How to Buy a New House on a Tight Budget

MoneyBestPal Team
3D image of a large modern house on the countyside
Image: Freepik

Main Findings

  • Budget and save money for a down payment by reducing spending, increasing income, and automating your savings.
  • Use online tools to search for the best mortgage deal and negotiate the best price and terms.
  • Manage your finances after buying a house by planning for maintenance, repairs, insurance, and emergency funds.

For many individuals, purchasing a new home is a dream come true, but it can also be a difficult task, particularly if money is tight. We'll look at a few ideas and methods in this post that will help you locate and affordably buy the house of your dreams.

We'll go through things like how to save money for a down payment, how to bargain with lenders and sellers, how to pick the ideal location and size, and how to stay clear of typical dangers and errors.

This guide will give you insightful guidance on how to reach your homeownership objectives, regardless of whether you are a first-time buyer or an experienced homeowner.

How to Plan Your Budget and Save Money for a Down Payment

The first step to buying a new house on a tight budget is to have a clear and realistic idea of how much you can afford to spend.
To accomplish this, you must make a thorough budget that balances your monthly spending and income and indicates how much money you have left over. You can get assistance with this by using apps or online resources like EveryDollar, YNAB, and Mint.

After creating a budget, you must decide on a savings target and a down payment schedule. The price of the home you wish to purchase and the kind of mortgage you are eligible for will determine how much down payment you need. In general, the monthly payment and interest rate decrease with increasing down payment.

Overspending on savings, however, can also cause you to postpone buying a house and lose out on chances. Although you can modify this based on your circumstances, a reasonable rule of thumb is to aim for a down payment of at least 10% of the buying price.

To save money for your down payment, you need to reduce your spending and expenses. Here are some tips on how to do that:

Reduce your spending

There are many ways you can cut down on your expenses and increase your savings, such as:

  1. Create a budget and track your spending. You can use this to determine where your money is going and where you have additional room to save. Spreadsheets and applications can help you keep tabs on your earnings and outlays while helping you create reasonable savings targets.
  2. Eliminate or reduce unnecessary expenses. Some examples of these include cable TV, memberships, eating out, coffee shops, and other items that you don't really use or need. Moreover, you can bargain for reduced prices on your bills and services or hunt for less expensive options.
  3. Pay off high-interest debts. You have to pay off any high-interest debts you have, such as credit card debt, as quickly as feasible. Your credit score will rise as a result, and you'll save money on interest and fees.

Increase your income

A further strategy for purchasing a new home on a limited budget is to raise your income. This can help you reduce your debt-to-income ratio—the portion of your monthly income used to pay off debt—and increase your savings for your down payment.

This ratio is used by lenders to assess your risk tolerance and how much mortgage you can pay. It is preferable to have a lower debt-to-income ratio.

There are many ways to increase your income, depending on your skills, availability, and preferences. 
  1. Ask for a raise. At your current employment, you might be qualified for a raise if you've been putting in a lot of effort and producing results. Make a case for yourself that emphasizes your accomplishments, usefulness to the market, and reasons why you should be paid more. Additionally, while you confidently and professionally negotiate, you should find out what the industry average compensation is for your position.
  2. Work overtime. You should take advantage of any incentives or overtime compensation your employer may be offering for extra work or projects. In addition to increasing your revenue, this will demonstrate your effort and commitment.
  3. Get a side hustle. Any activity that enables you to make additional money outside of your primary employment is considered a side hustle. It might involve anything from online freelancing to tutoring students, delivering groceries or food, walking or pet-sitting dogs, or selling goods or services on websites like Fiverr or Etsy.
  4. Sell unwanted items. Items like clothing, books, gadgets, furniture, collectibles, and electronics that you no longer need, or use can be sold online, at garage sales, or at local markets. Not only will this bring in some money, but it will help clear out your area and facilitate relocation.
  5. Rent out a spare room. Using websites like Airbnb or Craigslist, you may rent out a spare room in your present home or apartment to tourists or tenants when you don't need it. This will help you pay for part of your housing expenses and give you a reliable stream of income.

