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50 Actions You Can Take Right Now to Pay Off Debt

This article was written by in Debt Reduction. 9 comments.


There are many differing opinions about whether you can assign a quality like “good” or “bad” to debt. In general, I tend to believe that if debt is providing access to a necessary asset, like an education, a car, or a house, debt is at the least understandable. With debt, there is always a risk, and when you owe money to any other entity, you are often forced to live by their rules. So if freedom, financial and otherwise, is a goal, one of the major strategies on the path towards that goal is to eliminate your debt.

In an economic environment where your income is more at risk, you may choose to beef up your emergency fund rather than pay off debt. In other situations, debt is often not worth the interest you are required to pay.

Here are 50 things you can do right now to help you get out of debt. Some of these tips will directly help you pay off debt while some will help you save money so you have more cash available to eliminate that debt.

  1. Link your debt account to your savings account and set up automated payments.
  2. Stop using your credit cards.
  3. Decide on a debt repayment method like the Debt Snowball method that makes sense for you while understanding the pros and cons of each.
  4. Plan a party for each milestone, but don’t go into debt in order to celebrate.
  5. Pay cash.
  6. Empty the change from your pockets into a change jar each day.
  7. Deposit that cash each month and transfer the amount to your larges or most expensive debt.
  8. Make a second mortgage payment or car payment each month if you’re not penalized for doing so.
  9. Cancel magazine subscriptions and divert that money towards your debt.
  10. Postpone your vacation until you are out of debt.
  11. Track your spending.
  12. Stop watching television, particularly the commercials.
  13. Don’t fall for Keeping Up With the Joneses; they’re in more debt than you.
  14. Avoid scams and gurus that promise to make you rich quickly.
  15. Learn how to cook rather than dining out.
  16. Downsize your lifestyle: move into a less expensive house or apartment.
  17. Divert the full amount of your raise directly to your debt.
  18. Sell your unneeded stuff on eBay or Craiglist.
  19. Give away anything you can’t sell.
  20. Dispose of anything you can’t give away.
  21. Put your credit cards in a cup of water in the freezer.
  22. Call the credit card issuers to selectively cancel your credit cards.
  23. Review your three free annual credit reports to ensure you’re aware of all of your debt.
  24. Get your free credit score from CreditKarma as often as you like.
  25. Involve your family and friends by letting them know of your plan.
  26. Start a personal finance blog to chronicle your debt reduction adventure.
  27. Use the library rather than buying books at the bookstore, renting movies from Netflix or the store, and buying CDs from Amazon.com.
  28. Realize the ability to eliminate debt is completely within your control.
  29. Use extra time to turn your hobby into a money-making business.
  30. Modify your budget and find room to use more of your income to pay off debt.
  31. Grow your own food in a garden.
  32. When you need to replace your car, buy a used model with a great track record.
  33. Wait before adopting the latest technologies until they are no longer the “latest.”
  34. Remove the temptation to spend on things you like rather than the things you need.
  35. Use smart credit card balance transfers to make your debt less expensive.
  36. Improve your health to lower your health care expenses, and use those savings to reduce debt.
  37. Quit smoking to save money and health expenses.
  38. Read more blogs and personal success stories about getting out of debt.
  39. Cancel your cable service.
  40. Gradually increase your thermostat one degree each week during the summer or decrease it one degree each week during the winter.
  41. Eliminate expensive hobbies that do not provide a return on your investment.
  42. Stop trying to time the market and invest in individual stocks, and use that money to pay off your debt.
  43. Downgrade your phone from your expensive iPhone or BlackBerry plan to a basic service without extra features.
  44. Set up motivational reminders or alerts in your calendar software.
  45. Save first, then spend, for everything.
  46. Create subaccounts at ING Direct to identify money destined for eliminating debt.
  47. Organize your bills in a system that ensures you won’t lose them or pay them late.
  48. Always pay your bills on time, the earlier the better.
  49. Don’t acquire more debt.
  50. Speak up! Be part of a community; any tough task is made easier by working together and sharing ideas.

Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published July 23, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Leigh

Great tips! I’ve just recently started doing several of these things myself.

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avatar Baker

Flexo,

Proving once again why you are the man! I love small actionable steps like these… they are a huge part of the struggle to overcome debt.

I personally like #26 ;-)

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avatar AJ

Great list!

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,373 (Platinum)

Thanks for the comments!

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avatar Jason H

I have to take some issue with #41. If the hobby is what makes you happy and you can control your level of spending in that hobby, then you should keep doing it. I am a bicyclist and have a small stable of $1200+ bikes along with the assorted equipment for riding and servicing them. Not to mention the race entry fees. If I didn’t have this hobby I know I would be a much less amiable person to be around. So while getting out of debt is great, if you make your life miserable in the process then you won’t stick to it. Personally I have a small side account that I put money into each month that I buy my equipment from (except emergency repairs, they seem to crop up when I don’t have immediate access to that account).

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avatar ReneeD

Oh, I noticed this one too – I have 2 horses; one I have had since she was born (I had her dam until she passed) and the other is a 28 yr old “freebie” for my young son. (Yeah, yeah I know they aren’t really free….). The younger horse will never leave me; the older one will die here of old age. But I bet my husband is gleefully rubbing his hands together, with an evil laugh as he sees this one! Bwuuuhahahah!

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avatar H Lee D

#16: I would *love* to move into a less expensive house, but we bought during the boom and our house had major structural problems (that didn’t show until we’d lived here about a year or so) which cost $65K to repair. We’re not upside down (thank goodness for a large down payment), but it would a significantly long time before a move would pay off. (Instead, we’re looking to refinance and go solar, which won’t do anything to our mortgage but should do good things for the electric bill.)

#48: be careful about how early. If you pay *too* early, it won’t “count” as your regularly scheduled payment. I’m not sure what the magic window is, though.

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avatar Carline

#51 If you are not in debt, do these things to stay debt free!
#1 should have been STOP BUYING more stuff you do not need. Instead use what you have to make extra cash and get what you want without spending a dime with toolzdo.com

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avatar tigernicole86 ♦55 (Newbie)

Great tips! I’ve been trying to implement some of these before I saw them here but it’s always good to have some new thoughts!

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