5 Ways to Pay Off Debt Faster

by | Jan 22, 2015

Paying off debt can be overwhelming at first because of the amount of time it will take to become debt free.  It’s critical not to get discouraged at this early stage.  Here are 5 tips that can be applied to help consolidate and eliminate debt.

Step 1: Calculate How Much Debt You Have

It’s time to get real with yourself.  You’ve put it off for long enough and now it’s time to figure out exactly where you stand.  We have provided a helpful calculator utility that will enable you to input all sources of debt (car loans, credit cards, student debt, IOU’s).  Once you have this filled out you are ready to begin.  Until you are willing to face your problem, it will continue to haunt you and destroy your piece of mind.

Step 2: Stop Blaming Yourself

This is perhaps the most difficult, yet most important step.  It’s time to let go.  It’s natural after Step 1 to get distracted and start thinking about all the regretful decisions made that got you to this point.  STOP!  Blaming yourself is in no way productive and you can’t blame yourself into a solution.  The only thing that is required it to admit that you are responsible for your current predicament (i.e. level of debt), and you are responsible for getting yourself out of debt.

Many times people get stuck right at the beginning of this process because they spend their limited moment of clarity blaming themselves and not on fixing the problem.  Remember, blame is a secondary emotion and is always covering up for a deeper, more authentic emotion.  It’s time to replace this ugly, complicated emotion with a pure one: forgiveness.

Step 3: Make a Debt Payoff Plan

There are a lot of things you can do at this point to massage the numbers.  DON’T.  We’ll come back to this, but for now it’s more important to develop a plan, then to optimize.  Plus, it’s important to measure how significant your actions are going to be, and to give yourself credit accordingly.  Remember, the emotional part of this is far more important than the financial part.

The debt payoff plan should consist of whatever extra money you can set aside in addition to all the monthly payments you are making currently.  Put this in the calculator and see where you’re at.  This will report a date for being debt-free.  Take a note of this, because in the next step we’re going to bring that number down.

Step 4: Get Your Credit Report

In Step 4 we’re going to focus on negotiation, and it’s critical to see what we are negotiating with.  The answer to that is hidden in your credit report.  There are 3 credit agencies and they will each provide a free credit report once a year.  Remember that pulling your own credit will not impact your credit score, so there is no good reason not to do this.  Before you do however, prepare yourself that you may not like what you see.  In your report there may be old debts, late payments, co-signed loans gone unpaid, and fraud.  Read Step 2 again.  This is not a time for blame, this is a time for massive action.  You’ll be able to forgive the old You if the new You is headed down the right path.

We are looking for exactly 2 things in the credit report: how good is your credit, and are there any actions that can be taken to improve your credit.  Having average or good credit means you can do things like apply for a credit card with 0% balance transfer.  Having below average or poor credit means there are probably some items that need attention and can dealt with in order to improve your creditworthiness.

Step 5: Take a Single Action

You know that saying ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’?  There is no place where this is more true than when you are standing in front of the thing that scares you the most.  Remember, it’s OK to be scared.  It’s OK to be angry.  It’s OK to be tired of this.  It’s not OK to blame yourself anymore and it’s not OK to allow others to blame you.  Time to move on and open a new chapter in life.  Find a small forward action, and do it.  Now.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Go to annualcreditreport.com and get your credit report.  Remember, it doesn’t impact your credit score if you are the one pulling your own credit.  There are 3 credit reporting institutions: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.  You can get your credit report for free, once a year, from each institution.  I recommend starting with just one of them (doesn’t matter which credit reporting institution so pick the one with the logo you like best).  Starting with only 1 will keep you from getting overwhelmed, and usually (though not always) they have the same information in each.
  • If there is a blemish in the credit report that you didn’t make, email them and tell them to provide you proof or remove it from your credit report.  Tell them they have 14 days.
  • If your credit looks OK and you are sure you wont abuse a new card, consider applying for a 0% balance transfer card and move your high balance cards over.  Note that when you do this, the money you save (as calculated in Step 3) MUST go right back into paying off the debt faster.  This money doesn’t go into your pocket.  WARNING: if all the credit cards you have are close to maxed out, this is a sign that you should NOT apply for another card.  No need for blame; lets just call a spade a spade.  For more information on this read Should I Transfer My Credit Card Balances: Benefits and Risks.
  • If your credit is below average, pick the card with the highest APR, find the phone number, call them (anytime day or night just to get into the practice), and tell them you are looking to pay down your debt and would like a lower APR.  If they say yes, then take the savings and use it to pay down the debt faster.  If they say no, be extremely proud of the fact that you are taking action, irregardless of how the rest of the world reacts.
  • If you have late fees or an annual fee on a credit card, call them and ask to have the fee removed.  Inform that it wont happen again, and you’d like to continue the positive working relationship.  Just like in the last bullet: If they say yes, then take the savings and use it to pay down the debt faster.  If they say no, give yourself credit for doing everything you could.

