Are you currently in the middle of a debt-free journey? Maybe you’re not, but know you need to be? I have a ton of tips on how to pay off debt and improve your finances but today I’m going to cut out all the fluff and give you my very best top 5 crucial tips to pay off debt!
Before we get started I want to recommend you do a bit of research…check out my top personal finance book recommendations to give you some direction. These books are super easy reads and gave us a new perspective when looking at our finances.
Find a plan or a system that resonates with you and get to work! For us, that system was Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps. His principles and “tough love” demeanor immediately struck a chord with us, but he might not be a great fit for you. Finding a plan that you feel you can stick to is a great place to start!
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5 TIPS TO PAY OFF DEBT
Honestly, I could easily sit here and talk your ear off all day long giving you tips for paying off debt and especially tips for paying off credit card debt but since you have an actual life, I’ve narrowed it down to the 5 absolute most important tips for paying off debt!
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Live on a Budget
I used to have a love/hate relationship with budgeting. I would sit at my computer, make this fancy spreadsheet, enter all our expenses, tally them up, estimate our income (since my husband’s fluctuates) and subtract.
Around that same time, I would feel an instant wave of nausea wash over me when I saw we were upside down. Our expenses were greater than our income. Every single time. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience?
I know how tough budgeting can be. I understand how overwhelming it feels when you don’t seem to make enough money to cover your bills and basic living costs.
I also know that making the conscious decision to not live on a budget will absolutely perpetuate this cycle. Avoiding it so that you don’t have to be faced with this fact each time you sit down to write a budget is extremely detrimental to your financial situation.
A budget can be really scary. A budget can feel limiting and restrictive but in reality, it’s quite the contrary.
A budget = freedom. A budget gives you a plan and peace of mind. And best of all: a budget gives you guilt-free spending! Did you read that? Guilt-free! That means you can finally leave Target without feeling like a horrible person! You can even go to the salon or the gym without feeling bad about it the next day!
It doesn’t matter if you use pen and paper or a spreadsheet…just get yourself on a monthly zero-based budget and get started immediately!
Check out this life-changing course that helped us finally learn how to budget or sign up for my FREE 5-day Begin to Budget email course below»
Find an accountability partner
Personal finance is personal, right? So why do you need to share your journey with someone else? Studies show that when you share your goals with someone else, you are twice as likely to achieve them! Twice as likely? Those are some good odds!
Not to mention a debt-free journey can often be a long, arduous process and having someone in your corner to support and encourage you will be crucial to your success. You do not have to, and should not, go it alone!
If you’re married or in a relationship (with combined finances) then that person should be your accountability partner. Trust me when I say both people working together to pay off debt is an exponentially stronger force than working alone, or – even worse – working alone with your partner opposing your efforts.
If you’re not married then find a person you trust. A close friend, family member or co-worker.
This person should ideally:
1) Have your best interests at heart and truly want to see you succeed
2) Be a trusted confidant with whom you feel comfortable sharing financial information
3) Be in a better financial situation than yourself. (It doesn’t make sense to take advice from broke people!)
4) Be comfortable enough with you to tell you truthfully if they see you moving backward or making a financial mistake
Be sure to share your plan and intentions with this person. Share your “why” and reasons for wanting to change your current financial situation. Ask them to check in with you periodically to see how you are progressing and moving towards your goals.
Reach out to them if you are feeling discouraged and let them lift you up and cheer you on!
Stop using credit
If you take nothing else from this post please take this! It is nearly impossible to out ahead of your debt when you continue to utilize credit!
Taking out home equity loans, student loans, leasing cars and the most detrimental of all – continuing the use of credit cards – will all derail your progress.
While many financial gurus will implore you to cut up all of your credit cards, I realize that seems completely unrealistic to many. You have to make the best decision for you but I beg you to make a strong move that will force you to drastically change your habits when it comes to swiping your credit card.
