13 Expenses to Cut Right Now to Save for a Down Payment for Your First Home

Welcome to our First Time Buyer Guide, a series of posts designed to help the first time buyer navigate the process of finding, buying and owning a home! For many first time buyers, a down payment is the biggest stumbling block to homeownership Read our list and see if you could cut spending.

Buying a home may seem like an impossible dream, but it isn’t. We promise. You’re already paying rent, so a monthly mortgage payment will feel the same, except you’ll be building equity in your home instead of lining your landlord's pockets. For many first time buyers, a down payment (specifically, the lack of one) is the biggest stumbling block to homeownership.

We don’t want to ruin your social life or make you miserable, but chances are good that you can cut down somewhere. Your parents were right!

Read our list and see if you could cut spending on any of these…

  1. Fancy coffee. You know how your mother goes on and on about “If you would just stop going to the fancy coffee shop, you’d save thousands a year. Thousands!” Well, it probably isn’t thousands. But a $4 coffee every week day adds up to $1,040, which is equal to ten percent of a ten percent down payment on a $100,000 condo or home. As a first time buyer, you may qualify for a loan that allows you to put less than 20 percent down.
  2. Drinks in restaurants. Have you checked the price of a soda in a cafe recently? It can be more than $2, sometimes as much as $4. Why not just have water, and buy a two liter soda to keep in the fridge at the office? Have a glass after lunch, when you hit your afternoon slump. Sure, we could tell you not to drink soda, but everyone has their vices. And when I hear the tab of a can pop, anywhere in my office, my mouth waters, craving that sweet nectar that is Diet Coke. I feel you. Another way to cut down on expenses is to have a glass of wine with friends at home before going out, then have one or two glasses at the restaurant, instead of two or three. (Do not, however, cut down on expenses by driving intoxicated instead of taking a cab or public transportation. Safety always saves money and lives.) 

    Save Even More → 5 Ways to Save Money in the Beer Boom

  1. Clothes. Don’t stop buying clothes, unless that’s easy for you. But do plan your buying better. Take a good inventory of your closet, so you know what you really need, and what you buy because you’re too lazy to think of an outfit. Also, shop consignment stores for less expensive, high quality clothing or consider getting together with friends for a clothing swap.

    Save Even More → 25 Must-Know Ways to Save Money on Clothes on Lifehack

  2. Join a museum. Yes, this involves spending, but choose your membership carefully. A lot of museums host members only events that are included with your membership, which is a lot cheaper than going out to eat or to a bar. And you may even be able to do a little networking to help you in your career. A bigger paycheck is a great way to increase savings.

    Save Even More → Sign up for a volunteer shift or two during an event at your favorite museum or local charity to get a free ticket in. Or take a second job at an art gallery and make some cash while you party with the arty crowd!

  3. Going out to eat with friends. Don’t stop having fun! Learn how to have people over. And you don’t have to foot the bill. Opening your home for a potluck is fun for everyone. Bonus: You may end up with leftovers, enough to make it through the weekend without going to the grocery store.

    Save Even More → 5 Ways to Throw a Party Without Blowing Your Budget on The Kitchn

  4. Movies. Or, at least the snacks. Sure, it’s wrong to sneak snacks into the movie theater, but when you’re saving for a down payment on a house? You’re contributing to the greater good by stimulating the economy. At least, that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.
  5. The gym. If you live for the gym and really use yours, this is not an expense you should cut. If spending less has a bigger cost to your health, it isn’t worth it. But if you’re spending more on a gym with amenities you don’t use, or if your gym offers discounted memberships if you only go during certain hours (and if you can go during those hours), you might be able to save.

  1. Wedding presents. It’s time to get creative. But not too creative. You know what a lot of people love? Sterling silver ice tea spoons for mixing drinks. You know where you can get them cheap? Ebay, estate sales, and the occasional antique store. Buy them in bulk -- it’s usually less expensive to buy more at once -- and give them two at a time. Learn how to wrap them yourself. You can be thrifty without being cheap.
  2. Weddings in general. You don’t have to go. Really. Same goes for the bachelor or bachelorette party in Vegas. A true friend will understand that it just isn’t in your budget right now. But if it’s your best friend and you really want to go? If you have the money in the bank, go and have a great time!

    Save Even More → 5 Ways to Save on Your Wedding

  3. Parking tickets and overdraft or late payment fees. Seriously, stop getting these. They’re a complete waste of money. However you have to stop, just stop. A lot of cities now offer an app to pay for parking. Get it. At the very least, pay the tickets on time, so they don't keep going up. 
  4. Split checks, and the “I’ll get it next time” friend. It’s easy to save money in a restaurant without being dramatic. The $12 mussels on the appetizer menu are just as satisfying as the $24 flounder. And the house wine is perfectly fine. But if your friends disagree, and insist on splitting the check evenly, there are a number of ways to avoid that. “I may have to run early, so may I please have a separate check?” “I’m just having a salad, so may I please have a separate check?” “You are an evil glutton and I prefer reasonable portions, so may I…” You get the picture.

    Save Even More → Those friends who always let you pay this time and say they’ll get the next one? But it never happens? #byefelicia

  5. Gifts. Don’t stop giving gifts, but here’s a secret. When your gift is a charitable donation in someone’s name, the organization will notify them about your gift, but they usually don’t share the amount. Also? If you itemize deductions come tax time? That deduction is all yours, which could save you some money. Choose a charity that’s meaningful to the recipient and pat yourself on the back, you do-gooder.
  6. Stuff for your house. When you buy your new place, you’re going to want to redecorate anyway. So no more stuff!

    Save Even More → 12 Places to Sell Your Clutter for Cash on Popsugar

Do any of those apply to you? You may not be able to do them all, but there must be a few things on the list that you can stop paying for. Get saving, because spending on a mortgage feels a lot better than paying rent!