If you’re anything like me, having debt makes it extremely hard for you to relax. I hate knowing that I owe money. I would get sick over it because I knew that it wouldn’t be a quick fix. It would take time to pay off our debts and to build up a healthy savings account. Eventually I learned to have patience and paying off debt every month became a game to me. I hope you are able to implement some of these strategies to pay off your debt more quickly.
1. Two words – side gigs
I spent a lot of my free time doing side gigs. Since I don’t currently work due to graduate school, it was helpful to be able to contribute extra income to pay off debt. My favorites were photography, sewing, and reselling on Poshmark. Here is a list of many different side gigs to obtain extra income.
Total per month – $1,000
2. Kept $1,000 emergency fund in savings and the rest went towards debt
At this beginning of 2017, I started a bullet journal. One of my bullet journals was a savings tracker. Every day I was to put $10 away in a savings account. That started adding up really quickly. Within a few months, we had easily acquired over $1,000 for our emergency fund. We kept at it until Trent deployed six months later. After he left, we used the remaining to pay off our cars.
Total – $1,200
3. All of our extra money went straight towards debt
I mean all of it. Our tax return, deployment money, money from his TDY, birthday money, graduation money, bonuses…everything went towards debt.
Total – $9,500
4. Implemented the snowball method
So our debt consisted of a furniture loan ($170/mo), two cars ($250/mo and $120/mo), and two maxed out credit cards ($150/mo each). The first to get paid off was the furniture loan. So that extra $170 was put towards paying off the next smallest loan, Trent’s car. So then we were paying $290/mo on his car. As soon as that was paid off, we took the money from the furniture and Trent’s car to pay off my car, making it $540/mo. Then when everything was paid off, there was $840/mo extra to go towards the credit cards.
5. Set goals – reach a goal and we each got $100 to spend
You’ve got to have a system to keep yourself motivated. It’s extremely overwhelming to set a large goal. This is why you need to set smaller goals in between to keep yourself going. Whether it is after paying off each debt or after paying off a certain percentage, you need to reward yourself.
6. We cut back on our bills
We called all of our providers and got our bills lowered. Tell them you can no longer afford their prices and that you need to cancel your account with them. They will do whatever they can to keep you as a customer. This is when you negotiate your payment amount.
Total saved per month – $150
7. We meal prepped
With Trent being on an off shift and me having night classes, meal prepping became a necessity so we didn’t eat so much fast food all the time! We picked four meals a week and that’s what we would eat (two for lunch and two for dinner). Not only did we save a lot of money to put towards debt, we both got healthier as well! This cut our grocery budget in half!
Total saved per month – $150
8. We didn’t forget to live life – like a diet, if you go to hardcore you’ll burn out
Just take a different approach – don’t have fun until you can pay cash for it. When you want to go away for the weekend or buy a fun toy or go out to eat, if you have to charge it on your credit card, you can’t afford to do it yet. Keep saving! You’ll get there!
9. Change your mentality to “this is a lifestyle change” – you will mess up some months and others you’ll do great!
If I have to pick the most important piece of advice out of this entire post, it would be this one right here. Paying off debt is a lifestyle change. If you go too hard and don’t give yourself a chance to live your life, you’ll be miserable.
Just understand that it is going to be normal to mess up and don’t get too down on yourself when those months happen.
10. Utilized savings apps and pulled them out every 2-3 months to put towards debt
I use three savings apps that save me an average of an extra $300 each month.
Digit – this app watches your finances on a daily basis and sees what you can afford to save. The advanced algorithm does not allow the app to overdraft your account, and on the off chance it does, they will refund you! They recommend that you set up a limit. If your bank account hits that limit, it will not withdraw anymore until you have more money. Sign up here to start saving more towards paying off debt!
Acorns – this is a free investing app. It rounds up all of your purchases (IE: you spend $9.41, it’ll round it up to $10 and save the $.59) and when all the roundups have totaled to $5, it’ll pull the $5 from your account and put it into your investments. It is also recommended that you pull out a certain amount each week for an automatic withdrawal which can be as little as $5! If you’re interested in an easy way to save that spare change, sign up here to receive your first $5 on them!
Stash – this is an investment app that is free to download and very credible! You set up an amount to be withdrawn from your account every week (as little as $5) and you can choose which companies you want to invest in! If you’re interested in adding a little investment to your savings, I’d recommend signing up for an account here! As a thank you, they will give your account with an extra $5 to start out with!
11. Get a commission/tip based job
I love love love commission based jobs! There is no limit to how much you can make. I used to sell furniture and would make an average of $3,000 each month! Pick up a waiting gig and earn those tips! My sister was a waitress at Ballpark Village for the St. Louis Cardinals and on opening weekend alone, she made $2,000!
12. Stay organized and review your budget every month
This is important. If you want to succeed, make sure that you keep a close eye on your spending and budgeting. Track your purchases and see where everything is going. Here are some great budgeting printables that you can print for free!
Review at the beginning and end of each month to see how you did compared to how you thought you would’ve done. This really kept our spending in check. We were also disgusted by how much fast food we were eating.
13. Be prepared for emergencies
Don’t start paying off debt until you have $1,000 in savings. An emergency does not constitute as needing a new outfit for a job interview or forgetting you had a bill to pay. An emergency fund is usually for car troubles or medical emergencies.
14. Cash system
Trent and I allow ourselves $50/week of free spending. With this cash, we can do whatever we want with it. This is guilt free money and allows you to have some fun. Whatever you don’t spend at the end of the week, that goes directly towards debt. It’ll become a challenge for you eventually to see how little you can actually spend! By doing this, we saved an extra $1,000 in cash in six months!
Also, set aside every $5 bill you get while using your cash. It’s enough to make a difference, but not enough to realize it’s missing.
15. Balance transfer
Look into cards that offer 0% interest for balance transfers. Even better, look for ones that offer rewards as well! We switched to the Capital One Quicksilver card. This card had a 3% fee to transfer the balance, but it was 0% interest for 15 months.
16. Made our own fun/free cheap date nights
You know what? The best memories I have with Trent are not the ones where we spent $100 on dinner or a couples massage. Our favorites are the ones where we spend $10 on fast food pizza and spend the night eating ice cream and playing Crash Bandicoot together.
The amount of money you spend on a date does not matter. It’s the connection you are able to have with the other person.
Erica from Coming Up Roses compiled a list of 33 date night ideas under $20. Trent and I loved some of these ideas and have done them ourselves!
17. Kept our faith and prayed
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, everything we have is because we put our faith and trust in God. The blessings have been immeasurable! When God sees you praying about something, he wants you to give up total control. When you are able to give up total control (much harder than it sounds), miracles will start to happen. That’s what we did. I couldn’t take the worrying or obsessing anymore over debt, finally, I just threw my hands up and asked God to deal with it! It was still difficult, but he provided in ways that we definitely did not deserve.
What ways have you paid off debt? I’d love to hear more about them! Your tips might be featured in an upcoming post!
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