If you have a dream of being debt-free, you aren’t alone. You may be wondering how to pay off debt. It might feel like one of those dreams you can’t reach because of your income, and every dollar counts. Many, if not most, Americans are in debt and owe thousands of dollars in credit card debt, among other things. Adding up car payments, mortgages or rent, food costs, and other such things can make it feel like you’re fighting off an army all by yourself, with nothing but a small stone. However, there are ways to pay off debt, even with a low income. Consider these ideas if you want your dreams of a debt-free life to become a reality.
How to Pay Off Debt
Figure Out What You Owe
If you want to get a handle on your debt, you have to figure out how much you owe. You might not want to know your total debt amount, so instead, you pay the monthly minimums when you can and call it a day. When you figure out precisely what you owe, that’s the only way you will be able to dig yourself out of the debt you have.
Make a list of every outstanding bill you have. Write the balance, the interest rate, and any late fees, penalties, or anything else you must pay. Once you have a clear picture of the situation, you can figure out how to pay the debt down, even on a lower income.
Create a Budget
Creating a budget is very important. A budget is a spending plan that shows you where your money goes. If something is outside your budget, wait to buy it. It might be hard to get used to a budget initially, but it will work if you are focused. There are multiple apps out there that can help you with your budget. You can use an Excel sheet for your budget if you’re old school like me. Whatever you do, make sure that you start your budget today. Below are two tools you can check out if you start your budget for the first time.
I’ve been using Mint for years. It’s an app where you can list all your financial info. You can include bills, loans, checking and savings accounts, and more. Before you ask, it’s safe to use. For more information about Mint, go here.
Empower (formerly Personal Capital) has a lot of cool budgeting features. It’s also good because you can track your spending with it. Click this link to learn more about Empower today.
Don’t Spend Money You Don’t Have
Sometimes people buy stuff even if they don’t have the money. Whether using a credit card too much or allowing your checking account to become negative, don’t spend money you don’t have. I have made mistakes in the past by overspending. Paying your bank or credit union an overdraft fee is not fun. If you have a credit card, use it in moderation. People get into a lot of debt and don’t need to be in it.
When I was younger, I swiped my credit card a few times when I should not have. I always wanted to ensure people had a good time, so I’d buy shots and drinks even when I didn’t have the money. The good thing is that I learned my lesson before it was too late.
Look For Ways to Trim Costs Further
You may have become accustomed to going to one of the higher-end grocery stores with the nice lighting, wood floors, and commensurately stratospheric prices. Food tastes just as good at the discount grocery store, even better when eating debt-free. Stores like Grocery Outlet have great food at much better prices.
Coupons are your friends when you’re trying to cut costs; there is no shame in that game. Cook at home more, rather than paying extra for takeout. Look for used items when appropriate. Consignment stores have great prices on quality goods. Plus, you’ll reduce the amount of waste going to landfills. You can also shop on eBay, thrift shops, and other places where you will likely find better prices. Go to Home Goods, Ross, and TJ Maxx rather than one of the big department stores.
Once you know what you owe and to what company, the overall number can be overwhelming. The debt snowball method can help you out. You focus on paying the smallest debt first while still paying the minimum on the others. Once that small debt is paid, you will add the amount you had been paying on it to the next lowest debt. Once you see those smaller debts moving toward zero can give you confidence in tackling the larger debts.
With this strategy, you start paying on the debt with the highest interest rate while still paying the minimum on the others. Once it’s paid off, you then move to the next one. This can save a good amount of money down the line.
Pay Bills on Time
Paying your bills on time helps to keep you out of debt, and it also helps your credit score. At one point, I used to pay several bills late each month. I was young and dumb. Most of those bills were collecting interest and late fees. My finances could have been a lot better. I took the time to go through each account, and I wrote all the due dates in my planner. Then I contacted the creditors that I was behind on and started paying them. It took me a few months, but I was able to get current on all of them. You can get on track if you’re in a similar situation too.
