Are you swimming in debt and don’t know how you’re ever going to pay it off? You’re not alone. If you’re looking for easy ways to cut down your debt, including intuitive tweaks to your debt payoff strategies and habits, follow the advice of these experts.
Before you start repaying debt, take a moment to identify the kind of debt you have — whether it’s credit card debt, student loan debt, mortgage debt or something else — and determine how much debt you have. Understanding the type and amounts of your loans can help you come with a personalized plan for debt payoff.
Here are 12 easy ways to pay off debt:
— Create a budget.
— Pay off the most expensive debt first.
— Pay more than the minimum balance.
— Take advantage of balance transfers.
— Halt your credit card spending.
— Use a debt repayment app.
— Delete credit card information from online stores.
— Sell unwanted gifts and household items.
— Change your habits.
— Increase your income with a side hustle.
— Consider debt consolidation.
— Avoid returning to bad habits when you reach your goal.
Read on for more information on each easy debt payoff strategy.
1. Create a Budget
The first step to relieving debt issues is to create a budget. To track your expenses and income, consider a budgeting app. “(They) can seem overwhelming to set up in the beginning,” says Deacon Hayes, personal finance expert at website Well Kept Wallet.
[Read: What Is My Debt-to-Income Ratio?]
2. Pay Off the Most Expensive Debt First
Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. “By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards,” writes former U.S. News My Money blog contributor Hitha Herzog.
3. Pay More Than the Minimum Balance
To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. Courtney Nagle, associate marketing manager for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, says, “Limiting repayment of your debt to minimum monthly installments is a costly way to manage debt and is not a recommended long-term solution.” She recommends paying balances off as quickly as you can to save money and give your budget “a little breathing room.”
[Read: Secured vs. Unsecured Debt.]
4. Take Advantage of Balance Transfers
If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Trent Hamm, founder of TheSimpleDollar.com, recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. “You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate,” he warns. “If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way.”
5. Halt Your Credit Card Spending
Want to stop accumulating debt? Remove all credit cards from your wallet, and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises former My Money contributor Sabah Karimi. “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she writes.
6. Use a Debt Repayment App
“A good first step to managing your debt is knowing the balance details of all of your accounts, which is reported in your credit report,” says Chris Gatz, the head of CreditWise, a credit score tracker offered by the financial firm Capital One. Keep track of current debts and your progress toward repayment using a debt repayment app.
7. Delete Credit Card Information From Online Stores
If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don’t need. So clear that information. “If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account,” Hamm writes.
8. Reduce Spending By Taking Advantage of Deals
Look for shopping deals and free giveaways to avoid overspending. “Retailers’ birthday freebies are usually small — think along the lines of sample-sized beauty products and coupons,” says Kristin McGrath, a shopping, deals and personal finance expert. “However, if you sign up for a bunch of programs, you’ll get a nice haul of free stuff and discounts.”
9. Change Your Habits
“Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess,” Hamm writes. “Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month.” Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much?
10. Increase Your Income With a Side Hustle
“A side hustle can create diversity in your income stream and, with a little bit of luck and lots of hard work, could become something you do full time,” says Jim Wang, founder of personal finance blog Wallet Hacks. “Even if it doesn’t, an extra hundred dollars each month can go a long way.” But you should still review the tax implications of having a side hustle and consider possible deductions or requirements that may apply.
11. Consider Debt Consolidation
Debt consolidation allows borrowers to repay their debt to a single loan with one monthly payment, often at a lower interest rate. According to Holly Perez, a consumer money expert at Intuit and Mint spokeswoman, consolidating debt can help individuals break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle when combined with other cost-saving steps. “Review your cable, phone and credit card bills for hidden fees, or simply reach out to your service providers and negotiate a better deal. Consolidate your student loans and lock in a fixed rate,” she says. “Take public transportation or join a carpool. Take advantage of 0 percent APR balance transfers on any credit cards you have.”
12. Reward Yourself When You Reach Milestones
Once you reach your goal, it’s important to maintain your newfound mindset. “Even if you’ve paid off your credit card debt, it can be easy to slide back into old habits. It’s important to change how you think about credit cards so you don’t end up in the same spot,” says Lance Cothern, founder of MoneyManifesto.com. After you pay off your credit cards, you have to make it stick. Don’t use credit cards for purchases you can’t pay off quickly. If you struggle to use credit cards responsibly, it may be a good idea to stop using them altogether.”
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Update 05/20/21: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.