If you rent a house, you're paying someone else's mortgage, and if you rent an apartment, you're probably just filling an investor's pockets with cash. Buying a home is a great way to spend money on your housing that actually builds equity. It's not only a home that you own, it's an investment, a great way to build future wealth, and a point of pride.

Of course, you may want a home, but simply can't afford to Buy right now. You're definitely not alone. A recent survey by a personal banking firm reported that one in five Americans don't even have a savings account, and a significant portion of those that do don't even have a balance on that account.

One of the hardest parts of affording a home is coming up with the down payment. In central Oregon coming up with 10% or 20% for a down payment may seem daunting, but it's not impossible. I've found these steps to be helpful for clients in the past who thought they'd never be able to come up with a down payment.

1. Set a target goal. Talk to a mortgage professional to find out how much home you can afford. That way, you'll know roughly how much you need to save for a down payment. Research shows that people who have specific dollar amounts in mind for a savings goal have a better success rate.
2. Assess your spending habits. Don't just make a rough audit of your monthly rent, utilities, insurance, and grocery costs. Really look into your monthly bank and credit statements from the last three months to see where your money is going. That will help you really find out where you can start to cut back.
3. Shrink your TV package. The average cable bill hit a record $99.10 last year. That's nearly 40% higher than the average from 2010! You can always - ALWAYS - call your local provider and try to negotiate a lower rate. If they have competition, use that as leverage. Also consider consolidating to only streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Sling TV.
4. Drop the gym membership. This could be tough if you frequent the gym - but many of us don't. Think about what you can do outdoors, and research some of the endless home workouts available online.
5. Unload your stuff. This can be done locally or online, of course. Even niche items can be sold with online services like Craigslist and eBay. You may not be sitting on a fortune of stuff that people will pay for, but in combination with other savings, it will make a difference.
6. Downsize your apartment. Moving from a one-bedroom to a studio could save lots of money without sacrificing too much space. This can also help you purge some unnecessary belongings, which can also bring in some more cash. A smaller space can also create savings in heating and cooling bills. Every dollar counts!
7. Get a side gig. You're probably thinking your 9 to 5 job is enough work, but think about opportunity cost. That hour you just spent watch the Kardashian's or the same episode of Sports Center after work is $10 you could have made pouring coffee at the local coffee bar, driving for Uber, or doing freelance work for services like TaskRabbit or AgentAnything. A couple night shifts or even a single weekend shift at a part-time job could contribute thousands toward your future down payment.
8. Open a high-yield savings account. If you're saving more or earning more with a new part-time gig, don't keep that money in your checking account where it's not accruing any interest. High-yield savings accounts offer daily access to money and accrue interest daily as well.
9. Get a cash rewards credit card. Ditch the no-frills credit card for one with cash-back rewards. It's an easy way to earn extra - if you consistently pay your bill on time each month. Credit cards typically have higher interest rates.
10. Save your tax refund. This is a nice yearly chunk of change depending on your work. If you can commit to socking away your tax refund, it'll be easier not to spend it when the check shows up.

If you have more questions about how to save for a down payment, don't hesitate to ask me! I can help you find out how much home you can afford and what you need to do to reach your goal.