Finances for (anything but) dummies: 10 ways to save for your first home
By Despina Zanganas
For many Toronto women, buying a home in today’s market can seem overwhelming — if not impossible — but there’s something to be said for being the financially savvier of the sexes. In other words: We know how to save, ladies!
If buying a home is in your five-year plan, the good news is, you’ve got time. Come up with a plan today, and simply stick with it to reach your real estate goals. Not sure where to start? Here are 10 ways to save for your first home:
- Have an understanding of how much you spend each month and where your money is going. How do you do that? By tracking your expenses. For one month, keep all your receipts (even for the small stuff – like coffee!) and record them in a spreadsheet. Because imagine you’re eating away $500 worth of lunches out each month. That’s $6,000 a year — a hefty chunk of money you could be putting into a savings account instead.
- Now that you’re clear on your monthly expenses, it’s time to budget. If you’re too busy to add yet another task to your do-do list, or if it simply feels too overwhelming, why not use a premade template? The good news – if you subscribe to stnce, you’ll have access to their free budgeting tool!
- Once you’ve got a better handle on your finances, think about your future goals and dreams. Pour yourself a glass of wine, grab a notebook, and imagine where you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, and when you retire. If your goal is to save for a big purchase (like a home), figure out how much you need for a down payment, then decide what you need to save each month to get there.
- Seek out a financial advisor that’s the right fit for you. If coming up with a plan on your own is too stressful, it doesn’t hurt to get a financial advisor. In fact, it will probably help a whole lot. Just make sure they have the appropriate credentials, like CFP, before moving forward. Perhaps even more importantly, make sure they were referred to you by a person you trust. That’s the best way to avoid a meeting with a financial planner who talks down to you, spends the whole time trying to sell you a product, or makes unrealistic promises.
- Don’t let social media get the better of you. Seriously, how many times have you felt the pressure to BUY just because you happened to see a Facebook friend’s new pair of brand name shoes… or shiny car… or stunning cottage? So with that in mind, here’s some great advice: Stop trying to keep up with the virtual Joneses. Remind yourself that they’re only sharing the fancy photo ops — and not their credit card debt or bank statements.
- On that note, remember that you have the power to choose what you see in your feed. Seek out money blogs, follow financial journalists, and like posts by financial advisors — and you’ll have curated your feed in no time. Make those Facebook algorithms work for you, not against you. (I’m talking about those ads for products you don’t need… but end up buying anyway.)
- Speaking of impulse shopping, don’t make it so easy to shop online. Remove your credit card information from online shopping sites so that you have to physically get up to find your card before making a purchase. Also, avoid visiting online retailers when you’re more likely to make a quick purchase – i.e., early in the morning (pre-coffee) or late at night (when you’re exhausted). You know what they say, Clear head. Strong will. Can’t lose (money). Or maybe I made that one up.
- Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Simply put, always do a bit of comparison shopping before making a purchase. If you tend to assume that the first price you come across is a good one, the likelihood is that it isn’t. Always check competitors’ sites, and remember that Amazon is often the cheapest option.
- Have children? Teach them to budget from a young age. Unfortunately, this hugely important life skill is not taught in schools, so it’s up to us to impart our financial wisdom onto the next generation. One of the easiest ways to do this is to show a bit of self-constraint in front of the little ones. And learn to say no — no matter how cute they are or how many times they say “pleeease.” The best way to do this is to give children a small allowance, and let them know that they can use their own money to buy that toy or game they want so badly. They’ll either decide it’s not worth spending their hard-earned cash on, or they’ll get a real-life lesson in Saving for Beginners.
- Aim for financial independence. Whether you’re in a partnership or are living life solo, make sure you have a financial plan in place — one that allows you to take care of yourself if you are single now, or if you end up unexpectedly single in the future. Did you know that, once retired, women are more likely to end up in poverty than men? That’s a problem. But now that we know about it, we have the freedom to plan appropriately. And seeing that my mission is to empower women through real estate, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Owning a home is one of the best long-term investments you can make. (Retirement savings? Check!)
Well, there you have it. There’s my condensed version of Finances for (Anything But) Dummies. By 2026, Canadian women will control 50% of the wealth. So let’s make sure we’re doing it right.
Despina Zanganas is a long-time homeowner and Toronto-based realtor on a mission to educate and empower female buyers while they seek out the home of their dreams.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Equitable Bank. Any information provided is for information purposes only and Equitable Bank makes no representations as to the validity, accuracy, completeness or suitability of any content. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional or undertake your own research before making financial decisions.