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how to pay off debt fastDebt sucks. There is no getting around that.

For the majority of the American population, debt will suck the life out of you. If time and money permits, always pay off debt fast.

Sure there are some ways to utilize debt to grow wealth, but for most Americans we have a love-hate relationship with debt. We love to use it and hate to carry it.

Some of us treat debt similar to an unhealthy relationship. We know we’re supposed to pay off our debt fast but we’re too comfortable to do anything about it. That’s the point where I was at.

One of my resolutions is to finally get out of debt completely. We have just under $10,000 to go.

In September (of 2016), we finished paying off the two biggest debts that we had totaling about $26,000. We set a goal in October of 2015 to pay them off as quickly as possible. I calculated that we should be able to pay them off by August of 2016. One month behind, but we did it!

We paid off $26,000 in 11 months!

That saved us $584.48 a month combined. What would you do with almost $600 extra a month?

For some, that means you’ll finally be able to take a budget vacation. For others, that means you can finally start saving up for that new home, or start a new career. But for everyone, it means freedom.

Freedom rings, and it’s calling both you and me to pay off our debts faster.

From October 2015 to September 2016, I made a conscious and concerted effort to pay off our debt as fast as I could. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was quite difficult. I’m not going to sugar coat it for you. Paying off debt takes a lot of hard work. It won’t be easy for you, but I can promise you it’ll be worth it.

So what are some strategies that you can use? Let’s take a look.

17 Helpful Ways to Pay Off Debt Fast

Now, some of these I have developed myself and some I have found elsewhere, but I’ve used most of them. I can guarantee you they all will be beneficial in helping you pay off your debt and will definitely accelerated your progress.

1. Paying Off Debt with Debt Snowball Method

So this is the first thing I intended to do from the start of paying off debt, and I continue to use it to this day. In typical Debt Snowball fashion, throw everything you have at the debt with the lowest balance. Keep paying the minimum monthly payment on everything else.

Then, after you pay that one off, use the money you were using to pay off the first debt and combine, or snowball, that money in with the payment of the next lowest debt.

Essentially, you are paying the exact same amount out of pocket month to month until you pay off your debt.

The power is in the snowball.

The beauty in this method is that it doesn’t require any lifestyle change whatsoever after paying something off. You’re already using that extra money toward debt so why not continue to use it to pay off your of debt faster?

Let’s put it this way. Not using that extra money to pay off debt fast can potentially add months to your payments and quite a bit of money to your total debt. The faster you pay it off, the less interest you pay.

Want a head start on the snowball method? Consider refinancing some of your highest interest rate debts with a personal loan. Everyone’s circumstances and eligibility are different, but if you can borrow at a lower rate than your current debts and use what you borrow to instantly pay off the high interest balances, you’ll be left with the same amount of debt — but a lower overall interest rate. Use our loan matching tool here to see if a personal loan makes sense.

2. Get a Side Hustle

Do you have a hobby that you really enjoy? Maybe you are really good at crocheting. Perhaps you have a talent for music or art.

Why not make some money doing some of those things?

You could do something as simple as pick up a job serving at a restaurant on the weekends. If you’re handy with a camera you could shoot weddings on the weekends. Make a music album and sell it!

Side hustles can be a great way to boost your income by quite a lot of money! What do you do with that money? Why, pay off your debt faster, of course.

Here is a list of 100+ ways to make some extra money. There’s something on the list for everyone, so find something you enjoy and start earning some extra cash.

3. Look at Your Monthly Payments for Inspiration

Now this may sound weird, but your monthly payments can give you the inspiration to keep going.

When I was working on paying off the $26,000 in 11 months, I always kept in my mind that I was putting in all this effort to be able to free up $584.48 in monthly payments. It really kept me going!

Again, what would you do with that extra money? That’s over $7,000 a year.

You could invest that money, or save it for a family vacation, or just rest easy knowing that you have a little bit of a cushion on your monthly payments.

Remember, no debt = freedom.

