18 Aug How to Get Yourself Out of Debt
Updated: March 30, 2021
Knowing how to get yourself out of debt can be challenging. When you’re in debt, it’s sometimes hard to see outside of the situation. But you can get yourself out of debt. You just have to have a plan and execute the plan.
To get yourself out of debt means paying back all of your loans and money you’ve borrowed. No debt is when you do not owe money to anyone. And no debt equals financial freedom.
Author and life coach Tony Robbins, once said “Everybody’s got a past. The past does not equal the future unless you live there.” The quote is very true of debt. Everybody’s got a past with money. Just because you’ve made some mistakes or missteps in the past doesn’t mean that’s your future. You just have to take action to make change in your financial life. Here’s how to get yourself out of debt once and for all.
Table of Contents
Get a Free Copy of Your Credit Report
Before you can make a plan, you need to know the entire situation. How much debt do you have? It may sound silly to some, but others know what I’m talking about. Some are at the point where they have multiple credit cards and loans and aren’t sure how much and to whom they owe.
The easiest way to sort out the total debt you owe is to get a free copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com.
Steps to Get Your Credit Report
You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every year. The three bureaus are Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. Reviewing your credit report every six months or a year can help you catch mistakes early. Your report is also a complete accounting of all of your debt—past, and present. To get a free copy of your credit report:
- Go to annualcreditreport.com
- Fill out the form
- Select how many you want, 1-3 (Transunion, Equifax, and Experian)
- Answer questions
- Print or save report
Related: The Best Ways to Build Good Credit
How to Build a Budget
Next up is to know how much free cash flow you’ve got to pay down debt by building a budget. A budget is a monthly or weekly spending plan for your income. It’s a clear picture of the money you having coming in and the money you have going out. If you want to pay off debt, it’s essential to know how much money you have left after paying ALL of your expenses.
Building a budget doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated. To create a simple budget, write down all of your monthly income and total them up. Next, list out every single expense you have. To include expenses that don’t happen every month, like oil changes and vehicle registration. If you don’t have an emergency fund, add $50-$100 a month for savings.
Then you total up all of your expenses and subtract them from your total income. What you’re left with is the number you need to know to go after your debt with a vengeance. It’s your free cash flow and the amount of money you can put towards additional or increased debt payments. If you have $0, $200, or even negative $200 in cash flow, don’t let that number get to you. Right now, we’re just identifying where you stand.
More on budgets: The Best Ways to Build a Budget
How to Reduce Expenses
Once you’ve created your budget, then you know where you stand. You may want to increase the extra money you have each month, or you may need to make extra money each month. You can do both by reducing expenses. To start finding extra cash, look at what you’re spending each month and what costs you can cut or eliminate.
If you’re single, this will be easier because only you decide what expenses to reduce and cut. For those of you in relationships, this can be a little trickier. Communication and compromise are key to paying down debt as a couple. Don’t cut off your husband’s favorite streaming service just because you don’t think he needs it. Begin reducing expenses together by listing costs you’re both willing to cut for the greater good of your household finances.
Look at every expense and make an evaluation. Do you want to reduce it, cut, or keep the expense the same? Remember this when looking at your costs, put your money where your mouth. If you want to get out of debt, you have to find extra money to get out of debt. Review your expense and make sacrifices for the greater good of your finances.
I’m not saying you have to start living like a monk, but making sacrifices will help you get out of debt. Cutting out Starbucks doesn’t mean you’ll never again taste their delicious coffee—it’s a temporary situation while you get your money back on track.
Make a “Get Yourself Out of Debt” Plan
If you’ve reviewed and reduced expenses but still don’t have the cash flow you want for debt payments, then you have to brainstorm a plan for coming up with extra money.
To do this, write down your goal of paying down your debt or the amount of extra money you want each month to put towards additional debt payments. Then get brainstorming on how to come up with more to accomplish your goal. Here’s an example:
- Get Out of Debt Brainstorm
- Get a part-time job doing something you love
- Become a coupon queen and ask family to send coupons
- Start carpooling to work
- Spend less on eating out
- Use a meal plan and make shopping lists before grocery shopping
- Buy on sale
- Go on a spending fast
- Cut off the cable and read more
- Sell unwanted or unused items
Once you have some ideas, start implementing—you don’t have to do them all at once. Just start making small changes. You can add more ideas to your attack plan when you’re in the swing of things. By creating a plan, you’re taking control of your debt situation.
