20 Ways I Saved a 20% Deposit To Purchase My First Investment Property At 20

Michelle’s quick note: Today, I have a great blog post on how to save money for a large deposit from Rachael, who is a long-time reader of Making Sense of Cents. Rachael purchased her first investment property at the age of 20 by saving for a deposit and found many great ways to save for the 20%…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: March 12, 2024

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Michelle’s quick note: Today, I have a great blog post on how to save money for a large deposit from Rachael, who is a long-time reader of Making Sense of Cents. Rachael purchased her first investment property at the age of 20 by saving for a deposit and found many great ways to save for the 20% deposit. Below is her blog post. Enjoy!

I bought my first property with a 20% deposit when I was 20. I started saving for a deposit with my money, my parents never gave me a cent. How did I do it?I bought my first investment property with a 20% deposit when I was 20 years old (admittedly I was 2 weeks shy of turning 21!). I accomplished saving for a deposit with my own money, my parents never gave me a cent. So how did I do it?

1. The first thing I did was start applying for jobs as soon as I turned old enough to get a job. I started working when I was 15 as a checkout chick at Woolworths. Not very glamorous, a bit boring and repetitive but I was earning money! I worked about 10 hours a week during my last 2 years of high school, and worked around 20 hours per week during the school holidays. I worked at Woolworths for 3 and a half years and saved a good chunk of the money I earned.


2. When I worked during high school the only time I would ever say no to a shift is if I was sick or had an exam the next day. It didn’t matter if I didn’t want to go to work (does anyone ever actually want to go to work?) I hated that job but I wanted a property so I went to work.

Sometimes I’d get home from school, get changed into my work uniform then go straight to work until 9:30 then come home and study until midnight to get homework and assignments done, then go to school the next day. I know some people don’t agree with kids working while studying but it was really helpful for time management as it didn’t leave me with any time to procrastinate! 

3. The main contributor to earning enough money for the deposit was opening an Etsy shop I’d been designing printables to help keep me organized for a while and decided to start an Etsy shop to save up some money for a trip to the USA (I live in Australia). I ended up making enough money to cover most of the cost of the holiday. The intention when I got back from vacation was to close up shop and focus on my university studies. But I came back to tons of messages from people asking when my shop would be reopening because they wanted to buy my printables. I thought I may as well leave the shop open and make some extra money to supplement the income I was earning as a checkout chick (which was not much!)

About 6 months later my sales kept growing even though I wasn’t creating many new printables – I was earning more than I was scanning groceries (and having a lot more fun!) so I decided to turn my Etsy shop into a business. It also made me realise that I’ll never earn an above-average or life changing money working for someone else.

When I started my 3rd year of my university course, I got a job in my field. For 3 months I worked 10 hours a week scanning groceries, 25 hours a week at my day job, juggled my 2 Etsy shops, a blog, and maintained a high GPA at my university studies. I say this not to brag, but to point out that the money wasn’t just handed to me on a silver platter – if you want something you have to work for it. Needless to say I was burnt out. I quit being a checkout chick (that was a wonderful day!) and sought other ways to save the money I was no longer making from working those 10 hours a week. If you’re looking for ways to make extra money, Michelle has dozens of posts with side hustle ideas.

My biggest advice when it comes to saving money is not to increase your standard of living when you start earning a higher wage.

Aside from starting an online business, I saved money in numerous other ways:

4. I don’t have a car. When I did the math it was cheaper for me to pay higher rent and live closer to the city and use public transport (plus it’s more convenient). I share an apartment with my sister which also helped me save money as bills are split in 2, and it’s cheaper to rent an apartment with someone than it is to live by yourself

5. I buy stuff when it’s on sale & stock up. Yep, I’m one of those crazy people that buys 30 rolls of toilet paper when they’re on sale. When a sale does come around, I’m organized and have a list of everything I need to buy – the key is that you only buy what you need not just stuff that you want.

6. I bring my own lunch. I see so many of my work colleagues wasting their money on donuts, coffee and buying lunch every day. Then they whinge and seem confused that they don’t have any money by the end of the month when they’re screaming out for payday. One of the reasons I work as much as I do is because I never want to live paycheck to paycheck

7. When I was saving up I put most of my money into a term deposit. Not only did this prevent me from spending it, it also earned a higher interest rate than an everyday savings account. When the term deposit expired and I still didn’t have enough for the deposit, I went to my bank every couple of months and opened a new savings account so I could get their 3 month introductory bonus interest rate (by the 3rd time of doing it the bank knew me by name and just reset the interest rate rather than making me open a new account!)

