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9 hacks that helped me to save enough for a house deposit by 30.

I have been a 'saver' from the moment I first started working. 

I didn't know what I was saving for back then - holidays, probably. But buying a house was always a distant dream. I felt like one day I might get there, but I wasn't overly fussed by an age, or a time limit. I was more interested in adventures first. 

Over the years I have developed a bunch of hacks on how to make the most of my money, even when I am not saving for something specific. It has given me the freedom to have enough money in my bank account to make a last-minute decision at the age of 25 to ditch a toxic boyfriend and my then-job and move to England to have a crack at something new. 

It bizarrely left me with a sizeable wad of cash still in my savings when I came home two years later after travelling all over the world, staying in some of the most incredible accomodations on this planet. 

It allowed me to pivot during the pandemic last year, when my partner and I realised we could actually do this: we had enough in savings to seriously look at buying our first property together. 

As a disclaimer, which I think is important, we did end up getting some help from our parents. But we had saved enough to buy a place in Sydney - their help allowed us to look slightly more central than we would have otherwise. 

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I'm so grateful for their help, and I know this isn't possible for most people. 

I am a journalist. It is by no means a low-paying job, but I am no brain surgeon. I have been supporting myself since I was 20, and for the majority of the past decade I've lived in Sydney, the 11th most expensive city in the world. 

I want to acknowledge my privilege. I understand that this article and these rules aren't for everyone, and that in many ways I am astonishingly lucky to be able to make these kinds of decisions, particularly because I have no dependents as of yet. 

But for those of you out there living a life similar to me, these are the hacks and rules I have lived by for the last 10 years, that've allowed me to have an enjoyable, adventurous life, while still keeping my savings account topped up. 

1. No credit cards and no car loans. 

I've never owned a credit card. My mortgage is the first debt I have ever had. 

I have always believed that if I can't afford something, bad luck. Get the shittier car, or go without a car until you can afford the nice one. Go camping along the coast until you can afford the Bali resort (sigh, those were the days). Or go to the resort for two nights, not ten. 

The only reason I would consider going into unnecessary debt in my 20s is if I was medically unwell and needed expensive treatment. Or I had lost my job and needed help paying the bills to keep afloat. 

Credit cards, in my opinion, aren't for frivolous things like holidays and fancy cars. 

2. Live below the 50/30/20 per cent rule.

Okay, so I am assuming you've heard about the general 'money' guide that experts advise we live by?

If not, the rule says we should spend 50 per cent of our after-tax income on needs and obligations like rent and bills, 30 per cent on wants and entertainment and 20 per cent on savings.

For the past ten years, I have been living well below that 'rule' which has allowed me to put approximately 40 per cent away into savings. 

I have done that by just opting on the lower side, when I can. For example, when I moved to Sydney's expensive eastern suburbs three years ago I went for a rental in the middle of my price range, not the top. And I forewent a car for three years to counteract that move, to really save some cash.

When I was living abroad in London, I knew I wanted as much cash as possible to travel, so I lived just that little bit further out than my friends.

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Basically, the less you're spending on the biggest money sucks (hello, rent) the better. 

3. Pack your goddamn lunch.

$10 a day on a cafe salad and you're looking at $50 a week or $200 a month. 

I allow myself to buy a coffee at work 2-3 days a week, but I religiously bring my lunch from home.

Read: the article above here.

I know it doesn't sound like much money in the grand scheme of things, but most of my hacks are based on smaller savings like this. And when you're living like that all the time, over a long period of time, it does equate to significant savings in the bank.

I live below my means, and I spend a lot less than I earn. And by doing this in my day-to-day, it means I can still enjoy things like nice holidays when I want them. 

4. Food delivery is reserved for weekends.

Same deal as above. Do you really need to order Chargrill Charlie's on a Tuesday?

UberEats/Deliveroo is my weekend 'treat,' and that's not to say I get it every weekend. I just don't let myself cave during the working week. That shit adds up.

If I have nothing at home, I will duck by Coles and grab a pre-made salad and a chook. Anything to avoid breaking my 'no delivery food during the week' rule. 

