Tips to help you become debt free
Getting into debt is really, really easy. All you have to do is spend more than you earn and let the overdraft/ credit card/ loan pick up the difference. But if you let this go on too long the financial strain can build up.
Loads of people are in debt, don’t feel stigmatised if your credit cards have got out of hand. But don’t bury your head in the sand either. If you don’t take control of it, you could end up in deep financial trouble.
So before it gets to that stage here are some tips to help you become debt free:
1. Go through your direct debits (or regular expenses) and cut out anything you don’t need or use
It’s amazing how many direct debits can build up in your bank accounts. Online subscriptions you forgot you’d taken out. Multiple subs to stuff like Netflix, Now TV, Spotify. Check out what’s coming out and cancel anything you don’t use or could live without for a few months.
Examples of things that could go:
The unused gym membership
Subscriptions to TV channels you don’t watch
Amazon Prime (do you REALLY need it next day?)
2. See if you can switch suppliers to save money
There is always stuff you can’t do without – like your electricity or mobile phone for instance. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get it cheaper.
I just saved £20 per month by threatening to leave my Broadband supplier and they gave me a faster internet speed for £20 less than I was paying already. Admittedly I had been paying a stupid astronomical price since my last contract had run out and I should have pulled my finger out and done it faster. Which I realised as soon as they offered me my super duper new price!
There are some great sites out there that help you switch by finding you great deals. Uswitch in the UK is top banana, as is Money Saving Expert. I’m less hot on U.S. ones but am aware of www.maketheswitchusa.com Let me know if there are others!
3. Switch to a 0% credit card
Got a credit card? Don’t pay interest. There are stacks of cards that will let you transfer your balance to them and for a fixed period you pay 0% interest.
It’s much quicker to clear debt if you are paying off the capital (the money borrowed) rather than the interest the credit card companies are charging you. Sounds like a no brainer, but it’s very easy to forget to switch to a 0% card once your rate has run out or it might not be something that’s crossed your radar.
If you haven’t done it before, switching just means applying for a new credit card who are offering a 0% balance transfer deal. Once you’ve been accepted, you transfer your credit card debt to them.
The best tool I know of to switch (in the UK) is created by the rather fabulous Money Saving Expert Website. Plug in your details and they will give you a list of credit card companies likely to accept your application and the percentage chance you’ve got!
The best thing about the search is it’s a “soft search”. When you apply for a credit card it leaves a mark on your credit rating. Too many searches looks like you are desperate for credit and may make your credit rating drop. But on the MSE website, you can search without leaving any trace.
Once you actually apply for the card, it will show on your credit report but just applying for one card shouldn’t be a problem and with this tool you are likely to be accepted.
4. Negotiate a lower rate of interest
If you can’t switch cards for any reason, or your debts are in loan form, an alternative way to reduce your interest payments is to ask!
Simply get in touch with your creditors and ask if you can negotiate a lower rate of interest. If you have a good payment history, then you might be able to significantly reduce your monthly interest payments.
5. Sell unwanted items
One of the quickest and simplest ways to make some extra money and reduce debts is to sell some unwanted items you have in your home. Things like phones, computers, video games and jewellery will all sell relatively well on websites like eBay.
Almost anything can be sold, it might just take a little longer for you to find yourself a buyer if the product is a bit more niche.
I have 2 gold bracelets and a necklace that I never wear. I know there are people that buy gold so I’ll let you know when I’ve found out the best way to do this – or if you know a good way, shout it out in the comments section!
I’ve also sold a ton of CDs off in the past and earned around £200 for them. Some albums can be quite valuable. You download an app on your phone, scan in the barcodes and the app will tell you how much you can get for them.
You can also opt to sell at a more local level as well many second-hand shop and pawnbrokers will pay cash for goods or you could even opt for a car boot sale instead.
