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Why I’m reducing my mortgage payments

One of the ideas I’ve been wrestling with for the last few months is my mortgage payments. I’m currently paying $660 bi-weekly, which is approximately $110 more than my minimum payment. I was happily paying this extra money until I realized that early retirement was still my number one financial goal. And if it’s the most important financial goal for me at the moment, why wasn’t my budget reflecting my priorities?

I thought about this for a long time, debated the merits of mortgage payments vs. RRSP with friends, tried to find money in my budget, got jealous because BF has a pension plan waiting for him in less than 20 years… and then I decided to make my move.

Related: What does retirement mean to you?

The extra $110 I’m putting towards my mortgage on a bi-weekly basis is gone. Instead, I will funnel the money into my RRSP/TFSA. That’s an extra $2,860 I can save in 2014, and will help me with my goal of saving at least $750/month towards retirement this year. With the tax refund I will receive, that money will go towards my mortgage as a lump sum payment.

I think this is an appropriate move because even with just my accelerated bi-weekly payments, I will be finished paying off my mortgage before my desired retirement age. And if that’s the case, it makes sense to put extra money into my retirement accounts now so that I can benefit from compound growth for the next 25+ years.

Take a look at the chart below. The dark blue represents accelerated bi-weekly payments without any additional prepayment options. That cut my original 30-year mortgage down by 4 years.

What I have been doing for the majority of last 2.5 years is what the orange represents: accelerated bi-weekly payments with an additional 20% prepayment. That knocked my mortgage down even further, to 19 years. It’s hard to give that up.

I’m anxious about reducing my mortgage payments, because my plan was always to pay down my mortgage as fast as possible. It doesn’t feel right to pay down debt at a slower rate than I’m capable of. But the past 2.5 years of home ownership have taught me a lot. Being a single homeowner is difficult. It’s hard to get ahead, and planning for the future is tough on a one-income household – especially a future that includes early retirement without a company pension. I’m comforted by the fact that my tax refunds will now go towards my mortgage, so at least I’ll continue to over contribute in some way. :) And, by changing the way I save my money, I believe I’m keeping myself on track to achieve my financial goals.

Have you ever had to choose between paying down a mortgage faster or contributing to retirement?

How I chose my first home

Some people say they knew exactly when they had found “The One” for them. They just got that giddy feeling inside of them. Everything about it was perfect. It was love at first sight.

Of course, I’m talking about buying your first home. :)

For me, I’ve always been a little bit indecisive when it comes to making big decisions, and buying my first home was no exception. I always thought I’d buy my first home with a partner (maybe a husband), but life doesn’t always work out the way you think it will. I had spent years saving up for my down payment, and I was ready to buy. I just needed to find “The One” for me.

Related: Two years of home ownership

Once I found a real estate agent that I wanted to work with, I came up with a wish list of things that I wanted for my first home:

  • Less than $280,000
  • One bedroom
  • Townhouse (separate entrance)
  • In-suite laundry
  • Parking spot
  • Open floor plan

My agent took me to see 11 different properties over two weekends. I saw everything from new builds with granite countertops and all the upgrades, to rundown units that needed a lot of TLC. In the end, the two that appealed to me were townhouses. I liked the idea of having a separate entrance – it felt like more of a home to me, instead of living in a condo building surrounded by neighbours.

The first townhouse was listed at $265,900. It was a one-bedroom home in a very desirable location, and ticked off all of the items on my wish list. The layout was a little quirky, but it had a nice front porch and was just steps away from a beautiful park.

Related: Take this quick and easy quiz to see if you’re ready to become a homeowner!

The second townhouse was $292,000. It was a two-bedroom home with a slightly more closed off floor plan, but closer to public transportation. It was a little more expensive than my wish list budget, but I could see how I would be happy there.

It was a really tough decision. I visited both places twice, and spent some time just hanging out. I took into consideration the layout of both places, as well as the space provided (the two-bedroom townhouse was approximately 250 sq. ft. bigger). Having a bigger home would mean it would be more appropriate for a longer period of my life. But did I really need the space?

