Editor’s Note: This is a guest post provided by Darlene Mase, from Zumper.com.
Whether now, in the near future, or further on down the line, many individuals aspire to buy a home. To be sure, becoming a homeowner is seen as somewhat of a milestone in our culture. However, it’s also a huge commitment, and it’s easy to get in over your head if you fail to plan properly. Nothing is more frustrating than missing out on one of your life goals because you didn’t plan accordingly and you will only have yourself to blame. To help you avoid common homeowner pitfalls, here are several wise money decisions to take now to buy your dream home in the future.
1. Establish a money-saving goal and stick to it
A down payment is the amount of money you pay to the home’s seller; the rest of the payment comes from the lender via your mortgage. In Canada, depending on your type and amount of your mortgage loan, the minimum down payment for most home buyers is five percent. In the U.S., down payments can be as small as three percent, with some VA and USDA loans not requiring a down payment at all.
Generally speaking, however, if you wish to avoid costly mortgage insurance, you’ll want to provide a down payment of 20 percent or more. If, for example, your budget for a new home is $300,000 and you want to put down 20 percent, you’ll need to bring $60,000 to the table in addition to inspection fees, appraisal fees, and other closing costs. Let’s also say that your goal is to move in two years. Armed with the proper figures, you’ll be able to calculate that you should put away $1,250 each month.
To ensure you can reach your goal to save up at least $60,000, you will need to start budgeting immediately. When you budget, you balance your income with your expenses in a way that ensures you have funds in your savings account by the end of each month. Some apps you can use to track your income, spending, and savings include: Empower (U.S.), Mint (U.S. and Canada), YNAB (Canada), and Personal Capital.
The Empower app is like your very own financial assistant. It helps you make savings goals and helps you reach them. Empower will show all your accounts in one place, send you alerts to keep you on track and will make sure you are not overpaying on any of your bills. It also helps you build your credit which is helpful if you want to qualify for a competitive mortgage rate. Check out Empower here!
2. Set up autopay for your bills
Cell phone, internet, gas, electricity, water, gym, rent, and the list goes on — being an adult means keeping up with a all those monthly fixed expenses and utility bills. And try as you might, it’s sometimes easy to miss a deadline or two.
Putting your bills on autopay means that you’ll never miss another deadline. But how does autopay help when saving for a down payment and trying to buy a house? Well, most companies charge an annoying little fee anytime you are late on your payment. If you’re late often, those fees can definitely add up. While some companies provide a little grace and waive the fees if you call customer service (especially if you’re hardly ever late), other companies are staunch in their decisions. Do your wallet a favor, and sign up for autopay today.
By setting up autopay, you’ll remove one of the monthly tasks of your checklist. No more mental reminders to pay that gym bill on the first of month because it’s automatically deducted from your account.
Not paying more than you need to for your bills will save you money and help you reach your down payment savings goals sooner than later. There are some awesome apps you can use to slash your monthly bills and renegotiate some of them….all automatically. Two of these apps are Trim (U.S.) and Bill Slasher (U.S.).
Trim automatically analyzes your recurring bills and subscriptions and determines where you can save more money. Be it your cable, internet, insurance bills, this service can save you some good money. Users save around $1,000,000 every month! Try Trim and save on your bills here.
BillSlasher can save you up to $2,500 per year on your bills. They will call your service provider on your behalf and negotiate lower rates. They boast an 80% success rate and you only pay a one-time portion of the savings they generate for you – no upfront fees.
If you reside in Canada, you can get rewarded for paying your bills! When you pay your credit card balance, or your monthly rent, cable, phone, water, property taxes, tuition, internet, and other bills with the Paytm app, you receive cash rewards. Using the app is free. When you download the app, you receive a $10 sign-up bonus. In addition, when you enter this promo code (PTM2477287) on sign-up, you also receive an additional special $5 bonus after paying your first $50 bill. Paying your bills doesn’t get any better than this!
