Saving up for a down payment on a house was one of the most challenging tasks that I have ever accomplished. I started slightly before Tim and I were dating, as I knew that I really wanted a place of my own in the coming future. I wouldn’t say that we are pros at saving, or that we saved every penny we could have, but we were able to save up enough money to buy our first home, and some to spare for renovations too!
Here are some tips that saved me along the way:
- Sometimes, you have to say no: Friends my age are always wanting to go out to eat, go grab a drink, go do something. While it’s ok to still enjoy yourself, remember that you are saving for something so much bigger. It’s worth it to say no now and accomplish more in the long run. Set aside a certain amount in your budget for “eating out” and another for “fun” and if you’ve used it up already, know that you need to say “no.” You’ll learn to prioritize which plans really benefit you, and when you need to turn down an offer in the best interest of your future.
- Budget: I put this second because it takes some time to realize what you really need in your budget. As I mentioned above, you will need to say no to some things, but you don’t have to say no to everything. Create a budget for yourself and make sure to include EVERYTHING. Then, track your spending for a month, and adjust as needed. My budget changed month to month as things came up. When I had extra, I threw it into my savings. When I had higher bills than expected, I didn’t go out as much. There’s a lot of give and take, and a whole lot of balancing, but if you are intentional about setting up and reviewing your budget regularly, this will be such a helpful tool.
- Set your shopping standards: I stopped shopping. When I needed new clothes, I sold what I no longer could wear, and collected coupons or “cash back” for purchases, or traded coupons/gift cards with my wonderful grandma in exchange for Kohl’s cash or another coupon that she wasn’t planning to use. I only shopped when I really needed to, and once I got home, I would review everything I bought and make sure it fit my budget and was absolutely necessary. If I didn’t actually need it, or I didn’t use it within 2 weeks of purchasing it, I returned it. Sub tips for this section are: clip your coupons, save your receipts, and keep the tags on for at least 2 weeks.
- Create ways to earn side money: This will look different for everyone. For example, getting a second job would have been detrimental to mine and Tim’s relationship since my hours vary greatly and conflict with his schedule at times. Instead, we found ways that worked for our relationship and our schedules. Tim set up side jobs during my busy times at work, and I used any down time I had to sell items on Facebook, Poshmark (code CMBOTMA at sign up gives up $5!), or Mercari (Find deals on Mercari! Get $10 off when you sign up with my code [THUZTD]!). I have tips on how to enhance your online sales here.
- Exchange highs for lows: Whenever I can save a penny, I do. If that means getting water when we go out to eat, I will save money by doing so. If that means having a snack at home and ordering something small when out with friends, then that’s what I will do. You have to trade in some of the highs so you can save more in the long run. Remember, this is just temporary! Do what you can now so you don’t have to scramble later.
- Don’t budget your extra cash: Anything extra that you bring in from side jobs, etc., should not be budgeted. When you are saving, take 10% of extra cash if you are looking to do something fun and then put the rest away. There are times when I have no plans, no extra bills, etc., and I will put all of the extra money into savings. Once it is in savings, tell yourself that you cannot touch it, and stick to that rule. You will easily forget about the spare change if you are sticking to your budget and utilizing the tips above!
Don’t put yourself on such a strict budget that you have no room for fun. Just like a super strict diet, it won’t be successful. Enjoy this time and look at your budget one week at a time. Don’t look at a big goal, look at your larger goal in smaller increments and celebrate your little successes.
We wish you the best of luck in the savings, house hunting, and buying process. It will be stressful, but it will also be worth it.