Want to get out of debt? Here’s how we paid off our $90,000 mortgage in just 5 years! Lots of awesome tips and inspiration for paying off your mortgage to be able to live debt-free!
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While I frequently share about saving money, I don’t often mention many details about our personal financial story.
There have been different times that I’ve considered sharing more, but in the end, I’ve always decided not to because I was afraid that it would sound like I was tooting our horn or that we think we have it all together and are so much better than everyone else.
I also have worried that it will make other people feel “less than” because if you are like me, it’s easy to do the whole comparison thing and start being hard on yourself because you aren’t doing what someone else does.
And that is so not what I want this blog to be. I want it to be a place of encouragement and inspiration!
Recently though, I had a reader email me with some questions about saving money and she mentioned that although she is super frugal, sometimes she just needs encouragement to keep saving, to stick with budgeting, to be reminded often that all the sacrifices and hard work will be worth it in the end.
And I realized that by basically avoiding sharing our personal financial story, I’m really doing you all a disservice.
Because one of the things that was huge in keeping me motivated to save and pay off our mortgage was hearing other people’s stories about how they made it through tight times.
It was so inspiring to hear them talk about the crazy things that they did to become debt-free. And how not having any debt is now allowing them to pursue things that they couldn’t before or give generously in a way that they didn’t have the capacity to previously.
So, I finally decided that it was time to share more of our personal financial journey with you. I sincerely hope that it can inspire and encourage you in your own financial journey, even though it may look very different than ours!
Our $90,000 Mortgage and How We Paid It Off
One of the craziest things that we’ve done was to buy a home only 6 mo. after we were married. That might not sound that crazy initially, but the thing was, the house cost us $90,000 and we borrowed the full amount!
Plus, it was a fixer-upper, so we knew we would be putting more money into it over the next several years as we remodeled too! Definitely not something I’d probably recommend, but after getting lots of counsel from others, we felt like it was the right choice for us.
And thanks to the grace of God and a lot of hard work, we were able to pay off our mortgage in full just 5 years later, meaning that by age 31 we were debt-free homeowners!
I’m not going to lie to you and say that our life suddenly changed and we were so much happier once we were debt-free, because that simply wasn’t the case. Life was still life.
However, there was a huge sense of freedom that came from knowing that we didn’t owe anyone anything.
And it was rewarding to be able to loosen up our spending just a tad, feel like we could regularly give more generously and know that we could pursue some other dreams like more schooling for my husband.
How to Pay Off Mortgage in 5 Years- what worked for us
What were some of the things we did that helped us pay off our $90,000 mortgage in 5 years, plus do lots of remodeling work as well?
Obviously, there were a lot of things that factored in, but here are the 10 things that I could think of right off the top of my head.
1. Bought a Row House in the City
We lived in an area where land was super expensive, so this was a much cheaper option and we were able to get a nice house with a small yard for way less than we would have otherwise.
It was sometimes been a bit challenging to live in that location with 3 young children, but it was definitely doable!
2. Bought a Foreclosed Fixer-Upper
My husband is a Mr. Fix-it of sorts, so this worked for us because it meant we were able to do a lot of the work ourselves. We also had times where family and friends pitched in with smaller projects like painting and roof replacements.
I’ll be honest though. I don’t enjoy that kind of work much at all so it felt like a huge, overwhelming job to me.
It also took up most of my husband’s free time for the first couple years of our marriage, which of course had it’s downsides and often felt like a big sacrifice. We ultimately did it though because we knew the long-term benefits would be significant.
3. Drove Old Cars
We’ve never owned a car that was newer than 9 years old. Most of them haven’t looked awful (although the one you see pictured above sure did!), but neither do they look amazing either. Actually, my husband jokes that their not-so-nice appearance is a great way to guarantee that they won’t be stolen!
Even though we buy older, used vehicles, we’ve tried to be selective with what we buy and we go for cars that have had one or two owners, come from a reputable dealer, etc.