To summarize: stop blaming, get real, take action.  Good luck and if this approach helps in any way feel free to leave a comment.

29 Comments

  1. prano

    Thank you very much for your article. It can be my guide line to manage my debt. Thank you again.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Stop buying once you transfer! I know, because I do this, and every time I finally get the transferred amount paid off, the original card is twice as high as it was in the first place, leaving me further in debt than before.

    Reply
  3. BEThePositiveChange

    Great Advice and easy to follow!
    One step at a time! I love the part of not blaming yourself. It used to keep me from taking action. I’m not my debt. Now that I know better, I do better!!!

    Reply
  4. Debra

    Love the article! I came up with a debt plan 1.5yrs ago. I should have been debt free this upcoming February but my cards are all back up again. I feel I had a decent plan but lacked financial discipline. I think that is an important part of paying off debt. Hopefully I can follow this plan the right way and stop making excuses.

    Reply
  5. Laura

    Wonderful article. I love the emotional aspect that you include. It truly is emotional. I am using Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball and have paid off 3/7 credit cards in 4 months… And most importantly.. STOPPED USING THEM!! Thanks again!

    Reply
  6. Ginny

    I am just beginning the process. Due to irresponsibly and unemployment my husband and I are in real debit crisis. We have spoken with an attorney about chapter 13. Maybe I am fooling myself but, I intend to try this program first. Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    • Stan

      I did chapter 13, daves plan at least gives you control !

      Reply
  7. Mary Magdaleno

    It’s very straightforward and quite helpful.
    Just What I wanted to alight much debt a day choose the order they be paid off, I actually am paying off smaller balances, because it is less bills to remember and gives me a sense of relief then I look to transfer into o% interet after I chose the highest interest cards and set them in line to pay off that way. It has work for me wonders aND it is working again, but the above comment about not charging any more after transferring it’s so true, I have been tere too. Good luck I hope my comments help some one:).

    Reply
  8. Reggie

    You forgot about the most important thing “cut up those cards!” . Seriously though this article is nice to read because it means that there’s hope and I’m not alone. I feel better already. I have negotiated with my creditors for payment plans although I had to close the accounts and some are in collection. I don’t want credit cards for the rest of my life anyway. But I am happy that I can say that I am not beating myself up and taking the first step. God bless you and your team and prayers for all of you in the same boat

    Reply
  9. Denis mpelele

    Thank you a lot for the advice you gave to me I was have card what put me in debts and I got it very well the advice for me to come debt free

    Reply
  10. Aby

    Thanks for the article. I’m going to use your advice & I know it would work for me. I have already cut up my cards & I’m taking right steps. May God bless you richly.

    Reply
  11. B. CAROL

    Your payoff plan has helped me tremendously. I try to follow your payment plan, but I do vary each payment occasionally. Your total monthly payment is difficult to pay, then I end up using a card before the month is through, because I run out of cash. Any help on this?

    Reply
  12. Janet P.

    I tend to want to spend on my paid off credit cards so I started making a list of things I think of that I need to purchase. Then I look at each item and see if I can: 1. use something else that I already have, 2. make what I need with stuff I already have or 3. see if someone has the item and they do not want it anymore.
    If the answer is no to all 3, then I wait a week to see if I really need the item.
    If the answer is yes, then I look for the best value to purchase.
    When I do this I have stopped adding to my debt instead of paying it off.

    Reply
  13. Lisa Murphy

    Number one way. Stop using credit cards. We keep getting ourself in cc debt although we pay it off quickly. If we just stop using the cards and realize that if we can’t buy it with cash, we can’t afford it, we will see great momentum in our debt reduction.

