How to Find Extra Money to Pay Down Debt

Do you have debt? If so, you’re not alone!

According to the Federal Reserve (as of 2015), the average American owes an average of $7,529 on their credit cards. If you look at the bigger picture, the average American owes $155,361 in mortgage debt and $31,946 in student loan debt. Yikes! Where do you fall on that spectrum? I hope you are less than average when it comes to debt, but I know the reality for many is that the numbers owed are higher.

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My husband and I are working hard to get – and stay – out of debt, even on our limited income. Last year, we paid off our last remaining debt on our Tahoe. Now, for us, all that’s left is our mortgage. We’re chipping away at that slowly and working to accumulate savings so we don’t go into debt again! (This is the reason we have 20 savings accounts.)

If you’re in debt, it’s difficult and I know you don’t to be in that situation. Nobody wants to be in debt! It’s frustrating but sometimes we feel trapped by debt and are unsure of how to get out of it. Our budgets are already stretched to capacity so paying extra on debt seems like an impossible dream.

I’m here to say that it’s not impossible! You can do this! We can find extra money to pay down debt faster. Some ideas are easier than others and some take more time but all of these can help you find extra money to pay down your debt. Getting out of debt is not easy and takes determination but it is worth the sacrifices you make to do so. Here are some things we’ve done to pay down debt.

(Note: If you have already paid off your debt, well done! Perhaps you could use some of these ideas to boost your savings instead!)

Know what you owe and commit to not adding to your debt. It’s the first and most obvious answer but we do need to start there. Look at all your debts and list them out with the full balance still due. The reality of seeing it in writing is sobering. I like to list them in order of smallest to largest and apply Dave Ramey’s snowball principal, throwing everything extra I can at the smallest debt until it’s gone and then moving on to the next. After you’ve done that, make the decision not to add to the debt. Be committed to getting out of debt, once and for all.

Cut expenses.  Take a hard and honest look at your expenses and start cutting things. Do you have cable? Netflix? Eat out weekly? Go through the drive-through regularly? Have a gym membership? Subscribe to magazines? Do you really need a smart phone? How can you drive less to save on gas money? Can you truly afford all those extra-curricular activities for your children? Cut your expenses in any and all ways that you can! It’s hard but being in debt is harder. Temporarily cutting expenses allows you to pay down your debt faster and that is a good thing.

Lower your monthly bills. Turn the heat lower or keep the air conditioning off. Take shorter showers. Eat all your leftovers. Do the practical things to reduce your bills. The little things can add up to big savings. You can even call into different utility companies and ask for a lower rate. This works better for some than others but you will never know unless you try!

Save money at the grocery store. I’m a firm believer that the grocery store is one of the best and easiest ways to see instant savings on your hard work. You can invest lots of time in clipping coupons and matching deals (using websites such as Money Saving Money’s deal match-ups). You can also invest just minutes and start planning your meals based around what’s on sale. Before you put something in your cart, ask yourself if you really need it or if there is a cheaper option. Almost everyone can find ways to cut $10 to $20 a week (or more!) from their grocery budget. It takes time and energy but remember, you are saving to pay off debt faster!

Eventually there comes a point when you’ve saved all you can. Now you need to switch trains of thought and earn the rest.

Get a second job. Start by thinking of your talents and go from there. What can you do to earn extra money as an adult? Babysit. Become a referee. Mow lawns or shovel snow. Cut people’s hair. Teach piano lessons. Sell things on Etsy. Tutor. Blog. Start selling direct sales (such as Pampered Chef or Premier Jewelry). The options are as endless as your talents! Maybe this also means picking up extra hours at work (if you are paid hourly) or taking a temporary part-time job. Dave Ramsey shares many stories of the dad who delivered pizza at night, after working his regular job, just so his family could get out of debt sooner. We can do anything for a season if we really are motivated to earning extra money to pay off debt faster.

Sell things around your house. You can sell almost anything on Craigslist or through Facebook garage sales. You might be surprised at what sells – plus you are helping declutter your house at the same time! Take kids clothes to a local consignment shop. You can also sell clothes of all sizes (kids and adults) at Thred Up. Sell books through Half Price Books or Hold a garage sale. Be creative and start looking around your house for things that you can sell.

Search online with Bing and Swagbucks. I’ve talked about these before because it’s an easy way to earn something for minutes of your time every day. Swagbucks has an unlimited daily earning potential – and your rewards can be redeemed in Paypal cash. You can learn more about how and why I use Bing and Swagbucks here. (Here are 4 ways I earn gift cards / extra money in just minutes a day.)

Say no more often. This is one of the simplest but the hardest things to do. Say no to the outings that you can’t afford. Say no to going out with friends for coffee if you don’t have the money. Say no to gift exchanges where you don’t really want to spend that extra money. Say no to the at-home parties where you feel pressured to make a purchase. Say no to the drive-through when there are leftovers waiting in your fridge. Know your limits and learn to say no. That doesn’t mean life has to be boring! You can find other ways to have fun without spending money, especially when you are hustling to pay off your debt.

I know we’d all like a quick fix to our debt solutions but it takes time and hard work. Don’t give up! Set a goal of being debt free and work towards it. As Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else, so later on you can live like no one else.”

What would you add to this list? Leave a comment with something you’ve done to find extra money to pay off debt faster!

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  2. Fantastic post, Kristen! I think your first point is sometimes the hardest, but certainly the most important. Once we changed our mindset–i.e., we knew we weren’t going to take on any more debt–everything shifted. Now it seems like we have a clear vision of where we are going and can track the progress we’re making. So satisfying! (And congrats on paying off your car!)

    1. Thanks, Sarah! Yes, I believe that making the decision to stop accumulating debt will have the biggest difference on your debt progress. That’s not to say once you make the decision, it is easy. It is still plenty challenging but having a clear vision, like you said, definitely helps!

  3. You always have such a practical common sense spin on your topics! I love it! My husband uses this saying for several things and it’s true… Live for YOUR needs, not what is marketed to you or trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses.”

    We teach our girls to save first, over getting anything and paying for it later. Patience will always save you money. Wait for a sale, every item I can think of will go on sale, and carefully decide where to spend your hard earned dollars. In our instant gratification world, people often act on impulse. Everything should be deliberate and intentional.

    Great advice! I think you hit on everything, but the top thing is to STOP accumulating debt. Make the commitment to not spend what you don’t have. Live below your income, keep your options open. Being in control of your money will give you peace of mind in ways that few things can. Money is merely a tool, not to be worshiped or feared… a tool.

    1. Thanks, Christina! It sounds like you are teaching your girls wisely and practically as well. I like your husband’s take on living for your own needs as well, good point. Keeping options open (when you live beneath your means) gives you so much freedom! It’s a great place to be.

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