An interesting article published in the Globe at the end of last year revealed a surprising statistic: “during the past year – a time when household debt has soared to a record high – 32 per cent of [mortgage] borrowers have managed to dramatically accelerate their mortgage payment schedules”.

How dramatic, you might ask? The average mortgage owner increased their monthly payment by $300, AND contributed a lump sum payment averaging $22,500! That’s over $25,000 ON TOP of their regular mortgage payment.

You might be wondering how your neighbor found an extra $25,000 in income and you didn’t. Turns out they didn’t either. Many people who are aggressively paying off their mortgage are also aggressively getting into deeper and deeper credit card debt.

We’ve talked before about strategies you can use to pay off your mortgage faster, but increasing your consumer debt was never one of the suggestions.

Why are people SO anxious to pay off their mortgage and so comfortable with credit card debt?

We’re getting into wild speculation territory here, but perhaps watching the U.S. meltdown showed people that the only way you truly own your home is when you’re mortgage-free. Once the bank gets their money back, that house is yours and no one can take it from you – no matter what happens with interest rates or house values.

At the same time, unless someone has ever really been in trouble with credit cards, it’s possible they just don’t see the real damage of funding their life with one (or several) while using their income to pay off their mortgage.

Of course this attitude of robbing Peter to pay Paul doesn’t make that much sense. Credit cards come with a much higher interest rate, and at the end of the day, debt is debt.  It makes sense to be strategic about your debt. Whether it’s knocking out a few smaller debts to make yourself excited about the whole process, or diligently cutting $300 in expenses every month to put on your mortgage, working your way to debt-freedom is always a worthwhile goal.

Just don’t make the mistake of only looking at one part of your financial situation. Seeing your mortgage streak towards zero is very exciting. But imagine the feeling of finally paying off your home, only to suddenly realize that you’re $80,000 in debt to your credit card companies.

Use mortgage flexibility and pre-payment options to your advantage, but remember that, in the grand scheme of your entire financial situation, the interest rate on your mortgage is extremely low compared to other debt, and there’s a good chance it makes more sense to tackle that other debt first.