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Learning how to pay off debt is one of the most significant struggles Americans face right now.
Americans currently hold over $1 trillion in credit card debt, which doesn’t include all the other obligations they owe, like student loans, mortgages, and auto loans.
Knowing you’re not alone may ease your fears a bit, but it won’t help you pay off that debt.
You already know that paying what you owe means that you’ll have less money going toward debt and more to use for bills, savings, and other essential things in your life now and in the future.
You also know that it’s never as simple as people make it sound to pay off your debt.
Since no one strategy will work for everyone, it’s better for you to have a few solid ideas to try to get you out of debt as quickly as possible.
When you make the process of paying off debt more manageable, you’ll find it easier to stick with and will see yourself digging out of the hole faster.
Try some of these helpful and realistic suggestions for getting rid of your debt fast:
1. Ask for Help
One thing a lot of people do when they look for solutions for their debt is skip over the most obvious answer: asking people they know for help.
Maybe it’s a pride issue, or perhaps it’s just that this answer is almost too obvious that we don’t think about it. Either way, the fact is that this solution is right there for the taking for a lot of people and it’s one that’s worth considering.
No one wants to crawl to their parents, siblings, or friends for help. I guarantee you, though, that these people will probably be more willing to help you than you think, especially if you’ve never given them a reason to believe you’re untrustworthy.
If you have a high-interest credit card that you just can’t seem to chip away at, see if your parents or a trusted friend can pay it off for you.
Treat it just like you would a loan from the bank. Negotiate terms and interest rates and offer to pay as much as you can afford every month.
Just be sure to get everything in writing. Even though you are getting help from someone you know doesn’t mean you won’t get burned. Type up a loan agreement, have it signed by both of you, and uphold your end of the bargain until you pay off your debt.
2. Stick to a Budget
Having a set budget that accounts for every single penny that you make every month can have a profound impact on your ability to get the debt paid off.
You’ll be less likely to spend frivolously when you account for all your income and divvy it up into bills, groceries, savings, and other expenses.
This is the beauty of a zero-based budget, in which your income minus your expenses will equal zero.
That doesn’t mean you have to spend your money until it’s gone. Instead, you have a plan for everything, from how much you’ll spend eating out to how much you’ll pay for gas for your car.
Anything that’s left over after paying your bills, rent, entertainment and anything else you’ll need each month should automatically go toward savings and paying extra toward your debt.
I like to split my extra cash right down the middle, putting half into my savings account and the other half toward whatever credit card I’m working to pay off first.
You don’t have to use zero-based budgeting, though. You’ll have the most success sticking to a budget when you find one that works with your lifestyle and income.
Whatever that is, just make sure you stick to it and always make plenty of room in your budget for putting some extra cash toward your debt.
3. Avoid Paying the Minimums
It’s tempting to pay only the amount shown in the Minimum Balance section of your monthly credit card bill. Most people don’t know that the minimum balance is a number that creditors use to keep you in debt for as long as possible.
You feel like you should be making a dent in your debt but you’re not making much of one – and that’s exactly where your creditors want you to be.
The longer you take to pay off your debt, the more interest you’ll pay. Most credit card companies only require about 2% or 3% of the balance paid every month.
That barely covers the interest tacked on at the end of the billing cycle, which means you’re paying mostly interest and very little principal.
Set your sights on paying at least 5% of your balance if possible. If it’s all you can afford, at least stick to something more than the minimum payment. Even an extra $10 each month can eat away at your principal faster than your minimum payment can.
4. Set Up Auto-Savings and Transfers
Keep it simple, stupid. That’s a phrase you should learn to live by if you want to wipe away your debt fast. The less you think about money and over-analyze everything about it, the easier it will be for you to adopt a healthy financial style.
Keep your finances simple by letting technology foot some of the hard work. I love banks that let me set up auto-transfers to other bank accounts.
It keeps money going directly to savings and out of my hands completely. I get used to the transfers happening and write them down in my transaction register every week without thinking about it.
Set yourself up with a bank account with auto-transfers to another account that you can use to pay off your debt.
I like the simplicity of Capital One 360’s accounts and auto-transfers because I can instantly move money between accounts and set up recurring transfers.