8. I track where all of my money is spent using my budget binder printables – no joke, every single dollar gets accounted for. I do the same with my business income and expenses using these spreadsheets.

9. I set a maximum amount I would pay per piece of clothing and stuck to it (still stick to it!) no matter what ($20 for shirts, $40 for a pair of shorts in case you were wondering – keeping in mind that clothes are more expensive here in Australia). If I find a piece of clothing that I like I also buy it in multiples when it’s on sale. I have an ‘around the house’ wardrobe which consists of cheap clothes I wouldn’t wear in public but are perfect for blogging!

10. I utilise credit cards. A lot of people have a misconception that credit cards are bad but they’re not if you use them to correctly i.e. not to buy stuff you couldn’t otherwise afford. Not only do I not have to carry cash but when I makes purchases on my credit card I accumulate points that can be converted to cash.

Plus most credit cards will give you a signup bonus (such as cash or frequent flyer points) – just make sure you check that the bonus is more than the annual fee. You can always cancel the card before the end of the year then sign up for a new card the next year to get a new signup bonus.

By purchasing on credit card, you can keep money in your savings account for longer meaning YOU earn interest on your money, not your bank. I use my budget planner to keep track of when money needs to be transferred so I’m not hit with a late fee.

Related: How To Take A 10 Day Trip To Hawaii For $22.40

11. I’m on the lowest phone plan with the smallest amount of data and I still never reach the limit because I utilise free wifi. I always make sure my phone is set to wifi when at home, and if I need directions somewhere I’ll look it up and take screenshots before I go so it doesn’t use up data.

12. I try and travel during off-peak season. And if I do travel during peak season I travel with others so the cost of accommodation and airport transfers can be split.

13. Comparison shopping research. I always compare the cost of basically everything before purchasing. Each week I go through the grocery catalogues and see which shops have the same item for the cheapest price. If I’m buying electronics I make sure I take advantage of price matching.

14. Before I buy anything I ask myself: ‘do I really NEED this?’ We all have that one thing that we can’t resist. For me, it’s stationery. I’m a massive stationery addict and the number of times I’ve had to tell myself no when I see a cute notebook or another pen sucks, but if I don’t actually need it then I don’t need to buy it.

15. I use ATM’s that don’t charge me transaction fees. Make sure you check with your bank if there are any banks they partner with i.e. won’t charge you fees, or at least look at which ATM’s charge the lowest fees if you withdraw money and aren’t a customer with that bank.

16. I never buy stuff from convenience stores – they charge double the price for a chocolate bar, a bottle of water etc. as the supermarket. I was with a work collage at lunch and she spend 4x the cost on 2 items that she could’ve got for way cheap if she walked 100m up the road to the supermarket. She didn’t even bat an eyelid and all I could think was you just spend a third of your hourly wage on stuff that’s going to be consumed in 5 minutes!

17. I’ve never ordered dessert at a restaurant. Ever. Why pay $12 for a bowl of ice cream when I can buy 3 tubs for the same price?!

18. I never buy scatchies, lottery tickets or participate in sweepstakes at work. I believe you’ve got to make your own luck!

19. When I catch up with friends I do so over lunch or afternoon tea rather than dinner as meals are usually cheaper.

20. I walk around my neighbourhood rather than paying for an expensive gym membership.

Related: The Busy Person’s Guide On How To Be Healthy

The 20% deposit on my first investment property

All in all it took me about 5 years to save the deposit. I’m not going to sugar coat it. It was hard. Really hard. ‘Training’ myself to say no, to really ask myself if I actually need something as opposed to just wanting it was not fun. 

And just because I have the property now, doesn’t mean I’m going to suddenly stop being ruthless about saving money. My mentality is now ‘I could buy this for $100, or I could put that towards an extra mortgage repayment.’ I tracked my savings and spending (no joke, I account for where every dollar goes) using my budget binder printables (which I still use to track my spending).

Related: Home Buying Tips You Need To Know Before You Buy

As for whether I’d buy a property at 20 again, I’ll admit there have been times when I’ve regretted my decision. I could’ve done a LOT of travelling with the money I’ve poured into my mortgage (as well as all the other ongoing costs such as property management fees, body corporate, maintenance etc.).

I’ll admit I do get jealous of my carefree 20-something friends’ holiday photos, and that they have no qualms about dropping a couple of hundred dollars on a concert ticket. I also wouldn’t have to awkwardly ask friends to pick me up if we go out since I can’t afford a car (I do pay them money for fuel!) If interest rates weren’t at historically low rates at the time, then I also probably wouldn’t have been able to purchase the property.

