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25 Things To Try If You Just Can’t Wait To See Your Debt Balance Hit $0

Posted 14 hours ago

25 Solid Debt Payoff Tips For Anyone Who’s Ready To Make Theirs Disappear

@ credit card debt: sorry but you’ve overstayed your welcome.

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For many people, debt is a pretty heavy part of life — literally and figuratively. In fact, a past study found that 80% of Americans have some form of debt. But just because debt is so normal in today’s society doesn’t mean that it’s easy to deal with.

Taylor swift saying it's not easy

Getting rid of your debt means that you give yourself a little more financial freedom. The money you spend on loan payments and consumer debt bills can be used to boost your savings account, start a retirement fund, invest in the stock market, and overall get you closer to some major life goals — like owning a home or going back to school.

So here are some tips you might wanna consider if you’re trying to pay off debt.

FYI, financial advice is not one-size-fits-all. You should always carefully consider your own personal circumstances before applying any advice, and consider reaching out to a financial adviser for help.

1.

First and foremost, check in on yourself and make sure you maintain a healthy mental space.

Person doing yoga

Person doing yoga


Marko Geber / Getty Images

Our health (both mental and physical) is at the core of how we go through life and make decisions. When you aren’t in a good mental space, it can be hard to bring yourself to carry out some of your basic everyday tasks — like brushing your teeth, showering, or even opening your bills to make payments on time.

Debt can come from (or cause) anxiety, depression, and other states of feeling low emotionally. Check in with yourself and evaluate what steps you can take to maintain your health. Maybe that means relieving stress by exercising a little every day. Or, that could mean creating a playlist of uplifting songs that relax you, boost your mood, and make you feel motivated. And if money is one of your biggest stressors, you might wanna check out some tips on handling financial anxiety.

Bottom line: health is wealth, y’all.

2.

Simply write down all of your balances so you know *exactly* what you owe.

Someone says "Imma write that down" while reaching for notepad


Conan / Via giphy.com

You might think it’s easier to just work off an ambiguous number because you’re scared of seeing your exact balance, but not knowing how much money you owe can add to your anxiety. Sometimes, seeing that number written out can actually make things feel more manageable — and in some cases, it might not be as bad as you thought it was!

Take some time to comb through all of your accounts and statements. Grab a notebook and write it all down then total it up. You can repeat this process every three months as a quarterly check-in with yourself to watch your progress.

3.

Create digestible goals to keep yourself motivated through the payoff process.

Person saying "what is your goal?"


Paramount / Via giphy.com

It can sometimes feel like debt is going to take a lifetime to finally pay off — especially when you’re trying to slowly eat away at student loan debt, a car payment, a mortgage, credit card debt, and more. But regardless of how much debt you have, setting small, attainable goals periodically can help encourage you through the process.

Remember that age-old study trick for getting through a long, dense textbook chapter — treat yourself to a piece of chocolate after every few pages to motivate yourself to finish. The idea here is similar! Saying you want to pay off $1,000 in credit card debt by the end of the year can feel so much more achievable than just saying you want to pay off “all” your debt. By setting a doable dollar amount, it’s clear when you’ve reached your goal; then, you can feel proud and set a new pay off goal. Think about your situation to figure out what goals best suit your needs.

4.

Create a budget to see if you have room to make larger payments toward your bill.

Barbara Corcoran saying "are you organized?"


ABC / Via giphy.com

Soooo, in the past, I was a little too laidback about using my credit card. I thought of it as an extension of my paycheck (oops) and would use it to pay for things I wanted (but didn’t need), and I never paid off the balance in full; I just paid whatever felt doable above the minimum (again, oops).

But once I got a little more ~money savvy~, I began creating a budget to see how much extra cash I had after my necessary expenses. A budget is simply a plan for using your money, and it can be as simple as writing down all of your expenses and writing down how much you can afford to pay toward each. This was probably my best strategy for paying down my debt. Instead of just guessing the amount I could afford for my bill each month, creating a budget showed me that I had more room to make an even bigger monthly payment.

I also shifted some things around — canceled unnecessary subscriptions and spent less in areas I didn’t care about as much. This freed up extra cash for me to use toward my payments. By doing this, I paid off my debt twice as fast as I would have otherwise.

5.

Make off-cycle payments whenever possible — it’ll lower your balance faster.

Wolf of Wall Street throwing money


Red Granite Pictures / Via giphy.com

FYI, you don’t have to wait for your monthly due date in order to make a payment! Making extra payments can lower your balance and the interest you pay before the next billing cycle rolls around. Throwing an extra $20 at your debt whenever you have it might not sound like a lot, but it can really help in the long-run.