Set up transfers weekly by taking your full budget for extra cash to put toward your debt and splitting it up into four weeks. At the end of the month, put all that money you transferred to your preferred debt. You’ll find that you’re less tempted to spend that money when you know it’ll get whisked away for a good cause.
5. The Debt Avalanche
There are a lot of ways to tackle debt, but two of the most popular methods are what’s known as the debt avalanche and the debt snowball.
They work using the same technique: tackle one debt at a time and, as you pay each one off, use the money you were paying on that debt toward the next one on the list. The strategy you use for each one will be different though.
The debt avalanche focuses on paying off your debts with the highest interest rates first.
These are usually credit cards, which tend to have interest rates that hover between 14% and 26%. If you’re paying only the minimum on these cards, you’re probably paying mostly interest.
The debt avalanche helps you pay off high-interest balances first so that more of your money can go toward principals on other debts.
Write down all your debts with their interest rates and minimum payments. Include student loans, car loans, and any other obligations. Line them up with the highest-interest debt first.
This is the one you’ll focus on paying off right now.
Also, write down how much you can afford to spend monthly on your debt payments. Subtract the total of minimum payments for all debts from this number to get your surplus.
If you can pay $800 per month and your minimums equal $500, your surplus is $300.
Your surplus will go toward the first debt on your list every month, in addition to the minimum payment, until it’s paid off. Remember to adjust your surplus as needed if your income varies month-to-month.
6. The Debt Snowball
An avalanche happens when snow tumbles down and wipes out things in its path below, much like you’re doing when you pay off high-interest debt first to make it easier to crush your other debts.
Think of the debt snowball as the opposite: you start with small debt and work your way to the larger ones, much like how you’d start a little snowball and make it larger by adding snow.
The idea behind the debt snowball is that, once you get a small debt paid off, you’ll motivate yourself to keep your eye on the prize of being debt-free. It’s an excellent technique to use if you’re struggling to find the drive to keep paying off your debt.
Write down all your debts and then order them from the smallest to the most significant debt. Don’t worry about interest rates or minimum payments; you only need to focus on your balances. The debt with the smallest balance will be your focus for now.
Use the same technique for creating a surplus as you would for the debt avalanche. Your surplus amount will go toward your smallest debt every month until it’s paid off.
If your debt is only $200, you can pluck away at it fast and then use the payment for that debt toward your next.
7. Get a No-Interest Balance Transfer Card
Some people shy away from opening a new credit card when they already have balanced piling up.
If you’re responsible with your cards (or at least know that you can be now), then there’s no reason to be afraid of having a new credit card. In fact, the right card can be incredibly helpful in your efforts to pull yourself out of debt.
What you need is a credit card that’s meant for balance transfers. These cards will let you transfer balances from other cards for zero interest for a specific number of months, usually between 9 and 15.
The more months you have, the better, because you’ll have more time to spread out your payments and get your balance paid off.
Say you have a credit card with a 23% interest rate and a balance of $2500. If you pay $200 a month, it will take you 15 months to pay it off and you’ll pay almost $400 in interest.
When that balance is on a zero-interest credit card, you can pay it off in 13 months, all toward the principal balance.
Be sure to look for a card with no balance transfer fees or annual fees that will increase your balance.
8. Get a Loan from a Credit Union
Taking out a personal loan to pay off credit cards and other debt isn’t something most financial experts advise, but sometimes it’s necessary.
You could end up with a much better interest rate from a new loan than you had, which can help you get rid of your debt faster. You’ll also be able to consolidate debt to make your payments more manageable.
Instead of getting caught up applying for online loans from sketchy lenders, take a trip to your local credit union.
Credit unions are known for having some of the best interest rates around and even people with poor credit can get financed. The credit union will run your credit and come up with an interest rate based on that and your income.
Most credit unions will require you to become a member before they process your application and may also ask for a small application fee. That’s it. The process is quick and easy compared to going to a traditional lender.
9. Renegotiate Your Credit Card Terms
I always balked at the people who suggested negotiating your credit card balances and interest rates with a customer service representative at the company. Then I decided to give it a try. The worst they could tell me was no.
To my surprise, I was able to negotiate a deal to lower my interest rate with the very first card company I called. It was my highest-interest card and I got it dropped to match an interest rate on a similar card – by 2%! Every little bit helps.
