I remember the moment when I finally acknowledged my toxic money habits and realized I needed to pay off debt fast.
My debt led me into a shame spiral.
I looked like I had it all together, but my finances were anything but together.
Debt is a problem for many women, but we aren’t talking to each other about it.
Value Penguin by Lending Tree published statistics about the amount of debt Americans carry.
On average, American households have $5,700 in debt, and our debt tends to peak between 45 and 54 years old, averaging $9,096.
The stats also show that women tend to hold 22% less credit card debt than men.
However, a different study by Compare Cards by Lending Tree found that while women may have less credit card debt, they feel less confident financially and do a worse job of paying debt off.
Given the clear gender gaps when it comes to credit, employment, and salary, it is easy to see why women are falling into debt.
But that doesn’t mean we need to stay there. Instead, we should prioritize getting out of debt so we can achieve our goals and not feel dependent on anyone or anything other than ourselves.
I know that getting out of debt can feel daunting–I’ve been there. That’s why I’ve put together this list of 11 easy ways to pay off debt fast.
#1 Get Clear on Why You’re Paying Off the Debt
If you’re going to get serious and pay off debt…and commit to making it happen…then you need to know your WHY.
When times get tough…
When you get a big tax bill or an unexpected emergency expense arises…
Knowing your why will help you weather the tough times.
For me, my why was freedom. I took a hard look at my debt–my credit cards, student loans, etc.–and I realized how much it was holding me back from doing the things I really wanted to do.
The vision of being financially free kept me motivated to pay off debt fast.
Pro Tip: Do not compare your debt to someone else’s. No matter how much larger or smaller your debt is compared to others, you need to pay off your debt. Period.
#2 Be Realistic with Your Debt Payoff Goals
Far too often, we set goals based on what we want (or how we want to live) without considering whether it’s realistic or not.
This is where paying off debt all starts to fall apart.
Instead, come to terms with your income, your living expenses, and your debt. You must make sure the math adds up.
For example, let’s say you have $38,000 in debt and make $65,000 a year.
When you factor in your living expenses, you will see that it is not possible to pay off $38,000 of debt in a year.
Unrealistic goals set you up for failure.
Keep in mind that you know what you need. Don’t create an unrealistic budget that will only set you up to be disappointed.
Many women have found success using YNAB (You Need A Budget) for budgeting and gaining better insight into their true expenses. This app works to help you stop living paycheck to paycheck, pay off debt fast, and save money.
#3 Eliminate What You Don’t Need
It’s time to take a good hard look at your monthly spending.
- Are you really using all four streaming services enough to justify paying for the monthly subscriptions?
- When is the last time you used that online workout app you thought you couldn’t live without?
- Do you really need to order Uber Eats 3 times a week?
Take a look at your credit card and bank statements. What recurring purchases or subscriptions can you cut?
Cutting out what she didn’t need helped Sarah Adams of Ft. Lauderdale pay off her credit card in 12 months. Check out her story…
“I consider myself a smart, savvy woman, but when it came to my spending and debt, I was a hot mess.
I had over $22,000 in credit card debt, and between my mortgage, car payment, utilities, and everything else, I was maxed out each month on being able to pay more down on my credit cards.
I’d heard from experts to cut unnecessary spending from my budget and that it would make a big difference, but never bought it.
I mean, really, how much could you possibly cut by canceling a few subscriptions?
Turns out, you can cut a lot.
I identified all my subscriptions–from Netflix to Spotify–and I added them all up. It came out to $164 per month–that’s $1,968 a year.
One of my credit cards had a $2,600 balance, so I canceled every single subscription knowing that if I applied the money saved, I would easily be able to pay off that credit card in 12 months. Easiest thing I’ve ever done.”
If you don’t want to sift through bank statements, check out Truebill. This app helps you lower your bills, optimize your spending, and take control of your spending.
#4 Divert Unexpected Money toward Debt
When I get extra moolah, I love to splurge a little.
The only problem is, that mindset won’t help you pay off debt fast.
When you get money for your birthday, cash from grandma, a bonus at work, or a tax refund, treat it as a gift to your future debt-free self…
And use the extra money to pay off debt.
One lump sum payoff can make a big difference not only in the amount you owe, but also in how much interest you’re paying.
Let’s say you owe $10,000 on a credit card with 13.9% interest and you make $300 monthly payments every month.
At this rate, it would take you 43 months, or roughly 3.5 years to pay off the card–providing you don’t add to the balance. If you received $3,000 extra cash, say from a tax refund, and you applied it to the balance in one lump sum, and still paid $300 a month, you’d pay off the card in 28 months.
That’s 15 months faster.
Even if you made a one-time payment of $1,000, you’d pay off the balance in 38 months, or 5 months less time than if you kept paying $300 a month.
Take a look at the chart below to see how making a one-time payment can speed up your repayment time (and save you a ton on interest!).
#5 If You Get Behind on Your Debt Payoff Goals, Don’t Sweat It
Paying off debt is challenging because it means making difficult decisions, saying no, and living within our means.
If you get behind on your debt payoff goals, don’t sweat it. Give yourself some grace.
Check out this personal story from Carrie, 35, from St. Louis…
“I had a solid credit card payoff plan in place. I was knocking it out as planned every month until my friends invited me for a girls’ trip to Tulum. I’d been busting my butt for eight months–doing nothing except working and paying off debt, and I was tired of being so good.
I needed a break, and this was the perfect way to treat myself. Instead of paying over on my credit cards that month, I only paid the minimum, and diverted the rest to pay for the trip.
