How to get out of debt fast when you don’t earn big bucks.
You read about people earning huge salaries who are in debt.
So how can you pay off debt fast on a low income if high earners can’t manage their money?
How do you actually continue to live and enjoy life whilst becoming debt free if those with much more money than you struggle with debt?
Paying off your debt fast or slow is hard but you absolutely can do it when you are committed and focused on achieving your goal.
You can even enjoy the process a little!
The thing is, it doesn’t matter if you earn a lot or are on a low income.
If you don’t live within your means and spend more than you earn then you get into debt.
Paying off debt requires the same actions regardless of what you earn.
Accepting and wanting to pay off your debt is the first hurdle.
Your willingness to do what it takes despite being on a low income will help you succeed in becoming debt free.
Having a load of debt is a horrible feeling.
You can lose sleep worrying about money and how you going to pay off your debt being on a low income.
It can increase your stress levels which is really not good for your health.
Debt affects your relationships because being stressed about how you are going to pay off debt fast or slow always does.
Making the decision to find out how to pay off debt fast even on a low income is actually part of the first step in doing so.
Let’s find out what else you can do to stop living paycheck to paycheck and start loving your life.
Be Focused On Paying Off Debt As Fast As Possible
When you are in debt it can consume your life as you are constant thinking about what can you do and how to pay off your debt quickly.
Having made the decision to become debt free keeping your focus on your debt turns what was a negative situation into a positive action.
The hardest part is wanting to be debt free enough to change what you are doing.
If you keep doing what you’ve always done you get the same results.
But being focused and committed to paying off your debt is more than half the battle.
And it is a battle you can win if you follow all these steps.
When you are positive about what you are doing then you will also find ways to still enjoy life whilst being focused on your debt free goal.
Create A Different And Positive Money Mindset
Changing how you think about money and what you intend to do with the money you have can often be hard.
After all how you view money is often what got you into debt in the first place.
For example I’ve lost count of the times hard up friends have said ‘oh, it only cost £10’, like that £10 doesn’t count as real money?
If you don’t have £10 spare then that is £10 of debt.
We all love a bargain, me especially, but it’s not a bargain if you don’t have that money in the first place.
Its a piece of debt that you will end up paying much more than £10 for.
If you get a takeaway every week at £25 a time and your attitude towards it is that its only £25 than therein lies some of your problem.
It’s not £25 a week, its £100 a month and £1300 a year.
Would you really say its only £1300? Exactly! Of course you wouldn’t.
That £25 is £1300 and it’s causing you sleepless nights, stress and costing you more money in interest on the debt you are building.
This way of thinking is what you must work on first. It is never “it’s only”.
Develop your frugal mindset.
Find alternative ways to think about money.
Be positive about living within your means, about enjoying life without getting into debt.
Focus on the positives of how life will be once you are debt free.
The extra money you have.
The control you will gain over your own money.
Those are things to look forward to, to enjoy.
Give Yourself A Reality Check
Stop thinking that you deserve to spend money you don’t have and look at your reality.
Is all this worry and stress what you deserve?
Do you really deserve to be in debt, to be sinking further into debt?
To not be able to save money for future dreams? Of course not!
You deserve to be enjoying your life without worrying about money.
That doesn’t mean having all the money in the world.
But it does mean paying off your debt fast to enable you to sleep easy at night.
It may feel hard, but that’s because unfortunately it is hard, but you can win at living cheaply.
You don’t have to suddenly get into extreme frugality to start saving money although you would save a lot of money!
Getting into debt is really very easy, getting out of and paying off debt fast, is not so easy.
But there are plenty of money saving tips that you can adopt which will help you with your goal.
Remember what you deserve and enjoy the journey knowing you are going to achieve being debt free.
Write Down Your Get Out Of Debt Plan And Goals
I am a great believer in goals, whether they are goals to achieve at work or at home.
Creating and writing down your goals to get out of debt will help you make them a reality because you have something to focus on.
Having a goal to pay off debt fast is really important to help you keep your focus when you feel the urge to spend money you don’t have.
Being focused on your debt free goals and achieving them one by one is a fantastically positive feeling.
If it helps, keep your debt free goals written somewhere visible so you can check them on a regular basis.
If you complete the next tip for getting out of debt then you can be very specific about your goals.