Most people won’t be eligible for negotiating a balance payoff unless they’ve fallen behind on payments or can offer a good portion of the balance as a lump payment.
However, you definitely can wiggle your way to a better interest rate or maybe even a zero-interest balance transfer offer.
If the first person you talk to says that he doesn’t have the ability to change anything with your account, then ask to speak to someone who does.
You don’t have to be pushy, just be firm. Every little bit helps when it comes to getting ahead in the debt department.
10. Refinance Your Current Loans
You can also talk to your lenders to ask about refinancing your loans. After a year or more of timely car payments, your lender may be more willing to negotiate a better interest rate or a lower monthly payment.
If your current lenders don’t budge, then research some other lenders who might be able to help. Again, speaking with your credit union is usually a great way to go for a loan with more flexible terms.
You also might consider researching consolidation loans to lump your credit card payments or student loans into one loan with a better interest rate and lower payments.
Speaking of student loans, don’t forget that you have a lot of options for refinancing there. Contact your lenders to discuss your options, like loan consolidation or income-based repayments.
11. Get a Side Gig
When all else fails, look for ways to generate more income without trying to squeeze in another job for an hourly rate. Side gigs are the way to go if you want something super flexible as far as your schedule and income are concerned.
Side gigs let you be your own boss. You choose when you want to work and what rates you set for yourself, therefore determining how much you make.
Find people who need help from someone with your skillset. Some in-demand skills you can use for inspiration include:
- Computer set up and repair
- Car repair and detailing
- Handy work around houses or offices
- House or office cleaning and organization
- Pet or babysitting
- Article, blog, or copywriting
- Delivery services
- Construction or remodeling
Whether you want to work in-person or online, you can easily find something that fits your skills.
Enter your side gig with the goal that all money you make from it goes toward paying off your debt. You’ll hopefully only need to double up your work for a few months to put a massive dent in your balances.
Apps That Will Help You Manage Your Debts
The first step in paying off any debt is to get a game plan together so that you can figure out the best plan of attack when making payments.
This will help you figure out exactly how much you need to be paying on each debt to ensure that you are not getting hit with any high penalties and are paying your debt off on time.
While you can use a professional accountant for this or someone who specializes in debt, that will most likely cost you more money that could be better used paying on your debt.
We are going to first look at a few smartphone apps that are designed specifically for helping you manage your debts.
1. Organize All Of Your Debts You Want To Pay Off
When managing your debts, you are going to want to have a few things to calculate how much you owe, what your interest rates are, and how much you can dedicate to paying on your debts each month.
The first app on our list is an app called Mint and it is one of the most popular budget planning apps in the app store.
Mint is an all in one budget/finance planner that takes all of your information and calculates new budgets, debt payoffs, and your bills to ensure that you are getting everything paid and staying within budget.
One of the best features of Mint is that you can see your credit score real time within the app to keep an eye on anything that may look out of order.
You can also take advantage of Mint’s many personalized tips and suggestions to help keep you financially stable.
2. Use A Credit Card Payoff App To Determine Your Best Payoff Schedule
If you are an Android user, there are still many apps that you can take advantage of that will help you better understand your debts and help you figure out a schedule to pay them off.
This app is called Credit Card Payoff and is currently only available on the Android market, however, it looks to be a solid app that you can expect to see on the Apple store soon.
Credit Card Payoff is an app that allows you to input all of your debt’s information to show you exactly how much you are paying on interest and how much you are applying to the principle.
This is a great way to keep an eye out for opportunities of paying more on your loan towards the principle so that you can reduce your debt quicker with paying less in interest.
3. Round Up Debit Charges To Pay On Student Debt
For a more “out of site, out of mind” approach to your student loans, you can use an app called ChagEd to help you slowly pay off your loans without any leg work on your end.
ChangEd is a smartphone app that connects to your loan and your bank account to monitor the activity of your debit card.
With every purchase that you make, ChangEd rounds up to the nearest dollar and uses this change to apply to your student loan.
If you have ever used the popular app called Acorns, this is a very similar process, only it applies the money to your loan instead of investing it.
ChangEd is a perfect app for those who don’t mind having their spare change go towards their debt and want to slowly chip away at their loan payments.
