Paying off debt is hard work. If it weren’t so hard, then it would be no problem for people to do. But, that isn’t the case at all.
Once you decide to pay off your debt, there will challenges along the way. There will be times that you feel tired and even defeated. Paying off debt takes making sacrifices, it takes time, and you may feeling like you are the only one working towards being debt free.
Instead of letting these feelings or challenges completely stop you from moving forward as you pay off your debt, you should know that many of the obstacles you come across are things that you can push past and move on from.
I know these feelings all too well. Not too long ago, my husband and I were over $60,000 in debt. It was frustrating, confusing, and overwhelming. However, after we buckled down and focused on overcoming this mountain together, we successfully paid everything off in 18 months.
Below are a list of 45 tips we used to help pay off our debt. We didn’t use every single one, but we used most of them. I hope this helps give you some ideas on how you can tackle your debt.
1. Have the right attitude
Don’t let negative thoughts kill your motivation. Believe in yourself that you can be debt-free. You may have been in debt for a long time but, there’s a way out. Millions of people are living debt-free. So it can be you. Have faith, start planning and execute your plan for the long term. One day you’ll be debt-free.
2. Make a list of everything you owe and payment amount.
Go to a quiet room, grab a pen and paper, sit down in front of your computer with a hot cup of coffee, and turn your phone on silent.
Take this time to logon to all of the financial institutions you use and write down your total debt. This includes student loans, car loans, credit cards, personal loans, 401k loans, furniture you financed, cells phones you financed, and anything else you’ve financed.
Add it all up and this debt total is your starting point.
3. Don’t add any additional debt
Stay laser focused on becoming debt free and do not by any means add on additional debt. This means no using credit cards, avoid unnecessary shopping, no more loans, no more financing electronics, etc.
4. Start a side hustle
Starting your own business has never been easier! Do you have a knack for making things? Sell your products online. Are you an animal lover? Take up dog walking or pet sitting. Do you have a good eye and a nice camera? Start taking on clients for photo sessions.
5. Get a part-time job.
Not into starting your own business? Then consider becoming a driver for Lyft or Uber. A pizza delivery job at night could also bring in extra money. You can even deliver other types of food in your spare time by working for places like Uber Eats or Grubhub. Sure, you’ll have to put aside your pride and give up some nights and weekends of downtime. But that’s a small sacrifice for extra cash in your pocket.
6. Live off of one income
If you are married, try and live off of one persons income and use the other spouse’s entire paycheck toward debt payments. This will not only help pay off your debt faster, but discipline you to live below your means.
7. Sell your car
The average monthly payment for a new car is $554. That’s just outrageous! Think about how much faster your debt snowball could move if you threw that $550 at it every single month.
My husband and I used to each have our own car, but while we were paying off debt we decided to downsize to one vehicle and use the extra money towards our debt. We not only knocked off a year of debt payments, but we also realized we didn’t need two cars! Even though we no longer have any debt, we still share one car and am perfectly happy.
8. Temporarily reduce or stop retirement contributions
Yep, you read that right. And yes, we even mean stop or reduce contributing to your 401(k). Right now, you want most of your income to go toward getting out of debt. Once you’re debt-free then you can resume your contributions.
9. Increase your car insurance deductible
Doing this will help you save money on your monthly premium. Every small bit helps.The money you save can now go to paying off your debt sooner.
10. Switch from whole to term life insurance
When you boil things down, you really have two options when it comes to life insurance—term vs. whole life. One is a safe plan that helps protect your family and the other one, well, it’s a total rip-off.
Term life insurance plans are much more affordable than whole life insurance. This is because the term life policy has no cash value until you or your spouse passes away.
Of course, the hope here is you’ll never have to use your term life insurance policy at all—but if something does happen, at least you know your family will be taken care of.
11. Sell items on Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, or Craigslist
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Dig through your kids’ rooms and the abyss of your closet to find things you can part with to make some quick cash.
12. Ask for a raise at work
If you believe that you should be paid more for your work and want to do something about it, you have two choices: find a higher-paying job or ask for raise.
Both of these choices can introduce new anxieties, but they are each a gateway to new opportunities. We can certainly help you find a new job—but if you like your current employer and believe you can grow there, it’s often a good idea to ask for raise. After all, your employer may not know that you’re dissatisfied with your pay until you speak up.
And worst case scenario, your boss will simply say no.
13. Make a budget and stick to it
Keeping a budget is not easy.
You have a bad month, get discouraged and give up. Or you think you can keep your budget memorized and that’s good enough. Truth is, for most people that’s not the case.
The truth is a budget helps you reach your goals. It’s an incredibly valuable tool that anybody can master. It just has a steep learning curve for some.
I created a comprehensive step-by-step budgeting guide that will help making your budget and sticking to it much easier.
