In this article I am going to talk about 5 simple steps to achieve debt freedom and also 5 of the amazing benefits of becoming debt free!
Shortly after my husband and I got married, our debt grew to over $60,000 (before we even bought our first house!). Once I realized how much debt we had, and especially how much debt that was compared to our small income at the time, it was a very scary place to be. The worry and stress gave me a frequent pit in my stomach and made it difficult to fall asleep sometimes.
Even though I knew that there was no such thing anymore as debtor’s prison, I really didn’t know how much power the banks might have to mess with our lives. Fear can be a very strong motivator, and it definitely was for me! We rolled up our sleeves, and by working extra jobs and overtime and selling stuff, we were able to pay off that debt in less than two years, even with just one modest full-time income.
And we have not looked back since. Once we got serious about getting out of debt, we worked diligently to pay off that $60,000 worth of debt and to then pay off our mortgage once we bought our first house. And we have now been debt free for several years. And the feeling is amazing! Debt freedom really is an awesome place to be, and we never plan to go back into debt again!
And I want to help you achieve debt freedom, as well!
Read on to learn how to get and stay out of debt in order to enjoy a wonderful life of debt freedom.
Note: Also be sure to check out the Debt Freedom Binder at the end of this article! It has the information and the tools you need to crush your debt so you can reach your financial goals and live your dreams!
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Our Own Debt Freedom Story
Fifteen years ago, my husband and I were really in a financial mess—even though we didn’t completely realize it at the time. We’d purchased a home with virtually no down payment, with a first and second mortgage back when banks were eager to make those kinds of loans in the years before the real estate bust. And we still had over $40,000 in additional debt.
We didn’t really know anything about personal finance, and we made some pretty dumb decisions. But through a fluke we learned about the power of compound interest (in a college class we were taking at the time that had nothing to do with personal finance). That glimpse into the power of compound interest really rocked my world, and from that point on I was on a quest to learn everything I could about personal and family finance.
As we learned we became determined to eventually be debt free—so that we would never have the fear hanging over our heads that someone could take our home or repossess our vehicle or seize the money in our bank account.
By committing to live within our means (in other words, to spend less than we earned) and by spending very intentionally and through a little luck and a lot of hard work, we were able to pay off all of our nonmortgage debt in less than two years. And we were able to pay off all of our debt—including our mortgage—in less than 10 years.
Fortunately, we had bought a modest home where our payment was manageable, and I worked a lot of overtime and had a second job and my husband worked part-time while he went through school (which he also did debt free, without any scholarships or grants!).
Whether you’ve got credit card debt, student loans, car loans, medical debt, a hefty mortgage, or even all of the above, you can eliminate them all and achieve debt freedom for yourself by systematically working to pay them off as you follow the steps we have taken to pay off over $260,000 in debt.
5 Reasons to Seek Debt Freedom
There are many benefits to paying off all of your debt in order to become debt free. Here are the ones that I feel are the five most important.
1. Financial peace
One of the biggest benefits of becoming debt free is the financial peace that comes with it.
As I mentioned above, when we had our $60,000+ of nonmortgage debt, I had a lot of anxiety and fear. I was stressed out about our financial situation and the fact that that amount seemed nearly insurmountable given our pretty small incomes.
But soon after I graduated college, and even though I was at an entry-level job, it was full time, and I was able to work overtime. I also did freelance writing and editing. And my husband worked part-time while he was in school, and by continuing to live like broke college students, we were able to start getting that debt paid off fairly quickly. Within a few years we had it paid off, and other than our mortgage, we were debt free.
And that was an amazing place to be. And we didn’t stop there. I had been permanently changed by our quest to become debt free, and so we also worked to pay off our home as quickly as possible. We had bought a modest fixer upper that we could afford, and within five years, we had that paid off, as well.
And being completely debt free is an amazing feeling. The peace that comes from not owing anyone anything is amazing. We did move about an hour away to be closer to my work, and so we bought another modest home and paid that off within five years, as well. And now that we are debt free again, we never plan on going back. #debtfreedom
2. Live for less
Another huge benefit of debt freedom is that you can live really cheaply if you choose to. Without credit card payments and car payments, you have something incredible: money! And once your mortgage is also paid off, you can really start to save and invest and give in wonderful ways.
What could you do—how much could you travel, how many restaurants could you try, what schools could you afford to put your children in, how much could you invest for a solid (and awesome!) future, how many unforgettable experiences could you have if you didn’t have a payment in the world? How many lives could you bless by giving and by serving others? What big, audacious dream could you pursue; what business that you have always wanted could you finally start? That is the power of debt freedom.