6. Say goodbye to non-essentials
If you want to get debt free really fast, then you might need to do stuff that bites a bit harder. This means you’re going to need to say goodbye to any non-essentials: that beer out with friends is going to have to wait (why not cook them a meal at your home?) and skip the new clothes unless you really, really need them.
It can be hard to turn down social invitations or skip the impulse buy, but it will help you save money and get debt free at a much quicker pace, so say goodbye to the luxuries for a while.
Every time you clear a debt you can always reward yourself in a small way. Perhaps allow yourself a meal out after you reach a debt clearing milestone.
7. Reduce your grocery shopping spend
My biggest spend is on food shopping. Whenever I am feeling short of cash, it’s the first place I look to make significant cuts.
Obviously food shopping is essential, but you can cut your spending easily just by opting for cheaper products, remember the store-own brands are going to be a lot cheaper than the big-name brands.
Meal planning also can save you a surprising amount of money, as it cuts out impulse buying and reduces food waste.
I always cut down on the meat when I want to save money. Cooking veg heavy dishes from scratch can be very cheap and you can bulk cook and freeze to save effort.
You could also opt for a more budget supermarket chain or buy in bulk to spread the cost further.
8. Find an extra job
This one isn’t always going to be possible after all you might already work full-time or have commitments that mean you simply aren’t able to find another job.
BUT – and it really is a BIG BUT – if you can find an alternative part-time job or move from part-time to full-time then you can substantially cut down your level of debt. The two quickest ways to cut down debt are spend less money and EARN MORE MONEY.
Finding extra work might not be as difficult as you think. Remember you don’t have to be picky, you could go for a temporary job. Many people do more than one job to make ends meet.
Side hustles are also a great way to earn money – most side hustles on the internet are work at home jobs you can do online or on the phone.
You could pick up a few hours working for big companies’ customer services or admin. Or if you hate being on the phone, there are various typing and writing jobs out there.
The majority of people have some skills that will be a demand.
Telemarketing, transcribing and spell checking can all be carried out with some minimal training and there’s, of course, more specialist areas like content writing, graphic design and video editing to name just a few.
You can freelance in a wide variety of ways if you have local connections you could try emailing people and businesses but one of the best ways is to make a profile on a freelancing website. To give some popular example there’s Peopleperhour, Upwork and Fiverr and freelancer.com
For plenty of ideas of side hustles you might find this article useful.
Starting your own business is a great way to earn money, although depending on what you are doing e.g. blogging, you might have to put quite a few hours in before you see any income. However the long term rewards of running your own business can be HUGE.
If an extra job is not for you, why not try to get your hours extended in your day job or even try and negotiate a raise.
9. Do a budget
I’ve sort of hidden this at the bottom of the list because I don’t want to turn off the budgetphobes but honestly, do a budget.
Doing a budget doesn’t magically make you good with money but it REALLY helps.
If you know what money is coming in and what money is going out and what it’s being spent on, it is SO much easier to figure out how to spend less.
If you do a budget you can work out if you are spending more than you earn and why.
If you do a budget you can decide how much of your money you want to put into paying off debts, and after you’ve done that, what will be left over for bills, thrills and spills.
Doing a budget might take you an evening or two once you’ve gone through a month’s spending, but once you’ve done it, you are the King of your Money Kingdom and you have the knowledge to take control.
10. Track your debt going down
Seeing your debts get smaller is SO motivating! If you track it each month, it will help you stay on target.
If you calculate when the debt should be paid off it gives you a clear goal to aim for and a sense of light at the end of the tunnel.
Some people might have a picture on their fridge, more numerical types might have a spot on their spreadsheet. Whatever the best way for you is to visually see that debt going down – pick that one!
So bye bye debt?
So those were a few starting tips to help you become debt free and to get you started on clearing the credit cards. If your debt is more serious, you might need to get some professional help.
Whatever your level of debt. Don’t delay – come up with a plan, save a few bucks, pay off a few bucks. Your reward is more money in your pocket and more peace of mind – priceless.