Related: How to Make Money With a Military Side Hustle
How to Payoff Debt
Once you’ve increased your monthly free cash (one way or the other) and know how much you have to put towards debt, then it’s time to make a plan for how to pay off your debt. Each person’s plan and approach will be different. Only you can determine which process works best for your situation and gets you in the right mindset.
Debt Payoff Methods
Here are the three most popular methods for paying off debt. With each method, you continue to make the minimum payments on all of your debt balances but use your extra cash to start getting out of debt by using a method of approach. You can use one or a combination of methods.
Debt Snowball Method
The debt snowball method aims to get a quick debt payoff win by paying off your lowest debt balance first. It intends to get you in the right mindset, excited and motivated to get out of debt. Once you pay off the smallest debt balance, you “snowball” the money being used to pay the previous debt into your next smallest credit card debt. You’re knocking them out one by one.
Debt Avalanche Method
The debt avalanche method has you use your extra money to pay off your debt with the highest interest rate first. I’m a fan of this method because it usually saves you the most money on interest. Once you pay off your high-interest debt, you continue on to the balance with the next highest interest rate and so on.
Debt “Just Do It” Method
Getting out of debt is the most important thing. How you choose to get it done isn’t as important as getting out of debt. So the “just do it” method is just that. Do what it takes to get out of debt. And the can mean a combination method approach. You can use the avalanche and snowball method at the same time. You may prefer quick motivation out the gate by paying off one or two of your smallest balances. You can adjust and switch to pay off your highest-interest debt next. Or vice versa. Do what works best for you and keeps you motivated to get and stay out of debt.
Remember, the goal is to get out of debt, so pick a method you will actually use. Just because a friend or someone you know got out of debt with one way doesn’t mean you have to do it exactly the same. Find what works best for you.
Get Free Financial Help
When you have a lot of debt, it can be overwhelming. Many people are in your same situation—you’re not alone. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone. There are free financial counselors and coaches for the military community to guide you through getting out of debt.
A financial professional on the military installation closest to you can also help you find local resources to make paying off debt easier and faster.
Related: How to Get Free Financial Help
Tools to Get Out of Debt
When it comes to getting yourself out of debt, leverage every tool and resource you can, using tools can help you pay off debt faster and potentially saving you money in the process.
Qube is a digital envelope system for money management. It’s a great resource to help you maintain a budget. You can use the digital envelope system to stay on a budget. Staying on a budget means more money to pay of debt.
Tiller Money automates your budget spreadsheet with your daily financial account information, so you’re making current and informed decisions to manage your money.
PowerPay is a FREE debt reduction tool you can use to create a personalized plan to get yourself out of debt. When you’re trying to get out of debt, every extra penny you have counts. That’s why it is best to use a free tool so you can put everything extra towards paying down debt.
Food Spending Guide
Food spending is something everyone needs to be mindful of. If you’re not paying attention to how much you’re spending at the grocery store or eating out, your food budget can quickly get away from you. You can use the USDA Costs of Food Reports to access if you’re spending too much money on food.
Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act
The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is a benefit of serving on active duty. Understanding the benefit can result in paying down debt faster. For example, members of the armed forces on active duty are eligible to have the interest rate on debt incurred before the start of service to 6%. Reducing the interest rates on your debt can save you money and get you out of debt faster.
Related: The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act – SCRA
Be Positive When Paying Off Debt
As a financial coach, I see firsthand the stress debt and getting out of debt puts on people. It’s hard, and it requires a commitment to stick to the plan. I like to remind service members and spouses to stay positive in the process. Being positive is essential to staying mentally tough when you’re in debt.
Remember what Tony Robbins said, “the past does not equal the future unless you live there.” You’ve created a plan and are changing the past, so don’t stay in a debt mindset. If you’ve any doubts, I’m here to start your positivity train—you can and will conquer your debt, don’t tell yourself anything different.
You can get yourself out of debt. It just requires a clear understanding of your current debt, a budget, and a plan to pay off your debt. You can do this—don’t doubt it for a second! Make your plan and start living without debt weighing you down.
If you want to “kickstart” your finances in the military, you can get access to my free Financial Kickstart Kit here.