1. Document all of your expenses. Sounds tedious, we know. But this is one of the best places to start when you’re looking for ways to save for a down payment. Next to budgeting and assessing your finances, take note of every transaction for a clear picture of your spending habits. It’s easy to buy something small and say to yourself, “Oh, it’s only a few bucks…” but make ten of those little transactions and it adds up! Plus, there are plenty of fintech apps out there (like Penny, Mint, and EveryDollar) to help you budget and track expenses almost effortlessly.
2. Try a cash-only “diet.” It’s a tough discipline, but for some people, it works! If you’re one of the many people who don’t
carry cash, using your debit card is just as effective. Ditch your credit cards for a predetermined amount of time (try one to three months) and quickly feel the impact of each time you spend. This practice will teach you to be more disciplined about your spending and help you gain greater control of your finances.
3. The lure of the Miscellaneous category. Let’s face it: As you practice ways to save for a down payment, you’ll probably want to spend a little on yourself. It’s best, at that point, to plan that into your budget and confirm that this mini splurge doesn’t infringe on your down payment goals. Treat yourself after you’ve been disciplined with your savings for a month or two and make sure your miscellaneous expenses are infrequent and reasonable.
4. Keep an adult piggy bank. The loose change jar method works for so many people. If you still carry cash and find yourself with those obnoxious loose coins in your pockets, don’t just dump that change anywhere. Make a habit of dropping loose change into the jar and, slowly but surely, watch it grow into a sizable savings. Once the jar is full, go to your bank and deposit the cash into your down payment savings account.
5. Spring cleaning comes early. This means don’t wait for warmer weather—take inventory of your things and declutter your place right now. You might have some hidden gems you can live without and sell for quick cash.
6. Cut out coffee trips. We know: How dare we suggest such a thing! Hear us out—we’re about to break it down. One grande skinny vanilla latte at Starbucks currently goes for $4.15. A trip to the drive thru every day for one week costs $29.05. Multiply that by 30 days and you’re spending a whopping $124.50 every month on your daily coffee run alone! Try brewing coffee or tea at home and taking it to go. Or, take the healthier route and opt for water for a while!
7. Cancel a subscription. One of the simplest ways to save for a down payment is to take stock of where you’re spending on a consistent monthly basis and decide which bill you could live without. Ask yourself, “Do I really need cable, and Hulu, and Netflix, and (fill in the blank)?” Most likely, the answer is no. We know Spotify Premium equals life—only until you realize you could cancel that subscription for a year and save $119.88! Let’s not forget about the trusty gym membership. Try living without it for a while and go running outside or work out at home.
8. Make new weekend routines. If your Friday night ritual is a night on the town, maybe you should take this month to stay in. And if you struggle with FOMO, offer to host your friends and have a movie night or a potluck and play games. There are plenty of alternatives to going out and spending money, you may just have to put your heads together and come up with other ideas.
9. Buy the grocery store brand. In the hype of organic foods, this may be a tough one for many people to try out. You may only save a few cents or dollars per item, but you better believe that adds up over time. Conduct your own experiment and see how much you save after a few store-brand-only trips. Then take that to the bank!
10. Meal prep game strong. Of all the ways to save for a down payment, this is one of the easiest. If you’re already making a routine trip to the grocery store, simply buy a bit more and make your own meals at home—just bulk cook, freeze, and thaw when you’re ready to eat. This will require you to move some money around in your budget and allow for fewer restaurant trips. But since the cost to dine is usually higher than preparing your own meals due to the tip alone, you’re still saving a considerable amount of cash over time.
11. Choose alternative transportation. If you’re one of the countless people who made a new year’s resolution to exercise more, there’s no better time to start your new fitness routine. Especially if you’re struggling to find the spare time in your busy schedule to hit the gym, make it part of your daily commute. Biking or walking to work is an excellent way to jumpstart your day with a fitness-first approach. And, as you can imagine, it’s much cheaper than the gas and vehicle maintenance that comes with commuting. But, if that’s a little too ambitious for you, or work is just too far, try carpooling with coworkers. It might be tough to surrender that autonomy, but sharing a ride with someone who’s going to the same destination is not only environmentally thoughtful, it’s a great way to cut costs. For other transportation alternatives, try uberPOOL or calculate the cost of public transportation in your area. You could be saving a few bucks each ride—and all of that adds to your down payment fund!
