How to Get Out of Debt Quickly
1: Track Your Spending
One of the first things you can do to increase your chances of success in paying your debt off fast would be to track your spending down to the last penny. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to know where your money is going. This includes recurring bills and monthly payments for items like utilities, credit card payments, food, transportation, housing, insurances, entertainment and anything else that is a regular outgoing expense. Just as importantly, it’s necessary to track each one-time purchase, which can be extremely helpful in identifying expenses that aren’t typical but can add up quickly.
You will be able to identify areas where you can cut out unnecessary spending, which in turn will free up funds that you can use to apply towards your debt. Your goal is to get out of debt fast, this may be the most important step to help you reach your goal. It’s likely pretty obvious that in order to meet your lofty goals you will need to alter previous habits in a meaningful and considerable fashion, so starting with having a solid understanding of your spending is an absolute must.
2: Build A Debt Repayment Plan
Start laying out a strategy for tackling your debt, and do it early. You can always revise and adjust your repayment strategy as you progress towards getting out of debt quickly. There are a few solid methods to repaying the debt that you may want to consider. Each has its own benefits that can help in differing ways. You’ll want to understand where your money is going by the time you are ready to build your get-out-of-debt plan. Using quality spreadsheet tools like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel will help you dial in your repayment plan. Use the spreadsheet to track your expenses, spending, and income. You can use the spreadsheet to create formulas that allow you to project how much you can pay towards any given debt and create a solid estimate of when that debt will be paid in full. This DIY (Do-It-Yourself) approach can be extremely successful by providing you with helpful tools. If you need assistance in creating a plan, you may find that a nonprofit credit counseling organization such as Money Fit by DRS can help you develop a repayment plan at no cost to you.
Three Repayment Strategies To Consider
A popular debt repayment strategy is known as the Debt Snowball Method. This repayment strategy has been around for years and has helped many individuals drop their credit card debt one account at a time. Essentially, you pay the smallest balance first and apply the funds used to knocking that first card out to the next smallest balance in line.
You can apply the Snowball Method by using these steps:
Step One: Create a list of all of your debt and put them in order from smallest balance to largest balance.
Step Two: Keep paying the minimum amounts due on all accounts other than the smallest balanced account.
Step Three: Use all available funds to pay on the smallest account.
Step Four: Continue to do so until all of your accounts are paid in full. Be sure that you shut down all spending on any credit cards to avoid needing to repeat the process.
With the Debt Avalanche Method, you focus on paying off the accounts with the highest interest rates first. The steps are the same as the snowball method. However, instead of focusing on the smallest balances you focus on the highest interest rates.
This method is known to save money on interest payments and can be helpful for individuals that have the patience to pay off potentially high balances first. This can also take more time to show progress initially versus focusing on smallest balances first.
With the Debt Landslide Method, you focus on paying off your newest accounts first. Use the same steps as the snowball method, but rather than focusing on the smallest balances first, you focus on your newest account.
Because credit scores attempt to predict future credit behavior based upon recent past credit behavior, this method tends to build - or rebuild - your credit faster. It can be helpful for individuals and households trying to put their finances in order prior to home ownership, applying for a new job, or otherwise trying to clean up their credit.
The Debt Cascade Method does not require you to come up with additional cash up front in order to accelerate your debt repayment. Instead, the Debt Cascade has you take your current minimum monthly payments, using them as your standard payment going forward, and never decreasing them until you are debt free, even as your creditors begin to request less and less each month.
Keeping your monthly payments steady using the Debt Cascade method can accelerate your repayment plan from the fifteen to twenty-five years required for paying at minimum monthly payments to just about four years or so. By so dramatically cutting your repayment period, you also significantly cut the interest you end of paying. This method is ideal for individuals or households unable to come up with any extra payment beyond their current monthly minimum payments due.
For additional information on each of these methods, see our Do It Yourself Debt Relief pages.
3: Cut Up Credit Cards
It is noble that you want to get out of debt quickly. Your intention is to avoid further woes and begin living your financial life on your terms. One of the most common and sure-fire ways to ensure you won’t succeed would be to continue relying on your credit cards for purchases that could be made with cash instead. Credit cards almost always cost money to use, especially if the balances roll into the next month. Instead of getting ahead, you’ll likely be treading water, if not making it worse by accumulating more total debt.
Having a credit card for emergency purposes can be helpful, but you may want to consider cutting up the majority of your cards. If you do keep an emergency credit card, be sure you choose one that has an acceptable interest rate and only gives you access to the minimum balance you would need for emergency spending. Cutting up your credit cards includes removing any credit cards from online payment portals like Google Pay. While cutting up your cards does not close your accounts, it does put a strong barrier between you and your credit cards.
4: Reduce “Dollar Dumps”
A dollar dump would be considered any purchase you routinely make on momentary experiences or consumer items, such as coffee, energy drinks, food, snacks, gifts, movies, music, subscriptions, etc. A dollar dump may hold some level of value to you but does not include items you need, especially now that you have recognized the importance of getting out of debt quickly.
One thing you can consider doing, in order to see progress quickly, would be to make additional weekly payments with money you have saved by eliminating your dollar dumps. You may find that the faster you see progress the more compelled you will be to find additional funds to expedite your repayment.
5: Find A Side Hustle
One surefire method for speeding up your debt repayment would be to earn extra money on the side and put it all towards your debt. If you are using the debt snowball, avalanche or landslide method, you will see a nice reduction in the time needed to repay your debt by picking up extra work.