You can specify which debts you will have paid off by what date.
Or how much debt you will have paid off within a year.
Seeing your achievements build will help you enjoy the moments when you are running short of money.
Because being short of money means you are on track to achieve your goal of becoming debt free – what a fantastic thought.
Top Tip For Getting Out Of Debt – Know How Much You Owe
In order to successfully pay off your debt fast or slow you need to know exactly how much debt you are in.
You’re in debt likely because you have spent some time ignoring the problem and it’s got worse.
Now is the time to sit up straight and work out exactly how much you owe.
Gather all your overdue bills, credit card statements and loan statements together and add them all up.
It can be shocking to see the total, I know. But information is power.
If you are going to learn how to be debt free fast then information is your friend.
When you know the true picture of your debt you can make informed decisions on how you are going to tackle it and how long it’s going to take you to pay it all off.
Write down the total amount and interest being charged for each of your debts along with the monthly payment you need to make.
Check out how much interest you are being charged each month and compare it to the monthly minimum you are paying.
This can be quite a shocking comparison.
Sometimes the amount of interest you are being charged and the monthly minimum you are paying are almost the same.
This means you are never going to pay off that debt as it is getting smaller so slowly due to the interest racking up each month.
Look at how much interest you are being charged in total over all your debts.
That is what you are paying the loan companies for the privilege of being in debt!
This is how much extra money you will have when you follow all these ways to get out of debt and become debt free.
In the future you can keep this money for yourself instead of giving it away to million dollar loan companies.
What a fantastic life goal that is!
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Pay Off Your Debt With The Debt Snowball Method
There are two well known methods to paying down your debt. The debt snowball method and the debt avalanche method.
The debt snowball method is where you concentrate on the debts which have the lowest balances.
The ones that you can pay off quickly and get rid.
Once you’ve paid off these smaller debts you move incrementally onto the bigger debts.
You then use the amount you had paid on the smaller debt to add to the minimum payment you were making on this bigger debt.
You gain significant emotional advantages with the debt snowball method because you can see actual, whole debts being paid off quickly.
Use The Debt Avalanche Method To Become Debt Free
The debt avalanche method is where you focus your extra repayments on the debt with the highest interest.
Throwing as much money as you can at this expensive debt helps you pay this debt off faster and stop you paying as much interest.
In theory the debt avalanche method is the most cost effective as you are attacking the most expensive debt first.
In practice this often means you are attacking the biggest debt which takes a long time to actually pay off.
You don’t get the emotional quick wins with the debt avalanche method that you do with the snowball method. But you do pay less interest overall.
Debt Snowball Method or Debt Avalanche Method?
Using the debt snowball method means you may pay a little more interest over the long term.
But you get the emotional pick ups of seeing smaller debts paid off and gone form your life in a much shorter time frame.
Getting into debt is often linked to an element of emotional spending so to me it makes sense to use the debt snowball method as you get to see successes quite quickly.
To me seeing the number of my debts reduce is as much a success as seeing the amount reduce.
But it’s about what will work for you.
Choose whichever debt repayment method is going to work for you long term and then make sure you stick to it.
Related reading: What To Do When You Can’t Afford The Snowball Method
Take Control Of Your Spending
If you’re laser focused on paying down your debt and you’ve got the right attitude towards doing this then you are in the right place to start taking control.
Taking control of your spending and understand why you spend and when you spend.
- Are you an emotional spender?
- Do you spend when you are bored?
- Do you spend when you are stressed?
- Are you spending because you see others doing so?
Understanding what is driving you to spend will help you take control.
I know that I spend when I am bored.
I can use the excuse that we’ve run out of X to pop the shops and spend half an hour browsing everything but X.
If you run out of something 9 times out of 10 you don’t need a replacement straight away, it can wait until your regular grocery shop.
Milk might be an exception but running out of ginger is not a shopping emergency!
Knowing what triggers your spending will allow you to replace the spending with something else.
If you are like me and boredom is one of your triggers then get busy doing something else.
I have no spare time now that I have this blog and my spending has definitely decreased as a result.
If you are an emotional spender then take some time to find out what your emotional triggers are.
Check with yourself before you go shopping. Are you thinking about shopping because something has just upset or annoyed you?