Automate your savings

After figuring out how much you can save each month from your budget modifications and how much you need to save for a down payment, you need to put up a strategy that will help you save regularly and automatically. This will save you from wasting money on other items and make saving simpler and more easy.

To automate your savings, you can designate a different savings account just for your down payment fund and have direct deposits made from your paycheck into it. By doing this, you will start saving money from your income before it even appears in your bank account.

As part of your savings plan, you can also program regular, weekly, or monthly automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account.

Using tools or programs that round up your purchases and deposit the difference into your savings account is another approach to automate savings.

For instance, if you use your debit card or mobile wallet to pay $4.75 for coffee and the app or tool (like Acorns) links to your phone, it will round up the amount to $5 and deposit $0.25 into savings. Every time you make a purchase in this manner, you will unknowingly save a little sum of money.

These techniques can help you save more money and come closer to your down payment target. But remember to set aside some cash for other expenses related to purchasing a new home, like closing costs, moving costs, home inspection fees, maintenance, repairs, furnishings, appliances, and utilities.

How to Find and Finance Your Dream House

Purchasing a home is among the most significant choices you will ever make. In addition, it is among the priciest. However, that does not mean you have to give up on your ideal house.

You can locate and finance a home that satisfies your needs and falls within your means with a little forethought, investigation, and inventiveness.

Here are some steps to help you achieve your homeownership goals:

Determine how much house you can afford

Knowing how much you can easily pay for a house each month will help you avoid overspending or underestimating your budget.

The 28/36 rule is a widely used technique for determining your house's affordability, while there are other tools and approaches available as well. According to this guideline, housing costs should not exceed 28% of your gross monthly income, and debt should not exceed 36% of it.

If you make $5,000 a month, for instance, your maximum monthly mortgage payment should be $1,400 (28% of $5,000), and you shouldn't be able to pay down more debt than $1,800 (36% of $5,000) per month.

You must be aware of your income, monthly loan payments, and down payment amount to implement the 28/36 rule. Estimates for the mortgage interest rate you can obtain the preferred loan length (typically 30 or 15 years), the local property tax rate, and the cost of homeowners insurance for the home you wish to purchase are also necessary.

To find out how much you can afford to buy, enter your data into online calculators like the affordability calculator on Zillow, the how much house can I afford calculator on Bankrate or the home affordability calculator on NerdWallet.

The 28/36 rule is not a universally applicable approach, though. You might want to change the percentages or take other aspects that impact your affordability into account, depending on your particular circumstances and preferences. You could be able to afford a greater monthly mortgage payment, for instance, if you have a sizable down payment or a low-interest rate.

However, you might want to reduce your housing budget if you have other financial objectives or costs that take up a larger portion of your income. In addition, you should budget for closing costs, ongoing maintenance, and future adjustments to your income or expenses.

The amount of a house you can ultimately afford is determined by how much you are willing to pay without sacrificing your lifestyle or financial security.

Aim for a balance between suitability and affordability, which means you should purchase a home that satisfies your requirements and desires without placing an undue burden on your resources.

Shop around for the best mortgage deal.

It is wise to consider your options before applying because different lenders have varying interest rates, costs, and periods.

To determine how much, you qualify for and what your monthly payments would be, you can use online resources like mortgage calculators, comparison websites, and pre-approval forms. For individualized rates and guidance, you can also get in touch with nearby banks, credit unions, and mortgage brokers.

Some factors that affect your mortgage eligibility and cost are:

1. Your credit score

The higher your score, the lower your interest rate and the more likely you are to get approved. Every year, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—the three main credit bureaus—offer free credit report checks. Paying your bills on time, lowering your debt, and challenging any inaccuracies on your report can all help you raise your credit score.

2. Your down payment

The amount of money you have to borrow decreases with a greater down payment and lower loan-to-value ratio (LTV). As a result of a lower LTV, the lender bears less risk and pays a lower interest rate. Most lenders need a minimum down payment of 3% to 5% of the purchase price, however, certain programs can let you have as little as 0% down or provide grants or loans to help with the upfront costs.

3. Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI)

This is the portion of your monthly income that is used to settle debt. The more money you have left over for savings and other costs, the lower your DTI. A DTI of 36% or less is preferred by most lenders, while some can allow greater ratios based on your credit history, down payment, and other considerations.

4. Your loan type

A variety of mortgage options are available, including USDA, VA, FHA, conventional, and jumbo loans. Every single one has different features, costs, interest rates, and eligibility requirements.

For instance, government-supported loans like FHA, VA, or USDA loans are insured by the federal government and offer more flexible terms but higher fees than conventional loans, which are backed by private lenders and often have tougher restrictions but lower rates.

Jumbo loans are for sums greater than the conforming loan limitations, which differ depending on the type of property and region, imposed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Compared to conforming loans, they typically have stricter restrictions and higher interest rates.

Find your ideal house.

Now that you have a pre-approval letter and a budget, it's time to find your ideal house. When selecting a home, there are a lot of things to take into account, including price, location, size, style, features, and condition.

Online resources, like the real estate search on Bing, allow you to peruse listings and evaluate homes according to your requirements. A real estate agent may also assist you in finding suitable homes, negotiating the best price, and guiding you through the purchasing process.

When searching for your dream home, you need to be adaptable and reasonable. It's possible that you won't locate a home that satisfies every requirement while staying within your means. As a result, you should put your needs and desires first and be prepared to make some concessions.

For instance, you might have to make do with a fixer-upper that needs work or a smaller home in a less appealing area. But you should also steer clear of purchasing a home with significant flaws or problems that could end up costing you a lot of money and trouble down the road.

Searching alternate possibilities like foreclosures, short sales, auctions, or rent-to-own houses is another approach to finding your dream home on a small budget. Due to the sellers' motivation or distress, these kinds of properties are typically sold for less than their market value.

But there are hazards and difficulties associated with them as well, like hidden damages, legal issues, or competition from other buyers. As such, before exploring these possibilities, make sure you do your research and speak with an expert.

Negotiate the best price and terms

After you've located a home you adore, you must submit an offer that balances your budget and the home's fair market worth. You will need to know the house's market value and your maximum price range to accomplish this.

To estimate the value of the house based on recent sales of comparable properties in the neighborhood, you can use internet tools like Redfin's Estimate or Zillow's Zestimate. For a more precise appraisal, you can alternatively work with a real estate agent or an appraiser.

Once you have an offer in mind, you must submit it in writing to the seller or their representative. Included in your offer should be the amount you are willing to pay, the down payment and earnest money deposit (a refundable fee that signifies your intent to purchase), the kind and amount of financing you plan to use, the closing date, and any conditions or contingencies that need to be fulfilled (like an appraisal, inspection, or financing approval) before closing.

A letter of pre-approval from your lender confirming your eligibility for a mortgage should be attached as well.

The seller might decide to match, reject, or reject your offer. If they agree, you'll have a legally enforceable agreement and can move on with the closure. You can walk away or make another offer if they decline.

You can accept, reject, or counter their counteroffer if they make one. Until you decide to move on or come to an agreement, this process may go back and forth.

Being assertive and confident in the bargaining process is equally important as being realistic and flexible. Asking the seller to make repairs, pay a portion of the closing costs, or leave appliances or furniture behind is nothing to be afraid of.

If the terms of the transaction don't work out for you or you discover a better offer elsewhere, you should also be ready to walk away.

Close the deal and move in

You will need to finalize your mortgage with your lender and finish all necessary inspections and documentation after the seller accepts your offer. To ensure the safety and worth of the house, you need also to engage the services of a qualified home inspector.

You can work with the seller to address any issues or reduce the asking price if any are discovered. Before closing, make sure everything is in working order and as agreed upon by doing a last walk-through of the house.

On closing day, you will receive the keys to your new house, sign all the paperwork, and celebrate!

Although it may seem difficult, purchasing a home on a small budget is not unachievable. You may locate and finance your ideal house without going over budget if you follow these guidelines and make use of some of the tools and techniques listed above.


How to manage your finances after buying your house

Acquiring a home is a significant accomplishment, but it also entails additional costs and duties. Your savings strategy and budget will need to be modified once you move into your new house to account for the continuous expenses of homeownership. Here are some pointers for handling your money when you purchase a home.