4. Adjust Your Tax Withholding

One of the easiest ways you can increase your income every month is not actually through work. It’s through the IRS.

The IRS reported in February 2015 that the average tax refund was $3,120.

That is a lot of money.

That $3,120 would give you an extra $260 a month outright! Imagine what $260 extra would do to help.

I adjusted the withholding for both my wife and me in order to minimize the size of our return. Then I used that extra monthly income to help us pay off our debt, giving us a bigger snowball from the onset.

I’m going to try and say this as nice as possible:

Stop giving the IRS an interest-free loan.

I guarantee that you know how to manage your money much better than the government.

Related: How to Get the Largest Possible Refund

5. Use the Extra Checks To Pay Off Debt Fast

If you are paid every two weeks there is something spectacular that happens. Because there are 26 pay periods, twice a year you will actually get paid three times in a month rather than the usual two.

Use those to your advantage!

Budget monthly like normal, planning for just two paychecks. Then, twice a year you will literally have an entire paycheck extra to put it toward your debt. Talk about an accelerant!

My wife gets paid every two weeks while I am twice a month. There were two months in that 11 month period that we were able to use an extra check of hers. That gave us a huge leg up on our debt and greatly accelerated the payoff.

6. Use Cash Windfalls to Pay Off Debt

If you are at a job that has a performance incentive plan that pays out bonuses for good performance, then that is money ripe for debt payoff!

Because of my performance and how well my company did, my bonus ended up being $1700 after taxes. That’s $1700 I didn’t need for anything else. All of it was completely extra.

I put that directly toward our debt and it was huge! That bonus took about 6.5% off our $26,000 debt just from doing a good job at work.

If you get a bonus, and there are no pressing financial emergencies you really need to use it for, then use it to pay off a big chunk of your debt.

7. Use Your Emergency Fund

how to pay off debt and get out of debt fast

Now, this is something not all of you will be able to do or may agree with.

If you have a decent size emergency fund and a decent amount extra you are putting toward your debt each month, I recommend dropping your emergency fund down to $1,000 and using it to help accelerate your debt pay off. For reference, this is the same $1,000 Dave Ramsey suggests in his first Baby Step.

We took our emergency fund down from $9,000 down to $1,000. We considered the likelihood of a financial emergency actually happening and how long it would take us to build up the fund to where it was when our debt was paid off before making the decision.

After all the calculations, we decided that the benefits far outweighed the risks. We pulled the trigger and $8,000 worth of our debt was immediately gone! It. Felt. Amazing.

Now, I’m fully aware that this is not a method for everyone. There is a certain level of comfort with having a decent sized emergency fund.

And that’s what it’s all about.

I can’t stress this enough. If you are going to use any of your emergency fund, only use what will make you feel comfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable using anything, then by all means, keep your emergency fund fully stocked.

I definitely recommend not going below $1,000 just in case you get one of those surprise emergencies.

8. Reward Yourself

One of the things I definitely didn’t want to do was live in poverty just to pay off debt fast. In my opinion, being beholden to your budget so you don’t have to be beholden to your debt is not the way to go. 

If I were to cut out budgeted money for fun, I would go crazy not being able to do anything.

When I decided to take my debt to the gallows, one thing I did was make sure that we would have enough to keep our vacations. While paying off all of this debt, we went to Disney World twice, took a weekend Colorado trip as a couple, and a week-long Colorado trip as a family.

For both Colorado trips, we decided to drive instead of fly. Opting for the 14 hours drive saved us about $3000 combined for both trips.

Another way we were able to keep our vacations was making sure we stuck to our other budgets like glue. We made sure we didn’t splurge on family affairs and went on affordable dates. If we didn’t have the money in the budget, we waited until next month.

We definitely adjusted a little, but we wanted to make sure we were still living and did NOT cut the budgets we had set for fun.

Speaking of budgets…

9. Use Leftover Budget Money

This one is simple enough, but it’s powerful. If you are budgeting $100 a month for something and that bill ends up being $80, then put that $20 toward your debt.

