29th August 2017
Brighton-based blogger, homeowner and self-confessed interiors addict Fifi McGee gives top tips on getting your foot on the ladder.
I bought my first home in Brighton (with my fiancé) at the age of 22. At the time, my modest salary of £18,000 per year was enough to help me save half the deposit I needed to purchase a 1 bedroom flat in Hove, when properties were at an all time high. We paid £223,000 for our flat in 2015, and have since earned enough equity on the sale of that flat 2 years on, to buy a 3 bedroom house in Brighton.
In the years I saved for our first deposit to become a first time buyer, there were times I felt like my financial targets weren’t achievable, and there were times I thought I couldn’t keep up with the acceleration of property prices in Brighton – I often thought I would never own a house of my own in such a sought after city. But I was determined and strategic in my saving efforts, and in today’s post I want to pass on 10 saving tips you can implement if you’re in a similar situation looking to become a first time buyer and save a deposit as big as you can.
*Side note, the tips I’m about to share will be particularly helpful if, like me, you’re a woman who’s partial to Topshop splurges and buying make-up you don’t need! If you’re a guy reading this, bear with me as some tips are still suitable which will hopefully help you to reconsider any unnecessary spending habits*
I know people who could spend their whole salary at Topshop & Zara (aherm, me, before I got serious about what I wanted to save for long term). I used to spend almost £100 per month on clothes that were cluttering my room. So bar the exception of a wedding, graduation or a special birthday, when I was trying to save for a deposit I cut back on trips to Churchill Square on my lunch break as I knew that if I saw something I liked in a shop, I’d buy it in an instant. Since I stopped, I saved £1200 towards my deposit savings in 1 year.
While I’m not advocating spending the next few years with holes in your jeans – if you need something, you need something – it is important to recognise whether you’re about to spend money on something you need vs. something you want. Also recognise what habits you have that encourage this unnecessary spending. For me, I curbed my lunch time trips looking around the shops for a walk in Preston Park (which was near my office at the time). To prevent me getting bored of the things I wore day on day, I searched deeper in my wardrobe and challenged myself to wear something I hadn’t worn in years which felt fresh.
Similar to splashing the cash on clothes, as a nation we overspend on cosmetics. Period. By cosmetics I mean make up, skincare, nail polish, hair dye, hair cuts, waxes, spray tans etc, in my opinion, most of this can be unnecessary cost.
I own one face wash, some moisturiser, sun cream, basic make-up essentials like foundation, mascara, one eyeshadow palette and a lipstick and rotate these when things need replacing every 6 months or so. And that is more than I need. Everything else is a sacrifice that is a lot easier to make than you might think. The best thing I ever did was ban myself from going to Boots and Superdrug on those lunch breaks as I would easily spend £20 here and there on products that I ended up being overwhelmed with when I didn't get use out of them.
What did I do with the money instead? I put it towards my deposit. It’s remarkable how it’s the little things that add up.
We are incredibly lucky to live in Brighton, with it’s well mapped cycling routes and the city centre being pretty much within walking distance from a lot of residential areas. At the time of saving a deposit, I lived a 40min walk from my office and my walking commute quickly became the highlight of my working day. Setting my own pace and not being dependent on bus drivers in traffic in the morning was so refreshing. It was a healthier and environmentally friendly option and you might notice it could even make you that bit happier getting a bit of exercise and time to yourself in.
If you live a little bit too far away to walk/cycle, if you live in Woodingdean, Rottingdean, Falmer for example, you could try to make your saving by buying annual bus or train tickets.
Prior to implementing my saving strategies I spent almost £100 per month on bus tickets. This was soon invested into my deposit money the minute I gave up public transport and started walking everywhere with my podcasts as my entertainment for the road.
If you’ve started saving already you might notice how it’s put pressure on your social life. You get invited out with friends but because you’re tightening your purse strings you’re inclined to say no – sound familiar? This was a big problem for me in the beginning. I knew I wanted to save money but I didn’t want to sacrifice my own happiness, youth and memories with friends. So I got creative. I listed ways to enjoy time with friends (albeit frugally) and offered alternative suggestions for things to do. Like a walk on the Sussex Downs and a picnic, or bringing a kite up to Stanmer Park, or paying a visit to Brighton Booth Museum or a walk along Brighton Pier. Not only was I saving money, but I started doing things that I never usually would do with friends. We were having a great time and they were glad of our days out saving money for them too.
