How to Afford Your Dream Deck This Year


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A deck can turn your backyard into a dream destination. But the reality is, building one isn’t cheap.

A new 320-square-foot wood deck can set you back around $19,248, according to the latest estimates from Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. A composite deck of the same size runs around $24,677. On average, a typical homeowner will spend between $30 and $60 per square foot to have a deck professionally built, according to Angi. But project costs can vary based on where you live, the materials you use, the size of the deck, and other factors.

Whatever your deck plans entail, you’ll want to make sure you’re financially prepared. Here’s a closer look at the factors that can impact how much you could pay to have a professionally built deck added to your home.

Get an Idea of Labor Costs

No matter what kind of deck you’re building, count on labor taking up a big chunk of the budget. Generally speaking, it’s around 50% of the overall project costs, though some estimates put that figure closer to 70% (The rest of the budget typically goes toward covering the cost of materials and other smaller expenses.)

One way to get a rough idea of how much you’ll pay for labor is to use the rule of two. This method involves estimating the total cost of the project (labor plus materials) and dividing that amount by two. The result is the estimate of labor costs.

The rule of two also works the other way around. Let’s say you get a quote from a contractor who will be building your deck. To get an idea of the total cost of the project, simply multiply the labor cost you’ve been quoted by two.

While this method can provide a solid starting point as you plan your budget, it doesn’t factor in any unexpected costs that may crop up as your deck is being built.

Consider the Decking Materials

Another important factor to consider is the material you want to use for your deck. More durable decking material will likely cost you more, but could save in the long run with minimal upkeep or less-expensive repairs. Here’s a look at the average cost of common materials, according to Angi:

  • Pressure-treated wood: $15 to $25 per square foot
  • Composite decking: $4 to $12 per square foot (materials only) or $25 to $54 per square foot (for an installed deck)
  • Bamboo: $3 to $10 per square foot
  • Cedar: $4 to $9 per square foot
  • Redwood: $5 to $35 per square foot
  • Metal: $15 to $20 per linear foot

Of course, price is just one factor. You’ll also want to think about the climate where you live. Do you get a lot of snow in the winter? Is it very humid in the summer? Be sure whatever decking material you choose can stand up to the environment.

Choose a Design That Fits Your Budget

After materials and labor, the actual design of a deck can influence the overall cost of the project. To help keep prices low, you may want to stick with a simple design, traditional, squared-off corners, or even a smaller deck.

One affordable option? A ground-level deck, which sits within 30 inches from the ground. Because it’s so low, this type of deck requires fewer materials and structural reinforcements. And you won’t need to add a railing or stairs, which can be additional savings.

Factor In Additional Costs

While labor, materials, and design are the major players in a construction budget, there are other costs you’ll want to consider.

Permits are one example. Most towns and cities require permits for additional structures like decks. Deck contractors are usually well-versed in this process, and most will include the price of permits in their quotes.

If you’re building the deck yourself — or your contractor won’t pull a permit — you’ll need to handle the red tape yourself. Start by calling your local building department and explaining the project to them. If a permit is required, they can explain how the process works and provide you with the correct application form.

It’s also a smart move to factor in any costs you may incur once the deck is built. For instance, the new addition could increase your home insurance premiums. (Your agent can explain what changes, if any, you’ll need to make to your policy.)

You may also be hit with a higher property tax bill, since the addition of a permanent fixture like a deck typically increases a home’s value. To get an estimate of the change, contact your local building and tax departments.

Comparison Shop

Construction is similar to plumbing or automotive repair in that if you aren’t an expert, it can be hard to gauge the price. Whether you’re hiring a contractor or a carpenter, it can help to ask for bids from a few local professionals to ensure you have the right person for the job — and your budget. Ask potential candidates to provide photos of their projects and names of previous clients you can call.

For a long-term investment like a deck, going with the cheapest option might not be the best strategy. While there are ways to potentially lower the cost of a new deck, be sure you’re not sacrificing quality for price. After all, this is something that you and your family will hopefully be using for years.

Ways to Pay For a New Deck

While a deck brings comfort and enjoyment, the cost of building one can be significant. Here are some common financing options to explore.

Personal Loan

If you need to access funds quickly, don’t want to use your home as collateral, and can afford to make the monthly payments, consider a personal loan.

