5 Ways To Pay Off A Loan Early

If you’re like most Americans, you owe money toward a large loan. Whether that means carrying thousands of dollars in credit card debt, having a hefty mortgage in your name or making car loan payments each month, loan debt is part of your life. This means you’re looking at hundreds of dollars in interest payments over the life of the loan(s). There’s also the mental load of knowing you owe perhaps tens of thousands of dollars and that you’ll be paying back the loan for years to come.

debt being erased

It can all get kind of depressing—but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Did you know there are simple, but brilliant, tricks you can employ to lighten the load? With a carefully applied technique, you can pay off your mortgage, auto loan, credit card debt and any other debt you’re carrying quicker than you thought possible. These tricks won’t hurt your finances in any dramatic way, but they can make a big difference to the total interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan and help you become debt-free faster.

You can free up more of your money each month, use your hard-earned cash for the things you want instead of forking it over in interest and live completely debt-free sooner than you’d dreamed. It’s all possible!

A note of caution before we explore these tricks: Check with your lender before employing any approach, as some loan types have penalties for making extra or early payments.

1. Make bi-weekly payments

Instead of making monthly payments toward your loan, submit half-payments every two weeks.

The benefits to this approach are two-fold:

  • Your payments will be applied more often, so less interest can accrue.
  • You’ll make 26 half-payments each year, which translates into an extra full payment on the year, thereby shortening the life of the loan by several months or even years. If you choose this method with a 30-year mortgage, you can shorten it to 26 years!

2. Round up your monthly payments

Round up your monthly payments to the nearest $50 for an effortless way to shorten your loan. For example, if your auto loan costs you $220 each month, bring that number up to $250. The difference is too small to make a tangible dent in your budget, but large enough to knock a few months off the life of your loan and save you a significant amount in interest.

For a potentially even bigger impact, consider bumping up your payments to the nearest $100.

3. Make one extra payment each year

If the thought of bi-weekly payments seems daunting but you like the idea of making an additional payment each year, you can accomplish the same goal by committing to just one extra payment a year. This way, you’ll only feel the squeeze once a year and you’ll still shorten the life of your loan by several months, or even years. Use a work bonus, tax refund, or another windfall to make that once-a-year payment.

Another easy way to make that extra payment is to spread it out throughout the year. Divide your monthly payment by 12 and then add that cost to your monthly payments all year long. You’ll be making a full extra payment over the course of the year while hardly feeling the pinch.

4. Refinance

One of the best ways to pay off your loan early is to refinance. If interest rates have dropped since you took out your loan or your credit has improved dramatically, this can be a smart choice for you. Contact True North to ask about refinancing. We can help even if your loan is currently with us.

It’s important to note that refinancing makes the most sense if it can help you pay down the loan sooner. You can accomplish this by shortening the life of the loan, an option you may be able to afford easily with your lower interest rate. Another means to the same goal is keeping the life of your loan unchanged and with your lower monthly payments, employing one of the methods mentioned above to shorten the overall life of your loan.

5. Boost your income and put all extra money toward the loan

A great way to cut the life of your loan is to work on earning more money with the intention of making extra payments on your loan. Consider selling stuff on Amazon or eBay, cutting your impulse purchases and putting saved money toward your loan, or taking on a side hustle on weekends or holidays for extra cash. Even a job that nets you an extra $200 a month can make a big difference in your loan.

Triumph over your loans by using one or more of these tricks to make them shorter and pay less interest. You deserve to keep more of your money!

Your Turn: Have you used any of these methods or a different approach for paying off a loan early? Tell us about it in the comments.

APP REVIEW: Cloud Storage Apps

With the incredible convenience of today’s cloud storage services, you never have to lose your files again. 

But with so many free cloud storage apps, the choices can be confusing. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular cloud storage services on the market. 

Google Drive 

Google Drive is already integrated with all Android devices, making it the natural choice for Android owners. The app also syncs automatically with Google’s G-Suite, so if you’re a Google fan, it’s easiest to go with their cloud storage. Download the companion app, Google Photos, onto your mobile device, and you’ll be able to store high-def photos in the cloud as well. 

Best Features 

Google Drive offers 15GB of free storage space, the most generous amount of all cloud storage apps. The total storage is distributed across all your Google services, like Gmail and Google+Photos, but you can choose how to split the 15GB to best suit your needs. 

Folders and files are super-easy to share on Google Drive via email or link. You can choose to send view-only files or allow for edits and comments, making teamwork almost effortless. Google Drive will also store all deleted files in the “Trash” until you empty the bin. 

Glaring Glitches 

Users complain that Google Drive’s web interface isn’t the best, and it can be difficult to use. 

Pricing 

  • 15GB: Free.
  • 100GB: $1.99/month
  • 200GB: $2.99/month
  • 2TB:$9.99/month
  • 10TB:$99.99/month
  • 30TB:$299.99/month 

OneDrive 

Microsoft’s OneDrive integrates directly with Windows without the assistance of any additional apps. It’s the easiest storage solution for Microsoft Office users. 

