Saving thousands of dollars for a house down payment can seem like a gargantuan task. But as you get settled in your career and your finances stabilize, accumulating cash is easier than you might think.
Set up a savings account designated for housing. Make regular, automatic deposits from your paycheck to get started. Then consider these simple ways to save quickly for a down payment.
1. Live on one income, if you are a married couple.
Karen Cordaway of MoneySavingEnthusiast.com told me that she and her husband believed saving for a big down payment was nearly impossible on their starter salaries as teachers. But they talked to a fellow teacher who lived frugally. She advised them to live on one paycheck and save the rest for a house.
At first, Karen didn’t think that they could live on a single income. But they discovered that this simple savings method was easier to execute than they imagined. The couple cut back on eating out but still shopped normally and didn’t make dramatic lifestyle changes. Yet they were able to pay all their bills and put her paycheck in the bank.
2. Get a roommate, if you are single.
Reduce your living expenses by getting a roommate. Laura Adams, MBA and “Money Girl” from the Quick-and-Dirty-Tips series reminds us that you can drastically reduce your housing costs with this approach. The money you save can then be deposited in your down payment account.
In addition, you may be able to split some expenses like Internet and utility expenses, which may rise slightly with an extra person in your home but probably won’t double. You may also be able to cook and eat together, trimming your grocery bills.
3. Try the one-car experiment.
Kelly Whalen of The Centsible Life and her husband shared a car in order to boost their savings. They developed a car schedule and meticulously planned errands. Plus, she spent more time at home with her web-based business. They were saving for another car, but the lessons from the experiment apply to a house.
You could also live without a car at all, if you live in an area with great public transportation or within walking or biking distance of essential services.
Apply savings from car payments, insurance, and upkeep to your house down payment.
4. Pay off car loan or credit card balances.
After you’ve knocked out loan balances, you’ll have extra cash. Put the money previously designated for those payments in your savings account.
5. Save windfalls.
Place your income tax refund, annual bonuses, cash wedding gifts, etc. in the house account to accelerate its growth. Gifts from your parents to help you get started in life can also be put there.
Your mortgage lender may want to know where larger amounts of money came from. So keep good records. And ask your parents or other contributors to write a gift letter (see this template from Bargaineering.com).
6. Divert 401(k) contributions.
Avoid borrowing from your 401(k) or taking money out of your retirement accounts prematurely. Instead, temporarily reduce your 401(k) contributions and divert those funds to your house down payment account.
Check retirement plan rules to make sure you can easily restart contributions later.
7. Make and save extra money through odd jobs or part-time work.
Let your friends know you are available for random jobs, such as serving guests at special events, handling minor home repairs, or providing childcare. Accept extra hours at work if you get paid overtime or freelance gigs if you can get paid a decent wage.
Any money you make above your regular income can be deposited in your down payment account.
You don’t have to deprive yourself forever. But reining in your spending and boosting your income for short periods of time can lead to a large payoff quickly. A nice-sized down payment can help you snag a better mortgage rate and save on your mortgage payment.