I know that still doesn’t always mean you won’t get a lemon, but so far we’ve been blessed with good vehicles and have saved a bundle in the process!
4. Only Sort of Did College
We both got associate degrees at the small college where we met and fell in love. Soon after graduation, we got married and because I planned to be a mostly stay-at-home mom once we had children, and since we were hoping to start having children before too long, I didn’t see any reason to get more education at this point.
I had been working as a certified pharmacy tech for 7 years, so I continued with that job until our son was born 20 months later.
My husband wanted to do more schooling though but wasn’t exactly sure what degree he wanted to pursue. Instead of going to college without any plan, we felt it was smarter to wait until he had a clear sense of direction as to what field of study he should do.
So we chose to postpone the whole college thing for a couple of years, after which he got his Master’s and now is working on his Ph.D.
5. Worked Hard & Worked a Lot
We were both blessed with jobs that always had plenty of work. I worked 3 days a week up until our son was born and often put in extra hours since there were almost always some available.
My husband had a good-paying job in construction where he also frequently put in additional hours so that we could pay extra on our mortgage.
We also did a variety of random things to earn more money that we would then put towards the principal on our mortgage. At one point we even got paid to clean our church every week! Definitely not our favorite job ever. But hey, it helped!
Related: 10 Easily Doable Side Hustles that Will Make You Extra Money
6. Kept Our Grocery Budget at $200 a Month
Soon after our first child was born and I switched to being a stay-at-home mom, I discovered the art of couponing and deal shopping.
Along with using paper coupons, I also started using apps like Ibotta and Fetch Rewards to save even more money on groceries, including fruits and veggies!
It takes a bit of time to do, but I always felt like it is one way that I could relatively easily “earn” us some money, while still being at home.
By using coupons and shopping sales, I was able to save at least an extra $200 or more on groceries each month. Obviously, that freed up a nice amount of money that we could then use to do remodel work or pay off our mortgage faster.
Want to learn more about our $200 Grocery Budget? Check out my $200 Grocery Budget series.
7. Skimped on Vacations
During those first 5 years of our marriage, we took very few vacations and did very little traveling. Sometimes that was really hard because it felt like our friends were always doing fun things that we simply couldn’t afford to do. We had to remind ourselves often of the end goal!
One of our favorite way to find lodging when traveling is by using Airbnb- you can even save $40 off your first Airbnb stay!
8. Had Just One Cell Phone
This was one of the things that we did that a lot of people simply didn’t get. And during that time, we had plenty of comments and hints that we were kind of backward for only having one cell phone. But the thing is, we didn’t really need a second phone.
If I needed to get in touch with my husband during the day, I could easily call him at his job. Other than that, if he was away I was either with him or we just dealt with the inconvenience of him not having a way to be contacted.
Was it a pain at times? Yes. But honestly, it wasn’t a huge deal because we were used to it.
Once my husband started working on his Masters and began to commute to school regularly, for a variety of reasons, we finally decided it was kind of important that he had a phone. Thankfully, we found an inexpensive phone plan that only cost about $30 amonth for 2 cell phones, which felt very affordable!
Looking for cheap cellphone plans? Two that I recommend are Ting Mobile (my link gets you a $25 credit!) and Tello Mobile (includes free international calling to 60 countries).
9. Put Everything Extra Toward Our Mortgage
I’ve already alluded to this, but almost everything extra that we earned- raises, bonuses or simply side hustle income- went towards paying more on our mortgage.
Also, periodically throughout the year, we’d evaluate our budget. If there was a category where we weren’t spending as much as we had expected to, we would take that extra and add it to our mortgage payment as well.
If you need a helpful way to keep track of your debt and payments as well as see the difference that extra payments make in decreasing the amount of interest that you’ll pay? I recommend checking out a free tool called Undebt.