...and start bringing snacks and lunches to work with you. Before you tell me you can’t possibly give up McDonalds for any longer than a couple of weeks, let me explain. When I first calculated how much I spent monthly on the odd coffee trip to Starbucks, a cheeseburger in McDonalds, a meal deal in Boots, I quickly realised how much it was adding up to. What felt like really cheap throwaway transactions on my card were adding up to £75 per month, and I wasn’t feeling any healthier for it. In a bid to save money but also eat healthier, I researched packed lunch options online and often brought lunches to work with me. I also invested in a gorgeous Keep Cup travel mug to have my morning coffee in rather than throwing my money away in Starbucks.
This has made the biggest impact on my savings and it’s something I will continue to take forward in my life, even now that I live less frugally.
I used to do several trips to supermarkets during the week, usually spending about £25 per trip. I experimented and instead of walking into a supermarket, not knowing what I wanted for dinner that evening, buying a 4 pack of pies or a whole bag of chicken breasts when I only needed one, and wasting food and money during the week, I meticulously started to plan my meals so that the ingredients I bought would be used and money saved.
I won't pretend I'm an expert in banking. I only know the very basics from a quick google here and there, and what my findings have always told me is that investing money into an ISA can help accelerate your saving once you're well on your way there. You benefit from tax relief on your money (depending on the amount in the account). If you save into a general savings account, or you keep your savings tied into your current account alongside your living money, it could be worth researching which bank options are right for you and moving your money so you don’t miss out on tax relief. If you’re the type to get tempted into spending your hard earned savings, signing up to an account which gives you limiting access to your funds is also really sensible.
..and save every penny of what you earn from it. The beauty of living in Brighton is how supportive and well connected the freelance creative scene is in our city. If you have a skill to offer there’s almost always a meetup or someone in Brighton who can help you become known and ultimately earn an income for it. If you're a great photographer, could you set up your own business shooting bands and earn a side income? If you're a blogger and a whizz at content creation and social media, could you try approaching companies to guest post or manage their accounts? Be creative with the ways you can make a tidy little income on the side of your full time job and your earnings could even be your new disposable income if you felt like you were saving too much.
This is particularly tough to do at Christmas, when all you want to do is shower your loved ones in gifts and chocolate to show you love them. But there are ways you can show how much you care with unique gestures and experiences at the fraction of the cost, or no cost at all. Thinking creatively with low cost gifts like handmade cards and "A hot chocolate + a film night at my new place once we're moved in" voucher will save your pennies and people will love the experience that little bit more knowing your thought and crafty skills were embedded into it.
Budget and record everything that is going in and out of all of your accounts including your savings account. Record it all then work out what your very lean disposable income is (i.e the smallest amount of money you need to live modestly once all your bills are paid, then save the rest). The real plus with recording everything is the motivation it can give you when you start to forecast how much you can potentially save in the next year or two years. that's when savings start to become a bit more purposeful and gamifying. You can start to set yourself monthly goals and give yourself rewards if you exceed them.
Those are 10 savings tips that really helped me to live frugally for the short term so that I was able to invest in the grand vision I had for the long term. While my tips might seem strict and it doesn’t leave much room for fun, living life and social gatherings, one of the most crucial aspects of saving is finding the balance between sacrifice and comfort. If you aim to save the amount that’s right for you which recognises what’s important to your quality of life, and save the rest, you should strike a balance which makes you happy and working towards your goals.
If you're ready to start your property journey today, contact our friendly estate agents for expert advice.
Sharon was excellent, she kept us informed at all stages and was a really calming objective influence in the process.
Ms Frederick Channel View Road
Quality advice about when and how to sell, which was spot on. Thank you.
Miss Coleman Buller Road
Thank you for everything!
Ms Tucker Willow Close
Maslens as a whole were really friendly and professional. I have to thank and congratulate Paula Carter for being superb at her job and exceeding m...
Ms Warren Hove
A really good experience.
Mr Tibble Lewes Road
Exceptional service throughout the process - should we decide to sell in the future we wouldn't hesitate to use your agency. You're a cut above the...
Ms Windels & Mr Barham Fiveways
Harvey was helpful and easily reachable at the beginning of the process and Sharon kept us informed and was always happy to help.
Ms Murch & Ms Mapa Ticehurst Road
In February 2016 I was looking to buy and sell very rapidly. Competition among buyers at the time was very high. Sharon @ the Woodingdean branch sh...
Ms Helen Lyons Woodingdean
Very comprehensive and professional. Nice people to work with and highly recommended.