If so, take a little time out to deal with that emotion first. Give yourself a little bit of self love.
Don’t go shopping until you know why you are shopping and your emotions are not in the driving seat.
Get Yourself A Budget
Cutting back on your spending is a great first step but you need a budget to know what money you have coming in and what should be going back out again.
If you don’t have a budget you won’t know whether you have got your spending truly under control.
You might think you are spending less but how much less?
Learning how to create your budget (and save money) can be hard if you haven’t done this in a long time.
Look back over your bank account statements and your receipts to see where your money goes.
It can be easy to forget a small bill or irregular payments.
These can derail your plans for paying your debt off.
I learned the hard way that yearly bills are very easy to forget.
It took me 2 years to remember and budget for our cat’s annual vaccinations, not helped by the fact they are due in January.
Right after Christmas when you can feel super poor.
Your budget is not something that will limit your spending.
Your budget is something that allows you to spend on your priorities.
Spend your money according to what you want to achieve this year and next.
Refine Your Budget
Once you’ve created your first budget, look at it again and resolve to cut still more.
Are clothes and entertainment in your new budget? Cut them out or cut them drastically down.
Clothes are of course essential in this day and age. But new clothes aren’t.
I bet you have enough clothes that aren’t yet full of holes to last you at least a year and probably more like 3 years.
Yes they are not this year’s fashion and no this doesn’t mean you need new clothes.
Enjoy the feeling of not needing to go clothes shopping. Of not spending all those hours in shops trying on things that don’t quite fit.
Enjoy the freedom that not spending gives you!
Recognising You Need And Want To Get Out Of Debt
Once you acknowledge you have a problem you can do something about it.
If you continue to bury your head in the sand about your debt you are never going to be successfully in paying it off.
But now you know you want to pay off your debt and are making plans to do so things are going to change for you.
You are back in control and you are going to achieve what you want.
Don’t be Half Hearted, Be Full On
To be successful in paying off debt fast or slow, which you absolutely can do, you must be laser focused on it constantly.
It cannot be something you think about occasionally.
It’s not enough to want to get out of debt you need to take daily actions to actually get out of debt and that includes your thoughts.
You need to want to do it and be prepared to do whatever it takes in order to achieve debt free status.
That’s why I say create your budget then refine it further.
The first budget you set shouldn’t be the only budget you create.
To become debt free as fast as possible takes courage, guts and determination.
Get your focus right and paying off your debt will be so much easier.
Being fully focused puts you back in control. And when you are in control you are taking positive action.
And taking positive action makes for a positive life!
Have An Emergency Fund
It is critical that you have an rainy day fund or emergency fund. Especially when you are trying to get out of debt.
Life will always throw you a curve ball when you least expect or want it.
Having to deal with an unexpected car repair bill is extremely stressful if you don’t have some emergency cash stashed away in a savings account that you can quickly access to pay that bill in full.
Having a bill you can’t pay because you don’t have an emergency fund is just adding to your debt and will set you back emotionally.
When you are on your debt pay off journey you will want to throw every spare penny at your debt.
But an emergency fund is a still a must have during these times.
It stops you from adding yet another bill to your credit card which you then can’t pay off the following month thereby incurring interest.
It helps to keep your laser focus on clearing the debt instead of getting sidetracked and adding to it.
An emergency fund will help you sleep better at night during your debt pay off journey.
Credit, Debit or Cash
If you’ve been using your credit cards to get by, stop using your credit cards immediately.
When you’ve got credit card debt, you need to stop using those cards immediately.
If you don’t trust yourself even with your debit card then use cash only.
When you don’t have it in cash you can’t spend it.
When you are just starting out on your debt free journey, using just cash can really help you get into a good money mindset.
Following the cash envelope system, even if only for a couple of months will really help you focus and be positive about how and when you spend your hard earned money.
Have Wiggle Room In Your Budget
When creating your budget you need to ensure you cover all your bills and keep them as low as possible.
But don’t cut your budget to the bone or make it so difficult you cannot succeed in sticking to the budget.
Give yourself a little wiggle room.
No point cutting your grocery budget to £100 if you’ve never spent less than £300.
You can always adjust your budget further once you have got used to your new spending regime.
I would also advise having a little fun money allowance for yourself and your partner.