I do this a lot with our fuel budget. Gas has been decently cheap country-wide compared to what it was a couple of years ago. I never adjusted our gas budget to reflect the cheaper gas until recently.

Whatever was leftover in our gas budget at the end of the month went straight toward debt. Sometimes, this amount was upwards of $50 to $100.

Using leftover budget money can be especially powerful if this happens with a few of your budgets, rather than just one.

10. Put Your Raises Toward Debt

What usually happens when you get a raise? Maybe this is just my tendency, but I have to stop myself from saying, “Yes! I can spend more!!”

Do yourself a favor and don’t do that.

The official term for this is called Lifestyle Inflation. Simply put, Lifestyle Inflation is when you spend more money to make up for the raises you’ve received.

Instead, why not put all of that extra money toward debt? Say you get a raise that gives you an extra $300 a month and you’re used to having just $100 leftover. You can keep your $100 cushion and put that $300 directly toward your debt each month.

I did this and it put a huge dent in our debt balance. It literally took many months off of the amount of time it took to pay off our debt! Getting a raise isn’t a license to spend more. It’s an opportunity.

11. Willpower

Willpower is the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. Without willpower, most of these other steps wouldn’t even be doable.

You may need to change your mindset like I did. You may need to decide on a reward for yourself that you only get if you pay off debt fast. That way you can keep your eyes on the prize. It may be as simple as having an inspirational quote delivered to your inbox everyday.

Do whatever it takes to keep your will. Reward yourself after each credit card you pay off. Buy yourself some coffee. Take some “you” time. These steps are there to help you, but you have to want to do them.

The nice thing is that willpower is like a muscle, which means you can train it.

Just don’t do too many willpower-intensive tasks at one time. Otherwise, you’ll burn out and derail your get-out-of-debt train.

12. Change Your Mindset on Money

Webster’s dictionary defines mindset as a person’s attitude or set of opinions about something. This attitude defines and informs everything from our view on the world and others to how we make decisions.

Changing your mindset on money will help you view it as a tool rather than a master. After you realize that you are in control of your money, and not the other way around, you can start using it how you want to use it. You can make it work for you.

To change your mindset, try giving yourself an artificial pay cut by having some of your check directly deposited in your savings account instead of your checking. Budgeting for fun (as I mentioned above) as well as being more generous are other great ways to change your mindset.

Related: 4 Ways Your Lifestyle is Causing Money Problems

13. Move to a Different Part of the Country

Now this one may seem a little extreme, but moving to another part of the country to reduce your cost of living can give you quite the boost to your disposable income.

Obviously, you’ll want to do your homework on this first. You would potentially have to look for a new job if your company doesn’t have an office where you work. You will also want to make sure you will have everything you need around you. It may be worth to find someplace that is comparable to what you have around you now as far as amenities, shopping, dining, and entertainment are concerned.

Why might this be worth it?

According to Sperling’s Best Places, a comparison between Denver, Colorado and San Francisco, California cost of living reveals that a salary of $375,000 in Denver would need to be at $801,765 to compare.

That is more than double the salary to have the same standard of living in San Francisco!

Your city may be choking your ability to pay off debt fast. Even a move from the city to a suburb has the potential to save quite a bit of money. Moving may be worth your time and effort.

14. Move back home

Now I realize this will not be for everyone. However, your rent or mortgage payment is generally the highest monthly payment you have. If you were to get rid of that payment, you would have a huge chunk of change to put toward your debt every month.

If you are in a place in your life where it would be easy for you to move back in with your parents, this may be a great option for you. Obviously, you’ll want everyone in agreement. If you’re single, it’s a bit easier. You just have to talk with your parents. If you’re married with kids, it’s definitely doable but will be more difficult to get everyone bought in.

Still, it may be worth looking into.

If you pay $1,000 in rent right now, even paying your parents a small amount of rent would give you a ton more to put toward your debt. It’s a great move, but definitely not for everyone.