Related article: The Complete Budgeting Guide: How To Create A Budget That Works
14. Start couponing
You’ve probably heard this a thousand times—but are you doing it? You can save a ton of money just by showing a coupon to the cashier. Just be sure you’re using coupons for products you already buy, otherwise you could end up overspending on items you’ll never even use. That’s how you end up with 10 bottles of spicy mustard sitting in your pantry.
15. Try consignment shopping
Kids grow out of clothes at the speed of light (or so it seems). And let’s be real: It’s not worth it to go into debt for your 2-year-old’s ever-changing wardrobe. Check out your local consignment stores that sell pre-loved outfits in good condition. If you’d rather shop online, no problem. Sites like thredUP and Swap.com are great resources to get adult and children’s clothing at a fraction of the cost.
16. Cut the cable
Welcome to this millennium, where you can watch most of your favorite shows online. If you haven’t cut the cord yet, do it! Put that $100 cable bill toward your debt each month and watch just how quickly your debt snowball starts rolling.
17. Stop going out to eat
Going to a restaurant or hitting up the drive-thru is so much easier than making meals at home. But while you’re enjoying the freedom of not having to cook for those picky eaters, you’re spending way more eating out than you would by eating in. Want a creative way to socialize and share a meal? Invite friends over for taco night instead of meeting up at a restaurant. And hey—if you want to splurge for guac, I’m not judging.
18. Break up with your barista
If you don’t know where all your money’s going each month, we’re pretty sure your favorite coffee shop can find it for you. Brewing your own coffee at home is a simple way to save money fast.
19. Visit the library
Remember libraries? They have plenty of books and movies you can check out—for free! Your wallet has never loved movie night more than it does now.
20. Plan your grocery trips
Make a list and stick to it! Use the calculator app on your phone while you browse the aisles to make sure you’re sticking to your budget. Do impulse items always end up in your cart? Try ordering your groceries online and then picking them up curbside at the store. Oh, and don’t ever shop on an empty stomach!
Related articles: 10 Simple Ways to Keep Your Monthly Grocery Budget At $125 Per Person
21. Avoid expensive hobbies
Do you really have $200 a month to spend on golf? Are you serious? But it’s not just the golfers out there who need to rethink their club dues. Do you spend a ton at craft stores but never get around to starting your project? Home improvement stores can also cost you several Benjamins in one visit.
22. Ditch the gym membership
You can still go for a run outside—for free. Gather some friends and start a running club. Or do those fancy HIIT workouts at your local park. Listen, it’s a free country. Well . . . mostly.
23. Find free entertainment
Put a spending freeze on your entertainment costs for a little while. This means no going out to the movies, concerts, mini golf, bowling or whatever you do for fun that costs money. Instead, challenge yourself to find free ways to stay entertained. Take the kids to the park, go for a walk or a hike, enjoy a free concert, or look for a free event in your community.
24. Get rid of your credit cards
I am all for travel rewards, but NOT if you are in debt. If you have any kind of debt, you need to get rid of your credit cards so that you don’t dig yourself into a hole deeper than you are already in.
25. Tell the kids you’re on a budget
When it comes to money, the kids can be a worse guide than your stomach. Be open with them about what you do and don’t have room for in the budget. And remember: Never be afraid to use that magic word no.
26. Listen to a motivational podcast
Listening to a motivational podcast will encourage you when you feel like you aren’t making progress. By regularly listening to other people’s successes this will inspire you to keep moving forward.
27. Learn to say no
Make it a new part of your vocabulary. Love it. Embrace it. Because when it comes to spending money, you’ll be saying it quite often.
It’s difficult to turn down drinks with your friends or weekend getaway’s with family, but if it involves spending money you have to say no. But keep in mind that this is temporary.
28. Use windfalls like a bonus, tax refund, or gifts to reduce your debt
Put every extra dollar from bonuses, tax refunds, stimulus checks, and cash gifts to reduce your debt payment.
When my husband and I received gift cards to places we never shop, we sold it online and put towards our debt. Thanks Uncle Joe!
29. Think long-term
Think about how good it will feel after you pay off your debt. Yes, it may take a few years, but the rewards will be worth it. You will have so much extra discretionary income since you no longer have debt payments to make. This extra money can go towards funding your dream home, dream family vacation, or invested so you can retire early.
30. Prepare food from scratch
Do you enjoy cooking and being a bit creative in the kitchen? Try baking your own bread, pasta sauce, salad dressing, hummus, apple sauce, pancakes, granola, baby food, french fries, and even your own beer! Making your food from scratch will slash your grocery budget.
31. Grow a garden
To save money, grow more expensive items like tomatoes and melons, or large quantities of vegetables that you purchase regularly. Consider vegetables like beans, beets, onions, spinach, broccoli, peppers, carrots, summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, peas, and Swiss chard.
