Americans are seriously in debt. In fact, studies show that the average American is almost $6,354 behind in credit card debt. That’s not counting the $34,144 left behind by student loans.
Which means you’d probably be nearly $40k in debt by the time you’re 35. Let that sink in.
Of course, it’s not always your fault. There’s no telling when you’re going to be thrown off your money management game. You could be hoarding hundreds of precious dollars per month – only for disaster to strike and have no choice but to rack up more debt to cover up your losses.
But aside from emergencies, medical issues and other personal reasons; the fact remains that Americans love to spend more than they earn. It’s this same spendthrift-y and FOMO attitude where ‘I’d just cover up what I spend when my salary comes in’ that festers an unhealthy attitude towards personal money management.
For those who feel the pinch your personal debt as of late – we understand it’s no fun. Not only would every personal decision you make be filled with guilt (think every latte and friendly trip to the mall being almost painful!) but life would become less about living and more about surviving paycheck to paycheck.
And of course, for those who’ve just only realized that they’re tens of thousands in debt; you probably want to get out of debt fast. Not to mention doing everything in your power to avoid going down that path.
What are the common ways someone can get into debt?
Debt can happen to anyone, anywhere. Although it is important to learn the methods of tackling debt head on –it’s also necessary to know the usual suspects to avoid. Here’s a look at the quickest ways you can rack up debt: –
• Credit Cards
According to CNBC, over 55% of Americans live with credit card debt. So don’t be fooled by this harmless-looking plastic card! Credit cards are one of the easiest ways to get ensnared in the pitfalls of debt – which is what most companies want you to do in order to pay back hefty interests. We promise they can be used wisely though, so keep reading on.
• Student Debts
Americans owe over $1.56 trillion in student debt, with almost 69% of 2018’s students taking out loans. In the case you’ve decided to pursue higher education in the forms of a fancy Ph.D. or Masters; you’re probably also no stranger to that hefty, looming loan above your head.
• Housing Loans
The average mortgage payment per household has breached new highs. Almost $1,030, to be exact. So, if you’re thinking of getting your first place, moving somewhere new or even if you just need ideas on how to soften the burden of your current house loan – read on!
• Medical Debts
Emergencies can happen at any time. To top that off, some of them might even cost you a bomb if it’s a serious one. Over 79 million Americans are struggling with medical bills, so keep an eye out if you happen to fall under this category.
Being completely debt-free is possible, trust us – even if you’re unfamiliar with money management, have no idea where to start, and without much in the bank. What you do need, however, is a strict game plan that is result-driven and completely easy to follow.
We have curated a list of 13 bull-headed approaches to being 100% financially independent. It’s time – so let’s get out of debt fast.
1. Figure out how much debt you actually have
Okay, so we understand that this lump sum might scare you.
Plus, it’s easy to bury your head in the sand by just making the minimum monthly payments. Keep paying them off as expected and you should be done before you know it right?
We’ll show you how you’re fishing out much more if you pay your debts according to the given timeline.
Like every successful game plan, you need to be totally aware of what you’re facing! Plus, knowing how severe your debt actually is, is essential to figuring out the amount of energy, resources and time you’re going to devote.
Here’s how to do it. Grab yourself a calculator and add up your student and car loans, medical bills, and cards. You can leave out your monthly mortgage payments for now.
Now that you have a rough estimate to work with – it’s time to compare it with your annual income. This can also be categorized as a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, and you’ll need this number to give yourself perspective on just how healthy your money situation is.
To do this, compare your annual income to your total amount in debt at the moment. So let’s say you’re earning $60,000 a year and you’re about $35,000 in debt. Your DTI would be 1.7.
This can be done based on ratios or even percentages calculated based on monthly income.
Nevertheless, the logic remains the same. A DTI helps you set a benchmark on just what you’re facing. If that number ranges way up there, at least you’ll understand that you have some work cut out for you.
2. Conceptualize a game plan
You know what you’re up against. What now?
