How to pay off your mortgage faster

Financial planning Written by Squirrel, Jan 30 2020

Making it onto the property ladder is a huge milestone, but the journey doesn’t end there. Every week, Kiwis are taking on incredible amounts of debt. Depending on the terms of a mortgage, you could be making repayments well into retirement and even have a property pass through your hands without ever fully owning it.

We know how intimidating the thought of a lifelong mortgage can be, so we’ve put together our top tips for helping you manage your debt and pay your mortgage off faster.

Benefits of paying off your mortgage faster

It can be tempting to arrange an automatic payment and then set and forget, especially if you’ve secured a hot rate and want to pursue other investment opportunities, or just spend your extra pocket money on other things. So what are the benefits of paying off your mortgage faster?

1. Financial security

Creating long-term financial security for yourself and becoming debt-free is a massive achievement and can make you feel a lot more comfortable during tougher economic climates.

2. Reduce overall interest paid

The thing to remember is that interest compounds. When you save money, this means you earn interest on the interest and so on. When you’re repaying a mortgage this works in reverse – the less you owe, the less interest you pay. Simply put, small increases in your regular repayments will have a massive impact in reducing your interest costs in the long run.

3. You’ll be able to meet your other financial goals faster

Whether your goals revolve around travel, retirement, opening a business or paying for your child’s education, it goes without saying that paying off your mortgage faster means you will be able to fully focus your saving efforts on your other plans.

4. You’ll reduce your expenses for retirement

Speaking of financial goals, saving and budgeting for retirement is a huge focus for many New Zealanders. Expenses add up quickly when you don’t have a regular income, so paying off your mortgage prior to entering retirement is a surefire way to minimise future expenditure and make your retirement savings go further.

5. Highest profit when you sell

Whether you plan to downsize during retirement, leave your property to family or even sell in a few years’ time, the more equity you have (which is the amount you’ve paid off and therefore you own), the more profit you’ll get when you sell your home.

How to pay off your mortgage faster

So how do you actually go about reducing your mortgage term? Whether you’ve already purchased your property and are well into your repayments, or you’ve just started your house hunt and want to get prepared, we’ve got practical advice for you at every step.

Before choosing a mortgage plan

Doing your due diligence before settling on a mortgage can make a world of difference. Here is how we suggest getting started:

  1. Make a budget
    Put some time and effort into creating a comprehensive budget based on your lifestyle and income. Using our mortgage calculator is a fantastic first step for helping you work out how much you can borrow and what your repayments may look like.

  2. Always do your research
    Not all mortgages are created equal. If you’re tackling your mortgage alone, always remember to thoroughly research before settling on a mortgage. Ask all the hard questions before buying so you don’t get surprised by the answers after you’ve already made the commitment.

  3. Consult a mortgage broker
    At Squirrel, our Mortgage Brokers are experts at getting you fairer, better deals. We know the industry inside out and will cater our recommendations to your personal financial situation and your future goals. This service is also completely free of charge for buyers, so why wouldn’t you!

Squirrel with abicus, pile of nuts

After purchasing your property

If you’ve already purchased a property, it’s likely that the size of your mortgage has been playing on your mind for a while. Here are our recommendations for ramping up your payments and shedding off some of that interest:

Make your first repayment on settlement date

Generally speaking, your first mortgage payment is due a month after closing. The interest you pay is also based on the principal, rather than the amount you borrowed. Therefore, if you reduce the principal before your interest has a chance to accrue, you can save on repayments before you even really start. This depends on the type of loan you get, so it’s best to check with your mortgage adviser first!

Increase the frequency of payments

Depending on the bank, loan payments can be made weekly, fortnightly or monthly. We generally recommend planning your repayments for the same frequency that you get paid. This can help with budgeting and keep you on track. Increasing the frequency of payments and treating it like other expenses is another way to seamlessly work mortgage repayments into your household expenses.

Green car, side view

Ditch the car

This one may surprise you, but it’s one of our Chief Squirrel, John Bolton’s favourite tips. Without needing to pay for petrol, parking and repairs, you can save big time and put the additional cash towards your mortgage repayments. You’ll even be helping out the environment at the same time!

Increase the amount of each payment

Regularly paying a bit more can make a significant difference on the lifetime of your loan. Constantly review your budget and see if there are any expenses you can cut down on. Save that daily coffee from your favourite cafe for retirement!

Divert any increases in pay or bonuses to your mortgage

As soon as you receive a bonus or get a pay rise, pat yourself on the back and then send the additional funds directly towards your mortgage repayments. Staying disciplined and sticking to your budget, regardless of the increase in income, will help you to cut down the debt.

Consider refinancing

Don’t be afraid of renegotiating your interest rate. Securing a cheaper rate with good flexibility can help you to save big. Not sure how to go about this? Get in touch with your Squirrel adviser if you think you could be getting a better rate.

Continue paying the same amount, even if interest drops

If you’re on a floating rate, it can be tempting to drop the volume of your payments if interest rates drop. Continuing to pay the same amount will help you out in the long term, especially when the rates rise again. Stay strong!

Pay loan fees and charges upfront

In some cases (eg if buying with a lower deposit than 20%), there may be fees involved with setting up the loan. If you’re financially able to, it’s always a good idea to pay any fees or charges up front. While you can generally add these to your loan, they’ll also increase the amount of interest accrued. If you can, pay them first!

Pick your battles

We can talk for hours about the benefits of paying off your mortgage as fast as possible, but at the end of the day, you should be able to live your life without worrying about money. You should still be able to have smashed avocado on toast every now and then, while being a bit more savvy with your budget.

Break it down

Another way to help you keep your sanity in check is to break down the idea of your mortgage. When you think about it as a lump sum, it can quickly become overwhelming. But just like anything, if you focus on a small chunk and take it one day at a time, you will see progress. As the old adage goes, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Take a chunk of $20k or $30k and just focus on paying that off over a couple of years. That suddenly feels like a more achievable goal. Stay positive and celebrate the small achievements along the way.

Pay fortnightly rather than monthly

If your repayments are calculated monthly, choosing to split these into two fortnightly payments is an easy way to help you save. As there are more than four weeks in a month, paying fortnightly could mean that you are paying off an additional month’s worth of mortgage every year, helping you to reduce the principal faster.

Pink piggy bank

Consider a revolving credit facility

When done right, revolving credit is a great way to help you pay off your mortgage faster. Revolving credit is when you put part of your mortgage into your transaction account. Think of it as a large overdraft with the same interest rate as your mortgage. Whenever you have extra money, you can whack it into your revolving credit and the additional funds will mean your mortgage balance is less. Aa a result, you’ll have less interest to pay.

Hot tip

Round all of your mortgage repayments up to the nearest $10 or $50! Every dollar matters in the long-term and rounding up your payments can be an easy way to help you save.

Let’s talk

At Squirrel, when we arrange your mortgage we’ll set it up in a way that works with your future goals. So if one of your goals is to pay it off as fast as possible, we’ll help you structure your repayments to do just that. And we won’t stop there; as circumstances change, sometimes your mortgage should too so we’re on-hand to review it, as well as make sure you’re always on the best possible interest rate.

Contact Squirrel, to chat to an adviser

We can help. Have a chat to one of our advisers.