The ability to pay your bills on time and still have money left over at the end of the month makes you financially solvent, important when considering the future purchase of a home. Being able to save money is vital, whether you intend on paying cash or using a mortgage when you buy. Proof that you pay your financial obligations on time and save money can lead to better loan rates and terms.
Getting back on your feet after a financial disaster takes time. It involves patience, hard work and teaching yourself new habits. The sooner you start, though, the sooner you’ll have the keys to your new house.
Set up a budget
If you don’t have a budget, the time to create one is right now. Yes, it’s time consuming and sticking to it once it’s created is challenging. The creation aspect is easier if you use personal finance software, but a spreadsheet will work as well.
First, determine how much money comes into the household every month. Consider all sources of income from all family members.
Then, get out all your bills and make a list, breaking them down into fixed and variable expenses. The former includes your auto loan payment, mortgage payment (if you have a fixed rate mortgage) or rent payment. The latter group will include utility payments, groceries and incidentals.
Plan on taking a month to keep track of every penny spent, from your bill payments to gas for the car to the latte you pick up on the way to work in the morning. At the end of the month, enter these totals into the budget under “expenses.”
By now you’ll have a picture of where your money goes every month, and an indication of where you may be wasting money. Of course you’ll want to cut out the waste first, directing those funds to the rest of the plan.
Pay off debts
Prioritize your debt and bill payments every month. Along with paying your monthly bills, ensure that secured debts are paid first – such as car or mortgage payments. Pay at least the minimum monthly payment on credit card accounts and unsecured loan repayments, except for the one with the highest interest rate. Pay a little bit more on that one every month until it’s paid off and then start working on the one with the next highest balance. (Financial guru Suze Orman suggests cutting up all of your credit cards except one and to keep that one at home, using it only for emergencies.)
Paying your bills on time, which you will do with the assistance of your budget, and paying off debts helps lower your credit score. Borrowers with a credit score of 760 or above qualify for the best mortgage rates.
Make changes in your spending habits
After a few months of budgeting you’ll find areas in it in which you can cut back on spending. Some of these might include taking the bus to work instead of driving, brown-bagging at lunch time instead of eating out and being a bit more frugal when you shop. Be brutal in your budget cuts because each one will get you closer to being able to afford your new home.
Make more money
Cutting your budget expenditures and paying down debt aren’t the only ways to move quickly down the road toward homeownership. Finding ways to make more money, whether it’s volunteering for overtime hours at work, taking on a part-time job (Uber is always hiring!), selling unused items on Craigslist, the extra cash will push you faster and further down the road to home ownership.
Once you have your debt under control it’s time to start saving money. Unless you’ll pay cash for the home, you’ll need money for a down payment and closing costs. Then, there are all the extras you’ll want to purchase for the home after you move in. We recommend that you plan on accumulating at least 3 to 4 percent of the loan amount for closing costs and from 3.5 percent to 20 percent, depending on the type of loan you obtain, for the down payment.
Cleaning up your finances isn’t easy and saving money may be challenging. Just keep that dream home top-of-mind, though and you’ll remain motivated.