It’s super handy to be able to easily see at a glance where things are at with all your different debts and can help keep you focused on the goal of becoming debt-free!
10. Did Without & Lived Simply
I’ve already mentioned several specific ways that we did this, but really, doing without and living simply was a way of life for us.
During the years that we were focusing on paying off our mortgage, we bought only things that were absolute necessities.
My husband is super creative. And sometimes when I thought we needed something, he would figure out a way that we could easily make do instead.
We also bought a lot of things second hand and we rarely turned away anything free.
When we did need to purchase something new, especially if it was more than $20, we would try to wait for it to go on sale.
And if we ended up buying it online, we made sure to use Rakuten, a cashback website, so we would earn money on our purchase! (Sign up for Rakuten here and get $10!)
If there was something that we only needed for a short time or for one project, we would see if we could find someone to borrow it from instead of buying it ourselves.
In short, creativity and contentment were our best friends when it came to paying off our $90,000 mortgage in just 5 years. Although I confess, unfortunately sometimes I really stank at the contentment part!
Related: 9 Things We Gave Up to Get Out of Debt Fast
Other Helpful Tips To Pay Off Your House Faster:
Stick to a budget. Evaluating your finances and creating a budget that works for you and your family is key to paying off debt!
If you are just getting started with budgeting, make sure you don’t make it so restrictive that you can’t stick to it. You want to give yourself a challenge but not feel so hemmed in that you get overwhelmed and give up.
Pay off other debt first. More than likely your credit cards, school and car loans, and any other debt you may have, has a higher interest rate than your mortgage. As a result, it’s wise to focus on paying those debts off first, as it will end up saving you more money in the long run.
Use a cash envelope system. It’s so easy to overspend when you use credit and debit cards. Instead, start paying cash. Divide your household expenses into categories, then create an envelope for each one. This specifically helps with eating out, your grocery bill, fun money, and miscellaneous expenses.
It’s proven that you are a little more frugal when you can actually see the cash leaving your hand. Of course, if you have leftover funds, tack that on to your mortgage, or put it in account for when you make an extra payment.
More Money-Saving Inspiration:
- A Frugal Mom’s 25 Favorite Ways to Save
- $200/Month Menu Plan: What our Family of 5 Eats
- 10 Simple Expenses to Cut & Save Big
- 10 Things to Buy that Will Save You Money in the Long Run
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Being mortgage free is pretty sweet! We paid our house in 9 years (300 000$) on two very average salary by basically doing all the same things that you did. It was so worth it! Being mortgge free at 39 (me) and 34 (hubby) is really something we are proud of. It’s all about setting priorities and then going for it (granted that you make enought money for it, of course, which is not the case for all. We feel very blessed to both have good jobs)
$300,000 paid off in 9 years? That is amazing and inspiring, Isa!! Yes, I’m very aware that not everyone has good, steady jobs, which of course makes it much more challenging to pay off any kind of debt. But if you do, and you set priorities as you said, the potential to become debt-free is generally more attainable than many of us realize. Kudos to you and your husband for doing the hard work of becoming debt-free!
Thank you so much for your encouraging, nonjudgmental tone. Just what I needed right now. I will be employing some of your tactics.
You are so welcome and I’m so glad that it could be encouraging to you, Laurie! I wish you all the best as you continue working to figure out how to live well and wisely financially.
wow Only if houses were this cheap where I live . A basic house is $500,000 – mine is about $600,000 since I turned the basement into a rental suite. If I was in your shoes I would have been mortgage free on my own with no help from a spouse at age 28.
The great thing about these tips is that you can still apply them, even if your mortgage or house cost is more than ours was. 🙂
I already do all these things!!!! My hubby and I r at the same point, we got engaged on valentine’s day and bought our house, borrowing it all, March 24 closing. It’s a fixer upper and we r planning our wedd Oct 14 in the back yard!! I Def think my ambition was more than real but planning a wedding and fixing the house has been, fun. Financial disaster!!!!! We r using vinegar and steel wool to save on stain through out our house. We buy from thrift stores or yardsales, we got our new door from a contractor who kept the old one, but now we have 5 boys between us to and are already 40 but, it’s an adventure! !!!
