My secret weapon helped me buy £138,000 first home – and you can use my trick too | The Sun

IF you're wondering what the secret to success buying a house is, Pana Markides swears his was down to a mammoth spreadsheet.

He said it was his "secret weapon" for keeping on track with his savings for his £138,000 first home in Bolton.

Pana, 33, who works at energy comparison site Love Energy Savings, and his wife Holly, 34, who works in retail, were fed up spending thousands of pounds on rent every year.

That's why five years ago they hatched a five year plan to get them on the property ladder.

They made a budget based on their incomings and outgoings to see how much they could save per month for their deposit.

Each month they would aim to put away at least £350 each into a joint savings account.

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Logging all their spending in a spreadsheet helped them hit this goal.

The couple's "strict" budgeting skills meant they had enough cash to put down a 10% deposit worth £13,800 for their two-bed home.

They moved in over April this year.

The Sun spoke to Pana to get his budgeting tips for our My First Home series.

Tell me about your house

It's a two-bed Victorian terrace house in Bolton.

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Our front garden overlooks a bowling green which was a big selling point for us, and we have a back garden too which gets the sun during the day.

We have one bathroom, and downstairs the living room is separate from our kitchen and dining room.

There's a big woodland nearby, where we like to go for long walks at the weekend.

We moved into our home in April last year.

How did you decide on location?

We've lived in Bolton for five years, and we're comfortable with the area.

While we did look at other areas while viewing properties, we decided Bolton is where we wanted to be.

The property prices are more affordable, and it's close to Manchester – which is great for work.

How much did you pay for it?

The house was £138,000.

We put down a 10% deposit for it at £13,800.

We took out a £124,000 mortgage over a 30-year term at a two-year fixed interest rate of 3.6%.

Our monthly repayments are £565.

To get the right-sized home we wanted, we bought an older property that needed a bit of work.

We need to replace the flooring and redo the bathroom, so we're planning on building our savings back up to tackle this bit by bit.

How did you afford to furnish it?

Because we were renting for a while before we bought our home, we had already accumulated a lot of furniture.

We had white goods like a fridge and washing machine, a sofa, cabinets and a bed – so we didn't need to buy too much.

We're buying any extra bits we do need in stages to spread the cost.

How did you save up for it?

My secret weapon is my spreadsheet.

We had a five year plan to buy a house.

But as saving enough for a deposit is hard while renting, we needed a strict budget to keep on track.

Me and Holly sat down to work out what money was going into our accounts, and our outgoings.

We set up a joint savings account and put £300 to £450 each in every month.

We also set up a current account, where we put £450 each into it for bills.

I'm always looking at my spreadsheet, and still do it now – every month I log what's going in and out when we both get paid.

We were strict with money to make sure we were hitting our savings target.

We also had a rule where we would only go to a restaurant once a month.

You can easily spend £50 on a night out like this, and we know people who go for meals out once or twice a week – so we were saving hundreds each month.

To keep our car costs low, I found an old car for £2,000 that I paid £110 a month for on finance.

New cars can cost you tens of thousands of pounds – so we made a big saving buying an old model.

We made sure we were keeping out supermarket shopping bill as low as possible by comparing price for kilo on products.

I can make a like for like price comparison on products to see which one is really cheapest – so I can get the best deal.

What's your advice to other first time buyers?

Have a long term plan and commit to it.

We found a spreadsheet helped us stay on track, it could help you manage your money too.

Make sure you're realistic about what you can buy with your budget – you're going to have to compromise on what you want in a lot of cases.

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