But whenever I feel ‘depressed’ looking at how much money I’ve poured into the mortgage and how much interest is added to the balance each month, I remind myself that I’m on track to paying off my mortgage by the time I turn 30 and I feel a whole lot better! ☺

What have you done so that you can save a large amount of money such as saving for a deposit?

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Mustard Seed Money

    This is really bad but in college I was day trading. I was playing the options market and it was right after the 9/11 attacks. So the market was very volatile so there would be huge price swings. I would try to make a $1.00 on each option which really added up over time. I then was able to put down 20% for my first house at 22, a couple of years after you 🙂

    1. I studied finance as an elective of my university degree to see if I should go down the route of stock trading. I hated it! I am an extremely risk averse person – I’d want to sell the shares as soon as the price started dropping. I admire people that can make money on the stock market – a dollar here and there certainly does add up over time. And congrats on the property at 22 – that’s awesome! 🙂

  2. Paige @ Fixing My Finances

    Wow I really admire Rachael’s persistence and savings to be about to buy an income property! I am hoping to eventually buy one of my own but it probably won’t happen until I am closer to 30.

    Some of her tips are really helpful and different than a lot of the typical money saving tips I have heard. I really like the setting a price for each kind of article of clothing. I normally know about what I should pay for clothes but I think it is a great idea to set a price to always follow.

    1. There’s nothing wrong with buying a property at 30 – plenty of time to pay it off before retirement! 🙂

      As well as sticking to a price, I buy a lot of denim because it lasts longer than other clothing materials.

  3. At 20, I definitely was not saving enough for a down payment for a house. Congratulations to you!

    These are some great money saving tips!

  4. Shannon

    Way to go, Rachael! My husband bought his first investment property at 18 with a similar story. He got a job at 15 and saved every dime. His dad had several rental properties (and is a cheapskate, ha), so he had a great financial role model. I’m hoping we can instill similar values (and maybe outcomes?) in our kids. At 30, we have several properties now and are planning on more. It definitely takes time (and money and sweat/blood/tears) and is not a get rich quick scheme, though!

    1. Only 18 – that’s impressive! Can totally relate to being a cheapskate 😉

      Learning the value of a dollar from a young age certainly helps… in my 10 year old mind it was a case of, ‘do I want this chocolate bar which will be gone in 5 minutes, or do I want to save that money and put it towards a dollhouse?’

      Sounds like you’ll have an impressive property portfolio by the time you retire! 🙂

  5. Sveny

    I know my expenses but some years ago I tried to track them but that doesn’t work. It was too time-consuming, so I stopped with it. But since 2 years now, I keep an eye on my expense, I don’t track them but I calculate how to use my money.

    If you can track your expense than the only thing I can say – good job. But I agree with you to automate some expenses on the bank account. I made it at that helps me really well to manage my money better.

    1. I don’t spend a lot of money so it doesn’t take long to track my expenses. Once a week I gather up my receipts and check the transactions on my bank statement, then update my spreadsheets – only takes 10 minutes 🙂

      The cash budgeting envelope system may be a good fit for you.

  6. Nayeli

    Truly admirable!

    I am truly amazed that at such a young age you had clear goals and you stuck to them. With your stamina and commitment I believe you can achieve ANYTHING. Thank you for sharing this tidbit with us, it was very inspirational and also makes me think that I can do the same.

    I’ll keep these tips in mind and who knows maybe invest in property in the future 😉

    1. Thanks Nayeli – I’m glad you found it inspiring 🙂 Don’t listen to people if they say you’re ‘too young!’

  7. I bought my house at age 21, and the only regret is that we didn’t push the banks to let us borrow more money to buy a “new” house. We could have bought a brand new built house for $100,000, but since we were young and naive, we bought what we thought was the norm. We can’t get a brand new house for 100k anymore, but I am grateful for my house. Congrats for saving the %20 down payment.. that wasn’t on my mind 10+ years ago! Did your parents teach you that part?

    1. Banks don’t lend if they don’t think you can pay it back – it’s better to have manageable repayments than be in over your head. You can always upgrade later on or renovate – there’s nothing wrong with buying a second hand house (or unit)! 🙂

      My parents certainly made me work for pocket money. But I think it was more of a mindset and a promise I made to myself from a young age, that I didn’t want to be living paycheck to paycheck or with a mountain of debt that I’d constantly be stressing about affording the repayments.

  8. sfmitch

    Thanks for sharing. So impressive that you had had such a specific, useful financial goal so early in life AND that you made it happen.

    I sometimes think ‘what if’ about my lack of financial focus in my youth. I was always a saver but made some foolish decisions (e.g. invest in penny stocks).

    How is the investment property treating you? Where can read more about your journey?

