You have more power than you realize when it comes to paying off debt. Much of the time it is the “wants” we don’t like giving up in order to get out of debt faster (not always, but in my experience, more often than I’d admit). Creature comforts like cool air conditioning all summer long are much harder to give up than buying a generic brand of cereal versus something name brand.
But it’s time to get radical. Think about this question: What’s in it for me? The faster you pay off your debt, the less money you’ll pay in interest this year, the sooner you’ll free up the money going toward monthly payments, and the more disciplined and less stressed you’ll be with your wealth in the years to come.
We may not be the generation that grew up walking three miles to school in snow up hill both ways, but we’re in a time when everything is at our fingertips, waiting to ruin us.
The incentive for many of our ancestors to be financially disciplined was the utter survival of their families; our incentive is typically less dire, and therefore it often gets the shove when something desirable comes our way. I say “our” and “we” because I’ve stuffed my wallet with credit cards, gotten student loans, bought two cars and a motorcycle 100% on credit, and was pretty terrified about where my finances were headed throughout my young adult life.
That all changed when I started attacking debt in 2011. My husband and I decided the only way to financially get ahead was to get out of debt faster. The result was a lot of Ramen dinners in our 700-square-foot apartment, but we paid off every cent. Three years later, we had a big enough savings buffer (and no debt) to allow me to stay at home full-time with our toddler and newborn. Money was tight, but it was a dream come true.
5 Radical Ways to Get Out of Debt Faster
Below is a list of ways to amp up your current debt-payoff plan. These ideas are designed to target your mindset and your wallet, and to give you some encouragement while you fight in the trenches.
1. Figure out your “why” and cling to it like a peach
(Yep, that was a fruit pun, my friends.)
Think of how many unfinished books, paintings, college degrees, business start-ups, and projects in boxes lining basement and storage walls would have had a fighting chance of success if the person who began them still carried the enthusiasm of that first day throughout the entire project. A “why” is powerful.
Your “why” can change your world.
So what is the #1 reason you want to get out of debt?
- To stop living paycheck to paycheck?
- To have financial independence?
- To reduce stress and anxiety in your life?
- For your children?
- To become wealthy?
- To save your marriage?
Define your “why” and keep it on the forefront of your mind. Write it down somewhere. My mom had a post-it note on our fridge for years that read, “Don’t give up what you really want for what you want right now.” She’d walk by that every day (as would impressionable, little me) and it would remind us that saying “No” in the moment is worth the reward of getting what you really want down the road.
2. Get radical on your definition of wants vs. needs
Don’t just skip this because you assume you know the answer. Spend 30 seconds reviewing your list of possessions you used yesterday, and ask yourself simply if they’re a want or a need. You clicked on this article because it said “radical ways to get out of debt faster” so I dare you not to assume that second car is a “need” right now.
Are you within walking or biking distance to work? Can you drop each other off and coordinate schedules?
How many screens do you have in your house (and I don’t mean the kind that keep the flies out)?
- How many TVs?
- Smart phones?
- Gaming systems?
- Gadget accessories?
Is every single one of them absolutely essential right now?
3. Set a goal for how much you want to sell. Then double it.
While you’re searching for screens, grab an empty box and fill it with stuff to sell. What can you sell to get out of debt faster? If you originally predicted that you could make $500 selling things, then go radical and double it. Shoot for $1,000.
Here are several great avenues for selling your stuff:
- Garage Sale: Pick a date on the calendar and write your garage sale in. Take it up a few notches by trying to combine efforts with other family members or friends. Offer eye-catching items at your sale that will draw more customers to stop and shop. Recommended Reading: “How to Host a Successful Garage Sale”
- Consignment Sale: If you’ve got lots of baby or kids stuff, find a local consignment sale and sign up to be a seller.
- Sell things on Facebook: Join a local Facebook garage sale group or a buy/sell/trade group. Post your stuff on your wall with the pricing information.
- eBay/Craigslist/Amazon: Even though eBay and Amazon do take a cut from your sale, the upside is that you’re selling to a worldwide audience. Craigslist is a great option for selling products AND for advertising your garage sale. Just remember to use caution when arranging meeting times and places. This is another good incentive to do a garage sale with other people and not simply yourself.
- Bookscouter.com: Got any textbooks collecting dust? Price them on BookScouter.com to see if you can get something for them. Every penny counts when you’re melting debt.
4. Get a second job
The reason I put this so far down the list is because you really should try your best to work with what you have, cut back, tighten the reins, etc., before you sign up for a second job. We all get the same 24 hours in a day, and another job is a significant time commitment. If #1 on this list is firmly lodged in everyone’s minds, it will help as you move through this list, and may even help you enjoy life better while you’re battling debt.
The ideas for second jobs if you’re hustling to get out of debt faster are endless, but if you’d like a place to start, read “Make More Money.”
5. Set a “Debt Payoff” Date
It’s time to take this plan as seriously as you took Darth Vader when he started choking that Imperial officer and said, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
It’s time to establish your journey toward debt freedom as inevitable.
It’s time to set a “Debt Payoff” date, add it to your calendar, and draw a big, ugly, red circle around it 12 times.
How do you calculate an estimated payoff date?
- Step #1: Organize your debts – smallest to largest, preferably.
- Step #2: Look up or request payoff estimates on all your existing debt as of today and calculate a grand total (not including your mortgage).
- Step #3: Calculate how much money you can radically and realistically put toward your debt each month. Don’t limit yourself to what your friends or parents have done in this area.
- Step #4: Calculate the following equation: Total from #2 ÷ Total from #3 = Total length of debt payoff (in months).
- Step #5: Don’t forget to include estimated tax return checks, earnings from garage sales, and any other irregular sources of income.
Why calculate a payoff date? I’ve heard it from my coaching clients and it was true in my own journey out of debt. Things happen quicker when there’s deadline. It may seem daunting at first, but toward the last leg it becomes electrifying.