15. Impulse Saving

We’ve all heard of impulse spending, right? That’s where you see something in the store that you didn’t intend on buying and then buy it “on impulse” (hence, the name).

Well, I like to call this Impulse Saving.

The Idea is this. If you’re in the store and see, for example, a $20 movie that you don’t really need, instead of impulse buying that movie, you transfer that amount toward your savings account.

Boom! Impulse Saving.

To use this trick to help with your debt, simply use the impulse money saved to put toward your debt rather than saving it. You will either have a lot more money to pay off debt or learn how to control your impulse spending (or both!). Not a bad outcome either way.

16. Sell Your Extras

With the holidays now over, chances are you have some extra things around the house that you may not want or need anymore. A great way to bring in some extra cash to pay off debt fast is to sell those items.

Do you have extra DVDs that you don’t watch laying around? Have you thought about selling old video games or knick-knacks lying around in the basement?

Try going through the items you hardly use, sell them at a garage sale or on eBay, and then use that money to knock off a chunk of your debt.

17. New Bank Account Sign-Up Bonuses

Once every couple of weeks, we get a flyer in the mail from Chase Bank offering to give us up to $500 to open a new account—$300 to open a checking account with direct deposit and $200 more if we keep $15,000 in a savings account there for three months.

We haven’t done this yet, but it’s on the to-do list. Even if you don’t have $15,000 laying around for the $200 bonus, opening up a checking account and using direct deposit will net you an extra $300. Put that toward your directly toward your debt!

The Finish Line is In Sight

Debt has been a thorn in my side for much of my adult life because of my addiction to no-interest financing. I was able to overcome that largely with a mindset shift toward money.

That’s why I set a goal to finally pay all of our debt off. After we pay off our remaining debt of just under $10,000, the only debt we’ll have left is our home.

Smell that? I smell freedom! Implement any or all of these 17 steps and I guarantee you’ll pay off debt fast.


Hey! I'm Tim. I am budgeting and debt payoff expert, and certified Dave Ramsey Solutions Master Financial Coach. I've been around the block with money and now I live to teach others, like you, what I've learned.


I love this! Especially the end: smell that? I smell freedom. 🙂

Great ideas and super motivating. I totally know you’re gonna crush your debt this year. I’m also on my debt-free journey this year. I have a bit more debt than you do to payoff but I am determined to do it while I’m 25 (I turn 25 in May, so I have 15 months). I’m doing it by saving extremely and trying to side hustle as much as I can. I’ve definitely found so much motivation in these groups and blogs. Keep on killing it and I can’t wait to hear more. 🙂


Tim Jordan

Thanks for commenting, Leah! Good luck in your debt pay off over the next 15 months! Side hustling is a great way to pay off debt. I know you’ll kill it! I’m excited to hear when you finally do! 🙂

Rachel O Malley

Hi Tim, we started to monitor where our money was going last November and for Christmas myself and my husband asked for strong travel mugs for our coffee every morning as we were buying them on our to work and sometimes throughout the day. We couldn’t belive how much money we saved in January, a month we are usually broke! I’ve also started a fund for next Christmas. All of your points are excellent and my husband is side hustling and Im taking on extra hours that in the past I would have avoided.We’re not too badly off as we’re both working and our mortgage is not too big, but we were always broke before payday. I think once we started tightening up everything we were able to start saving for that emergency fund. I keep saying to my husband 2017 is “our year.”
Good luck and keep writing, very enjoyable read.

Rachel from Ireland.

Tim Jordan

Thanks, Rachel! I love everything you’re doing! 2017 IS your year!

Keep up the great work and make sure you set aside a little money to reward yourselves.

Thanks for commenting!