3. More options
Related to the idea above is the benefit that is simply having more options—for virtually everything.
For example, being debt free has allowed my husband to not have to work, and he has been able to stay home as we have been raising our three children. If we had had a bunch of car debt and credit card debt we would not have been able to live on one income.
Being debt free could allow you to go back to school and pursue higher education or even follow a different career path. Debt freedom could allow you to take a lower-paying job that is more fulfilling or less soul sucking.
And as I mentioned above, by being debt free you are able to give generously to causes you support and you are able to travel or to pay for other amazing experiences that can bless your family in ways you couldn’t even otherwise dream of.
4. Early retirement
Another huge reason to become debt free is to be able to retire young. Who wants to work 50 years (or more—yikes!) just sick on their rocker and sip lemonade? No thank you!
Ever since I started learning about personal finance and the amazing power of compound interest, I decided I wanted to sacrifice to some degree now in order to retire early and have that huge benefit of time freedom later.
If you dream of retiring early and not working for forever, check out this article on the simple steps to retire early.
And also learn about the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) movement. These people are amazing!
5. Work toward ultimate financial freedom
By being debt free, you can build your own wealth rather than the bank’s. And as you invest regularly for the future and for an amazing retirement, you build the stepping stones to ultimate financial freedom.
Learn the 5 simple steps for how to start investing for retirement and long term wealth.
I know you probably have a bunch of debt you need to pay off before you can really start working your way toward financial freedom. But never fear! Be sure to check out this article on the 7 simple steps to pay off debt fast to set your feet on the path to financial freedom.
5 Steps to Achievec Debt Freedom
You can learn how to pay off debt fast by following the 7 simple steps below.
As you work to get out of debt, commit to going all in! The more intense that you get and the more you work to get out of debt quickly, the more likely you are to be able to stay motivated and to reach your goal of being debt free! (And we can tell you from personal experience, being totally debt free—not owing anyone anything!—is amazing! :))
If you are serious about learning how to pay off debt fast, then also check out this more thorough article (with even more debt-slaying tips!) on how to pay off debt as fast as possible.
1. Start tracking your spending and begin to use a budget to achieve debt freedom.
Perhaps the most important step for how to pay off debt fast is to create and follow a budget or spending plan.
Beginning today, start tracking your spending and start using a budget. You’ll feel like you got a raise (really!), and you’ll be able to really start making progress toward ditching your debt.
In order to start working your way out of debt you need to be able to gain financial traction, and the way to do that is to optimize the power of your income.
By really digging into the numbers you’ll start seeing places where you can cut spending. For example, most people can reduce spending almost immediately on groceries (<<find more than 60 tips!) and especially eating out, clothing, and entertainment.
Download the free spending tracker and budget forms below to help you pay off debt fast starting today!
2. Stop going further into debt.
The next step to getting out of debt is to stop going deeper in debt. So stop using your credit cards, and don’t take out any more loans.
If you know from previous experience that you’re likely going to be tempted to use your credit card when you can’t pay the bill in full, then cut up your credit card (or cards) and close the account(s).
You won’t be able to start winning with money until you stop spending more than you have.
Learn more about how to stop overspending.
Check out these related articles:
- 7 Simple Steps: Learn How to Pay Off Your Debt Fast!
- 21 Best Tips to Reduce Your Spending
- 16 Must-Know Tips for How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck
- 15 Simple Ways to Stop Overspending
3. Start working to pay off all your debts systematically.
As you begin your journey to debt freedom, face the reality of your financial situation, even if it scares you to know how much debt you really have. You cannot start to make changes in your financial situation to you have a good grasp of what your situation really is.
Gather information on all of the debts that you have. such as the current amount owed on the debt, the interest rate, the monthly payment amount, and the due date. You should gather this information for all of your debts: credit card debts, car loans, furniture and appliance loans, department store debt, medical debt, personal loans, student loans, payday loans, home equity loans, mortgage loans, and any other kinds of loans that you have.
Once you have gathered information on all of your debts, decide how you are going to go about getting them all paid off. I recommend using either the debt snowball method or the debt avalanche method.
The debt snowball method of paying off your debt is where you list your debts smallest to largest and you begin paying them off one by one in that order. This method can be very effective (it’s the method we used) because it allows you to see that you are making progress and you can get a lot of quick wins, which can really help you to stay motivated.
On the other hand, the debt avalanche method is where you list your debts in order from highest interest rate to lowest interest rate, and you start attacking them that way. If you are a math nerd and seeing the gains from paying off the higher interest rates is what will best help to keep you motivated, then use this method.
