With some creativity and hard work you can become debt free. To help, here are 50 creative and simple ways to get out of debt.
Different financial gurus have differing opinions on whether debt can be “good” or “bad.” In general, I believe some debt can be at least understandable, if not necessarily good. Some debt, like reasonable car debt, student loans, and mortgage debt, gives you access to things you might not be able to access otherwise.
But any debt carries risk. When you live with debt, you’re often forced to live by someone else’s rules. So freedom, financial and otherwise, often requires eliminating at least most of your debt.
Sure, sometimes you might want to beef up your emergency fund rather than paying down debt. But for the most part, making minimum payments on your debts isn’t worth the interest you’ll have to pay for the privilege.
So if you’re ready to start paying down your debts today, use these 50 tips to get that debt snowball rolling.
- Set up automated debt payments. This keeps you from missing any payments, which can result in additional fees and even interest rate hikes.
- Stop using your credit cards. The first step to getting out of a big hole is to stop digging. You don’t necessarily need to shut down old credit card accounts. (In fact, leaving them open may be better for your credit score.) But you should un-link the accounts from your Amazon, Paypal, and other online storage methods. And cut up or put away the plastic.
- Decide on a debt repayment method. A method gives you specific goals to work towards on a specific timeline. Check out this calculator to look at the differences between the two major methods: debt avalanche and debt snowball.
- Set up some milestones, and plan rewards when you hit them. Celebrating milestones is especially important if it’ll take you years to pay off your debts. Just be sure you don’t over-spend to celebrate!
- Pay cash. Switching from credit to debit is good. Switching to cash may be even better. Something happens to us psychologically when we spend cash, so just spending dollar bills instead of swiping plastic can reduce your spending.
- Empty the change from your pockets into a change jar each day. At the end of each month, deposit it and put it towards your debt.
- Also use a change roll-up app. Apps like Qoins let you save your change virtually. They’ll round up your debit card spending to the nearest dollar, and deposit the change into a savings account. You can cash that out monthly to put towards debt, as well.
- Make a second mortgage payment or car payment each month. Be sure to check the terms of your loan, as some will penalize this behavior. But just one extra payment a month can get you well on your way towards debt freedom.
- Cancel subscriptions and divert that money towards your debt. Do you subscribe to magazines, apps, professional organizations, etc.? Save money month after month by cancelling those subscriptions you rarely use. Then put the money you’re already used to paying towards your debts.
- Postpone your vacation until you are out of debt. If you’re saving a lot of money towards your next vacation, consider putting it towards your highest-interest debt, instead. Then, take a staycation while you work to get out of debt.
- Track your spending. Just keeping track of everything you’re spending can help you find ways to cut back. Just be sure to divert any money saved towards your debt payments.
- Stop watching television, particularly the commercials. Cutting out commercials will help you reduce spending by reducing the “stuff” you want. And you can use that TV time to make extra cash to pay off your debts.
- Don’t compare yourself to your neighbors. There’s a good chance your neighbors–who looks wealthier than you–are actually in even more debt, anyway.
- Learn how to cook rather than dining out. Cooking can be a fun, relaxing hobby. Plus, it can help you make healthier eating choices and save a ton of money to put towards debt.
- Downsize. Okay, so maybe you can’t do this one immediately. But start looking for cheaper apartments or smaller homes. You’d be amazed at how good it feels to downsize these payments so you can get out of debt more quickly.
- Divert the full amount of your raise directly to your debt. Have your employer split off part of your direct deposit to a savings account. At the end of each month, put the money from that account towards your debts.
- Sell your unneeded stuff on eBay or Craigslist. Put any cash you get towards your debt right away.
- Give away anything you can’t sell. Wait, but this won’t make you money, right? Right. But having less stuff means you spend less time, energy, and maintaining it. Simplifying can save you significant cash over time–cash that you can put towards your debts.
- Dispose of anything you can’t give away. Again, if you have extra “stuff” taking up physical space and head space, it’s time to just get rid of it. It’ll save you energy and money over time.
- Put your credit cards in a cup of water in the freezer. This is one classic way to literally “freeze” your credit card spending. You’ll have to wait quite a while to access your card should you need it. Just remember to un-link your cards from your online accounts, too!
- Call the credit card issuers to selectively cancel your credit cards. You should particularly cancel credit cards if they charge hefty annual fees. It’s possible to cancel some cards without tanking your credit score. And sometimes it’s worthwhile even if your score will take a small hit.
- Review your three free annual credit reports to ensure you’re aware of all of your debt. One of the best ways to go into more debt is to miss payments on debt you don’t even know you have. Before you fully formulate your debt payoff plan, pull your credit reports to be sure you aren’t missing anything.
- Involve your family and friends by letting them know of your plan. You’re statistically more likely to achieve your goals when you tell other people about them. Plus, your friends are likely to notice your lifestyle changes. Telling them why you’re making different choices can help them support those choices.