It’s time to stop mindlessly paying your monthly minimums and hoping for the best. You need to approach each form of debt (cards, student loans, etc.) with a well thought out strategy and method of attack.
If you need a clearer direction, you need to also know the amount of $$ you’re saving each month. Being aware of your finances is the first step to making a change.
You can do all of that and more with HUSTLR’s very own Monthly Saving Planner! This gives you a much clearer guide of money flow; so you can be a total badass at money management and a step closer to managing your debt.
3. Start paying more than the minimum
To really get out of debt fast, you need to settle the debts/loans that possess the highest interest rates.
So if you have two or three credit cards to your name, list down on the ones that are going to cost you more to pay off. It’s also a good rule of thumb to always pay off your cards in full at the end of the month to stop incurring more interest. We know it’s impossible if you’ve been on a credit binge for the last few years, but it’s no biggie when you break the process down one step at a time.
Of course, this logic also applies to the same student loans. Did you know that you can save thousands of bucks per year – by only paying a little bit more per month? Here’s why banks and institutions actually give you a much longer timeline than needed.
Head on down to Bankrate to see an accurate breakdown of your repayments.
So let’s say you’re about $20,000 in debt via student loans, at a 6% interest rate and around 12 years of repayment. All in all, that would tally up to paying $195/month.
But here’s the catch. Following this timeline would mean that you’re forking out a whopping $8,104 more in interest rates alone.
Now imagine this. You start paying an extra $100 a month; bringing that monthly payment to $295.
Not only would you save 5 YEARS repaying your debt – you’ll save at least $3,630 of precious cash. You can get your amount using this StudentLoanHero calculator tool and check just how much of your money you could keep.
Even if you can’t afford to pay that extra $100 in cash, it doesn’t matter. Any added small amount per month is actually going to save you a whole lot more money in the long run.
This tactic is used by many expert money management gurus – as they all understand how repayments are actually meant to extort more out of your wallet if you keep delaying them. The quicker you get to doing this; the faster you’ll be getting out of debt!
4. Start earning some side income
Learning to pinch at corners and practice a frugal life is definitely a plus. But you can’t run from the fact that you need to make more money eventually if you want to get out of debt fast.
Even if you currently have a full-time job – picking up a side hustle is entirely possible. Not only can you earn extra to pay off your outstanding debts, but you also get enough opportunity to grow and invest the rest of your stable monthly income. Enjoying the things you love is an added bonus too!
Need a good place to start? Here’s the only checklist you’ll ever need to earn up to $2,000 extra income on the side.
If you really want to devote yourself to running your side hustle and learning proper money management; here are some good ways to do it.
• Selling Unused Stuff
It’s lying around anyway – so why not convert your preloved items into cold, hard cash?
If you have a bulk of clothes not in use, consider Poshmark as an online platform to reach interested buyers. You can even earn a consistent stream of income of up to $5,000 as proven by members of the community! Sites like Swappa even lets you sell your pre-loved laptops, cameras, phones and other hi-fi gadgets that should make you a quick buck.
• Starting A Side Hustle
You might be able to tell from our name, but if that wasn’t clear enough – we exist to get you on the right track with starting a side hustle.
For example, if you have the knack for teaching, you can make $22/hour by tutoring kids right from your living room with VIPKids. Or maybe you’re a total whiz with words, which would allow you to get paid for writing content on Textbroker.
The opportunities are endless! You can grow your side hustle from the comfort of your own space, and even pick up more than one if you really want to get out of debt fast.
Based on our experience, it doesn’t really matter if you’re an accounting exec who wants to try out her hand at e-commerce. Or if you’re a final year med student who’s interested in taking his part-time business online.
If you want to devote all of your time and energy into your current full-time job, that’s perfectly fine too. Just make sure you know your worth and definitely find a company that’s going to reward you fairly for all of that hard work. Here’s how you even might be able to successfully negotiate a raise from your workplace; through tried and tested methods.
5. Negotiate the interest rates on your cards
Sometimes, the interest rates on your credit cards are just impossibly ridiculous.