Check out these related articles:
- 7 Simple Steps: Learn How to Pay Off Your Debt Fast!
- 7 Simple Steps to Create Your Emergency Fund
- 13 Top Tips to Help You Stick to Your Budget
- 7 Simple (and Crucial) Steps to Put Your Money on Autopilot for Financial Success
4. Reduce your spending to reach debt freedom.
Don’t just meander out of debt—crush your debt! Pretend your pants are on fire, and get that debt paid off as quickly as you possibly can. The sooner you get your debt paid off, the sooner you will free up, as Dave Ramsey calls it, your largest wealth-building tool: your income. Here are several ideas for things you can do to reduce your spending in order to pay more on your debt.
- Lower your ongoing expenses. Turn up (or off) the air conditioner (to 78 or higher, for the most savings), lower the furnace (to 62 or below, for the most savings), slash your grocery spending, lower your cell phone bill, drive less and bike or walk more, and reduce your other transportation expenses. Read this article to find many more ideas to reduce your spending.
- Replace expensive hobbies with free or cheap ones. Tell the kids you’re on a mission to crush your debt. Find tons of ideas here for free and cheap ways to have fun with your family.
- Sell stuff around the house. Do you have electronics, appliances, toys, furnishings, or other items you’re no longer using or don’t need? Sell them on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or your local classifieds.
- Cut your discretionary expenses. Cut cable or satellite, stop eating out for a time or stop spending so much money eating out, stay out of the movie theater, reduce or eliminate other paid-for entertainment for a time, cut back on your fun or spending money, cut your clothing budget, reduce your spending on your pet, reduce your Christmas spending and other gift giving, and cancel (or adapt) this year’s vacation plans. It’s time to get serious about getting out of debt and getting back control of your life!
- Look into selling your car. If you have a significant amount of car debt, look into selling your car (or cars) both to reduce your overall debt and to free up room in your monthly budget. Or if you don’t owe much (or anything) on your vehicle but can go from two cars down to one by selling one of them, then that’s another great option to help you pay off debt fast. We’ve been a one-car family for most of our marriage, and it’s helped us to save a lot of money over the years in not only the purchase cost but in gas, maintenance, insurance, registration, and so on.
Find more ideas for how to slash your transportation costs here. And learn how to never have a car payment again here.
- Do what you can to reduce your housing expenses. Here are some ideas:
- Find a cheaper place to rent. If you’re renting, shop around to see if you can find a less expensive place. You might check different neighborhoods or a nearby town.
- Get a roommate. Find a roommate or housemate. Or two. Or more. 🙂
- Rent out a room in your home to vacationers. Consider renting out a spare room or two in your home on Airbnb or Booking.com. Sign up here on Airbnb and get $40 to go toward your first stay.
- Sell your home. I know that this is a big move—pun intended. 🙂 If you’re ready to make this fairly drastic change, consider selling your house and using the equity to pay off debt fast—but only if you won’t rack up debt again. If you’re really serious about paying off debt and you have a good amount of equity, then this could be a good option to really kickstart your debt payoff (or to pay off debt completely).
For more than 30 ideas on how to cut your housing expenses, read this article.
For even more ideas for how to cut your expenses, check out these 20+ best tips to reduce your spending.
5. Increase your income to help you achieve debt freedom.
One of the best things you can do to pay off debt fast is to work to make more money.
When my husband and I were working to get out of debt, I worked overtime and also did quite a bit of freelance editing and writing work, and my husband also worked part-time while he was going to school.
By earning extra money, despite my small, entry-level job salary of about $30,000 a year, we were able to pay off more than $40,000 worth of debt in two years. The ability to earn more money really is powerful!
Realistically, there’s a limit to the amount of money you can save, but the amount of money that you can earn is literally limitless. That’s one reason that yours truly, a once very much nonentrepreneurial soul, has changed my tune. Here are some ideas for increasing your income.
- Start a money-making blog. I admit that I put this idea first because blogging is my very favorite way to earn extra money! The potential to earn a significant income is definitely one of the reasons that I started this blog. If you love helping people and enjoy writing, being a blogger might be a great fit for you! In addition to great income potential (check out these amazing income reports of bloggers who make $10,000 to $100,000 or more per month!), there are many other benefits of being a blogger, such as being able to be your own boss and work on your own schedule.
I have been blogging part time for a little over a year, and it took about 10 months before I was making a significant part-time income. Since that time, I have been making between $1,500 and $2,000 a month, and I expect that to grow as I continue to learn more about blogging and the different ways to make money blogging.
One of the best things about blogging as a business is that it is such an inexpensive business to start. All you need is a computer, an internet connection, and a site and hosting service. You can literally start a blog for less than $5 a month! Learn how to start a money-making blog for cheap.
