There are few things in life more spirit-crushing than significant financial debt. The constant fear of family and coworkers discovering your shameful secret taxes your energy. Not to mention the hopelessness you feel as your situation spins out of control with outrageous interest payments and additional fees. Then there is the dread of opening your statements every single month. I know this with certainty because I experienced it in my twenties, just as many of my friends did. But rather than running up my own bills, I had unknowingly married into 40k in credit card debt.
Ouch! And rather than bail on the new marriage, in spite of the King Kong-sized red flag, I chose to stay and help my future ex-husband pay off this enormous liability. What can I say? Love is blind. You can read more about my personal story here.
Admittedly, this is an unusual way to fall into a money pit. However, whether it’s from reckless spending or a medical situation or a divorce, debt is debt. It is the thief of dreams and opportunities, and I loathe it. So we formulated a plan to knock out this balance within two years. As ridiculously lofty as that goal sounds, keep in mind that forty thousand dollars back then is about sixty-three thousand today. Now we’re talking crazy ambitious, right?
Given our household income was approximately sixty thousand dollars per year, we knew the cuts in expenses would be drastic and uncomfortable. Even so, we pressed forward and managed to wipe out our obligations in twenty-four months. Do you want to know how? Let’s cover the seven ways I knocked out 40k in credit card debt quickly.
1. Food and Drinks:
- For the sake of being thorough, I will include a few ‘no-brainers’ within my list.
- Buy and cook in bulk. Then freeze leftovers for future meals.
- Pack a lunch every day. I splurged and went out once a month.
- Carry snacks and a water bottle in your purse to sidestep the store.
- Avoid restaurants & coffee shops. Go out to dinner once a month.
- Clip coupons or use sites like coupons.com.
- Regift presents you don’t use. I know it stinks. Do it anyway.
- Use mail-in rebates. They are time-consuming but worth it.
- Apply to reward programs from every chain that offers them. It adds up.
- Browse garage sales and thrift stores instead of buying new ones.
- Don’t take kids/grandkids to the market. Just don’t.
- Shop on clearance. You can find sale items on the end caps of aisles.
- Eliminate date nights. Have romantic meals by candlelight at home.
- Check newspapers & websites for calendars of free events in town.
- Go camping, on day hikes, or take staycations instead of vacations.
- Invite friends over for drinks and food instead of going out.
4. Slashing Monthly Expenses:
- Stop frequenting hair & nail salons. I hated this one but did it.
- Cancel your gym membership or exercise class—workout at home.
- Shop around for the best gas prices. You can use gasbuddy.com.
- Refinance your home and auto loan.
- Drop your cable provider. Tell yourself, “It’s a want, not a need.”
- Bundle your insurance coverage.
- Temporarily stop contributing to retirement. (It is a personal choice)
**** I did not borrow from my 401(k) ****
- Have a yard sale. Borrow someone else’s yard if needed.
- Take paid surveys.
- Offer to sell items for friends & family on eBay or Craigslist for a fee.
- Pawn old jewelry or tools.
6. Credit and Banking:
- Use auto bill pay to avoid late fees.
- Change banks to reduce checking & ATM fees.
- Use cash or debit cards instead of credit.
- Transfer high-interest balances to low, introductory rate credit cards.
- Cut up all but one credit card to use only in an emergency.
7. The Difficult Stuff:
- Temporarily quit school—no sense in digging a deeper hole.
- Eliminate hobbies like tennis, golf, skiing, & other fun activities. Yuck!
- Don’t tell others about your debt. Pity will ensue. (I know you want to vent)
Well, those are the painful methods I used to erase 40k in credit card debt quickly. Implementing these tactics was frustrating at times, but ultimately successful. I vividly remember sending off the last installment. There were tears of joy in my eyes and pride in my heart. Trust me; it was worth the sacrifices.
Have you ever experienced crushing debt? If so, do you have any suggestions on how to pay it down rapidly? Please share your tips in the comment section below. Life is better when we lift each other up.