Are you struggling to keep up with your mortgage, student loan repayments, credit card bills, or other debts? Do you want to pay off debt quicker? If so, rest assured you aren't alone. According to the latest data from Experian, the average American household owed $101,915 worth of combined debt in 2022.
Granted, some of that comes down to things like major home and auto loans. But over $5,000 per person came down to credit card bills, while just over $17,000 was personal loan debt.
As you may know all too well, every new debt you take on has a way of robbing you of extra money that could be going toward paying off your home or stashing away money for retirement.
But what do you do if you're sick of carrying debt around with no end in sight? The quest for ways to get out of debt fast is as old as time… or at least credit cards.
How to Pay Off Debt Quicker
Unfortunately, there are no magic bullets when it comes to paying off debt overnight, with the possible exception of finding yourself a lucky lotto winner. But the good news is that it is possible to pay off debt faster if you put your mind to it.
A lot of it comes down to two key factors – paying much closer attention to your money and developing a solid debt repayment strategy. Vague enough for you? Don't worry, you'll soon see these principles in action as we launch into strategies you can use to pay down debt faster.
Get Clear on Your Existing Debt
We're not going to lie – this one is going to be a little painful. But if you really want to ditch debt once and for all, it's incredibly important. Many of us use the time-tested method of coping with too much debt by sending off our minimum payments each month without ever really paying attention to our balances.
Unfortunately, the whole “out of sight, out of mind” strategy is part of what's keeping you stuck in the debt cycle. If you really want to set off on a hardcore debt repayment journey, then it's time to sit down and get all your debts together in one place.
Whether it be on a spreadsheet or a piece of notebook paper, create a list of all your debts. From your auto loan to the 5 bucks you borrowed from your co-worker to tack on a side of chips and salsa at Chipotle. Be sure to include the following info:
- Everyone you owe money
- How much you owe them
- The minimum monthly payments
- The interest rates on each
While it may not always be pleasant, rest assured that you've taken the first step towards a debt-free future by gaining clarity about your situation.
Choose a Payment Strategy
Later on, we'll discuss ways to free up extra cash to help you pay off debts more quickly. But first, let's talk strategy. If you're juggling multiple payments each month, then there are two different approaches to deciding how much of your budget to put toward each.
The first is known as the debt snowball method while the second is commonly referred to as the debt avalanche method. Let's take a closer look at each of these delightfully snowy metaphors and how they can work for you.
The Debt Snowball Method
The debt snowball method works by lining up your debts in a row and paying off the one with the smallest balance first. Then focusing on the next smallest debt and so on. At this point, you may be thinking, “shouldn't I pay off the one with the highest interest rate or the largest balance?”
These are both legit questions. But the debt snowball approach is less about math and more about psychology. The idea is that as you pay off more and more debts, your metaphorical debt snowball will grow mightier along with your motivation. The fewer debts you have to keep up with, the more focus you'll be able to give the larger ones when their time comes.
The Debt Avalanche Method
While the debt snowball works by wiping out your smallest debt first, the debt avalanche approach advises that you begin by tackling the debts with the highest interest rate. The idea, of course, is that by slashing high-interest payments, you'll have more money to pay off debt overall.
This approach requires a little more tolerance for delayed gratification but is just as solid an approach. It's really about figuring out which method works best for you.
Consider Debt Consolidation
Debt consolidation is the art of combining a series of smaller debts into one larger debt. This tactic works by eliminating the need to keep up with all those due dates by transforming them into a single monthly payment. Ideally, you'll be able to get a lower interest rate than those you were paying on the smaller loans, as well as a manageable minimum monthly payment.
This can go a long way toward freeing up more money to pay off your debt quicker while still keeping up with your monthly bills. There are a few different ways to consolidate debt. Which is best for you will largely come down to how much debt you owe and how long it will realistically take to pay it off.
Finding a Balance Transfer Credit Card With a Lower APR
If your main problem is paying off multiple credit cards, then finding a credit card issuer that offers a lower APR may be the ticket for you. If your credit is in good shape, you may even be able to find a credit card that offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers. Do beware that some cards charge a balance transfer fee, which is something you'll want to take into account while exploring your options.
