I’ve always wanted to be a homeowner. I’m not exactly certain when I realized this (so maybe always is an overstatement), but all I know is there’s something so attractive about the idea of having a solid piece of real estate that I can call my own. That’s why, from college graduation on, I’ve made a conscious decision that my big, long-term goal in life is to own a home of my own.
You see, beyond just wanting a space that’s truly mine, I most certainly do not want to spend money on an apartment when I can put those same funds toward a mortgage. This is a very personal choice, and one that has largely to do with the fact that I don’t like the idea of paying rent on a property I’ll never own. So, to turn my dream into a reality, I started saving. From the outset, I knew this wouldn’t be the easiest thing in the world. I’m a writer and editor and, while head over heels in love with my job, I’m the first to admit that there are much more profitable careers than my own. Even so, I didn’t let my early days as a struggling freelance writer and collector of odd jobs deter me. I have a vision, and I’m not going to stop hustling until I have the deed—and the keys—to my very own home in my hands.
To work my way toward my home ownership goal, I keep a few ground rules. I’m a rule-follower by nature, so having a handful of things to do (and not to do) in place has been instrumental to help me stick to my resolve.
1. Say no to memberships
The first thing I promised myself when I decided I wanted to become a homeowner was to avoid any and every sort of membership I could. To start, I skipped the gym membership in favor of free fitness classes and programs I found on Pinterest or YouTube. I love switching up my workouts, so I’ll often hop from Pilates on PopSugar Fitness to a HIIT routine I pinned to my “healthy living” board. Sticking with free fitness opportunities has been relatively easy to do and, since I haven’t been to a gym since college, I don’t really miss it. I did invest in hand weights and a yoga mat early on, and I’ve found that those two things are really all I need to get in a good sweat session.
The second type of membership I turned down is perhaps a harder one to quit, but also one I believe has so many positive effects. You see, I don’t have—and never have had—a streaming service subscription. That means no Netflix, no Hulu, no sort of paid television program whatsoever. Is this a controversial choice? Perhaps. But it also saves me a fair chunk of money that would otherwise go to monthly fees.
To get around the lack of paid streaming programs, I’ve become BFFs with free services like Crackle, Tubi, and YouTube. They might not have the hottest movies and TV shows all the time (hey, did I say this was a perfect world?), but they do have a solid selection of content. For instance, I got to watch Labyrinth, one of my all-time favorite movies, on Tubi the other day, and it was everything. On top of that, I’m also an avid reader who would rather curl up with a book than stream a movie most days of the week, so I’m always happy to pick up a good read when I’m looking for entertainment.
2. Live with a parent
This is a hard one, Everygirls. It’s also something that is completely circumstantial and not for everyone. Personally, I’m lucky enough that my father is willing to let me live in my childhood home until I can find a place of my own. He purchased his own house, the one I live in today, around when he was my current age, so he understands and supports my vision. That being said, it’s a give-and-take arrangement that comes with its own set of sacrifices. Even so, for me, it’s worth it in the long haul.
Starting with the pros, I’ll say that the cost of living compared to renting an apartment is far less. While I do pay for expenses and “rent,” those costs total less than it would to keep up an apartment. Because of this, I’ve been able to stash away that extra money into a savings account and CD to build up my personal funds more quickly. Plus, my dad and I get along well, and he’s always down to taste-test any recipes I make.
As for the cons, living at home is not great for my dating life. One of the biggest downsides to living at home is knowing that I will never, ever bring a guy back to my place. My father’s house is small and I’m sleeping in my childhood room, so it’s just not an option. While it wasn’t as much of an issue during those times when I was #singleandlovingit, it’s not the greatest thing in the world now that I’m dating someone. To deal with it, I’ve been upfront with my boyfriend about my dream of owning a house, and he supports it. There’s no perfect way around this, so I think facing the issue head on and rolling with the punches is what keeps me going.
3. Set up those income streams
Like I mentioned above, I’m a writer and editor. I love, love, love what I do, but I also love a good side hustle. It keeps me busy and keeps the extra dollars coming in, so that’s a win-win in my book. To up my savings on the path toward home ownership, I’ve set up multiple side projects that help me bring in additional cash each month. This includes everything from freelancing to selling clothes on Poshmark to scanning receipts on Ibotta. Sometimes I’m not earning a lot from each outlet, but that’s not the point. What matters most is that every extra dollar goes straight into my house fund. And watching that number grow month by month is so, so motivating each time I scour my local Zillow pages.
4. Save every penny
When you’re saving for a house, the big picture is a long-term goal. Because of this, staying dedicated to the goal over not just months, but years can be more than a little challenging. From the start, I set up a few savings strategies to keep me going. In terms of how I’m saving, I break it up between a savings account and a certificate of deposit (CD), the latter of which earns me interest more quickly. While COVID-19 did a number on CD interest rates, overall, this option has been a great way to passively earn additional dollars each year.
As for how I save on a day-to-day basis, it’s all about being mindful. Over the years, I’ve made it a practice to really think about each dollar I want to spend. Will the money go to something meaningful or essential? Is it something materialistic that I don’t actually need? By pausing for reflection prior to each purchase, I’ve been able to curb my spending in a big way. On top of that, I pay for a cheap phone plan, I never order takeout and only eat out occasionally, and I use coupons when I shop for groceries. Plus, a few years ago I made the decision to stop purchasing fast and new fashion. While the decision was primarily an environmentally-driven one, it’s led me to save a ton of money by looking for new-to-me duds at consignment stores, Goodwill, or The Salvation Army instead of paying full price for mass-merchandised apparel.
5. Find free things to do
There are so many free things to do, you just need to know where to look.
When I first started saving for a house, I found finding ways to stay entertained particularly challenging. I didn’t want to stay inside and browse the internet for hours on end, but I also didn’t want to go out and spend all my cash. To remedy this, I started making a list of everything I wanted to do but hadn’t done in my area that was 100-percent free. In no time at all, I had a lengthy notebook page full of everything from hikes to picnics to window shopping in towns I like. And those are just the adventures I planned for outdoors. When the weather is cooler, the homebody in me loves staying indoors to try new recipes, catch up on movies, and get lost in a book or two. Plus, for savers who want to brush up on skills or learn new ones, there are so many (free!) courses available online that cover nearly every topic under the sun. Recently, I watched Canva’s design and marketing courses to help me dive into new layout concepts and improve my social media skills.
6. Keep yourself motivated
Last but not least, Everygirls, is the most important step on this list. It’s hard to save. Every day, there are so many temptations (that new restaurant, those trendy shoes, that awesome experience) that make it feel like pure torture to turn a blind eye and drop those hard-earned dollars into your savings account instead. But I’m here to tell you that it’s so worth it. Sometimes you just need a little extra motivation to convince yourself of that truth.
To stay motivated, the key is to stay mindful. While I’m a huge fan of mindfulness in everyday life, I think this practice rings especially true when it comes to weighing the pros and cons of saving vs. spending. Go beyond just asking yourself “Do I really need this?” and get to the core of the matter with “Does this add value to my life? If so, how?” If the answer isn’t as meaningful or satisfying as it should be, then you probably don’t need to make that purchase.
On top of that, it’s also important to do everything you can to visualize yourself in your new home. In addition to signing up for all the Zillow alerts, start planning what you can. Organize those Pinterest boards with your interior aesthetics room by room, set a picture of your dream home as your desktop, and write a list of all the little things that make a space feel like home to you. That way, even when the saving gets tough, you’ll never lose sight of the big, house-shaped picture.