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How to afford a down payment

Published: Oct 14, 2009

Saving for a down payment for a home is a big commitment -- and a tough one. You may be required to have as much as 20 percent down to purchase your own place -- if you were to buy a home for $200,000, that means you'll need to have at least $40,000 to purchase it. Here are suggestions on how to make coming up with all that cash easier.

  1. Reduce your living expenses

    You could eat out less and eat at home more often, rent movies instead of going to the theater (not buying popcorn at the movies alone can save you a few bucks) and brew your own cup of joe at home instead of hitting a local café. If you spent just $5 less a week than you normally do, you'd save $260 a year. That's more than $1,000 in four years. If you can get around without a car, think about selling it -- you'll gain cash through the sale, and you can stop paying automobile insurance.

  2. Bank it

    Try putting your savings into a separate bank account or CD that you'll tap only for a down payment. Think about having a certain amount automatically withdrawn from your paycheck each week and deposited into your account.

  3. Look for federal/state assistance

    There are both federal and state assistance programs for those looking to purchase a home. Go to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website for more information. HUD can also set you up with a housing counselor who can give advice on how to pay off debt and save for your down payment.

  4. Put away the credit card

    Try to pay cash only for many of your purchases. If you don't have your credit card with you when you shop, you'll avoid the temptation of making unneeded purchases -- or ones you can't afford.

  5. Move in with mom and dad

    Stop paying rent and move in with mom and dad, or bunk with a friend or another family member. By not forking over a regular payment to a landlord, you'll save a chunk of change.

  6. Clip coupons

    You may be only saving pennies on each purchase, but those cents do add up -- especially when you can double your coupons at your local grocery store.

  7. Look for extra cash

    If you can, take on an extra job to build up extra savings for that down payment. You can also try selling unneeded possessions at a garage sale or through online selling sites.

  8. Get help from family and friends

    The federal government allows you to receive up to a certain amount ($13,000 as of Jan. 1, 2009) from a single donor tax-free each year. So if family members and friends are willing to gift you some cash for your down payment, it's literally free money. (And you have some very nice family and friends.) Check the Internal Revenue Service's website for details.

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