When you are wondering how to pay off debt, you may not consider paying bills on time that important, but it is. That was key to me getting on track with my debt-elimination journey. I wish I had done this sooner. It may take a while, but you can do this.
Make More Money
A key thing that you can do to get out of debt is to make more money. Some people think that it’s easier said than done. Anyone can make money on the side. They just need to find something that they like. Here are a few side hustles that you can try out.
Flipping items on eBay is one side hustle that can bring in a good amount of money. People will buy almost anything. Anyone can sell on eBay. It’s free to set up an account. When deciding on what to sell, all you have to do is check their website and do a little research. Electronics, shoes, and sports jerseys are items that sell well.
If you need help with eBay, check out my webinar, eBay for Starters
Selling t-shirts is another side hustle you can do to make extra money. Previously, you would have to spend money on designs, printing, and inventory. Now, more than ever, designing and selling shirts for free is easier. Websites such as Teespring and Merch By Amazon allow you to upload or create a design and sell it. You can make money on every shirt that sells. If you have a viral design, you can make thousands of dollars on it. Benny Hsu has made over $100,000 selling t-shirts.
Completing online surveys is next on the list. While you will not get rich by completing them, you can make a couple of hundred dollars monthly if you work hard. Several legit survey sites exist, such as Swagbucks, Inbox Dollars, Survey Junkie, and Opinion Outpost.
Freelancing is another side hustle that can help you pay off the debt promptly. The sky could be the limit for you when you freelance. The more you work, the more money you can make. It’s that simple. Several types of freelancers exist, such as writers, photographers, web designers, and social media assistants. You can tell your friends and family about your services to get started. Also, you can sign up on a platform like Fiverr and Upwork.
If you work a 9-5 job, you can work part-time on weeknights or weekends. There are always grocery store and restaurant staff opportunities available. If you need to pay off debt, check Craigslist or Indeed to see who is hiring.
Start Your Own Blog
Are you a good writer? If the answer is yes, put it to use. Why waste your God-given gift? You can start by writing on people’s blogs and getting paid for them. When you’re ready, you can create your own blog. Some blog platforms like Blogger let you set up a free blog. Other platforms like Big Scoots or Bluehost allow you to create a self-hosted site.
I have to be honest with you. It’s not always the easiest way to make extra money. You can create enough traffic if you write good content and promote it. Once you have the traffic, you can then sign up for ads. As traffic increases, so will your income.
Become a Delivery Driver
Do you have a car or a scooter? Do you have a smartphone? If yes, you can sign up to become a driver working for companies like Uber or Doordash. You get paid for the number of deliveries you make each day. This can help you pay off your debt in no time if you are committed. These companies allow you to work anytime you choose. Delivering food from restaurants to customers is very easy. Depending on where you live, you can make a lot of money.
Sign up for Uber Eats
Sign up for Doordash
Review Apps or Websites
Slicethepie allows you to review music from unsigned bands or musicians. Building up your reputation might take a while, but you can get paid $40 per month when you do. It might not sound much but remember it is a side hustle. You could be doing three more jobs with it and earning a lot. If you like music, it shouldn’t be hard work for you.
With UserTesting.com, you get to review websites and get paid for them. Each review takes 20 minutes, and you get paid $10 via PayPal.
There are tons of apps that let you play games for money.
Baby Sitting or Dog Sitting
You can get paid to babysit a child. All you have to do is watch over them, watch tv, and play a few games with the kid. If you think children are too much work, you could opt for dog sitting instead.
Dogs can be less stressful. You have to take them for walks and feed them. Just keep them happy, and you get paid your cash at the end of the day. You could join Rover for dog sitting and dog walking.
Unfortunately, you may not be able to get out of debt by yourself. There are several debt relief settlement companies in the country. Just make sure that you do your research. Some of them can be scams.
Jason Butler is the owner of My Money Chronicles, a website where he discusses personal finance, side hustles, travel, and more. Jason is from Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from Savannah State University with his BA in Marketing. Jason has been featured in Forbes, Discover, and Investopedia.