Trying to figure out how to pay off a mortgage early? Why? And should you? If you decide to go full steam ahead, what’s the best way to take down that massive debt? I’ve got your answers, and I’m excited to help you pay off that monster loan!
My Mortgage Story — How (and Why) I Paid Off My Mortgage Early
There were just four words that prompted me to pay off my mortgage and do it quickly:
“I want a divorce”
These words were of course uttered by my ex.
It’s been over eight years and to be completely honest, that memory still pisses me off a little… She just gave up. We were barely getting started and she threw in the towel.
I just couldn’t stand it.
The court made it official just a few months later. We were divorced and I owed my ex half of our estate — which amounted to $21,000.
To pay this off as quickly as possible…
- I sold pretty much everything,
- lived on practically nothing,
- and earned extra money any way I could figure out how.
As a 27 year old making just $60k a year, I felt quite accomplished and empowered to have paid her off in just 6 months. And that got me thinking about the mortgage…
You know how I paid off that $21,000 so fast?
Those two emotions fueled every single action during that 6-month span. And then that carried into the mortgage payoff.
That final payment of the $21,000 debt — man, that felt good. It put a distance between myself and that woman — that woman that just gave up so flippantly. That woman that decided to leave and never come back. The final payment eased my heart. It cut that string and freed me a bit. Freed me from that tie to a woman I couldn’t bear see again.
It got me thinking though.
I still had one more tie.
Her name was off the deed, but she was still on the mortgage.
I was picturing the scenario:
- Life was going great
- I had a great job, maybe a girlfriend
- Maybe we’d even have a dog
- My life would be distant from this past one…that one that caused me far too much pain
And then that string…that mortgage loan string…would suddenly pull me back.
“Hey Derek, this is ummm, your ex. I met someone and we’re looking to buy a house, but the bank won’t approve us because my name is still on your old mortgage loan. Can you work with us to get this all straightened out?”
No way was I going to let this scenario happen. I don’t think my poor heart could take it. It was time to get rid of that mortgage…and with warp speed!
Paying Off My Mortgage in Just 11 Months
I officially started paying off my $54,500 mortgage on January 1, 2014. By December 11th that same year, I stroked a $14,000 check and cut the balance down to $0.
How did I do it?
First off, emotions of course (just like when I paid off the $21,000 divorce debt), but what were the more tactical things that I did to pay off this mortgage debt?
Here’s the basic list. I’ll expand this more in the post below.
- Developed a reason for my upcoming mortgage payoff goals
- Reviewed my spending
- Created a new, severely stripped down budget
- Decided on my BIG goal, and then created micro-goals to hit along the way
- Brainstormed how to make more money and acted on 3-4 of the best ideas
- Killed it at my job and fought for a promotion
- Stayed consistent and kept my goals and reasons in front of myself everyday – if I was behind or ahead, I wanted to know
- Achieved the goal just like I told myself I would!
How to Pay Off a Mortgage Early – 8 Steps
Alright. You’re ready. You want to pay off your mortgage early. Here’s exactly how it can be done.
1) Have a Meaningful Reason
Ever meet someone that lost 100 pounds? What is typically their answer to your question, “How did you do it?”…
They never come up with reasons like…
- I just decided one day that it was time,
- My girlfriend wanted me to lose weight, or
- I wanted my clothes to fit better
The reasons above…they just aren’t worth the pain and determination that’s necessary to lose 100 pounds. At best they’ll get you to lose 5 pounds, and then you’ll gain the weight back a couple months later.
Instead, their responses are more like the following:
- I had a heart attack and almost died
- My best friend was big like me… He died last year.
- My wife and I had a kid last year. I knew that if I didn’t change the way I was living, I probably wouldn’t be around long enough to see her graduate.
If you want to pay off a mortgage early, you’ve got to have a strong why
- Maybe you just hate debt. The idea of owing someone money makes you nervous and irritable.
- Perhaps you had a scare this past year and you almost lost your house to the bank.
- You’ve recently discovered that if you would just invest your mortgage payment, you could become a millionaire before you retire.
- Without your mortgage payment, maybe you could retire extremely early!
- Or maybe you’ve got kids and you’d love to help them through college, but you know you need to take care of your own responsibilities first.
If these reasons don’t resonate with you, here’s a few more that might strike a chord!
Without really knowing your reason ‘why’ though, there’s no sense learning the rest of these steps. Develop a passion for your reason however, and there’s no stopping you!!
If you want to drive to California, a map is important. But, if you don’t know where you are on that map…it’s actually quite worthless.
The same is true when you chart your course with a budget before you even look at your recent spending.
Instead, make a point to review your spending with the following steps:
- Pull your bank detail for the last 6 months
- Pull all your credit card spending for that time frame as well (pulling data should be as simple as clicking an “export” button online)
- Then, load that detail into a Excel or Google spreadsheet
- Label everything into 10-15 categories. Things like car payment, cell phone, entertainment, restaurant, groceries, etc. etc.
- And then lay out each of those categories and total them up for each month
What are those numbers telling you? Are you overspending anywhere? Does anything absolutely shock you?