Now, you might be thinking, “why not just hold onto the extra payment and use it when your next bill is due?” Sometimes, you might be tempted to spend the money instead of holding onto it. Putting it immediately toward an extra payment means it’s out of your hands and you don’t even have to think about using it for anything else.

However, if you want to make extra payments on a loan, like your student loan or a mortgage, reach out to your lender first to make sure that money gets applied toward the principal (aka the amount you actually borrowed) and not next month’s interest.

6.

Open a new card with a lower interest rate and transfer your balance to that card, if you can. Even better: find a card that doesn’t have any balance transfer fees!

Credit cards

Credit cards


Athima Tongloom / Getty Images

A balance transfer is a type of debt consolidation. While “consolidation” implies combining multiple debts, it’s totally possible to consolidate a single debt for a lower interest rate. The lower interest rate makes it easier for you to pay off the debt over time since the charge won’t be as high. Check out this selection of balance transfer credit cards for ideas on where to get started.

7.

Freeze your credit cards — in the most literal of ways.

Character freezing the screen


FOX / Via giphy.com

Like, literally stick your credit card in a bowl of water and put it in the freezer until it’s in a bowl of ice. It’s a popular tactic for curbing impulse spending. Sometimes, one of the most effective ways to pay down debt is to avoid using your credit card too often (if you just can’t get enough of online clothes shopping and quirky Amazon gadgets, of course; in some situations, credit cards are the only way to buy necessities). If you are tempted to use your credit card, you’ll have to defrost the ice around it. This major inconvenience will give you some time to think about whether or not you really need the item you were about to buy.

8.

Or, banish any saved credit card info from your phone and computer, and turn off autofill forms — if you *really* want to order something, you’ll have to actually get up and grab your credit card.

Abbey Lee Miller saying "Poof! Be gone"


Lifetime / Via giphy.com

Leaving your credit card info automatically filled in on your favorite shopping sites can make it *too easy* to push your balance into dangerous territory. But if you have to go all the way upstairs to retrieve your credit card to place an order, you’re more likely to delay the purchase — and that can usually buy you enough time to realize that you don’t actually want the item. Sure, this won’t actually help you lower your debt balance per se, but it can keep your debt from getting worse.

9.

Automate your monthly payments so you don’t get hit with late fees on missed due dates.

Person on computer and phone

Person on computer and phone


Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

Late payment charges = even more money that you’ll have to put toward your credit card or loan payment! And if it starts happening consistently, that means you’ll have to regularly shell out more cash for those charges instead of for your balance.

When life gets a little extra busy, it can be way too easy to miss a bill — even when you’re usually so good about making on-time payments! Automatically setting up your credit card payments for a specific day each month takes some of the hassle away. When the money automatically comes out of your account, you don’t have to worry about forgetting to mark your calendar for any due dates.

10.

Try the debt avalanche method — which is where you tackle the debt with the highest interest rate first.

Animated avalanche


Comedy Central / Via giphy.com

If you have multiple debts (like multiple credit cards to pay off, multiple loans, or a combination of the two), this method can make your payments feel less daunting. For this to work, you’d throw large payments at the debt with the highest interest rate first. At the same time, you’d make just the minimum payment on your lower interest debts. You’ll end up saving money because the longer you accrue interest, the more you’ll owe. Then once that first debt is done with, you can repeat the process on the debt with the second highest interest rate.

11.

Or, use the snowball method (aka, putting the most money toward your smallest debts first).

Elf throwing snowballs


New Line Cinema / Via giphy.com

Unlike the avalanche method, the snowball method focuses on throwing larger payments at your debt with the smallest balance first (while still making the minimum payment on your other debts, of course). This means you can wipe out a debt balance faster and feel super accomplished when you make that progress. That feeling can then motivate you to tackle all your other balances — it’s kind of like finally checking off a major task on your to-do list!

12.

Call your credit card company and try to negotiate a lower interest rate.

Kim Kardashian on the phone


E! / Via giphy.com

Did you know that you could potentially get a lower interest rate on your credit card just by asking? Yeah, neither did I…until Ramit Sethi shared this game-changing tidbit in his book, I Will Teach You To Be Rich.

Sethi mentions that if you’ve been a customer who consistently makes on-time payments, it may be easier to make a case for yourself when asking for a slightly lower interest rate. And again, a lower interest rate means that you’ll have less money to pay off, which in turn means you can obliterate your debt quicker.

While this isn’t guaranteed to work, it doesn’t hurt to try!

13.

Take advantage of grace periods, especially when it comes to your student loan debt.

