How to Pay Off Debt Fast!
In this article I am going to talk about how to pay off debt fast. Read on to learn 7 simple steps to pay off your debt fast and be able to stay out of debt!
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Our Own Debt Payoff 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 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!).
You’ve got a mess to clean up, a problem to fix—but I know that you can pay off your debt fast, because we did! 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 by systematically working to pay them off as you follow the steps we have taken to pay off over $260,000 in debt.
How to Pay Off Debt Fast: 7 Simple Steps to Pay Off Debt as Quickly as Possible
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 help you pay off debt fast.
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.
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3. Consider negotiating to lower your bills.
In some cases, you might be able to negotiate with creditors to lower the balance of your debt—to accept less than what you currently owe. If the lender has tacked on a bunch of late and other types of fees, for example, there is a good chance you can get those waived.
Especially if you have old, bad debt that you haven’t paid on for a while or that you’ve only been able to pay on sporadically, there is a good chance you’ll be able to persuade the creditor to waive some of the fees and maybe even settle for less than the actual debt that was originally owed.
If your creditors do agree to do this, make sure that you get it in writing so that you have proof in case there are any questions that come up later.
4. Determine whether to use the debt snowball method or the debt avalanche approach to pay off debt fast.
As you determine how to pay off debt fast, I recommend using either the debt snowball method or the debt avalanche method.
The 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 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:
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7 Simple (and Crucial) Steps to Put Your Money on Autopilot for Financial Success
5. Reduce your spending so you can pay as much as you can toward your debt.
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.
6. Celebrate milestones along the way to help you stay motivated to pay off debt fast.
If it helps you to stay motivated to pay off your debts as quickly as possible, then treat yourselves when you hit your various debt freedom milestones. For example, you might go out for ice cream or to dinner as a family when you have paid off half of your debt. Or you might go to an inexpensive movie theater each time you pay off a major debt.
It is also a great idea to plan a reward at the end of your debt-free journey. Whatever you do for your reward, treat becoming debt free as the huge accomplishment that it is! Make it a big deal for you and your kids, because it is a huge deal!
You are changing your lives! You are changing your future and (hopefully!) that of your children! This could be (and I hope that it is :)) the last time you ever have consumer debt in your life! That is amazing and worth celebrating!
For your reward once you become debt free, you might plan a family trip to Disneyland or another fun location, for example, or go on a family camping trip. Having a fun reward to look forward to is a great way to help keep yourselves motivated to reach your goal of being debt free.
7. Increase your income to help you pay off debt fast.
Another top tip for how to pay off debt fast is to work to make more money.
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.
- Ask for a raise or promotion. 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Start a money-making blog. The potential for significant income is 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. Learn how to start a blog for cheap.
- 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. With Ebates, you generally buy items through their website to save up to 40 percent on purchases. It is primarily an online service. Ibotta, on the other hand, is an app you use primarily after you make purchases at brick-and-mortar stores. 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!
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 getting out of debt, then learning how to pay off debt fast is one of the best things you can do to accomplish that goal! Paying off your debt as fast as you can will help you to stay motivated and make it more likely that you will accomplish your goal.
Are you ready to get serious about paying off your debt as fast as possible? What have you done 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 and let me know where you are at, where you are struggling, and how you are succeeding!
Pay Off Your Debt in 2020!
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