How to Get Extra Money to Get Out of Debt

A pile of one dollar bills
••• © MGP / Photolibrary / Getty

Making a committed decision to get out of debt is tough. Coming up with the money to pay off your debt is tougher. Tap into all the resources you can to fund your get out of debt plan.

There are two basic ways to get more money to pay off your debts. The first is to decrease your expenses. The second is to increase your income. Below are some ideas to do both.

As you read through each item, you'll probably think "This will only save me $5 or $10 a month." If you can cut back on 10 different things and save even $100 a month, that's an extra $100 you can put towards your debt. Not all of these will apply to you and that's ok. Adopt as many as you can, even if it means making a small sacrifice. The more of these you can adopt, the more money you'll have to accomplish your goal.

Decrease Your Expenses

Using expense tracking software or journaling your daily spending can help you identify places that you spend the most money. Look for ways to cut back in these areas.

Spend Less on Food

  • Cook at home instead of eating out
  • Cook from scratch rather than eating pre-made dinners
  • Swap meat (it's often the most expensive part of the meal) for a less expensive form of protein like beans or eggs, even if it's just for one day or one meal per week.
  • Take your lunch to work
  • Grocery shop with a list and stick to it
  • Don't shop while you're hungry, you're prone to overbuy
  • Use coupons, but only for items you'd buy anyway
  • Start a container garden
  • Buy store brands
  • Use leftovers to make new meals, or just eat leftovers
  • Freeze excess foods, like Thanksgiving leftovers or extra spaghetti sauce, to eat another day
  • Let your kids pack their lunch, even if it's just a few times each week
  • When you dine out, get water instead of soda
  • Avoid buying non-grocery items at the grocery store where they tend to cost more
  • Read circulars or check online to see when things are on sale
  • Ditch Starbucks and make your own coffee. Or drink the coffee at work.
  • Use reusable grocery bags and shop at stores that give you a discount for doing so.
  • Pack food for road trips rather than stopping at fast-food restaurants
  • Avoid impulse buys at the cash register

Cut Your Transportation Costs

  • Buy the right gas for your car (87/89/93)
  • Get your car serviced regularly to optimize gas mileage
  • Run all your errands in a single trip
  • Avoid unnecessary driving
  • Carpool
  • Trade your SUV for a cheaper, more gas-friendly car
  • Telecommute if your employer will allow it
  • Do price comparison on major repairs, especially with dealership quotes
  • Make sure you have the lowest possible insurance rate—get new quotes periodically
  • Increasing your insurance deductible will often decrease your rate
  • Don't get any new tickets or have any accidents and your insurance rate might go down
  • Walk or ride a bike when you can. You'll get exercise and save money on gas

Reduce What You Spend on Clothes

  • Forget about designer labels
  • Get trend-proof clothes
  • Wear layers in the winter instead of buying new sweaters
  • Don't forget sales racks, thrift, and consignment
  • Launder your clothes appropriately to get longer wear
  • Avoid dry clean only labels (to save on dry cleaning)
  • Learn to sew—you can update old clothes, alter ill-fitting clothes, and repair holes to make your clothes last longer
  • Refashion old clothes
  • Buy clothes at the end of the season when they're on sale
  • Buy versatile clothing that can function in several different outfits

Be Entertained for Less

  • Cancel monthly movie subscriptions like Netflix or share these services with a friend or roommate
  • Exchange movies with friends instead of renting
  • Rent movies for $1 a night from Redbox
  • Check out DVDs from the library
  • Catch movies on cable instead of going out
  • Catch a matinee when movie prices are a few dollars cheaper.
  • Check for a dollar cinema in your area—they may play the films that are no longer in the theater but haven't been released on DVD
  • Use the library instead of buying new books
  • Stream music online for free instead of purchasing an album or one song at a time
  • Have game night with family and friends

Lower Your Housing Costs

  • Move to an apartment with lower rent
  • Refinance your mortgage for a lower interest rate
  • Get a roommate (or two)
  • Do your own home repairs
  • Do your own lawn maintenance and landscaping
  • Make your own kitchen cleaner

Cut Your Cable/Satellite/Internet Costs

  • Cancel premium channel subscriptions
  • Go basic
  • Nix pay-per-view and movies on demand
  • Ask for a promotional rate
  • Cut it off entirely
  • Use Hulu or visit the network's website/download the network's app to find recent episodes of your favorite shows
  • Buy your modem instead of renting from the service provider
  • Minimize the number of devices with their own internet plan—i.e. you may not need the internet for your smartphone and your tablet

Lower Your Phone Bill(s)

  • Use your cell phone as your primary phone and get rid of the landline
  • Bundle your phone (if you keep it) with your cable and internet
  • Ask for a promotional rate
  • Get the right rate plan for your cell phone
  • Turn off unnecessary features, even if you have to talk or text less
  • Stick with the pre-installed ringtones instead of downloading new ones
  • Only download free apps and beware apps that have in-app purchases

Re-Evaluate Luxury Services

  • Wash your own car
  • Mow your own lawn
  • Paint your own nails vs. paying for a manicure
  • Cut out visits to the spa
  • Get your hair trimmed less often
  • Take a staycation instead of a vacation
  • Ditch the gym membership and use fitness DVDs and at-home workout routines

Banking and Finances

  • Don't pay late fees—make sure to pay all your bills on time
  • Avoid bank overdrafts or insufficient funds fees—always check your account balance if you're unsure whether you have enough money to cover a transaction
  • Ask your bank how you have any monthly fees waived and switch accounts/banks if necessary
  • Use your bank's ATM to avoid paying additional fees or make a small purchase inside a store and choose the cash-back option
  • Make a budget and stick to it
  • Use expense tracking to figure out where you're spending the most money
  • Cancel subscriptions and other recurring charges

Increase Your Income

Ultimately, you can only cut your spending back so far. You still have to pay your basic living expenses. Finding ways to increase your income can allow you to generate additional income that you can use to put toward your debt.

  • Pay the right amount of taxes, tweak your tax withholding if necessary
  • Optimize your benefits, by making sure you're getting the best benefits from your job
  • Ask for a pay raise
  • Work some overtime hours
  • Get a second job
  • Make money from a hobby
  • Sell your arts and crafts on Etsy
  • Check to see if you have unclaimed money, but watch out for scams
  • Start a tutoring business
  • Play an instrument? Give weekly lessons
  • Drive for a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft
  • Make money blogging
  • Offer services as a virtual assistant
  • Create and sell an online course or digital product

Get Rid of Unwanted or Unnecessary Household Items

  • Have a garage sale
  • Sell old books to a store
  • Sell old CDs using a website like SecondSpin.com
  • Sell old clothes to consignment
  • Pawn electronics

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Eat Right When Money's Tight." Accessed Dec. 30, 2019.

  2. FuelEconomy.gov. "Selecting the Right Octane Fuel." Accessed Dec. 30, 2019.

  3. Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information. "Saving Money on Gas." Accessed Dec. 30, 2019.

  4. MyCreditUnion.gov. "Refinance or Modify." Accessed Dec. 30, 2019.

  5. Federal Communications Commission. "Understanding Your Telephone Bill." Accessed Dec. 30, 2019.

  6. America Banker's Association. "How to Avoid Bank Fees." Accessed Dec. 30, 2019.

  7. IRS. "Tax Withholding Estimator." Accessed Dec. 30, 2019.

  8. SecondSpin.com. "Buy and Sell Used CDs, DVDs, and Blue-Ray." Accessed Dec. 30, 2019.