When it comes to paying off credit card debt, the first thought most of us have is to slash our spending. But what happens when the bulk of your expenses can’t be further reduced, like your mortgage, rent, groceries, or daycare expenses?
Similarly, what if you’re feeling motivated to pay off your debt faster than your creditor quoted your estimated debt-free date to be? What realistic options exist to help consumers pay off credit card debt in a shorter period of time?
4 Ways to Fast Track Your Debt-Payoff Journey
1. Side Hustle
When it comes to paying off debt, our first thought may be to reduce our spending, slash our expenses and remove anything that is not necessary. But for those with debt, those who are living paycheck-to-paycheck, or those struggling with rising gas prices and inflation, further reducing expenses may not be possible. In that event, you may want to consider a side hustle to increase your income – at least temporarily.
A side hustle is a job or occupation that earns you supplemental income. Side hustles are incredibly varied and range in terms of their commitments, cost, and potential income.
Top Side Hustles in 2022 include:
- Gig Economy (Instacart, UberEats, Door Dash)
- Virtual Assistant
- Sell Arts & Crafts (Etsy, Amazon)
- Pet Sitting / Dog Walker
2. Shop Estate Sales, Garage Sales
One way to keep expenses low when on a debt payoff journey is to shop estate sales and garage sales for items you feel like you need to have. Although not every garage sale’s offerings are of high quality, sometimes you can score incredible deals on typically pricey home goods and outdoor furniture.
Pro Tip: Make sure you have a way to carry the item home before you buy it and that the item fits in your space. Otherwise, you’ll want to add the cost of transporting the items to the cost of the item itself to your budget. I say this from experience.
Last summer I was walking my dog and saw that one of the homes in my neighborhood – that I absolutely loved – was having a garage sale. Because I was already obsessed with the exterior decor and gardens of this particular home, I was curious as to what kinds of interior decor and other home goods items they may have for sale, so I made a conscious effort to return once the garage sale began.
Within minutes I had fallen in love with multiple items from the garage sale, but there were other shoppers scooping up these items too. I felt the pressure to make quick decisions. So when the seller offered the king-sized tufted headboard to me for $20 instead of the marked $60, I found myself agreeing before I even knew how I would carry this headboard home, let alone carry it up three flights of stairs to our apartment.
But I was hooked. I was in love. I paid the $20 to ensure I wouldn’t back out of this too-good-to-be-true deal and called my husband to ask if he could drive our car to the garage sale and meet me; I’d just purchased a headboard for us!
One problem I wasn’t expecting? The headboard didn’t fit in or on top of our car. I mean, I could have maybe learned this in advance if I slowed down and thought this purchase out, it’s just that I wasn’t planning to buy a headboard nor did I have time to wait. The seller was eager to get the headboard off his property; my husband was increasingly annoyed I had purchased such a large item without thinking about how I would get it home.
In the end, we borrowed a longboard from the seller and pushed the headboard for six (very) long blocks back to our apartment before we had to figure out how to carry the headboard up three flights of stairs. Although I saved hundreds of dollars buying this garage-sale headboard that had never been used before, not everyone would agree the hassle of carrying it home was worth the savings.
If you would have asked my husband immediately after carrying the headboard up the stairs if the savings was worth it he would tell you, absolutely not. But now that we’ve moved into our home, the headboard is set up, and my husband has come to learn just how expensive home decor is, including area rugs, our $20 headboard has quickly become one of our favorite items.
3. No-Spend, Free Stuff Communities
Another way to save money when on a debt payoff journey is to participate in micro no-spend exchange communities in your area to satisfy your inner shopaholic without incurring more debt. You can usually find these community groups on social networks like Facebook.
From baby clothes and toys to dressers, bed frames, and hutches, the possibilities for the kinds of treasures you can find are really limitless and yes, the price is free for ALL items posted in these groups. The only catch is you usually have to pick up the items yourself and the seller is not likely to hold items for anyone – first come, first serve rules reign supreme in these no-spend communities.
If you can’t find any no-spend groups in your area, consider starting one!
If you’re not on social media, talk to your neighbors, friends, coworkers, and local family and see if there are any items of similar value you could exchange or trade. Keep in mind that you can always trade time or skills, it doesn’t always have to be an item.
For example, if you’re a skilled cook and your neighbor loves to do yard work, you could make a meal or some goodies for your neighbor and in exchange, they’ll mow your lawn. Or if you grow tomatoes and cucumbers, but your neighbor has an abundance of watermelon and avocadoes in their garden, you could exchange items from your garden as well.
4. Nonprofit Consumer Credit Counseling
If you are struggling to pay off your credit card balance each month, you may have noticed your credit card company calculates your estimated debt-free date based on your minimum payment and shares this information with you each month. You may have also noticed that your creditors estimated your debt-free date to occur 25 years or so from now – and that’s only if you stop incurring additional debt.
Although it sounds too good to be true, nonprofit consumer credit counseling can tremendously speed up your debt-payoff journey by lowering the interest you’re paying on your credit card debt, allowing more of your monthly payments to go toward your principal. At DebtWave, the average consumer enrolled in our debt management program finishes paying off debt in three to five years.
While a debt-free journey at first glance sounds like a time to pay off debt, it’s also a time to learn how to live within your means. Taking advantage of financial literacy resources such as a complimentary budget analysis with a certified credit counselor, a complimentary credit session with a credit coach, and free financial literacy programs such as Smart With Your Money LIVE can be instrumental in improving your financial situation long-term.
Plus, when you feel supported on your debt-free journey you may feel more inspired to keep prioritizing your financial health long-term, reducing the likelihood you incur crippling debt in the future.
Have you successfully shortened your debt payoff time frame? Share your tips with DebtWave’s debt-free community in the comments below!