For most people, coming up with your down payment can be one of the most challenging parts of buying a new home. You’ve heard all of the typical advice about budgeting your money , cutting back on your expenses, and adding a "savings" category to your budget. Of course, these are all helpful, but there are a few other things you can do to help realize your new home dream sooner.
1. Keep the Change (and More)
The “change jar” has always been a useful tool for saving up a little at a time, but these days, most people make their purchases with credit and debit cards, so they rarely have change to add. Start withdrawing cash to use for all of your everyday purchases, then put your change in a jar at the end of the day. Only use bills when you pay so you're adding loonies and toonies in with the quarters and dimes.
To take this idea a step further, start saving every $5 bill you get in an envelope. Those really add up. Every month or two, deposit this money into your down payment fund.
2. Push Yourself
It’s hard to reduce your expenses, but things like entertainment and food can be quite variable. Challenge yourself to make big savings. For instance, if you have $100 a week budgeted for groceries, see if you can skip a week’s worth of shopping by eating up all the food you have in your pantry. Even if you have to supplement with $25 worth of fresh fruits and veggies for the week, you’ll still have an extra $75 to add to your savings. You can’t do this every week, but it’s nice to push yourself occasionally.
3. Gamify Your Savings
Saving money becomes a little more exciting when you have fun with it. One way is to challenge yourself to add a little bit more to your savings than you did the week before. If you put $50 in the first week, you want to put in at least $51 the next week. As time goes on, you have to get creative about finding extra money. You might also work with your partner to see who can design the weekly menu that costs the least, then put the money you would have spent on groceries into your savings account.
4. Don't Make Impulse Purchases
We've all been there - you're out shopping for something essential and while you're browsing you see an item of clothing or a gadget that you just have to have right now. Then a few months later it's sitting on a shelf or in a closet, barely used. Impulse purchases really add up and can be hard to resist sometimes.
One way to try and keep impulse buying under control is to keep a wish-list. If you see something you really want to buy, instead of picking it up right at that moment, put it on your list. Then check back in 30 days and see if you still want it. You'll find that often the impulse has passed and you'll realize that you didn't need that item quite as much as you thought. Once you realize you don't really need to buy it, add the money you would have spent on it to your down payment fund.
5. Let People Know
Make sure your friends and family are aware of your savings goals. Ask them not to tempt you by inviting you on a fun vacation or to an event that would be outside of your budget. Tell them you’d prefer cash gifts for birthdays and holidays so you can beef up your savings account. Almost everyone has either been in your shoes or knows they’ll be in your shoes one day, so they’re likely to be sympathetic.
6. Keep Your Savings Separate
Open one savings account for your down payment and another for emergency expenses. It should go without saying, but not everyone follows this rule. If everything is combined, it’s too tempting to dip into the savings account when you need car repairs or simply want to make a big purchase. You end up taking two steps forward and one step back, and it takes longer to reach your goals. Once money goes into the down payment account, don’t touch it until you’re ready to purchase your home.
7. Automatic Saving Plans
All the little tricks in the world aren’t helpful unless you are actually putting your money in savings. Many banks let you divide up your paycheck, putting some money in a savings account and the rest in your checking. If you do this, you won’t even see the money so you won’t miss it. If you get a raise, try to have all of the extra go right into savings. Since you’re used to living on your current salary, this shouldn’t be a big deal. You can also do this with other expenses as they come to an end. For example, once you've finished paying off your car payments, consider adding the amount you would have been paying into your savings.
8. Look At Your Debts
If you have some existing debts, such as car payments or a credit card, there may be room to save money. Interest payments can really add up over time, so consider trying to pay these off as soon as possible, or look into consolidating your debts into a single loan with a lower rate of interest.
9. Borrow the Money
Under the Home Buyers' Plan, you’re allowed to borrow up to $25,000 from your RRSP in order to buy your first home. Married couples can each borrow $25,000 for a total of $50,000. This can be a big boost to the down payment, especially if you know you can handle a mortgage payment but are only putting aside a few hundred dollars a month for the down payment. Keep in mind this money needs to be repaid, so you’ll have to factor those payments into your overall budget after buying a home, but many find that it’s worth it to get into a new home quicker. That way, you can start building home equity right away.
By keeping your eyes focused on the prize, you’ll reach your goals sooner. It won’t be long before you’re living in the house of your dreams.
*Originally posted November 13, 2017, updated January 2, 2019.