Revisit your budget

After purchasing a home, your monthly expenses might have changed dramatically. In comparison to renting, you might have to pay more for maintenance, utilities, homeowners' insurance, property taxes, mortgage payments, and other expenses.

To make a realistic budget that meets all of your requirements and wants, you must evaluate your income and expenses. You can control your spending, make financial savings, and stay out of debt by using a budget. You can make and follow a budget with the aid of applications or web tools.

Rebuild your emergency fund

Your savings account may be completely depleted by purchasing a home, particularly if you have to pay for closing charges, moving costs, or maintenance. Rebuilding your emergency fund as soon as feasible can help you have a safety net in case something unforeseen happens.

Your emergency fund should ideally contain enough cash to cover three to six months' worth of living expenses. To begin, you can put aside a little sum of money every month until you accomplish your objective. To improve your savings, you can also try to find methods to earn more money or cut costs.

Plan for maintenance and repairs

When you own a home, you are accountable for maintaining its upkeep. Regular maintenance like cleaning, pest treatment, and landscaping may cost money. Larger repairs like repairing the appliances, HVAC system, or roof may also need to be attended to.

You ought to establish a distinct savings account for homeownership to make sure these costs don't catch you off guard. Experts advise setting aside 1% to 4% of your home's purchase price annually for upkeep and repairs. For instance, if your house costs $300,000, you need to set aside $3,000 to $12,000 annually for these expenses.

Consider insurance options

Lenders typically demand homeowners insurance, which can shield you against monetary damages brought on by theft, fire, or natural disasters. In the event of an emergency, you might also want to think about alternative insurance options that can assist you in covering your mortgage.

For instance, in the event of your untimely death, life insurance can pay your beneficiaries a lump sum of money. Should you suffer a sickness or injury that prevents you from working, disability insurance can restore a portion of your income.

These insurance choices might ease your mind and keep you from going into default on your mortgage or facing foreclosure.

Do not neglect other financial goals

While purchasing a home is a significant financial objective, it shouldn't be the only one. It is advisable to persist in setting aside funds for other distant objectives like retirement, schooling, or vacation.

Additionally, you should pay off any high-interest debt that can deplete your savings and budget, such as credit card debt and personal loans. The debt avalanche or snowball approach can help you pay off debt more quickly while also reducing your interest costs.

Seek professional advice if needed

After purchasing a home, handling your money can be difficult and intimidating. You can consult a financial planner, credit counselor, or housing counselor for professional advice if you need it. These professionals can assist you in making a budget, raising your credit limit, settling debts with creditors, or preventing foreclosure.


Following these guidelines will make purchasing a new home on a limited budget feasible. You may realize your dream of homeownership without compromising your financial security and stability by setting and adhering to a budget, raising your credit score, saving more for a down payment, comparing mortgage offers, searching for properties in less expensive neighborhoods, and engaging in negotiations with the seller.


A fixed-rate mortgage has a constant interest rate and monthly payment for the entire term of the loan, while an adjustable-rate mortgage has a variable interest rate and monthly payment that can change periodically based on market conditions. 

Fixed-rate mortgages offer more stability and predictability but may have higher interest rates than adjustable-rate mortgages. Adjustable-rate mortgages offer lower initial interest rates but may increase over time and expose borrowers to more risk and uncertainty.

Closing costs are the fees and charges that are paid by the buyer and the seller at the end of a real estate transaction. They typically range from 2% to 5% of the purchase price of the house. 

Some ways to save money on closing costs are: negotiating with the seller to pay some or all of the closing costs, shopping around for the best rates and fees from different lenders and service providers, asking for a lender credit or a rebate from the agent or broker, and avoiding unnecessary or optional services or charges.

Buying a new house can have some advantages over renting an apartment, such as: building equity and wealth over time, having more control and freedom over the property and its maintenance, enjoying tax deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes, and having more stability and security. 

However, buying a new house also involves more costs and responsibilities, such as: making a down payment and monthly mortgage payments, paying for homeowners insurance, property taxes, and repairs, and maintaining the property and complying with local codes and regulations.