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Getting out of debt can be incredibly challenging, especially when it’s credit card debt with a high-interest rate. Sometimes, even if you are able to increase your income, you still feel like you’re barely breaking even, never mind trying to pay off the mountain of debt you’ve accumulated. But getting out of debt is achievable if you’re willing to put in the effort – here are some of the most actionable tips for how you can pay off your debt and start living your life again.

1. 0% Balance Transfers

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A great first thing to consider is whether you can transfer your current credit card balance onto another card with a lower interest rate. The best way to do this is to research if there are any cards offering 0% balance transfer APRs. If you can find one, this will allow you to push your balance to that card and reduce the overall amount of interest you’re paying. It can be really hard to pay down credit card debt if you’re continually accruing thousands in interest every year, so this can be key to breaking the cycle.

2. Cut Out Non-Essentials

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It sucks to think about having to do this, but it can make such a big difference. If you’re able to reduce your spending to essentials only, this will help you save money and put more towards paying off your debt. It’s important to remember that this is not something you’ll need to do forever – it’s a textbook case of short-term pain for long-term gain. The best way to cut out non-essential spending is to dissect your expenses and see where you’re spending on non-essentials – think things like eating out, subscriptions, and shopping – and decide what’s doable for you and your family.

3. Get a Personal Loan

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Sometimes, it helps to look at other debt alternatives when it comes to paying off credit card debt. Some people apply to get a personal loan that has a lower interest rate than a credit card. This comes down to the same point that was discussed in number one – reducing your overall interest rate. If you can use a personal loan at 12% interest to pay off your credit card debt that’s at 20% interest, that can make a big dent in the amount of interest that you’ll pay overall.

4. Cash is Key

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One of the best ways to start working towards getting yourself out of debt is to stop using credit cards entirely and go all cash. When you do this, it is impossible to spend beyond your means because you can only work with the money that you physically have. Not only will this help you reduce your overall spending, but it will also fix the bad habit of putting expenses on credit cards and spending more than what you make.

5. Sell Assets

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Sometimes, it is worthwhile to think about what assets you own that you could sell to put towards your debt. For example, do you own a car you could sell, purchase a cheaper one, and put the remainder into your debt? You can also look at things you own that you no longer use. Tons of people sell things through platforms like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, and these sales can add up, even if they’re small amounts. Remember that every little bit counts!

6. Pay the Minimum

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Unfortunately, there’s no quick solution here. It’s important to make sure that you are paying the minimum amount owed on all your credit cards. Once you’ve done that, if you have money left over to pay off more debt, start with the card that has the highest APR, allocate everything that remains to that card, and draw it down as quickly as possible. Once it’s paid off, do the same thing with whatever card is left with the highest APR. Rinse and repeat until you’ve paid all your cards off entirely.

7. Chapter 7

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While it can be scary to consider filing for bankruptcy, sometimes this is the best path forward. If you have a large debt-to-income ratio and are at the point where you can no longer pay the minimum amounts due on your debts, then it may be time to consider this path. While it can seem daunting, in some cases, it can be the decision that turns everything around for you. Don’t be afraid to discuss this option with a trusted financial advisor to see if it’s the right one for you.

8. Build an Emergency Buffer

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Building a cash emergency fund can be a great way to get yourself out of the habit of relying on credit cards. If you can build an emergency fund of $1,000, it will help you cover unexpected expenses without having to use a credit card and incur more debt. Build your emergency fund as fast as your finances allow – the sooner you have it, the sooner you can stop the vicious cycle of relying on credit cards for those surprise expenses.

9. Freeze the Cards

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If you’re someone who struggles with willpower, it’s worth considering how you can make your credit cards difficult for you to access. Some people freeze them into a block of ice, making them difficult to get to without a decent amount of effort. If you feel you really struggle with discipline, you can go a step further and cut up your cards and go cash only, as suggested above.

10. Budget Your Expenses

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Budgeting is such a critical and underrated tool when it comes to getting out of debt. Even better if you can budget out your expenses into cash-stuffed envelopes – this forces you to work with the money that you have. So, when you run out of money, you run out of money; there’s no other option. For some, seeing money physically move from one envelope to another when you overspend on a particular category can be a big reality check and just what you need to kick yourself into gear and commit to sticking to your budget and ultimately paying off your debt.

11. Start Small

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When you’re first starting to pay off debt, it can be beneficial to pay off the smallest balances first and then roll the cumulative payment up to the next biggest debt.  While this is slower and not mathematically optimal versus paying down your highest interest balances first, it provides you with “quick wins,” which, from a psychological standpoint, can be hugely beneficial early on. This allows you to set yourself up with the right mindset to keep going and tackle those larger debts and ensure you stick to your ultimate goal of paying off all your debt.

12. Eliminate Housing Expenses

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Often, housing is our largest expense on a month-to-month basis. If you can limit or eliminate your housing expenses by moving in with family, getting roommates, or getting a job in an industry that provides housing discounts or paid housing, all of those options will increase the amount of money that you will have to put towards your debt on a monthly basis. Remember that this isn’t something you need to do forever, but it’s a great way to save some money in the short-term and reallocate it to paying off your debt.

13. Side Hustle

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If you can manage it, try to take on a side hustle to earn some extra cash. It can be hard when you’re working a full-time job, but in today’s day and age, there are tons of options that you can do from the comfort of your home in the evenings and on weekends. To take full advantage of a side hustle, put all your earnings towards paying off your debt to help you achieve your goal of being debt-free faster.

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