Not all debt is bad. And sometimes, it’s necessary. Debt may allow you to buy a home, car or another big-ticket item you might want or need. You may even take out a loan to cover medical costs.
But for those facing massive amounts of debt, especially high-interest student loan or credit card debt, it can be difficult to make ends meet, let alone save for emergencies or retirement. If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone: Looking at personal loans alone, Americans owe a collective $125.4 billion in mid-2018, according to our study on personal loans.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by debt, we get it. But take a deep breath, and then consider these five tactics to start slaying it.
Repay your debt with these 5 strategies
- Put your assets to work
- Consolidate your debt
- Save without trying
- Finally create that budget
- Pick up some side gigs
1. Put your assets to work
Technology has made it possible for you to generate extra income using things you already have. For example, do you have a high car payment? When you’re not using your vehicle, consider renting it out on Turo, which allows people to rent a car directly from you instead of a company like Enterprise.
If you own a home, consider listing it on Airbnbwhen you go out of town, or rent out a spare room in your house for a few months. Or if you live in a city where accommodations are in high demand for special events, like a music festival or major sports event, you could stay with friends or family for a few nights and rent out your place. These extra income streams can help you conquer debt faster without much effort.
2. Consolidate your debt
If you’re overloaded with high-interest debt, one way to escape it faster is to consolidate it. When you consolidate debt, you combine different debt balances into one new loan or a balance transfer card.
Debt consolidation doesn’t erase your debts; it combines them into one new debt, ideally with a lower overall interest rate and fewer fees. You could even choose a longer or shorter repayment term depending on your repayment goals and financial needs.
3. Save without trying
Consciously saving money can be difficult. However, there are tools out there that can help you squeeze some money out of your bank account.
For example, Digit is an app that analyzes your spending and diverts a small amount of money into a savings account each day to help you save. You can set up to have a custom amount withdrawn instead. After some time, you could have enough savings to help you repay debt.
But you don’t even need an app to help you save in this way. Think of ways you could save small amounts of money day to day. You could pay with cash and toss your loose coins into a jar at the end of each day to help you save for debt repayment, for example.
4. Finally create that budget
OK, so creating a budget might not necessarily be unique or clever, but it is a smart move if you ever want to get out of debt. Otherwise, how do you know how much you’re making and spending each month?
It’s helpful to see what your necessary expenses add up to, and how much income is leftover after that. A budgeting tool like Mint can help you track spending; it shows you all of your debt balances, assets and bank accounts in one place. That way, you can get a better idea of your discretionary income, which is the money you have left over after you pay bills and for other necessities.
Once you know your discretionary income, you can determine how best to allocate it. You could give yourself a budget for dining out and entertainment, and choose to put any leftover amount toward debt payments.
If your necessary expenses are the same amount as your income or even exceed it, meaning there’s no money left to pay off the debt or you’re actively having to take on more debt, it’s time to start making more money.
5. Pick up some side gigs
If you’re mired in debt and can’t cut down your spending budget any further, the best solution to knock out your debt is to start earning more income. You could ask your current job for a raise, or start moonlighting at your local Starbucks or babysitting for neighbors — but if you want the maximum amount of flexibility, dip your toe into the gig economy.
There are now nearly countless apps that let you work when and where you want, and you can throw your earnings toward paying down your debt. Consider the following side gigs:
- Shop for and deliver groceries with Shipt or Instacart
- Deliver meals for DoorDash
- Give rides on Lyft or Uber
- Walk or board dogs with Wag or Rover
You can also find a variety of gigs in your local area on TaskRabbit. Some gig workers have a dedicated checking account for their gig job earnings, so that money goes directly toward debt. By keeping that cash separate from your regular income, it reduces the temptation to spend it on everyday purchases and makes it easier to stay focused on the goal of escaping debt.
Getting out of debt usually isn’t as easy as getting into debt, and it often takes concerted effort and perhaps even some sacrifices. But if you can be diligent and make a budget, earn some extra income, consolidate debt and/or set aside small amounts of money to put toward debt, you’ll escape the shackles of that debt in no time.