California Housing Isn’t Cheap. How to Afford Your Golden State Mortgage

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If you enjoy long walks down the Target home-goods aisle and spend your weekends removing shrubbery, you might be a homeowner.

If you do so while evacuating from wildfires, dodging earthquakes and paying 2018 prices for houses built in 1908, you’re definitely a California homeowner.

As Mark Twain — might’ve — said: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

The feeling of buying your first home is draining to both your energy and your bank account. The house alone is a huge expense, and something unexpected comes up all. the. time.

That feeling is multiplied tenfold if you live in California.

How to Afford Your California Mortgage

Prices were high, even in 1981, when mortgage refinancing expert Casey Fleming bought his first house in Silicon Valley.

“To buy my first house, I brought lunches from home, never ate out, lived at my parent’s house for a year or so and then borrowed money from my sister to get in,” he says. “Once in, I could not imagine how I was going to make my house payment.”

Little has changed. The struggle to afford all the little things that come with homeownership is REAL. Thankfully, you have some money-saving tricks up your sleeve you might not realize.

And none of them include giving up burritos at your favorite taqueria.


1. Knock Up To $715/Year Off Your Car Insurance in Minutes

When was the last time you compared car insurance rates? Chances are you’re seriously overpaying with your current policy.

If it’s been more than six months since your last car insurance quote, you should look again.

And if you look through a digital marketplace called SmartFinancial, you could be getting rates as low as $22 a month — and saving yourself more than $700 a year.

It takes one minute to get quotes from multiple insurers, so you can see all the best rates side-by-side. Yep — in just one minute you could save yourself $715 this year. That’s some major cash back in your pocket.

So if you haven’t checked car insurance rates in a while, see how much you can save with a new policy.

2. Reduce Your Credit Card Interest

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If credit card debt is giving you June Gloom all year long, try consolidating it.

A good resource is consumer financial technology platform Fiona, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.

Unlike traditional debt consolidation that just combines your debts and doesn’t decrease the interest rate, a loan from Even Financial matches you with a new loan like refinancing.

Pro tip: If you don’t get an interest rate you like, head over to Credit Sesame to get your “credit report card” and see what you can do to increase your credit score to qualify for a better rate.

3. Pay Less for Your Student Loans

For some, a lower interest rate could be one of the best steps to paying off student loans.

Try getting a lower interest rate on your federal and private loans by refinancing with a company like Credible. Other companies offer similar services, but we like that the average Credible user saves about two interest points on their current federal loans.

Refinancing will generally mean replacing your laundry list of loans with one (or a few) loans that bring all of your student debt under one umbrella.

This could simplify your life with one monthly payment, instead of several. It may also lower your monthly payment, improve your interest rate and/or give you more time to pay.

It might seem like a small difference, but a lower interest rate can mean a lot of savings over time. It’s helping grad Ashley Williams save more than $18,000 in interest over the life of her loan!

4. Cash in on Your Spare Room

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You know what’s better than making extra money with a side hustle? Making extra money from things you already have — with little to no extra effort.

If you’ve got a mortgage, then surely — hopefully — you have a house. And that house probably has a guest room that sits empty most of the time. A popular California side gig is listing your room for rent.

Financial planner David Rae got roommates to help him afford his mortgage when he first purchased.

“I also bought a place with a granny flat — really helped,” he says. “Now I make enough to afford it easily.”

If you don’t want the commitment of a full-time roommate, listing your room on Airbnb is a simple and fun way to meet new people and try to make extra cash.

No seriously, we once found a guy in Mountain View making over $1,000 per month renting a tent in his backyard!

5. Get Financial Aid From the Government

If you’re a low to moderate income homeowner and you’ve suffered financial hardship, such as unemployment, a death in the household, illness or disability, Keep Your Home California is available for assistance.

The state-run collection of programs allocates funds from the federal government’s Hardest Hit Fund to aid struggling homeowners in California.

Keep Your Home California recently received additional funding to ensure up to $100,000 in assistance per homeowner and continuation of programs through 2020.

Jen Smith is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder and gives money saving and debt payoff tips on Instagram at @savingwithspunk.