4. Use The Snowball Strategy To Pay Off Multiple Debts
When paying off your debts, you may hear the term “Snowball Strategy” which has helped millions of people get their debt under control and make serious progress paying them off.
The Snowball Strategy is a strategy designed for those with multiple debts as it revolves around paying one credit card off at a time.
How this works is you aggressively pay on your lowest balance debt while making minimum balance payments on all of your other debts.
Once you pay one off, you start the process over on the next debt balance and continue this process until they are all paid off.
An app called Debt Free is a smartphone app that is designed to use this Snowball Strategy to help you not only manage your debts, but start to pay them off according to the strategy.
This strategy gets its name from the snowballing of your debts into paying them off one by one, making your way toward the largest debt that you have.
5. Discover Multiple Different Payoff Strategies
If you are looking to manage all of your debts while utilizing the snowball strategy as mentioned in the previous app, there is another app you can try out.
Debt Payoff Assistant is a smartphone app that can be found in the Apple App Store and can be used to monitor all of your debts while building a snowball strategy personalized for your debts.
With this app, you can input all of the debts that you have, monitor them easily with the app’s easy to use interface, and have a strategy built out to payoff the specific debts that you have.
The progress bar on each debt will keep you motivated and will show you exactly where you stand on each one of your debts.
6. Download A Debt Management App
For those with high interest credit cards that just can’t seem to make the necessary payments needed to get ahead, there is an app to help you get to where you need to be.
Using a smartphone all called Tally, you can take advantage of a new lower interest line of credit while paying the minimum payments on your other debts.
How this works is Tally allows you to take out a line of credit with a lower interest rate and will pay your debt to the higher interest rate debt.
You will then no longer pay that debt direct, but pay Tally instead.
This is going to be a great way for you to get ahead of your debt and stop paying high interest rates that are getting you nowhere.
Apps That Help You Save More Money
Now that we have looked at a few apps that can help you to better manage your debts, its time to check out a few that will help you to save more money.
In order to help to manage and pay off your debts, you are going to want to figure out ways that you can save money to pay more towards your debt.
Debts can start to stack up over time and with high interest rates, some debts can start to really get out of control to the point where you will not be able to make the payments.
Let’s take a look at a few of these apps and see how you can start instantly saving more money.
1. Find Out How Much You Can Safely Save A Day
When it comes to finances, having a knowledgeable coach to help you along the way is always great to ensure that you are staying on track.
While paying for a professional financial manager can be quite expensive, there are cheap alternatives such as the smartphone app Joy.
Joy is an app available in the app store that is designed to help you better track your spending and give you advice on your financial situations.
When downloading Joy, you will first notice the interactive coach that is here to help give you advice on your spending and suggest ways that you can save money.
It will also calculate all of your spending to suggest ways that you can start building a savings to better plan for the future.
This app is going to be perfect for those who need a lending hand to get their finances in order.
2. Direct Deposit Into A Dedicated Savings Account
Paying off your debt doesn’t have to be something that you slowly chip away at, you can make a large payment anytime that you would like to help pay more of your principle and reduce unnecessary spend on interest.
To help save this type of large lump sump, you are going to need to slowly set aside money to get to the larger amount over time.
You can do just that with an app called Chime.
Chime is a fast growing bank account app that allows you to do just about every feature you can expect from a mobile banking app with the addition of helping you build a savings account.
What Chime does is rounds up each purchase made by your debit card and puts that remaining change into a savings account.
Over time, this savings account will grow to the point where you can withdraw and use it to make a large payment on your debt.
3. Reward Yourself For Small Tasks
One of the most interesting apps on this list helps you save money for paying off debt while building better lifestyle habits.
This app is called Tip Yourself and it is designed to allow you to put money into your own “tip jar” every time that you complete a task on your list.
These tasks can include going to the gym, eating a serving of fruit, or any other task that you feel that you should be rewarded for.
You can set up a specific amount that you can work for in your tip jar to help motivate you to getting to where you need to be.
Simply set the tip jar amount to the amount on your debt balance and get to tipping!
4. Create A Debt Payoff Account With Goal Reminds
For those who want to put money away every time you complete a certain action, you guessed it, there is an app for that.
