Tuesday, July 5

I used a simple feature from my bank to save $13,000 for a down payment without even noticing


  • My old apartment leaked badly, and my landlord did little to fix the problem.
  • Sick of mold, my boyfriend and I decided to look for a home to buy.
  • Thanks to a roundup featured offered by my bank, I had $13,000 saved for a down payment.
  • Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.

The trickle of water running down the bedroom wall appeared a month after my then-boyfriend and I moved into an apartment together. It was New Year’s Day, and after a brief Ohio snowfall, the snow on the roof was melting in the sun and the water had made its way through a hole in the roof and into our apartment. 

Over the next 13 months, that one tiny trickle would expand into the closet and kitchen, with black mold spotting the ceiling and wet chunks of drywall plopping to the floor. We sent the landlord dozens of pictures and begged her to fix it, but the most she did was send a handyman to patch up the inside of the apartment so things looked better aesthetically, which did nothing to actually fix the leak. 

We decided to think about buying a house

After hours spent googling “tenant’s rights” and “how to put your rent in escrow,” my boyfriend sighed and said, “Maybe we should look at houses.”

I knew he didn’t mean renting a house. We were tired of begging landlords to do basic upkeep on their properties and we were exhausted with having to live in a damp, spore-filled apartment that had a stagnant mildew smell. 

Buying a house was something we always assumed we’d do eventually, but we were both 26 and worried we wouldn’t be able to afford it. I had a job in customer service and my boyfriend is a reporter — neither of which are jobs known for high salaries. Plus, my boyfriend still had student loans to pay off and wasn’t able to contribute to a down payment. And since we were renting, we couldn’t sell a property to fund the purchase of another. The whole idea of buying a house seemed impossible. 

I’d saved thousands without really realizing it

I opened checking and savings accounts at Wells Fargo when I was 18. When the banker asked if I wanted a card attached to the savings account, I said no because I knew that’d make it easier to spend the money and I wouldn’t actually end up saving. 

Then the banker asked if I wanted to sign up for Save As You Go transfers. At the time, the program allowed you to fund your savings account without thinking about it — every time you swiped your debit card, the purchase was rounded up to the next whole dollar amount and the remainder put into your savings account. For example, if you made a purchase for $9.25, then you’d be charged $10 and $0.75 would be transferred to your savings account. If your purchase was a whole dollar amount, then $1 would be transferred to savings.

By using Save As You Go from ages 18 to 26, I’d managed to save $13,000 without really trying and I hadn’t dipped into it because I wasn’t easily able to access that money. But would $13,000 be enough for the usual 20% down payment?

The bank agreed to give us a mortgage thanks to my savings

My boyfriend and I found a house a few miles away from our rundown apartment for $168,000. It’s a small Cape Cod built in 1946, with the original hardwood floors and glass doorknobs. As soon as we saw the built-in bookshelf — which meant one less shelf we’d have to buy for our approximately 600 books — we were in love. 

In the end, it was being able to put that $13,000 toward a down payment that convinced the bank to give us a mortgage. The $13,000 still wasn’t the preferred 20% down, so we had to pay PMI, or private mortgage insurance, until we hit that 20% threshold. If it weren’t for Wells Fargo’s Save As You Go option, we wouldn’t have had that money to put a dent in the down payment and would have been stuck in our moldy apartment or another one like it. 

Although we no longer bank with Wells Fargo, I encourage everyone to ask their bank about any programs to save automatically. If your bank doesn’t have something like Save As You Go, they likely allow daily, weekly, or monthly automatic transfers to savings. Those small amounts of money really do add up over time and you never know what necessity, emergency, or bucket list item that money might help you purchase — even a house.



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