They’ve been there and they know how tough it can be to save money for the down payment on a first home mortgage; here are some tips from homeowners who used creative strategies to save up quickly.

When Toronto resident Sue was saving for a first home, she was looking for a condo and had already saved about $20,000 when her sister suggested they should combine their savings and buy a house together.

To speed up the saving process, Sue decided to move back home with her parents. Then, on the advice of her financial advisor, she set up automatic withdrawals that matched her previous rental expenses.

“It had RRSP mutual funds, and then when I went to buy my house, I used the first-time homebuyer’s plan, so there were tax benefits,” she says.

Living with her parents for close to two years was inconvenient, since she had little privacy, but it allowed her to bank about $1,000 a month. “The easy part was my meals were cooked for me every day!” Sue quips.

About three years after buying her home with her sister, her sister got married and bought a home with her new husband. By that time, Sue was in a position to refinance her mortgage and buy her sister out, leaving her as the proud owner of her own home.

 

In Victoria, B.C., Steven and his wife Lina are now happy homeowners with two children, but only five years ago they were engaged, renting, and hoping to buy a condo together.

“We realized at the savings rate we had it would be very difficult to come up with a down payment, so we tried to live on just one income,” says Steven. “We were planning to have kids, so it made sense to bring our expenses down; it showed us how we could reduce our expenses quite a lot.”

Once they had decided on the overall strategy, the couple had fun challenging themselves to find ways to cut costs while still enjoying themselves.

“My wife noticed I had quite a lot of clothes,” he says. “She gave me a clothing challenge: I couldn’t buy any new clothes for a year, or had to go skydiving! It wasn’t as bad as I thought; the only thing I bought was a brand-new suit for the wedding.”

In order to boost their savings income, the couple also “invested in a lot of dividend-paying stocks using our TFSA (Tax-Free Savings Account) contributions. “We had tax savings using this type of account,” says Steven.

They cut transportation costs by walking and biking, and closed their cell phone accounts in favour of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service, which can turn an ordinary internet connection into a free long-distance provider.

Knowing that they would be getting married around the same time they bought their condo, they had fun hunting for wedding bargains. When they found out that a local florist would charge about $3,000, they located a wholesaler based in Colombia online. “We spent $800, and we had more flowers than we knew what to do with; it was beautiful!”

Instead of a fondant cake from an upscale baker, which would have cost more than $1,000, they ordered a $250 wedding cake from a local grocery store. The verdict? “Everyone really enjoyed it!”

The groom’s suit and the groomsmen’s ties were also ordered inexpensively online. Keeping the budget down allowed the couple to splurge $2,500 on Lina’s dream dress.

No matter where you scrimp or splurge, Steven says, “Make it a game or a challenge finding different ways you can go about making your goals.”

Achieve the homeownership dream sooner