Do you have debt that you’re just dying to be free of?
It’s one of the worst feelings, like a cloud over your head, or an anchor around your ankle. You work hard, but instead of saving everything gets rolled right into the pit of debt.
For a lot of people it’s the one thing keeping them from gains every month. Maybe you feel like you can never spend on anything fun without guilt, because you’re net worth is technically still in the negative digits.
Debt is something that Millennials are dealing with now, even more than the generations before. If you’re in your 20’s, like me (I’m 25), going the college route will now leave you 5 or even 6 figures in debt as soon as you graduate.
You get to not just hustle to start your career; you get to hustle just to break 0. And it gets even worse… the longer you take to pay it off, the more it grows, and the more you pay in the long run.
I get that. When I graduated from college, and married my wife Renée in the fall, we started life together in 2017 with a collective $42,000 in student loan debt. This is actually a LOT milder than what many people go through. The average individual college grad in the late 2010’s has over $37,000 as an individual.
But the good news is, debt can be defeated.
As of April, 2019 we paid off the full $42,000. It took us only 19 months.
And the best part? It’s not as hard you think.
Here’s the best ways we used to pay off debt fast, broken into 5 parts.
1. Prioritize Paying Debt Off
This is a little more complicated than it sounds. Saving, like paying off debt, is ALWAYS extremely important. I will always recommend investing in your retirement, and other dreams, as early as possible. I’m not a fan of delayed action, unless it’s absolutely strategically necessary.
There are a lot of different opinions on whether it’s smarter to save money, or pay off debts. Generally, though, prioritizing your debts first will be your best bet.
The Motley Fool blog, (which I recommend for some investing tips), breaks this down pretty perfectly. You have a guaranteed return on investment by paying down your student loans, while your saving investments usually have more variables.
Instead of spending money in a lot of different areas and investments, make destroying your debt your main investment. Once that debt is gone, everything beyond that is pure, unhindered gain.
Focus all of your spare change on just beating it down. That’s the best way to pay off debt fast.
Disclaimer: paying off student debt fast is not always the smartest option for EVERYONE. Here are some financial and credit tips to keep in mind when paying off student loans, courtesy of my friend Charles over at Credit Donkey – Should You Pay Off Student Loans Early?
2. Keep Your Expenses Trim
This mostly means to just live within your means. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you need to adjust your lifestyle. It’s almost always possible to break a paycheck to paycheck cycle by changing your spending habits. My wife lived a year after college being paid only $800 a month and still SAVED money every month. She found an apartment for under $600, found 3 housemates to split the bills – whatever it took.
Whatever your current income level is, you can still beat debt. There are ways of trimming down every expense, to keep everything as slim as possible.
One of the biggest ways to do this is just to save on household expenses. Check out my related guide: How To Save On Household Expenses
Here are the top 7 things I do to cut down my expenses by thousands and thousands of dollars every year…
– Ibotta (saves me $20/month on groceries)
Groceries are one of the most constant expenses in life. It’s easy to spend a couple hundred dollars every month on groceries, and that’s just for 2 people. With more family members, groceries can cost even more.
In addition to bargain hunting, and coupons, I use an app called Ibotta to get cash back on my household expenses. Here’s a detailed review of how it works.
It’s really pretty simple; every month the Ibotta app has hundreds of grocery items they give you money back for (cash, not points). $0.50 for milk, $1.00 for cereal, $3.50 back for migraine pills; you name it.
I save at least $20 every month by using this, or $240 every year. That’s $240 off of your loans.
Dosh is another free app, and it’s even easier to use than Ibotta. Link it to your credit or debit card, and whenever you shop at a participating store, it automatically hands you some cash back.
It’s totally passive, and even though it only gives you pocket change, it can add up fast. And it takes absolutely no effort.
– Fuel Rewards Programs
Make sure you ALWAYS check if your local gas stations have rewards programs. Gas is a significant monthly cost. My Shell Gold Rewards program, which is totally free and card-less, gives me at least $0.05 off per gallon at every fill up. It often gives me $0.10 or even $0.15 off per gallon.
This may seem small, but it saves me a couple hundred dollars every year by doing absolutely nothing except joining and typing in my phone number when I fill up my gas.
More money to pay off debt.
– Credit Card Rewards
Credit cards can be a double edged sword. If you aren’t being wise with your spending, or if a credit card tempts you to over-spend, it can actually create MORE debt for you. If that’s the case, you’re better off just using a debit card or cash.
But if you spend carefully, credit cards are one of the best things for making a little cash back. All of your expenses should be on it, because credit cards usually offer 1%-5% cash back on all of your purchases.
I’ve never been late on a credit card payment in my life, so I use it for all of my spending. My Chase Freedom card offers 1%-5% back on ALL of my spending. It doesn’t take long for this to add up to a few hundred dollars to transfer into my bank.
It’s a great way to make back a bit of what you have to spend anyway.
If you ever shop online, even once, you’re absolutely wasting money if you’re not using Ebates. It’s like lighting money on fire and watching it burn, or knowingly over-spending on something for no reason.
Ebates is a website that gives you cash back on everything you buy online. It has thousands of participating stores, so it’s almost hard to find a store that DOESN’T offer money back. It may be as little as 5%, or over 50% of your money back.
They send you a check in the mail every few months with the amount you get back on your shopping.
3. Don’t Over-buy
This is essentially the same thing as living within your means. Don’t buy or rent things that are more expensive than what you can afford. If what you can afford is the most basic apartment, then make the best of that apartment.
Do your homework when looking for housing. You may even need to ask some of your connections if they know of cheap accommodations, because not every rental option is listed on Zillow. It’s normal to want a beautiful apartment, or better yet a house, but it’s the worst idea to pay extra for one before your debts are paid off.
The same is even more true with cars and motorcycles. Having a nice car, or motorcycle, is a great way to reward yourself after debt. It’s NOT a good idea during debt. Cars are a bad investment at the best of times. It’s a basic necessity, but upgrading before you’re ready is a terrible financial choice. A used, functional car is always better when you’re paying off debt fast.
4. Develop Some Free Hobbies
Going out and having fun can be super expensive. Let’s face it, there are a lot of fun things that cost money. My wife and I love going to Broadway shows in Manhattan, eating out, frequenting coffee shops, traveling, concerts, movies, motor sports, and a million other things.
But when you’re trimming down your budget to pay off debt fast, you need to find some cheaper activities. There are almost ALWAYS local activities and adventures to be had that don’t cost a penny. Discipline yourself to find some fun activities to replace the ones that cost money, at least for a while.
Search Pinterest, or check out this blog post from The Simple Dollar on some free activities to fill out a fun weekend.
5. Make More Money
Crazy, right? The idea that making more money will help you out of debt faster? This might seem ridiculously obvious, and easier said than done, but there are DOZENS of ways to make extra cash without a job.
I’m not talking about just finding another job that pays more. That isn’t always an option. Instead, there are dozens of things that you can do (mostly online) to make hundreds or thousands of extra dollars every month. This is how my wife and I have wiped out $42,000 of debt in less than 2 years.
Here are the exact things that we’ve personally done to exponentially increase our income flows:
If you have the energy to teach English to young Chinese kids, then teaching through something like VIPKid is a PERFECT fit for you. My wife works with VIPKid, and she’s able to make a full time living teaching online, or a substantial side income.
You have the freedom to choose how much, or how little you want to work, so it gives you the flexibility to fit this in as a side gig. She started at $19/hour, and is already up to $21/hour now, so it can be a decent way to make extra cash! VIPKid is the one we use, but there are many other options. Just be aware: VIPKid (unlike some others) requires you to at least have a degree, though no experience is required. And it can be tough to find an ideal time to do classes because of time zone differences. With your students being in China, most ideal class times are in very early morning hours unless you live in the eastern hemisphere.
