6/20/2017 7:00:00 AM | Feeling at Home, Money Matters

Have Your Avocado Toast and Eat It, Too: 5 Steps to Buying a Home

"This post is from Rachel Leonard, an Umpqua home loan officer.

When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn't buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each."

Recently, an Australian property mogul criticized young people for not being able to afford a home. The Internet— to put it mildly— criticized him back. Jokes were made. Memes were deployed. Time magazine created an "avocado toast mortgage calculator."

I'm an Umpqua Bank home loan officer, but I'm also a Millennial (he didn't use the M word, but that's clearly what he meant), and I'm saving up for my first home. Needless to say, the story struck a chord with me. His comment was silly, but there's a grain of truth behind it.

I wanted to share my story to bring some first-person experience to the conversation, and help those considering whether— or how— to buy a first home.

Be realistic - but never lose sight of your goal

Obviously, avocado toast alone isn't keeping first-time homebuyers from getting into homes. Prices have gone up. Inventory's tight. We have more student debt or other debt than ever before. These are our realities, and we have to work with them. Personally, I've had to pay down a few thousand dollars in medical costs. I was also in a car accident, and had auto expenses.

But through it all, I've never lost sight of my goal of owning my own home.

To keep me focused, I set up a separate savings account where I keep the money I use to pay down my debt, and put away some extra when I can. I never see that money, so I'm never tempted to spend it. It's a mental thing but I found it to be vitally important. To stay on track, I’ve learned that you have to view every financial decision through the lens of owning a home. If you don't, your brain will always find an excuse. Don't let that happen.

Little things do add up

I've never spent $19 on anything avocado-related, but saving for a home is a sacrifice. Think about what you're willing to change— even for a short time— to get that first set of keys.

After that car accident, instead of buying the Range Rover I've always wanted, I took my mom's older-but-paid-off Durango. I'll get the Range Rover sometime in my life, but home ownership means more to me right now.

My family makes a weekly meal plan (no surprise: there's an app for that) and I bring my lunch. I gave up expensive name-brand mascara, eyeshadow and eyeliner for makeup I can buy at Target. I also drink the office coffee instead of buying it each morning at Starbucks. I calculated the monthly savings and set up an automatic transfer into my savings account. That's over $500 a month that's going directly to a down payment.

Treat yourself - with purpose

So, maybe you can't go the Parks and Rec route to treating yourself. But life shouldn't be all about sacrifice.

I started getting a basic cup of Starbucks on Monday mornings. It's my busiest day and it helps me start my week off right. We eat out for special occasions.

And that's the key: treat yourself with a purpose. Make sure it's something more than a craving or retail therapy. One nice dinner with family or friends is more meaningful than ten random weekday lunches.

Five steps towards buying your first home:

  1. Set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to a savings account to help pay down your debt and/or save for a down payment. (An Umpqua associate can help you set this up. Go into a store or call us at 1-866-4UMPQUA.)

  2. In your online banking, give the account a nickname that will inspire you and keep you on track. It may sound silly, but these little mental motivators go a long way.

  3. Think about where you're willing to sacrifice financially, and be honest with yourself where you aren't. Add it up and set up an automatic transfer of that amount into your savings.

  4. Treat yourself now and then, but make it purposeful, like eating a nice dinner with family rather than a week of mediocre lunches.

  5. Explore your home loan options. It's easier than ever. I work for our Direct Lending Group, a team of experienced loan officers who serve clients mainly over the phone or email, giving you both experience and convenience. Drop me an email and let's see what's possible.

If this post inspires you, or you need help making your first home a reality, our Direct Lending Group is ready to answer all your questions.