Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Christian Personal Finance. Used with permission.

Paul and Shirley have a 30 year fixed rate mortgage on a $200,000 loan. They are paying 5.5% APR and are motivated to pay that mortgage off early. I applaud their enthusiasm, but I also encourage them to examine their priorities before focusing on their mortgage debt. They should:

Pay off all other debt. Why? Because getting rid of other debt will free up their cash flow to allow them to attack that mortgage with gusto.

Save at least a six month emergency fund. Why? Because emergencies WILL happen, and money tied up in their house cannot not be easily accessed to pay for those emergencies.

Be investing sufficiently for retirement. Why? Because they only have one shot at retirement. They should ask themselves this question, “If my retirement account was already on target, would I sacrifice it in order to pay my house off early?” Of course not, but neglecting their retirement account in order to pay their mortgage early is doing the same thing.

OK? Now, assuming Paul and Shirley have met these guidelines, here are five pain free ways for them to pay off their mortgage early.

1. Make a Payment Every Two Weeks.

This approach is especially suited for those who are either paid weekly or bi-weekly because they can synchronize their mortgage payments to their pay schedule instead of the calendar. The strategy works because a payment every two weeks, in a year’s time, will total 26 payments, or the equivalent of 13 monthly payments– one extra payment per year. If Paul and Shirley choose this option, their 30 year mortgage will be gone in slightly less than 25 years.

Note: Many banks, because they are structured to process payments monthly, will not be able to accommodate the bi-weekly payment schedule. However, a diligent borrower can do this on his own by multiplying whatever he is paying now by 1.083 (or 13/12) in order to pay the equivalent of 13 payments a year.

2. Change Your W-4 Forms, Get Less Refund, and Pay Extra on Your Mortgage.

Paul and Shirley, who are receiving a $3,000 refund from the IRS every year, could claim more exemptions on their W-4 forms in order get a smaller refund and more take home pay. If they were to plan for a $600 refund, they would have an extra $200 to add to their mortgage payment each month, lowering their payoff from 30 years to only 21 years.

3. Refinance and Keep Paying the Same Payment.

If Paul and Shirley could refinance their loan from 5.5% to 4.5%, and keep making the same payments, they would knock the mortgage out six years sooner.

4. Utilize Pay Raises.

Paul and Shirley’s current house payment is 25% of their take home pay. If they continue to pay that same 25% as they receive future pay raises, they would be making incrementally bigger payments – a relatively pain free strategy. Assuming these two get a 4% annual pay raise, this tactic would allow them to pay that 30 year mortgage off in slightly over 17 years.

5. Do All Four.

What if Paul and Shirley decided to use all of our pain free tips? It would look something like this:

  • By changing their W-4 forms, their monthly payment would bump from $1135.61 to $1335.61.
  • By paying bi-weekly, their equivalent monthly payment would become $1446.91 ($1335.61 x 1.08333).
  • They will refinance to 4.5% with $1000 closing costs, and keep their payment the same ($1446.91).
  • They will increase their payment by 25% of whatever ensuing pay raises they receive. We will assume pay raises of 4% annually.

Put it all together, and our happy couple will have paid their 30 year mortgage off in … drum roll please12 years and 3 months.

Not bad for some pain free tips on how to pay off your mortgage!

Christian Personal Finance is a resource dedicated to building God's Kingdom and helping others through money.

Joe Plemon started Plemon Financial Coaching in 2006. He has been the Money Columnist for the Southern Illinoisan newspaper (circulation 30,000) since October, 2007 and blogs at Personal Finance by the Book.

Publication date: October 10, 2012