Whether buying a home is a goal way down the road, or you’re considering buying in the next few years, it’s never too late to start saving for a down payment.

Although you can purchase a home with as low as a 3.5 percent down payment using an FHA loan (Federal Housing Administration), the more you put down on your home, the lower your monthly mortgage payment will be.

But saving for the ideal 10 to 20 percent down payment for a traditional 30 year fixed loan, especially in today’s cash-strapped economy, can be daunting.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

Calculate what you need to save

Many sites, Zillow included, have mortgage calculators that can help you figure out how much you’ll need for a down payment and what your resulting monthly payment will be depending on current mortgage rates. Play around with different amounts to calculate your ideal home loan. Zillow’s mortgage calculator shows you the breakdown of your monthly payment as well as provides definitions of terms. See an example:

Set up a separate savings account

Create a separate account, ideally a high-yield savings account, that you can begin adding to. You’ll be less likely to dip into an account separate from your checking or other savings account.

Contribute regularly or automatically

To ensure steady growth, create a saving time line for yourself and add funds regularly. The easiest way is to set up an automatic deposit into the account.

What can you cut?

If you’re really on the fast track to save for a down payment, you should begin looking at your budget and identifying things you can cut. (Ideally you should have a budget to begin with.) Start out with looking at extra expenses. Do you go to lunch everyday at work? Try packing a lunch a few days a week. Do you need that $3 coffee everyday, which ends up costing you $15 a week and $60 a month? Trimming little expense like this can make saving a reality.

Get advice

If you have significant debt or credit problems, you may consider looking into meeting with a financial planner who can help you develop a saving plan specifically tailored to your needs.

Featured image from Flickr user Images_of_Money.


About the Author

Erika Riggs, the Zillow Digs manager, covers home design and trends.

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