How To Budget Money While Making Debt Disappear

Many of us that have moved to online banking have our regular payments plotted out to be paid automatically, so we don’t have to worry about filling out the form each month to cover our student loan payment or our mortgage payment. I did this myself a few years ago, setting up four regular payments online so that they were just taken care of. I got out the statement for each one, entered the necessary information, and put in the monthly loan amount. After that, it was just automatically paid every month. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Let’s look at an example based on some information sent to me by a reader, who we’ll call Joe. Joe pays $97.69 a month on his student loan debt, a loan of $12,600 at 7% interest locked in. He’ll be making payments every single month for the last twenty years.

What happens if, say, you just rounded that amount up to the nearest dollar. If Joe sets up that automatic payment to be $98 a month, which would equate to putting $0.31 extra every month. At the end of the debt, he doesn’t have to make the last payment and only pays $34.88 for the payment before that to finish off the debt. By paying $0.31 each month for twenty years, totaling $74.09, you actually pay $132.57 less over the life of the loan. It’s basically an effective, automated way of having a loose change cup.

Let’s say he decided to make that amount an even $100 each month, which amounts to paying $2.31 extra each month. This results in having the loan paid off a full year early, excepting one final payment of $33.47. Over the life of the loan, you would pay $526.68 in extra payments, but at the end of the loan, you wouldn’t have to make the final $1138.81 in payments.

There’s another subtle benefit as well: if you round up to an even number like this for your extra payments, it becomes very easy to calculate required expenses for the month, even without the aid of any calculators. In this example, it’s very easy for Joe to know that $100 is going to go away each time around. In the past, he might have just estimated the $97.69 as being $100, but by making that estimation a true amount, he’s not only making the thumbnail calculations more accurate, he’s saving himself some decent money in the long run, too.

Is there a drawback? You could arguably make a little more by saving the small difference rather than using it in this way, but the difference is trivial and if the interest rate on the loan is high, it might be an even better use of your money to pay ahead. Either way, given the convenience of using rounded numbers and the fact that both ways put you money ahead, it’s worth the fractional amount that you might lose.

I use this very approach on my two student loan payments, even though they’re locked in at a very solid rate. It simply makes calculating easier and the difference between the actual payment and my slightly higher modified payments is basically pocket change, plus, over the long run, it saves money. Sounds good to me.

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