But VIPKid is a fantastic option to bring in extra income! Check out a full review here, or get my wife’s notes for an insider view.
– Affiliate Marketing/Blogging
Believe it or not, there are people out there who are making a full time living through blogging. It can take a lot of work to learn, and succeed at, but the income rewards for people who stick with it are MASSIVE.
Affiliate marketing on a blog is pretty straightforward. Create a website, write a blog on the website, promote companies’ products on the blog, and get paid commission whenever people buy stuff through your links. I got my start in affiliate marketing with Wealthy Affiliate, which I would recommend to any beginners.
There are Wealthy Affiliate users making $6,000/month, $10,000 per month, and even 6 figure months. It takes more effort, time, and patience than some of these other options. But it’s a great side gig to start as a long term investment, with high ultimate pay offs. Give it a shot!
One way I found to make hundreds of extra dollars every month is through freelance gigs. Once again, my wife and I work as a team on freelancing gigs.
Through marketplaces like Upwork, Hubstaff Talent, Fiverr, and Freelancers, I’m able to snag freelancing gigs that provide 1 time opportunities. They often pay much better than traditional employment too.
I’ve been hired by brands to create logos, and been paid $50 for 20 minutes of work. Written blog posts for $30/hour. My wife has illustrated a book. I even landed a blog writing gig once that paid $220/hour (which I got more out of luck than expertise, beginner gigs aren’t usually that good). We use opportunities like these to bring in a lot of extra cash, and pay off debt fast!
If you’re curious about how to find those freelancing gigs, and the best way to secure them, check out this guidence post I wrote for you!
Rev.com is a transcription site. Rev, and many others like it, offer freelancers an opportunity to listen to audio files, and get paid to type what you hear in the audio files into written form.
It’s pretty easy work, and as long as you’re fast at typing, and listen well, you can make a good amount of extra money with this. Apply to be a freelancer with Rev, and if you pass the test run that they give you, you can pick up as many transcribing jobs as you want. Just a side note though, the more advanced you get the more you’ll find transcription files that are HARD to decipher, and it can take way too much time trying to understand because of bad audio quality. Always preview the audio files of each gig before you accept to make sure they’re realistic!
This is an easy and totally flexible way to make some extra money!
– Selling Online (I Know, It’s Vague, But Stick With Me!)
You can sell a million different things online. Whether it’s through your own Shopify store, or through online marketplaces like Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy, you can make a fantastic income flow through selling physical products online.
I have friends who are making more money than orthopedic surgeons, working half the hours, by selling items on Amazon and Shopify stores. My own Shopify store brought in over $500 in sales within 10 hours of my launch (I sell t-shirts, coffee mugs, and stuff like that by using print-on-demand companies, but that’s another blog post).
There are a few tricks to making money on Shopify, but I can assure you that the money making potential is huge. Just be aware that, similar to affiliate marketing, creating a lucrative brand with physical products takes a lot of effort. The perseverance and strategy that it takes to succeed aren’t a level of drive that everyone has.
If it sounds like something you can do, it’s one of the best ways to make money online!
– DoorDash (And Other Delivery App Gigs)
There are a whole bunch of delivery apps out there that let you sign up to deliver food around your city (keep in mind though, the more rural your area is, the tougher it can be to get delivery gigs that are close by). DoorDash, Postmates, Grub Hub, and Uber Eats are probably the best known, but many others exist in more populated areas.
Can you make decent money with any of these? I’ve been driving with Doordash and so far the answer is yes. You can actually make over $20 an hour with DoorDash if you’re moving quickly and everything goes smoothly!