Coffee with foam design of money bag

Coffee with foam design of money bag


Agcreativelab / Getty Images

During grace periods, borrowers are able to avoid accruing interest on their loan balance. Undergraduate students who borrowed federal loans for school typically have a grace period of six to nine months after graduating. This is a prime opportunity to start eating away at that loan balance since you can make payments and actually see your balance get lower without those interest charges. Even $30 a month can make a little difference.

Currently, due to the coronavirus pandemic, we’re in a forbearance period for some student loan debt. Meaning, federal student aid borrowers aren’t required to make monthly payments and their balance won’t accrue interest through September 30, 2021 (doesn’t apply to you if you have private student loans, though). This is one such time where borrowers can make payments and actually see their balance get lower without interest to muddy the waters.

14.

Use the money from your tax refunds to make a debt payment.

Tax check

Tax check


Bill Oxford / Getty Images

Unexpected or unplanned money (like your tax refund) can be a useful tool in tackling your debt. It’ll help you lower your balance in one big swoop, which can shorten the life of your debt. Basically, you’ll wind up spending less time making payments in the long-run.

Even using half of the money toward your debt can make a difference — then, you can use the other half to treat yourself for all your hard work!

15.

Even though it’s tempting, never, ever, EVER ignore your payments.

Person saying "never do that again"


NBC / Via giphy.com

Ignoring your payments won’t make them go away. In fact, it can make them worse. You’ll accrue massive amounts of interest and late fees, and your debt might eventually fall into collections.

If you’re having trouble paying your debt, contact your loan servicer to learn about your available options. You might be able to qualify for an income-based repayment plan or other type of plan.

16.

If you work in a public service profession, see if your employment qualifies you for loan forgiveness programs.

A gif of a TV show character saying, "Money pleeeeeeease"


NBC / Via giphy.com

Some types of employment — like working for a nonprofit, or working in public service jobs — can qualify you for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Basically, after 10 years of making consistent, qualifying student debt payments, your loans can be forgiven. You must have taken out direct federal student loans, make payments using the income-driven repayment plan, and work full-time for the federal, state, local, or tribal government, or work for a nonprofit. There are quite a few additional guidelines for qualifying for this type of loan forgiveness, but working with a professional to answer questions specific to your situation can help you figure out if this is a viable option for you.

17.

And if you receive bonuses from work, put at least part of the money toward debt.

Waitress character looking surprised


CBS / Via giphy.com

The extra cash from bonuses can feel like a little ~treat~ — and you may even want to spend it on such. But if debt is a huge financial priority for you at the moment, though, make a plan to put a certain percentage of all bonuses toward that credit card bill or student loan payment. And, you can use the remaining money anyhow you want — saving, investing, or buying yourself something you really want.

18.

Sometimes, you may have to (temporarily) forego luxury and new purchases to save money for your payments.

character saying "it's just temporary"


The CW / Via giphy.com

Dining at nice restaurants, decorating your space to look like a Pinterest-worthy apartment, or buying a gorgeous new outfit for date night can be exciting. But not making those purchases can actually help you have the money to throw at debt and pay down your balance a little faster. And, the desire to pay off your debt can actually be more powerful than the desire to make those big purchases (which will totally work to your advantage!).

So settle for cooking at home or just getting takeout; hold off on replacing your old couch with the plush new one you saw; and wear what you already have instead of buying new clothes. It’s just for the time being, and when you reach your debt payoff goals, you can treat yourself to something you put off purchasing!

19.

If you feel like your debt is too overwhelming, you might consider credit counseling.

Character saying "That could work"


Starz / Via giphy.com

Credit counseling is kind of like scheduling an appointment with a financial adviser, except a credit counselor just focuses on ways to help you understand and manage your debt. A credit counselor might show you how to find and read your credit report, and they can come up with a personalized plan that’ll help you pay off debt. Having a plan that’s tailored to you means that you shouldn’t have to worry about fitting your unique circumstances into a cookie cutter strategy. And, actually seeing positive results can help you build financial confidence!

20.

Start a side hustle you’ll love and throw the extra income at your debt balance.

Person decorating cupcakes

Person decorating cupcakes


Morsa Images / Getty Images

Sometimes, you can cut back on spending all you want but you’ll still hit an income wall. In other words, there’s only so much you can do to save; your income is fixed (especially if you’re unable to collect tips or bonuses or get paid for over time).

If you feel like you’ve done all you can to open up some wiggle room for finding extra cash and it still isn’t enough, your only other option is to make more money. You can do this by starting a side hustle — you may even create a side gig that’s lucrative enough to earn you hundreds or thousands per month (just don’t forget to set aside about 30% for taxes!). The extra money you make can be tossed at your debt, which will help you pay off your balances sooo much faster.

