If you own the roof over your head, odds are you also have a mortgage hovering over you, too. Month after month, year after year, you keep making tiny dents in that mountain of money you owe, feeling like you'll never reach the summit. Will this ever be over?
Well, guess what? Mortgage payments do eventually end. Hallelujah! And whether it took you 30 years or three, the elation you'll feel when you fork over that final payment may make you exultant, giddy, even a bit lightheaded. You're free!
So just how should you commemorate this auspicious occasion? Look no further than these ideas below (and even if you're still years away from being loan-free, it's still worth pondering as added incentive).
Throw a mortgage-burning party
Those of us who are old enough may remember the "All in the Family" episode where Archie Bunker sets fire to his mortgage notice once he owns his home free and clear.
"All during my 'kid' life, I thought that everyone had a party to burn up their mortgage bill when it was paid off, and I couldn't wait to be invited to one," says Wendy Flynn, a Realtor with Keller Williams in College Station, TX.
We definitely think this tradition could stand to make a big comeback. After all, a bonfire to say bon voyage to that monthly payment would be the perfect summer fete. Just have a fire extinguisher ready so you don't damage your now fully owned abode. Or have a blaze in the backyard!
Paint your front door red
"I've read recently about a Scottish tradition of painting your front door red as a sign to the world that you've paid off your mortgage," Flynn says. "I think that a red front door always looks snappy, and it will go with just about any style of home." Or else, make some other home improvement you've been dying to do for years, from renovating your bathroom to adding a gazebo to your backyard -- you've got the extra cash now.
Get some target practice
Apparently the trigger-happy have their own traditions for venting all that pent-up mortgage angst once and for all.
"Sometimes homeowners will attach their last loan statement to a bag of flour and use it for target practice in their backyard shooting range," says Ryan Fitzgerald, a Realtor with Raleigh Real Estate. And even if guns aren't your thing, you can still release some aggression in other ways. As Fitzgerland notes, "I've also heard stories of people using their last loan statement as a dartboard." Get creative!
Continue paying your mortgage -- to yourself
You're already accustomed to not having that extra windfall, so why not just continue saving it?
"One of the best ways I heard was a family who decided to keep making their monthly mortgage payments, only to themselves instead of the mortgage company," Dale Suggs, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Fuquay-Varina, NC. "You'd be surprised how quickly a monthly payment that stays at home grows into a large retirement sum when discipline is applied."
Lighten the load for future generations
Imagine how much that monthly amount might mean to someone just starting out?
"One family began making those same payments to their grandchildren's college funds, setting them up for a debt-free success," says Suggs. Wouldn't we all like to have those grandparents?
Pay it forward
Want to experience a feeling akin to the wave of jubilation that comes from paying off your home loan over and over again? Give back.
"It's a huge relief to pay off a home loan," says Robert Steenbergh, president and CEO of US Equity Advantage. "To continue that feeling of joy, homeowners can give back to charity. What better way to celebrate than to give to a local agency that helps other people find a home or afford utilities? In addition to the great feeling you'll have by giving back, you'll also receive tax benefits. A win-win situation."
Splurge on a vacation home
If you've dreamed of owning a beach house or mountain home, here's your chance. Want to try your hand at home-flipping or fancy yourself a landlord? Apply the amount you were paying toward a new mortgage.
"The most common way I have heard homeowners celebrate paying off the loan is with the purchase of an investment property," says Melanie McShane, a Realtor in San Gabriel Valley, CA.
Of course, there's still another option: You can always just kick back in your current home and revel in the fact that it's all your own -- a major feat.