You'll then transfer all your old credit card balances onto your new credit card so you can enjoy a single monthly payment. In order for this to work, however, it's essential that you don't use the card to rake up even more debt. Remember, the goal is to pay off your balance before the intro APR expires.
Taking Out a Debt Consolidation Loan
A debt consolidation loan is a type of personal loan offered by banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. This, too, can be a way to combine all your credit card debt into a single monthly payment, hopefully at a lower interest rate.
Just make sure that you pay very careful attention to the loan terms, as some might offer introductory rates that expire after a certain amount of time.
Another option is to sign up with a nonprofit credit counseling company. Many credit counseling services are free and will help you consolidate all your bills into one payment each month. Credit counselors can also negotiate with your creditors on your behalf and convince them to stop charging you interest as long as you agree to pay off your loans in full.
Just beware that you will likely be required to stop using credit cards altogether until your total debt balance is paid off.
Stop Making Minimum Payments
No matter which way you choose to pay off your debt, never forget that making minimum payments is not the way to get ahead. If you're only making the minimum payment on your highest-interest debt, you may keep paying for years without ever reducing your balance.
Once you choose a debt repayment method, make sure you stick to your plan and pay as much as you can toward whichever balance you choose to focus on first. Then keep it by making extra payments towards the next one until your existing debts finally diminish.
Reduce Your Spending
Now that you've got a good idea of how much debt you owe, it's time to take a look at where your money is going. If you really want to be debt free, it may require tightening the old purse strings for a while.
Free budgeting apps can help you figure out how much money you spend each month on a variety of different categories. This can be very helpful when it comes to creating a monthly budget that caps how much you'll spend on things like groceries, entertainment, and other expenses.
But be sure that you also look at things you pay for on a monthly basis. Take a minute to get all your monthly subscriptions in one place and see if you could save money by finding a better deal or cutting out some of them altogether.
Lower Your Cell Phone Bill
Is your cell phone bill eating up more of your monthly budget than you'd like?
These days, there are plenty of carrier options, some of which have better deals than others. For instance, a carrier called Tello offers unlimited data and minutes for just $29 per month. They even throw in free hotspot & Wi-Fi calls, as well as free international calls to over 60 different countries.
Scrutinize Your Streaming Subscriptions
There's nothing wrong with putting a little cash on streaming subscriptions you actually watch, but it's time to cut the ones you don't. One of the quickest ways to save money on streaming is to pick one or two favorite subscriptions to keep and cut the rest.
If it turns out you absolutely can't live without one, you can always resubscribe, but you'll likely be surprised.
Still paying for cable? Consider whether it'd be cheaper to watch your shows through a streaming service like Amazon Prime or to invest in an indoor TV antenna that can pick up a ton of channels for free.
Don't Waste Extra Money on Wishful Thinking
Few are those who have escaped the trap of signing up for a gym they've been to exactly once. If you've found yourself in this situation, then it's time to break up with that monthly gym membership fee.
Don't get us wrong, if you regularly work out several times a week, then by all means, it's worth the extra cash.
But if you're paying $30 – $40 a month to hit up the gym once every two weeks, it's time to take up jogging or exercising through free YouTube videos instead (my favorite is BullyJuice).
With all the extra money you'll save, you could pay off debt quicker AND even pick up some weights, a new bike, or other exercise equipment you're likely to use.
Never Pay Overdraft Fees Again
If your current debts have left you juggling multiple outstanding balances, then the last thing you want to worry about is getting hit with accidental overdraft fees for things like auto payments. If you find yourself facing $35 overdraft fees on a regular basis, then you may want to look into a bank that doesn't charge them at all.
Online banks like Ally eliminated overdraft fees a couple of years ago. Even if you aren't down to change banks completely, you might consider signing up for a free checking account through Ally and moving some of your recurring bills there.
Final Thoughts on How to Pay Off Debt Quicker
Hopefully, this has given you some helpful hints about how to pay off debt more quickly. With a little extra focus and a lot of persistence, it's possible to pay off debt fast and save a lot of money in the process. In the meantime, be sure to cut your bills with discount phone services like Tello, beware of high-interest rates, and stick to your debt payoff plan.
What's your plan to pay off debt quicker? What other tips would you share?
Please let us know in the comments below.