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how to get out of debt fast

If you’re here, you know it: debt sucks. It haunts you like a ghost, and sticks around like a clingy ex. 

Guess what? 

Life is too short to deal with suck-y things for a long time. Fortunately, there are ways to get rid of your debt quickly. 

In this post, we summarized the financial knowledge hidden within Penny’s debt module into 5 steps you can take to start paying off debt today, including how to get out of debt fast.

Let’s get you out of the red, and into wealth & freedom. 

👀 5min read

how to get out of debt fast

📸: Death to Stock

#1: How much do you owe?  

Write it all out! 

Surprisingly, most people skip this step. They jump right into a vortex of Google searches like, “Avalanche vs. Snowball Debt,” instead of facing their money. 

Knowledge is the most basic foundation of all debt repayment plans. 

Afterall: 

How can you pay off your debt if you don’t know how much you owe? 

Log into your accounts and find out for each debt (loan):

  • What kind of debt is it? Credit card, student loan, etc?
  • What is your principal balance? AKA total debt amount.
  • What’s the interest rate? 
  • What does it say your minimum payment is?

Open up an Excel sheet or cross the t’s in good, old pen & paper. 

List it all out: 

Student Loan #1 -- $5,628 @ 7.2% 

Student Loan #2 – $4,600 @ 5.4% 

etc.

Now that you’ve met your debt, you can create a financial plan to pay it off quickly. That’s right: NOW you can start reading about debt repayment plans like the Avalanche vs. Snowball methods. ;)

But first – What’s the “real” minimum payment for your debt?

#2: Calculate your minimum payment (the real one)

Breaking News: the minimum payment on your credit card or loan statement isn’t always the ideal minimum payment for your debt. 

Read that again.

If you pay only the minimum payment written on your statement, there’s a good chance you’re only covering interest – and NOT the actual debt (or principal) amount. 

How to get out of debt faster? 

Stop paying interest-only minimum payments. 

Start paying towards your ACTUAL debt. 

The easiest, math-free way to do this? 

Pay a small amount extra over the minimum payment written on your statement. If it’s $200/mo, pay slightly over that. Even $20 makes a big difference in the long run. 

The 2nd easiest, math-free way to do this? 

Take Penny’s free money quiz. In less than 3min, you’ll get an overview of two key numbers, one being the minimum amount you want to pay off each month to get rid of debt faster. 

The 3rd way to do this?

Yes, it involves math. But you don’t have to do it alone.

Click this link to watch a how-to video of Crissi, our CEO, calculating the “real” minimum payment on a member’s student loan.

#3: Create a debt repayment plan. 

Once you’re familiar with your debt – how much you owe, what’s your interest rate, what’s your *actual* minimum payment, etc – you get to decide how you want to pay it all off. 

Do you want to pay off…

  • the debt with the highest interest rates first? (aka, Avalanche Method) 

…or

  • the debt with the lowest amount first? (aka, Snowball Method) 

There’s other ways to pay off debt beyond the Avalanche vs. Snowball strategies, but those 2 are the easiest and fastest methods to get you out of debt. 

At Penny, we suggest starting with the highest interest rate loan first (Avalanche) because these can grow bigger, faster.

But, maybe that’s not possible or maybe starting with the smallest debt first (Snowball) is enticing because it feels good to get sh!t done. 

Choose the strategy that works best for you. 

As long as you’re taking action to pay off your debt, that’s what matters.

#4: Get smart with your money. 

There are many tips & tricks to pay off debt faster. We’ve summarized 3 of them below. 

Set up Auto-Pay. 

Our favorite way to pay off debt? The set-it-and-forget-it kind. Once you know your minimum payment, set up automatic payments to cover your debt. It’s an easy and stress-free way of ensuring you’re on top of your debt payments. It’s also the easiest to adapt for your day to day. For example: Done with credit card debt? Great! Update transfer amounts, and get serious about paying off your student loans.

Consolidate your loans. 

If you have loans with different institutions, credit cards, or loan providers, it can get overwhelming. When you consolidate your loans, it’s easier to keep track of what you owe. It also gives you the opportunity to negotiate a better interest loan or debt repayment plan, so it’s worth looking into if you have this option. Read more here.

Switch to a 0% Credit Card.

Normal credit cards charge between 15-30% APR (annual percentage rate: AKA interest) on your unpaid balance. That’s A LOT of cash. Especially if you’re in debt. Look for a 0% credit card instead. It will charge you zero interest rates for a specific amount of time – ideally, long enough to help you get out of the red. Read more here.

Pay more when you can. 

If you get that work bonus or a tax refund – set some of it aside to buy yourself something nice, and use the rest to make a one-time payment to pay off your debt. (It feels so good!)

Speaking of taxes…

You might be eligible for a tax break! It’s very likely you’ll be eligible for a tax deduction if: you have a student loan, OR you’re a teacher or recent graduate, OR you make less than $100k per year. There are many federal + state programs and nonprofits that specialize in loan forgiveness, so definitely worth looking into. 

#5: Don’t ignore it. 

Tempting, yes. But ignoring your debt doesn’t make it go away. 

So, the best way to pay off debt quickly: Take action!

Whatever negative feelings you carry about debt (or about yourself, for being in debt) like anxiety, fear, or shame – ask it to step out of the room. [Exit stage left.]

The desire to ignore your debt until further notice is real. But so is your ability to learn what you need to succeed, and take action to get out of debt quickly. 

We’ll be cheering you on! 

At Penny Finance, our goal is to provide easy, affordable, and digestible financial education for women, so you can create more cash flow today, and retire with wealth tomorrow. Sign up or learn more here

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