With this type of loan, you borrow a lump sum from a lender, which you’ll pay back with interest. The money can be used for almost anything, including paying for a new deck. Personal loans are usually unsecured, which means they don’t require collateral. Instead, a lender will consider a borrower’s creditworthiness.

Most lenders offer a personal loan amount of $50,000, though some lenders, including SoFi, offer lending amounts up to $100,000. Repayment terms are usually two to seven years, and interest rates are typically fixed.

(Learn more: Personal Loan Calculator

Fixed-Rate Home Equity Loan

If you’ve built up equity in your home and have a one-time cash need, you may want to look into a fixed-rate home equity loan.

This loan type is fairly straightforward: You receive a lump-sum payment from the lender, which you’ll repay over a period of time with a set interest rate. The term of these loans typically spans five to 15 years, and the amount you borrow must be repaid in full if you sell your home. If you’re unable to make the payments, you could risk losing your house.

Note that the closing costs may be similar to the cost of closing on a home mortgage. As you’re comparison shopping, be sure to ask about the lender’s closing costs so you can prepare your budget accordingly.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

If your deck addition turns into an ongoing project, and you want some flexibility to pay as you go, then a home equity line of credit (HELOC) may be a good fit.

HELOC is revolving debt, meaning that as you pay down the loan balance, you can borrow it again during the draw period. That’s when you can use, or draw, funds against the line of credit, typically 10 years. After that, you can no longer draw funds. (Another important time period to keep in mind? The repayment period, which is the amount of time you have to repay the loan in full.)

Note that unlike a fixed-rate home improvement loan, a HELOC’s interest rate is variable. This means it changes to reflect the current interest rate, which could cause your monthly loan payment amounts to vary.

No-Interest Credit Cards

With a no-interest, or 0% APR, credit card, you won’t be charged any interest on your purchases for a set period of time. Some cards also extend the temporary 0% APR to balance transfers.

no-interest credit card comes with low borrowing costs, which could make it an attractive way to finance a new deck. But qualifying for one of these cards can be difficult. And when the promotional period ends, a potentially high APR will start accruing on the remaining balance.

The Takeaway

Adding a deck onto your home can be a great way to enjoy your backyard and add to the value of your home. When budgeting for the cost to build a deck, you’ll want to factor in labor, materials, design, and extra expenses like permits, insurance premiums, and property taxes. Enlisting the help of a reputable, licensed contractor or carpenter can help ensure you get the deck you want, at a price you can afford.

There are some common ways to finance a new deck, and each has its own set of pros and cons. With a personal loan, you may be able to get a lump sum fairly quickly. A fixed-rate home equity loan may have lower rates and longer repayment terms than a personal loan, but you’ll need to use your house as collateral. A HELOC allows you to pay as you go, which could be handy if the construction project runs long. And a no-interest credit card offers low borrowing costs, but a potentially high APR kicks in once the promotional period ends.

This article originally appeared on SoFi.comand was syndicated by

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Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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BRR! 10 ways to save on utilities during winter

BRR! 10 ways to save on utilities during winter

When you think about your basic living expenses, your mortgage or rent may be top of mind, but utilities are a considerable component for most people. Doling out money for electricity, water, maybe natural gas, garbage/sewer/recycling, cable television, and internet access can really add up. The average American household can spend anywhere from $300 to $450 a month or more on utilities.

Here, you can learn smart ways to save money on your utility bills. Some are simple ways to cut costs by tweaking your daily habits, and others may require investment, such as buying an energy-efficient appliance that will cost less over the coming years.

The average electric bill in the US is currently $142.73 per month, with an average cost of 16.11 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Here’s advice on saving money on electricity.

Jevtic / iStock

It may be possible to save $100 or more each year by unplugging your appliances and devices when they’re not in use. Bonus: When you unplug, you’re also protecting them from damage that could occur during power surges.

What’s known as standby power can add up to 5% to 10% of your monthly electricity bill, according to the US Department of Energy. Electronics can draw power when not in use: Your laptop’s sleep mode, for instance, is different from being turned off, and it can still use energy.

Your home entertainment system can use electricity to keep some indicator lights on, including the ones, ironically enough, that tell you the system is off. And if you are the type who has one or two mobile phone chargers always plugged in, ready to revive your low-battery phone, know that those too are raising your bill.

