So you’re buying that first home. For many people, it’s the largest investment they’ll ever make, and if you’re hoping to score a favorable rate on your loan, it can come with a big, shock-inducing down payment. In fact, most experts will tell you that you need to put down at least 20 percent of your home’s cost in order to set yourself up for financial success down the line. According to Census.gov, the average house sold for around $272,900 in 2010—that means you’d need over 50k in your bank account to make up that 20 percent.
To save that much dough, you may need to get a little adventurous with your income, and start using some saving methods you may not have thought of before. After all, when it comes to your bank account, anything that works is fair game. Here are a few methods to get you started.
Trick Yourself into Saving
A bunch of complex emotions come wrapped up in our spending habits. How you spend and save can often reflect how you feel about yourself, meaning your savings plans can backfire if you deny yourself every small pleasure.
Of course, it’s a lot easier to put money aside if it doesn’t even feel like you’re cutting back. For instance, “set-it-and-forget-it” savings rules that add money to your account without any input from you. Every time I make a purchase with my debit card, the rules I’ve created round the payment up to the next dollar amount, and put the change into a separate savings account. Many banks allow you to create similar rules between your checking and savings accounts, as well. In just a few months you can save hundreds of dollars without really missing it that much.
Don’t Forget to Reward Yourself
Does it sound strange to talk about treats when you’re trying to put every extra cent you have toward your downpayment? Rewards can actually help you stay on track, since you’ll have something to look forward to as you slowly fill out your nest egg.
It’s easier to cut back than it is to cut yourself off. So if you frequently spend your money on meals at expensive restaurants, for instance, try using that as an incentive to save. Every time you put aside several hundred dollars, take yourself to celebrate. Wrangle your own psychology, and the savings will rack up fast.
Save Money—and the Environment
What’s good for the earth is often good for your wallet. Try pairing your environmental objective to use less energy with your financial goals of saving money for your future home.
Some ideas beyond switching off the lights? Clean your refrigerator coils to help your fridge consume less electricity. Install foam tape and door sweeps to save money on your heating bills. And finally, hang blackout curtains in summer to offset solar heat in the summer.
Get a Side Hustle
It’s one thing to cut back on expenses. It’s another to earn more income. A side gig, whether it’s driving for a ridesharing service or designing a friend’s website, can help you pad your account with hundreds or even thousands of dollars each month.
Transform a current hobby, like your SnapChat obsession, or your garage tinkering, into a money-earning side hustle by posting your services online or to your friends. Earning cash doing something you like? Yes, please!
Look for a Listing That’s a DIY Dream Home
A fixer-upper isn’t just a romantic ideal. You can also shave thousands off your home’s price tag—and get the chance to personalize your surroundings in return.
Still, a home that needs a little work can quickly become a money pit, especially if you don’t select your projects carefully. For instance, if your realtor shows you a home with badly outdated kitchens and bathrooms, run for the hills! These are two of the more expensive rooms to renovate. Look for properties that need mostly surface repairs, like new paint, trim, and flooring, rather than complicated electrical or plumbing jobs that may be beyond your scope as a handyman.
Design a Budget
“Budget” isn’t the sexiest word, but if you want to get serious about saving, you’re going to need to keep track of what you spend. In fact, once you start digging into your spending history, it’ll be much easier to understand where all your moolah is going.
Then you can figure out what you can cut. Could you take the bus home instead of an Uber? Could you hit up an awesome thrift store or organize a clothing swap with friends instead of buying outfits online? Have dinner at home before the movie? The important thing is to find cheaper ways to enjoy yourself.
Happy savings—and here’s to your future home!
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize.com, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.