Mr Alderton Ladysmith Road
Sharon was excellent - kept us well informed, thank you so much!
Ms Waters Cowley Drive
We were delighted with the service received from all the staff with whom we had contact,
Dr Crichton The Ridgway
Best Agents in Brighton.
Mrs Field Tarner Road
I wish we had used you to sell our property! Nice to meet honest people, who are genuinely interested in helping. Very pleased.
Mrs Porter Taunton Road
Excellent Service from start to finish.
Mr T Mole Cromwell Road
Hugely impressed with Ben & his team.
Mrs Mead Upper Lewes Road
It was an amazing experience, everyone involved were fantastic.
Mr & Mrs Knight Woodingdean
Very pleased with the excellent service throughout. Professional, friendly, efficient and no hard sell. Achieved above asking price. Thank you!
Mr Witten Lewes Road
Paula was absolutely amazing!
Mr & Mrs MacKay Lewes Road
Good team. Straightforward. No nonsense.
Mr Standing Newmarket Road
Thanks David, all very professional.
Mrs Flowers Foxdown Road
We were very impressed with the Nick from start to finish.
Mr & Mrs Smith Lewes Road
Paul was absolutely brilliant.
Mrs Tasker Fiveways
First class service from a first class team.
Mr & Mrs English The Ridgway
Very thorough & very informative.
Mr Michnowicz Waldegrave Road
The whole team were excellent, each one of them felt like family. Sharon had a lot of sorting to do at times but coped very well, a true profession...
Mr Vernon Woodingdean
Outstanding service from Sharon. James is an asset to Maslens & Harvey was so helpful and polite.
Ms Cianchetta Selhurst Road
Graham Griffin provided us, and continues to provide us, will all-round excellent advice. We trust his knowledge and expertise.
Mr Blackmore & Ms O'Sullivan Financial Services
Ben and Paula were calm and reassuring throughout a very difficult process!
Ms Easterbrook Bear Road
Excellent service from the Lewes Road branch. Martin Timms secured a quick sale & at a good price & Paula Carter worked really hard to secure...
Ms Schulte Bear Road
First class service. Friendly and professional.
Mr Thorne The Avenue
Service exceeded my expectations overall at all stages of the process - I wouldn't hesitate to recommend you. Thanks.
Ms Greene Lewes Road
It was a long, drawn out process that the people at Maslen helped me through, without the impression that it was a chore. So extremely professional...
Mr McLagan Lewes Road
Sharon and her team could not have done more in what was a difficult sale.
Ms Daly Woodingdean
Very impressed with the efficient and friendly service, the staff were a pleasure to deal with.
Mr & Mrs Gill Lewes Road
Very happy with the service we got from you guys, everyone we dealt with was extremely friendly, professional and helpful. Thanks!
Mr Brown Titian Road
From start to finish the sale was dealt with in a thoroughly professional manner.
Mr Gibbs Lewes Road
A very positive experience - I had most contact with the Fiveways office and they were so friendly and helpful.
Ms A King Balfour Road
Brilliant. Well done to Sharon and the Woodingdean team.
Ms Curtis The Ridgway
Great service, always polite and friendly. Excellent contact and info all the way.
Mr Wells Bishops Road
Very good service and communication. Paula was excellent.
Mr & Mrs Scarboro 1 Pevensey Road
Nick and Paula are total stars! They were incredibly supportive and present throughout. Thank you!
Miss O'Haire Hove
Very pleased with the experience. I would definitely recommend you and use you again.
Ms D Edmonds Horton Road
All very professional, kept updated throughout. Very pleased - Would recommend.
Mrs Hammond Hove
I would recommend Maslen to anyone.
Mrs Tripp Woodingdean
Paula's role was brilliant. Having someone office based and available was so appreciated and her promptness an impressive service - every Estate Agent...
Ms Wynn-Jones Baxter Street
Very helpful and patient team.
Mrs Shea Selborne Place
Extremely efficient. Nick and Paula are excellent. The weekly phone calls were much appreciated.
Ms Gray Lewes Road
The sale was dealt with swiftly, professionally and successfully. Thank you Maslen!
Mrs Lincoln Hove
Thank you. We found all the staff knowledgeable and really pleasant to deal with.
Ms Ansloos Lewes Road
Fantastic service. By far the best agents we have ever used, I cannot recommend you highly enough.
Mr Field Mafeking Road
All agents at Maslen were extremely helpful and polite from the beginning to the completion of sale.
