If you have a 30-year mortgage on your home like most people do, it may seem like forever until you own your home free and clear. This doesn't have to be the case though, and by paying just a little more each month, the time until your mortgage is paid off can drop dramatically. In addition to the shorter payoff time, you'll save yourself a ton of interest in the process, so maybe it's worth spending a little more now to make your financial future much brighter.

A little extra can go a long way
Let's consider an example of a new 30-year mortgage with a $200,000 balance. At an interest rate of 4.5%, your monthly principal and interest (P & I) payment would be $1,013. However, if you were smart and bought a home you can afford comfortably, there should be a little extra in your budget.

If you could afford even $50 extra per month, it would knock almost three years off the loan. $100 extra per month would shorten the mortgage to just 25 years. Higher payments would knock even more time off the loan.

Click through this graphic that shows what your remaining balance would be if you made just the minimum payment, and compare it to the various extra payment amounts. Makes quite a difference, doesn't it?

Check out the savings!
By paying off your mortgage early, you not only reduce the amount of time you need to send in those checks, but you also save yourself a boatload in interest you would pay if you took the full 30 years.

By paying just the required amount, over the life of the loan you will have paid almost $165,000 in interest alone. It would certainly be nice to get out of paying some of that, right? Check out how much you can cut down on the amount by just paying a little more!

Can you afford an extra $100 per month if it saves you almost $32,000? All of a sudden it doesn't seem like such a burden!

So, how much can you afford?
If you can afford a little extra per month, go for it! If you don't want to commit to a certain amount, an annual or a one-time additional payment can go a long way toward paying off your loan earlier as well. For instance, if you take $1,000 of your tax refund each year and use it to pay down your principal, it'll knock off more than four years and $26,000 in interest.

Your payments don't need to be completely consistent, and little extra payments when you can afford it will go a long way. Bankrate.com has a very handy amortization calculator that lets you play around with various extra payment options. Enter in your mortgage balance and how much extra you could comfortably afford if you wanted to. How much time and interest will it save you?

Owning your house sooner means more financial freedom, and by paying it down earlier, not only will your house really be "yours" sooner, but you'll have a bunch of money left for yourself that didn't go toward making your bank richer!