- Start a personal finance blog to chronicle your debt reduction adventure. This could be the start of a high-earning side gig! But even if not, writing down your progress holds you accountable to reaching your goals.
- Get familiar with your local library. Successful people read. There’s no doubt about that. But they don’t necessarily have to buy all those books. So start renting books, movies, CDs, and more from your local library, instead.
- Use extra time to turn your hobby into a money-making business. Starting a side gig can be one of the most powerful ways to get out of debt more quickly. It’s even better when you can have a side gig doing something you already enjoy.
- Examine your budget line by line. If it’s been a while since you’ve been over your budget, now is the time to go over it again. Look at your past three months’ of spending. Find ways to save, and stick to those savings by recording your budget moving forward.
- Grow your own food in a garden. Gardening is a great way to spend more time outside, but it can also save you money. Make a rule to only grow the most expensive veggies, so that you don’t waste money gardening, instead.
- When you need to replace your car, buy a used model with a great track record. The best option is to drive your car until it’s about to fall apart. Then, make a habit of buying used. You’ll save thousands this way!
- Wait before adopting the latest technologies until they are no longer the “latest.” Being an early adopter can be fun. But it can also lead you to spend a lot of extra money on tech. Wait for prices to settle down–and bugs to get worked out–before buying.
- Implement a waiting rule. Set up a rule that you have to wait 15 days before buying something over $100. You can modify the terms however works for you. Just get into the habit of delaying your spending, and you’ll find you spend less money.
- Use smart credit card balance transfers to make your debt less expensive. Moving debt to a 0% APR introductory offer can help you pay it off a whole lot faster!
- Improve your health to lower your health care expenses. Becoming healthier can help you spend less money. Just divert that savings to paying off debt.
- Quit smoking. Then, immediately divert the money you’d normally spend on cigarettes towards your debt.
- Read more blogs and personal success stories about getting out of debt. Staying motivated while getting out of debt can be tough, especially if it takes a long time. One way to keep your motivation high is to read success stories from others. Plus, they can give you more ideas for paying off your own debts!
- Cancel your cable service. There are just too many good, cheap options available these days to pay loads of money for TV. At a minimum, you should reduce your spending on cable by cutting out the extra services and channels you don’t use.
- Gradually change your thermostat. You can often get away with keeping the house warmer in summer and colder in winter if you do it gradually.
- Eliminate expensive hobbies. Some hobbies can make money but others cost way too much. Look at your hobby spending, and consider temporarily cutting out those that cost a lot of money.
- Stop investing in individual stocks. Moving your money around between stocks can be really expensive. Instead, invest in mutual funds or other more stable options. Put the money you save in fees towards paying off debt.
- Downgrade your phone plan. These days it’s almost impossible to have a cell phone plan without any smartphone features. But if you haven’t reviewed your plan in a while, you can likely save significantly with a different plan.
- Set up motivational reminders or alerts in your calendar software. Again, staying motivated is hard in this long haul of paying off debt. Setting up reminders for your future self can help you stay on track, even when things get tough.
- Save, then pay off debt, then spend. When you look at your budget, determine how much you can save each month and then how much you can put towards debt. Do those two things first on pay day before you spend any additional money.
- Create subaccounts for money to pay off debt. Sometimes it makes more sense to stash away debt pay-down money in a savings account before paying debts at the end of the month. In this case, create a subaccount or get a separate, free savings account for this purpose.
- Organize your bills. Whether you use an online or physical system, organizing your bills ensures that you won’t make late payments. Those fees can eat into your ability to pay down debt!
- Downgrade your car. If one of your debts is a hefty car loan, sell the vehicle, and then downgrade to a much cheaper vehicle. This can save you a load of money on your monthly car payments–money you can put towards paying down debts.
- Refinance your debts to lower interest rates. Even if you don’t qualify for a lot of 0% introductory APR credit card offers, you may be able to refinance your debts. Look into refinancing higher-interest debts with a HELOC, if you have some home equity. Or even personal loans can have a lower rate than credit cards.
- Put windfalls towards debts. It’s easy to want to put your windfalls towards things you’ve wanted for a while, like home upgrades. But if you get into the habit of putting unexpected cash towards debt, you’ll pay it off a lot more quickly.
- Find ways to save on groceries. Keep track of how much you spend on groceries. Then, work on ways to save. Switch to a cheaper store, or use coupons. Then put any money you’ve saved towards your credit card debt.
- Negotiate for lower interest rates. Even if you can’t refinance your debts, you may be able to lower your rates. If you have a good payment history, just call your credit issuer and ask for a lower rate. You might be surprised at the results!
- Tax your own purchases. Do you have some “bad” spending habits, like buying lattes on the go? Or dining out on Friday nights? Instead of cutting them out completely, “tax” those purchases. Every time you buy a latte, make yourself put $5 towards your debts. It can add up over time!
Updated October 30, 2017 and originally published July 23, 2009.