Most importantly, I thought about the price. Was the second townhouse worth almost $30,000 more?

Related: How I saved for my down payment

Broken down over 25 or 30 years, it wasn’t a big difference in terms of monthly payments. But I needed to think about a bunch of different factors, such as the amount of interest paid over that time frame, how quickly it would take for me to pay off the mortgage, and how a larger monthly payment would affect my other life goals (such as retirement and travel).

In the end, I chose the one-bedroom townhouse because I knew I wouldn’t be able to fully utilize the space that a two-bedroom offered. My real estate agent and I were able to negotiate the price down to $259,900 – $6,000 off of the list price.

By choosing the cheaper option, I’m living in a nicer building complex, as well as saving on my mortgage, utility bills, future renovations, and the cost and energy of running a home. But perhaps most importantly, as a single homeowner, I have the security in knowing that I can comfortably afford my mortgage (even if interest rates rise) by myself.

Disclaimer: This post content is sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada, however the views and opinions expressed herein represent my own and not those of Royal Bank of Canada or any other party and do not constitute financial, legal or other advice.

Two years of home ownership

If you’ve got a ton of questions about buying your first home, you’re not alone. Join @RBC_Canada and a panel of 5 experts for the #FirstHome Twitter chat, on June 5th at 8 pm, EST. Get answers to your most burning questions — and a chance to win RBC Visa Gift Cards!

This month I celebrate two years of home ownership. It’s been an interesting (sometimes overwhelming) journey that required years of research and saving up to make sure I was ready.

Although home ownership has definitely not been easy, I feel like I made a smart, calculated decision that I’m still really happy about.

Here’s why:

My mortgage is comfortable

When I decided I was ready to stop renting and become a homeowner, I knew the bank would approve me for much more than I was comfortable spending. And when I was pre-approved for close to $300,000, I had already gone over my finances and decided that I wasn’t going to take on a mortgage of more than $250,000.

Related: Take this quick and easy quiz to see if you’re ready to become a homeowner!

No matter how stable you might think your life is, things can change. Case in point, eight months into my home ownership adventure, I was faced with the opportunity to live in Germany for what turned out to be almost 11 months. Because my townhouse complex does not allow rentals, if I had taken on a bigger mortgage, there’s no way I could have afforded to go.

I can still save for everything else in my life

I ended up taking out a mortgage of just over $238,000 – which meant my monthly mortgage payments are approximately $1,070/month. I decided to increase my payments by 20% and opted for a bi-weekly payment option in order to pay off my mortgage faster. Had I chosen a more expensive home, I wouldn’t have the wiggle room in my budget to save for retirement, travel frequently, and pay down my mortgage faster.

The place feels like a home

It can be so tempting to head to a home improvement store and go on a renovation and decorating spree. But if you haven’t set aside money in your home buying budget for improvements, it’s likely better to hold off until you can afford to pay for your purchases in cash.

Part of my strategy to becoming a first time homeowner was to be able to make renovations or buy furniture and decorations as soon as I moved in. I wanted it to feel like home – so I saved $4,500 and spent the entire amount on new floors, fresh paint, and furniture (which I purchased off Craigslist to save more money).

I have all my finances in order

Buying my first home was the biggest, most important financial decision of my life. Not only am I single (so the “household” only has one income to support the mortgage), I also had to take in to consideration many different things – including my work history, credit scores, and cash savings. I knew that the cleaner my overall financial history was, the better chance I would have at snagging the best interest rate possible for my mortgage.

I started thinking about becoming a homeowner six years before I closed on my townhouse. In that time, I eliminated all of my debt, increased my net worth by over $80,000, created an emergency fund, and tucked money aside for closing costs, moving expenses, renovations, and furniture.

Doing my research well beforehand, and making sure I had enough money to cover every detail of the purchase made my home buying experience a lot less stressful.

Disclaimer: This post content is sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada, however the views and opinions expressed herein represent my own and not those of Royal Bank of Canada or any other party and do not constitute financial, legal or other advice.