There are many ways you can hustle on the side to make some money. Identify what you like to do and are good at and then seek out individuals that need your set of skills. There are many websites that can help in this search. Basically, take your skill, and do a Google search similar to “(Your Skill) Near Me” to see what comes up. Be sure to go at a pace that you can comfortably handle. You will want to avoid losing momentum by not burning yourself out. Find the right balance of side work for you and understand when to say yes and, equally as important, when to say no.
6: Sell Things You No Longer Need
Over time, we tend to accumulate things we no longer need, use, or are attached to. A good way to spark the goal of getting out of debt quickly would be to consolidate your belongings, focus on the items you need and regularly use, and then selling the items that no longer fit into your current lifestyle. This can free up funds to allow for sizable, one-time payments that help to eliminate debt quickly.
One example that is highly popular right now is the Kon Mari Method™. This method of letting belongings go has become wildly popular. The premise of the hit Netflix show, The KonMari Method™, uses a de-cluttering technique that encourages tidying by category – not by location. This is showing quite effective for millions of people across the globe. Perhaps using this method could help you identify items you could let go of and sell?
7: Try A No-Spend Week Or Month
There are countless savings and spending challenges you could research and choose to try. One of them, which appears quite possible in the Financial Independence community, revolves around only spending on items that are needed to survive and live off of. These expenses include food, shelter, and transportation to and from work or other necessary expenses like medical and education reasons. Essentially the goal is to trim off all unnecessary expenses and record your progress.
The funds saved from minimizing expenses can be placed towards your debt and help shorten the time needed to repay your debt in full.
8: Put Financial Windfalls To Work
A financial windfall is a sum of money that comes from an unexpected source, such as an inheritance, prize winnings, and the lottery (although we strongly advise against playing lottery games due to the worse-than-atrocious odds of winning) or an anticipated windfall through high-value sales, tax returns, and one time work bonuses. You can take a large bite out of your total debt owed by using these funds to pay off your debt and help shorten your repayment time-frame immensely.
9: Shop Smarter
Seeking sales on groceries or other needed items can ultimately make a big dent towards repaying your debt. If you have never been a coupon clipper or shopped at supermarkets that strive to have the lowest prices in the area (think WINCO, Walmart, ALDI, COSTCO, Market Basket type stores), it may be time to reconsider. CheatSheet has a good list of expensive and affordable supermarkets you can review. You can comparison shop in store or you can research online. The amount of shopping savvy you develop depends on what you are willing to put into the process. If you like coupons, you can up your game. If you have enjoyed shopping at a higher end and costlier market, you can choose to shop at a less expensive outlet. Either way, you will save money by being vigilant with where you shop and how much you spend!
10: Engage In Financial Education
There are some excellent financial education resources available at no cost to individuals looking to improve their overall financial picture. There are free online courses, webinars, certificates, support groups and more.
You can choose to get involved in various online communities focused on improving individual finances, such as debt repayment groups on Reddit, or joining other like-minded individuals like the Financial Independence bloggers and writers found on Twitter that operate their own blogs focusing on the details of their personal journey. They write to not only to help keep themselves accountable but to to show others that they can achieve financial independence as well, since they are living proof.
Two Bonus Strategies to Help You Get Out of Debt Quickly
Bonus 1: Level Up Your Finances
You can make a game of improving your finances and repaying your debt. In a way, you are introducing an element of fun into what can feel daunting and stressful at times.
Personal Finance blogger, Time to FI, details his Guide to Leveling Up Finances, by demonstrating how you can incorporate video games into your financial goals.
From the Time to FI blog:
Here’s a fun way I’m keeping the elements I enjoy about gaming in my work towards financial independence. If you currently game and realize the time just isn’t there to game and build your wealth, perhaps adding the following to your strategy will help with the motivation and fun factor:
Vanquishing The Enemy (Debt, Bad Habits, Mindset)
Leveling Up (Savings, Investments, Wealth)
Working With Guild (Community) Resources To Accomplish The Goal
Get Those Trophies!
Keeping the motivation factor up can help energize you into creating additional funds that you can use to pay your debt off sooner.
Bonus 2: Build Better Financial Habits
Improving your financial habits can help create debt repayment opportunities that can shorten the time needed to pay back your debt. One fun and helpful tool we have found is called Habitica. There are many ways you can use this application in your personal and work life. It can help keep the fun and motivation factor up as you march through the journey of repaying your debt. The application can be accessed on the PC or on your mobile device.
From the Habitica homepage:
“Habitica is a free habit-building and productivity app that treats your real life as a game. With in-game rewards and punishments to motivate you and a strong social network to inspire you, Habitica can help you achieve your goals to become healthy, hard-working, and happy.”
Much of Your FINANCIAL Success Will Ultimately Depend on Your Effort
Ultimately, how quickly you can pay off your debt will be up to you. There are myriad resources and tools available for you to use that can help speed up the process and get you into the next steps of achieving financial freedom, such as saving money and investing for your future.
Ideally, you’ll want to adopt an outlook towards debt that makes it your enemy. You are the boss, you are in control and you will defeat it. The sooner you defeat your debt the quicker you can move your life forward.
Best of luck. Success won’t happen overnight. However, if you build a solid plan and stick with it, you can be successful and find the peace of mind you deserve!