By: Jill Johnson

25 Tips To Pay Off Your Debt

Tags: Pay Off Your Debt

  1.  Make a double mortgage payment whenever you can. Doing this once a year can shave over 4 years off the mortgage! Sometimes you can skip a payment later on too?if you really, really need to. Try not to. If your payment is $2,000 a month, four years of no payments is $96,000!!
  1.  Increase frequency of payment. For Example going from monthly to bi-weekly accelerated can shave over three years off your mortgage! $2,000, three years of no payments is $72,000!!
  1.  Increase your payment. For example a one-time 10% increase can shave 4 years off the mortgage. That’s $96,000! Imagine if you bumped the payment 10% every year from the get go!!! You would be mortgage free in 13 years! Start to finish! Can’t do it? How about 5% every year...you would be mortgage free in 18 years! How about increasing the payment by the amount of your annual raise?
  1.  Lump sum payments...same idea...mortgage is gone way faster! Even just one payment a year equivalent to 1 monthly payment will give you similar results as #2 above! How about using your annual work bonus?
  1.  Renegotiate whenever rates drop to save interest and pay mortgage faster! Generally a good idea however *Caution* get independent professional advice (a cost benefit analysis) to make sure it makes sense for you at that time. I can help. A 1% reduction on a $300,000 mortgage will save $250 a month...times 5 years...that’s $15,000!!
  1.  Keep your credit rating high for best rate. Always pay on time. Never let payments slip past their due date. Always keep balances low in relation to credit limits on credit cards, lines of credit, etc. 50% or less is best even if you pay the balances in full every month. What generally reports to the credit bureau is the statement balance each month. So if your credit limit is $3000 and you are running $3000 a month through the card each month (to collect all those points you never spend or can’t use in blackout periods) and paying in full, it will look like you are maxing out your credit limit and your credit score will drop accordingly.
  1.  Increase your mortgage! Yeah I know sounds backwards! Do it to roll in your credit cards, line of credit, car loan etc for a better rate and a set payment plan. Oh you say you don’t want to extend the repayment period of that stuff by rolling it into your mortgage or you have a low or promo rate credit card (those never end well) I agree! Then keep the total payment amount the same but pay it in one neat monthly payment to the increased mortgage.
  1.  Make an RRSP contribution and use the refund to pay down your mortgage.
  1.  Go variable rate with your mortgage but keep payments as if fixed rate. Variable rates usually win out over fixed rates. By paying a higher payment you will pay off the mortgage faster. It’s also a buffer in case the rate rises above the fixed rate for short periods of time. *Caution* variable rates are not for everyone. Get independent professional advice to find out what is best for you. I can help!
  1.  Take your mortgage with you when you change properties to avoid penalty or higher rate on a new mortgage. This is called “porting”. Make sure that your mortgage has this feature. It is not widely known and could save you a ton of dough.
  1.  Set up auto savings every paycheque, even $10, when it reaches the amount of one mortgage payment, apply it to the mortgage. This concept goes nicely with #4 above.
  1.  Unhook from the money drip...stop paying with your fancy points credit or debit card. Way too easy to overspend! Go old school, go off the grid...PAY CASH, it works!
  1.  Don’t ever buy on layaway, you know, six months don’t pay schemes. You think?No problem I’ll just pay it in six months, it will be okay. Yeah right!
  1.  Downsize your house. Two good friends and clients of mine, having followed many of the tips here, are in great shape except they have a six bedroom house! Two people, six bed house-go figure! They are nearly debt free so no biggy, but can you say the same? Circumstances change, make the adjustments along the way!
  1.  Don’t want to move? Convert the basement/rooms to rental and use the income to pay down debt.
  1.  Convert your mortgage to tax deductible. If you are self-employed, own rental property or have investments, this is likely possible. I won’t go into details here, just ask me how.
  1.  Have a payment priority.
  1.  Pay off the highest interest rate first.
  1.  If you have tax deductible loans, pay them off last, slowest. Pay the non-tax deductible loans first and fastest.
  1.  Pay off ugly debt first. Stuff like credit card purchases.
  1.  Payoff bad debt next. Stuff like car loans, boat loans. Things that depreciate in value.
  1.  Pay off good debt (or shall I say “not so bad debt”) last. Stuff like mortgages, investment loans. Things that hopefully appreciate in value.
  1.  Buying a car? Finance it if you have to, don’t lease! *Exception* If you are self-employed it might make sense.
  1.  You have $20,000 in a secret bank account for a rainy day fund and $20,000 owing on a line of credit. Seriously? The bank account is paying you next to nothing (which is taxable income to boot) and the line of credit rate is way higher (and not tax deductible). You know what to do. You can keep the line of credit open and on standby for rainy day funds. Make it the secret line of credit that you have but never use.
  1.  Give your Banker more money. No really. Keep enough in your chequing account to meet the minimum requirement to waive your service charges. My bank charges $10 a month for 25 transactions and nothing, zero, zilch, zip if I keep $2,500 in the account. Let’s see $10 x 12 is $120 a year to pay off debt. I’d have to earn 5% with the $2,500 in my savings account to come out ahead. No brainer here. Oh yeah, if you need more than 25 transactions a month?see #12 above.
  1.  BONUS TIP and MOST IMPORTANT. Let’s face it, you’re not the Government and you’re not a Bank, you can’t run deficits forever and you won’t get a bailout?.stop procrastinating already! See 1 through 24 above and take action now!

