Purchasing a home for the first time can seem daunting. For many, buying a house is the largest investment they’ll ever make. That being said, it’s not an impossible task. With focus and planning, saving money to invest in real estate is absolutely doable. We spoke to Lindsey Stanberry, Living features editor at “Refinery29” who’s written about purchasing an apartment for Refinery29, and Emily Farley, an assistant dean living in Washington, D.C., about purchasing their first home. Stanberry moved into her apartment in Park Slope in 2009, and Farley purchased her home in 2015, shortly after her wedding.
To invest in real estate is to plant your feet in one place -- for a long time. “My husband and I really liked New York City and knew we wanted to stay here for a long time,” says Stanberry. Similarly, Farley and her husband were fans of D.C. Part of the reason buying a home can be intimidating is purely because a home will hook you, geographically, in a single place for at least a few years. When you pick your location, make sure you are aware of all the expenses around it. Will you have to take car services to and from home? Will you have to buy a car. All these little things added together makes up the real number you need to save up for.
Another thing to be honest to yourself about is what your needs are right now. Stanberry admits that she probably would have wanted more space, but she and her husband knew that their range would only allow for a one-bedroom. It’s a first home! It doesn’t need to have a guest house just yet. Neither Stanberry or Farley’s homes are grandiose expressions of wealth -- Stanberry’s home is only 700 square feet, and Farley’s is 1950 -- but this is how they saved up for it.
Be Honest with Friends
Saving money can mean staying in. Stanberry says that, “sometimes you just need to say, you know, we’re saving money right now.” Money is among one of the harder topics to discuss with friends, but if you bite the bullet and bring up the topic, often they’ll pipe down.
Skip the Little Things
You’ve heard it before: a little goes a long way. Trimming the fat from your budget can have a surprisingly large ripple effect. Both Stanberry and Farley attribute their savings to things like brown-bag lunches and the almost-imperceptible changes in lifestyle. Farley took to Ebay, seeking out large-price items for a lower price. (She most notably sold her wedding dress on Ebay shortly after her wedding.) Stanberry insists that it’s easier than you think -- “it’s easy to be cheap in your twenties!” she says. You don’t have a family yet. Retirement is a few decades in the future. Being cheap will be more difficult when you have to consider other people (like your parents or your children.)
Don’t Take Cabs
It’s oh-so-tempting at the end of a long night to hop into a yellow one. And now with apps like Uber and Lyft, calling a car service has become even easier. However, even a 10-minute cab can be as much as $10, and then you have to tip on top of that! That tiny amount of luxury -- riding in car for 20 minutes -- is worth trading for a home.
Make a Plan -- Or Don’t Make a Plan
Neither Stanberry nor Farley cited a fancy financial plan as the reason they were able to purchase a home. “I was saving since college, I guess,” says Stanberry. Farley says the same: “I saved for about 8 years, since I was in college.”
Consider a Roomie -- If You’re Single
One thing both Stanberry and Farley note is that they might not have been able to make the purchase alone. Both are married now -- Stanberry bought her apartment before she got married, and Farley just after. Renting in your 20’s is all about living with roommates. We know you want your own place but consider this part of the struggle.
Make Sure You Still Splurge!
“We weren’t losers!” Stanberry insists. She and her husband had friends over for dinner and had active social lives. However, it’s not the splurges that take down your budget. Like any long-term plan, it’s the incremental changes that actually make a difference. Birthday dinner for your husband, for example, might be worth a splurge. The definition of a splurge ensure that they’re few and far between. Keep your splurges to occasional indulgences and you’ll be fine.
Despite the housing market horrors in Washington, D.C., and New York City, these big-city gals found a home. It’s possible! Set yourself in a few money-saving habits and you might just be able to do it. Consider the idea that when you own a home, you’re not throwing money away each month. You’re investing in real estate that might someday bring you a profit. It’s a good thing.