    1. You can’t change the past – stop wasting time thinking ‘what if’ and focus on your future! Sounds like it was a good learning experience. Better to lose money on some penny stocks than more costly investments. There’s certainly more than 1 way to make money and save money!

      The property is going well – I got lucky – the people that sold it to me have rented it back so I haven’t had to worry about finding a new tenant (yet).

      I don’t blog about money stuff (I didn’t think people would be that interested in reading about my penny pinching ways haha) I blog about planners and organizing at: http://www.allaboutthehouseprintablesblog.com

  9. Durga

    You are like by birth financial specialist, actually not by birth, but by the knowledge you got in the school and the parents who encouraged your individuality by not giving you the money. Your step by step improvement in your earning skills we inspiring and As you mentioned about first investment at 20 is not so easy one , but a hard one. I hope it may be hard , but you tackled it easy.

  10. Glad you found it helpful 🙂

  11. Wow!!! What an inspiring read, you worked so hard – you must be really proud of yourself. This has motivated me to save, save, save and hopefully have a deposit put down on a property by the age of 25. You could have a quite easily spent all of your wages, especially as a normal teenager does. I think you have a great mindset to start saving at such a young age for your future.

    Have a lovely weekend 🙂

    Chloe @ https://girllgonerogue.blogspot.co.uk/

  12. Wow Rachael what an incredible achievement. It sounds like you learnt a lot about personal finance (and how to manage yours properly) very early, and it just shows it pays off! 🙂

    I can see what you mean about potentially regretting using the money for a mortgage and not something else, but we all have our own paths. And when you’ve paid off that mortgage – that’s a solid asset that you wouldn’t have if you’d gone travelling with that money (not sure I could have been sensible enough to make the same choice though!).

  13. Melinda Bogue

    Wow as a teenager to have such discipline with your finances is very rare, your parents must be very proud of you.

  14. These tips are very practical when you start working full time because things like lunch and phone plans add up. Some employers pay for your phone and internet, all you have to do is inquire with them if it’s provided (most companies don’t advertise it for cost reasons obviously.)

    I sold my hair when I needed to save money haha. Make sure it’s nice quality virgin hair.

  15. Eliza

    Great job at buying your first place Rachael, especially at east coast prices! Totally agree with all your points, they mirror pretty much our story (my husband bought a house at 21). And I know sometimes it sucks when comparing yourself to your friends, but down the road you’ll be so much better off for it.

    Even now in our thirties I can already see how some friends who were once carefree are getting more stressed about money because they bought later so paid more; they’ve had a kid and dropped down to one income which they can barely live on; or don’t like their jobs but are stuck because they can’t afford to do what they want.

    So well done for living the dream!

  16. How did you even know to pursue this disciplined and mature life at 15? I didn’t even know this world existed (saving, rental properties,etc) until my twenties. So impressed. Great job!

  17. I am way impressed with your work ethic! It’s amazing that at such a young age you had the foresight to deny your present self stuff so that your future self could profit with an investment property–and you’re still doing it. What an inspiring story. Great work, Rachael!

  18. Amazing! You’ve really set yourself up well for the future Rachael! Not just by saving the down payment but through all the things you had to learn/do to get there. Those are great habits to establish at such a young age.

    Congrats on your success!

  19. Congrats Rachael on saving up for your first property. That’s really impressive. I’m glad your Etsy shop worked so well. Some great principles on saving (and earning) money here. I’m with you…when you can responsibly put it on a credit card, do it. You can usually benefit from the float while earning interest (or investing).

  20. This is awesome to see! I don’t own my own home (yet) but my husband and I are already planning on it. Good on you for working so hard to buy a home so quickly!

  21. Charles Onwugbene

    Hi Michelle,
    These are great frugal living tips to saving money. I think it all boils down to your level of discipline and a sense of mission. I am in love with you bringing your own launch, buying when items are on sale and using a cheap phone plan. These are what I learned from your post. Thanks for sharing your tips. I am sharing your post.

  22. Monique

    Your journey sounds so interesting, where can I read more about it?

  23. CJ

    What part of the country was this home purchased in?

  24. Darwin Ayson

    Keep it up and stay the course! Thank you for the inspiration!

  25. Many congrats Rachael on saving up for your first property in your life.your journey sounds so interesting. keep it up and stay still the course. I think it all boils down to your level of discipline and a sense of mission. sounds like it was a good learning experience. you must be really proud of yourself.

  26. Emma

    I am in love with you bringing your own launch, buying when items are on sale, and using a cheap phone plan. think it all boils down to your level of discipline and a sense of mission. sounds like it was a good learning experience. These are what I learned from your post. Thanks for sharing your tips.