How Much Can You Afford?

Start a Savings Plan

If you don't have enough cash for a down payment or find you're not comfortable with what you do have and want to lower your monthly payment a bit, you will need to start a serious savings plan. Don't put it off. It is never too late or too soon to set up a housing fund. If for some reason you wind up not buying a property right away, you'll have accumulated a nice nest egg for future use.

Here are some painless ways to boost your savings with as little as $25 or $50 a week or month.

  1. Treat your savings like a monthly bill. Put aside money before you spend it. Once a month, when you pay your bills, write out a check to deposit in your savings account. Begin by saving 1% of your take-home pay the first month and increase the amount by 1% each month, more if you can.
  2. Make regular payments. After paying off a car loan, college bills or other debt, continue to write a check for the same dollar amount, or at least half the amount, and stash it in your savings. You've been living without that money each month anyway, so you won't miss it. Now you can save it toward a down payment.
  3. Save all non-recurring income. Bonuses, freelance or moonlighting income, overtime checks and tax refunds should be earmarked for your housing fund.
  4. Save your spouse's salary. If you're married and both you and your spouse have incomes, try to live on one salary. Although your monthly expenses may not be halved, setting up this savings priority helps you automatically reduce your living expenses.
  5. Adjust your lifestyle. Cut back on expenses. You can boost your savings by reducing what you spend on discretionary items, the things you don't really need, such as expensive vacations, entertainment and luxury items.
  6. Boost your rent. If you're renting now, increase your monthly rent in theory and put that extra amount in your savings fund where it will earn interest. For example, if your rent is $800 a month, budget $950 and save the extra $150 toward your down payment.
  7. Save gifts. If you're getting married, add any cash wedding gifts to your down payment fund. Do the same for any other gifts of cash you may get for birthdays, holidays, or bonuses.

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