New year, new house. That’s the plan, right? But the daily habits that only cost a couple bucks here and there may be doing more damage to your budget than you realize, making it impossible to save for that down payment.
What constitutes “discretional income” varies from person to person and situation to situation—what you have to play with today might be far more than last year, thanks to that raise. When you’re saving for a big-ticket item like a house, discretionary income can really take a hit. Maybe your weekly outing to your favorite sushi spot doesn’t seem so necessary anymore (Or, maybe you just need to come during Happy Hour!). This is just one of the adjustments you can make to your lifestyle when saving for a down payment. If your goal is buying a house, these “skips” will be well worth it.
Skips the Starbucks
Your grande latter costs $3.65, and if you get it five days a week, every week…well, you really should go out and buy some Starbucks stock. You only order a grande coffee, you say? OK, $2.10 per day, five days a week, every week is over $500 a year. Even if you bought yourself a machine to make lattes at home (and you have several options here, some for under $200), you’d still save a bundle overall.
Skip the lunch out
It’s just lunch, and it’s not like you’re going anywhere fancy, but all those meals can take a chunk out of your bank account and leave you scrambling for ways to make up the money. “If you go out for lunch Monday through Friday for a year, you might spend $10 a meal—a pretty good deal at most dining establishments. This adds up to $50 weekly,” said Money Under 30. “Spend $50 a week on restaurant food, and in total you’re spending $2,500 per year, near the national average.”
Spend $50 on dinner a couple times a week, and that’s another $5,200. Now consider that you only need a minimum of 3.5 percent for a down payment and the current median home value in the United States is $222,800. That means you need under $8,000 for your down payment, but…ooooops! You just spent it on sandwiches and pasta.
Skip the commute
You probably think mainly in terms of gas and tolls when you consider how much you’re spending on your commute, and that certainly adds up. Can you negotiate a work from home scenario a few days a week? It can save you a bunch—and save the wear and tear on your car (and your nerves), too. But there’s more to the commuting calculation. “The true cost of car commuting not only goes beyond what we spend to maintain a car each year, but what we could have done with that money to ensure a better future,” said Strong Towns. Check out this sobering infographic that will have you marching into your boss’ office to discuss remote opportunities ASAP.
Skip the dry cleaner
Want to save about $500 a year? Take New York Magazine’s ‘Ask the Strategist’s’ advice and use one of their 19 alternatives to dry cleaning, including using mesh laundry bags and specially formulated soap.
Skip the car wash
The average price of a car wash is about $7. Is just cutting out this activity and washing your car at home going to get you that down payment? Of course not. But every little bit helps, and the $364 you’ll save after a year of weekly washes can put you over the top or give you a cushion should moving expenses exceed your budget.
Skip the gym
You could save $54 per month (that’s the average monthly payment of a gym membership across the country), not to mention the cost of your cute workout clothes and fancy shoes, by cancelling your gym membership. Instead, do these 25 great at-home exercises.
Skip the cable
Cut the cord and save about $1,200 in a year. Of course, you’ll have to replace the cable with something, so you’ll likely be adding back some costs. “Assuming you’re one of the 83 percent of consumers who pays for both TV and internet, switching to a web-based service shouldn’t be too expensive,” said Mental Floss. “An Amazon Prime plan costs $99 a year, a basic Netflix subscription costs $132, and Hulu costs $96. Even if you spring for all three choices, you’ll still only be paying $327 annually, saving you about $875 if you’re a former cable subscriber.”
Skip the movies
The average cost of a movie ticket went up again last year—by 3.96% to $8.97. Of course, the ticket is just the beginning of the expense. A family of four can easily hit $100 when you add in popcorn and drinks and Red Vines. Since a trip to the movies is our family’s favorite outing, we would never tell anyone to stop going. But, there are some ways to save. Money Crashers has a great rundown, including going to matinees, which are less expensive than evening shows, and buying at the box office instead of online so you save on the convenience fees. Another great tip is going with another family. If you buy a large popcorn, it usually comes with a free refill, which the concession stand will give you right away. Now you have two tubs of popcorn for half the cost.