Qaptial, a smartphone app available on all platforms, allows you to build up a savings account by depositing money each time a rule is triggered.
These rules are set by the user and can be customizable for just about anything, so get creative.
For example, if you are wanting to deposit $25 every time that you go grocery shopping, Qapital can do just that.
There is also an option for a spending account that uses a Visa debit card to help better monitor all of your spending and show you exactly where all of your money is being spent.
This is a great option for those wanting to keep everything is one place.
5. Deposit Rounded Up Amounts From Every Purchase
Perhaps one of the most popular money saving apps of the last decade within the smartphone app realm is an app called Acorns.
Acorns is an app that allows users to transfer money into Acorns to be invested into stocks to earn more interest than a standard savings account.
While the interest gains are not sky high, Acorns does a great job on building up a separate savings account.
It does this by taking each purchase you make with your linked debit card, rounding the total amount spent up to the nearest dollar, and depositing this change into your account.
Many people that have used Acorns mainly use it for a “set it and forget it” type of account that can help them save money for paying off debt in a larger lump sum.
6. Find Subscription Services You Are Spending Money On
Being in the era of subscription services being at an all time high, it is quite easy for you to forget that you are spending money monthly on subscriptions that you forgot about.
While you could go through your bank statements for the month and try to find all of the money that you have tied up in these subscriptions, there is an easier way to do this.
To make this process easier and get you saving more money, an app called Trim is available to download.
Trim is a smartphone app that connects to your banking account and looks for any recurring charges from subscription sites.
Once Trim has done its job, you can look and see which ones you still need and which ones you can go ahead and cancel.
They are also working on ways to help its users get out of debt and start to live their life with less financial burdens.
7. Get An All In One Solution
If you are needing an end all be all solution to helping you manage your debt, check for any overspending on subscriptions, and help you budget your money, look no further than Clarity Money.
Clarity Money is a smartphone app that is packed with budgeting and debt solution tools that can help just about anyone better manage their money.
You can grow your savings by opening up a high yield Marcus Online Savings Account through Clarity Money to earn a 2.00% APY.
With Clarity Money’s easy to use interface, you can easily track your spending, see it by category, and figure out where you can cut some of your spending to better budget your finances.
Lastly, you can use Clarity Money to do the same thing Trim offers and help find subscription services that are costing you money month over month that you no longer use.
Apps You Can Use To Help Make Extra Money To Payoff Debts
Lastly, we are going to check out a few apps that can help you make more money outside of your normal 9-5 job that can easily be used to pay off your debt.
Gone are the days of having to work an extra job waiting tables or bar tending to make ends meet.
With the advances of technology, you can start earning money straight from your phone on your own schedule.
These apps are perfect for those who have no time to clock into a real job after work or school.
Most of these apps are going to allow you to make money in between classes, on your lunch break at work, or after you have gotten off work.
Let’s take a look at these apps and see how you can start making extra money today.
1. Earn Extra Cash By Writing Blogs For People
If you like to write, then you could be making some serious money writing blogs for other people.
These apps are one of my personal favorites as you can seriously make a living wage if you can find the right long term clients.
The best part is, you are in control of how much work you want to take on.
Simply find the right job that fits your writing styles, submit your resume and cover letter, and wait for a message from your potential client.
It is best to apply for multiple jobs as competition can be tough, so make sure that you are not waiting around for just one job as you may never get a response back.
By completing more jobs and increasing your rank, you will have better chances of landing more jobs.
2. Rent Your Car Out While You’re At Work
One of the easiest side hustle on this list that could help you earn enough money to pay off some debts is Turo.
Turo is a smartphone app that allows you to put your vehicle up for rent while you are not using it.
This app is built around the rental car mentality, only it lets just about anyone with a reliable, newer vehicle to put their car up for rent.
Rentals are placed by everyday people looking to save money when compared to rental car companies and drive something that is usually not available from large companies.
This is a great app for those who are in class all day and rarely use their vehicle during the week.
You can set a schedule on how open you are to renting out your vehicle to ensure that you always have it when you need it.
The best cars to have for this side hustle is a gas efficient newer vehicle or a sports car that many want to drive.
