Home loans

Understanding lifestyle vs affordability

3 min read

Home loans

Understanding lifestyle vs affordability

3 min read

We've all seen the news stories. Apparently, it's more difficult than ever to buy your first home – if you don't win the lottery, then good luck getting a foot on the property ladder.  

After hearing these claims, it'd be easy to swear off buying a house forever. After all, why commit to property when it'll just mean years of debt? Better to give up on the dream of owning a home and keep enjoying your lifestyle, right?

Well, here's a secret: many people can do both. With a little planning, they can afford a home loan without it completely ruining their lifestyle. The trick is to be conscious of which lifestyle sacrifices you can live with, and what you can afford without overextending your budget, so you can order your smashed avocado and eat it too!

How do I work out what I can afford?

There's two major questions to consider when you're figuring out whether you can afford a property:

  • Can I save a deposit for the home I want?
  • Can I make the regular mortgage repayments?

Saving for a deposit isn't something that you can do overnight, unless you come into some surprise money by winning the lottery or discovering a long-lost Picasso in your grandparents' attic (hey, it could happen). It's usually a gradual process, involving sacrifice and careful budgeting over a long period of time. It also helps to figure out exactly how much you'll need for a deposit.

What can I do without while I save?

There's no magic formula for calculating this. Everyone will have a different threshold for which expenses they can live without.

For example, say you travel to Tassie for a winery tour every year. It'd be easy to say that you should cut that spending and put that money towards your house, but is it worth it? If you enjoy the holiday, if it contributes to your mental and emotional wellbeing, is that more or less valuable than getting to your mortgage deposit goal faster? Nobody can answer that except you.

Some people are happy to reduce their expenses down to the bare necessities – living off beans on toast and cancelling luxuries like streaming TV subscriptions – but such a lifestyle can be tiring after a year, or two, or twenty.

Many people find it helpful to set up different accounts, each allocated to different expenses. The greater visibility this offers can help you maintain discipline and stick to your savings goals. Our Suncorp Bank Everyday Options Account  lets you add up to 9 savings sub-accounts. For example, you could set up sub-accounts to save for an overseas holiday or annual expenses like car registration or Christmas gifts.

It's important to sit down and be realistic about what you can live without, and what you consider essential to your lifestyle. With these factors in mind, you can form a realistic picture of how, and how quickly, you can get to your deposit savings goal.

Discover Suncorp Bank's Everyday Accounts

What about my regular repayments?

After you've scrimped and saved to build up your deposit, you'll still have your regular repayments to deal with. First, you'll need to estimate how much those repayments will actually be, which you can do using our handy repayments calculator.

Once you have an idea of how much you can expect to repay on a monthly (or weekly, or fortnightly) basis, you can compare that amount against your regular income to figure out whether maintaining those repayments is something you'll be able to manage.

Interest rates can fluctuate a lot over the life of a home loan, and those fluctuations can impact your repayment amounts. If a rate increase will mean that you're suddenly unable to make your repayments, you should think twice about your application. It may mean that you consider a longer loan period, look for a cheaper house, or keep saving for a larger deposit – or hold off on the loan entirely.

If you're concerned about potential interest rate rises, you can consider a fixed rate loan, which will lock in an interest rate for a set period – usually between 1 and 5 years. You can also fix part of your borrowed amount and have the other part on a variable rate loan, which will allow you to reap some benefit in the form of lowered repayments if interest rates fall.

Getting ahead of your repayments

Once you've established that you can take care of your regular minimum repayments, you can consider ways to get ahead of your repayments, reducing the amount owing on your loan and potentially saving you big bucks in the long term.

There are a few ways to achieve this, including:

  • An offset account, which lets you use your savings to reduce your interest payable;
  • Regularly making extra repayments, if your loan allows you to do so without penalty (check your paperwork before you start doing this!); and
  • Making lump sum payments into your loan, which can be a good use of unexpected windfalls such as a tax return or cash prize. Again, check that you're able to do so without incurring a penalty.

Ultimately, whether you can afford to purchase that home you have your eye on is a decision that only you can make. To put yourself in the best position to make it, always be honest with yourself about what you can afford, and what sacrifices you're prepared to make. Good luck, and happy house hunting!

Talk to a home loan expert

Published 21 April 2022

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Home Loans are provided by Suncorp-Metway Ltd ABN 66 010 831 722 AFSL No. 229882 Australian Credit Licence 229882 (“Suncorp Bank”) to approved applicants only. Please read the relevant Product Information Document, Lending Fees and Charges and Home Package Plus Terms and Conditions before making a decision regarding any Suncorp Bank products. Fees, charges, terms and conditions apply and are available on request or on our Product Information Documents and Forms page.

The information is intended to be of a general nature only and any advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries.