When embarking on a multi-year long war against something like a high mortgage, it’s essential that you have a driving motivation. Some reason you can remind yourself of while the many years pass.
Now the obvious reason for most is to save hundreds of thousands of dollars. Paying off a $300,000 loan @ 8% in 7 years instead of the assumed 30 years equates to around $400,000 in savings so that’s a pretty decent reason in itself (yes, it costs more in interest than the house itself). However because you never “see” this money you’re saving it is irrelevant when it comes to a motivational source (you do end up “seeing” the money but it’s not until further down the track). If you try and focus on the fact that “you’re saving heaps of money” it’s highly likely you’ll just give up as it won’t be meaningful enough to you. So what is your reason for mutilating the mortgage? Is it “just because”? Does it sound nice to have the house paid off before you’re 30? Do you want to have it paid off before you start having children maybe? Or perhaps you just REALLY hate having any sort of debt hanging over your head? Whatever it is, you should honestly sit down one Sunday afternoon and have a good think about it as well as discuss it with your partner (if you have one) as otherwise it’s quite likely you will falter during your great quest.
When you begin the long route of killing that mortgage, it’s likely to be a very timid and shaky time. You won’t be sure if you can really make such high repayments or if the maths is wrong, but after a month or two of making the payments, tracking where your money is going and just seeing what can be done when you pay attention this timidness should pass. After this feeling is gone, your attention will likely turn to getting excited over increasing your repayments more and more as you find ways to cut useless expenses back, optimize your power/water/life or just simply plan things better. This part might even last a few years as you slowly go through each and every expense, researching it, tweaking it and then confirming that it’s as efficient as it can be whilst not affecting your life style.
From here there is actually very little to do surprisingly. Your payments should be all automatic and come out each pay cycle from your account. They will be as high as you can push them without cutting back the things that truly matter to you and it should be quite satisfying seeing that debt reduce each pay cycle… but it won’t really be exciting any more. You’ll have “figured it all out”. The challenge will be gone. Everything will be basically automatic and will take care of itself while you live your life and although times might be all fantastic… the excitement will have gone and you might even find yourself getting annoyed that you can’t make it all just go faster. If only it would just die!
This is one of the main periods that you will need “your reason”. Your goal, your light at the end of the tunnel to guide you and make sure that you never ease up on those payments. If you don’t, be prepared to start seeing yourself slip. Without a damn good reason there will always be more fancy and shiny things that come along and temp you out of your money. Making an extra $1,135 per fortnight payment like in the example above? That’d sure buy you an awesome new phone… or laptop… or holiday to <insert sunny destination here>. It’s all to easy to be lulled into a false sense of “being ahead” in your payments and then convincing yourself that because of that great work, you should be “rewarded”. The media and salesmen know this is a very common self-delusional reason that people use to convince themselves to buy things and thus try and take advantage of it at every turn.
Creating Your Reason
We’ve already covered a few possible reasons above and they might match right up to what you want to achieve. A fair few people don’t like being in debt, whilst others have no aversion to it. For some family is the most important and having a seriously reduced mortgage (or none at all) before you start having children gives you stability, more options in emergencies and one less thing to worry or argue about when things are going crazy with kids running a muck. But what if none of these reasons really gel with you? What satisfies a good reason? Well, looking to the task that will lay ahead, the reason needs to be something to spur you on in the face of adversity. It needs to be something you (or both of you) honestly care about, something that means more to you than just a new gazingus pin. It has to be something that when thought of, overrides any other “possible” decision that’s being considered at that time, for example:
Hmmm… should we buy that trip? We’ve been doing really well with our mortgage this year, we’ve cut over $20,000 off the principal, I reckon we can just skip one or two of the payments and go on it yeah? – Wait.. no. I’d rather us get to our goal so that by the time we’re 35 we’re mortgage free.
It has to be an idea that virtually slaps you across the face saying “Hey! What the hell are you doing!?? Don’t you remember WHY you’re doing this?“. For us, it is a combination of a few core things, some common, some not. We both dislike debt and the draining effect it seems to have on us. We also both have the desire to fully own the roof over our heads so that no matter what happens, we at least have somewhere to live giving us a lot more security in case of tough times. And finally there is the tough, long term goals that we have setup to achieve that also spur us on. Like all humans, we do slip up occasionally, but because of these strong reasons, it is only for very, very specific, planned and well thought about purchases. So far we have cut into the mortgage repayments plan once out of just over 3 years of mortgage mutilation. Getting further into the guts of paying off our mortgage though has meant that there have been a number of things that have tried to tempt us into diverting our money elsewhere, but because our motives are stronger than any shiny trinket, there’s no competition and we stay our course.
So to create your specific reason (or reasons) have a good think about why you want to pay off that mortgage so quickly and then write them down if you like. Is it just a quick “fad” you’re going through at the moment or is there a more deep, underlying reason there that you can use to keep you on track? Psychology as well as great planning and tracking make for an amazing combination that can push you to achieve great things. A trend more and more people are coming to realise now is that saying “oh I just need to try harder” isn’t the answer. You must outsmart yourself and craft your life so that you don’t HAVE to “try harder”. With a rock solid reason for mutilating your mortgage it won’t be “hard” or “annoying” having to stop yourself from purchasing that fancy holiday, it will be something you’ll want to stop yourself from doing.