Once you have a budget in place and start living below your means (or, at the very least, within your means), you will find your desire to pay down debt usually grows and you want to do it NOW. I know, I’ve been there. It can be very easy to get discouraged if you think it will take years to pay off your debt so you need to get creative and find ways to pay off even small amounts soon. It’s a huge motivator. When you see that debt start to go down it’s a great feeling.
How Much Do You Owe?
So how do you go about paying off debt as quickly as possible? The first thing I would recommend is to list all your debts and plug them into a debt snowball calculator. I found a couple of free calculators online that do this for free at What’s the Cost? and Undebt.it. I tried both and found them to be similar. I like to do the debt snowball method where you list your debts in order from smallest to largest no matter the interest. Some people like to do the debt avalanche where you pay off the highest interest debt first. These calculators allow you to calculate both and you can decide which is right for you.
For my three current debts if I only paid the minimum payment we would be paying on these until October 2020. That’s a long time! It would be easy to get discouraged by that. I went back and added an extra $100 a month and now the payoff date is April of 2019. A year and four months earlier! Can you cut back or make extra to pay $100 a month toward debt? If you get really focused, I’m sure you can!
Sell Stuff You Don’t Need
This may sound obvious, but if you really don’t use it – sell it! Dave Ramsey says “sell so much stuff the kids are afraid they’ll be next.” Now, while we’ve never sold quite that much, we are definitely finding that we can do without a lot of things that we thought used to be important. I really can’t stand too much stuff all over the house now. If you don’t really use it – sell it!
Now, you may be wondering why the title of this post says creative ways to pay down debt. Selling stuff isn’t creative! Okay, here are some things you can sell that may be thinking outside the box a little:
- Sell your hair. Yes, there is a market for human hair! A lot of people who make dolls like to use human hair. You will have to have at least 10″ that hasn’t been treated with chemicals, but there is quite a market for it and you can check it out on eBay.
- Sell plasma. This is something I have considered doing but haven’t yet. You can get around $15-40 each time you sell plasma. The weird thing to me is that they take out your blood, run it through a machine to separate the plasma, and then put the rest back in. That seems odd – if you’re going to take some blood, just take it – I really don’t want it back.
- Sell scrap metal. You will have to do some research to figure out what types of metals are best and where to sell them, but people make decent money sourcing out scrap metal and selling it. Once you know what you are doing, it can be a decent side income. Keep in mind you will need something to haul your scrap around in.
Get a Side Job
Sure, you can pick up a part time job delivering pizzas or working retail and make extra money. I like the idea of being a little more flexible with my spare time, though, instead of having set hours. Maybe one of these ideas would be better:
- Try freelance writing. This is something I have been doing for a while now and it can be decent pay, depending upon how well you write and what sites you write for. I haven’t taken it seriously and am still working with sites like Textbroker, but for what time I do put into it I feel it is a decent way to make a side income on my own terms.
- Become a mystery shopper. There are several legitimate mystery shopping networks out there that will pay you to check out businesses and restaurants. I sometimes use a local one for the Nashville area that reimburses you for a meal (great way to go out to eat!) and sometimes offers bonuses as well. You won’t pay off all your debt with this method, but you can cut back on the dining budget and let someone else pay.
- Mow lawns or dog walk. I could go into a huge list besides these two of side jobs that you can do around town, but if you have a good lawn mower you can make some decent money cutting other people’s lawns. A lot of our neighbors don’t want to cut their own and hire someone else to do it. Also, there is good money to be made walking dogs during the day when their owners are at work. I am a teacher and a fellow teacher at my school actually quit to buy someone’s dog walking business. Apparently in their neighborhood dog walking is big bucks.
Use Online Money-Saving Sites
I could kick myself when I realized how much money I could have saved for my Christmas shopping if I would have used sites such as Swagbucks or Ebates. Sites that give you cash back to do shopping you were going to do anyways? I didn’t know they existed! When I made my first purchase through Ebates I got a $10 Wal Mart gift card. How easy is that? I was shopping at Amazon anyways, I just went through their site first and got cash back and a gift card. Oh, when I think of all the Amazon shopping I did over the holidays…
There are also grocery money saving apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 and lots of other sites that help you make money with your phone. This is an area I’m looking into more as I’ve read about apps that will pay you to take pictures of items while you shop. I’m interested in learning more about this!
Cut Back on Expenses
Okay, so this section isn’t really that creative, but it could really add up to some savings! You may think there is no way you could cut back, but check out these ideas.
- Cut back on food costs.
- Eat at home! This one tip has saved us about $200 per month even though we’ve added three people to our family!
- Cut out processed foods and make as much from scratch as possible. Not only does it taste better, it’s healthier, too.
- Learn to love leftovers. I used to hate them, now I love them because they taste good and I know they are saving me money.
- Shop with a plan. Use the sale ads. I don’t coupon much because most of them are for processed foods that I really don’t want to eat.
- Shop at Aldi. Yep, we love Aldi. We save a ton and the food is great – they are even expanding their lines of organic and gluten free foods.
- Cut transportation costs.
- Try to combine errands as much as possible.
- Shop around for insurance rates. Even within your own plan, make sure you are getting the best deal. We weren’t driving one of our cars because it’s not working that great and we found out we could put it in “storage”, still keep it insured in case something happens to it, but it cost a lot less! If we drive it and get in an accident we would be in trouble, but it’s not being driven right now so it’s a great option.
- Raise your deductible. If you have any kind of emergency fund, consider raising your deductible to save on insurance premiums. We always try to have the $1000 starter emergency fund to cover things like this, and having higher deductibles helps save money each month.
- Rethink what you spend on entertainment.
- We got rid of cable about 5 years ago. We don’t even have a TV anymore! If we want to watch something we use our computer to get on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or we hit a Redbox. Who needs to spend over $100 a month on cable?
- Lower utilities and other fixed expenses.
- Check your thermostat and raise or lower the temperature a couple of degrees, depending upon the season. It’s okay to wear more layers in the winter and keep the house a little cooler, or let it get a little warm in the summer. Heating and cooling costs a lot.
- Check your cell phone plan. We were paying over $150 a month for unlimited everything, but when I dug into how much data we were actually using I found that we use less than 1 GB a month for the two of us. I switched us to a 2GB plan, just in case, and dropped our bill to $85 a month. We are usually always somewhere that has wi-fi, especially at home and work, so we didn’t need the unlimited data plan. I never knew until I checked into it.
So there you have it. Creative ways to pay down debt. There are a lot more that could go on this list, but it would take forever to get through them all. Any other ideas you would like to add? Please leave a comment!