I started last year 2016 around June thinking about my debt as a whole. I’ve been thinking about it for the last few years, but last June I really started putting it into action and as of January of this year, I really got a move on it. I started a new job and with it came some raises from about $14/hr to $22 as of right now. My pay will go up again after I am here a year to $25/hr. I’m a minimalist when it comes to my home, so no extra spending there. My problem is my credit accounts (which I have to learn to not spend), and my major expenses of my home, car and an unexpected (no insurance) surgery from a couple of years ago shortly after buying my home. I started a small diary on my home when I purchased it, “How to be debt free in less than 15 years”. At that point I still owed almost $10,000 on my car, I now had a $21,000 hospital bill and had just acquired a $75,000 mortgage. May 2017 will be 3 years since I purchased my home, but starting in January 2017 I hit the ground running. With the raises I have added all of my extra money towards my debt and by the end of March my car note will be paid in full and all of my credit accounts will also be paid off, along with putting money aside into savings. I’m not too worried about my hospital bill being as large as it is right now, because I can still use it on my taxes and get credit, so I will utilize that as much as possible since the balance doesn’t raise due to interest. The last half of this year will focus on my mortgage and about $13,000 will be taken off the principle by the end of this year. It’s going to be a long road, but well worth it. I’m surpassing all of my goals by leaps and bounds. You may not reach your goals at the time you set for them, but you WILL reach them. I encourage all of you who are having trouble starting out, a little goes a long way. Stop spending and digging yourself into more debt, then use all of that money to get rid of one debt at a time. I usually go for the debt with the least balance, because I can see my debt disappearing faster and it keeps me more motivated, but some of you may want to do the lowest interest first or the highest interest rate so you save the most money. Take the first step in being debt free and do it for yourself. I never thought I would ever be debt free but the more I work at it, the more I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hope this helps someone in their journey!

Tim Jordan

All sort of YES on this, Rhawnie! You’re killing it! Sometimes it’s just a mindset or mind of matter type of thing, and it seems like you’ve completely turned that around in January.

Thanks for the encouragement and comment! Keep it up!


I’m retired, but my hubby still works. The credit cards were getting out of control because I have a spending problem, so I decided to open a little in-home dog boarding business. I’m crazy about dogs and we don’t have one of our own, so this was perfect for me. I had business cards printed up and stuck them everywhere. I joined two on-line sites that get business for you and you pay them a small commission when the job is over. Before I knew it, I had quite a business going! I had two or three dogs at a time all summer long.

Whenever I got paid, I’d put the cash in a special savings account and when it reached $1,000, I’d put it towards a credit card. I also paid off a 3 yr car loan in 18 months. I stopped spending and even cut back on groceries wherever I could. If I only had an extra $2, it got saved. It’s amazing how fast it builds up. We also cut back on eating out to once a month. I tried every trick in the book and it paid off.

Tim Jordan

Awesome, Barbara! Side hustles are one of the best ways to pay off debt faster or save more. Nice work!


One of the ways that I am currently paying off my debt faster was to set up weekly payments on large loans (car, mortgage, personal loan)
First of all, I save on interest because my interest is calculated daily. I also cut out that huge, all at once payment for those bills each month. The biggest benefit is that I will be making 2 extra payments per year. After refinancing to a 15 yr mortgage, I’ll actually take 2 years off of the payments and can put that extra $ into savings.


I’m 63 and live in England so not all your tips can be used but just taking a look at my spending and building an emergency fund has made me feel calmer. Ok so it will be 2020 before I’m debt free but I can finally smell that freedom now I’m not burying my head in the sand and not taking my spending seriously. Thank you.

Mike @ Ninja Budgeter

Great article Tim! I’ve never thought of budgeting monthly for a bi-weekly paycheck. That leaves two ‘free’ paychecks per year!


Super article Tim. I really need to get going on these “free” paycheques. I always budgeted fortnightly so I never noticed them, but they could really accelerate my already high speed snowball! Thank you!


Great post! Every point had value. I especially likes the points about using raises to pay off debt and also selling stuff.

I’ll certainly explore the new bank account incentives.

Diane Taber

Hi there Tim! We’re really trying to get out of debt and we have started budgeting to help with that. We’ve started by journaling (and saving as much as we can) to help us build wealth for our financial future. We’re so excited to finally have things under control. It’s such a huge relief. Thank you for the inspiration.

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