First-time buyers: We’re here to help you save money!
When you’re preparing for one of the biggest purchases of your life, it’s important to figure out where that money is going to come from. There are so many ways to save for a down payment, and we’ve got a few here that can help you get started right now. Ready to start that dream home fund? Read on.
1. Document all of your expenses
Documenting your expenses can be tedious but this is one of the best places to start when you’re looking for ways to save for a down payment. Next to budgeting and assessing your finances, take note of every transaction for a clear picture of your spending habits. It’s easy to buy something small and say to yourself, “Oh, it’s only a few bucks…” but make ten of those little transactions and it adds up! Plus, there are plenty of fintech apps out there (like Mint, and EveryDollar) to help you easily budget and track expenses.
2. Try a cash-only “diet”
It’s a tough discipline, but for some people, a cash-only “diet” works! If you’re one of the many people today who don’t carry cash, using only your debit card is just as effective. Ditch your credit cards for a certain amount of time (try one to three months) and notice how quickly you feel the impact of each time you spend. This practice should teach you to be more disciplined with your spending and help you gain better control over your finances.
3. The lure of the Miscellaneous category
As you practice new ways to save for a down payment, you’ll probably want to spend a little on yourself. It’s best, at that point, to plan it into your budget and make sure that this mini splurge doesn’t infringe on your down payment goals. Treat yourself after you’ve been disciplined with your savings for a month or two and make sure your miscellaneous expenses are infrequent and reasonable.
4. Keep an adult piggy bank
We’re taking it way back to your childhood. The good old loose change jar might not save you thousands, but it’s a good way to save a little here and there. Anything helps. If you still carry cash and find yourself with annoying loose change in your pockets, don’t just dump it anywhere. Make a habit of dropping loose change into the jar and, slowly but surely, watch it grow into a sizable savings. Once the jar is full, go to your bank and deposit the cash into your down payment savings account.
5. Spring cleaning comes early
Try digging into spring cleaning early—or any time of year for that matter. This means you don’t have to wait for warmer weather after winter. Take inventory of your things and declutter your place right now. You might find some hidden gems that you can live without and sell for quick cash.
6. Cut out coffee trips
Not my coffee! I get it, this is a hard one to swallow. But hear me out because I’m about to break it down. One grande skinny vanilla latte at Starbucks currently goes for $4.15. A trip to the drive thru every day for one week costs $29.05. Multiply that by 30 days and you’re spending a whopping $124.50 every month on your daily coffee run alone! Try brewing coffee or tea at home and taking it to go. Or, take the healthier route and opt for water for a while!
7. Cancel a subscription or two
One of the simplest ways to save for a down payment is to take stock of where you’re spending on a consistent monthly basis and decide which bill you could live without. Ask yourself, “Do I really need cable, and Hulu, and Netflix, and (fill in the blank)?” Most likely, the answer is no. We know Spotify Premium equals life—only until you realize you could cancel that subscription for a year and save $119.88! Let’s not forget about the trusty gym membership. Try living without it for a while and go running outside or work out at home.
8. Make new weekend routines
If your Friday night ritual is a night on the town, maybe you should stay in this month. And if you struggled with FOMO, offer to host your friends and have a movie night or a potluck and play games. There are plenty of alternatives to going out and spending money, you may just have to put your heads together and come up with other ideas. Trust me, your future, home-owning self will thank you.
9. Buy the off brand
In the hype of buying fun and organic foods, it might be tough to commit to buying off-brand foods. Even if you only save a few dollars per item, you better believe that adds up over time. Test it out and see how much money you save after a few store-brand-only trips. Then take that to the bank!
10. Meal prep game strong
Of all the ways to save for a down payment, this is one of the easiest. If you’re already making a routine trip to the grocery store, simply buy a bit more and make your own meals at home—just bulk cook, freeze, and thaw when you’re ready to eat. This might require you to move some money around in your budget and spend less on eating out and more on groceries. But since the cost of dining out is usually higher than preparing your own meals due to the tip alone, you’re still saving a considerable amount of cash over time.
Get thrifty with it
11. Take the bike lane
If you’re one of the countless people who made a New Year’s resolution to exercise more, there’s no better time to start your new fitness routine. Especially if you’re struggling to find the spare time in your busy schedule to hit the gym, make it part of your daily commute. Biking or walking to work is an excellent way to jump-start your day with a fitness-first approach. And, as you can imagine, it’s much cheaper than the gas and vehicle maintenance that comes with commuting.