Your debt free journey could be quite long. You need to be able to have a few (cheap) treats.
These will keep you positive and enjoying life when the month feels longer than usual.
Manage Your Debt Goals
Having had your debt light bulb moment and creating your budget, you are going to want to plan to pay your debt off as quickly as possible.
You see reports of people having paid off £80,000 worth of debt in 18 months.
But is it realistic for you?
Do you even earn that much?
If you can increase your earnings then you can increase your debt repayments but you have to be realistic about what your goals will be.
Set your repayment goals on what you currently earn.
If you increase your income then adjust your repayment goals.
Always be realistic and keep it in amounts that you can relate to.
If you get paid every two weeks don’t look for a goal that is purely an annual amount.
Make it real to you.
Break your annual amount down into a weekly or monthly (or both) goal.
Then you will know every week whether you are on track with your pay off goal.
Keeping that focus on your goals also maintains your positivity.
You can see the progress you are making and there is nothing like progress to encourage you still further.
Achieving regular goals like this really help you stay the course on what can be a difficult journey.
Eliminate Or Reduce Your Expenses
You now know how much your total debt is. You know what your weekly debt reduction goals are.
Now is the time to start reducing your expenses.
Examine your budget and critically look at each expense line and ask yourself these questions:
- Is this spending essential – given I am in debt?
- Can I get this cheaper? (e.g. reduce your utility bills)
- Can I reduce how much I spend?
- Could I do without or switch to a cheaper alternative?
Energy bills can be reduced by both changing supplier and reducing your energy consumption.
The full cable TV package is NOT essential, it’s a luxury you cannot afford if you’ve got big debts to pay.
Reduce your cable package or get rid altogether.
Many people swear by Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Reduce your mobile phone bill. Do you need the all singing, all dancing data package or can you cut this and use Wifi when out and about?
Question every bill, every expense and you will find you can make savings.
Slash Your Grocery Budget
This is a big area that you can make savings on. Grocery budgets vary enormously from family to family.
Some people think nothing of dropping £600 a month for 2 people.
Others can feed 2 people on £200.
Where you live will be a factor in how much your grocery bill is but I am confident you will be able to make significant savings and cut your food shopping list if you tackle this one.
Giving up brands, reducing your meat purchases, eating less processed foods are all ways to save money on your groceries.
Extra Income And Side Hustles
In the early days of your debt free journey and new budget it could feel like you don’t have enough spare cash to throw at your debts.
Over time you will get better with your budget and find new ways to cut your bills and save money.
However earning more money is a great way to make a bigger dent in your debt and pay off your debt faster.
Earning extra money isn’t restricted to just making more more at your regular job you could:
- dog sit
- get an extra/2nd job
- wait tables
- sell stuff
- make stuff to sell
- rent out a a spare room if you have one
- become a mystery shopper
- complete surveys
Why not do something you enjoy and look into having hobbies that makes money?
If you enjoy doing regular activities, you’ll doubly enjoy it if they earns you extra cash to throw at your debt.
If you think you don’t have time to devote to earning more money check out this post on creating more time.
I can guarantee you’ll find some extra time. And it will be so worth it.
Every penny of extra income you earn can be thrown at your debt.
There are times when you will receive unexpected money. A yearly bonus from work won’t be in your budget.
A tax return is a nice gift but doesn’t need to be spent. Instead put these toward your debt repayment.
Yes, it would be nice to treat yourself with your bonus or tax return. But it’s not essential spending you would be looking at is it?
How much better to treat yourself by throwing it at your debt and seeing the impact of your debt reducing and your debt free date coming that much closer?
Need Help Getting Out Of Debt?
There are times when all of the above just might not be enough. When you might need help getting out of debt.
Perhaps you’ve lost your job and are struggling to find another, or you have developed a long term health condition.
Whatever the reason there are people and local agencies who can and will help.
That is their remit and they are good at it. Check out the post below for more information.
Don’t Give In Or Give Up
Learning how to pay off debt fast on a low income is hard and it can take a long time.
You must promise yourself that you are worth this fight and never give in to going back to your old spending ways.
Your hard work will be rewarded when you become debt free.
You will feel so much less stressed, you’ll sleep better and you will love life that much more.
Have you paid of debt fast or taken it slow? Do you have any tips to help others pay off their debt?