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How to Pay Off Debt Fast: 12 Ideas

Question everything, get aggressive, and pay off your debt faster than you ever thought possible.

Trying to figure out how to pay off debt fast? Good for you. Once you commit—like, really commit—to tackling your debt, you might find that you get a little bit obsessed (in the best way!) with paying off your debt as aggressively as possible…and that’s the best way to get out of debt—and improve your financial situation—for good.

Yes! Aggressive debt pay-down! This is where things start to get interesting! So, sit back and prepare to question absolutely everything.

How to Pay off Debt Fast

Think drastic and dramatic—but also temporary. Freeing up cash is the name of the game and you will become a debt-slaying maniac! Here are a few ideas to get you started on the path to creating a debt repayment plan that will help you become debt free:

1. Work Down a List of Quick Wins

You said you wanted to get aggressive, so, what can you give up, or dial back, or do without for a little while? Remember this is short-term. This is a sprint. These are not forever changes, they are short-term strategies to free up cash for extra payments so you can pay off that pesky credit card debt:

  • Do you need A/C in the whole house? Can you just keep it in one room just for a while?
  • Are you paying for a faster internet speed than you really need?
  • Do you need Netflix and Hulu? Maybe you could live without one (or both?) for a season?
  • Put your bills under a microscope. What’s really going on with the phone bill? Are you paying for unlimited data that you never use? Look at your monthly payments critically.
  • Does your ten-year-old car need collision insurance?

Make it a game (and a reality) by joining the More Money Challenge. There are just three simple rules to follow for 30 days:

  1. Track your spending
  2. Only buy essentials
  3. No eating out

Can you do it? Join here! The key here is to question everything.

2. Evaluate Wants Vs. Needs—Be Brutal

You may find it helpful to look at your budget categories and sort them into wants and needs. This exercise can help give you new perspective and a framework for weighing decisions and priorities in a whole new light. Focus on paying for wants first.

Already have a YNAB budget? See how to make this happen.

3. Stop Eating Out

I know, I know. But remember: short-term sprint! Maybe you can’t cut it out altogether but could you cut it in half? Or limit yourself to a once-a-week takeout treat? Gamify the challenge by joining the More Money Challenge for extra inspiration.

4. Cut Cable

You don’t need cable. Netflix can get you through the lonely cable-free nights while you get out of debt. That money adds up fast and can help you get rid of those debt payments for good!

5. Experiment With A Spending Freeze

Look at all of your categories and identify some areas where you could institute a spending freeze. Could you go without clothes? No movies? What if you didn’t enter the doors of Target until your debt was paid off? Remember, question all of your assumptions—you have a debt-killing mission to prioritize!

6. Negotiate Lower Interest Rates

Call your creditors and ask them for a lower interest rate. This sounds crazy, but it actually works way more often than you’d think. Asking makes the difference. Any money you aren’t spending on high interest rates is money that can go straight toward your debt payoff. Start with your highest interest rate and work your way down the list. Win-win.

7. Get Creative

Instead of spending money to replace something—could you borrow it or rent it? Instead of getting a babysitter, could you do a babysitting swap with a friend? Could you carpool? Scarcity forces you to be more creative, but you might find out you were capable of so much more than you ever thought possible.

8. Extra Cash Is Extra Cash

What can you sell? What are you not using? How could you declutter or simplify, and make some extra money along the way? It’s a one-time influx of cash, but it could give you a little boost! And cash is king, especially while you are aggressively working on your debt repayment strategy! Throw any “found” money towards increasing your minimum monthly payments for a while.

You Thought That Was Aggressive…

Ok, are you getting warmed up? Starting to feel more aggressive? Good, because now we’re going to tip-toe into really, really aggressive territory. The next four suggestions are a little more major in scope, sacrifice, and consequence—but they will shift you into hyperdrive in terms of getting your debt down to a big, fat zero. Forget everything you think you know and consider:

9. Could You Share A Car?

Do you really need both (all?) of your cars? Could you get by with one car? Selling a vehicle will deliver a lump sum, but you’ll also save every month with less insurance, gas, and maintenance. You might think through the logistics and decide it simply won’t work for you. That’s OK, but the discussion is important; you need to put it all on the table, nothing is safe from the scrutiny of this journey.

10. Should You Downsize?

Could you move to a smaller place? Do you need that extra bedroom or parking spot? Again, maybe you really do. Or maybe moving would generate so many extra expenses the math doesn’t work out. But for so many of us the lion’s share of our monthly expenses goes toward rent/mortgage and downsizing can free up significant cash flow.

Check out our comprehensive guide for more information about how to get out of debt.

11. Could You Find a Second Job or a Side Hustle?

If you’ve cut spending as much as you’re comfortable with and you still want to move things faster, the other side of the coin is bringing in extra income. The beauty of a second job or a side hustle is that it’s like free money, it isn’t accounted for in any way and you can put it all directly toward your debt.

Time is money, so make sure you think it through from all angles, but in terms of speeding up paying off your debt, the extra money is where it’s at. Ask yourself:

  • How much could you bring in by working more?
  • How much faster would you be able to pay down your debt?
  • How long would you need to keep it up?
  • What are the trade-offs?
  • Is this a season where it is viable to have less time with family and friends?
  • Are there other commitments you would need to let go of?

12. Should You Change Zip Codes?

Yep, this is about as crazy as it gets. But it’s no secret: your dollars go further in some places compared to others. Trust me, I know this one first hand after moving from Seattle to Metro Detroit. Do I have eight coffee shops within walking distance now? Nope. Do I have mountains, ferries, and a bustling arts culture a bike ride away? Nope. Don’t get me wrong, I lost some serious cool points after the move, but for us, having really firm financial health has given me a lot of warm fuzzies that equalled if not exceeded the joys I found in living in a thriving coastal city.

I’m definitely not saying people in high cost-of-living areas should move (they’re expensive for a reason! They’re usually pretty cool!), but if you’re not in absolutely in love with where you live, maybe this is an opportunity to make a change in a big way toward your long-term financial goals.

Tools to Help You Pay Off Debt Quickly

Want a fun, digestible guide on exactly how to prioritize your debts and ensure your payoff is a successful one? Check out our video course on how to pay off debt for a short, informative, and occasionally hilarious roadmap. Runtime is just over an hour.

YNAB’s loan planner is another great tool to help keep you motivated to pay off your mortgage, car loans, personal loans, student loans, and more, so check that out too!

A screenshot of YNAB's loan planner which shows you how much time or money you could shave off of the life of a loan by making extra payments.
YNAB's integrated loan planner calculates how much time or money you can shave off of the life of your loan by making extra payments.

Check out 5 Best Apps to Help You Pay Off Debt for even more ideas.

Stretch Yourself, But Be Realistic

The worst thing that could happen is that you are so aggressive paying off your debt that you put yourself in a position where you actually incur new debt. Which would just be demoralizing and we don’t want that. Aggressive is great—we are big advocates of temporary, aggressive tactics for big impact—but ultimately, slow and steady still wins the race.

Make sure you are leaving yourself enough breathing room to roll with some measure of unexpected. Sacrifice, be willing to go a little bit out of your comfort zone but don’t create a situation where you are so miserable that you’re likely to give up.

You will not believe how amazing it feels to not have your debt holding you back. Now, go get it!

Don’t have a budget yet? That part is important. Try YNAB for free for 34 days and pay down your debt quickly!

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How to Pay Off Debt Fast: 12 Ideas