Last weekend, I did something really exciting. I paid off my car! This is the first car in my name, and this is the first time I’ve had to make payments on something. I had a five year loan, and I paid it off in less than two. Here’s how I did it. Also, please note: I know my situation is not the same as everyone else’s. You may not be able to do this, and that’s fine too. If even one of these things helps or inspires, I’ll call that a success.
Go in with a budget in mind
Do your research. Figure out what works for you. Have some kind of knowledge of what you’re going to pay. I know in the United States, credit can have an impact, but if you have even an upward limit of what you can pay, that can help a lot of things.
Start with a down payment
When I went in to buy my car, I had saved up for a while. I ended up putting down $1000 at the onset. That obviously took off a small portion of the overall price of the car.
Accept help if someone offers
When I bought my car, my mom offered to match my down payment. She ended up giving me that money later, and that helped a ton. In addition, someone else I care about (and who cares about me) also gave me some money to put towards my car.
A car payment (or any kind of payment) is a big deal. It’s a strain on you financially, and you need to be prepared for it. Make sure you’re doing what you can to stay on top of payments and live within your means. Sometimes that may mean not doing some luxury things. Find a budget that works for you and stick to it. I’m not saying that you have to only spend money on bills. You’re allowed to have fun too. But make sure your main things are taken care of.
Pay extra if you can
My car payment was less than my expected budget (see my first tip). This meant that I could put a few dollars extra into each payment. Most of the time, it was something small, like $20. But over time, it really added up. And when I would pay extra, I put it towards the principal as opposed to the next payment. This really added up over time.
Pay more than once a month
I know this one is really hard, but this is probably the biggest help. I was fortunate to be able to pay twice a month. This sped everything up so much. I was paying twice as fast because I was making a payment with every paycheck, and I get paid biweekly. This allowed me to get really far ahead on my payments, allowing for some leeway.
Treat it like any other bill
I just mentioned I paid every single paycheck. In fact, it was often the first thing I did when I got my paycheck. That way it was done and I didn’t have to worry about it. I know some people set up recurring payments so it automatically gets deducted when it’s due. Don’t delay on it. Try to get it paid as soon as you possibly can.
Use your tax return if you get one
I know this may not be the case for other countries, but in the United States, a good number of people get refunds on their taxes. I funneled a good portion of my tax return into my car. This lump sum of money helped the amount owed go down.
Keep your goal in mind
I’ll admit. Sometimes it took a lot out of me emotionally to make car payments. I would love to be able to spend that money on other things. But when I would get discouraged, I was able to remind myself of where I’m headed. My car payment (especially the twice a month) was the biggest financial commitment for me. Now that that’s out of the way, I can use the money I would’ve used for my car payment for other things. And even if it’s something as small or menial as building up my savings, I know it’s going to be more beneficial in the long run.
I think that’s all of the main things I did. Again, I recognize I may be more fortunate than others in this situation. And for things like this, it doesn’t really matter your pace as long as you’re moving forward. It could take you five years to pay off your loan, or you could do it in less than 2 like I did. However you do it, you should be proud of yourself for what you accomplish.