If this sounds like an option that can suit your needs (without exhausting yourself, obvs), we rounded up some side hustles that people say have made them a lot of money. These ideas can be a good jumping off point.

21.

Use cash back from purchases to make a few extra payments toward your debt.

Carrie Bradshaw dancing


HBO / Via giphy.com

Cash back is a hidden gem that can help you make a few (tiny) extra steps toward your goals — even when it comes to paying off debt. If you’ve ever felt bad for spending money on something you really needed or making an impulse purchase on something you immediately loved, getting some cash back can actually soften that psychological blow. Seriously, you won’t feel as bad paying for a pair of jeans or the air fryer you wanted if you’re getting a little money back on your purchase.

The cash adds up over time, and you can use it toward your payment on a loan or credit card bill. Now, you won’t end up with, like, hundreds of dollars in cash back right out of the gate unless you shop, like, a lot. But every dollar really counts! My favorite cash back plug-in is Rakuten because they have hundreds of retailers who offer cash back incentives. Many of my favorite brands are on there — Colourpop, Lulu’s, Groupon, FabFitFun, and more. And, they’ll even get you cash back when you make restaurant purchases.

22.

If you work for a company, ask if your employer can help you make student loan payments.

Character saying "thank you"


NBC / Via giphy.com

Your company may or may not already have programs in place to lend a helping hand when it comes to tuition and student loan assistance. But in case you weren’t aware, under the CARES Act, employers can contribute up to $5,250 per year toward an employee’s student loan debt balance. This was *supposed* to expire on Dec. 31, 2020, but it has been extended through Dec. 31, 2025 (so you still have about four years to get in on this!!). You can participate regardless of whether you have federal or private student loans — and you won’t be taxed on the money. Plus, your employer gets a tax break for contributing the money so it’s a win-win situation. Even if the amount doesn’t sound like a lot compared to your student loan balance, it could potentially wipe a few years off the life of your loan!

Start by reaching out to your HR department to open up the conversation. Education Loan Finance provides an email template that you can use when reaching out (just scroll past the Employer Contribution Calculator). The template works as a great starting point if you don’t know whether this is something your employer has already considered.

23.

Look for lower rates for any services and subscriptions you have, and put the savings toward debt payments.

Character saying bye


Paramount Pictures / Via giphy.com

When you’re paying for a streaming service, phone bill, or car insurance, you might actually start to feel the burn when you add up your costs over the span of a year and see that (maybe) hundreds of dollars go toward paying for costly services.

Take a few minutes to make a list of all the subscriptions and services you pay for; don’t forget to count any streaming services, membership sites, and recurring fees. Call up your service providers and try to negotiate a lower monthly rate. Having made consistent, on-time payments can really work to your advantage here. And if they aren’t able to lower your rates, you might shop around to see what their competitors can offer. For example, if you’re on a phone contract plan, you might be able to save a lot by switching to a prepaid plan like the ones at Mint Mobile, which start at $15 a month.

Then once you successfully save on those bills, take that money and throw it at your monthly debt payments. Now you’ll have lower services fees and you’ll lower your debt a little faster.

24.

Sell items you no longer use and put the profits toward your debt.

Character saying "sold!"


CBC Television / Via giphy.com

The stack of books sitting in the corner of your room collecting dust might actually help you make an extra payment on your credit card. And all the clothes in your closet you bought but never wore (or only wore once)? You can totally resell them on an app like Poshmark to build up some cash, too. Not only will you remove the clutter from your space, but you can also make a decent enough chunk of cash to put toward your credit card bill, car loan, student loan balance, or other debt. Of course, you might not be able to use the money to pay *hundreds* or *thousands* off your debt, but even one additional payment can make a difference!

If you aren’t sure where to go to start selling unwanted items, start by selling to your network; post on Instagram or Facebook to let your friends and followers know you’re selling something. Or, post your items in Facebook Marketplace.

25.

And, when you feel like you’re soooo close to being done with debt, try a spending freeze to wrangle extra cash for extra payments.

Jar of coins

Jar of coins


Grace Cary / Getty Images

Okay, you’re ALMOST there. When you’re so close to paying off all your debt, it can sometimes feel like you just want to throw extra money at it and say “I’M DONE.” Implementing a spending freeze just might actually help you do that.

Basically, you organize all your necessary expenses (and leave a little extra room for “fun money,” too if you want). And you stop making all other purchases. So basically, if you aren’t spending money on rent, transportation, bills, food, and maybe date night, you avoid the purchase for now. The money you save by not making “unnecessary” purchases for the time being can be thrown at your debt to push you across the finish line faster.

Source: 25 Things To Try If You Just Can’t Wait To See Your Debt Balance Hit $0

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