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5 tips to help you save for a down payment

Published: Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 11:44 a.m. CDT

EDITOR’S NOTE: This guest post was written by Benjamin Feldman of ReadyForZero.com.

So you can’t wait to buy a house. You’ve already scoped out the neighborhood where you want to live, and you’re starting to imagine yourself settling into a brand new home. But there’s one problem: You don’t have enough money for a down payment.

But don’t worry. Using the tips below, you’ll be able to save up for the down payment you’ll need in no time. And then you’ll not only have the house you want, but you’ll have financial stability as well.

Know how much you need

The very first step before buying a house is to know how much of a down payment you will need. To find out, you’ll probably have to talk to a real estate agent who can listen to you, understand what you’re looking for and then give you a good estimate of how much your new home is going to cost and how much you’ll need for a down payment. Typically down payment requirements range from 3.5 percent to 20 percent of the purchase price of a home, depending on the lender and loan type.

Use your future home as motivation

Whether the down payment is going to be $20,000, $40,000 or even more, the bottom line is it’s going to take you awhile to save up that much money.

To do so, you are going to need to use your future home as your motivation for doing the hard work necessary to reach your goal. Make a visual reminder of why you’re saving and put it in a very visible place where you’ll see it every day. You can take a picture of a house you want to buy (or even one from a magazine) and put it on a big piece of cardboard or poster board. Then write an inspiring message next to it such as “My future home!” You might even include a countdown clock that says something like “Only 1 year and 78 days until I buy my dream home.”

It might seem silly to do this kind of thing, but you’d be amazed at how powerful it can be. The human mind doesn’t work like a computer; it needs positive reinforcement to continue doing something or else it will lose interest and then you’ll lose momentum.

Identify your budgeting downfall and conquer it

At this point you’ve got your number and you’ve got your motivation. Now you just need to start saving money in every way possible. Take a close look at your spending for the past two months and see which categories of spending can be reduced substantially. Maybe you’ve been eating out too often, or maybe you’ve been traveling a lot and you need to cut back until you’ve saved for your down payment. Whatever the case, by examining your spending and making a plan for lowering it to the minimum level, you can accelerate your saving and be ready to buy a home sooner.

Try earning some cash on the side

Side jobs are all the rage these days. And the truth is, it’s easier than ever to make a buck in your spare time thanks to the Internet. If you want to accelerate your savings, this is the way to go. You can check out sites such as Elance.com or oDesk.com that connect freelancers to people all over the world who are willing to pay for their services. Even if you think you don’t have any marketable skills, there are probably some jobs on these sites you could bid on. For example, people are making money right now as virtual assistants, writers, designers, transcribers, etc., while working from home in their free time. If you make a few hundred dollars per month this way (or through traditional side jobs such as babysitting or) you can really boost your savings.

Celebrate milestones and don’t give up

It can be a long process to save enough for a down payment. So why not break it into smaller goals and give yourself a reason to celebrate when you hit each one? Instead of waiting until you have $30,000 saved to celebrate, allow yourself a meal at your favorite restaurant when you reach every $5,000 interval. That way, you’ll never get bored or lose focus because you’ll be looking forward to that next reward. Make it fun, and allow yourself some moments to celebrate along the way.

Related:

Benjamin Feldman is a personal finance expert for ReadyForZero.com, a website that is helping people pay off debt on their own using online tools.

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