For a first time homebuyer, saving up enough cash to put a down payment on a home might be a daunting and seemingly unattainable goal. Usually, these buyers are younger, which means they might have the burden of student debt still hanging around, or maybe they have a young family and they have to consider saving up for baby's university fund. Even if you don't have debt or other financial obligations, it is very easy to let immediate needs and wants dictate how you spend your money. That approach might work right now, but to save for a down payment requires some changes to how you handle your finances.
If your current living situation is much more affordable than the home you'll be living in when you buy, which it almost invariably is, there's a great tactic you can use to set aside some more money, which will also help you test out whether you can really afford a home of your own. It's quite simple: just calculate what you will be paying when you have a mortgage (including property taxes, condo fees if applicable, utilities, improvements, and insurance payments, both on your home and your mortgage, if the down payment is less than 20%. This way, you'll be able to set aside savings for your down payment and learn how to deal with a larger financial burden before you actually have to.
Of course, any financial planner, accountant, or general business baron will tell you that having a budget that works with your income and accurately reflects your expenses should be the number one tool in your personal finance arsenal. Knowing what's coming in and what's going out of your bank account every month is something that most people struggle with, so if you can get organized enough, or create a system that allows you to see the order in the chaos, you're doing well. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, it's pretty easy to keep track of your spending and savings on the go, too. There are tons of fantastic apps that allow you to track how much you're spending and what part of your budget you're spending it on. The better apps even sync your mobile device with your home computer, so your budget is always updated.
No-spend days are great for saving money. Ever heard of them before? They are exactly what they sound like: days on which you don't spend money. Obviously, if you happened to receive a mortgage or credit card bill, or some other fixed expense, you'd pay it. Everything else, though, must wait. You'll be surprised at how much you'll save when you don't make that extra trip to the store to buy something for dinner, or the coffee on the way to work. An added benefit of this little tip is that you might find that it forces you to be more organized. You'll have to plan beforehand what you're doing for dinner, and how you'll get exercise, for example, without paying for, say, a drop-in yoga class. Some people find that they can spend money on as few as five days per month. Try out a no-spend challenge, or one of the other tips above and see where it takes you!