If your business has seasonal slow periods that make it difficult for you to meet fixed loan payments 12 months a year, take heart. Many banks and finance companies let businesses structure loans that permit them to skip designated payments -- in effect, allowing them to customize their payment schedule to match expected cash flow.

Bankers don't always volunteer their willingness to consider nonstandard paybacks, notes Ted Zoli, president of Torrington Industries, a $10-million construction-materials supplier and contracting business, which did its first skipped-payment loan more than 15 years ago. These days, however, such deals are becoming more common, in part because more lenders have computers that can do the calculations.

"Every time we buy a piece of construction machinery," Zoli explains, "we set it up so that we're making payments for eight or nine months, and then skipping three or four months during the winter." This suits the Glens Falls, N.Y., company's needs because its business tapers off during the winter months. Since Zoli misses a few payments, he ends up paying the bank more interest over the life of the loan than he would on conventional financing. But the convenience makes it well worth the extra cost, he argues.

To figure out the proper payment and loan-amortization schedule, Zoli uses a PC software program called Payoff (Phadean, 508-869-6077, $27). The program, he says, shows what happens when he skips (or prepays) any payment over the life of the loan; an additional benefit is that it lets him check the bank's calculations.

For those who are more comfortable with old-fashioned printed tables, Skipped Payment Tables (Financial Publishing, 617-262-4040, $27) offers 297 pages of tables covering loans at interest rates from 7.5% to 25%.

-- Bruce G. Posner