That’s awesome, Tracey!
I really like the idea of paying off a 30 year mortgage in 5 years and sounds like a very smart plan. You made very good points on how to live frugally. but what would be very helpful would be HOW did you put the money back into the mortgage to pay it off so fast. Did you pay double / triple payments? Did you put tax refunds into it in full? Did you pay a payment every two weeks, plus some and put annual “balloon type” payments into it?
Thank you for the info.
Thanks for the questions, Bruce! I actually do mention this in #5 and #9. Basically, we would put everything possible we could toward the principle of our mortgage. Sometimes that meant doing a double payment, sometimes it meant just putting an extra $50 that we had available toward our mortgage payment. And yes, if we didn’t need our tax refund for anything else (which we usually didn’t), that would go toward the principle as well. Most of the time we would just wait until we had enough to do a double payment, but sometimes at the end of the year especially when we started seeing that our annual budget was working out okay and that there was extra leftover, we’d do an extra “balloon type” payment as well. It really is amazing how much you save on interest by simply putting extra money toward your mortgage!
Hope that helps!
Paying extra money on the principle is key. Shopping at tag sales, thrift shops, & watching for free items on their curb after people have tag sales or do their spring cleaning is a lot of fun.
We drove our cars and trucks 13-16 years instead of buying other people’s junk cars. Maintaining your vehicles & finding a good & fair mechanic for larger fixes is important. Having our own tag sales provided money for HomeSchooling supplies & curriculum, toys at other people’s tag sales for our kids, clothing & other useful items. I love to sew so that was a plus. My husband was a whizz at computers, electronics, & technology in general, & taught our kids well. I was a stay-at-home Mom & really enjoyed cooking and baking healthy foods from scratch as well as gardening as a family, for fresh produce. There are so many things you can do to live frugally that works for you.
I never liked couponing because we didn’t want all those unhealthy prepared foods and chemical cleaners, plus coupon’s expiration dates are ridiculous. Why they expire is a mystery, because companies just offer the same ones again, after those expire! We had no problem with store brands which were already a savings plus those went on sale often.
Don’t forget to enjoy life & have fun as a Family while being frugal. Fun doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. ☺️ We have wonderful memories.
Thanks for sharing!
My husband and I currently rent but we are thinking of doing this. We are asking ourselves if we really need a lot more space than our current cozy apartment and thinking about how we would like to pay off a mortgage in 5-10 years. Did you have to deal with a lot of unexpected expenses? For us, this has been the biggest challenge.
It’s smart of you to consider whether you really need a bigger living space, Janette! Because sometimes you really don’t and can end up saving money by just renting or staying in your current house that you own.
We did run into some unexpected expenses along the way, but from my memory, they were all pretty much a result of the remodeling we did. From our experience, pretty much any time you plan any kind of remodeling job or home improvement, you might as well figure that it will end up costing more than you first estimate!
One thing that helped was that before we bought our house we tried to find out approximately what we would be paying in property tax as well as what our estimated cost for electric, garbage pick-up (it’s mandatory in our city) and that sort of thing would cost us. (Talking to other people that we knew that lived in our city and also our realtor was helpful). That made it easier for us to know a bit more how to plan money-wise and know what we could afford. If you are thinking about buying an older house, it’s also good to find out how recently major things like a furnace, electrical wiring, plumbing etc. were updated. That can kind of give you an idea of any potential things you may need to upgrade.
You probably already thought of this, but one thing that people sometimes don’t think about is that when you move to a bigger house, you also have to furnish more space, which obviously will cost more. For us, we ended up furnishing our house very slowly and as we could afford it, but not everyone is okay with doing that.