How to Get Out of Debt Fast: 9 Proven Strategies [2021]

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

the millennial money woman blog post "how to get out of debt"

There are many guides out there on how to get out of debt fast, but here’s what makes this one unique:

I’ve used the exact strategies in this blog post to help my clients pay off $100,000s in high-interest debt.

And in this post, I’m going to share with you the same 9 ways to get out of debt that I gave with my clients so you can do the same.

Let’s dive right in!

the millennial money woman blog post "average american debt statistic"

Image: The Millennial Money Woman | Source: Bankrate

Sadly, though, your brain simply doesn’t want to hear anything to do with debt – and that evasive reaction to the nasty word “debt” is partly why it’s so difficult for many to pay off debt.

the millennial money woman blog post "average credit card debt statistic for American families"

Image: The Millennial Money Woman | Source: ValuePenguin

Now, there are many other types of debt, aside from just credit card debt, such as:

  • Mortgage
  • Auto debt
  • Business debt
  • Personal loans
  • Student loan debt
  • Home equity lines of credit

What’s more, is that these debts come with different:

  • Interest rates
  • Payment due dates
  • Length of payments

So overall, it’s a pretty confusing mess – which is why I thought now was the perfect time to write an article about debt and how to get out of debt.

Sneak Peek: Best Debt Reduction Tools


Best Budgeting App 👇

Best for Debt Consolidation 👇

Best for Credit Card Debt 👇

However, before we dive into the 9 strategies on how to get out of debt, I think it’s important to reveal my 3 rules to getting out of debt and staying out of debt permanently:

the millennial money woman blog post "3 rules to get out of debt"

It’s that simple. 

If you spend as much (or even worse – more than) you earn, your chances of getting out of debt are very slim, if any.

9 Ways to Get Out of Debt Fast

the millennial money woman blog post "9 ways to get out of debt fast"

If you’re ready to get out of debt then you’ll love these strategies.

Now that you know my rules, let’s dive right in!

the millennial money woman blog post "how to get out of debt strategy 1"

1. Understand your Current Debt 


Before you even think of pulling out your checkbook and start paying toward your debt, it’s so important to understand your current debt position.

"Before you pay off your debt, know how much debt you are in."

If you want to know how much debt you are in, it’s time to figure out your net worth.

If you haven’t tracked your net worth yet, then check out my free net worth statement template below.

It’s basic but it also gets the job done.

the millennial money woman blog post "free net worth template"

Free Net Worth Template

Sign up below to receive my free net worth template and my latest content updates.

Your net worth will help you gain a better overview of your debt picture.

However, you need to dig further into your debt picture and list the following:

  • List your current debt balance
  • List the current debt interest rates

Here’s an example:

Debt Type Debt Balance Debt Interest
Credit Card 1
$5,000
29%
Credit Card 2
$2,000
24%
Home Equity Line of Credit
$50,000
10%

Yes, I know it’s uncomfortable to see the raw data as to how much debt you owe, but that’s the only way you can create a game plan to get out of debt, starting today.

the millennial money woman blog post "how to get out of debt strategy 2"

2. Track your Expenses


Guys and gals – if you want to know the very first step to getting out of debt – it’s about understanding how much debt you have.

And to know how much debt you have, you first need to understand the following:

  • How much you earn
  • How much you spend

It’s really that simple. 

You can’t go through life ignoring the numbers – and trust me, coming from a person who is not particularly fond of math, I know that numbers can be daunting.

"To become financially successful, become your household’s CFO."

That was probably the best financial advice I ever received (from my multi-millionaire mentor), and it’s time for me to pass this advice on to you. 

How do you become the household CFO?

By understanding your income and your expenses… in other words, become familiar with your budget!

