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A Millennial Becomes a Homeowner: Meet a Super Saver

By Emily E. Smith

  • PUBLISHED November 05
  • |

After finishing grad school, Danielle Desir was certain about one thing: She didn’t want her hard-earned dollars going to a landlord. For the 27-year-old grants specialist, becoming a homeowner was a longtime dream that she quickly turned into a financial goal.

To make it happen, she made a plan to save $20,000 toward a down payment and moving costs—in just two years. During that time, Desir opted to live with her parents to keep her expenses low. She was determined to direct as much money as possible toward her savings.

She mapped out how much she wanted to put away each month and had that sum directly deposited into a dedicated savings account every pay period. This tactic made saving simple, and it allowed her to rely on something other than self-discipline to ensure she was consistently setting money aside. Streamlining the savings process, she says, was an important part of staying on track. “I like to do automatic savings because I don’t trust myself,” Desir says. “And if you commingle funds, you can lose sight of your progress toward your goal.”
Another key to Desir’s success was reining in her spending, even after she was promoted at work. Instead of celebrating, she routed her pay raises directly toward her savings goal. “As I made more money and I got promotions and changed jobs, I didn’t let lifestyle inflation creep in,” she says.

Even though Desir had a clear plan to amass $20,000, the months of strict discipline still felt long at times, she says. To keep herself motivated, she visualized what her future home would be like. Focusing on that vision made saving more exciting than simply working toward a target dollar amount, she says.

Desir reached her goal, and bought her first home—a four-bedroom colonial in Bridgeport, CT—at the age of 26. She dreams of one day raising children there. “A year later, I’m still crazy in love with my purchase,” she says.

With that goal checked off, Desir wants to build a bigger emergency fund and save up to buy her car outright after her lease ends. But she’s not putting as much pressure on those goals as she did with her home purchase.

“I think it’s OK after you’ve accomplished a savings goal to be content,” Desir says. “You can give yourself space to acknowledge that you’ve completed a big accomplishment.”

Emily E. Smith is a freelance writer in Bozeman, MT. She writes for national and regional publications on topics ranging from personal finance to crime to wild animals. Her work has appeared in the The Guardian, Smithsonian magazine and Atlas Obscura.

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