FAQ: How do I pull together a down payment?

When you venture into the housing market for the first time, you want to buy the best home you can afford. But coming up with the usual 20 percent of your purchase price up front to avoid PMI can be challenging.

Here are a few tips on pulling together your down payment:

Bank your extra money. Any time you get a tax refund, bonus, commission or birthday check, put it into a separate savings account that you never touch. Live on one income. If you are a couple, try living on one partner's income while saving the other's.

Get rid of your second car. Or your cell phone. Or your cable service. Pare down your lifestyle so that you can add to your savings each month. Get a roommate. Change your lifestyle from solo to shared living. This will reduce your rent and allow you to save more.

Pay off your debt. Get rid of debts with high interest rates, such as outstanding credit-card balances. This will ease the strain on your wallet and improve your credit rating. When your debts are paid off, try to save the money that would have gone to payments every month.

Ask your family. Parents or grandparents can be a great resource.