocked kitchen tool & gadget drawer(s). If you have some of these lying around the house, re-purpose them for holding all of those odd-shaped tools that make food prep so much easier. If you don’t have anything that will fit in your drawers, DIY your own drawer organizer from free paint stirrers from your local home improvement stores (just ask for a few the next time you’re in the store) or using cardboard cereal/snack boxes wrapped with cute Contact, wall, or wrapping paper.

Organize the Fridge (and Freezer!)

Each time you take out the trash, make a point to peruse the contents of your refrigerator and freezer. That moldy cheese hiding in the far back corner? It’s time to say Sayonara. The decrepit frozen chicken breasts with seven inches of freezer burn on it? Time to part ways. By keeping up with the contents of your refrigerator and freezer, you set the tone for an organized, healthy, clean kitchen.

Re purpose Containers to Create Uniformity

Those beautiful pantries you see on Pinterest? I have a secret for you–it’s not necessary to achieve that kind of uniformity or organization by purchasing expensive storage containers. You can gain the same look by re-purposing used containers (cleaned out of course). Old Mason jars, jam/jelly jars, peanut butter jars, and even plastic sugar containers with snap-on tops can be creatively reused to gain a beautifully organized and uniform pantry.

Kill the Clutter

Even if your kitchen is spotless, an abundance of clutter will do nothing to make the room feel organized. Instead of piling things behind cabinet doors, consider moving less-used items to other locations in the house. Large platters and holiday dishes are better stashed in the garage, basement, or crawlspace. Those extra wine glasses you use for parties can also be boxed up. Do a quick inventory of what your family actually uses between dishwasher loads and pare down to that number of glasses. Tame the cookbook monster by keeping only those you actually use on a regular basis. Organize your kitchen quickly by eliminating what you don’t use and enjoy the extra space gained by doing so!

Clear the Counters

Clearing the counters goes hand-in-hand with killing the clutter. If you don’t use it every. single. day., it does not deserve a centimeter of your precious counter space! Adhere to the ‘clear space, clear mind’ idea and you’re on your way to a much more organized, relaxing kitchen.

DIY a Pantry

No dedicated pantry space? No problem! That small, hardly used hall closet can easily be turned into a pantry. Or clear a space on garage shelving to store extra cans, jars, and other non-perishables. Small shelves and carts can also work wonders if you’re tight on space. With a bit of creativity, you can DIY a pantry that looks like it belongs in a magazine.

Color-Code Dishes, Glasses, and Serveware

If you have a large collection of something, consider arranging items by color. Whether you adhere to a strict, rainbow-based palette or simply put blue with blue and green with green, organizing your collections by color creates a very pleasing, coherent look. Plus, it’s fun!

Label Everything!

Markers and paint pens are glorious workhorses for when it comes time to label the contents of those DIY containers you just stocked your garage pantry space with. Script it out or even print it out (on clear stickers) if you aren’t crazy about your handwriting. While it’s nice to use all the same kind of stickers, it’s more important to use the same size and type of font if you’re going for the organized, uniform look.

How do you organize your kitchen? Share your kitchen organization hacks below!


Welcome to Miter Saws and Mary Janes!

Hello and Welcome to Miter Saws and Mary Janes!

My name is Willow and I’m excited to be launching this blog. Miter Saws and Mary Janes is a resource for those seeking frugal DIY inspiration (in all aspects of life), who want to achieve financial independence, and who value living life on their own terms. From cheaper ways to hack your house and my real estate investment adventure stories to personal finance topics and travel tips, Miter Saws and Mary Janes is a (mostly frugal) DIY blog with a shoe problem.

A Little Bit about Me

I quit my full-time job in an effort to live the life I’ve always dreamed of having. Fast-forward five years, and I’m still free of the corporate shackles I once wore. I own investment properties that provide nearly 100% passive income at this point, and I am always seeking new adventures and experiences. Some of my favorite hobbies include traveling internationally, canyoneering, and backpacking my way through the wilderness.

Why Miter Saws and Mary Janes?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with DIY projects, decorating, and styling. If there’s a project that can be attempted (and at a cheaper price than most magazines depict), I’m all over it. Speaking of, my favorite magazines are focused on home improvement, home decor, and personal finance. I’m a voracious reader, and I usually have some sort of magazine or book in my face. In fact, I’ve taught myself most of the skills I use to renovate my investment properties, build successful blogs (more about that below), and manage my money through my love of reading.

As for the name of my blog, miter saws are my favorite power tool (I have a full arsenal, and I know how to use them!) while mary janes are my favorite type of heel (I have a love affair with beautiful shoes, and I usually treat myself to one pair for each house I complete).

My Blogging Background

No stranger to the online world, I’ve built a handful of successful blogs under anonymous pen names. I currently earn well over $10,000 per month blogging, and I my intent is to share everything I can with you here. I’ve found far too many blogs hint at how they earn their success (sometimes it’s quite massive success), but they never really give concrete, tangible advice that new and old bloggers alike can put into practice. I plan to change that with sharing everything I know on this site. Additionally, with Miter Saws and Mary Janes, I’ve decided to be more transparent–at least finally using my real first name! 🙂

Above all, I decided to start this blog to share my experiences and hopefully inspire others who are on the fence about taking their own leap of faith with self-employment and financial independence. I’ll be sharing my house hacking, real estate, financial, and outdoor adventures among other things.

Fearless. Frugal. Fun.

One adventure at a time, living life to it’s fullest; that’s the spirit of Miter Saws and Mary Janes.