    Reply
  14. Jess Balliet

    Great article! We started working toward paying off our debt when we realized our single- earner income was $60,000 and we were still broke! We got a debt planner app and have been using that along with the snowball method and are slowly working our way to a debt free life.

    Reply
  15. Cynthia Hughes-Wilson

    Paying more than minamal pymt will reduce debt faster.
    Making making two full minimum pymts per month effectively cuts your interest rate in approx. half for that month.
    I’m a retired mortgage broker & helped a lot of people with repairing credit, cutting debt strategies, credt health, &maintnence plans. Also helped people find “lost” money.

    Reply
    • Paul

      Is personal loans worth it for credit debt

      Reply
  16. Frrd

    JUST LISTEN TO DAVE RAMSEY PEOPLE. ITS ALL BEHAVIORAL CHANGE.

    Reply
  17. Debt Free Dreamer

    Once I started this recommendations I realized one thing about me: I am a compulsive buyer on my way to redemption. Is hard to stop an addiction, I have my relapses every now and then, but I try to keep my eyes fixed in the goal. Thank you so much, it has helped me tons.

    Reply
  18. Johnkellyaceus

    Wonderful

    Reply
  19. Kelsey Love

    I just finished school and finally have a decent income. Instead of splurging (I did a little bit of that for the first two months of extra income) every penny of extra money is going to pay off credit cards. I give myself a $30/day allowance, any $ I don’t use in that daily allowance goes toward paying down a credit card. I’ve paid off three cards and nearly $7,000 in 6 months and boosted my credit score by over 60 points. I’m hoping to be credit card debt free before my student loans come due so that I have only student loan debt going forward. Love this app!

    Reply
    • Judy McConnell

      That’s wonderful Kelsey Love! You are a poster child for this app. I am again working on paying off debt. Helping family and paying for things others should have taken care of were my issues. I am going to put ALL my extra money each month into my savings and once I have a cushion, I will then roll that money I was saving into the debt plan. For me, not having a financial cushion caused the use of credit cards.

      Reply
  20. Nada

    I was looking for something like this but it was no luck to find it
    I got i think under control to pay my big debts off not buying nothing that is not need n putting all money to pay things off …sooner the better
    Left all my cards at home not using them at all if realy need to use it i put money there first that they dont go up
    Thanks for this info its realy give us in debt energy to fight it
    May God help us all in getting debt free

    Reply
  21. Pave the way!

    Great tips!

    Reply
  22. Krissy

    I tend to spend every penny I have in the bank. Frequently I’ll have less than $10 the day before I get paid.

    My strategy has been to treat the “paydown game” like an elaborate game of Tetris. Each day I review my bank account(s) and see how much I’m comfortable paying extra towards debt with payday being X days away.

    I’ve managed to pay off several small debts without feeling much constraint on my bank account(s).

    I also find I’m a teensy bit more responsible with my money the rest of the day.

    Luckily I enjoy the game aspect and do not fret that I still have $55k left to go. I focus on the $3k I have paid down over and above the min payments.

    Reply
  23. Anonymous

    I am using this app for the first time (using Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball) method. Discipline is the key to getting out of debt. I like thus app because it includes my mortgage! Which indicates that I will be completely debt free in 8 years. Love it!

    Reply
  24. DN

    Hi, I have recently started using this app and following Dave Ramsey’s advice (youtube and his books). I have tried things in the past, especially paying off credit cards, but used to pay debt in the wrong way, by getting money from one to pay another, so ended up with even more debt. Now I have started doing something else. As soon as I pay a chunk off the card, I will lower the credit limit (never done that in the past) and I intend to keep doing so until all is paid and I can close the credit completely, despite the fact that my credit rating keeps. getting is getting very bad each time. But I would rather have a bad credit rating right now than be in debt!

    Reply
  25. Des

    I just started ?y firs month. I’m committed. I’ll be by free May 1025 latest

    Reply
  26. Nancy

    I just started the program and in 1 week have paid off my lowest balance. I am working on paying off the next one in line. I am so excited to see the cards at zero. Thanks again for tips!

    Reply

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Our team is dedicated to providing up-to-date financial information to help people manage their debt. Our goal is to improve mindset, reduce guilt, and deliver actionable information. We are not financial professionals and the information we've provide should not be considered official advice.