3. Use Your Car To Drive For Uber After Work
If you find yourself with pockets of time throughout the day and have a newer, 4 door vehicle, you can make money driving people to their destinations with an app called Uber.
Uber has skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years as it provides similar services as a taxi company, but with more driver and an easy to use smartphone app.
By signing up to be a driver, you can log into the app and find customers on your own time, no matter what time of day.
For example, if you have an hour between classes or during your lunch, you can check the app and see if there is anyone nearby that needs to be taken anywhere.
The app is very user friendly and will provide a GPS to make driving your customer to their destination much easier.
You will get paid a flat rate for each drive that you complete as well as make additional money from any tips left from customers.
4. Make An Extra $100 A Month Mystery Shopping
While mystery shopping is a household term, many do not understand how to get started making money in this industry or how it exactly works.
Most only know it from hearing people’s stories of getting paid to shop, which to anyone, is a great gig.
Thanks to the rise of smartphone applications, you can get started as a mystery shopper as soon as today.
One of the most popular apps, Field Agent, allows you to mystery shop some of the most famous retailers and get paid to do so.
You can even earn free food in the form of reimbursements while earning an additional pay for completing the shop.
Free food and getting paid, what more could you ask for?
Depending on the area that you live in, you could earn $100+ in your free time using this app.
5. Sell Any Items You No Longer Use
In order to pay off your debts quicker, making larger payments can help to reduce the overall principle which means you will be paying less interest.
To do so, you will need to find ways to make more money quicker than setting aside a little money here and there.
One way that you can make some extra money, and clear out some clutter from your home is by selling items that you no longer use.
Using an app called LetGo, you can easily list items that you have laying around from the convenience of your smartphone.
Simply upload a photo of your item, put a description with it, set a price, and wait for the messages to start coming in.
You will want to do some research on the app for products like yours to price yours at a point that will sell.
This is a great way to make some good money that can be used to pay off your debts.
6. Complete Online Surveys For Extra Cash
One of the oldest tricks in the books when it comes to making money online is doing online surveys.
Online surveys have been the most popular way for people to make extra money for the last decade.
There are literally millions of sites that you can use, but there is one that stands out the most.
That app is called Swagbucks, and it is used by millions of people all around the world everyday.
Swag bucks has a wide selection of surveys readily available for you to complete and make money off of.
When completing surveys, you will earn “Swagbucks” which is their form of points.
These Swagbucks can be redeemed for gift cards at predetermined intervals.
The best part about Swagbucks is that you can complete other offers on their site to reach the points goals.
7. Get Paid To Grocery Shop For Others
For those who have more time on their hands, such as about an hour or more at a time, you can start marking money by grocery shopping for others.
Using an app called Shipt, you can sign up to be a driver who grocery shops and delivers groceries to customers.
This app works similar to Uber as you can log in and out when you want and pick and choose which jobs you want.
Once you select a job, you will go to the grocery store, pick up the things on their list, and deliver them to their home.
Shipt provides you with a debit card that is loaded up with the amount they will need for their groceries so you will never have to use any of your own money.
You can earn anywhere from $20-$1000 a month depending on how active you are.
8. Earn Money Helping Others With Labor Tasks
For those who don’t mind doing labor work, you can get paid to do things others do not want to do.
Using an app called TaskRabbit, you can sign up to be a handyman and find jobs that pay you for doing things such as assembling furniture, helping others move, and any other small task others may need help with.
By breaking tasks into categories, you can easily find the tasks that you are most gifted at.
This will allow you to make more money and build a reputation to allow you to get more jobs quicker.
Paying your debt isn’t a fun thing. I get that. But once you start to realize it is possible, you won’t feel so overwhelmed.
The most important thing is to get the ball rolling. People talk about taking “baby steps” whenever they have to face something that’s stressful or scary. Paying debt is no exception. Once you start making dents in what you owe, you’ll have some motivation to keep going.
Set small, immediate goals and some long-term goals for yourself. Small goals can look like setting aside $50 a week to pay a credit card balance, while larger goals can focus on where you see yourself, financially, in three years (hopefully debt-free or close to it!). Stick to those goals and keep crushing your debt to reach them.
Have you paid off your debt or are you still working on it? Do you have any other methods on how to pay off debt? We want to hear from you! Let us know your thoughts in a comment.