Granted, it may be too much of a hassle to unplug your washer/dryer when not in use, but you work on not letting your phone charger, coffee maker, and computer eat up electricity when not in use.

(Learn more: Personal Loan Calculator


Is your dishwasher, refrigerator, or clothes dryer reaching the end of its lifespan? Do yourself and your budget a favor and opt for an energy-efficient model.

Although this strategy means you need to spend money up front, ENERGY STAR®-certified appliances can save significant dollars in the long run. In general, a home appliance lasts for 10 to 20 years, on average, with ENERGY STAR-designated ones can save you up to $450 a year on your utility bills, according to the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

Plus, you can sometimes get federal, state, or local rebates (like those made available by the Inflation Reduction Act) when you purchase energy-efficient appliances, so it might be wise to research this before you buy. You could wind up with even lower costs this way.


When you wash your clothes in cold water, you save significantly on energy usage, while also being kinder to your clothes. shares that 90% of the energy used while washing clothes goes towards heating the water.

To put a dollar figure on this, the site calculates that the average household could save $200 per year by switching from washing laundry in warm or hot water to using cold instead. And guess what? Today’s detergent technology uses enzymes that actually work more effectively in cold water.

Also make sure your loads are full to save even more money; you’ll do your laundry less frequently that way.


Here’s an especially easy hack—heck to see where your hot water heater’s thermostat is set. If it’s above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, consider lowering it! For every ten degrees that you dial it down  , you could save 3% to 5% on your energy bills. Plus, you’ll make it less likely that someone in your family gets burned by hot water.


According to, in a standard household, the appliance that uses the most energy is the dryer. To calculate your costs, try the calculator they provide, and follow the following tips. They’re ideas for how to save on utilities.

  • Right-size your loads. Too full, and it takes too long for your clothes to dry. Too small? You’ll be spending too much energy per item as you dry them.
  • Air-dry on a rack when you can.
  • Add wool or rubber dryer balls to cut down drying time.
  • Regularly clean your dryer’s lint filter.
  • Use the lower heat settings to use less energy.
  • If your dryer has a cool-down cycle, use it.
  • If your dryer has a moisture sensor option, use that as well.


The national median water bill is about $30 or $35 a month, though some people may pay two or three times that amount. Follow this advice to take your costs down a notch.

1. Invest in Efficient Appliances

Is it time for a new washer? If so, note that energy-efficient washers typically use 40% to 50% less energy and use 55% less water than conventional models. This switch can save you up to $60 a year on utility and water bills.

2. Shower Smarter

By going with a lower-flow showerhead, you can significantly reduce water usage, to the tune of $70 a year. Want to save even more? Become a fan of the five-minute shower, and quit sending money (quite literally) down the drain.


The average gas bill in the US is about $63 but could be even lower if you follow these tips.

1. Save on Heating and Cooling Costs

By resetting your thermostat, you may be able to save a significant amount.

You might be able to save about 1% of your energy costs for each degree that you adjust for an eight-hour period, and the Department of Energy recommends that you adjust your thermostat by seven to ten degrees (up in summer, down in winter) for an eight-hour period each day to annualize savings of as much as 10%.

If you have a smart thermostat, you could set it to be higher or lower when you’re out at work. You might also reset it overnight, when you’re sleeping.

For example, the Department of Energy recommends keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees when you’re up and about in winter, and at 58 when you’re away from home or sleeping. When the season is warm, their recommendation is to keep your thermostat at 78 degrees when you’re home, and at 85 when you’re not. If you do this, you can save an average of $83 or more annually.

2. Go Solar

If you really want to invest in your energy efficiency, you could also consider solar panels to create clean electricity and minimize your gas usage. You can potentially receive tax credits for going green this way. Living sustainably can really pay off in multiple ways!

Yes, installing solar panels requires a big investment; one that will take years to amortize. But by starting on the path to passive energy, you’ll be on your way to saving for decades to come.

3. Seal up Your Home

Ready for another idea for how to save on utilities? In cold weather, warm air can escape through drafty windows and doors; in hot weather, the cool air your air conditioning is pumping out can vanish the same way. By weather sealing your home, you can save up to 10% of your energy bill. That means weather stripping and adding insulation (important ways to help maintain your home’s value) can really pay off.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at sofi.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.



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