Down Payment Savings Tips for Renters

These clever ideas put homeownership within reach.

Ah, the perks of being a renter. No mortgage payments, no property taxes, no pesky maintenance work or repairs (leave that to your landlord to take care of!). Sounds like a good life, right?

Oh, wait, we almost forgot the big drawback: You’re not actually gaining equity in a home.

So what’s stopping you from buying a home? If you’re like most renters, it’s the lack of cash for a down payment.

Indeed, one in five Americans doesn’t even have a savings account — and one-third of those who do have a zero balance on their account, according to a recent survey by personal finance website GOBankingRates.com. Yikes!

The good news is, there are some simple ways to start saving money for a home purchase. Make these moves to build your down payment fund.

Set a target goal

Figuring out exactly how much house you can afford is key, because it allows you to determine how much you’ll need for a down payment.

Then put together a detailed savings plan, advises Andrea Blackwelder, Denver financial planner and founder of Wisdom Wealth Strategies.

Research shows people who set specific savings goals do a better job at putting money away than those who don’t.

“Just saving for a down payment isn’t enough,” Blackwelder says. “You need a hard dollar amount that you can work toward.”

Assess your spending habits

Look at your bank and credit card statements from the last three months to see where your money is going, then identify areas where you can cut back, says Brandy Wright, a certified financial planner at Cambridge Wealth Counsel in Atlanta.

Shrink your TV package

The average cable TV bill hit a record $99.10 last year, up 39 percent from 2010. Unless you’ve already cut the cord, downsizing your cable plan — and streaming shows instead — can help you save money.

Not willing to give up channels? Call you cable provider anyway, and try to negotiate a lower rate. If there’s another cable provider in your area, you’ve got leverage.

Drop the gym membership

It’s summer — get your exercise outdoors. “Jogging, hiking, and climbing outside is free,” Blackwelder points out.

Already locked into an annual gym membership? Your club might be willing to drop your rate if you get a friend to join.

Downsize to a smaller, cheaper apartment

Depending on where you live, going from a one-bedroom apartment to a studio can help you save thousands of dollars each year in rent.

“You need to live modestly if you’re serious about saving for a down payment,” says Wright.

Reducing your living space can also lower your heating and air-conditioning bills.

Get a side gig

It’s age-old advice, but it’s now easier than ever to pick up a side job, thanks to work opportunities such as Uber, Lyft, and Postmates, a food delivery service.

“Nowadays all you need to make some extra money is a car,” says Blackwelder.

You can also pick up freelance work through services like TaskRabbit.com and AgentAnything.com.

Open a high-yield savings account

Instead of keeping your cash in a checking account where it’s not earning interest, move the money to a high-yield savings account.

“You get complete access to the money and daily accrual of interest,” says Blackwelder.

Get a cash rewards credit card

Set aside your no-frills credit card and get a card with great cash-back rewards. Beverly Harzog, an independent credit card expert and consumer advocate, recommends the Blue Cash Preferred American Express Card, the Chase Freedom Credit Card, or the Citi Double Cash Card.

Caveat: Rewards credit cards typically have higher interest rates, so make sure you pay off your balance in full — and on time — each month.

Save your tax refund

While it’s tempting to spend what Uncle Sam gives you back each year, exert some willpower and put the money toward your down payment instead.

Unload your “stuff” locally…

Summer is peak season for throwing a good old-fashioned yard sale. Get the word out by promoting it on Craigslist, and posting signs in the neighborhood several days in advance.

Just be sure to consider the weather report before deciding what day you’re going to hold it. (Clear skies and comfortable temperatures lead to better turnout.)

… And online

Think there’s a niche market for some of your items? You’re probably better off selling them on eBay. Large pieces of furniture, meanwhile, tend to sell well on Craigslist.

Posted by Daniel Bortz on Zillow

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