I purchased my first home right after graduating college with my Bachelor’s Degree, at the age of 22. To this day when my friends around my age always say “I can’t imagine buying a home right now,” or the classic “…I don’t know how you do it….,” or my all-time favorite: “Did your parents put the down payment down for you?” Buying a house was not something I just woke up and decided to do one day, it was something I planned for. To be honest – it’s probably one of my proudest accomplishments to date. I worked super hard and was very diligent about my money for a while. Not to mention the actual process of buying a house was one that was tiring and time consuming. Everything I needed to know for the process I was able to learn through my time working as a bank teller in undergrad, with TD Bank, and then from the real estate law firm I worked with as a paralegal my last few months of college. Although I’m super grateful for the learning experience I was able to create for myself, it definitely would have helped to get some good pointers and advice from someone who has already been through the process, because I definitely made a few mistakes and absolutely learned along the way. This post is focused around how I was able to buy a house by 22, aka – what actions I implemented while in college.
1. GET A JOB
In undergrad, I shared my living space with a few roommates. Freshman year I lived with just one other girl, and by senior year I lived with 3 others girls and two dogs. Among my roommates, I was one of the only one who worked close to full time, and I think that made all the difference. Most of my friends worked primarily for spending money. They made minimum wage, worked 15 hours a week (if that), and had just enough money to get chipotle on Tuesdays, buy drinks at the bar, and uber home on their nights out. As I already mentioned, I worked 35 hours a week in undergrad, and I worked at a bank, so I was making significantly more than minimum wage, (almost $17 an hour). With this, I was able to still do all of the things I loved with my friends – aka chipotle and uber home from the bar – but I was also making enough money to save a decent amount of money from every paycheck. Think about it – even if you saved $250.00 from every paycheck, that’s $6,000.00 at the end of the year. So if you worked a decent amount, say even 20 hours a week anywhere making above minimum wage, for your last two years of college, that’s $12,000.00 by time you graduate. That, my friends, is enough for a down payment on your very first (budget-friendly) home!
Quick Tips/Frequent Questions:
A. How did you manage to work 35 hours a week while still going to school full time?
a. I stacked my classes. I went to school Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays, pretty much all day. And then I was able to work at the bank Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays!
B. What did you do before you were able to stack your classes?
a. I think this really worked to be advantage, too – I worked on campus. Obviously, your freshman year of college you’re confined to a strict schedule, and your classes are super spread out, and you have class pretty much every single day, Monday to Friday. This leaves obviously no time for working. My freshman year, I worked on campus at the dunkin’ donuts. I worked only ten hours a week, but campus employees were a part of a union, so I was still making over $14 an hour at DUNKIN’ DONUTS in 2015. Even working ten hours a week, I was able to bring in an income, and save just a little toward my big goal. When I really kicked it into high gear was my last two years of college – but that doesn’t mean I was unemployed at all throughout my undergraduate degree.
It would be silly to say in college you don’t spend an unhealthy amount of cash on booze, chipotle, and ubers. I refused to deprive myself of those things, because I freaking loved college! I mean, I had goals – but I also thoroughly enjoyed having cute bar outfits and pizza at midnight. The way I combatted this was giving myself a lump sum budgeted amount monthly for absolutely anything I wanted. I want to say the amount was maybe $250 a month for “spending money.” So if that month I wanted to spend $200 on Forever 21 clothes, or the whole $200 on a plane ticket to Florida – I did that! But I knew if I spent $250 on one trip to the mall, I couldn’t go out to eat or to the bar for the entire rest of the month. So it really helps you prioritize the activities you want to do, and find balance (maybe $75 at Forever21 and not $250). Most importantly – I stuck to it. I stuck to my budget every month. I could count on my hand how many times I went over budget and didn’t say any money that month, and that’s exactly how it should be. Budgets are absolutely pointless if you’re not going to stick to them long-term.
3. BE REALISTIC
Realistically, if you work at TJ Maxx, you may not be able to save $500.00 a month. So it’s important to sit down and set an attainable monthly or biweekly goal for yourself that you’re capable of sticking to, while still enjoying your lifestyle because this is going to last multiple years. Think about it though – say you only save $75 a month. That’s only $37.50 from every paycheck. If you saved $75.00 a month for your last two years of college, that’s $1,800.00 by graduation. Throw in a couple grand from your graduation banger, and a couple summers of working full time at your favorite camp, that puts you pretty on track for still being able to have enough money saved up to hit some really big goals you have planned for yourself!
4. DON’T SETTLE
Don’t settle. Don’t settle for no goal setting, no dream chasing, no work. Come on sis. I like nice things just as much as the next college gal. Hard work = nice things. Don’t settle for less than that.
5. DON’T BE LAZY
Perhaps the most important goal that made the biggest difference, and the most progress in my time pursuing my undergraduate career: don’t be lazy!! Seriously. There is no reason to sleep until noon everyday if you don’t have class until 3. Go pick up a couple hours at the city bagel shop, or go scoop ice cream a few hours a week if you’re out of class every single day by 2pm. There is no need to binge 7 episodes of The Office a day. Getting a job or being a part of a club allows you to build your resume, make friends, and actually make the best of working hard. Who knows, you might even really like working, like I did. I loved my bank customers, I loved feeling important, I loved getting dressed up, and I loooooved being able to afford drinks at the bar every weekend.
Don’t go too hard on yourself, that’s important. But what is also important is to not be lazy or settle during the most important four years of your life. Don’t waste them! Set some goals, make a little cash money, SAVE a little cash money, make some GOOD memories and enjoy your time in college. You want to look back at your time in college as a time you spent grinding, and making memories with your best friends. And these memories will be most enjoyed when remembered from the seat of the desk at your first big-gal big-money job, or from the inside a place you get to call your very own, sitting on the couch curled up with a blanket and a TALL glass of red.