Whether it’s a sky-high CBD studio apartment, a quaint suburban cottage (complete with obligatory white fence), a doer-upper with potential or a ranch in the rolling hills — so many people dream of owning their own piece of real-estate heaven.
Renting can feel like ‘dead money’ and so, in the right financial climate, investing your hard-earned money in a property is often seen as the more sensible, viable and profitable option.
The problem is that, even for those with a steady and sturdy income, purchasing a home can seem so darn out of reach. This is because the more money you put down upfront, the less you’ll have to borrow from a lender and so in most cases (especially when you’re buying in an expensive area), it means scraping together a hefty mortgage deposit.
So, when the cost of living is high and your pay packet is already spread thin to cover groceries, bills and plain survival, how do you save enough money to become a homeowner in this lifetime?
Here are some ways you can save for a home without having to make hugely drastic changes to your lifestyle.
Educate yourself and get realistic about what you can and can’t afford. Do some research and follow the property market. The market is a volatile beast — ever changing and with plenty of ups and downs — so it’s important to be well informed when it comes time to enter. Get an understanding of the kind of home you are able to buy — the size, the price and the location.
In addition to understanding the market, it’s also wise to get clued up on all the costs (and hidden costs) of being a property owner so you can calculate not only the size of your deposit, but how much the home and its mortgage will cost you long-term.
You’ll need to consider your down payment, fees and charges, insurances and of course your repayments, so shop around and speak to various banks and lenders to determine what percentage of the mortgage you’ll have to pay upfront, as well as interest rates and more.
Once you’ve got an idea of how much money you’ll need for your home deposit, you can implement a savings plan.
It’s wise to set out a budget, which will help you to understand your income versus your expenses and empower you to manage your money wisely.
Your budgeting process should loosely go as follows:
List your essential expenses — such as rent, groceries, bills and beyond, and set a modest, yet realistic allowance for each.
Subtract your expenses from your income.
If you’re living within your means, you should at least have a little left over from each pay cycle. This balance is what you could potentially put towards your home deposit!
It’s important to review your budget on a six or 12 monthly basis. Incomes and expenses change, so it’s important to readjust your budget accordingly.
You’re not done yet. It’s time to figure out how you can increase that surplus we covered in the above point.
Have a good think about the expenses you can cut back on, or even eliminate from your budget so that you have even more money left over after each pay to put towards your house deposit savings.
Get serious about your ‘needs’ versus your ‘wants’, and commit to making a few sacrifices. Keeping that big picture goal in mind will make it easier to say no to unnecessary expenses — whether it’s your daily barista-made latte, or that second pair of boots.
Those tiny tweaks might only lead to a few extra pennies in the piggy bank each month, but they’ll eventually add up and make a big difference over a few years. Think about it — an extra $100 saved each month could mean an additional $3600 after three years!
Here are a few thrifty ways you could increase your savings, little by little:
Make this a priority. It’s harder to save money when you have pesky loans and credit card debts hanging over your head. Commit to paying these off as quickly as possible, to avoid crazy interest fees. You can then save the money you were using to pay off debt to boost your savings even more.
First and foremost, we don’t want you to live a dull existence while you’re saving for your first home loan.
You may choose to postpone any overseas holidays while you focus on your savings goals, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still be adventurous. Get creative and find ways to live large — on the cheap. Enjoy a regular ‘staycation’ in your own backyard and enjoy all the sights and attractions your home city has to offer. Hike, swim, have picnics.
Fun times do not have to cost a fortune.
Plug those money leaks. Where are you spending money unnecessarily? Are you paying a membership to gym, when you could workout at home or in the park with a friend? Do you really need that magazine subscription?
Chances are that in one way or another, you’re regularly paying for the ‘convenience’ of outsourced and ready-made services and products that you could quite possibly do yourself with just a little more effort, time and elbow grease.
Could you make your own lunch instead of buying it? Could you make your own bread instead of buying it? Could you grow some of your own food instead of shopping for it? Do you really need to purchase bottled water? Avoid those trivial expenses!
Have a think about the ways you could reduce the cost by sharing it with someone else.
Could you buy household items in bulk with a friend to get wholesale prices? Could you shop online for necessary items together, to share shipping fees? Can you carpool, instead of paying for public transport? Could you get a roomie and split the rent and utilities bills?
It’s a win-win situation for everyone!
The cost of your ongoing bills, that is. Contact all your service providers — from insurance to telecoms and try and negotiate a better deal on your account. In some cases, you’ll be able to reduce your premium or monthly bill if it means they can continue to keep you on as a customer.
What’s good for the environment, can often be good for your hip pocket and your health. Walk or ride to work, instead of driving or taking the bus. Be more energy efficient with your electricity and appliances around the home. Find a way to reduce, reuse and reycle waste.
Instead of heading to the department stores for that shiny new thing you need, why not opt for a preloved version from a thrift store, Gumtree or eBay?
You see, when it comes to clothing, furniture, vehicles and beyond, you can often score a bargain without compromising on quality. For a fraction of the price and with a little love and attention, you can usually repurpose, upcycle and breath new life into anything!
Once you have an idea of how much your home will cost, your budget is in ship shape, you have identified ways to reduce the cost of living and have a clear idea of how much money you are capable of saving each month, it’s time to set a clearly defined and manageable savings goal with a set time frame — whether it’s one, two or five years.
“I’m going to save $45,000 in three years, for my house deposit.”
Better yet, divide your big goal into smaller goals or milestones that you can reach along the way. Ticking off smaller financial goals will give you more satisfaction and momentum — and the big number at the end won’t seem like such a hard slog.
“I will save $7500 by January 2017.”
“I will save $15,000 by July 2017.”
“I will save $22,000 by January 2018.”
And so on and so forth.
Be sure to celebrate and reward yourself when you reach those smaller savings goals. Perhaps you could treat yourself to a nice dinner at your favourite restaurant, each time.?
Again, keep your mind on the final prize — your first home will be the best reward ever.
Now that you’ve done all the ground work and have set your goals, the only thing left to do is start squirrelling away that hard-earned cash!
Make your money work for you while it’s sitting there and growing. Set up a high interest savings account, completely separate from your everyday transaction account so you aren’t tempted to spend the cash.
Set up a direct debit so it goes straight from your pay into your dedicated savings account each month or you can even have your employer deposit that same amount straight in so you don’t have to touch it at all.
Many people also see the benefit of investing their savings in shares and managed funds if their savings goals are long-term. If you consider this option, be sure to do your research and evaluate the associated risks.
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Are you saving for your first home? What are some of your tips and tricks? Share with us in the comments below!