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For men returning from World War 2, homeownership was the symbol that you’d made it — family, job, car, and to top it all off, a house of one’s own. The same still stands today for the most part. Homeownership marks one’s fiscal stability and readiness to “settle down.” If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to save up to buy a home of your own within the next year or two, you may be scrambling to think where to start such a daunting task.

Saving up for a home is a long-term game. Each little step or decision may not feel like much, but more than anything, the trick is to make a plan and stick with it, come hell or high water.

Before you start your home savings plan, make sure you have a well-stocked emergency fund. Ideally, you don’t want to have to touch your home savings until it’s time to start house hunting, and in the event of medical or auto accidents, you want to be well-covered with funds besides your home-savings fund. Life doesn’t stop just because you have a new plan.

Planning for homeownership means steady savings for a down payment and all the fees and insurance policies that follow. Regular, substantial savings requires discipline and self-restraint. Especially if you’re young, you may not have a lot of discretionary income to put towards savings, but you may find places you can cut back. For example, consider going out less often, or maybe even downsizing if you’re renting a two-bedroom apartment. Some people have even been known to move in with their families for finite periods of time to get their finances set.

Creating a budget will help you organize your income into what you can reasonably spend each month once you’ve set aside savings. You’ll also need moral support and cooperation from your friends. If the top priority for your money is saving up for a home, you may not be able to accept all their invitations for high-spending outings, so tell them about your savings plans and ask them to be flexible to your new fiscal constraints.

That said, treat savings like a bill. Most banks nowadays provide users with online tools to shift money from checking to savings accounts automatically on a set schedule (say, for example, weekly or monthly). Take advantage of this function to ensure that you don’t touch home-savings money. Even if you’re not perfectly disciplined, Direct Deposit programs sure are, and they’ll pull that money right out, ready or not.

It’s also important to take advantage of windfalls of cash such as bonuses, tax returns, or gifts for celebrations. By all means, splurge a little, but rather than blowing it all at once, bank as much of that “free” money as you can. Big breaks can put a real dent in your savings and maybe push you ahead of your pre-planned savings schedule.

There are lots of places you could put your savings money ranging from higher risk (i.e. stocks or real estate investment trusts) to lower risk. Of course, consult a trusted expert, but slow, low-risk savings accounts or certificates of deposit are the surest, safest routes for such savings.

As long as you make a plan and stick to it, you can safely have enough money to secure a down payment for you home in a year or two, depending on your income and expenses. When you’re ready to start looking for a home, be sure to call up the Andy Esbenshade Team. We’re family-owned and won’t fleece you. We understand what a serious fiscal, temporal, and emotional investment purchasing a home is, and we’ll be there with you for every step.