Man and woman smiling holding their hands out with a digital drawing of a home placed in their palms.

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Most people can't afford to buy a home outright, and that's what mortgages are for. In fact, the average monthly mortgage payment on a national level is $1,487, according to new research on household debt by The Ascent. But what if you'd rather keep your monthly payments to a minimum and buy yourself more breathing room in your budget? If that's the case, here's what to do.

1. Make a higher down payment on your home

The more money you put toward a home, the less of a loan you'll need to take out, and that, in turn, will help keep your monthly mortgage payments down. Buyers are often advised to come up with a 20% down payment to avoid private mortgage insurance, but if you can do even better than that, you'll spend less each month and pay less interest over the life of your loan.

Imagine you're buying a $300,000 home. With a 20% down payment and $240,000 mortgage, your monthly payment will be $999.47 for principal and interest, assuming a 30-year fixed loan at 2.9% interest. But if you put down 25%, or $75,000, thereby reducing your mortgage to $225,000, your monthly principal and interest payment will drop to $937, assuming the same loan term and rate.

2. Make yourself a great loan candidate to score an ultra-low rate

The more attractive a loan candidate you are, the more likely you'll be to snag a great rate. In our example, we saw that a $240,000, 30-year mortgage at 2.9% resulted in a monthly payment of $999.47. But what if you only qualify for a 3.3% rate (which, for the record, is still competitive)? In that case, you'd be looking at monthly payment of $1,051.

Mortgage lenders will be more likely to offer you a lower rate on your home loan if you apply with a great credit score (ideally, one in the mid-to-high 700s or above) and a low debt-to-income ratio (a measure of your existing monthly debt relative to your income). Having a stable job will also help make your case. 

3. Refinance your mortgage if you already own a home

If you'd like to bring your existing mortgage payment down, refinancing is a good solution -- especially if you have great credit. When you refinance, you swap your current home loan for a new one with a lower rate. Imagine you're currently paying 3.75% interest on a $200,000 mortgage, and you manage to lower your rate to 2.9%. Assuming you're dealing with a 30-year loan, your monthly payment will go from $925 to $833 for principal and interest on that loan. 

The lower your monthly mortgage payment is, the easier it will be for you to keep up with it, while ensuring you have income left over to cover your remaining bills. Of course, another good way to keep your payments low is to shop around with different lenders before signing a mortgage agreement. The more offers you get, the more likely you are to come away with a great deal, whether you're buying a new home or refinancing in an attempt to lower your costs.