Saving for a house is one of the hardest things a couple can do. Cut the couple in half, however, and coming up with a down payment and all the other homebuying expenses by yourself seems downright impossible -- but it's not.
If you're saving for a home on a single income, you've got your work cut out for you. The process requires discipline, dedication and sticktoitiveness -- but with some clever strategizing, single-income earners can become homeowners.
Start With a Reality-Based Timetable
Since you have only one income to work with, you might be tempted to work double-time to cut your homebuying schedule in half. One person doing the work of two, however, is not a viable long-term strategy.
"When you want to make a massive purchase, you should set a realistic timeline," said Francis Locknear of The Cost Guys. "If you have an impossible timetable, you'll end up frustrated if you can't meet it."
While the timeline should be achievable, it should still be demanding.
"It's important that you set a challenging calendar," Locknear said. "Making it attainable but aggressive will not only inspire you but also push you to continue."
Automate Your Savings
If you're saving for a down payment alone, you won't have anyone to keep you focused when your motivation and self-restraint inevitably start to slip -- and even the most disciplined saver is not as reliable as a computer.
Do yourself a favor and automate your savings.
"Your discipline may fail from time to time," Locknear said. "However, you can combat it if you automate your contributions toward your big purchase. Schedule your monthly savings within 24 hours after receiving your paycheck. Doing so will prevent you from spending money that you should be saving instead."
Commit All Your Extras
Found money naturally conjures thoughts of all the things you couldn't afford yesterday, but if you're saving for a house on your own, you have to kill those thoughts on the vine if you happen to come into a windfall.
"Every time that you get extra money, you should put it towards your savings for your big purchase," Locknear said. "When you get a bonus, tax refund, an inheritance, or even find a dollar in your pocket, save it. Spending it thoughtlessly just because it's extra will not help you achieve your goal. Yes, it may not be fun right now, but you'll thank yourself when you finally get what you wanted."
Hustle for Money on the Side -- Every Little Bit Counts
Matthew Robbs of Smart Saving Advice believes that the best way to save for a house all by yourself is "to find a way to save faster." That, of course, is easier said than done -- unless you open a new revenue stream.
"You can only save so much of your income from your normal job," Robbs said. "But you could start doing side jobs on the nights and weekends to save money significantly faster."
Robbs recommends selling your skills on Fiverr, making deliveries for DoorDash or Instacart or putting your car to work with a ride-share company.
"Driving for Uber on the weekend nights can allow you to save many hundreds of dollars extra a month towards your savings goal," Robbs said.
Whatever You Do, Don't Gamble Away What You've Already Saved
If you're on your own in a mission to save for a down payment, you'll surely be tempted to jump ahead by investing the money you already have saved. That's not a bad idea depending on the risk level -- but always defend the principal so you don't find yourself back where you started. "Although the stock market is a great place to invest for long-term savings or retirement, you should never put money for your short-term savings goal into it," Robbs said.
This rule becomes more important the closer you get to the finish line.
"You don't want to invest in high-risk assets when you're close to getting a house," said Scott Lieberman, founder of Touchdown Money. "Therefore, you can use high-yield savings accounts and CDs to build a little money on your down payment. They're low-risk ways of investing your money without the risk of losing your precious money."
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