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9 ways to save for a down payment on a home

If you're planning to buy your first home, saving for a down payment can present itself as a significant challenge.

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The amount you put down on a house can affect your ability to get a mortgage loan, and the larger your down payment, the lower your monthly payment will be.

Although it can be hard to put money aside and still keep up with your other bills and financial responsibilities, the following nine ways to save for a home down payment can make it easier:

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Use extra money that comes in.

By saving money that you get occasionally – such as an income tax refund, a birthday check from your parents or a bonus at work – you can give your down payment fund a boost, according to The Simple Dollar. Otherwise, these windfalls will probably just be spent on your regular bills or splurges, and you won't get any long-term benefit from them.

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Sell unwanted items.

As you start decluttering your house for spring, Bankrate.com recommends looking for items you can turn into cash. You can get some more room in your closets and garage and pad your down payment fund by selling on eBay, Craigslist or a buying and selling Facebook group in your area.

Pick up a side hustle.

A second job or side hustle can help you earn some extra cash to set aside for a down payment, and you may even launch a lucrative business in the process. Dave Ramsey suggests trying something that you already love doing. So if you enjoy exercising, he recommends walking dogs or refereeing sports leagues.

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Make savings automatic.

Arrange to have a percentage of money automatically transferred from your checking account into a savings account earmarked for your down payment. By having it automated, you won't even have to think about it, Nerd Wallet says. You can also use banking programs like Bank of America's Keep the Change, which lets you round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and puts the change into a savings account.

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Tap into your IRA.

You can withdraw up to $10,000 from your IRA to use for a down payment if you're a first-time home buyer, according to Nerd Wallet. If you're married, the same is true of your spouse. You can do this without paying an early withdrawal penalty, but you will owe taxes on the withdrawal, so make sure to prepare for this.

Consider your mortgage options.

U.S. News & World Report recommends that first-time borrowers explore all their mortgage options, including loans through the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Agriculture, which will often finance home loans with low (or even no) down payments.

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Trim your expenses.

You can save a lot of money just by paying attention to your regular spending, Dave Ramsey advises. Try cutting down on eating out, cut your clothing budget to the necessities and try some generic brands when you're going grocery shopping.

Save your 'extra' paycheck.

If you get paid twice a week, you'll receive a third paycheck for two months of the year. Since many bills – including rent – are often monthly, try to put aside all or at least most of these 'extra' paychecks if you're saving for a down payment.

Cut your high-interest debt.

If you're carrying debt with a high interest rate, such as a credit card balance, BB&T says it makes sense to work on paying it off if you're saving for a home. Any money you're not having to send off to the credit card company each month - with little progress to show for it - could be better spent toward a down payment.

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