If you’re not entirely familiar with some of the budgeting basics, let me illustrate some basic rules for you:

Type of Expense What it Means Rule of Thumb
Monthly housing debt

How much you should be spending on your monthly housing bills, including:

- Taxes
- Interest
- Principal
- HOA fees (if any)
- Home owner’s insurance

< 28% gross monthly income
Total consumer debt

Any debt that is a short-term loan (can be repaid within 1 year). This includes:

- Credit cards
- Lines of credit
- Cash advances

< 20% of net monthly income
Total monthly debt
Any debt payments – both long-term and short-term.
< 36% of gross monthly income

As I said, these are budgeting rules of thumb, so take these numbers with a grain of salt.

However, if you find yourself grossly overspending on credit card debt, for example, you’ll know that you will need to make a life change so you can find financial freedom.

Now, if you’re like me – you’ll probably want an app that is:

  • Efficient
  • Low cost
  • User friendly
  • Helps you save money
  • Points out where you’re overspending

I can’t operate without having a visual effect, so that’s why I would recommend checking out You Need A Budget.

the millennial money woman blog post "how to get out of debt strategy 3"

3. Needs, Wants & Wishes List


Next, it’s time to figure out what I like to call your needs, wants, and wishes list.

Name What it Means

Needs

Basic living expenses – you must spend this money to survive:

- Rent
- Food
- Utilities

Wants

Expenses that you want to spend, but don’t necessarily need to spend:

- Eating out
- Electronic gadgets
- Going out to the movies

Wishes

Expenses that you would like to spend, but that typically cost a lot and you don’t need to survive:

- Vacations
- New homes
- New (not used) cars

Figure out which of your expenses fall under the needs vs. wants vs. wishes category… and cut out any expense that doesn’t fall under the needs category.

Is that a bit extreme?

Absolutely – but if you are drowning in debt, then you have to take some rather extreme measures to climb out of that hole. 

All of the money that you save by cutting out your…

  • Wants
  • Wishes

…Should now be redirected toward your debt – and I have the perfect 2 methods below (strategies 6 and 7) that could help you slash that debt in a fast and efficient manner.

the millennial money woman blog post "how to get out of debt strategy 4"

4. Understand your Long Term Goals


When you understand your “why,” you’ll see that your actions align with your goals

Here’s an exercise I want you to do:

  • Think about your short term goals – within the next 6 to 12 months
  • Think about your mid term goals – within the next 1 year to 5 years
  • Think about your long term goals – within the next 5 years and up

When I do this exercise myself, I find that I dig deep into figuring out what I want (and what my husband wants), which ignites our motivation so much more. 

And that’s the key: Find the spark that ignites your inspiration and motivation.

Below are my motivations:

  • Living a life free from the 9 to 5
  • Never disappointing my family
  • Never worrying about paying bills
  • Having the time to do the things I want

You can’t get out of debt without a crystal clear reason. 

That’s why it’s so important to understand your long term goals first, before you start acting.

the millennial money woman blog post "how to get out of debt strategy 5"

5. Increase your Income


Think back to the beginning of this article, where I talked about 3 simple rules to get out of debt and stay out of debt:

  • Increase your salary
  • Decrease your spending
  • Combination of the two

Let’s talk about ways you can increase your income. 

And no, I don’t mean simply wait for your employer to give you a raise…

annual raise average in america statistic

Image: The Millennial Money Woman | Source: Investopedia

You’ll be waiting a long time for your salary to increase to the level you need to pay off your debt. 

Instead, consider increasing your income through… you guessed it, a side hustle or through passive income!

Below are some of my favorite and best ways to earn money through a side hustle:

  • Blogging
  • Paid surveys
  • Fast side hustles
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Selling on Social Media

There are so many ways to make money, check out my passive income ideas and start diversifying your income streams!

the millennial money woman blog post "how to get out of debt strategy 6"

6. Avalanche Method


One of my favorite ways to get out of credit card debt is by using what is known as the avalanche method.

Take the illustration below, sorting the debt based on interest rate, as an example.

the millennial money woman blog post "avalanche method example"

Here, you have different levels of debt, all with different interest rates. 

You make minimum payments to all debts except the high-interest rate debt, where you make the most payments in an effort to eliminate the debt as fast as possible (meaning more money in your pocket). 

Why do we start by paying off the highest interest first?

