Bob Barcelos' Blog
Saving for a down payment on a home is a long process that requires discipline and organization. But we all know that with so many other things going on in our lives it can be hard to spend enough time focusing on your budget.
Fortunately, there are several tools available to soon-to-be homeowners who want to keep track of their spending and make sure they meet their down payment goals. In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the best budgeting apps, websites, and other tools to help you keep yourself accountable so you can be living in your new home as soon as possible.
Why budget for a down payment?
If you’ve saved money in the past for a purchase without a budget you might be wondering why you should go through the effort of creating one now.
However, there are many reasons to have a budget, especially if you’re planning on making an investment as large as a home. Here are just a few:
Keeping an accurate budget will let you know almost exactly how much you can expect to save for a down payment
Budgeting helps you locate and cut out expenses that would be better used in your savings account
Budgeting will give you peace of mind along the road to saving for your down payment
Now that we’ve talked about the importance of making a budget, let’s talk about some of the best ways to get it done.
You Need a Budget, often shortened to YNAB, is one of the most useful tools for learning about and creating a budget. I don’t know about you, but I was never formally taught how to budget in school. But, it would have been a useful class to have!
YNAB combines budgeting tools with educational materials to help you save while you learn more about managing money. It can be easy to feel lost when it comes to learning about personal finance--that’s what makes YNAB so great.
Their basic precept is that you “give every dollar a job,” meaning there won’t be any money in any of your accounts or in your paycheck that doesn’t have a purpose. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend money on yourself every once in awhile, just that you’ll have planned ahead for moments so you can manage them.
You Need A Budget is available for Apple, Android, on Alexa and in your browser.
Saving with your spouse
Planning a budget yourself is complicated as it is. But planning together with a spouse can be even more confusing. However, there are ways to effectively make a family budget to save for a down payment.
First, you should both make sure you have individual budgets to make sure you know how much money from each of your incomes can go into savings. Opening a joint savings account and having a certain percentage of your paycheck direct deposited into that account is a good place to start.
From there, monitor your savings for a month to see if you need to alter this number, and try to stick to your monthly savings goal.
If budgeting isn’t your thing, you’ll be glad to discover that it’s quite simple. There’s a way to categorize your spending and save money easily. If you learn the rule, it will become so automatic that you won’t even think about it. If you’re saving money for a home, this practice will be essential. Break your budget down into three categories:
- Living expenses
- Financial goals
- Personal spending
Half of your budget should go towards living expenses. This number includes all of the essentials like rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, commute costs, and insurances.
20 percent of your income should go towards other financial goals like savings, investments, or paying down debt. Credit card bills, student loans, and other bills would fall under this category. This category is also where you’d save for your down payment, closing costs, and other expenses. This percentage can be adjustable depending on how much debt you have or how much you need to save for retirement.
The remaining 30 percent of your income can go towards personal spending. This category includes everything that you use your money for but isn’t a necessity. This percentage is also flexible. If your lifestyle doesn’t require you to use all 30 percent each month, you can indeed save more money.
A Clear Plan
These categories simplify your budget. Even if you make some adjustments to the numbers, the outline truly makes budgeting easy even for the most scatterbrained among us. It allows you to see where your money goes clearly. It also works no matter what kind of living situation you have.
The great thing about this budgeting plan is that you have some future needs built into it. Many times, when we budget, we think of our immediate needs and our shorter term goals. Saving for any occasion can never happen too early. You are able to not only focus on your current goals and the future.
First, determine your monthly income. This number is how much money you take home after taxes. From here, you’ll be able to split your money into categories by percentages. If your income fluctuates frequently, you’ll need to take an average of your monthly income to determine your numbers.
Next, you should take a look at your spending habits. These include everything from your morning latte to your monthly rent payment. From here you can make adjustments. Perhaps you need to look for a less expensive apartment. Maybe you need to cut down your weekly pizza to a bi-monthly purchase. Whatever you see in your finances, a simple percentage rule gives you the tools you need to become a saver and be well on your way to the purchase of your first home.
Buying a house is never a simple decision. Aside from all of the financial aspects of purchasing a home, there are numerous life-related considerations you’ll need to think about. So, it comes as little surprise that diving head on into the house hunting process can be stressful and taxing to the home buyer.
