For those who have one, a mortgage is likely your biggest expense. What’s more, promising the bank you’ll make large monthly payments for up to 30 years is a long-term commitment.
The more time we take to pay off that mortgage, the more money that comes out of our pockets, thanks to interest.
Journalist and Clark.com contributor Michael Timmermann wanted to pay as little interest as possible on his new one-bedroom condo, which he bought for a little less than $100,000 in 2010.
So he made a plan to pay off his mortgage in less than five years—ideally before his 30th birthday. Sounds impossible, right? Well, he ended up reaching his payoff goal within two years.
So, how did he do it?
First, Timmermann outlined his plan of attack by taking a closer look at his bank’s payment schedule.
“I was shocked to find out how much of my monthly payment was going to interest, not the principal,” he wrote.
With a 15-year fixed mortgage for $85,000 at 3.75 percent interest, Timmermann acted quickly to free up more cash available to pay toward his mortgage. Here are a few of the strategies Timmerman used that anyone can try.
1. Cut Spending
Timmermann went through his monthly budget and cut back on extra expenses like his cable bill, clothes shopping, dining out and grabbing coffee to-go. Then, he took the money he saved and applied it to his mortgage.
He said he didn’t miss the extras too much because he’s learned to put value on “long-term financial life and experiences, not materialistic possessions.”
In an article she wrote about saving money for a $40,000 down payment while earning a $38,000 salary, Don’t Waste Your Money writer Brittany Anas echoed a similar sentiment. In order to save the money she’d normally spend on social outings like brunches, she transitioned her mindset to focus on the quality time spent with friends—rather than attaching the pleasure of her experience to the food and drink consumed.
“I realized it was more about the conversation and less about the pancakes that had me looking forward to these get-togethers,” she wrote. Rather than grabbing drinks or dinner out, she’d invite friends to do free activities with her such as hiking or taking their dogs for a walk.
2. Add Income
As a journalist, Timmerman needed more income to make a bigger dent in paying off his balance, so he took on part-time jobs that added an extra 10 hours a week to his work schedule. These included additional writing assignments and overtime opportunities at a previous employer, as well as waiting tables.
He also found things around the house he no longer wanted or needed and sold them online. Timmermann said he made “several hundred dollars” by getting rid of books just sitting on shelves.
Timmerman isn’t alone in this “earn more” approach. A 2017 study found that 44 million Americans have a side job. When cutting costs isn’t enough to help you reach your financial goals (and it usually isn’t), getting creative about earning more money on the side is a smart strategy to try.
Here are a few ways you can make money on the side.
3. Tell Everyone
Accountability is important to staying on track, which is why Timmermann told his friends and family about his ultimate goal. As a result, people regularly checked in on his progress, which helped him stay focused.
If you have trouble sticking to a plan, going public with it can help. Find an accountability buddy who has similar financial goals to your own, or consider starting a blog and chronicling your journey. This’ll not only help you stay accountable, it’ll help you track your progress and celebrate your successes as well.
Need Some Motivation To Get Started?
While not everyone can pay off a mortgage in just two years, these tips can certainly help speed up loan or debt repayment. And, if you need a little extra incentive, consider this:
According to Interest.com, a $200,000 30-year home loan with a 5 percent interest rate will cost an extra $186,512 if you only make the normal 12 monthly payments each year.
If you make the equivalent of one extra payment a year, however, that same loan can be paid off in just 26 years and you’ll save $32,699 in interest. That’s cold, hard proof that the extra effort really does pay off in the long run!
Read more about how Timmerman became mortgage-free in under two years on Clark.com.