Feb

When you take the proper savings steps, your financial goals can be within your reach sooner than you think. Image credit: Flickr.

When you're in repayment for something big -- a house, for instance -- it can be years before you reach your payoff goal. A bit discouraging, I know. It's like feeding dollars into a vending machine for years before finally getting your return in the form of a giant house-sized Snickers bar -- which probably lost its satisfying sweetness some time ago.

But just because you have a long road ahead doesn't mean you can't cut down the total time to your mortgage payoff destination. In the instance of paying down a mortgage, making even one extra payment can shave off a good chunk of time and interest.

So how can you make good on adding one extra mortgage payment this year? Establish your motivation and your method.

Motivation: Understand long-term impact of one extra payment
Give yourself the "why" behind the "how" for amping up your mortgage payment by crunching the numbers.

"Cold, hard savings" give a pretty compelling answer to the question What's the big deal about making an extra payment anyway?

Say you begin paying back a $150,000 mortgage with a 4% interest rate. Following a standard 30-year payment schedule, you can expect to pay off your mortgage by February 2045. But if you were to match and contribute one additional $712 payment each year, you could expect to pay off your mortgage in February 2041. That shaves a full four years off the total repayment time! Wowza.

To calculate your own savings, you can use Trulia's Mortgage Calculator to fill in your mortgage details and enter any additional payments.

Method: Pinpoint ways to save

1. Review your current budget
Take a look at your credit statements, your savings, your debt, and your overall spending to get a better understanding of your financial layout. Knowing your current financials gives you a clearer insight into your spending and saving habits, which in turn gives you a clearer insight into how you can tweak those habits to contribute more to your mortgage.

2. Set a reasonable goal
Big ambitions get overwhelming pretty quickly. To keep you on track with your savings plan, start by setting a goal you know you can achieve. For instance, if you know you can save $10 a month, start there. Put that extra $10 into your mortgage payment for one month. Once you've reached that goal, bump it up to $20.

Increase incrementally until you've reached your sweet spot. It's more effective to start small and calibrate than it is to start too big and give up shortly thereafter.

3. Automate extra savings
There will always be a reason to divert extra savings to another area. To help you avoid the temptation of funneling funds elsewhere, automate extra savings into your mortgage payment. You can use your bank to automatically portion a sum from your paycheck directly into a savings plan.

Follow-up: Check in regularly with your finances
Even after you've pumped up your payment, it's still important to continue evaluating your success. Set a regular "money date" to check in with your numbers. Create an accountability group that keeps you honest with your goals. Schedule a weekly lunch devoted to your finances. Anything that can keep you in touch with your long-term financial goals.

Remember when I mentioned that house-sized Snickers bar reward? Take the proper savings steps, and it'll be yours all the sooner. Well, at least a house-sized house will be. I'd say it's still a good deal.

This article originally appeared on Trulia.

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.