With all of the different numbers to keep track of--a down payment, closing costs, credit scores, interest rates, and so on--it’s easy to get lost in the finer details of your budget. This can lead to even more stress as you try to navigate your way through getting approved for a mortgage and shopping for the perfect home.
In this article, we’re going to give you some tips on how to maintain your budget and reduce stress throughout the home buying process. That way, when you do finally find the house you’ve been waiting for, you’ll be able to move forward confidently.
Trust the process
Many first-time home buyers enter the real estate market with little knowledge or experience of how things work. Any newcomer to such a huge and complex industry is bound to be flustered with all of the different options available to them.
However, much of the home buying process is relatively standardized. Real estate agents all make roughly the same commission, lenders use similar algorithms to decide how much of a loan you’ll be approved for, and real estate contracts contain legal safeguards and contingencies to ensure that you and the seller’s interests are protected.
When shopping for a mortgage or getting pre-approved, it’s a good idea to ask friends, family, or read reviews online to find someone you know you can trust. From there, rely on the experts to lead you through the process.
Have a long-term plan
Much of the stress and anxiety around buying a home comes from the uncertainty of the future. Sitting down with your family and significant other and deciding your long-term goals for homeownership is a good way to build confidence and know that you’re making the right choice.
Determining things like location, the number of years you want to live in a home, and what priorities are the most important (school districts, neighborhood safety, etc.) will help you make that plan a reality.
Use the tools at your disposal
If you’re reading this article, you already have started to take advantage of one of the most important resources you have, the internet. Look up real estate terminology you’re unfamiliar with, read up on the different types of mortgages, and take advantage of free online calculators to create what-if scenarios to find out what you might end up paying in closing costs and interests.
It’s also a good idea to check your credit score for free online. You can check your official reports once per year, but for simple credit checks you can look it up each month for free.
Knowing that you’re in good hands with a lender and agent, that you have a basic understanding of industry terms, that you have a long-term plan, and that your finances are in order will all help set your mind at ease and give you confidence as you move forward toward homeownership.
Let's face it – the homebuying journey may prove to be an expensive experience. If you're not careful, you risk overspending to acquire your dream house. On the other hand, if you purchase a home without identifying underlying structural problems, you risk costly home repairs down the line.
Ultimately, it helps to establish a budget for the homebuying journey. If you have a budget in place, you can increase the likelihood of having the necessary funds on hand to overcome many potential homebuying hurdles.
You should have no trouble creating a homebuying budget, either. In fact, here are three tips to help you put together a budget for the homebuying journey.
1. Assess Your Financial Situation
If you intend to purchase a house in the foreseeable future, you'll want to take a close look at your finances. By doing so, you may be able to reduce your monthly spending and use your savings to accelerate the homebuying journey.
It often helps to assess your daily, weekly and monthly expenses. Then, you may discover bills that you can cut from your everyday budget.
For example, you may enjoy dining out regularly, but cooking at home may prove to be more cost-effective. And as you reduce your dining expenses, you can save money that you can use toward the down payment on a new house.
2. Obtain Your Credit Score
Believe it or not, your credit score can make a world of difference in your quest to acquire a house. If you check your credit score, you may be able to find ways to improve your credit score prior to kicking off a house search.
You are eligible to receive a free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). Take advantage of this perk, and you can learn your credit score in no time at all.
Remember, your credit score may have a major impact on your ability to land a favorable mortgage. And if you find that you have a below-average credit score, you then can pay off outstanding debt to improve it before you start your search for a new home.
3. Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
Pre-approval for a mortgage is ideal. With a mortgage in hand, you can enter the real estate market with a budget for buying a house.
To get pre-approved for a mortgage, you should meet with banks and credit unions. These financial institutions can offer insights into a variety of mortgage options and help you make an informed mortgage selection.
Lastly, as you prepare a homebuying budget, you may want to collaborate with a real estate agent. This housing market professional can help you hone your home search to residences that fall within your price range. Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent will make it simple for you to avoid spending too much to acquire your dream house.
Get ready to buy a house – use the aforementioned tips, and you can establish a successful homebuying budget.