I did the penny savings challenge for two years to save a deposit for my £270,000 first home

IF you’ve got some spare change rattling around in your pockets, you could put it towards buying a home like first-time buyer Lauren Davies did.

Lauren, 29, who works at a mortgage and insurance company, saved over £1,300 doing a simple savings challenge for two years to help buy her £270,000 flat in Essex.

She chose to follow the penny savings challenge because it meant she could tuck away affordable amounts every day without feeling the pinch.

The challenge works by saving a penny more each day for a year – Lauren started by saving 1p on day one, and increased this amount until she stashed away £3.65 on day 365.

Over a year that adds up to total savings of £667.95 – which over two years meant she squirrelled away £1,335.90.

It’s not the only way she saved cash though. Lauren cut her spending on clothes, holidays and meals out to help raise the £13,500 deposit she needed for her two-bed home.

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She didn’t get any financial help from friends or family for her deposit – but living with her parents meant she could save more as she didn’t have to pay rent.

Setting up an Instagram account for her new flat – which has grown to 114,000 followers – also meant she got sent a load of furniture freebies from companies.

As an influencer, she’s been sent up to £5,000 worth of free tables, chairs, bed linen and cushions.

The Sun picked her brains about how she became a first-time buyer for the My First Home series.

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Tell me about your house

It’s a two bed new build flat in Essex – I’m on the top floor of my block, overlooking a local golf course.

There’s one bathroom, and the kitchen, living room and dining area is all open plan.

There’s a courtyard outside for all the residents to share.

I live by myself – I’m happy with my own space so have no plans at the moment to rent the second bedroom out.

My parents bring their dog over to visit me a couple of times a week – but my flat isn't big enough for a pet of my own right now.

How did you decide on location?

It’s near a train station and the high street, so everything I need is on my doorstep.

Work isn’t too far away to travel to either, and I’m near my friends and family, so it’s an ideal location.

How much did you pay for it?

The property was £270,000.

I took out a £202,500 mortgage over 35 years on a two-year fixed term interest rate of 1.14%.

My mortgage repayments are £620 a month.

My deposit was £13,500, and I took out a £54,000 Help to Buy loan to pay for the rest.

Under the Help to Buy scheme, the government will lend you up to 20% of the value of your property – or 40% if you live in London.

The loan is interest-free for the first five years.

I would never have been able to afford the flat without a Help to Buy loan. House prices were high around the area where I wanted to buy.

Unlike Shared Ownership, my home is fully in my name – it’s not owned by anyone else.

How did you save for it?

I decided to do a savings challenge to help save up for the deposit.

For two years, I did the penny savings challenge.

I picked this one because it meant I didn’t notice the money going out and into my savings account as you only had to put a small amount aside every day.

The challenge works by saving a penny more each day.

You start by saving 1p on day one, then the next day you save 2p, then 3p, and so on for a whole year.

You’re supposed to start the challenge on New Year’s Day (January 1) and keep going until the end of the year – by New Year’s Eve, you’ll need to save £3.65 on that day.

In total, if you stick to the challenge, you’ll save £667.95 over the whole year.

I did the challenge for two years, which meant I saved £1,335.90 – this went straight towards my deposit.

Any other tips?

I also had another rule too – I aimed to put aside £800 per month into my savings.

It’s quite a lot to save per month – but I lived with my parents, which helped me out loads, as I didn’t have to pay rent.

But hitting this target meant I had to cut back on my spending.

To save money, I cut down on shopping. I used to spend £300 a month on clothes, but cut this down to a maximum of £100.

I cut back on make-up too – instead of going to the beauty counter at House of Fraser and spending £50 a month, I went to Superdrug instead and cut this down to £20.

For three months, towards the end of my savings journey, I massively cut down on takeaways and meals out too.

I was spending up to £200 a month, but reduced it to £20.

To save money for furniture, I didn’t go on holiday for two years. 

I usually go away once or twice a year, which costs me up to £1,000 – so I saved around £1,500 by staying home.

How did you afford to furnish it?

I have an Instagram account for my new home – and I get a lot of free homeware and furniture sent to me because of that.

Back in 2019, after I moved into my flat, I started up a page for my new flat and posted regularly.

It kind of blew up more than I was expecting it to and I have 114,000 followers now.

I get free stuff given to me by companies – I’ve probably received around £3,000 to £5,000 worth of freebies.

Some of the items I've been given include a £500 TV, a £1,000 marble table, and a bed worth £1,500.

What’s your advice for other first time buyers?

Don’t choose the first house that comes along. Look at different locations and figure out what you really want.

Keep your end goal in mind – the thought of having a place of your own will help you stay on track with your savings.

Take a look at what first-time buyer schemes are out there.

The Help to Buy scheme enabled me to get on the ladder – otherwise, I’d still be saving up.

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