3. Bill yourself each month
As if you didn’t already have enough bills to pay — let’s add another to the list. Billing yourself each month is an effective way of ensuring that you save up enough to buy a home. Most financial institutions provide online banking in which you can set up automatic transfers. Establish a “saving for a down payment” account, and on a schedule that works for you, have funds automatically transferred from your checking account into your saving for a down payment account. You will benefit greatly in the future when you bill yourself now, and you will be glad you forced yourself to withhold some money from yourself today for the perks of buying your own house in the future.
Automating your savings is the best way to reach your savings goals. You set it and forget about it until you reach your target amount. Some of the very best apps to automate your savings and investing include:
a) Digit (U.S.): This app analyzes your spending and automatically moves money into a savings account in such a way that you won’t even feel it. When you need your funds, you can simply withdraw it. Even better, the app will pay you some interest on your savings. Try out the Digit App here!
b) Mylo (Canada): The Mylo app automatically saves your loose change and you can also use it to reach a specific financial goal. You won’t need to remember to save money because this app does it so efficiently, you won’t even notice! Start with the Mylo app here!
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4. Pay off your debt
Paying off your debt as a way of saving up to buy a home? Well, yes. According to recent data, the average Canadian is $8,500 in consumer debt, and in the U.S., the average household has $6,375 in credit card debt. This type of debt comes with high interest rates. Once you eliminate or cut down credit card and other high-interest debts, you will be freer to truly start saving. Grief and bereavement keynote speaker Bradley Vinson once said, “Easy payments, easy lease, easy approval. Debt is very easy to get into, but makes it hard to live victoriously.” Start breaking those chains of bondage today.
Paying off credit card payments can be an ever-ending struggle. Some useful services and apps that come in handy include:
Tally: Tally is the world’s first automated debt manager that makes it easy for you to save money, manage your cards and pay down your credit card balances faster. If you are carrying high-interest credit card debt, Tally can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars in interest payments. Start paying off debt with Tally today!
Empower is another tool that serves as your virtual financial assistant and help you budget and pay off debt.
5. Determine the best way to save
Sure, you could collect wads of rubber banded cash in a shoe box, but it’s better to save in an account where you can accrue at least some interest. While stocks, real estate investment trusts, and other similar accounts do have a large earning potential, if you are saving to buy a house, boring is better.
Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) or CDs (Certificate of Deposits), Money Markets, and plain Jane savings accounts are the way to go if you are trying to purchase your dream home within a specified time frame. Again, while stocks and other similar investment opportunities do present the possibility of increased profits, they might be a little too risky if you’re saving for a down payment.
If you put your money in a savings account, ensure it is one that’s paying high-interest. Some high-interest savings account include: Discover Bank, Synchrony, Ally (U.S.) and Tangerine (2.75%), EQ Bank (Canada).
6. Keep in mind that the little things add up
Perhaps you’re like me and overcook all of the time. By week’s end, you have a fridge shelf full of leftovers to show for your lack of portion control, most of which get dumped into the trash for weekly collection. Maybe you like the soothing sound of running water while you brush your teeth or perhaps you have a bad habit of leaving on all the lights in your house. My point is that each wasted chicken breast, each drop of water, and each used kilowatt-hour of electricity adds up. One hundred cents equal a dollar, and the little things add up when you’re trying to save around the house.
Want tips on how to save money everyday? Check out my article on 100 easy ways to save money on a daily basis.
These six actions to take to save money to buy your dream house although sound easy, they require dedication and commitment to the cause. Being short sighted or losing focus on your target will prove costly as it might postpone your future plans of fulfilling your dream of buying a house. In addition to the aforementioned tips, you should aim to save money from inside your current house and also find ways to generate some passive income.
Darlene Mase lives in Newnan, Georgia with her husband and daughter. She is a stay-at-home mom and works as a freelance writer for Zumper.com and other popular sites. During her free time, Darlene enjoys traveling, hiking, camping, cycling, gardening, caving, kayaking, or anything else outdoors.
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