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5. I get my hair dyed at the fancy place, and cut at the... less fancy place.

I have been getting foils in my hair for the better part of a decade, and damn they're expensive. 

Firstly, I do my research and find a salon that's got great reviews but is the most reasonably priced in my suburb. I only get my hair dyed, however. 

Since I was 20, I have had my hair cut at Just Cuts for $35. And I always do it exactly in between when I am due for my highlights to be refreshed. 

It means that just as my highlights turn from looking their absolute freshest; I get a snip, and I feel brand new again. 

Honestly, it's saved me a bucket load of money over the years. It means I don't need to get my highlights topped up as often, and I am not spending an arm and a leg on my straight-across-the-bottom hair cut. 

If you ask for a cut when you're getting foils, you'll be charged far more than you really think it's worth. So just get the colour - the cut, blow dry, treatment and so on can wait. 

6. DIY beauty and 'holiday' nails.

Highlights are the most expensive aesthetic thing I get done. 

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I do everything else at home, apart from an eyebrow wax every three-six months just to get the fresh 'line' back. In between I do it myself and I dye them using 1000Hour. It's idiot proof and they look just as good as when you get them done by a beautician. 

I also have strange (now I think about it), rules for things like getting my nails done. It's become a routine where I only ever get shellac applied before a holiday and honestly, I now associate fancy nails with beautiful memories and I am not mad about it. 

I ask for things like facials and massages for my birthday or Christmas. I consider those kinds of treatments 'sometimes' things, because for me I just can't warrant spending that much on a regular basis. 

7. On a night out, I have alcohol rules.

These rules aren't about how much I am drinking, although that's a nice side effect of my stinginess.

It's purely about how much it costs to drink alcohol at a venue. I never buy more than two cocktails on a night out. I will always opt for bottles split between the table, and I will stop at that. I won't then go and buy a bunch of single drinks as well. 

I will always pre-drink something I can make at home rather than adding more drinks to my bill when I am out. 

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If I go dancing or 'out out' after dinner, I will buy max one drink because I have learnt that I ALWAYS regret money spent on alcohol post 10pm.

8. I don't go overboard on presents, and no, that doesn't mean I give shit gifts.

I love gift giving. But my family and I have never been huge spenders when it comes to birthdays and Christmases. We have always prioritised quality and thought over money spent, and my parents have always encouraged us to spend less than they spend on us because, well, they earn more.

I spend about $100 max on my parents, each. And my sister and I probably spend about $50 on each other for 'normal' celebrations and a bit more on special anniversary dates like 30th birthdays or engagements. 

For things like Mother's Day and Father's Day I spend much, much less. I get a bunch of flowers or some chocolates and a card. 

I probably spend the most on my partner. But we've started to enforce an 'amount' rule based on where we are at. Last year it was lower than past years so we could have as much in our house savings account as possible.

READ: 10 things no one is telling you about buying a home in a 'hot' market right now.

Some of the best gifts I have given have been relatively cheap money wise, like photo memory books, video compilations with cameos from family and friends and artwork I have commissioned my sister to make (granted, having an artist in the family is a very, very big advantage).

9. I holiday, smart.

Okay yes, this is just going to rub it in our faces that overseas travel is off the table right now. But for when the world reopens, these hacks allowed me to travel for much, much longer. 

- Book the accommodation with breakfast included, and pack some extra for lunch or snacks on the go.  

- In 'city' locations where you know you're going to mostly be out and about, book something cheaper and central. Save the fancier accommodation for quieter, more picturesque locations. 

- If there's a super beautiful rooftop/restaurant that you're dying to try but can't warrant the price, go for breakfast instead of dinner, or dusk drinks instead of a meal.

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- Set yourself a daily holiday spending limit. There's a tendency when we're on holiday to think "F it, I deserve whatever I want, it's my holiday", but I would prefer multiple holidays over one super expensive one. 

Although, perhaps that's just me....

Feature image: Getty/Mamamia.

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