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How to Pay off Debt Early

Tips to Pay off Debt


Erasing debt
Michael Phillips / E+ / Getty Images

You can save a lot of money if you pay off debts quickly. The methods below will improve your chances. Before you choose one, make sure you understand how to pay off debt early with each lender. There may be fees or special steps you need to take.

Does it Make Sense to Pay off Debt Early?

Sometimes it's a great idea to pay off debt, and sometimes it's a mistake. Explore the pros and cons and then make an informed decision:

You can run numbers to figure out how much you'll save (and possibly get motivated). See how fast you can pay off debt with pre-built Excel loan calculators, or calculate loans on your own.

Just Send Money

The simplest way to pay off debt early is to pay extra whenever you can. It’s also the hardest to pull off since it requires discipline. You may want to consider using one of the techniques below if you don’t think you’ll stick to the program.

If you like to fly by the seat of your pants - and you’re confident that you can pay off debts on your own - just send extra payments. Include a note with your check saying 'Apply to principal'. That way, your lender won’t get confused; they’ll know you’re trying to pay off the debt.

One Extra Payment

You’ll pay off debt more quickly by adding an extra monthly payment each year. If your monthly payment is $1200, then pay an extra $1200 sometime during the year. You might use money from a tax refund or bonus.

If you’re like most people, it can be hard to come up with the extra payment. An alternative is to spread the extra payment out over the entire year. Divide your monthly payment by 12 and add that amount to each monthly payment. Your $1200 payment will become a $1300 payment (1200 divided by 12 equals 100; 100 plus 1200 equals 1300).

Pay off Debt with Biweekly Payments

You can also pay off debt by paying every two weeks instead of every month. You’ll end up making the equivalent of one extra mortgage payment each year. When you pay off debt with a biweekly payment, you shouldn’t see a dramatic change to your monthly expenses. However, you’ll see dramatic savings as you pay off debt over the years.

Lender Programs to Pay off Debt

Your lender may have several options to help you pay off debt more quickly. These programs may require you to pay additional fees, so be careful. If it’s worth it to you, go ahead and pay the fees.

If you don’t like the fees, find a way to pay extra while avoiding the fees. You might set up automatic monthly payments in your bank’s online bill pay system. Be sure the checks include a note saying 'Apply to principal' in the Memo line.

Other companies, besides your lender, will also gladly take a fee for a debt payoff program. They sell software programs and systems to handle everything for you (or at least tell you what to do). You generally don’t need these services unless they’ll help solve a discipline problem. If you’re not getting it done any other way, do whatever works - but make sure you save more than you spend.

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