Mr Johnson Fiveways
Very impressive - professional and friendly, both Martin Timms and Paula Carter were excellent at keeping in contact with sensible advice based on...
Mrs O'Connor Hove
Thank you Paul and Archie, you gave an excellent service, as well as Kelly. I look forward to working with you again.
Mr White Fiveways
Thank you Maslens, you were all excellent!
Miss Jasper Taunton Road
Paul Wilkinson was extremely helpful and efficient. The only problem was the vendors solicitor and Paul warned me of this. A good transaction all r...
Mr Lavender Fiveways
Compared to your rivals, your service was excellent
Ms McGrigor Milner Road
Excellent service as always
Mr Field Ringmer Road
You were amazingly helpful throughout - a real pillar of strength with a very difficult sale.
Mrs Parkin Fiveways
The team worked very hard over a long period to ensure my sale went through - excellent service!
Mr Patrick Gladstone Terrace
I found the service to be courteous, friendly and efficient.
Mr Upton Buller Road
All the staff I dealt with were excellent. Sharon worked really hard to complete the sale.
Mrs Bent Falmer Gardens
Cannot express our appreciation enough of all the efforts made by the Woodingdean team - they were fantastic.
Mr John Mogridge Woodingdean
Paula is amazing!
Ms Aspnall Gladstone Place
Very pleased with the service. Many thanks to Sharon and the boys!
Mr Flynn Woodingdean
We were very pleased with services provided by the Fiveways office.
Mr & Mrs Sawyer Shaftesbury Road
Sharon was amazing! She kept us up to date the whole way through the process. We cannot fault Sharon or the rest of her team.
Mr & Mrs Ashley Woodingdean
I was new to the area and viewed a lot of properties with a lot of different agents. Maslens were by far the best I came in contact with, so when i...
Mr & Mrs Heer Lewes Road
As always, an excellent service.
Mr & Mrs Field Lewes Road
The whole team were very committed from start to finish.
Mr Pilgrim Lewes Road
Very professional service. Thank you!
Miss New & Mr Jackson Buller Road
An efficient, professional and friendly service. Helpful and a pleasure to do business with.
Mr Beddington Brading Road
Sharon, Harvey and James were all excellent - very professional. Totally opposite to what I have experienced with other agents. Maslen have restore...
Ms Lyons Woodingdean
Sold within 2 weeks for asking price "excellent!"
Mr Grundy Bishops Road
The staff were very helpful, an excellent service. I would recommend you to others.
Miss Hockly Fiveways
Best Estate Agents ever experienced - professional, approachable, competent and exemplary.
Mr & Mrs Guest Riley Road
Ben was particularly enthusiastic and helpful. Martin, Paula, Sam and Will are all hard workers.
Ms Goodey Franklin Road
Already recommended you! Thank you.
Mr Edwards The Ridgway
Very impressed with the service. Sharon Wareham works tirelessly, very professionally and is always there for advice.
Miss Matthews Kipling Avenue
A good team at Woodingdean helped us through a stressful time.
Mr & Mrs Penton Sycamore Close
Please thank Paula at Lewes Road - Excellent service.
Mr & Mrs Nuthall Lewes Road
The Woodingdean team were very friendly and approachable.
Mrs Palmer Pitt Gardens
A completely painless experience from start to finish. Thank you.
Mr Woolven & Mrs Bessant-Woolven Lewes Road
Excellent communication and advice throughout. It felt very reassuring to be in good hands.
Mrs Brooker Buller Road
I have bought and sold 7 properties, and this was the best experience of an estate agents services I have found.
Mrs Shepherd Hertford Road
Thanks for an excellent service.
Mr King Hove
Superb service as usual, I would always recommend you.
Ms S Hike Blackthorn Close
A very committed team who made the sale process very easy.
Ms Rees Ticehurst Road
Paula was fabulous and we felt really informed and supported.
Mr & Mrs Walker Lewes Road
Our local office manager, Sharon Wareham was warm and friendly and kept us up to date at all times.
Mr Hope The Brow
Excellent customer service throughout. I will definitely recommend you, and use you again. Thank you.
Ms Longley Kingsbury Street
Very impressed with all dealings with Maslen. Paula Carter was in particular very knowledgeable and helpful.
Mr McBlane Hove
Very, very happy we chose you, felt right from the start! Thank you!
Miss Blackadder Coniston Court, Holland Road
Many thanks to Nick. It was an easy process thanks to you! I'm extremely satisfied with how the sale went, great job.
Ms Mayanobe Aymer Road