12. Be thrifty with your wardrobe. Shift your focus to your closet and see if there are articles of clothing you could stand to sell. Visit consignment stores and resale shops, like Plato’s Closet, and exchange your gently used clothing for cash. You could also join one of the countless resale groups on Facebook and find one in your area. Or gather your friends and host a clothes swap to refresh your wardrobes for free!
There are also cheaper alternatives out there for buying gently used clothing that you might want to consider before you buy brand new. Try thrift shops and other secondhand stores—you might find some really great pieces for super cheap! All of these suggestions work for furniture resale too, if you’re looking to sell some of your furniture or if you’ve been wanting to purchase something new for your current home.
13. Start cutting coupons. You know that junk mail and those offer emails you often throw in the trash without giving a second glance? Next time, open them (unless it’s spam) and see if those coupons and deals could be applied to something for which you were planning on paying full price. And don’t be afraid to ask your cashier at checkout if they have any deals or discounts you could use. Things like student discounts or non-posted sales campaigns are out there, you may just have to ask. Also sign up for email notifications with websites like Groupon or Amazon. They’ll send relevant deals right to your inbox.
14. Compare utility prices. Are you sure you’re still getting the best deal? Some utility companies have discounts for switching to their services or seasonal promotionals you may qualify for. One way you could save money for a down payment right in your own home is by exchanging your light bulbs for energy-saving bulbs. You can find them at any home and hardware store and test them out for a couple months to see how much your electric bill lowers.
15. Compare insurance companies. As with your utilities, make sure you’re getting the best deal. Assess insurance such as your healthcare, dental, auto, renters, and more, comparing what you’re currently paying to what you could be paying if you switch to a different provider. Remember that the cheapest coverage doesn’t always mean the best coverage, so be sure that your priority is always your health and safety first.
16. Services you can do at home. Do you go to the dry cleaners? Try buying some supplies like stain remover pens or do some research on home remedies for stains. Do you like to get a fresh shape-up at the barber? Brush the dust off your old clippers and do it yourself for a while. Need a haircut? Ask your friends and family and see if there’s anyone you’d trust to trim it for you. That mani/pedi date you scheduled with your girls? Invite them over and have your own at-home spa day instead. All of these and more can be done yourself at little to no cost to you—and help you save money for a down payment!
17. DIY home cleaning products. If you’re running low on your all-purpose spray, think before you buy and make your own! Most simple and non-toxic DIY cleaning products have some combination of water, vinegar, baking soda, and lemon—ingredients you probably already own. Turn to the Internet (especially Pinterest) for safe cleaning product recipes you can make yourself, like sprays, laundry detergent, and garbage disposal pods.
18. Simplify your beauty routine. It’s easy to be seduced by the latest wrinkle creams and washes when a simple coffee scrub and coconut oil moisturizer combination may suffice! The changing of your skincare routine will vary by skin type, but do your research on dos and don’ts and you might find that perfectly good beauty products exist in your own cupboards!
19. Handmade gifts are better. People say handmade is more heartfelt and we agree! Not only does a handmade gift or card automatically have more sentimental value, it’s usually the cheaper route too. You could even make your own gift wrap or gift bag with paint, glitter, or ribbon you have at home. However you choose to make it yourself, you’ll be adding a personal touch and saving some cash for your down payment fund!
20. Tell your world! Invite your friends and family into this venture and you might be surprised how many people are willing to help you or offer support. Telling others also helps you feel like you’re not alone in making lifestyle changes and gives them context when you refuse to spend with them. If you have other frugal friends, they might love to have you join them and even generate some accountability.
21. The Attitude of Gratitude. It starts from within. Looking at this list, there are so many tangible ways to save for a down payment. But while you’re changing your life, you may also need to change your attitude—and that’s priceless. Living a frugal lifestyle, especially when you’re not used to it, can be exhausting and frustrating. Don’t expect to accomplish this feat without a steady, ongoing change to your attitude. When you do that, your expectations will be better managed and you’ll be more likely to experience these changes in a positive way. And always keep in mind your end goal: A home you can call your own!