FIRST-TIME buyer Giovanna Burt challenged herself to overhaul her finances to help save up the deposit for her first home.
Giovanna, 25, who works at a digital marketing agency, bought her £184,500 first home in May this year.
Like many other first-time buyers, Giovanna needed to cut back on spending to help save up cash for a deposit.
Giovanna challenged herself to live on £400 a month – £100 a week – to make sure she could reach her saving target of £30,000.
She knew she would need to save beyond her deposit to be able to afford the renovations she wanted to make to the property.
Out of her monthly budget, Giovanna would spend £35 a week on petrol, £35 on a monthly subscription for contact lenses, £43 on her phone contract and £40 on getting her hair done.
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The 25-year-old was paying £58 a month for her iPhone XS with O2.
After visiting her local O2 branch, and telling them she had spotted a better deal elsewhere, she was able to get 25% off her monthly bill.
Over the course of the year, she was able to pocket an extra £180 towards her deposit helping her on the property ladder.
Of course, it's not the only thing Giovanna did to boost her savings.
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She moved back home with her mum, paying around £250 in board a month, which may not be an option for everyone.
Giovanna says this made it possible for her to stick to her monthly budget and put around £1,000 into savings every month.
While this meant she had to miss out on nights out and cut down on buying clothes, she was able to buy her home in Leeds.
As a first-time buyer, she made use of the government's Help to Buy scheme – and got £1,800 free from the government.
The Sun sat down with Giovanna to find out how she went from being a saver to a homeowner for The Sun’s My First Home series.
Tell me about your house
It's a four-bedroom terrace house in Leeds, but I'm currently in the process of doing renovations.
One of the bedrooms is going to be turned into an office and I'm planning to turn another into a walk-in wardrobe.
It has one bathroom upstairs and a downstairs toilet.
My kitchen is a good size with a pantry, and space for a dining table.
But I'm hoping to make my lounge into an open-plan living room and diner.
I have a back and front garden, which I am hoping to have turned into a driveway big enough for two cars.
How did you decide on the location?
I grew up in Leeds and I didn't want to move away from my family who also live nearby.
The area was also well within my budget so I could put a fair bit of cash towards the renovations.
It also doesn't take me too long to get to work from my house.
How much was it?
My house cost £184,500 and I put down a 10% deposit of £18,450.
I put in an offer that was £4,500 above the asking price because there was lots of interest in the property.
Although this was a lot of extra, I was able to do this because I had saved a bit more money than I needed to reach my deposit.
I took out a mortgage of £166,050 over 16 years with a fixed rate of 2.54% over two years.
My repayments are £989 a month, which is still significantly cheaper than rent in the area.
I also opened a Help to Buy Isa in 2018 and put the £200 in every month.
By the time I was ready to buy, I had saved up £8,120 in this account.
The bonus from the Help to Buy Isa was around £1,800.
How did you save for it?
While I was at university, I got a part-time weekend job working at M&S as a customer assistant.
I would then add £200 from this to my Help to Buy Isa, but it was quite tricky to save beyond this while I was uni.
I was living away from home while I was studying in Liverpool, so most of my income went on living costs such as food and bills.
I moved back home about four years ago after I graduated from uni.
This was when I ramped up my savings efforts and focused on buying my house.
I got a full-time job at a digital marketing agency and was able to put £1,000 into savings every week.
I paid £250 a month in board while I lived at home, but this was significantly cheaper than rent in the area.
I then challenged myself to live on £400 a month, or £100 a week, which I kept in my current account.
Out of this, I would pay for monthly expenses such as my contact lenses and petrol.
I would also spend around £40 on getting my hair done once a month.
But if money was tight, I would sometimes extend this to every six weeks.
Sticking to this did mean that I did sometimes have to turn down nights out and meals out with friends.
But they knew that I was committed to saving and I found it helpful to be open with them about money.
I limited myself to going out twice a month, and would spend between £50 and £60.
I would arrange to see my friends at home, or at their house, so I could still socialise but without spending.
I also managed to cut my phone bill from £58 a month to £43 a month – saving me £180 over a year.
I had been on O2 for years and I wanted to negotiate a better contract for being a loyal customer.
I went into my local O2 and told them I had found a better deal with a different provider.
They then gave me a 25% discount on my monthly bill.
I also stopped spending so much money on clothes in order to put more money towards my deposit.
While I was at university, I would probably spend around £200 a month on new clothes.
But I cut this down to around £50 a month, and I would make sure to buy something that I would want to wear again.
For around six months, I decided to try investing in stocks and shares through the Moneybox app.
The app can be linked to your bank account via the app and you can set aside money to invest.
I did this for around six months and invested around £30 in total, with a return of £100.
I only chose low to medium-risk investments because I was worried about losing money.
How did you afford to furnish it?
I knew that to afford the renovations and furnish the house, I needed to save well over my deposit amount.
In total, I saved £32,000 – this meant I had just over £13,000 left to do up the house.
I'm still saving in the same way as I was before so I can keep funding the renovations and get brand-new furniture.
What advice would you give to other first-time buyers?
Just be patient and keep going – it can be challenging but it's worth it in the end.
Make sure you save a little bit more than your deposit amount to go towards extra things like solicitors fees, renovations and furniture.
You just have to remember that at the end of the process you will have your own home.
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