I still remember one of my numbers — my cell phone bill. I was paying $85 a month for a simple single plan. That was outrageous! It took just one phone call to bring it down to $60. That one call saved me $300 for the year that I could then apply to my mortgage. BOOM!!
Find your outliers and question every single cent you’re spending.
3) Create Your New Budget
Once you figure out how much you’re spending in each category on average, making a new budget is easy! If you were spending $600 a month on food and $300 of that was for restaurant food, you could say you’re overspending by nearly $300 — or at least $200. So, maybe in that first month you set a food budget of $400.
Do this for every category of spend and set up a realistic budget for each.
If you follow your budget, how much extra could you put toward your mortgage each month?? This is honestly where things really start to get exciting!
When do you want to have your mortgage paid off by? This year? Next year? In 5 years?
Make a stretch goal and then figure out where you have to be in short-term increments along the way.
For me, I had a goal to pay the mortgage off in just one year, so I was able to set monthly goals pretty easily. And honestly, since it was such a push, I also knew my weekly goals that I needed to hit to stay on track.
I was moving so quickly that I knew missing a monthly goal in those early months could mean missing my overall goal for the year. I didn’t want to take that risk, which is why the weekly goals were necessary for me.
What is your big goal? Decide on your when and then your brain will figure out how to get you there.
5) Start Making Money on the Side
Cutting your spend is great, but you can only cut so much. Eventually, there’s just no more meat on the bones. So why not add some more meat! ie. Make some more money!
The side gig opportunities are massive right now. I recently wrote a post titled, “40+ Side Hustles That Anyone Can Do” and there are a ton of great ideas in there. But quite honestly, the title could have been 1,000+ side hustles. There are literally that many options out there.
All you need to do is think about two things:
- What are you good at/enjoy doing?
- Which of those items are people willing to pay for?
To make your list, just start writing what you like to do.
My list would look something like this:
- fixing up houses
- flipping cars
- doing yard work
- personal finance writing
Then, I’d simply step back and review my list to see what people might pay me to do.
- Golf – Mmmm, nope, I’m just not good enough to teach someone or win prize money with it…Just not going to happen.
- Running – Same. Not that great. No money to be made here.
- Reading – Maybe get paid to do voice-over reading? But my voice isn’t quite smooth enough, so probably no money here either.
- Fixing up homes – I could either buy and sell the homes myself, or do some work for others. Definitely some dollars to be made here.
- Flipping cars – Absolutely. Buy some cheap cars, clean them and flip them. I could do that!
- Yard work – For sure! I could walk around the neighborhood and offer up my services – mowing, picking up leaves, cleaning out gutters, washing windows, etc. etc.
- Personal finance writing – There’s definitely a market for this! And, if you’re seasoned, you can make a VERY decent wage per hour!
So make your list, choose the money-makers, and start earning some extra money!
Related: Highest Paid Weekend Jobs in 2021
6) Fight for a Promotion or Pay Increase at Work
If you’ve got a job, chances are you can do a little extra and start earning more money fairly quickly. Either you get promoted or you negotiate a new salary in your current role once you show them how valuable you really are.
And, if neither of these plans work, you can always look for a higher-paying job elsewhere!
- How to Get Promoted 5 Times in 7 Years
- 3 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Being Promoted
- 35+ High Paying Jobs Without a Degree
- 12 Jobs That Pay $60k a Year Without a Degree
7) Track Your Progress Every. Single. Day
You want to win?
You’ve got to want it….bad.
Look at your progress every.single.day. Didn’t make any progress that day? You’d better make a game-plan to do better tomorrow.
You seriously have to be obsessed and think about nothing else other than winning. Think about how glorious it will be to come home, stare at your house, and know that no one can take it away from you. It’s yours, 100%. No more working with the banks for better rates.
No more mortgage payment hassles. YOUR money stays in YOUR account and you can spend it on anything YOU want to spend it on. Oh man, it feels good. If you want to get there, be sure to hold yourself accountable. The feeling of that paid-off home is totally worth it!
8) Bask In Your Success
What do you think you’ll do once your house is paid off?
- Retire early?
- Put all that money toward lavish vacations?
- Buy that dream car you’ve always wanted?
- Build a nice pole-barn out back and start a collection?
The possibilities are limitless. I mean, this is a big chunk of change we’re talk about here. Probably somewhere around $20,000 or more each year! BOOM! You can have quite a bit of fun with money like that!
Make plans for your future mortgage-free life. You’ll get there. And, once you do, you’ll seriously never want to go back into debt ever again. It’s the good life. Don’t let anyone tell you differently (no matter how much of a finance nerd they are!! :)).
How to Pay Off a Mortgage Early – Now You Know
I’ve done it. I know. It’s absolutely possible to pay off a mortgage early. And you know what? You can absolutely do it too! The only question is this, “Is your ‘why’ big enough?” Do you have a reason that will carry you across the finish line? Without that reason, there’s really no point in starting. It’s simply not going to happen.
So what about you? Are you ready to pay off the house early? What is your reason? Tell me in the comments below!
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.