With some companion apps, OneDrive will work even harder for you. Download Microsoft’s Photo app, and you’ll be able to use OneDrive to sync pictures across all your devices. You can also install a desktop program to seamlessly transfer all kinds of folders and files to OneDrive and make them accessible from a mobile device. 

OneDrive’s mobile app is available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. 

Best Features 

OneDrive’s outstanding feature is its file restoration, which keeps all your files until you’ve deleted them twice, a big plus for click-happy users who often mistakenly delete important files. 

OneDrive also allows you to share folders and files with non-registered users. You can choose to allow others to edit your files or to view-only. 

Glaring Glitches 

The 5GB of storage space in OneDrive’s free version can be tight if you’ve got large files to upload. Users also complain that the OneDrive app is clumsy and inefficient. 

Pricing 

  • 5GB: Free
  • 50GB: $3/month
  • 1TB: $8/month
  • 5TB: $11/month 

iCloud 

Apple’s iCloud is competitively priced and integrates seamlessly across all Apple platforms. 

Best Features 

The Mac Finder app automatically integrates iCloud Drive and allows you to store all kinds of files in the cloud. All documents created in the iWork office suite will be saved to iCloud and can be synced across all your devices. 

If you use Windows for work, but you own an Apple device, iCloud Drive will allow you to sync your Windows files so you can access them wherever you are. iCloud also allows you to restore deleted files for up to 30 days after deletion. 

Glaring Glitches 

With only 5GB of storage, iCloud’s free service might not be sufficient for your needs. 

Pricing 

  • 5GB: Free
  • 50GB: $0.99/month
  • 200GB: $2.99/month
  • 2TB for $9.99/month 

Dropbox 

Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud storage services on the market, offering a modest 2GB of free memory with ways to upgrade at no cost by referring other users. Deleted files are saved in the cloud for 3 days, so most mistaken deletions can be easily recovered. 

Best Features 

Dropbox is super-popular, largely due to its simplicity and ease of use. File uploads happen faster than most free cloud storage services and Dropbox Paper, the document collaboration technology on Dropbox, gives users a genuine feel of workplace collaboration. The app’s powerful file-search tool adds to its all-around convenience. 

Glaring Glitches 

Dropbox’s free version offers a tight 2GB of storage space. 

Pricing 

Dropbox offers a wide range of options for both private users and business owners who need shared storage space for multiple users. 

  • 2GB: Free
  • 1 TB, 30-day history tracking, Office 365 integration: $9.99/month
  • 2 TB, 120-day history tracking, custom branding and analytics: $19.99/month
  • 3TB, account transfer tools, shared team folder: $15/month/user
  • Unlimited storage space, all Dropbox features: $20/month/user

 

How they stack up

  App                                  Free Storage                  Easy to Use                   File Restoration

(30 days)

Google Drive

15GB

No

Yes

OneDrive

5GB

No

Yes

ICloud

5GB

Yes

No

Dropbox

2GB

Yes

No

Your Turn: What’s your favorite cloud storage service? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Southwest Chicken and Rice Bowl

How about serving up a taste of the Southwest at the dinner table tonight? 

Yield: 4 servings
Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Total prep time: 1 hour

Southwest chicken with rice bowl

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into two cutlets each
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked long-grain white rice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2  sliced red pepper
  • 1/2 sliced green pepper
  • 1 sliced onion yellow onion
  • 1 can corn kernels
  • 1 can black beans drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Directions 

  1. In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon coriander, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and cayenne pepper. Rub each cutlet with ½ teaspoon olive oil and spice mixture. Refrigerate for one hour, or up to 24 hours.
  2. Cook rice according to package directions.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet and cook chicken cutlets over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes a side. Remove from heat.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet and cook pepper and onions until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle mixture with remaining spices.
  5. Add corn kernels, black beans and garlic, stirring thoroughly until heated, about 1 minute. Pour in cooked rice and stir until heated, about two minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and add cilantro, lime zest and lime juice.

Everyday Millionaires

How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth–And How You Can Too

Book Review branded graphic

Money conversations can be super-depressing. Everything you read tells you that the “Great American Dream” has faded into oblivion. Everyone you talk to says that only the rich-born can get ahead and make it to the top. We ingest these lies without thinking twice. They become part of our belief systems and kill our ambition, effectively destroying any chance we have of becoming financially successful. 

Get ready to read about the truth. 

In Chris Hogan’s book, Everyday Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth—and How You Can Too, he destroys the most common millionaire myths that prevent ordinary people, like me and you, from achieving and maintaining financial independence. 

Hogan is a #1 national best-selling author, the host of The Chris Hogan Show, and a dynamic speaker who lectures nationwide about personal and business money management. He also serves as a beloved financial coach and Ramsey Personality at Dave Ramsey’s Ramsey Solutions company. 

Everyday Millionaires is the culmination of comprehensive research on more than 10,000 American millionaires—and the results might shock you. 

Here are some of the surprising revelations in Everyday Millionaires: 

  • There is no secret sauce for becoming a millionaire.
  • Most millionaires in the U.S. were not born rich.
  • You don’t need to have a high-paying job to achieve millionaire status.

