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Pay off more than the minimum amount required of you. Even if you’ve set a five-year plan to pay off your debt and are coming up well on your payments, if you pay off more when it’s possible, it all adds up in the long run. After all, isn’t it better to be out of debt a year or two before you had planned? It’s not like you are paying anything extra. The net amount is the same, it’s just that you’re adding a little extra every month so you can pay your debt off sooner.
If you have more than one debt to pay off, consider trying the ‘debt snowball’ method. This requires you to make a list of all your debts, from smallest to biggest. Start by putting all your excess funds into paying off the smaller debts. As you go along paying off the smaller amounts, use the extra money left from that to pay off the next debt and so on and so forth, till you reach the biggest amount. This speeds up the process of paying off debt since it creates a momentum and also makes you feel that you are making progress with your finances.
Another variation of the snowball method is to pay off the largest debt amount first. Make minimum payments on all your debts and credit cards, save for one – the biggest one. Focus all your extra funds on eliminating that debt first and make your way to the smaller ones till you’re left with the least expensive debt to pay back. This is also an encouraging method as you can see yourself checking off the debts on your list. Depending on what suits you better, you can try either this method or the snowball method described above.
Windfall money or ‘found’ money is any kind of money that doesn’t come directly from your employment. This could be money that has come to you through tax returns, a bonus at work, weddings gifts or even inheritance. Windfall money, literally, is earnings that come to you unexpectedly. They may not come along as often as you like but keep an eye out for when it does and consciously put that money into paying off your debt.
Most people, especially in cities, are guilty of living a life of excess. There’s online shopping, a flash sale at H&M or a new iPhone in the market. But when you really come down to a bare minimum and assess where you can cut back in life, you are forced to prioritize. Declutter your life and sell the things you don’t need. It could be a bike that’s been sitting idle in the garage forever or even some old books from the university that are still relevant.
This point is linked to the previous one. While you could sell the things you don’t need, there’s only so much money you’ll make from selling a 15-year-old motorcycle. Take a good look around your house and life and see what are the big items or objects you can trade in for something cheaper. If you have two cars standing in your driveway, make adjustments and see if you can be a single car family. You can use the profit you make to pay off your debt.
Create a bare-bones budget for you to live on temporarily. What is the minimum that you can survive on? Can you do without Netflix for a year? Perhaps save on Uber and walk to nearby destinations. The idea is to take stock of your life and see what are the things you can stop doing for a bit in order to save money. This, of course, doesn’t mean you should skip meals and starve yourself. Just live a financially smarter life.
You’re going to eat, even if you’re under debt. So find a way to eat well but inexpensively. Stock up on groceries at the beginning of the month perhaps look for sales even. Ration what you’re going to eat, don’t buy in excess and let it go to waste. You can stock non-perishable foods like frozen meat, canned goods and cereal. The key is to look out for sales and buying the right amount at the right time. You could save up to 25 percent on your annual grocery bill if you purchase smartly.
Obviously, if you have to budget yourself, you need to get rid of your expensive habits. Now making a temporary bare-bones budget is one thing. But keeping expensive habits at bay may be something you want to try following through with, even after you have paid off your debt. Of course, you can indulge once in a while but best not to live beyond your means. So kick off that cigar habit (it’ll do your bank balance and your lungs good). Think of other things that are eating into your monthly pay cheque in a big way and work towards quitting them or at least replacing them with something less expensive.
If you’re spending much of what you earn on paying off credit card bills at high-interest rates, consider calling the card issuer and negotiating for a lower interest rate. At the most, the credit card company might decline to change the rate. But if you have a credible credit card history and have been paying your bills on time, the company might oblige. Saving money on your fixed expenses is a great way to build excess funds to pay off your debt.
Other than your credit card interest rates, there are other bills you can negotiate down. For example, your internet service, the cable or satellite connection bill or even your rent. If you have a good rapport with your service provider or your landlord and you have been an ideal customer in paying your dues, a good negotiation might earn you some benefits.
If your card company denies you a lower interest rate, consider a balance transfer. You can secure 0% APR for up to 15 months with many balance transfers. But you may have to pay a transfer fee of 3%.
Switch to a card with lower interest rates and one that offers 0% introductory APR on balance transfers. This will save you some money on interest rates which you can then use to pay a part of your debt off.
If you are a homeowner and have enough equity, consider consolidating your debts into your mortgage. To refinance your mortgage means you take out another loan to pay off your mortgage in order to get a better interest rate and term. The money you save from paying your mortgage at a lower rate can be used to repay the debt. But this is more complicated than it sounds. Have a chat with a non-profit credit counselor before taking any steps. You don’t want to get stuck with a higher interest rate plus more debt. Also, figure out a plan to repay the second loan, even though it’s at a lower rate. It’s of utmost importance that you spend lesser than you earn so as to generate savings.
The most obvious solution of all is to pick up an extra shift at work or to pick up a part-time side hustle for extra money. The more you can increase your income, the greater your savings and your ability to repay your debt will be. This will, of course, not be easy. But you may have to push yourself harder for a few months.
Use sites like Upwork to find freelancer gigs. If you have a knack for writing or graphic design, use that to earn you an extra buck. If nothing else, there’s always babysitting! Even a single drop in the ocean counts.
So those were 13 ways to get out of debt fast. Remember that being in debt can be a temporary situation only if you make your payments with due diligence. It will be tough for a bit but once you look back at the sacrifices you have made to pay off that debt, you may choose to live a better and healthier, debt-free life voluntarily.