When you open up the app you can pick a period of time that you’re available to make deliveries, and the app will notify you every time an available delivery pops up. You’ll only have about half a minute to accept it or not, so here’s the trick: the pay for each DoorDash gig will TOTALLY vary, so it’s more time and money efficient to be a little bit picky. I have had deliveries that took only 5-10 minutes and paid $8, and others that took over 20 minutes and only paid $4. The pay for each gig doesn’t just depend on distance, but also on the tip that the customer left on it. Always look at the map, and compare how much time it will take vs. how high the pay is. You still have gas and time costs to consider, so just go for the ones that pay worthy of the time invested! That’s just a tip from what I’ve experienced so far.
If you’re looking to really boost your income and beat your debt with your spare time, DoorDash and delivery apps like it are one of the easiest ways!
YOU CAN DO THIS TOO!!
I can’t say this enough. There’s nothing stopping you, except for your own self doubts. I battle through things like clinical anxiety, and a lot of other obstacles – I’m sure that you have many of your own hurdles to overcome! But you can destroy your debt.
A few frugal habits, a few money saving options, a few new income sources and you’ll be debt free so fast it will make your head spin.
8 People reacted on this
This is a nice and educative post about paying debts quickly and I enjoyed every bit of it. I hate to borrow money most especially from my friends, my mind remains unsettled until I pay it bad. I once pay back a debt twice due to the fact that I wasn’t comfortable with borrowing. This really shed a huge light on how to go about playbacks, really helpful.
Glad you found it helpful!
I don’t have debt but I do have a huge mortgage. It’s impossible to buy a house in London if you don’t take a mortgage. I would love to pay it off asap. We manage to save every month, but for the time being it is not going to pay our mortgage back. We are saving so that we can invest the money and hopefully that will be an extra income and grow so that we will be able to pay everything off sooner. We are careful with groceries and petrol, however, we do get takeout quite a bit. I didn’t know about ebates- is it for shops in the UK too?
Hey there! Yes, London can be very expensive, can’t it? It’s wise what you’re doing though. Having a mortgage isn’t quite like having debt. Because owning a house is an invest-able asset. It’s almost more like putting money into an investment account, than it is like paying debt. You can sell a house, use it as an AirBnB, or rent it out to make money off of it.
Unfortunately, Ebates is not available in the UK, but there’s good news! Swagbucks has a feature that is totally interchangeable with Ebates, and Swagbucks IS available in the U.K. If you have a Swagbucks account (which is free), seek out a feature called the Swag Button. That will pay you cash back on everything you buy online. I don’t know if it includes a lot of popular UK stores, like John Lewis, but it has Amazon and thousands of other retailers.
I hope things are well over there across the pond! I was visiting family near Newcastle, in Whitley Bay, just a few months ago. Really lovely place!
I found this statement “make destroying your debt your main investment” the most important sentence of the whole article! Why invest while the interest you pay on your debts is most probably higher than the low interest your investment!!!
Another great advice, that I use every day is I use credit card rewards. I have a MasterCard that pays me in grocery dollars. I have managed to save over $3,000 in groceries in the last 18 months just by using my MasterCard to pay for everything else. One very important thing to do here is to pay off your balance every month. I don’t touch my money until it’s time to pay my credit card. That way, it’s just like paying cash, but being rewarded for it!
I truly think that you have the right mindset to create yourself a debt free life within a short time, and in the same manner, help others do the same by posting other great articles like this one! Keep it up!
Thanks for your thoughtful comments!
That’s an AWESOME strategy! As long as you’ve got a good grasp on your finances, doing all of your spending on a credit card with a good rewards system is always the best way to pay for things. Some people use it to get miles for air travel, some for grocery discounts like the MasterCard that you’re using – I use a Chase Freedom credit card to get regular old cash back. I get hundreds of dollars back every year just by putting all of my purchases on that card!
Thanks for the credit card tips!
Thank you for these tips on how to stay out of debt. It is stressful to feel overcome by it. The spending less list is good but I especially appreciate the list of ways there are to make money online. It would make me feel I was doing something concrete and active me to get myself out of the situation.
I’m glad you found it helpful! Setting goals and pursuing them is a REALLY great feeling!