You just signed about a million documents, and now you're officially a homeowner. Chances are, your emotions are flying high with the rush of this huge life step. Then your brain catches up to reality with the "now what?" realization.
the big move
You've spent the past few months preparing to buy your house. Now it's time for the big move. If you have friends or family who can help you move, great. If you're on your own, no sweat (literally). Moving companies offer a variety of services, from straight-up muscle power to you-won't-have-to-lift-a-finger, all-inclusive packages. Call several local moving companies, inquire about their services, and pick the best one for you. Also check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure that the moving company you want to use doesn't have any complaints filed against it. Count on word of mouth recommendations from friends and co-workers, too.
While you might have the urge to only tackle the seemingly endless mountain of moving boxes, make time to meet your neighbors. It's always good to know someone in case of an emergency (the need-to-borrow-sugar emergency or an actual emergency), and it's nice to know someone will be looking out for you. Plus, getting to know your neighbors can make everyday life a little cheerier.
Ask friends and family for store recommendations before making a large purchase. If you moved to an unfamiliar neighborhood, get out and explore. There are new streets, new restaurants, new parks, and who knows what else awaiting your discovery. It's not always just about your physical home, it's about the surrounding area as well. Mix in a little exploring with your unpacking to make the whole experience more fun.
buying big-ticket items
Before you make any big purchases, submit your change of address form to the United States Postal Service. You will have the option to select discounts from companies near your new address. Pay attention to coupons in the mail. Some are worth looking at as long as you use them to buy things you would have bought anyway. Many home improvement stores offer discount coupons if you're moving—all you have to do is request one on their websites.
Once you've assembled your coupon arsenal, determine if you're in the market for any big-ticket items (appliances, lawn mowers, snow blowers). Ten percent off here and 15% off there adds up big with large purchases.
Ask friends and family for store recommendations before making a large purchase—there are often "scratch and dent" locations that offer deep discounts on cosmetically imperfect merchandise. Honestly, sometimes you can't even see imperfections, and you can save a lot of money.
As far as furniture and decorations are concerned, resist the temptation to fill your home immediately. You'll be amazed at how much living in your new space will change what you think you need. As much as you might crave perfection, take time to furnish slowly with classic, quality pieces that will last a long time. You will end up happier than you would be with a room of cheap furniture from the showroom floor—there's joy in the hunt and find.
If there are some pieces you need, but you can't afford what you want, ask family and friends if they have anything you could borrow until you can afford the piece you want. You might be surprised at how willing people are to pass down furniture (read: good excuse for them to upgrade their pieces guilt-free because they are helping you!).
Just as you did when buying your house, make a list of needs and wants and set priorities. This will help curb impulse buying that might not have the impact or function you'd select in a more deliberate state of mind.
prepare for mishaps
I'm sure someone's made it a point to tell you that there won't be a landlord to fix your issues anymore. Trust me, it won't really sink in until your first moment of homeowner panic. For me, it was a backed-up pipe that caused the contents of my garbage disposal remnants to spew across my laundry room floor.
Prepare in advance to mitigate the panic. Possibly you know someone who's handy and could help in a pinch. If not, assemble a list of emergency contacts such as a general handyperson, plumber, sewer company, and licensed electrician. Your needs will depend on what kind of property you purchased. Again, friends and family are good resources for personal recommendations. If you don't have recommendations, do an Internet search and check with your local BBB to see if any complaints have been logged.
It's never too early to start maintenance on a home. There are lots of things you can do to help avoid major costs, or save a little money. The Chicago Tribune published a good list of disaster preparation tips that new homeowners should read. The Simple Dollar also has a list of money-saving opportunities for new home buyers. Use advice at your own discretion and remember that everyone's situation is different.
Now is also a good time to review your home inspection report. Life was crazy when you were putting in your offer and having an inspection done, and there's no way you can remember all the suggested improvements. Tackle the low-cost, high-value improvements first, and work through the list.
take time to enjoy
This is your new palace: Make sure to savor the first days, weeks, and months in your home. It's a huge accomplishment to save for and purchase a home. Don't get too caught up in the details; everything will fall into place. So take a deep breath, look around, and feel free to yelp with joy every once in a while. You deserve it.