Paying off your debts as quickly as possible can help you save money on interest, but it can be hard to do so. How fast you want to pay off your debt depends on your budget and how much you’re willing to sacrifice each month in order to make bigger debt payments.
Paying down debt takes time, but if you set reasonable goals around how long it will take you, you’ll pay it off in no time. Let’s take a closer look at how to get out of debt fast as well as some creative ways to do it.
Know Your Debt
Before you can start planning to pay down your debts, you need to know exactly what you owe. Start by creating a list that includes any debts you owe, such as credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, and student loans. For each loan you owe, there are some key points you want to keep track of:
- The interest rate
- How much you pay each month
- What day your payment is due
- The date when you need to pay all the debt off
For credit card debt, you’ll want to specify what the minimum monthly payment is. In most cases though, it’s always a good idea to pay your credit card bill in full.
Once you’ve tallied it, see how much you owe in total monthly debt payments so you can use that number to help form a detailed budget. If you’re not fully certain about how much debt you have and what accounts may be open or in collection, you can review your free credit report. While taking a look at your report, you may catch an error or two. If you do, report it to the credit bureau that made the report and the lender who misreported the debt.
Make a Budget
A budget is a great tool that can help you keep your finances in order, but it can be even more helpful when you’re paying down debt.
Skip the pen-and-paper format of budgeting. There are many online personal finance apps that can help you get your spending habits in order with ease.
The first step in making a budget is to clarify your income. If you have a side hustle, that counts as a source of income. By adding up how much you make on a regular basis, you can have a clear idea of how much money you have to spend.
Next, list all of the money you spend each month. This should include fixed expenses, such as rent or water bills, as well as discretionary expenses, which are purchases that you can live without. Once you know how much money you need to spend each month and how much you bring in, you can begin to map out the amount you can allocate toward paying down your debt.
Now that you have a budget in place, you can more easily identify where you have the potential to cut back on spending. Consider what bills you can lower or remove altogether, such as a gym membership you rarely use or a magazine subscription you forgot about. That way, you will have more money left over to put toward debt.
One easy way to make spending less tempting is to not use your credit card unless you know for sure that you will have the money to pay off your bill when it arrives.
Consider using an app like Truebill. The easy-to-use program allows you to track all the subscriptions you pay for and will notify you to cancel or pause any subscriptions you don’t use often.
If your budget is tight and it’s a challenge to put extra money toward debt payments each month, you may want to consider increasing your income so you can afford to pay down more. While it’s not always possible, there are a few moves you can make to get you closer to that goal.
Consider Asking for a Raise
If you’ve been performing well at work and it’s been a while since your last pay bump, you may be able to negotiate a raise with your employer. While approaching your boss can be scary, it’s often worth it to take the initiative. If you’ve taken on more responsibilities recently or received great feedback at a review, take the chance. If you’re relatively new to the role or have been stagnant in your position, consider a different approach.
Before asking for a raise, do your research and know what you are worth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a useful source for finding data on the average wage across all industry sectors and positions in the U.S.
Start a Side Hustle
If a raise seems out of the question, starting a side hustle is a great way to bring in a little extra cash. Consider your skillset and how you can profit from it. For example, If you like to create art in your free time, you may be able to work as a freelance graphic designer or sell your homemade products on Etsy.
Sell Items You Don’t Use
One person's trash is another person’s treasure, so why not host a garage sale or sell goods on websites like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist? Selling your used furniture, clothes, art, or electronics is a great way to bring in extra cash without doing too much work, and it can help you declutter at the same time.
Lower Your Interest Rates
One way to get out from under debt faster is to lower your interest rates so you can put more money toward paying down your principal. There are a few ways to do this.
If you have credit card debt, you may want to consider doing a balance transfer to move the outstanding balance you have on one card to a new credit card. The second card should ideally have a lower interest rate. This way, your debt is consolidated on one card.
Balance transfer cards often come with an introductory offer that gives you a 0% or low interest rate for a certain period of time. Typically, the promotional interest rate is only offered for a limited time. Once it expires, the interest rate on the new card may rise, increasing your payment amount.
For certain loans, debt consolidation may be an option. In this scenario, you would combine multiple debts into a single monthly payment by paying them off through another type of loan or a credit card.
Many creditors offer debt consolidation loans, specifically designed for paying off debts. Debt consolidation loans typically have a fixed interest rate, as well as a repayment period for more stable repayment terms. But remember, even with consolidated loans, you still have to pay down your debt.
Negotiate a Lower Rate with Creditors
If you’re struggling to pay down credit card debt, you may be able to work with your creditor to create an alternative repayment option that works better for you. Sometimes, the issuer will allow you to pay a reduced interest rate or make smaller monthly payments until you can pay back your debt. This isn’t a guarantee with every lender, but it’s worth asking about.
If your credit card issuer does offer to cut you a deal, make sure you get all the details in writing so that you have proof of your new agreement.
Decide on a Payoff Strategy
There are a few debt repayment strategies that can help you pay down your debt faster. There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and which one you choose will depend on the individual, as well as their ability to stick to it.
The Debt Avalanche Method
With the avalanche method, you’ll focus on first paying off the debts with the highest interest rates, and then continuing down the list until they are all paid off. This will minimize the amount of interest you pay. You’ll still make the minimum required payments on all of your debts but will put any extra money toward paying off the debt with the highest interest rate.
“The avalanche method works best for a person who is patient and willing to wait for the first debt to be paid off because the highest interest rate bill may have the highest balance,” Laura J. Lonie, CPA and financial coach, told The Balance in an email.
The avalanche method does not work best for everyone. If you’re likely to lose motivation during the debt elimination journey, you may be better off with a different strategy.
The Debt Snowball Method
The snowball strategy prioritizes paying off the smallest balance first and working your way up to the largest one, gradually paying off debt. You continue making minimum payments on all loans while allocating any extra funds toward the smallest loan balance.
When motivation is critical, this method will give you a sense of control. However, you may spend more money in the end on interest charges than you would with the avalanche method.
The Debt Snowflake
If you’re looking to amp up your debt-repayment efforts, Lonie recommends adding “snowflakes” to your payments. With this technique, you would apply extra cash you receive such as gifts, bonuses at work, or tax refunds, toward your debt. This method is less common, but it gives you the chance to make micropayments using any leftover money along the debt-repayment journey.
The Bottom Line
While there is no overnight solution for paying off debt, there are steps you can take to pay off debt faster. Budgeting, cutting back expenses, making a bit of extra cash, and picking a debt- repayment strategy that works for you can all help. While debt can be frustrating, being patient and making consistent payments can help see you through.