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Similar to a sweet dream, paying off a mortgage loan valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars is a goal that sometimes seems so out of reach. But it is possible. A little over a year ago, I paid off a 30-year mortgage on a home I had bought only three years earlier. I now live mortgage-free in Toronto – Canada’s second most expensive real estate market. I celebrated by throwing a big party with my friends where I burned my mortgage papers – literally.

In my new book, Burn Your Mortgage, I share my secret to my success: simple yet effective lifestyle changes that anyone—from new buyers to experienced homeowners — can make to pay down their mortgage sooner. My tips won’t suggest you eat baked beans and Kraft Dinner every night. Rather, they’re seven simple ways to pay off your mortgage sooner, yet suited to work around your own income and lifestyle. So go ahead and pinch yourself, because this dream can become a reality. The hardest part, though, is staying motivated.

Staying motivated to pay off your mortgage is hard

I can’t lie; paying down my mortgage quickly wasn’t easy. It required a great deal of commitment. But the hardest part wasn’t physically challenging (I didn’t mind working the long hours since I knew it was only temporary). The hardest part was mental – staying motivated.

While setting smaller goals like saving for a vacation and paying off student debt can seem achievable, paying off what is most likely going to be the biggest debt of your lifetime – your mortgage – can seem daunting. I consider myself a disciplined and goal-oriented person, but there were times when I’d have self-doubt and ask myself if it was all worth it.

How to stay motivated

Avoid FOMO and YOLO and stop comparing yourself to others. I’d sometimes experience FOMO (fear of missing out). I’d go on social media and see photos of my friends having fun, eating at restaurants and enjoying exotic vacations. I started to wonder whether I’d be happier doing the same. As the saying goes, YOLO (you only live once). But then I received advice from a friend that changed my life forever: stop comparing yourself to others. Those pictures on social media are only snapshots of the best moments in everyone’s lives. Once you realize that, you won’t feel as tempted to live beyond your means.

Be vocal about your goals. How much we spend also has a lot to do with the company we keep. Peer pressure can easily lead to overspending. Your friends may have good intentions, but they can pressure you into spending money you may not have otherwise, like at restaurants or on weekend getaways. It may not be vocalized, but if you’re out with friends and they stop at an eatery, it may be hard to resist spending money yourself. Now, I’m not saying that you should ditch your friends. But staying motivated will likely become easier if you proactively share your goal of mortgage freedom with your friends and family. They may actually rally around you and offer support to help keep you on track. Telling others about your goals also pushes you to take accountability for your actions and think twice before taking a step in the wrong direction.

Keep a physical reminder. My secret to staying motivated was a framed newspaper article I wrote about my goal of paying off my mortgage by age 30. I’d look up at it above my desk whenever I lacked motivation. It doesn’t have to be a newspaper article. It could be emails from satisfied clients or an inspirational quote. Whatever it is, as long as it motivates you, it can be that spark that keeps you going.

Remember why you’re doing this. It’s also important to remember why you’re paying down your mortgage early. For most people, it’s because they wish to achieve financial freedom. Financial freedom is very personal and different for each individual. For me, financial freedom meant being able to work fewer hours and travel the world. For you, it may mean taking a less stressful job, volunteering more, or even leaving the rat race all together and retiring early.

When you’re financially free, it gives you more time and opportunity to do the things you love. Set yourself a mortgage-free date and every day you’ll be one step closer to achieving it. Imagine how wonderful it will be when you hold your very own mortgage burning party and you light your mortgage papers on fire with your family and friends cheering you on. At that very moment, I knew it was all worth it and you will too.

Sean Cooper

Sean Cooper is the author of the new book, Burn Your Mortgage. He bought his first house when he was only 27 in Toronto and paid off his mortgage in just 3 years by age 30. An in-demand Personal Financial Journalist, Speaker and Money Coach, his articles and blogs have been featured in publications such as The Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Financial Post, Tangerine: Forward Thinking blog and TheDot. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanCooperWrite.

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