Too overwhelming? Then start with an herb garden. They’re less fussy and low maintenance.
32. Use every drop
Become a master at squeezing out every bit of toothpaste and face cream, draining jars of olive oil and maple syrup, simmering leftover bones into stock, turning the dregs of Dijon mustard into vinaigrette, and stockpiling butter wrappers for greasing cake pans. I know you may think a few extra drops here and there won’t make a difference, but oh boy trust it will!
33. Purchase off-brand products
Loyalty usually is a great quality, but it can be costly when you shop. Sticking to just one brand rarely makes sense when the only meaningful difference between a national brand product and its generic version is the price.
Sometimes brand-name products offer something unique. More often, though, they don’t. Here are a few items I would recommend buying off-brand:
- cleaning products
- prescription drugs
- storage bags and containers
- wrapping paper and gift bags
- organization products
- frozen fruits and vegetables
- snacks, chips, soda, and cereal
34. Repair before replacing
When something breaks, don’t throw it out immediately and buy a replacement. Assess whether it’s possible to fix it first and get in touch with local service providers to see what can be done to extend the item’s lifespan. This will save you a lot of money.
35. Stay home
Be content with enjoying quiet evenings in and to entertain friends at home, so as not to incur the costs associated with going out, especially with eating at restaurants and buying drinks.
36. Take Advantage of Community Resources
Many towns and cities have plenty of free activities for people to do, such as outdoor concerts, sponsored public skating and swimming hours, family movie nights, and hiking/biking trails. Get in the habit of going online to see what free events are going on around your city. Chances are you will find lots of fun things to do as a family that doesn’t break the bank.
37. Move to a smaller home
If you want to get out of debt fast this tip is going to make the biggest difference.
For most people, the largest line item on the budget is rent and mortgage. The average person spends between 25% to 35% of their monthly income towards their house or apartment, so reducing this one cost can save you a significant portion of your income.
Having a smaller home can be liberating, as it forces one to own fewer belongings, reduces the amount of time spend on cleaning, and requires less maintenance.
38. Make like-minded friends
Hanging out with ‘spendy’ friends on a regular basis is the fastest way to derail one’s savings goals. Seeking out frugal friends is a good way to stay on track, share tips, and to hold each other accountable. You aren’t going to feel pressured to go out to a fancy dinner and drinks afterwards, but instead you will enjoy a few beers and a game of Cards Against Humanity.
39. Always learn about money
Try to constantly improve yourself and your financial acumen through reading, discussion, and experimenting with investments and budgeting. Start following personal finance blogs and podcasts that help hone in your frugality skills.
40. Give your children less stuff
You can tell a lot about a family’s spending habits, based on their kids’ toys and clothing. Frugal kids don’t have a lot of toys; their parents expect them to make do with less and to play outside. They are not dressed in expensive trendy clothing because the parents understand that their goal is to payoff debt.
Kids get more joy out of experiences versus the ‘stuff’ you give them. Instead of buying them the newest video game, take them outside to the park and spend quality time with them with your phone turned off. They’ll appreciate you for it.
41. Stop the urge to upgrade your tech
I know some people that don’t ever spend money on clothes or restaurants, but when the latest iPhone hits in stores in September they are always the first in line to fork over $1k. Resist the urge to upgrade your gadgets! An older model phone or laptop with accomplish the same thing. If you absolutely need to get a new gadget, buy used.
42. Buy in bulk
Whether it’s food or household products be willing to give up some storage space to save money. Shop at buying clubs or discount grocery stores, and pay close attention to sales. As a result, you’ll be able to finely attune to typical prices and know when something is worth stocking up on.
43. Celebrate small wins
One of the best ways to stay motivated to pay off your debt is to celebrate each milestone. If you set your overall goal to be getting out of debt completely, your small milestones will be like steps or mini-goals for you to accomplish. Research shows that breaking down goals into smaller, more attainable chunks helps in achieving them.
This is why the debt snowball method is so effective. You start with the lowest bill, pay it off quickly, and it gives you a little shot of dopamine to keep going because you’ve already paid something off.
44. Rent out your extra room
If you have unused space in your home, renting out a room might be a nice way to earn some extra cash. Renting out a room in your house may be an actual bedroom, mother-in-law space, or some combination of bedroom and bathroom, plus kitchen access.
Renting out a room in your house can be a great experience and a great way to pay off debt fast as you take the time to do it right. Work through the rental set up, advertising, screening, and agreement signing thoroughly to ensure that you have the best rental situation possible.
45. Teach English online
When my husband and I were paying off debt, teaching online was one of the side hustles that I absolutely loved! I made an extra $2,000 a month on top of my day job. I am so grateful for the opportunity and want to share how to do this with all of you. I wrote an entire articles about how to apply, salary range, best companies to work for, and pros & cons of teaching online.
What are your tips fo getting out of debt??