The higher the interest, the more money out of your pocket.

If you eliminate the highest interest payment first, you effectively “save” money on interest (as with our example, above).

the millennial money woman blog post "how to get out of debt strategy 7"

7. Snowball Method


The snowball method is similar to the Avalanche Method, except with 1 key difference:

  • You list the debt balance from least to greatest

Take a look at the illustration below, which looks similar to the Avalanche illustration except it’s sorted based on debt balance, not debt interest rate.

the millennial money woman blog post "snowball method example"

Note how you make the most payments toward your smallest balance debt first.

Once the smallest debt is eliminated, you make payments toward the next highest debt.

The reason why the snowball method may work more effectively than the avalanche method is because you may see more (and faster) successes with the snowball method, which can be very motivating.

"If you see more success in a shorter amount of time, your behavior is reinforced."

This, in turn, means you’re more likely to practice these habits to see more success.

Below, I’ve created an illustration to show you the pros and cons of the snowball vs. the avalanche method:

Snowball Method Avalanche Method
Extra payments are made on
Smallest loan
Highest interest rate loan
Minimum payments are made on
Each debt monthly (excluding highest interest rate)
Each debt monthly (excluding highest interest rate)
When the first debt is paid off…
Pay off the next highest loan balance
Pay off the next highest interest rate
Easiest to stay on track

Yes

No

Saves the most money

No

Yes

Takes the shortest time?

Typically, yes

Often, no

With the avalanche method, although mathematically, it would save you more money, it might be more difficult to practice in real life, since it may take longer for you to see success.

It’s up to you to decide which debt payment strategy will help you accomplish your goals.

the millennial money woman blog post "how to get out of debt strategy 8"

8. 0% Interest (or APR) Balance Transfer


The 0% interest balance transfer technique is a dirty little secret of mine – and I’ve recommended this trick to a few of my young professional mentees as well. 

Let’s start by reviewing the definition of a 0% interest balance transfer.

In other words, you will not pay interest on the balance you just transferred for the 6 to 12 month promotional period, before you do have to pay interest again on your balance.

Let’s check out the pros and cons of a 0% balance transfer:

Pros Cons
Take advantage of the 0% interest rate
May have higher interest rates after the 0% “promotional period” is up
Move your existing debt balance to a credit card with potentially better terms
There could be a balance transfer fee
Type of credit card consolidation method
You run the risk of racking up more debt instead of paying off your existing debt

Here’s when the 0% APR balance transfer will work:

  • You are committed to paying off your debt during that 0% APR period

Please do not be like one of my colleagues I knew:

  • She had $25,000 of credit card debt
  • She transferred her $25,000 to a new, 0% APR credit card
  • Instead of chipping away at her balance during the 0% period, she racked up another $5,000 of credit card debt – and ended up having to pay interest on $30,000 of total debt!

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t commit to paying off debt, then this strategy to get out of debt will not work in your favor – because you run the risk of adding more debt to your existing debt.

If that’s the case, I’d suggest considering strategy No. 9 (consolidating your debt).

the millennial money woman blog post "how to get out of debt strategy 9"

9. Consider Consolidating your Debt


The last point to get out of debt is to consider consolidating your debt.

Let’s check out the pros and cons of debt consolidation:

Pros Cons
Repay your debt sooner
Will not eliminate your financial problems – that’s up to you
Could pay less interest overall – since consolidation plans are fixed schedules (unlike with credit cards, where there is no repayment deadline)

- Loan origination fees
- Balance transfer fees
- Closing costs
- Annual fees

Typically, these costs are rolled into your overall debt, so you’ll pay these along with your monthly debt repayments.

Simplify your finances
Initially may lower your credit score (due to hard credit inquiry to set up the consolidation)
Have a fixed repayment schedule
You may have to pay a higher interest rate, depending on your credit score
In the long run, consolidating could improve your credit score – especially if your payment history is consistent

In the long run, consolidating could improve your credit score – especially if your payment history is consistent.