To avoid paying unnecessarily for interest alone, we recommend ones that are anywhere from 15%-18% and lower. Here are some good options to browse through if you’re on the hunt for a good credit card. Anything more than that is going to burn a significant hole in your pocket.
Alternatively, you can call up your existing credit card company or bank to negotiate for lower rates. Believe it or not – that’s actually quite a common practice! This of course only works if you have a good track record of paying your bills on time and a good credit score.
You’re going to want to do this by calling management or the credit division of your card – as customer service reps don’t have that kind of authority- and ask for several options they can lay down for you.
Depending on the situation, you can ask for a complete waive of interest from several months, lower account fees or anything similar. You might have to meet them halfway, but you should qualify for such assistance with a healthy score.
Here’s what to ask for if you need help figuring out the correct lingo to use.
6. Consolidating your debt
Albeit, a little more extreme –you might have no other option but to consolidate multiple debts through one personal loan.
Basically, you take one single personal loan to finally pay off those pesky, nagging debts once and for all. As with all loans, your credit score comes into factor here, but it’s not all that matters.
Obviously, higher credit scores would pave the way for more options from lending partners –but lower credit scores can still qualify! Granted they come with higher interest rates of repayment, it’s still a possibility if you have left no other alternative.
Pro tip for those with bad credit: National banks have generally very tight lending rules about lending money to those with a score of 600 and lower. Look for credit unions or qualified online lenders through Next Day Personal Loan; as they are much less strict about the minimum requirements.
Some of the pros of taking out a secured personal loan to consolidate your debt would be: –
• Better terms of repayment.
• Higher limits to borrowing.
• And of course, one single repayment that makes everything easier to manage without numerous creditors.
7. Refinance your student loans
The average repayment period for student loans is around 10 years. However, some studies suggest that 4-year degree holders can take up 20 years to completely pay off their debts! Isn’t that absolutely insane?
It becomes especially scary to know that the rising cost of education will most likely increase these numbers in the years to come.
If you’re sick of bearing the burden of expensive student loans – it might be time to consider refinancing your student loan. This option is available to all who have taken out agreements – including federal and private tertiary students.
This basically means that you can combine all or some of your loans into one master new one; which comes with new interest rates and repayment terms. Inadvertently, that would allow you to get out of debt faster and have much more flexibility with money management.
Credible is a good place to start. It’s one of the most famous online sites to compare thousands of private lenders side by side and choose one that suits you. If you’re wondering – it’s totally 100% free.
Here’s what to look for when refinancing your student loans:
• Lower interest rates
Anything from 6% and lower is ideal!
• The right repayment period
If you’ve just landed yourself a higher-paying job or can guarantee strong side income, shorter terms are a much better idea. Longer terms are alright as well, but understand that your interest might amount to much more.
• Do you need a cosigner?
If your bid to refinance loans go unheeded, consider getting a cosigner on board. There are many more lenders that would provide better loans for you if you had someone more eligible to vouch for you (like your parents, for example).
8. Automating your expenses and debt repayments
What’s one of the worst things you can do when it comes to money management and paying your debts? It’s as simple as losing track.
Given the fact, it’s painful and tiresome to constantly set aside funds in our savings account to pay off debt each month.
So if you’re missing a game plan to get out of debt fast, it doesn’t matter how much you want to follow the advice of this article. Keep it up for only a month or two –and you’re still not going to see any changes to that staggering amount.
To streamline this, check out 52 more ways to save money fast in 2019.
Automating your finances might just be the solution for errors in human behavior.
By setting up a solid way of immediately paying off your debts each month (preferably on your payday), you’ll have much less to worry about. It’s a win-win for all, for you and your creditors!
Automating your repayments would automatically deposit your income to the places that need work –guaranteeing that you stay on track no matter how many excuses you may have that month.
To do this with ease, Moneytor is a really good option to look at. Their dashboard gives you full access to all of your outstanding debts and allows methods of automating debt collection to ensure the happiness of all parties involved. This way, you can skip the annoying agent calls and avoid missing out on another monthly payment ever again!
9. Debt Snowball Method
The debt snowball method is a term coined by none other than Dave Ramsey; the godfather of money management tips and personal finance.
Basically, this nifty technique teaches you to pay off amounts of debt starting with the smallest and moving on to the largest – gaining momentum as you progress.
This works excellently if you’re ever in the mood to pay off more than your minimum monthly payments as well (see Step #2).
What you want to do is list down every single student loan debt, credit card balance, mortgage and all else you can think off. With excess funds carried on, work on settling the smallest form of debt that you have –whilst just making minimum payments on the others.
Once your smallest debt is settled, head on over to the next. And the next. You get the idea.
Depending on the severity of each debt, you should be able to see positive development over the course of a few months!
We see this as one of the best “feel-good” methods to get out of debt fast. The psychological effects of seeing (even the tiniest!) category of your debt disappear are undeniable. Plus, you’ll just feel really good about knowing that progress is happening; however minuscule it may be.
10. Saving more money where it matters
As you progress along with your money management skills and earn more; the risk of spending more increases too.
Be it for entertainment, professional needs, social ones or simply for the flashy advertising –we’ve all got hidden fees sucking the life out of us.
71% of Internet users are currently subscribed to some form of media streaming service. This is not including other forms of subscription boxes for product deliveries.
Oh, and did you know Netflix increased its monthly prices by 18% in May 2019?
And no, we’re not forcing you to unsubscribe from Netflix. We need our dose of TV-on-demand too, but the point remains.
You can’t complain about painful monthly credit card repayments or student loans (once that need to be covered first) but allow other forms of streaming and subscription services to auto-bill you.
There it, the harsh truth.
Pro Tip: Use Trim to access all of your subscriptions in one place. They also have useful tools to cancel unwanted services, lower your APRs and automate savings into accounts of your choice.
You don’t even have to go to the extremes of shutting down all your accounts. Instead, what you do need to do is evaluate where your funds are going each month and cutting the ones that you’re not taking full advantage of.
Here are some examples of places to start:
• Cell phone bills
If you’re spending most of the day connected to your Wifi router at home/work –you don’t need data charges. Opt for a cheaper plan instead!
Remind us why you’re still using a landline again? If you’ve got a mobile phone, cut this out ASAP.
• Streaming services
Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go. It’s time to sit down and really analyze what you need and what you can live without. Even if it’s for a few months.
If you add all of this up, you can start saving anywhere up to $150-$200 a month!
This form of “hidden income” can be channeled back into either clearing the minimum from loan repayments or trying your hand out at the debt snowball method.
Either way, you want to make sure that you’re not laying this to waste either. Use this to hone your money management game and get out of debt even faster.
11. Adjusting tax withholdings
Whilst we’re on the topic of hidden income, this fact is pretty underrated.
Did you know that one of the fastest ways of getting out of debt fast would be through the IRS?
As of 2019, the average tax refund reached an amount of $3,143. On average, that would give you $261 a month. Now that’s a pretty big helping hand if you ask us.
To see how much you would qualify in terms of tax refunds, you can check this tool out.
Through e-File, you can even submit the W-4 form in order to adjust your status and tax withholdings. It’s a completely necessary method to carry out if you want to qualify for bigger returns on Tax Day.
Trust us, this wouldn’t take a half hour with the necessary documents ready. Plus, wouldn’t an extra $200+ bucks help you to get out of debt?
12. Balance transfers
Getting out of debt fast is possible over a multitude of ways.
However, balance transfers are probably one of the most utilized ones out there. Simply based on how simple and ingenious it is.
So how do balance transfers work? To put it in a nutshell, all you have to do is to transfer the balance of one credit card to the other. Of course, moving it to a card with lower interests is the goal.
So let’s take for instance you’ve got a substantial amount of debt with Card A and Card B that needs paying off through 15% and 17% interest respectively. Moving both balances to Card C with only 13% of interest would save you longer over time –as now you’re only focusing on one credit card. Get it?
The logic is pretty straightforward with this one, but beware! Some banks and cards are bound to charge you a minimal fee for a balance transfer.
With any of these tactics above as well; make sure you read the fine print! Be that as it may, you would probably be saving big in the end by shaving off those suffocating interest rates.
You can even take a quick look-see at some of the best picks for balance transfer cards right here.
13. Keep track with debt-management apps
Now that you’ve got a handful of tricks up your sleeve, how do you keep track of your progress?
There’s actually plenty of tech-related solutions to help you in this aspect. One of them including debt-management apps that track your income, spending and outstanding amounts that need to be settled.
Let’s take a look at a few of our favorites.
With the main goal of tackling student debt, the ChangED app is a helpful tool to manage your student debt. All you need is to sync your bank account with the app –and it takes care of slowly chipping off your debt by paying it with spare change.
So let’s say your next salad costs you $6.85. ChangED rounds that up to $7 and uses the balance of $0.15 to stack in an FDIC-insured account.
Once your account balance reaches $100, they then put that sum of money to your repayments! The average ChangED user can cut down up to 6 years in repayment periods.
Need a clearer picture? Think $14,000 in savings from interest alone.
EveryDollar might seem like the average budgeting app on the outside, but we promise it’s so much more. This handy little tool comes with a debt payoff option built right into it.
What you simply need to is find the established the debt category you’re interested in tackling.
Once that’s settled you’re going to want to include essential facts like the minimum monthly payout for each and current outstanding balances. After that, just keep track of your progress and watch as your amounts get smaller!
Best part? It’s 100% free.
Tally aims to address credit card loans head on. In itself, it’s a power-packed credit card manager.
What Tally offers on top of all that is also to give you a dashboard of all your credit card amounts in one place –and provides the best way to reduce outstanding bills.
So what’s different about Tally?
It’s all about efficiency and organization; Tally allows users to set their own timeline for their loan repayment. It also incorporates APR data in order to determine how much you have to pay in order to squander your loans.
Tally also features options of its own line credit to borrowers with a good score. The app is 100% free and incurs no fees whatsoever for basic members, but qualifying for line credit is only offered to members with a healthy credit score.
Delve deeper and read up on 7 more mobile apps that help you track expenses.
Settling your debts don’t have to be a shot in the dark anymore.
TLDR: Here’s a brief recap of everything you need to know on how to get out of debt fast:
• Come up with a rough estimate of your debt.
• Sketch a rough game plan/include a monthly planner to help you see your progress.
• Top up your minimum monthly repayments to avoid interest fees.
• Negotiate the interest rates on your credit cards.
• Consider consolidating your debts into one loan.
• Refinance your student loans.
• Automate debt collection and savings.
• Adopt the debt snowball habit.
• Tapping into hidden income by saving on subscription services.
• Evaluate tax withholdings.
• Look at several balance transfer deals.
• Track your progress on the go with mobile apps (ChangED, EveryDollar, Tally).
It doesn’t matter if you’re a total newbie to the personal finance game, you don’t exactly need to know a whole lot of financial lingo besides the ones you’ve been exposed to.
Plus, never ever start with the mindset that you’re too young to be concerned about stuff like this, because TRUST us, this logic gets you absolutely nowhere in life be it starting a business, managing personal finance or just growing financially independent.
The last thing you want is to be 60 years old but still thousands in debt, right?
So get down to business, whip out that calculator and get to organizing! There’s no excuse to delay, and with debt repayments – there’s certainly no moment like the present.
Did we miss out anything? Let us know in the comment section below!
Jeremy has been running several online businesses behind his laptop for the past 5 years and he has worked as a freelance web developer previously. A trained marketer by profession, he also has Ruby on Rails and web development knowledge. His forte lies in eCommerce, SEO and content marketing. He’s been featured on Vice, Thrive Global, YFS Magazine, Forbes and several other publications. He prefers to connect with people on LinkedIn.