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How to Afford the Home of Your Dreams (and Keep it Forever)

Updated on July 19, 2015
Olivia Sanzzi profile image

Olivia Sanzzi blogs about home ownership, real estate, and how savvy first time home buyers maneuver mortgage woes.

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Maybe you have just purchased your first house, or are on the verge of purchasing that dream home very soon. Maybe you’ve already made sense of mortgage mumbo jumbo like mortgage points to avoid being duped by your lender, and bargained down the asking price using savvy bargaining techniques.

Still, you’re nervous.

No, not nervous. Deep down, clown-hiding-in-the-dark, quivering under the sheets of your bed SCARED, thinking thoughts like:

What if I’m making the wrong decision?

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I love vacations. Will I never travel again?

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What If I LOSE the House?!?

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Boy, can I understand. I write this in the midst of the ten-day option period of what we dearly hope will be our first house. This week I’ve spoken with a home inspector, electrician, siding specialist, HVAC specialist, roofer, and there is still a list to go. We’ve discovered our dream house— of that we have no doubt. But even I am not without my own doubts. What if we hit “hard times” on that distant, hypothetical day when chaotic baby-parenting tasks seem more appealing than movie dates?

Or, even if life takes a different path, could we someday be forced to abandon our house—not to begin backpacking, as some bloggers do, but in a spirit of despair?

Turn Fears Into Strengths!

Lucky for me, when something scares me, I obsessively research until I develop a game plan. Maybe you're the same way. Together, let's tackle the second layer of concerns: how to proactively cut housing costs in order to afford your dream home for LIFE.

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Afford Your Home Tip 1: Hire a Financial Planner

I LOVE to budget my own money; to me, each penny I save is an assertion of freedom. Excel spreadsheets and tracking apps like Spendee have allowed me to live an enriched, globe-trotting life on a salary less than that of a first-year teacher. It’s a way of saying, “I own my money, because I won’t let advertisers own me.”

However, home ownership is a new world—especially if you and your special someone are still determining how to divvy costs out, or anticipating pricey goals (okay, BABIES) not to far down the road.

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Write This Down!
Set an appointment with a local financial planner precisely one month after making your first mortgage payment.

This guy gives some great advice on selecting a financial planner.

Afford Your Home Tip 2: Set Up Automatic Withdrawals for Your Mortgage (a.k.a Establish an Automatic Debt Repayment Plan)

There are few sick-to-your-stomach feelings worse than that which comes upon forgetting to fulfill a mortgage payment before the due date. Set up autopay directly from your bank account, or better yet, see if it can come directly from your paycheck, if that option is available through your employer.

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Afford Your Home Tip 3: Promptly Install a Water Heater Blanket

According to Energy Star, the average household spends $2,200 a year on energy costs. And did you realize that your water heater alone can account for 14% of your energy costs?

Water heater blankets pay for themselves within a year, but even without one, you can save a boatload by reducing your water heater’s temperature down to 130 degrees Fahrenheit/60 degrees Celsius. Depending on how fond you are of cold showers, you could even reduce it to a temperature far lower than that!

Learn how to install a water heater blanket. It's easy!

Afford Your Home Tip 4: Cancel Your Cable (or consider Google TV)

This is the perfect time to cancel your cable subscription, which should save you an immediate $40-$50 per month, not to mention the installation fee.

Your hands will be chock-full of home projects for a few months in any case, but if you go into withdrawal, this is the perfect time to test Google TV via Chromecast, which costs less than the standard satellite installation costs. But as with any purchase, do your research. Google TV is only one of several appealing, affordable streaming options on the block!

Better yet: forget TV and head outside.
Better yet: forget TV and head outside. | Source

Afford Your Home Tip 5: Insulate Hot Water Pipes

Review your home inspection (or if you have not gotten one, consider reviewing the horror story I mention here), and see if exposed or improperly-insulated pipes are an issue. The process is not that difficult, as far as plumbing projects go, and proper coverings will make a sizable difference for your energy costs in the long run. Sure, you could probably put it off, but why do so? These days, you simply e-mail photographs of potential issues to a plumber, and receive a surprisingly-accurate quote or assessment of damages over the phone.

I’ve gone the digital route for a number of inspections this week, and have had a great experience finding professionals through Home Advisor. If your real estate agent or neighbors have no one to recommend, their system really is an efficient way to go.

This nifty DIY video shows how to insulate hot water pipes yourself!

Afford Your Home Tip 6: Airseal via Weatherstripping and Caulking

These weekend projects will result in major returns! Caulking and weather stripping involve smart, simple procedures with basic supplies that will pay for themselves in one year or less according to Energy.gov.

Caulking should be tackled on a warm, dry day, when the outdoor temperature is at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit, because any humidity present during the process could result in moisture-filled cracks down the road. Weatherstripping, on the other hand, can be tackled all the way down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but remember the old adage: measure twice, cut once. Be precise!

This adorable house isn't precisely weatherized.
This adorable house isn't precisely weatherized. | Source

Afford Your Home Tip 7: Invest in Smart Power Strips:

Smart power strips cut down power for devices that go into standby mode. This means that your plasma TV will drain less energy when you are not using it, that DVD player will not receive power so long as the TV is off, and the phantom power going to your computer, printer, and other devices can save as much as 5-10% of your home energy costs.

Now Let's Wrap This Up.

Never give up . . . even if it feels like you're making no progress at all.
Never give up . . . even if it feels like you're making no progress at all. | Source

Be Smart. Stay Smart. And Act on Homeownership Fears Until You’re No Longer Afraid.

  • Exercise common sense.
  • You hold more financial clout than you realize. Turn fears into bodyguards, and bodyguards into strengths.
  • Be on the lookout for ways to save from day one. Don’t wait until you slide until “Well, it’s good enough as is” attitude about energy-related repairs for your home.
  • Maintain perspective. You’re at an awesome stage in your journey. Don’t be intimidated by the road!

Leave a Comment!

Do you have any money-saving secrets to share? Do your fellow freaked-out first-time homebuyers a favor by letting us know!

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