If cutting up your credit cards is not an option for you, then you need to find another way. Freeze your cards in a bowl of water, store them in a location not easily accessible to you or even give them to your accountability partner to hold for you!
Using a large portion of your income each month to pay off debt only to turn around and incur more debt the next month will ensure you will remain a slave to your lenders.
Decrease your expenses
Cutting back on your expenses can be difficult. The lines between “wants” and “needs” can easily get blurred. Often, while on a debt-free journey, a majority of your income will likely be taken up by paying down your debt each month.
You have two types of expenses: fixed and variable.
Your fixed monthly expenses, meaning the expenses that stay the same each month, ie. mortgage/rent, car payments, insurance etc. will, for the most part (but not always), remain untouched.
Variable expenses, on the other hand, are where you can make some major moves! Variable expenses are those that change each month. Groceries, utilities, hobbies, and even that pesky Starbucks habit can all be drastically reduced or even cut to give you more money in your monthly budget that can be put towards debt!
Now back to those fixed expenses…these can be lowered too, but it will take some extra effort. If you are all in and ready to create some momentum then carve out a few hours to do the following:
Lower Your Insurance Rates
Call your insurance companies (auto, home, life) and ask them if they can review your current policies to look for any opportunities to lower your rates.
If they are not willing or do not find you any savings contact an insurance broker. A broker represents multiple insurance carriers, instead of just one, and can offer you a number of different rates to choose from!
Lower Your Utility Costs
Contact your utility companies (electric, gas, water) and do the same. Often these rates fluctuate but in some cases, you are able to contract for a certain rate for a period of time or go on a payment plan to pay an even amount year-round. Ask them what different options they have available.
Switch Cell Phone Plan or Carrier
Contact your cell phone carrier or hop on their website to compare plans and see what features you may be able to cut to lower your monthly bill or even look into switching carriers. Everyone is in the cell phone business these days – even our beloved Amazon offers cell phones and plans – which is good for the consumer it creates more competitive pricing!
Some companies will even give you some lucrative rewards to gain your business! Be sure to not get sucked into pricier plans, unnecessary bells and whistles or even the hard-to-resist upsell, especially new phones and accessories!
Cut Your Grocery Budget
Groceries and eating out at restaurants is one of the highest expenses for most families, second only to living costs!
It is mind-blowing how much money most people spend at the grocery store or restaurants each month! Don’t believe me? Take the time to track your food costs for one full month.
Record every single dollar you spend on food. Grocery store trips, take out, coffee runs, include it all and I’d venture to say you will be surprised with what you find!
Don’t worry, the good news is that food is possibly the easiest expense to reel in! I have a bunch of tips to help you save money on your groceries including my very favorite — meal planning! Give it a shot and I promise your food budget will be drastically reduced!
Increase your income
Living on a budget, paying off debt and decreasing your expenses will put you on the fast-track to financial peace, but increasing your income while doing all those things will put you on the fast-track to financial freedom!
Grab some overtime at your current job or pick up a part-time job instead! How about starting a brand new side-hustle? The internet has afforded our generation so many ways to make some extra cash on the side!
My best advice is to figure out what you love to do in your spare time and monetize it. Keep it simple. No need to overcomplicate things.
Like to write? Start a blog!
Love to bake? Try offering to make the cakes and treats for your best friend’s upcoming baby shower!
Have a great eye for photography? Put a post on Facebook offering some amateur holiday sessions!
If this is more commitment than you’re looking for, just dedicate some time to purging your house and sell your unwanted junk! One day your side hustle may even turn into a full-time gig, especially if you’re entrepreneurial and in the market for a new business venture!
Those are my 5 core tips to pay off debt fast…I’m sure you’ll pick up a ton more along your way but if you stay consistent with these tips I know you’ll be successful in paying off your debt and reaching all of your financial goals! Don’t forget to check out my new Begin to Budget Bundle to help you get started budgeting today!
Did you find these tips useful? Save this post to Pinterest to refer back to and check out this video for more info on my 5 tips to get out of debt »