- Do freelance work or coaching/consulting. If you work in a field that lends itself to doing freelance work, take advantage of that opportunity to earn extra income to pay toward your debt! I have been doing freelance writing and editing since before I graduated from college with my English degree and editing minor, and doing freelance work has not only helped me gain experience in other areas besides what I do for my full-time job but has also at times (when I wanted to give the time to it) brought in significant additional income.
If you are a word nerd like me, consider making some extra money as a professional proofreader. My friend Caitlyn Pyle has an awesome course where she teaches people not only how to proofread but how to set up their proofreading business and get clients. Check out her course Proofread Anywhere here.
- Get a (second) job. If one spouse is available to get a second job in the evenings or on Saturday, for example, then this is another great potential way to earn additional income. And if you are a one-income family, or if one of you works only part-time, you might want to consider reentering the workforce or going full-time temporarily in order to get out of debt more quickly. Though raises and promotions are awesome because you’re earning more money without necessarily having to spend any more time, you’ll generally make a lot more money by working at another job. (And of course, if you and your spouse both get a raise and a second job, then you take advantage of both methods of increasing your income. Yay!)
- Start a side hustle. If you would rather earn money without working another regular job, there are a lot of things you can do to earn a little extra income. Some ideas include starting your own small business where you turn a hobby into a money-maker, being a virtual assistant, or driving for Uber or Lyft. Learn how to start a side hustle and find out about many side hustles that you can explore.
- Ask for a raise or promotion. In all honesty, most people can make substantially make more money from the options above than from seeking a raise or promotion from their full-time or part-time job, but it is still a good way to increase you income.
If it’s been a couple of years or more since you received a significant raise and you’ve been an exceptional employee at work, catalog your contributions and your accomplishments, and schedule a meeting with your boss to request a raise or a promotion. Focus on ways that you’ve earned the company money or saved them money. If you learn that a raise or promotion isn’t going to happen right away, ask what specific steps you can take in the next year or two to make it a reality. Read this article for more information on how to seek a raise or promotion.
- Earn passive income. Some options for earning passive income are to create a product you have someone sell, write a book, create a money-making podcast or vlog, develop an online course, or participate in affiliate marketing. Read this article to learn more ideas for earning passive income.
- Use rebate apps like Ibotta and Ebates. With rebate services such as Ebates and Ibotta, you can earn money by shopping for things and at places where you would shop anyway.
Ibotta is my favorite FREE grocery money-saving app. I’ve been a member of Ibotta for years, and they are a fun and easy way to save money whenever you shop! With the free Ibotta app, you earn cash back on purchases you make every day from your favorite grocery and other stores such as Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Dollar Tree, Sam’s Club, Amazon, and many, many more! With the easy-to-use Ibotta app you can get cash back when you shop not only for groceries but also for clothing, home improvement supplies, travel services, and more!
I can even use Ibotta at several of our smaller, local grocery stores, which I love!
Signing up takes just a minute, and then you can start to save money whenever and wherever you shop, at physical stores and online! Sign up for your free Ibotta account here!
With Ebates, on the other hand, you generally buy items through their website to save up to 40 percent on purchases. It is primarily an online service. Because of this, you can actually sign up for and use both apps to save on purchases!
Sign up for a free Ebates account here, and sign up for a free Ibotta account here. You can literally sign up for both in just seconds and let the savings start stacking up.
- Sell stuff on eBay or Amazon. If you have a good eye for a bargain, you can buy items at thrift stores or garage sales and sell them for a profit on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, or your local online classifieds.
- Sell your clothes to consignment shops. If you’re like most people, you probably have more clothes than you need. So use them to bring in some quick cash!
- Have a yard sale or garage sale (or sales!). Declutter and make money, all at the same time!
Find even more ideas for how to increase your income here!
Are you ready to start making more money? Sign up below to participate in the free 10-day Earn More Money, Change Your Life challenge and learn actionable steps you can start taking today to really increase your income!
If you are serious about achieving debt freedom, then learning how to pay off debt and then stay out of debt is a must! Paying off your debt as fast as you can and setting financial goals for what you want to do once you are out of debt will help you to stay motivated and make it more likely that you will accomplish your goal.
Are you ready to achieve debt freeom? What have you done already to pay off your debts? What expenses have you cut or are you willing to cut? Are you looking at earning more income by working extra or starting a side hustle? I would love to hear about your debt-free journey! Leave a comment below and let me know where you are at, where you are struggling, and how you are succeeding!
Pay Off Your Debt and Become Financially Free!
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