Question: What’s the Fastest Way to Pay Down My Mortgage Early?

Vanilla or chocolate?

Credit or debit?

House Hunters or Jersey Shore?

Some questions can be answered with relative ease by almost everyone.

When it comes to paying down mortgages early, however, a much more perplexing question for most folks is whether it’s better to make a single large extra principal payment annually or twelve smaller ones each month.

Is one method better than another?

Does one prepayment method save more interest and result in a quicker loan payoff date than the other?

Let’s assume we have a 30-year loan for $200,000 at an interest rate of 6%. After crunching the numbers (and rounding them just a bit for clarity) we get the following results:

It would take 297 months (24.75 years) to retire your loan if you make one extra payment of $1200 annually. On the other hand, choosing to make 12 additional monthly principal payments of $100 each year would allow the loan to be paid off two months sooner, saving an additional $1830 interest in the process.

Then again, over a 24-year period, that’s almost a wash considering the amount of interest paid overall, not to mention inflation’s insidious impact on the dollar’s purchasing power over time.


Now, I know what you’re thinking: But Len, is the impact any different for a shorter loan?

Not really.

Again, let’s assume we have the same loan amount and interest rate as in our first example, however this time we have a 15-year mortgage. Here are the results:

As you can see, no matter which path you choose, it’s essentially the same answer once again, although the difference between the two methods is even less pronounced with the shorter loan. In this case, making 12 equal extra payments of $140.66 every month would retire the loan in 160 months (13.33 years) — that’s one month sooner than making single annual payments of $1688.

So there you have it. When it comes to making extra mortgage principal payments, there is very little difference between the two methods, regardless of whether or not you have a 30-year or 15-year mortgage.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go downstairs; the Honeybee wants me to order us a pizza for dinner.

The trouble is I’m not sure if I should make it sausage or pepperoni.

Photo Credit: Woodley Wonderworks


  1. 1


    The real question is will the sausage or pepperoni pizza result in a faster mortgage pay off.

    Best I remember I think I heard you say you plan to pay off your mortgage as slow as possible. Is that still your plan?

  2. 4


    Choose veggie and save yourself a few fat calories! Of course there’s all that cheese…

    I know you’re presenting a hypothetical, but the big potential savings for the scenarios you present is refinancing that 6% mortgage, yes?

    • 5

      Len Penzo says

      I love veggie pizzas, Kurt. In fact, I prefer them to meat pizzas! The rest of my family … sadly, not so much. When it comes to pizza, they’re big-time meat lovers.

      (And yes, a no-cost no-cash-out refi is always a great way to save a lot of interest — especially if you have a 6% loan and refi into one at 3.5%.)

  3. 6


    When I first got my mortgage in 2003. Royal Bank would only allow you to have a lump sum payment once per anniversary date of the mortgage. Otherwise they would allow you to double up payments ( with the added going right to principle ). It sounds like it was a little different, but with the same outcome you described.

    • 7

      Len Penzo says

      So they wouldn’t allow you to divide an entire extra mortgage payment into 12 smaller monthly extra principal payments? That’s really harsh, if true.

  4. 8


    Can we slow down and back up a little? When did your example assume the annual payment was made: beginning or end of the year?

    If you make the one annual payment at the END of the year, what you say should be true, and it stands to reason: the monthly payment chipped away at the principal, while the annual program left the $1,200 there for the entire year. So the interest burden will be higher, and it will take longer to pay off the loan.

    However, if you make the payment at the BEGINNING of the year, wouldn’t you pay the loan off earlier, because the loan carries a lower debt burden during the year?

    When you make 12 smaller payments, the difference between end of month and beginning of month isn’t that pronounced. But doesn’t it make a discernible difference (an entire year’s interest won or lost) if you make the annual payment Jan 1 or Dec 31?

    • 9

      Len Penzo says

      That’s a fair question, William. It is at the END of the year. However … I just figured that was kind of self-evident since, if you had the money available to make the first annual extra principal payment with the very first mortgage payment — and then every year thereafter on the same day — then why wouldn’t one simply have reduced the original mortgage value by that first extra principal payment? :-)

      Or am I missing something?

  5. 12


    I think it’s more a preference of where the money is coming from. If it part of your monthly budget, put it on as a $100 extra payment. If you get a tax refund and want to use part of it for that, then do the once per year payment. Otherwise, as you said, very little difference.

  6. 13

    Bud says

    I have about 100K left on my mortgage. I also have about 75K in cash in various liquid sources that I cantap into. Should I use the 75K(savings acct and Mutual funds) towards paying off my mortgage or should I just take my time to pay if off while investing the 75K more aggressively? I’m estimating that if I dont touch my savings, it’d take me 4-5 years to pay off my house. It’s a decision of pay off mortgage now vs 5 years. Which is better?

    • 14

      Len Penzo says

      Well … you have to do what you feel is right for you, Bud. Everybody is different.

      But I’m in the same position you are. Right now I almost have enough liquid assets and cash available to pay off the rest of my mortgage if I want to — but I choose not to. Instead, I’m investing the money I could be using to pay down the mortgage faster elsewhere right now. The beauty is, if I ever change my mind, I can always apply those funds I’ve accumulated to paying down the mortgage early.

  7. 15


    If you can combine a whole bunch of methods (more frequent payments, lump sum payments, refinancing) it’s the most beneficial – you can slay your mortgage a lot faster if you employ more than one method. It’s interesting to see that there isn’t much difference between the two methods.

    To play devil’s advocate, if you could find a different place in which to invest the monthly payments, until it’s a lump sum, you may be able to put more on the lump sum.

  8. 16


    I have been paying extra each month for 16 years and will retire my mortgage 9 years early. The reason I chose this method is because I didn’t have enough money for an extra payment when we were starting out. It was also very easy and conveneint to pay a little extra each month. I am so glad I did it.

  9. 17


    The extra $100 principal payment per month would typically be less taxing for folks than to make one large payment of $1200 per year. One other option would be to make a larger principal payment when extra funds arrive such as a year end bonus or higher income from a seasonal business.

    I like the idea of paying off mortgages early in most cases. That being said, I hope the NHL lockout ends before I pay off my mortgage.

  10. 18

    Stefano says

    From my experience I can say, there are financial calculators which show you in detail how to payoff mortgage early. The calculator which I use is ” Smart Loan Calculator Pro ” which is available in app store for 2 bucks. It is awsome. It is not for one time. It is life time useful smart calculator. Give it a try. I guarantee, you would thank me after you download and check it. After checking this, I realized how easy to payoff martgage early.

  11. 19

    Travis says

    I’ve found the most fun way to paying the mortgage down faster is matching the next month’s principle on your current payment. It essentially skips the interest you would have paid and should knock off a month on your loan. Taxes and insurance don’t matter since you have to pay those regardless. I just like to see all the interest I’m saving by doing this!

  12. 20

    Laura Vannoy says

    Our payment stubs have a line called “additional principal.”
    However, elsewhere n the body of the monthly statement we are advised that any additional funds received will be held in a temporary account called “unapplied funds” until such time as enough have accrued to make a full payment. Then, and only then, will they be applied – as a normal payment.
    Obviously we should refinance, we would have done, if we could have done.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *