6 fee-free ways to pay your mortgage off early

Almost everyone with a mortgage has received an offer to help pay off their loan ahead of schedule, for a fee. The solicitation always lays out how the charge is offset many times over by the amount of interest savings the homeowner will enjoy by retiring the mortgage early.

The math of these offers isn’t wrong nor dishonest. But many homeowners will be able to do even better by employing one of many free, do-it-yourself approaches instead.

Before trying this, make sure your lender will apply extra payments to principal, and not save it for next month’s payment. Also check that you won’t incur a prepayment penalty.

If you’re clear on both fronts, the obvious way to retire your mortgage early is to pay more than your regular monthly payment. There are lots of ways to do this.

First is to simply pay extra when your budget allows. Whether it’s an extra $20 or $200, all extra principal will shorten your mortgage and reduce how much interest you ultimately pay.

Another common approach is to make a large lump-sum payment when you receive an annual bonus check or commission, or enjoy an unexpected windfall.

For those preferring a steadier path, set up monthly auto payments for an easy rounded amount above your minimum payment. Or use an online mortgage calculator to figure out how much to pay each month to retire your mortgage by a certain year, and set your auto-payments accordingly.

Lastly, the popular method of making one extra payment per year can be simply accomplished by boosting your payment by 1/12th every month, or paying half your monthly amount every two weeks.

The beauty of these methods is that they cost you nothing while saving you hundreds or  thousands in interest, while being flexible to your personal situation.