Down Payment 101: Getting Creative With Savings

down payment ideasOne of the most daunting things to think about when considering buying a home is how you will afford the down payment.  Once you own a home, this usually becomes a non-issue as you use the equity from your existing home to help you. But when you’re going for your first home, this nut can be overwhelming.  This is especially true on the Peninsula, where “starter homes” can cost upwards of $1,000,000 – that means a 20% down deposit is $200,000. That’s a lot!

Don’t despair! In addition to mortgage programs that require less than 20% down, there are also many ways that you can bring in money to get you to your down payment amount much quicker than you ever imagined.  Let’s look at some of the more creative options:

Down Payment Gift Funds

While gifting is traditionally thought of as a method for paying for education, it’s a great way to accrue funds for your down payment.  Consider asking relatives (who you have very close relationships with,) to contribute to your gift fund. In some situations, employers will have assistance programs that will gift or subsidize down payments, so be sure to check with your HR department.  

If you want to kick up your gift fund fundraising even more, consider setting up a page on HomeFundMe.  Like GoFundMe, friends, family (and even strangers,) can contribute to your down payment savings efforts.  If you qualify, you may even be able to get matching funds from the site’s parent company, up to $2,500.

Do the Hustle

Getting a side hustle is a no-brainer in terms of raising additional funds.  There are so many side gig opportunities in the Bay Area, finding the right fit for you shouldn’t be hard.  Whether it’s driving for Uber or Lyft, or delivering for Instacart or DoorDash, there are lots of options.

If you don’t want to be out running around, consider taking your skills and putting them to work on a freelance basis.  Through sites like Elance or Upwork, you can find freelance work in finance, creative, virtual assistant roles and so much more.  Work from the comfort of your home at the times that work for you.

If you truly don’t have time for any of that, consider totally passive ways to earn money.  Have a strong web/social presence?  Explore ways you can monetize that by taking advertising and sponsorships.  Drive a lot? Look into turning your car into a billboard. You could earn up to $400 a month just by letting someone advertise on your car.  You literally don’t have to do anything different, just keep driving to work, errands, etc.

Cut It Out

We all spend so much more money every month than we’re even aware of, so do a tough accounting of how you’re spending your money and figure out where you can cut back.  Some ideas include:

Cancel Cable

Shocking, I know, but with so many streaming services, how much do you really use that pricey cable box?  There are great, less expensive options for video and internet, so maybe you can save $100 or more each month!

Don’t Deliver 

I’m a horrible example of this.  Just this week I had two deliveries from Instacart and three from DoorDash.  I can give you great rationale for why I needed these services this week (and sometimes we really do,) but the truth is that I could have definitely saved a lot of money by doing these things myself, and not incurring the delivery expense.  Keep in mind, when you get delivery, there’s the delivery fee and tip, and sometimes even a slight increase on the item feel.


This comes out of the point above.  If I had just made those dinners myself, I would have saved probably close to $100.  I do make a habit out of making and bringing my lunch every day versus going out to a restaurant or grocery store.  But think beyond the meals. Are there items you use in the home that you can make yourself and save some money? Most common in this area are cleaning supplies.  Search online for easy ways to DIY and save yourself some money. It may seem like small savings, but these do add up.

Cash Only

I have friends who run almost entirely on cash every month.  They have a detailed budget and at the start of the month, they withdraw the cash they need for the month.  This doesn’t cover items like mortgage payments, insurance, etc, but does cover things like entertainment, groceries, clothing, home improvements and anything their kids might need for school.  They have an envelope and know what they have to spend for the month. They never go over that amount, and sometimes need to make hard choices, but they save a LOT of money by not making frivolous purchases at Costco or Target.  Cash in hand means more than digital currency in terms of really understanding what you’re spending.

Don’t Forget

Not all savings ideas are creative, but some are easily overlooked.  Two very practical ones that you should be sure to explore are using your 401k and looking for assistance programs.

When using your 401k, you can use this as a loan or make a withdrawal.  There are limitations and consequences both ways, so be sure to talk with your CPA and plan administrator to make sure you are very well informed before choosing to use your 401k as part of your down payment.

There are numerous down payment assistance programs available to residents of California.  The best thing to do is take a look at this FHA site and see if there’s a program that works for you –

With all of these ideas and options, you should be able to have your down payment saved in no time.  Break the savings down into small goals so it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. Celebrate your savings victories and start planning for your new home.  This is a great time to check out my tips for first time homebuyers too. You’ve got this!!


IMPORTANT NOTE:I have not and will not verify or investigate the information supplied by third parties.

Don’t want to miss any posts?  Sign up now!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *