How being tight with money helped me buy and furnish my first-home on a budget

FIRST-TIME buyer Angela Zambito used her extremely frugal lifestyle to help save up for a deposit to buy her £175,000 three-bed home.

The 32-year-old vet says some might think she's "tight" with money – but her dedication to a frugal lifestyle and a decent salary helped her buy without cash from friends or family.

For example, she saved £600 by giving up buying clothes for a year.

She also estimates that she saves £200 a month by limiting her eating out and takeaways, as well as growing her own veg.

When Angela started out saving she was a student – but by the time she was ready to buy six years later, she was a higher rate income tax payer meaning she had a decent wage to help her secure her mortgage.

She was already saving £500 a month before the pandemic hit but she boosted her savings during lockdown, squirrelling away £1,000 a month in total as the nation was told to stay at home.

At the time she was still paying £700 a month in rent.

She bought her three-bed home in Mansfield in June this year, with a 25% deposit of £44,750.

Once she got the keys to her property she kept on track with her savvy spending ways when it came to furnishing her home.

She saved over £2,000 by buying old furniture from Facebook Marketplace, eBay and charity shops and giving these pieces a makeover by sanding and varnishing them down.

We sat down with Angela to hear about how she bought her home on a budget for The Sun’s My First Home series.

Tell me about your house

It’s a three-bed house located in Mansfield.

One of the bedrooms was converted into a walk-in wardrobe by the previous owner – I’ve kept it like this because it’s great to store my clothes and looks cool.

There’s one bathroom upstairs, and an open plan kitchen, diner and living room downstairs.

There’s a massive utility room that runs down the length of the house where my boiler and washing machine live – along with my three cats.

There’s a good-sized garden at the back – I’m growing cucumbers, leeks, corn and tomatoes in it.

I’m not planning on renting out the spare room – I like to have the house to myself.

How did you decide on the location?

My house needed to be close enough to visit my friends but also be close to my work.

I also wanted something that was ready to move into – I don’t have the time or money to take on a house that needed work.

The house was also amazing value for money – but I think that’s because it’s by a busy main road.

I reckon I would have had to have paid £250,000 for it if it was in a quieter street.

How much did you pay for it?

I paid £175,000 for it, and put down a 25% deposit of £44,750.

My mortgage repayments are £552 a month – I took out a 25-year £135,000 mortgage at a 1.9% two-year fixed rate.

I wanted to put down a big deposit to get a good rate and to not pay as much interest overall.

How did you save for it?

Some people might think I’m a little tight with money, but I’m all about reducing, reusing and recycling everything.

I don’t go out for dinner a lot as I love cooking – and grow my own veg in the back garden.

Whereas someone could easily spend £60 a week on eating out and takeaways, I only go for dinner twice a month at the very most – so I save £200 compared to the average person I reckon.

I also bring my own lunch into work instead of buying it at the canteen at work.

You can easily spend £5 on this every time – but it costs me about £1 when I make my own.

I also like to go charity shopping for some of my home stuff – you can get trinkets for 25p and books for just £1.

When it was lockdown, I also saved a lot of money by not going to the shops to buy clothes for a whole year – I saved around £600 from this.

The one thing I do spend a lot on though is holidays.

I go to US up to three times a year because I'm American – although I've lived here in the UK for 10 years – and I go other holidays too, which costs me an average of £3,000.

But I always book an Air BnB to drive down the costs – it's a great way to experience the culture more too – and over Covid I haven’t been on holiday at all, so I saved a lot last year.

Before Covid, I was saving at least £500, but last year while we were all locked down, I was saving an average of £1,000 a month.

How have you afforded to furnish it?

One of the main ways I saved on my house was by buying most of my furniture secondhand and upcycling it – I reckon I’ve saved over £2,000 from doing this.

I bought a dining table and four chairs for just £150 from Facebook Marketplace.

I’ve sanded it down and bought some Danish oil from B&Q to give it a makeover – I spotted dining table sets like the one I have going for at least £1,000 online.

I did the same to a dressing table I got for £10, a coffee table for £45 and a shelving unit for £10 – all secondhand.

If I had bought them brand new, I would have spent £350.

My two bed frames were £80 altogether, whereas brand new ones which look the same are being sold for £200 to £500 each – I reckon I saved £700.

Plus, my plates were £4 from a charity shop – a brand new set like that would have cost £40.

I have so much fun upcycling and the furniture looks stunning – I get so many positive comments about it.

Were there any complications buying it?

I spent so long saving because I couldn't get a mortgage until I became a permanent resident in the UK.

I became a permanent resident in March this year – and only then could I get my mortgage approved and buy a house after this point.

Then, after the it took two and a half months for me to exchange on the house.

Although that’s about the average length of time it takes, I was planning on starting a new job in the area I was moving to.

It meant that as the exchange date got pushed back, I also had to push back the starting date for my new job too by three weeks.

I finally moved in over June.

What’s your advice for other first time buyers?

I find it sad that first time buyers are always thought of as young couples.

When my friend bought me a moving-in card, she couldn’t find one card for a single first time buyer that she could give to me.

But I think that’s sad – you can buy a house even if you have no one else to help you.

It’s scary spending all that money and doing it all by yourself – but you just need to make sure you keep on track with your savings and you’ll soon be able to buy your own home.

It’s wonderful to live in your own home, and I hope women feel they can do it too.

See how mental health nurse Dami Roachford bagged her £255k first home by taking out a second job to borrow £26k extra.

Here's how one savvy saver got £4,000 in FREE cash when he bought his £420,000 first home.

One savvy saver slashed her £1,000 a month spending in half to help buy a £215,000 first home in just two years.

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