Picture this: sharing the big news that you just bought your first home! Whether you’re buying solo, starting a family or need a little extra room, here are a few ways to make sure you’re ready for the next step.
Open the door to saving by setting a goal. Take a look at how much your first home will cost and what percentage you want to put down. The magic number is usually around 20 percent, so you can avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), which adds up over time. It’s always good to evaluate different mortgage products. Sometimes, if you’re not paying for PMI, you might be paying a higher mortgage rate – it really depends on the mortgage option that’s right for you. If you’re looking to buy sooner or 20 percent isn’t realistic, a 10 percent down payment is a solid start. Your financial institution can help you set your savings goal and budget accordingly – and may even offer zero-down, no PMI options.
If saving up for a down payment isn’t feasible for you right now, consider other financing options. Some financial institutions offer a variety of zero-down-payment mortgage loans. These allow you to finance 100 percent of the home. If you’re a servicemember and a first-time homebuyer, you may be able to take advantage of a VA Loan. On the flip side, when you put money down, you’re building up equity in your home from the very start. You’ll also need to keep an eye out for PMI requirements. A loan officer at your bank or credit union can help you decide if these kinds of loans are right for you.
Saving for a down payment gives you more flexibility in the homebuying process. If you’re currently renting and are worried about saving to buy at the same time, you can balance both! Great money management holds the key.
Put extra money down
Fight the urge to splurge with your tax refund and stash the cash into your savings. Or, pay off high-interest debt like credit card debt and help boost your credit score. Good credit can help you secure a better mortgage rate when you’re ready to buy.
If pay raise time rolls around, don’t fall prey to “lifestyle inflation.” Lifestyle inflation happens as you start to earn more, and therefore spend more. The Society for Human Resource Management predicted the average salary increase for 2017 to be 3 percent. If you’re making $40,000 a year, that’s an extra $1,200 before taxes that will help with your down payment.
Simplify your savings
Now that you’ve set a goal, it’s a great time to automate your savings. Seek out a separate savings account so you can easily track your progress. Your financial institution probably offers a high-yield savings account for a period of time, like Navy Federal’s SaveFirst. A certificate of deposit, or CD, is another good option to help you get there.
Then, set up automatic transfers once or twice a month to ensure you’re growing your savings. If the money goes straight to the down payment fund, not your general bank account, you won’t be tempted to spend.
Downsize current debt
Whether you’ve got credit card debt or existing student loans, now’s the time to boost your credit and cut back on debt. Consider freeing up some extra cash in your monthly budget with a balance transfer or by consolidating your debt. This can help relieve the stress of juggling multiple financial goals. The less you have to pay in interest, the more you’ll have to save for your down payment.
Check with your financial institution to see what works best given your financial situation and credit history.
Cut back where you can
You can always find ways to save, even in the tightest of budgets. A second job or side gig is a great way to earn extra cash to put towards savings. But, this might be unrealistic for your lifestyle. Here are some other popular ways to cut back on spending:
1. Cut the cable cord
If you’re not locked into a cable contract, consider switching providers for a better deal or stopping cable completely. Don’t worry! This doesn’t mean you have to miss out on this summer’s hit TV shows altogether – an online streaming service might satisfy your needs. Even cutting your premium channels and sticking to basics can reduce your monthly bill.
2. Toss the gym membership
With warmer months coming, there are plenty of opportunities to save a little while still staying active. Maybe you’re not going to the gym as often as you resolved to at New Year’s. Running, shooting hoops at the local park or walking the dog all get you moving, without the heavy price tag. Make the most of fitness equipment available on a bike trail near you, or check out mobile options for lower-priced fitness apps that help you work out right at home!
3. Stop subscription services
It’s tempting to treat yourself once a month with a little surprise gift – and you certainly deserve one from time to time! Monthly subscription boxes are all the rage now and can be filled with makeup, home goods, pet products, clothes or even gourmet food. But they’re not needs, and can add up fast. Even music streaming services can range from $10-20 per month. Consider cutting back now – either treat yourself to the one thing from the box you really want or need, or bear through the commercials while you’re listening to your favorite tunes. It may only seem like a few dollars here and there, but the temporary sacrifice could help get you into your dream home faster.
4. Save on living expenses
Rent is likely your biggest expense. Depending on your lease situation, it might be possible to move to a cheaper location or even take on a roommate. Or, if you travel frequently for work, you might be able to rent out your pad while you’re gone.
If these options don’t make sense for you, talk to your landlord or management company a few months before your lease expires. If you’re a great tenant and pay your rent on time, you might be able to renegotiate your monthly payment. It’s a win-win: Your landlord can keep a great tenant, and you could potentially save a little, too! Set a meeting and bring along proof of income, credit and tenancy and see what you can do. It doesn’t hurt to compare what a similar apartment is going for in your neighborhood for negotiating purposes.
It doesn’t matter how you save or cut back – only that you do. You can’t always live large and buy large at the same time. Use a spreadsheet or digitally track what you’re spending so you can find ways to cut back and see your progress. A few cutbacks here and there can lay the foundation for big savings over time.
Stay positive and stay focused
Most importantly, stay positive as you save! Not every day is going to be a great savings day. Life happens. Maybe you’ll have to tap into your emergency fund for a medical bill or auto repair. Some days you’ll overindulge and break your budget. Just keep your eyes on the prize: your first home! Save a picture of your dream home for motivation.
Writing down your goal and timeline can help, too. Bumps along the road are to be expected, but with a solid plan and a strong financial support system to advise you, you’ll be buying before you know it!
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