 

Side note: *Caution* beware of some too good to be true ultra-low rate mortgages. These “no frills” mortgages are often loaded with restrictions like pre-payment limitations, fully-closed terms, stripped-out features, or unusual penalties. You really need to compare product to product. If you’re not looking at what you’re giving up, you may regret it in the future. This alone could prevent you from taking advantage of tips #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 16 and 22!

Financial Check Up

A residential street in the East end of Toronto on September 5, 2013. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)Welcome to your free financial check-up, discussing 5 key factors to assist you in ensuring you are on the right track to a solid financial future. 

Credit

Ensuring you are using credit wisely will pave the way to making sure you have options available to you if or when you need them. One thing we can all do is check our credit report on a regular basis - at least once each year - so you know where you stand and whether your credit score has been compromised in any way, especially through fraud. You can contact Equifax at 1-800-465-7166 or go to the website at www.equifax.ca for more information.

There are many people who believe that it is more responsible to not use credit at all but, in fact, if you don’t have any credit accounts reporting to the credit bureau, financial institutions have no way of knowing how responsible you are with credit and you will likely be turned down if you need a loan or credit card in the future.

Making payments on time is critical to maintaining a good credit score but also keeping your account balances below 75% of the maximum limit is another way of boosting your credit score. If you have multiple accounts, spreading the balances evenly among them using balance transfer methods can help to bring some accounts in line.

It’s wise to pay off your higher interest credit accounts first but that decision needs to be balanced with whether to pay down the higher-payment accounts.

Savings

The old adage, “10% of the money you earn should be tucked away into savings” is a good one. Although it may be difficult to be disciplined enough, if you “pay yourself” every month, the savings will start to build and you may find you don’t need to rely on credit to handle those unexpected expenses.

I personally have a monthly allotment that I transfer to my savings account the same day each month. I have a reminder in my phone to physically do the transfer and it is built into my budget as if it were another utility payment I have to make.

Taking advantage of a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) is a great way to earn higher interest on your savings as opposed to the low rate you are paid for a standard bank savings account. If your TFSA is managed by a Financial Planner you can see very good returns on your investments. Any money earned within your TFSA is tax-free and can be withdrawn at any time.

Retirement

Part of the savings picture is, of course, planning for retirement. If you can, work an RRSP contribution into your budget as soon as possible so you will be much further ahead when you want to put your feet up and enjoy.

I follow my Financial Planner’s recommendations when it comes to how much I contribute each year. As I am self-employed, the amount I contribute each year varies but I always make a contribution.

Contributing to an RRSP also gives you a tax break at the end of the year and you can use your tax return money to put towards paying down your mortgage or put it towards a vacation. Both of those are win-win scenarios.

Mortgage

Being the largest loan most Canadians will ever have, your mortgage deserves attention and regular check-ups. Choosing the right mortgage structure for you and taking advantage of today’s historically low rates, can put you on track to huge savings.

Take a look at your debt-structure. If you are making high monthly payments on high-interest loans and/or credit cards, you could easily restructure your circumstances by refinancing your credit accounts into your home. In most cases, this reduces the amount of interest you are paying overall and lowers your monthly payments. At the same time, if you take advantage of an accelerated payment structure (bi-weekly or weekly) and bump up your minimum required payment by the 15-25% that your institution allows, you can pay down your principal and be mortgage free much sooner!

In today’s mortgage climate, if you currently have a mortgage rate anywhere over 4% you should do yourself a favour and have me do a Free Mortgage Analysis for you so you can see apples to apples whether there are any financial advantages to breaking your existing mortgage for a better rate. When you can see the costs vs. benefits in black and white, the answer as to whether to refinance will be crystal clear.

Insurance

Making sure you have adequate insurance is essential in protecting yourself and your family in the event of a crisis or emergency. Whether it be home, health, life or disability insurance, it is always a good idea to review all of your insurance coverage at least once a year to make sure you are fully covered.

Mortgage insurance is a great idea but most clients benefit more from having independent mortgage insurance coverage as opposed to taking the insurance coverage offered by the institution that has your mortgage. The average Canadian makes a change to a mortgage every 38-42 months, you may have to re-apply for the same coverage at an older age and higher premiums. If your mortgage insurance is through a company that is independent of the bank, you would have the ability to keep the coverage and premium you initially had even if moving your mortgage to another institution at a better rate works better for you.

Another way to go is Term Life Insurance. Securing a policy that will cover all costs and pay out all obligations should anything happen to you will give your family peace of mind in the worst circumstance.

Critical Illness Insurance offers protection should you become affected by one of the approved conditions and is often paid in a lump sum amount once you have survived the specified waiting period. It gives you the assurance that the costs of a serious medical condition, as well as living expenses, will be covered.

Wrap Up

I hope you have found some value in the information provided. As always, I recommend seeking out the experts and gaining knowledge before making any important decisions that will affect your future.