I got a great deal on a flight, and we were all sharing an Airbnb.
Everything was fine until I got to Tulum and I realized I didn’t have enough money for dinners out, drinks, and tours.
So, I pulled out my credit card. I charged about $1,000 on the card, and had only made the minimum payments that month.
Not only was I now behind, but I’d racked up even more debt.
I was so mad at myself because I’d put all that effort into reaching my payoff goals, only to be set back a month in payments…and in more debt.
Then, I made an even worse mistake by not starting all over again the next month.”
Fortunately, this is not where Carrie’s story ends.
Two months later, after “sticking her head in the sand and avoiding looking at what I’d done,” she went back to working hard on her debt payoff plan.
Start over. Just pick back up where you stopped. See if you can catch up by adding even more to the future monthly payments. But don’t let it paralyze you.
And don’t freak out.
#6 Stop Using Your Credit Card
A Compare Cards report found there is a significant gender gap when it comes to paying credit card bills.
According to the report…
- Women are twice as likely as men to say they never paid in full in the past six months.
- Women are more than twice as likely as men to say they’re not at all confident in paying this month’s balances in full.
That’s not good, ladies.
There’s nothing wrong with using a credit card if you use it the correct way…if you pay them off in full each month and making sure to use our points to the best financial advantage (such as using it to rack up flight miles and then putting the money we would have spent on a flight toward the credit card balance).
If you have trouble using credit cards the correct way, STOP USING YOUR CREDIT CARD!
Instead, pay for things using cash or your debit card. It’s that simple.
#7 Find an Accountability Partner
If you’re a spender and need a little extra motivation paying off debt, find an accountability partner–someone who will hold you accountable by asking how you are doing sticking to your budget.
Your accountability partner should cheer you on and encourage you…and be honest with you.
No “yes women” allowed.
Your accountability partner must be able to tell you no when you want to make purchases beyond your means.
#8 Make Cuts to Your Biggest Expenses
Housing, transportation, and food account for our biggest expenses.
One way to pay off debt fast is to look for ways you can make cuts in these areas.
For example, shop around for car insurance instead of sticking with the same insurance company year after year.
If you think you are overpaying, the website Gabi can do the car insurance shopping for you. Gabi uses your current insurance coverage to find savings and cheaper coverage.
Additionally, now is the perfect time to refinance your mortgage. Interest rates are incredibly low, which means you can save a significant amount of money each month by refinancing.
Just make sure you shop multiple lenders to compare rates.
#9 Eliminate Temptations
Some of us simply have a shopping habit. We love to get new things. This is fine and good, as long as you have the money to pay for your shopping binges.
The problem is that many of us are shopping and spending more than we have – hence, the debt issue.
If you know frivolous shopping is a problem for you, then eliminate temptations.
Delete your saved credit card information from your favorite online stores. This will make it harder to click “buy.” Remove your email address from the mailing lists of your favorite stores.
Receiving an email about a “huge sale” is a temptation you do not need when you are trying to pay off debt fast.
As hard as it may be, stop following your favorite stores, influencers, and shopping groups on social media.
Just like email announcements, these are essentially advertisements aimed at getting you to spend money.
For Melissa, 37, of Spartanburg, this was key to her overspending.
“I unfollowed most of my shopping Facebook and Instagram pages because they were always posting things I wanted,” she shares.
“It was too tempting to buy the things they posted about because they seemed like such great deals.
I stopped following stores, brands, and influencers promoting products months ago to help curb my spending. I haven’t added them back, and to be honest, I don’t miss it.”
#10 Watch Your Debt Dwindle
When it comes to paying off debt, we want to see progress…fast. You will feel more empowered as your debt drops more and more.
That’s why I love using financial apps and tools with clear visuals. Seeing progress is a huge motivator!
The Debt Payoff Planner is a budgeting app that helps you get clear on your debt payoff plan.
It allows you to choose which debt payoff method you will use and includes graphs and visuals to show how much you will need to pay and for how long. Debt Payoff Planner is available on iOs, Google Play, and the Amazon appstore.
#11 Go Extreme with No Spending
At some point, you need to evaluate your needs versus your wants.
To pay off debt fast, you must go without some of those wants for the time being. This means being content with what you have and learning to say no.
We tend to accumulate stuff – and much of it we don’t need. But to accumulate this stuff, we spend money and go into debt.
Be honest with yourself.
Do you have more than you need? Are you buying more and more because you aren’t happy with what you have?
If you are serious about getting out of debt, go extreme and try to go without spending money on anything that is not a need for a set amount of time.
Some refer to this as the Contentment Challenge. Try to be content with what you have for the next month.
In one extreme example, Michelle McGagh of London saved $23,000 in one year by only spending money on the bare essentials (such as mortgage and groceries).
A year is probably too extreme for most of us, but you can start with a No-Spend Month.
CNBC Make It explains, “It’s a smart way for impulse shoppers to change their relationship to money and spending. Setting strict spending rules on discretionary purchases for an entire month […] allows individuals to ‘adjust their whole mindset’ about their true material needs and wants.”
Use the money you saved by not spending to pay off debt.
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Disclaimer: I am not a financial planner or expert. All information in the post is my opinion and should not be used as financial advice. This is based solely on my experiences. Any action you take based on the recommendations from this blog is at your discretion. This post contains some affiliate links. If you click on an affiliate link and purchase a product/service, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. However, I only recommend products, services, and/or businesses that I love and believe will add value to you.