Once we started we were hooked…
After that first overpayment we were hooked and were motivated to pay off the mortgage as soon as possible. Our overpayments are limited to 10% of the original mortgage balance. The original mortgage balance was €170.500, so we could pay €17.050 per year in extra payments without incurring prepayment penalties. This amount became our goal to pay off per year. At first this was very hard to do, but with every overpayment on the mortgage, our monthly payment for the mortgage also went down, so we profited from the snowball effect. In 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 we paid off €17.000 each year, totaling €71.500 in five years.
There are a couple of things we did to lower our expenses in order to be able to make the extra payments:
- Budget: we started using a zero-based budget and we keep this up to this day. At first we started a budget in Excel, but we’ve been using YNAB for a couple of years now and love it! Budgeting sounds boring, but I started to love it because it helps us reach our goals but also gives us permission to spend.
- Insurance and other monthly payments: we started looking critically at our insurances and switched to cheaper companies when we could and made sure we were not double insured for stuff. We also cut cable because we weren’t watching that much tv anyways and switched to Netflix.
- Grocery shopping: trying to shop vegetables that are in season and on sale and buying buy-one-get-one free deals when it is stuff that we actually used. Also meal planning really helps. We moved to a new city in May and since then we can easily shop at Lidl and Albert Heijn. Lidl is cheaper for most, but not everything. If in doubt we can easily check the price of an item in the Albert Heijn app while we are standing in Lidl. However, we don’t go for the cheapest on everything. For things like meat and eggs we prefer to buy organic.
- Travel: we love to travel as much as anyone else. We love Scandinavian countries the most, but they are amongst the most expensive countries to go to. So in the past couple of years we’ve stayed home one year, went on two bike trips, camped in Italy, visited Stockholm for a city trip and last year we traveled around Norway for three weeks. Some trips were more expensive than others, but by limiting the number of times we go and balancing between cheaper vacations (bike trip/staycation) or more expensive ones (Stockholm, Norway).
- Car: we have one car and it is mainly used by J. who needs to car to get to work and public transport is not an option to get there unfortunately. J. is very good at driving his car as economically as possible and he actually gets the gas mileage for his car that the car brochure claims it does. Also we try to avoid using the car for personal trips as much as possible, also for environmental reasons, and use bike and public transport.
- Curb lifestyle inflation: our income went up by 27,46% between 2012 and 2016. Partly because I graduated, but I struggled to find a full time job in my field for a good while, but since 2015 our income was up. We tried to keep our expenses the same as much as possible. We are both college educated working professional jobs so most of our peers drive expensive cars, have cleaners for their house, go on exotic vacations multiple times a year, use pricey meal services, and buy lunch at work every day. Sometimes it’s hard to be always be the frugal person, but it’s worth it to us.
- Just don’t buy it: I found minimalism before personal finance and this also helped with curbing our wants. Stuff does not make you happy even if it’s a good deal, and the most frugal thing is just not to buy it.
In the next post I will share how we finally were above water on the mortgage and found our new house in the city.
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