Everyday-MillionairesHogan and the Ramsey Team show the world that building extraordinary wealth is not reserved for those hailing from a privileged background or holding down high-paying jobs. Instead, true wealth is a product of living with responsible principles, like spending within your means, avoiding the debt trap, investing wisely and exercising discipline with your money. 

There is no carefully guarded secret behind the nation’s most successful people. It doesn’t take a fantastic stroke of luck, a sizeable inheritance or a 7-digit salary. Anyone and everyone can achieve financial independence—and even millionaire status—by following Hogan’s guidelines while living responsibly. 

Learn how to think like the rich and you just might be the next everyday millionaire. 

Your Turn: Do your personal experiences reflect Hogan’s research? Were most of the rich people in your life born wealthy or did they build their own net worth through responsible living and hard work? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Bacon Pierogi Bake

Pierogies and bacon and cheese and tomatoes; need we say more? 

Yield: 4 servings

Hands-on prep time: 18 minutes

Total prep time: 38 minutes

pierogies bacon

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen potato and onion pierogies (such as Mrs. T’s)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped and seeded plum tomato
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Spray an 11 x 7-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray and arrange pierogies evenly in pan. Set aside.
  3. Cook bacon in a saucepan over medium heat until crisp. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Add minced garlic to drippings in pan and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  5. Add cream cheese to pan, cooking for 1 minute, or until cream cheese begins to melt, stirring constantly. Slowly add chicken broth to pan, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Pour the cream cheese mixture evenly over pierogies. Sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly and completely heated. Remove from oven, and top with bacon, green onions, tomato and pepper.

7 Reasons Not To Skip A Home Inspection

Shopping for a new home can be an exciting blur of listings, neighborhood scouting and open houses. There’s so much to consider! You want a house in the perfect neighborhood with that gorgeous kitchen and great yard, all within your budget. 

And then, it all finally comes together and you think you’ve found your dream home. But don’t go “under contract” just yet! First, be sure to have an inspection contingency included in your contract. Doing so can save you a ton of aggravation and thousands of dollars in the long run. 

home inspectionOnce you’re under contract, you’ll need to have your future home professionally inspected by a certified engineer or a licensed inspector. The inspector will carefully examine the entire house from top to bottom, checking its systems, structure and equipment for functionality and potential problems. 

A home inspection will set you back several hundred dollars, but it can easily save you thousands down the line. Before you officially become the new owner of the house, learn all you can about its general condition. 

Here are 7 reasons you don’t want to skip a home inspection: 

1.)   Find deal-breakers 

      A house can look fantastic, but have major structural or technical issues with its wiring, roof, HVAC system, plumbing and more. A quality home inspection will give you the inside scoop on a house before it becomes your home. If the inspection reveals any large problems that would require heavy maintenance or expensive repairs, you may want to back out of the deal. Having an inspection contingency in your contract gives you a way to opt out even after you are officially under contract. 

      If the inspection reveals major problems, but you like the home too much to back away, you can ask the seller to fix the problems before the closing date. Sellers will usually agree to cover any major repairs or to offer the buyer a credit toward overseeing the repairs themselves. 

2.)   Safety concerns 

      An inspection can reveal the presence of harmful substances like radon, carbon monoxide and mold. Look for these hazards before the home is officially yours. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises after it’s too late. 

3.)   Anticipate future costly repairs 

      A home’s systems and equipment may appear to be working perfectly when they’re actually on their last legs. A professional inspector will be able to determine the age and condition of the home’s systems and equipment, and then forecast when they may need to be repaired or replaced. This might not be a big enough deal for you to back out of the contract, but it will help you budget for a major repair several years down the line. Alternatively, you may be able to use it for price negotiation. 

4.)   Reveal illegal additions 

      The awesome rec room you love in the basement of your potential new home might have been illegally built. An inspection will check for rooms, garages and basements that were added or finished without following legal codes or obtaining the proper permits. Having an illegal addition in your home means owning property that does not officially exist. This can get you into trouble with home insurance and property taxes, and can make it difficult to do more work on these areas in your home. 

      If a home inspection reveals any illegal additions, you can ask the seller to obtain the proper permits now, use this information as a bargaining chip or choose to back out of the deal. 

5.)   Obtain insurance easily 

      Lots of home insurance companies will not insure a home if it has not undergone a certified inspection. Insurance companies don’t want to take a chance covering a home that’s going to need costly repairs in the near future. 

6.)   Learn how to protect your investment 

      If possible, arrange to follow the inspector around the home as they complete the job. They will be an invaluable source of information for you, providing tips and knowledge on how best to maintain your home, its systems and equipment. Knowing how to properly care for your home can save you thousands of dollars over the years. 

7.)   Negotiate 

      Most home inspections will reveal several problems. If these problems are minor enough to keep you interested in buying the house in its present condition, you can use them as bargaining chips to renegotiate the purchasing price of the home. 

No matter how perfect your dream home looks, it’s never a good idea to skip a home inspection. 

Are you in the market for a new home? Call, click or stop by True North today to ask about the fantastic home loan options we have for you! 

Your Turn: Has a home inspection saved you from a possible horror story? Share it with us in the comments.