9 Free Tools to Help You Save for a House Faster (+ Free Templates)
The biggest challenge to saving for a house isn’t doing the actual saving. It’s ignoring all the other ways you want to spend your money in favor of building up that house down payment account.
You’re making weekly deposits into your house savings account, and it seems like the balance hasn’t moved at all. Meanwhile, your best friend and her significant other are on yet another tropical vacation. This time in Maui.
It takes more than giving up your avocado toast and to-go lattes in order to build up a down payment, but you’re tired of scrimping and saving, no matter how big or small. You’re almost ready to throw in the towel and be a renter for life.
Before you give up, take a moment to recognize two important facts:
#1: It’s not just you. It really is harder to save than ever before.
While the average American has a bigger paycheck than 40 years ago, their purchasing power has barely budged a cent. At the same time, home prices have skyrocketed, particularly in the past two years. The median home sale price in 2021 was $346,900, an increase of 16.9% over 2020.
If your parents tell you about how they paid for college out-of-pocket and bought a house a month after graduation, you have permission to roll your eyes. That’s not the way the world works anymore.
#2: Saving money is not just a financial challenge. It’s a psychological one too.
Our brains help us accomplish many incredible feats, but they also can sabotage us at times. One bias in our brain’s thinking is to put more weight and importance on present, near-term rewards. When we see the big down payment goal, and our much smaller savings account balance, the feeling of despair sets in.
What’s the best way to keep track of a house savings goal?
So what’s the answer? If you’re going to overcome the financial challenge of saving in 2022 and your own brain’s sabotaging behavior and tendency to lean towards present bias, you need the right toolkit.
There are three types of tools to help you stay on track with your house savings goal, and keep you focused and motivated along the way.
Templates: print out a visual chart that serves as a daily reminder of how far you’ve come.
Savings challenges: participate in a daily savings challenge to give yourself milestones that aren’t quite so far away.
Apps: use technology to your advantage and get closer to your goal with an app that pays you for saving.
Did you know? The average downpayment for a first-time homebuyer is about 6% of the home’s value – not 20%! Some programs require just 3% or even allow $0 down. Download the Gravy app and chat with our Home Advisor team to learn more.
4 templates to visually track your savings progress
Do you write down your to-do lists on a whiteboard in your kitchen? Do you create a vision board when you set a goal? A visual savings tracker may be the best choice for you to keep your money on your mind. Here are four blogs that offer free, downloadable templates to print out and color in as you stack cash:
#1: Easy-to-use budgeting and savings spreadsheet
This budget spreadsheet first went viral when 29-year-old Reddit user Celes decided to share the process she used to save $10,000. She designed the sheet for someone who has no personal finance education, as she herself was in that position and found a lack of knowledge about money management led to anxiety.
She’s since updated the spreadsheet to include separate tabs to help people track savings goals for large purchases (like a house!). You can make your own copy of the sheet here.
#2: 15 printable savings trackers
Brittany from Let’s Craft Instead created a bundle of 15 free, printable savings trackers to help people visualize where they’re headed with their goals. You can customize some of them yourself depending on your target down payment, or you can use them during a savings challenge.
#3: Save $5,000 for a house in less than a year
The Life’s Carousel blog created a plan to save $5,000 in less than one year (51 weeks to be exact). All you have to do is follow the chart and deposit the predetermined amount of money every week.
By week 51, you’ll have saved $5,040. That’s a good chunk of change, and as part of the bundle, you get a visual chart where you can color each piggy bank week by week to show your progress.
#4: Editable savings tracker bundle
101 Planners published a large bundle of savings trackers that are completely customizable, and ready for you to use. The best part is: you can edit them directly before you print. Add your own flair!
One of these trackers comes with its own Excel spreadsheet with a built-in formula to help you figure out how much you still have to save to reach your goal.
4 savings challenges to jumpstart your down payment
We asked experienced realtors: what’s the best savings strategy for first-time homeowners that helps them get into a house faster?
Consistency was the most common answer.
“Set aside a certain percentage of your paycheck each month, tuck it away, and don't use it until you are ready to purchase a home,” said Scott Stevenson, Gravy partner realtor at Coldwell Banker.
Saving for a house can be a long game, but it starts to get easier the closer you get to your goal. To get into the habit of thinking about saving every day, why not do it – every day? A savings challenge helps you get a stash of cash together in a set amount of time and that progress can be a big motivating factor that powers you forward.
Here are four savings challenges to try this year:
#1: 30-day savings challenge
Can you save every day for 30 days? This is the perfect challenge when you’re right at the beginning. You can have $500 in your future house account, just by waking up every day and transferring a dollar more in cash over to your savings.
How it works: On the first of the month, deposit $1 into savings. On the second of the month, deposit $2. Keep going, every day transferring the amount of money equal to the date of the month. At the end, you’ll have $500 saved.
Here’s a free chart to keep track of your progress as you go.
#2: Weather Wednesday challenge
This is a fun challenge that will be harder the warmer it gets outside. Every Wednesday, track how high the temperature gets. Deposit that amount of money into your savings account. Michigan? This isn’t as difficult, but if you live in Arizona, you’re going to save a ton of money.
#3: $10,000 in 100 days
The 10k savings challenge is similar to the 30-day savings challenge. Everyday you slightly increase the amount of money you’re saving.
But it’s slightly harder. Instead of increasing the amount you’re saving with the date of the month, you’re counting by 2s for the entire 100 days.
Here’s how it works:
Day 1: $2
Day 2: $4
Day 3: $6
Day 4: $8
The good news? By the end of day 100, you’ll have $10,000. The bad news? The last week is going to be difficult, since you’ll be saving almost $200 every day.
If you can’t quite make this work with your budget, you can change up the numbers to be the days of the challenge, similar to how the 30-day challenge worked. What matters is that you stay consistent!
#4: 52-week savings challenge
Once you’ve tried out the 30-day savings challenge, jump right into the 52-week challenge! This savings challenge can be customized depending on how much you realistically can afford to save week over week. No matter what, by the end of 52 weeks, making a transfer to savings will be pretty much automatic.
Here’s a printable template based on this schedule:
Week 1: $1
Week 2: $2
Week 3: $3
By the end of the 52 weeks, you’ll have over $1,000 saved! This is a great place to start, especially if your budget is tight, but you still want to take weekly actions towards your goal.
One app to help you save for a house while renting
Gravy is a home buying app built for renters. Paying rent while saving for a house feels impossible sometimes. But Gravy rewards you for doing what you’re already doing: being a good renter and paying your rent on time.
You get 5% back on your rent in the form of Gravy Rewards that you can cash in to pay for closing costs through one of Gravy’s partner lenders. It’s possible to save up to 1% off the loan principal (that’s $3,000 on a $300,000 mortgage loan!).
Get $250 in Gravy Rewards when you open a Gravy Savings Account and even more when you save consistently.
By stockpiling Gravy Rewards, you’ll be able to start the house-buying process sooner, plus you get matched to the most elite lenders and realtors in the country.