But, if that’s a little too ambitious for you, or work is just too far, try carpooling with coworkers. It might be tough to give up that autonomy, but sharing a ride with someone who’s going to the same destination is not only environmentally conscious, it’s a great way to cut costs. For other transportation alternatives, try UberX Share* or calculate the cost of public transportation in your area. You could be saving a few bucks each ride—and all of that adds to your down payment fund!
*This service may be unavailable in your area due to Covid-19 protocols.
12. Get creative with your wardrobe
Shift your focus to your closet and see if there are any clothes you could stand to sell. Visit consignment stores and resale shops (like Plato’s Closet, for example) and exchange your gently used clothing for cash. You could also join one of the countless resale groups on Facebook and find one in your area. Or gather your friends and host a clothing swap to refresh your wardrobes for free!
There are also cheaper alternatives out there for buying gently used clothing that you might want to consider before you buy brand new. Try thrift shops and other secondhand stores—you might find some really great pieces for super cheap! All of these suggestions work for furniture resale too if you’re looking to sell some of your furniture or if you’ve been wanting to purchase something new for your current home.
13. Start cutting coupons
You know that grocery store mailer you throw out every week? Next time, read through it and see if you can take advantage of those coupons and deals. And don’t be afraid to ask your cashier at checkout if they have any deals going on or discounts you could use. Things like student discounts or sales campaigns are out there, you may just have to ask. You should also sign up for email notifications with websites like Groupon or Amazon. They’ll send relevant deals right to your inbox.
14. Compare utility prices
Are you sure you’re still getting the best deal? Some utility companies have discounts for switching to their services or seasonal promotions you may qualify for. One of the ways you could save money for a down payment right in your own home is by replacing your light bulbs for energy-saving bulbs. You can find them at any home and hardware store and test them out for a couple of months to see how much money you save on your electric bill.
15. Compare insurance companies
As with your utilities, make sure you’re getting the best deal on insurance. Review the insurance your paying for things like healthcare, dental, auto, renters, and more. Compare what you’re currently paying to what you could be paying if you switch to a different provider. Remember that the cheapest coverage doesn’t always mean the best coverage, so be sure that your priority is always your health and safety first.
16. Services you can do at home
Do you take your clothes to the cleaners? Try buying some supplies like stain remover pens or do some research on home remedies for stains. Do you like to get a fresh shape-up at the barber? Brush the dust off your old clippers and do it yourself for a while. Need a haircut? Ask your friends and family and see if there’s anyone you’d trust to trim it for you. That mani/pedi date you scheduled with your girls? Invite them over and have your own at-home spa day instead. All of these and more can be done yourself at little to no cost to you—and help you save money for a down payment!
17. DIY home cleaning products
If you’re running low on your all-purpose spray, think before you buy a new bottle and make your own instead. Most simple and non-toxic DIY cleaning products have some combination of water, vinegar, baking soda, and lemon—ingredients you probably already own. Turn to the internet (especially Pinterest) for safe cleaning product recipes you can make yourself, like sprays, laundry detergent, and garbage disposal pods.
18. Simplify your beauty routine
It seems like beauty blew up overnight, and everyone wants the latest and greatest products. But before you pay top dollar for the newest anti-wrinkle cream or glow serum, think about how you can repurpose ingredients you already have at home. Try making a coffee scrub or using coconut oil as a moisturizer. Of course, what you do should depend on what’s best for your skin type, but do some research and you might find that perfectly good beauty products exist in your own cupboards!
19. Handmade gifts are better
People say handmade is more heartfelt and we agree! Not only does a handmade gift or card instantly add sentimental value, it’s usually the cheaper route too. You could even make your own gift wrap or gift bag with paint, glitter, or ribbon you have at home. However you choose to make it yourself, you’ll be adding a personal touch and saving some cash for your down payment fund!
Other secrets to saving
20. Tell your world
Invite your friends and family into this venture and you might be surprised how many people are willing to help you or offer support. Telling others also helps you feel like you’re not alone in making lifestyle changes and gives them context when you say no to spending in front of them. You might even find someone who wants to be an accountability partner and go on this journey with you!
21. The Attitude of Gratitude
Saving for a down payment is also an inward process. Judging by this list, there are so many tangible ways to save for a down payment. But while you’re changing your life, you may also need to change your attitude—and that’s priceless. Living a frugal lifestyle, especially when you’re not used to it, can be exhausting and frustrating.
Don’t expect to accomplish this feat without a steady, ongoing change to your attitude. When you do that, you’ll gave better expectations and you’ll be more likely to experience these changes in a positive way. And always keep in mind your end goal: A home you can call your own!