Consolidating could be a good idea if you:

  • Are committed to paying off your debt and not racking up new debt
  • Have a good credit score, meaning you can likely qualify for a lower interest rate
  • Have too many debt bills and want to simplify your monthly budget (aka pay your bills to just 1 place)

Tally is an app that I would recommend if you are looking to:

  • Make payments on time
  • Save money in the long run
  • Make your payments easier
  • Find help managing your debt
  • Reduce your overall credit card debt

To qualify for Tally, you must have a minimum FICO score of 660. I should mention that Tally is not available in all states. 

Below is a list of states in America that would qualify for Tally:

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Washington D.C.

If you’re interested in exploring other types of debt consolidation loans, then I might also suggest for you to check out LendingTree.

LendingTree helps point you in the right direction and helps you find the right debt consolidation products for your needs.

The difference between LendingTree and Tally is that LendingTree serves as the middle man, and finds the best debt consolidation service for you, while Tally is the debt consolidation service.

FAQs

The first strategy I would consider to get out of debt with no money, assuming your credit score is in relatively good shape, is to use a 0% balance transfer credit card.

You won’t have to pay interest on your debt for a certain period of time (typically between 6 months to 12 months), which is when you have to commit to paying off your debt as much as possible.

The risk you run when you transfer your debt balance to a new credit card with a 0% APR promotional period is racking up additional debt. 

Below are some easy steps you can take if you are ready to commit and pay off your debt even when you’re broke:

  • Create a budget
  • Increase your income
  • Make payments on time
  • Figure out your long term goals
  • Cut out all unnecessary expenses
  • Stay consistent with your payments

Remember that once you start and commit to paying off debt, you can’t just stop.

You have to be:

  • Patient
  • Persistent
  • Consistent

Seeing results will take time. But they will come if you keep working toward your goals.

The easiest way to get out of debt is to pay more (much more) than the minimum required payment.

If you review your budget and expenses, stop spending money on things that you don’t need. That money should be used toward paying off your debt.

Once you have figured out how much money you can pay toward your debt, it’s time to consider utilizing the:

  • Snowball method
  • Avalanche method 

Once you start paying off your debt, you can’t just stop.

Stay committed, stick to your ultimate goal to get out of debt and your efforts will be rewarded – in the long run.

Closing Thoughts on How to get out of debt


The scariest step to getting out of debt is simply looking at your net worth statement and determining how much debt you really have. 

Think about it this way: 

If you start the journey to getting out of debt today, then today is the lowest point. 

Tomorrow will be better and so will the day after tomorrow, and so on. 

It’s scary to look at all of that bad debt, but it’s necessary if you want to build a solid financial future. 

Remember to find your “why”:

  • To build a better future
  • To leave a lasting legacy 
  • To help your family prosper

Those are my reasons to keep working, earning money, and building wealth.

What is your “why”?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Fiona Smith
Fiona Smith
The Millennial Money Woman was founded by Fiona Smith. She holds her Master of Science Degree in Personal Financial Planning and has co-founded a local non-profit community teaching financial literacy to young professionals.

2 thoughts on “How to Get Out of Debt Fast: 9 Proven Strategies [2021]”

  1. “If you start the journey to getting out of debt today, then today is the lowest point.
    Tomorrow will be better and so will the day after tomorrow, and so on. ”
    I like these words, it brings hope while you might feel you are in too deep.
    Really, start today, the journey is long and there will be dragons and other obstacles, but is is you own personal adventure and it will take you places.

    Warm regards,
    Petra

    1. Hi Petra,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed those words of motivation 🙂
      You’re absolutely right – the journey will be long, and it won’t always be fun, but in the end, the journey really is the destination.

      Good luck on your journey!

      Cheers,

      Fiona

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to make

more money?

Sign up for free access to Fiona’s latest financial tips, wealth-building strategies, investing guides, millionaire planning, and much more.

fiona smith the millennial money woman

Want to make more money?

Get free access to Fiona’s latest financial tips, wealth-building strategies, investing guides, millionaire planning, and much more.

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest