You can pay off debt fast. Yes, you. How fast? Well, that depends on how serious you are about doing what it takes to make it happen.
My wife and I began our marriage $28,000 in student loan and credit card debt. This is a pretty typical starting point for many American families, but that’s where our “typical” way of doing things stopped. Over the next 23 months, we did the things outlined in this article and became debt-free. No student loans, credit card balances, or car loans can be found in our names.
In order to get debt free you don’t need debt consolidation, balance transfers, or any other fancy “tricks.” You just need a plan, and more importantly, the discipline to work that plan with a vengeance. Here’s what we did to pay off debt fast, and you can do it too.
Decided to Be Different
“Normal” in America is debt. Three quarters of our great country lives paycheck to paycheck, simply trying to survive the monthly payments and bills. In order to escape this cycle, you can’t just hope it will happen. You must make a conscious, intentional decision to do so.
When we were dating and engaged, we had countless conversations agreeing that we wouldn’t follow the “normal” way of doing things. We agreed that car loans, credit cards, and any loans additional to what we had already were out of the question (you can see how we think about mortgages here).
Having it settled in our spirit that debt was not an option helped us to program certain behaviors into our character. If we wanted to buy something big, we had to save. If we wanted to pay off debt fast, we had to say “no” to some things we wanted because we wanted to be debt free more.
Made a Plan
After deciding that we wanted to be different, we needed a strategy. Our blueprint was simple but effective. You don’t need a complex personal finance plan. Money principles are actually quite simple. What you need are clear and manageable steps that you (and your spouse) understand and can hold to when it feels like the debt will never be gone.
Cut Our Lifestyle
In order to pay off debt fast, we didn’t spend like others spent. When our friends were graduating college and buying cars, houses, clothes, and vacations all on debt, we moved into a very modest rental house. We both drove cars worth less than $2,000 each, and we shopped at discount stores like Marshall’s or T.J. Maxx only when we needed clothes, not just when we wanted them.
Vacations happened, but they were built around places we could visit where we stayed with family or friend connections. We also built and stuck to budgets for every trip to ensure we didn’t get off the timeline of debt payoff we were aiming for.
Some of the most common feedback I get from people when I talk to them about paying off debt is that they don’t see how they can put any more money each month onto their balances. Their problem is that they aren’t considering basic cuts to their lifestyles that will make a big difference.
I called our internet provider and threatened to go to their competitor if they didn’t give me the service I already had for a cheaper rate. Our kitchen wasn’t filled with gadgets and our bedrooms had mismatched furniture. But you know what we have now just over three years past our wedding? Money in the bank and no debt to speak of.
All Extra Money Went on Debt
Occasionally, unexpected money finds its way to you. Larger than anticipated tax refunds, birthday money, side gig income, or work bonuses can all be a major blessing if you use them properly.
Most people treat this as a chance to buy something they wouldn’t have before because this new money allows them not to feel it. That’s a TERRIBLE plan!
We knew from the start that as long as we were trying to pay off debt fast, ANY extra money we got was going to go straight to debt. If we had received a $1,000 tax refund and didn’t see our debt total reduce by that amount, we would’ve considered that a horrific waste of an opportunity.
Windfalls are great and should catapult you toward your debt free goal, not a new shiny thing that will be worthless within the next five years.
Enjoyed the Process
Perhaps the biggest key to getting debt free is enjoying the process. We were able to conquer a mountain together at the beginning of our marriage that many people haven’t in decades.
It isn’t an easy road, and there were plenty of times during that 23 months that I thought we’d never make it. In the end, we knew we were making some temporary sacrifices in order to have a lifetime of freedom.
Across the scope of our entire lives, 23 months is not very long. We always reminded ourselves of that fact so that the many years of debt freedom ahead would motivate us to enjoy where we were.
You can pay off debt fast. You just have to do it on purpose instead of wishing one day you’ll make “enough money” to make it happen.
Where are you on your debt payoff journey?